Iconic Design – Getting the Gaang Back Together 1: Water

Welcome to Iconic Design, Private Sanctuary’s source for innovative and evocative character builds for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, written by Everyman Gamer Alexander Augunas. Today, we’re going to be looking at a build for Katara, from Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Ever since Occult Adventures was released, people have been pelting us with requests for one particular series of characters. Characters who are beloved, who arguably take part in one of the greatest Hero’s Journey stories of our time. I’m talking, of course, about Avatar: The Last Airbender. (Shamaylan is a myth. Shamaylan is a myth….)

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, stop reading my article and go binge. Its like 60 episodes in all, with a total of three seasons. In my humble opinion, Avatar: The Last Airbender is the unsung Star Wars trilogy of our era, and any nerd or geek who doesn’t at least give it a try is missing out on a cultural phenomena. Who cares that its animated? Who cares that the cast is kids or that it’s a Nickelodeon show? If you have any amount of respect for me as a journalist, you will give this show the same 14 hours that you gave Agents of Shield, and I ASSURE you that you will be hooked if you give it a fair chance.

So with that kind of an intro, who am I going to be building today? Well, not Aang. Not now and probably not ever. Aang is basically a mythic character, and rules don’t exist that allow one to make a satisfying Avatar, so I am not going to bother to try and build something that will never be up to my standards. So instead, I’m going to build the female lead, a young lady who is, in my opinion, one of the biggest bad-asses in fantasy bar none, Katara.

Build Concept

Here’s a quick rundown on Katara.

  • Human: There aren’t any nonhuman humanoids in Avatar: The Last Airbender.
  • Kineticist: Duh. Avatar: The Last Airbender INSPIRED the kineticist class. There is nothing better for Katara.

Well, that was easy! Let’s get started on the build, then.

Book One: Water (1–7)

  • Classes: kineticist 7
  • Feats: Point-Blank Shot (Bonus), Toughness (1st), Precise Shot (3rd), Weapon Finesse, (5th), Extra Wild Talent: kinetic healer (7th)
  • Abilities: burn, elemental defense, elemental focus, elemental overflow +2, expanded element (water), gather power, infusion specialization 1, infusions, internal buffer 1, kinetic blast, metakinesis (empower), utility wild talents
  • Blast Talents: water blast (1st), cold blast (7th), ice blast (7th)
  • Defense Talents: shroud of water (2nd)
  • Infusion Talents: pushing infusion (1st), quenching infusion (3rd), kinetic blade (5th), kinetic whip (7th)
  • Utility Talents: basic hydrokinesis (1st), slick (2nd), icewalker (4th), kinetic cover (6th), kinetic healer (Bonus)

At the start of Book One, Katara’s abilities mostly revolve around water; she doesn’t start reliably using ice until near the end of the first Season. Thankfully, by our tier system Katara’s JUST gotten expanded elements (water) at this point. For her epic dual at the conclusion of the book, Katara’s done a lot of practice in mastering her form. Water whip is one of the first techniques she learns in the series, which is demonstrated by the kinetic whip infusion. She grabs Weapon Finesse the level she takes kinetic whip, which means she can stay mostly Dex-focused in her abilities; befitting her nimble fighting style. Utility-wise, slicks are among the most basic techniques in a waterbender’s arsenal, and icewalker is a must for a girl who grew up at the South Pole. Kinetic healer is Katara’s first “Extra Wild Talent” pick; she learns this at the North Pole after the epic climax of that season.

Onward to Season 2!

Book Two: Earth (8 –14)

  • Classes: kineticist 14
  • Feats: Point-Blank Shot (Bonus), Toughness (1st), Precise Shot (3rd), Weapon Finesse, (5th), Extra Wild Talent: kinetic healer (7th), Extra Wild Talent: extended range (9th), Extra Wild Talent: torrent (11th), Extra Wild Talent: spray (13th)
  • Abilities: burn, elemental defense, elemental focus, elemental overflow +4, expanded element (water), gather power, infusion specialization 4, infusions, internal buffer 2, kinetic blast, metakinesis (empower, maximize, quicken), supercharge, utility wild talents
  • Blast Talents: water blast (1st), cold blast (7th), ice blast (7th)
  • Defense Talents: shroud of water (2nd)
  • Infusion Talents: pushing infusion (1st), quenching infusion (3rd), kinetic blade (5th), kinetic whip (7th), extended range (Bonus), impale (9th), torrent (Bonus), wall (11th), spray (Bonus), grappling infusion (13th)
  • Utility Talents: basic hydrokinesis (1st), slick (2nd), icewalker (4th), kinetic cover (6th), kinetic healer (Bonus), waterdancer (8th), water manipulator (10th), ice path (12th), ride the blast (14th)

Book Two really sees Katara transform into a waterbending master. At the end of the season, she adopts a powerful eight-tentacle fighting stance against Zuko and Azula, which we’re representing with the grappling infusion, modified with the wall infusion. She’s gotten plenty of cool tricks by this point; she’s able to bend her allies across a channel with creative application of the water manipulate alongside Aang’s own bending abilities and she is able to throw so much water at her foes that she literally surfs at enemies along with her blasts, mirrored by the aptly-named “ride the blast” ability. She impales people with ice and can even freeze water solid enough to walk on it; Katara’s REALLY awesome by the end of Book 2, so much so that I was itching to see where her character went in Book 3. Let’s find out!

Book Three: Fire (15+)

  • Classes: kineticist 20
  • Feats: Point-Blank Shot (Bonus), Toughness (1st), Precise Shot (3rd), Weapon Finesse, (5th), Extra Wild Talent: kinetic healer (7th), Extra Wild Talent: extended range (9th), Extra Wild Talent: torrent (11th), Extra Wild Talent: spray (13th), Weapon Focus: kinetic blast (15th), Combat Casting (17th), FREEBIE (19th)
  • Abilities: burn, composite specialization, elemental defense, elemental focus, elemental overflow +6, expanded element (water, water), gather power, infusion specialization 6, infusions, internal buffer 3, kinetic blast, metakinesis (empower, maximize, quicken, twice), metakinetic master, omnikinesis, supercharge, utility wild talents
  • Blast Talents: water blast (1st), cold blast (7th), ice blast (7th)
  • Defense Talents: shroud of water (2nd)
  • Infusion Talents: pushing infusion (1st), quenching infusion (3rd), kinetic blade (5th), kinetic whip (7th), extended range (Bonus), impale (9th), torrent (Bonus), wall (11th), spray (Bonus), grappling infusion (13th), extreme range (Bonus), fragmentation (17th), cloud (19th)
  • Utility Talents: basic hydrokinesis (1st), slick (2nd), icewalker (4th), kinetic cover (6th), kinetic healer (Bonus), waterdancer (8th), water manipulator (10th), ice path (12th), ride the blast (14th), shimmering mirage (16th), tidal wave (18th), reverse shift (20th)

By the end of Book 3, Katara is among the most skilled waterbenders alive. It takes both her and Zuko to beat a comet-infused Azula, but in the end she ends up stopping Azula with a powerful, imprisoning blast. (We’ll call it the grappling infusion here.) Shimmering mirage can be flavored as a nice boost to her agility in battle and tidal wave is an ability she pulls out on several occasions when water is present. Reverse shift might seem weird, but here’s where I make it not-weird: it is the bender’s ability to mediate to send their consciousness to the Spirit World! Just about the ONLY thing that isn’t appropriate for katara is the capstone, omnikinesis; the ability to be flexible with the elements isn’t appropriate for her, but the ability to choose universal or water talents she doesn’t have sure is!

And with that, I present to you Katara, Hero of the Water Tribe! Who will I write up next, and when will that be? Who knows?! Come back next week and find out! 😉

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 also cohosts the Private Sanctuary Podcast, along with fellow blogger Anthony Li, and you can follow their exploits on Facebook in the 3.5 Private Sanctuary Group, or on Alex’s Twitter, @AlJAug.

Alex Augunas

Alexander Augunas lives outside of Philadelphia, USA where he tries to make a living as an educator. When he's not shaping the future leaders of tomorrow, Alex is a freelance writer for esteemed Pathfinder Roleplaying Game publishers such as Paizo, Inc, Radiance House, Raging Swan Press, and more, and also acts as a co-host and blogger on the Know Direction Network, where he has earned the nickname, "The Everyman Gamer." Recently, Alex has forayed into the realm of self-publishing through his company, Everyman Gaming, LLC.

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7 Comments

  1. I know it doesn’t exactly fit with the recent occult themes, but I’d love to see your take on a build for Sokka. Interestingly, he at one point laments his relative inability to affect the outcomes of encounters at the onset of season three. He’s just a guy, and he’s overshadowed by everyone else’s ability to make stuff fly around (his words, not mine). Quite similar, I feel, to the martial/caster disparity rampant on forum discussions.

  2. EEEEEEEEE!!!!!! (picture a 350lb bearded barbarian fangirling) this is so awesome! I love that show. please please do toph next

  3. Chanin Vichaita Reply to Chanin

    Yay Avatar! Can’t wait to see what you have for the rest of the gang (especially Sokka, and maybe Suki, Iroh, Ty lee, and Mai) Side Question: Alex, Did you enjoy the Korra story?

    • Alex Augunas Reply to Alex

      Ugh, how do I answer that question without giving spoilers for people who read the article but haven’t seen Avatar?!

      Short Answer: Yes.

      Long Answer: I’ve thought extensively on Korra vs. LAB extensively, and my basic consensus is that LAB was MUCH better at having an overarching plot, but Korra’s individual seasons were better than LAB’s. Save the copout ending, Season One of Korra is as good as Season One of LAB, and likely as good as Season 2 as well. The writers definitely learned how to tell a good story arc in the course of a season.

      Where Korra falls flat of its predacessor, however, is in its overarching storylines and character development. Korra herself has a LOT of development between Books 2, 3, and 4, but for the most part the other characters in the series develop very little. That problem started to fix itself in the transition between Book 3 and 4, when it became clear that the writers knew they had multiple seasons to tell their story. (Season One was written with the assumption that it would be a one-off story, and then Nickelodeon sort of just told them to do more, so while the character backtrack in Season 2 is unfortunate, it is sort of a byproduct of the writers putting themselves in a proverbial corner at the conclusion of Book 1 with Korra’s “Happy Ending.”)

      There’s a lot of ways that Korra would have been better. For example, if all of the seasons had been framed amidst the growing dissatisfaction that non-benders SHOULD have been experiencing towards benders. (Which was hand-waived away with an all-too-short time skip at the start of Season 1). I mean, seriously, Book 4’s political landscape should have been comparable to the US Government’s in X-Men: Day’s of Future Past, what with a bender assassinating an important, non-bender political leader and all?

      But I digress: I like Korra for different reasons then TLA. They both have their strengths and their weaknesses. (TLA can sometimes be too silly for my tastes, and I felt that how Aang defeats the Fire Lord was a poorly explained cop-out.) I would recommend both to anyone, honestly.

  4. No Avatar! I’m disappointed, but I suppose we’ll just have to wait for somebody (Owen probably) to make some Mythic rules/abilities for the psychic classes.

    I’m interested in Toph, especially what you’d use to compensate for her blindness and asskicking abilities (what she has is SO much better than PF tremorsense).

    • Alex Augunas Reply to Alex

      I could never do Aang or Korra justice without an option that allows the kineticist to take more elements at a more rapid pace then what the class gets. Sorry!

      • Prior to the Kineticist’s release, I built up versions of the Gaang, Azula’s Angels, and Team Avatar for my Jade Regent player’s to face in the Ruby Phoenix Tournament. For Aang, since he does very little actual hand to hand combat, i actually went with sorcerer for a wide variety of elemental attack spells–though I did have to dip into third party stuff for spells which actually used blasts of air to attack instead of electricity. For Korra, I turned to Dreamscarred Press and made her a Wilder, who have a decent ability to mix it up in melee, which she did to a much greater degree than Aang, can have their elemental attacks doing whatever sort of damage they want, and definitely fit her impulsive nature.

        Best I found for Toph’s amazing senses was to make her a Halfling Oracle of Stone with the Clouded Vision curse. By 10th level, the halfling favored class bonus gave her Blindsight to 15 feet, Blindsense to 30, and normal vision to 60. Which is nowhere near what Toph’s actually capable of, but is probably the best you can get on a PC-type chassis.

        On that note, my Katara was also an Oracle of the Waves. The curse mechanic is admittedly not a great fit for her, but using the Haunted curse did give her access to telekinesis to emulate bloodbending.

        I think the most fun I had was designing Asami as a Scout Rogue optimized for one-shot knockouts with a variety of feats stacking sneak attack for non-lethal attacks and a merciful gauntlet. Nearly laid out an Eidolon in one blow.

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