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 Steve Rodgers, aka Captain America.
Ever since I started doing the Guardians of the Galaxy Iconic Designs, people have asked me to start doing Iconic Designs for other Marvel Universe characters, specifically the Avengers. Well folks, I’m caving in to peer pressure. Steve Rodgers, aka Captain America, is today’s Iconic Design!
Super-short summary of Captain America’s background from the Marvel Universe wiki. If you want something more in-depth, go watch the movie.
In World War II patriotic solider Steve Rogers recipient of the “Super Soldier Serum” became the living symbol of freedom, Captain America. Left for dead while frozen in ice, the star-spangled hero with an indestructible shield awoke years later to continue his never-ending battle for liberty.
Building Captain America is very, very easy for one specific reason: he has his own archetype completely dedicated to him.
- Brawler (Shield Champion): This lovely archetype in the Pathfinder RPG Advanced Class Guide was literally designed to allow you to be Captain America. (I should know, I’ve spoken with the archetype’s creator on the subject.) In a nutshell, this archetype trades much of the brawler’s specialization with combat maneuvers for the ability to throw a shield, perform combat maneuvers at range with a shield, and deal better damage with a shield. It is the pain-dealing face-bashing archetype that any good Steve Rodger’s build ought to be.
I could sit here and tell you why this archetype is perfect for our needs, or I could show you! Take a guess which option I chose ….
Early Levels (1–7)
- Classes: brawler (shield champion) 7
- Feats: Dodge (Human), Point-Blank Shot (1st), Weapon Focus: heavy shields (Bonus), Precise Shot (3rd), Improved Shield Bash (Bonus), Close-Quarters Thrower (5th), Shield Focus: heavy shields (7th)
- Abilities: AC bonus +1, brawler’s cunning, brawler’s flurry (Two-Weapon Fighting), close weapon mastery, knockout 1/day, martial flexibility (swift), martial training, returning shield, throw shield, unarmed strike (1d8).
The nice thing about this build is that it is A) very straight forward and B) very flexible for you, the player. You see, there are a LOT of shield-based feats. More so than any straight-class brawler could ever hope to take. But that’s why martial flexibility is so beautiful. From very early on, you can use martial flexibility to pick up feats that you wouldn’t normally have. Feats that don’t appear in the build until much later, if you’d like. For instance, I’m saving Power Attack until the mid-levels because I think that its more important to get the shield throwing aspect of the combo down. If I decide that I want Power Attack for a combat, however, I can take it with a snap of my fingers and a use of martial flexibility. On the flip-side, if I don’t think that Close-Quarters Thrower is very useful, I could choose Deadly Aim instead and dabble into Close-Quarters Thrower as the need arises with martial flexibility. At the end of the article, I have a list of feats that Steve himself would like grab with his martial flexibility, so hopefully that helps you out a bit.
Since the archetype focuses heavily on getting Steve able and willing to fling that shield around, I am too. I’ve picked up Precise Shot and Point-Blank Shot so I don’t have to worry about as many massive penalties that could potentially stop my attacks from landing. I’ve also picked Improved Shield Bash as not to compromise my defense with my melee attacks and Shield Focus: heavy shields for the first feat that I’m going to grab in the mid-levels. Overall, my feat choices aren’t complicated: its martial flexibility itself that adds a lot of depth to this build.
Mid Levels (8 –14)
- Classes: brawler (shield champion) 14
- Feats: Dodge (Human), Point-Blank Shot (1st), Weapon Focus: heavy shields (Bonus), Precise Shot (3rd), Improved Shield Bash (Bonus), Close-Quarters Thrower (5th), Shield Focus: heavy shields (7th), Missile Shield (Bonus), Shield Slam (9th), Deadly Aim (Bonus), Shield Master: heavy shields (11th), Saving Shield (13th), Disruptive (Bonus)
- Abilities: AC bonus +3, brawler’s cunning, brawler’s flurry (Improved Two-Weapon Fighting), close weapon mastery, knockout 2/day, martial flexibility (immediate), martial training, returning shield, throw shield, unarmed strike (2d8).
So I’m not entirely sure how Shield Master would interact with the shield champion archetype, as you’re making extra attacks using the Two-Weapon Fighting rules (which Shield Master specifically states that it interacts with) but does the feat cause me to ignore all of my Two-Weapon Fighting penalties if it’s the only weapon that I use during my brawler’s flurry? What if I’m wielding two shields? Very confusing feat all-around, but based on how your GM answers those questions it can be a VERY good feat to pick up. Even if he’s unfavorable in every response, a feat to save a LOT of gold on your shield is a good thing.
Aside from that one feat, the rest of this build is very self-explanatory. I ended up grabbing Disruptive at the end in order to qualify for Ray Shield, which is this awesomely thematic feat where you can reflect rays using your shield. I also picked up Saving Shield, which is a very on-theme choice in my opinion, and Deadly aim. Looking at the archetype’s abilities, one of the neat gems we get comes from the archetype itself. MANY different abilities are locked up within the shield champion, including two bonus feats (Far Shot and Greater Shield Focus), the ability to make iterative attacks with one shield by bouncing it all over the place, and the ability to use your FULL brawler unarmed strike damage with your shields, rather than brawler –4 like with most close weapons. By this point in the game, Captain America is making six attacks per round with a paltry penalty (thanks to Shield Master) that each deal 2d8 points of damage. That’s a LOT of damage, and its one of the things that make this archetype so good.
- Classes: brawler (shield champion) 20
- Feats: Dodge (Human), Point-Blank Shot (1st), Weapon Focus: heavy shields (Bonus), Precise Shot (3rd), Improved Shield Bash (Bonus), Close-Quarters Thrower (5th), Shield Focus: heavy shields (7th), Missile Shield (Bonus), Shield Slam (9th), Shield Snag (Bonus), Shield Master: heavy shields (11th), Saving Shield (13th), Power Attack (Bonus), Deadly Aim (15th), Disruptive (Bonus), Spellbreaker (17th), Ray Shield (19th), Covering Shield (Bonus)
- Abilities: AC bonus +4, awesome blow, brawler’s cunning, brawler’s flurry (Greater Two-Weapon Fighting), champion defense, close weapon mastery, knockout 3/day, improved awesome blow, martial flexibility (immediate; any number), martial training, returning shield, throw shield, unarmed strike (2d10).
At the end game, Captain America sort of just fills out. We’re really just picking whatever feats we ended up using the most from martial flexibility at this point. Captain America has some neat abilities, like sending foes flying with awesome blow or knocking them out in one strike with knockout. Overall, nothing really new or exciting is added to the build here, but man does it look good! Like a classic corvette, this build is sleek and purrs real nice. I think Steve Rodgers would appreciate that.
In addition to “jumping ahead” on the recommended feats for this build, the following feats are very appropriate for Steve Rodgers to pick up using his martial flexibility.
- Bludgeoner: Just in case you REALLY don’t want your shield slams to kill your target. S.H.I.E.L.D. might want you to bring someone back alive, you know?
- Covering Defense: Using the total defense action also provides cover to your allies.
- Exotic Weapon Proficiency: Firearms.
- Saving Shield: Grant an ally a +2 shield bonus to AC as an immediate action.
- Weapon Specialization / Greater Weapon Focus / Greater Weapon Specialization
- Penetrating Strike / Greater Weapon Specialization
- Combat Reflexes / Body Guard
- Combat Reflexes / Combat Patrol
And that’s all the time I have for this build, folks! What do you think? Is this a good representation of Captain America, or did I miss something crucial? What Marvel Super Hero should I do next? (I’m saving Doctor Strange for Occult Adventures, but pretty much everyone else is fair game.) Let me know what you think and until next time, take care!
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 shielded champion, and he knows nothing of the eldritch contraptions known as automobiles, so if corvettes don’t purr don’t attack him for it!