Hey everyone! So, real talk—I was not going to write an article for today. It’s was 3:00 am on New Year’s Day when I started writing this, pecking away on my labtop in absolute darkness because inspiration struck me. Thank my muses, people. (Or curse them if you end up hating this article, I guess.)
When I do Iconic Designs, I often write up builds that I’m planning on using in one capacity or another. It’s easier that way—I already need the build to plan my characters after all. So for today’s article, I’m going to share my Top 10 character builds from Iconic Design that I actively played this year. If possible, I’ll share a fun anecdote or two about the character and throw some Everyman Gaming art in. It’ll be great! (Hopefully.) The header for each character will be a link to that build on the Know Direction site for your convenience. So strap in, let’s go!
Fun story—this character is named for freelancer and Know Direction blogger Luis Loza, who designed the style feat chain that the character used. Loza also has all of my Reign of Winter chronicles on him, as well as a cool boon that I won at a charity auction, the Thanguard Mantle. All of this couldn’t save Loza from one small detail, however—Loza is by far one of the most unlucky characters that I have ever played. Ever. Literally everything Loza does blows up in his face. When I played him in 8-99: The Cosmic Captive this year, that bad luck included getting 6 negative levels out of 7. When I played him in Ward Asunder, that bad luck included getting hit with a x4 tetsubo crit at Level 3. (He hand to be washed off of the walls for his raise dead spell.) But he FINALLY had his moment to shine in the Golemworks Incident of all things! Without spoilers, in the adventure there’s a part where you have to cross this MASSIVE map to get to the enemy you need to defeat, who is taking his time shooting lasers at you. (I mean, they’re not ACTUALLY lasers but they’re basically lasers.) Even better, the floor is covered with trash and junk, making it difficult terrain. You’re supposed to slog through the difficult terrain for two or three rounds as you’re peppered by bullets and harassed by crowd control effects like stinking cloud or black tentacles. But Loza? Loza was like, “No!” He’s a vexing dodger and is REALLY good at climbing, like “Has a climb speed,” good. So rather than trudge through the muck on the grond, I grabbed onto the stone-hewn walls and used a delightful combination of ninja-like jumping and climbing to get ti the enemy surprisingly quickly, and managed to occupy their time for a few rounds. Of course, the party summoner decided to drop the boss into a pit and Loza being Loza failed his REFLEX save (his +11 unchained rogue with a Dex focus Reflex save), but in the end that pit basically turned into the thunderdome as everyone jumped into it for cover from the lasers. A hilarious scenario GMed by the ever patient (and ever brutal) James Ballod of Code Switch!
Hirokyu’s actually my -1; the first PFS character I made. He got his claim-to-fame in that his fighting style absolutely did not work initially, so then I rebuilt it to the build linked above (I even spent the prestige to retrain the character), but that STILL didn’t work, so when I was offered the Weapon Master’s Handbook gig, I added a bunch of options that drastically helped thrown weapon fighters. (Yes, I fixed my character using my freelancer status. Wanna fight about it?!) Maybe someday I’ll redo his build for the site so you can see what I did.
Anyway, we were doing this adventure that involved the scariest thing known to man—an antipaladin MINOTAUR, and falcon, my character was Neutral Good! A cleric of Desna gives me this sick blessing that makes my dagger holy, and I start doing work with my weapon. So much work, in fact, that the cleric manages to hit me with the maze spell. And of course, he has a special ability that allows him to follow me into the maze. He grapples me and I have two choices—I can either try to roll a 19 on a d20 to escape the maze (you need a 20 and I had a +1 Int modifier), or I can try to kill the monster in one round before he pins me. I elect for the latter, and full attack with all the gusto I can manage. I blow a panache point so I can throw my dagger for an extra attack (I have Rapid Shot), and I pray.
Hirokyu crits THREE times, on all three attacks, and CONFIRMS them all! The minotaur dies brutally in his own maze, and I escape rattled but unharmed. (Coincidentally, my character did this to a DIFFERENT end boss a few weeks earlier, critting her three times during the first round of combat and dropping her instantly.) Hirokyu has definitely gone from zero to hero in my eyes!
So I knew how I wanted Yenzie to be built before I ever build him, but the irony of me sceambling to put my character to paper while I was sitting at my first Starfinder Society scenario is not lost on me. Yenzi is my ysoki operative, a character who is completely built around sick Acrobatic flips and kicks. My first (and currently only) Starfinder Society scenario was 1-02, and I was really impressed with that scenario. Not only was it quick and surprisingly in-depth, but the combats were fun and action-packed. There was even a great moment where when confronted with the final boss of the adventure, Yenzie found out that his enemy had very similar abilities to his own—and thus an unforgettable sick-flip-off began! In the end Yenzie and his party (including Intergalatic Pop Sensation Hasuko Hane). I haven’t played much SFS because of time, but I’m glad that I have a quirky character in my stables for when time stops eluding me. (Although I’ve come to find that the ysoki operative race/class combination is super common—maybe I’ll hold out for a boon and change his race to something else, like halfling or, gosh, SKITTERMANDER!)
Zulvr, my catfolk bloodrager, was definitely not a character I expected to make this year. I ended up getting a catfolk boon at GenCon—my friend Tom was a Tier 2 GM, I was Tier 3. He wanted to play a naiad and I walked to play my prowler at world’s end bloodrager archetype. Tom was super cool and swapped his GM boon for mine, so special shout-out to you Tom! Zulvr’s build ended up working perfectly, but it was the adventure he found himself in that really made him stand out as a character—9-08: Shores of Heaven. This is an AWESOME adventure if you’re playing a character who has any investment in the outer planes, and Zulvr’s ability to flexibly pick and choose his powers at the start of a scenario really came in handy. In that adventure, we didn’t have a strong face character or anyone with ranks in Knowledge (religion), so Zulvr called on his trickster leopard spirit for assistance. Having those extra skills was crucial to our success in that adventure, which made a very memorable scenario all the more fun.
You’ll have to forgive me—I don’t have any pictures of Marcellus yet, but to say that his lack of pictures means a lack of “war stories” would be just wrong. Marcellus is one of my stranger PFS characters. Back in 2016, I earned a special boon for GMing at PaizoCon ’16, a boon that let me choose one character and give them a bonus trait from the list of Hell’s Rebels campaign traits. Super cool, right? Well, one of those traits is called Child of Kintargo, and it allows you to join a major Chellish noble family if you have the Noble Scion feat. From this trait spawned a wacky character idea—a brawler whom I did everything in my power to get into as many noble houses as possible. But the catch? As much as it would have made sense for Marcellus to be part of the Sovereign Court faction, the “All nobles united Illuminati style” faction, Marcellus woudn’t be in that faction. Instead, I made him Liberty’s Edge, looking for freedom fighter contacts to send back towards Kintargo to help liberate his homeland from House Thrune. This is the basis of a character who would end up having a LOT of strange presence in a variety of different adventures. In Assault on Absalom, he pushed very hard for his party to rally the support of the local Absalom nobility, but also rallied a bunch of slaves to his side towards freedom. But nothing could have prepared me for how much FUN he would be to play in 9-08: Birthright Betrayed. Without going into spoilers, this is a scenario that is built around a high-society investigation, and it ended up being a MARVELOUS adventure. Another player in the party was part of Sovereign Court, and she had a boon / feat that allowed her to be part of a well-known Pathfinder Society noble house (House Lebeda—they’re featured in the scenarios “Horn of Aroden” and “On the Border of War”). We had an absolute blast running amok in Taldor, callously throwing our noblity around and getting tons of benefit for doing so. I can honestly say that it was one of the most satisfying scenarios I’ve played because of its combination of great writing and perfect roleplaying / gameplay opportunities for players who came to the table with noble characters. 10/10, looking forward to Marcellus’s next adventure!
One question that I get a lot being a frequent kitsune player is, “Hey Alex, do you play the OP kitsune enchanter build?” And my answer to that question is, “Yes, but I build into other tricks so I don’t have to spam the enchantment spells. My enchanting prowess is very much something Yujin saves unless there is no other option—it is the only way to be an ethical enchanter. And one thing I made sure of when writing Yujin is that he was very ethical; most kitsune enchanters are creeps on a power trip, so I wanted to make sure I didn’t fall into that trap. In fact, when we played Torrent’s Last Will a few months ago, I didn’t use a single enchantment spell until the final encounter, an encounter that is SUPER tough because it features a very powerful, dangerous monster. (No spoilers, but I’m sure those of you who’ve played it will agree with me.)
So going into that fight we were down a man (our pregen oracle got horribly murdered after she moved into melee to breath of life a PC), and very early on one of our three remaining party members dropped unconscious. The other guy was badly hurt and slowed, so it was basically my sorcerer versus this VERY dangerous monster. So what did I do? I pulled out the enchantments. This type of monster usually has very high Will saves, so you can imagine the GM’s shock when I told him he needed to roll a 25 or higher to save against my confusion spell. Between confusion, stinking cloud, black tentacles, and virtually every controlling spell in my arsenal, I managed to hold the monster off long enough that our three man party recovered and engaged, giving us a win by the skin of our teeth. That was hard-fought and super fun, and boy was I glad to have some OP enchantments on my side for it.
When I first started playing Kohdaehan, he was an experiment—how high could I pump Strength on a race with a Strength penalty? The answer was pretty hilarious—something in the high 20s, I think 27 or 28 was the final number I reached during PFS. Kohdaehan had plenty of awesome moments, but his most awesome moment was his final “undergrad” PFS game. In Pathfinder Society, you generally only get to play most of your characters between the levels of 1st and 11th, because official support from PFS at 12th level and beyond is extremely limited—modules and up to 8 XP of seeker arcs only right now. For this reason, PFS characters who reach 12th level are largely considered “retired,” and when Kohdaehan was 11-2/3 I knew his final game had to be a big one. Kohdaehan’s personality is very righteous; he’s abyssal-tainted, and so he wants to make sure he can justify his blasphemous existence by destroying as much evil as possible. Kohdaehan also ended up playing a LOT of Season 4 adventures, and for this reason, the only game I could retire Kohdaehan on was the infamous Waking Rune, the adventure where the Pathfinder Society has to stop a newly-awoken Runelord. I won’t go into spoilers, but as a group we prepped hard for this adventure and in the end, my bloodrager got the killing blow on the Runelord of Sloth with his massive +2 adamantine impact greatsword, which Code Switch blogger James Ballod affectionately calls the “Car Door.” Kohdaehan’s retirement was absolutely a highlight of my 2017 adventures!
Speaking of retirement, I got to play Eyes of the Ten on my investigator, Ihan Blakros-Ichihara! It was VERY fun—combat-wise it is still solid and rather difficult, but storywise I don’t think it holds up as well as some veterans think it does. John and Linda have certainly brought the PFS Storytelling structure a long way since Season 2. However, this series pushed my investigator to his absolute limit, necessitating every trick he had in his extensive book. Inspiration remains one of my favorite mechanics in the game, and Ihan’s ability to boss traps, mind blast people for huge amounts of damage, and ace nearly any skill check made for an extremely fun adventure for me. And yes, for those asking, we got the best possible reward from the adventure. Very cool, very fun.
Make sure you ask me about the “font” story sometime; bonus points if James is around so you can see him writhe as I tell it!
These two are LITERALLY one of my favorite PFS characters–Asaru, a kitsune raised by fey and wolves, and Scrappy, his animal companion “wolf-brother.” It’s a lot of fun to play a character who doesn’t understand (or is still learning) a lot of basic stuff about society, and they’re especially fun because of their crazy antics. For example, in 9-02: A Case of Missing Persons, Asaru and his party of halflings and ratfolk were faced with an issue—breaking a man out of prison without getting caught or trigging an encounter. Asaru had a brilliant idea based around his notoriously strange allotment of spells. He called in some contacts and acquired an oil of reduce person, then lead the group to the jail cell and cast the all food spell on the cell’s bars. After he quickly ate the bars, he helped the ratfolk ninja and halfling rogue into the jail cell, where they made Stealth checks to avoid being seen or heard. Once they were sure no one was looking, they slathered the prisoner in the oil of reduce person, and once his size had been shrunk small enough to fit through the now-open jailhouse window, we extracted the team and the prisoner and fled to safety! BY THE POWER OF ALLFOOD, WE SURVIVED!
Asaru tried a similar tactic this past weekend in No Response from Deepmar to less effect, but that adventure had its own fun and challenges. Once you track the abductors from that scenario back to their lair, you’re met with a very sticky situation—the enemies’ tactics are to disengage at 1/3 HP and run for help. And we were pretty powerless to stop them from running. Basically, our crew ended up fighting the entire dungeon’s worth of denizens in one massive waved encounter that took almost three hours of time to run. This was both a good thing and a bad thing. As a plus note, our party could effectively roll buffs because everything was coming to us. The bad news was that we lacked a healer and had expended all of our healing resources on a previous encounter, so there was NO room for error. As a 7th-level character, Asaru has a LOT of tricks for buffing himself and his animal companion, and the party sorcerer was pretty awesome for buffing us too. At one point, he had sense vitals, coldsteel, haste, barkskin, strong jaw, and rage active all at the same time! But it was NOT easy. At one point, Scrappy was knocked unconscious, –19 hit points with a 19 Con. The ONLY thing that saved Scrappy was that he still had the rage spell active, and our party’s sorcerer managed to hit him with our group’s final charge of infernal healing just before Scrappy went down. It was an amazing, epic battle and easily one of the crowning moments of PF / SF gaming for me.
My number 1 gaming memories for builds I’ve made in 2017, however, absolutely go to Shoku Devilblade, my Starfinder Soldier whose building process I meticulously posted to Know Direction in September / October. In our first game in Dead Suns, Shoku was AMAZINGLY fun to play. I learned first-hand that it’s pretty awesome to bring a sword to a gunfight in Starfinder, because no one is expecting to be stabbed with steel in space. We had great combats with excellent pacing, awesome roleplaying, and even a starship combat where Shoku got to be the main pilot. (No one else has Piloting trained. Who knew?) I’ve written a lot about Shoku on Know Direction, so check out some of those posts for more information. (Plus Perram will kill me if I say anything spoilery on Dead Suns. Sorry!)
Honorable Mention: Zanzo Xitan, my kitsune bard in Reign of Winter. We’re almost done with the Adventure Path, and Zanzo has had so many clutch moments that I probably could write an entire blog post on just his moments. However, I don’t think I’ve ever put Zanzo’s build on the site because it’s pretty basic. Maybe I ought to change that. Or maybe I should do an episode where I air my grievances on the bard class. Meh, we’ll see. Which would you rather see: my bard’s build or an episode where I talk about why the bard is a poorly designed class? Leave your choice below, and we’ll see which one I end up talking about first in the new year! Peace out, everyone. May your days be merry and bright!
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.