How To Build Will Simpson (From "Jessica Jones") in The Pathfinder RPG
A Character Conversion Guide
Will Simpson is a simple man; deep down, all he wants to be is a hero. Unfortunately, his willingness to do anything to achieve his goals twists what would otherwise be a noble, even heroic, soul into a caricature of heroism. A secondary character in Marvel's Jessica Jones series, Will is something of a a combination of two older characters named Nuke and U.S. Agent. Both of these characters attempted to be the Captain America a modern U.S. needed, but their flaws were magnified rather than erased by their power. Capable of great deeds, they did terrible things just as often as they accomplished heroic feats. If you're looking for a starter guide to bring this sort of character to your table, here's a place to get you started.
Also, if you're looking for other Marvel characters, Gotham's vigilantes, the cast of Game of Thrones, or other conversions just like this one, check out the Character Conversions page over at Improved Initiative. And, as long as you're here, why not stop by my full Vocal archive to check out some of the other flavors of gaming and geekery I've covered?
The Base (Attributes, Race, and Traits)
Will, unlike some members of the Marvel universe, is human. He isn't garden variety by any stretch of the imagination, with his fast reflexes and towering frame, but he's no Steve Rogers (most of the time, anyway). His physical stats should be high, with either Strength or Dexterity taking the top slot depending on if you're going to be more ranged or up-close. Simpson was a soldier, but when it comes to combat he can easily switch weapons and styles for maximum impact. Regarding his non-physical stats, he's conventionally handsome, and not shy about using his personality to intimidate. Educated and strong-willed, though by no means a genius or indomitable, arrange his other stats according to which aspects you want to play up (network of friends and criminal contacts, Charisma, knowledge of chemicals and bomb building, Intelligence, ability to power through and do whatever needs to be done, Wisdom).
When it comes to his traits, there are a variety to choose from. For example, Eyes and Ears of The City (+1 trait bonus on Perception checks, and Perception is always a class skill) could represent his time with New York's finest in a post 9-11 world. Traits like Law Enforcer (+2 trait bonus to Sense Motive, and begin play with a pair of masterwork manacles) would also be useful. Other traits like Group Fighter (+1 trait bonus to attacks while flanking) or Reactionary (+2 trait bonus to initiative checks) would also be helpful.
Lastly, if your game is set in Golarion, chances are very good that Simpson is Andoran. Just saying.
The Mix (Classes)
If you've come this far, chances are good you know that Will has a history with a private company who was trying to create super soldiers. Unlike the serum given to Steve Rogers to turn him into Captain America (who has his own character conversion guide), Simpson and the other program candidates take pills to turn them into temporary superheroes. It lets them ignore pain, amps up their body's strength, and makes them capable of extraordinary feats. The drugs take time and tolerance to get used to, though, and users need to know when enough is enough.
That's why, for Will, the class you'll have the most levels in is Mutagen Warrior, a Fighter archetype from the Advanced Class Guide. This archetype trades out armor training and armor mastery for mutagen that can alter physical stats at the cost of mental ones. A shot of the red to pump you up, and if you take the discoveries like Greater Mutagen and Grand Mutagen, you can boost multiple stats at once, truly making you into a super soldier on the battlefield. Especially considering you still have all the Fighter's feats, Bravery, and Weapon Training (which should likely include firearms, as well as close weapons for accuracy to the character).
While it's possible to stick purely with the Mutagen Warrior, some players might want to dip into a single level of Brawler. This gives you a better Reflex save, bumps your Fortitude save, doesn't hurt your BAB, and gives you access to Martial Flexibility, as well as to Brawler's Cunning. You can even count your Brawler level as a Fighter level for the purposes of feats. Given that Simpson does a lot of hand-to-hand fighting, it can help you pack a bigger punch... so to speak.
Blue on Black (Skills and Feats)
When it comes to Will's skills, it's important to keep an eye on what you're going to use the most often. Acrobatics tends to come into play for battlefield mobility, but Intimidate to force compliance from reluctant NPCs, Sense Motive to tell when they're lying, and Perception to spot ambushes are always good things to have. Stealth can be useful, but depending on the sorts of missions you're on, it may not be an option.
However, as with most combat-oriented characters, Simpson's real strength lies in his feats. With so many levels of a fighter archetype, on top of the Martial Flexibility gained from the brawler, players will have a lot of options for which feats they want to bring to bear. However, because you have a slot for a "free" feat thanks to Martial Flexibility, it's a good idea to invest in basic feats that are prerequisites for several others (like how Power Attack is necessary for Improved Bull Rush as well as Improved Sunder and Improved Overrun) so you can alter your tactics in the middle of combat if necessary.
With that said, this list covers some of the better suggestions.
- Exotic Weapon Proficiency (Firearms) (Core Rulebook 123): If your Simpson is going to carry a sidearm, then this feat is a 1st-level no-brainer.
- Point Blank Shot and Precise Shot (Core Rulebook 131): If you're going to be regularly using any sort of ranged weapon, or throwing weapons, these two feats are must-haves.
- Amateur Gunslinger (Ultimate Combat 89): Gain 1 first level deed, and a small amount of grit. If you're going to make a gun a regular part of your arsenal, then you should have access to Deadeye and/or Quick Clear, if nothing else.
- Gunsmithing (Ultimate Combat 103): This feat lets you build and repair firearms. Simpson seems to have a knack for pulling guns out of the ether, and modifying them into uses not meant for civilians.
- Endurance and Die Hard (Core Rulebook 122): Simpson can press on with no sleep while wounded, and that's before he takes his pills. These two feats are the easiest way to represent that.
Beyond these basics, what a player chooses will depend largely on his or her combat style. For instance, a player might want to invest in the Vital Strike tree, using that to make single shots really count, especially when combined with feats like Deadly Aim (Core Rulebook 121). Alternatively, feats like Weapon Focus (Core Rulebook 136) and Weapon Specialization (Core Rulebook 137), as well as their Improved varieties can be a huge boon when combined with a Fighter's Weapon Training feature.
Equipment and Story
So what should Will Simpson have on him, other than a leather jacket and a hero complex? Well, that depends on which Will you're imitating. Are you a cop trying to bring criminals to justice? Or are you a soldier in the field, busting heads and slinging lead? Because if it's the former then you'll likely want non-lethal options like tanglefoot bags on hand. You may also find Improved Initiative's list of the best alchemical items to be helpful. If you're shooting for the black ops soldier, though, then you'll likely be more invested in grenade template weapons, and a whole lot of bullets, along with a close-in weapon like a cestus or a set of brass knuckles. You can wear heavy armor, and use a shield, but if you want to maintain your mobility, you might want to invest in mithril.
As to his story, that's up to you! Is your Will Simpson a disgruntled special forces soldier, addicted to the serum that pumped through his veins and turned him into a minor god on the battlefield? Is he, perhaps, a freelance adventurer who keeps a chemical ace up his sleeve? Does he work for a criminal network who has invested in him as a guinea pig and enforcer? Or has he discovered this unusual drug on his own, and is trying to use it to the betterment of others?
If you're looking for additional bits of background lore and inspiration, you might want to check out the following:
- 100 Random Mercenary Companies: From the disgraced ranks of the Steel Heralds, to the snarling horde of the Dogs of War, there are several mercenary units that would be more than happy to have a soldier like Simpson among their ranks.
- 1oo Knightly Orders: From the underhanded Ministers of the Broken Blade to the Crimson Host, most knightly orders paint themselves in glory to hide the bloodstains beneath. Will would fit right in with many of them.
- 1oo Gangs For Your Urban Campaigns: The Crankers, who dose themselves in alchemical elixirs to become potent warriors, are the most obvious gang to use as Will's backstory here. That said, dozens of others in this supplement would be equally appropriate.