Iconic Design: Don-Don-DonDon!

Welcome to Guidance, Private Sanctuary’s source for tips and techniques for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, written by Everyman Gamer Alexander Augunas. Today, we’re going to be looking at an Iconic Design for everyone’s favorite archaeologist, Indiana Jones.

Up until this point, all of the characters that I’ve built thus far have been focused on combat. Today, we’re looking at a character build that is focused more on the skill aspect of the game. And which skill-focused cinema character is more deserving of a Pathfinder character build than Indiana Jones?


Dr. Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones, Jr. is the title character of the Indiana Jones franchise by George Lucas. He’s one of the most well-known and beloved characters of modern cinematography. Known for his signature bullwhip, leather hat, and jacket, Indy is an archaeologist who participates in treasure hunts in a never-ending quest to find the world’s greatest treasures and put them into a museum. Indy as searched for (and recovered) artifacts including the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Grail, and more. But I don’t need to tell you about Indy: he has an entire movie and book line for you to check out.

Early Levels (1–7)

  • Classes: Rogue 5, Pathfinder Delver 2
  • Feats: Weapon Finesse (1st), Scholar: History, Religion (Human Bonus), Exotic Weapon Proficiency: Whip (Combat Trick), Weapon Focus: Whip (3rd), Whip Mastery (5th), Dazzling Display (7th),
  • Abilities: Bardic Knowledge +1, Master Explorer +1, Rogue Talent (Combat Trick, Trap Spotter), Sneak Attack +3d6, Surefooted, Trap Sense +2, Trapfinding +2

I’m sure that everyone guessed that this was going to be a whip-heavy build, but did you expect me to grab a somewhat obscure Prestige Class? The Pathfinder Delver is an awesome Prestige Class that was originally released in the now out of print book Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Seeker of Secrets. If the Rogue and the Bard hooked up for a one-night stand and had a kid who grew up watching Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, that kid would be the Pathfinder Delver prestige class. (Note: This class is called the Dark Delver on the d20pfsrd.com website for obvious legal reasons.) The Pathfinder Delver gets bardic knowledge, a super-powered version of trapfinding, and advances trap sense in addition to providing a slew of neat dungeon-delving options. I adore Seeker of Secrets and I deeply regret being unable to buy a physical copy of it for less than $80 because of it being out of print: it has some of the coolest Prestige Classes in the game.

Indiana Jones, at this stage of the game, is less about fighting and more about getting stuff done. He’s first into the ancient crypt, he has the skill points to identify all of the weird things he finds, and he doesn’t even need to try to find traps. In combat, he can apply the shaken debuff to his foes and is extremely proficient at using his whip to strike vulnerable foes, but he’s not much of a solo act at this point in the game. Best to keep him with his friends and allies.

Mid Levels (8 –14)

  • Classes: Rogue 5, Pathfinder Delver 9
  • Feats: Weapon Finesse (1st), Scholar: History, Religion (Human Bonus), Exotic Weapon Proficiency: Whip (Combat Trick), Weapon Focus: Whip (3rd), Whip Mastery (5th), Dazzling Display (7th), Improved Whip Mastery (9th), Shatter Defenses (11th), Combat Reflexes (13th)
  • Abilities: Bardic Knowledge +4, Fortunate Soul 1/Day, Guardbreaker, Left for Dead, Master Explorer +4, Resourceful Disabler, Rogue Talent (Combat Trick, Trap Spotter), Sneak Attack +3d6, Surefooted, Thrilling Escape 3/Day, Trap Sense +4, Trapfinding +2, True Seeing, Vigilant Combatant

Now that we’re in the mid-game, Indy’s got some new tricks up his sleeves. Indy’s able to grab Shatter Defenses fairly quickly, which allows him to reliably attack foes for sneak attack damage, even without assistant. He also picks up Improved Whip Mastery so he can pull off his crazy stunts as well as Combat Reflexes for making multiple attacks of opportunity against his foes.

In terms of class abilities, the Pathfinder Delver lays some neat ones onto Indy at this point in the game. Fortunate Soul allows Indy some timely luck in the form of a d20 reroll and Vigilant Combatant rewards him with a massive initiative bonus buff. Even Trap Sense gets some love from Guardbreaker, which uses the Delver’s Trap Sense bonus as a favored enemy bonus against common dungeon denizens. One of my favorite abilities that the class offers is Thrilling Escape, which allows Indy to delay the activation of a trap should he accidentally trigger it. This isn’t going to happen often, but its cinematic value is spot on for Indiana Jones, plus it allows the GM to add some rather powerful, high DC traps without feeling guilty about screwing with the guy who invested heavily in disarming them.

Endgame (15+)

  • Classes: Rogue 10, Pathfinder Delver 10
  • Feats: Weapon Finesse (1st), Scholar: History, Religion (Human Bonus), Exotic Weapon Proficiency: Whip (Combat Trick), Weapon Focus: Whip (3rd), Whip Mastery (5th), Dazzling Display (7th), Improved Whip Mastery (9th), Shatter Defenses (11th), Combat Reflexes (13th), Enforcer (15th), Extra Rogue Talent: Nimble Climber (17th), Extra Rogue Talent: Ledge Walker (19th)
  • Abilities: Bardic Knowledge +5, Fortunate Soul 2/Day, Guardbreaker, Left for Dead, Master Explorer +5, Nick of Time, Resourceful Disabler, Rogue Talent (Canny Observer, Combat Trick, Defensive Offensive, Improved Evasion, Ledge Walker, Nimble Climber, Trap Spotter), Sneak Attack +5d6, Surefooted, Thrilling Escape 3/Day, Trap Sense +6, Trapfinding +5, True Seeing, Vigilant Combatant

Once Indy’s through with levels of Pathfinder Delver he goes right back to Rogue to finish up the rest of his career. Doing so improves his Trap Sense bonus (and thereby his favored enemy bonus from guardbreaker), his sneak attack progression, and his trapfinding bonus. In terms of rogue talents, Indy can scoot quickly across ledges, climb with better assurance, and avoid harmful attacks with ease.

Indy picks up Enforcer at 15th level, which he can use to easy demoralize single targets using his whip’s nonlethal attacks. After grabbing Enforcer, there really weren’t many other relevant feats to take, so I rounded off Indy’s abilities with some more rogue talents via Extra Rogue Talent.

Why No Archaeologist?

I’m predicting that I’m going to get this question: “Why did you ignore the archaeologist bard archetype? Isn’t that one of your favorites?”

Well, its true that the archaeologist bard is one of my favorite archetypes. It’s also true that the creator of this archetype drew heavy inspiration from Indiana Jones when making the archaeologist bard. However, there’s one major problem with this archetype that, in my opinion, destroys its usefulness in relation to Indiana Jones: the magic.

If you stop to take a look at the Indiana Jones franchise, Indy is largely portrayed as an everyman character despite his years of study and experience. He’s a fun guy that you’d probably want to be around, but more importantly Indy represents a fantasy that many of the other big-name characters of the time couldn’t match. You can’t aspire to be Superman or Thor or Captain America, but compared to the likes of those characters Indy is normal. He’s done hard work to become an archaeologist but he hasn’t done anything that you or I couldn’t do. Heck, he’s portrayed as former Boy Scout! The fantasy draw of Indiana Jones comes from how relatable he is and that’s not something that you can achieve with a spellcasting, supernatural character like the bard. So no, I’ll never recommend the archaeologist bard archetype for someone who specifically wants to be Indiana Jones: the fantasy simply isn’t there.

And there you have it; a workable build for Indiana Jones! What do you think? Does this build capture the “fantasy” of Indiana Jones, or were you dead-set on the archaeologist bard? Do you think I could have done something better? Is this the sort of character that you’d want to include in your campaign? Leave your answers and comments below!

Alexander “Alex” Augunas has been playing roleplaying games since 2007, which isn’t nearly as long as 90% of his colleagues. Alexander is an active freelancer for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and is best known as the author of the Pact Magic Unbound series by Radiance House. Alex is the owner of Everyman Gaming, LLC and is often stylized as the Everyman Gamer in honor of Guidance’s original home. Alex’s favorite color is blue, his favorite Pathfinder Race/Class combination is kitsune Pathfinder delver, and his favorite pastime is making sure that all precious things find their home within a museum.

Alex Augunas

Alexander "Alex" Augunas is an author and behavioral health worker living outside of Philadelphia in the United States. He has contributed to gaming products published by Paizo, Inc, Kobold Press, Legendary Games, Raging Swan Press, Rogue Genius Games, and Steve Jackson Games, as well as the owner and publisher of Everybody Games (formerly Everyman Gaming). At the Know Direction Network, he is the author of Guidance and a co-host on Know Direction: Beyond. You can see Alex's exploits at http://www.everybodygames.net, or support him personally on Patreon at http://www.patreon.com/eversagarpg.

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