Iconic Design: He’s Strong to the Finish ‘Cause He Eats His Spinach!

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 a build for Popeye the Sailor!

As the title states, today’s build is Popeye the Sailor. Let’s get cracking!


Popeye was an old comic strip character from the early 1930s. He later became a popular television cartoon in the 1960s, which is where most people remember him today. Popeye was, as his name suggests, a sailor who loved three things: his favorite dame, slugging ne’er-do-wells, and eating spinach. And whoa, what a rush Popeye got from his spinach! Eating a single can would nearly quadruple his strength! Popeye was a very predictable cartoon: Popeye chases after Olive Oyl, Olive rejects Popeye for something (or someone) else. Olive needs saving. Popeye tries to save Olive and fails. Popeye eats spinach, gains super strength, and saves Olive, usually earning him a kiss.

Surely a character as classic as Popeye deserves an iconic design!

Build Concept

There’s really only one way to build Popeye effectively, as you’ll soon see.

  • Brawler (Mutagenic Mauler): This archetype trades the brawler’s martial flexibility so it can dabble in alchemy. Particularly, the alchemist’s mutagen. The mutagenic mauler gains several new enhancements to this mutagen as the brawler level, but the fact that this archetype exists at all makes it the perfect Popeye build. Not sold? Allow me to sell it to you with two words: mutagenic spinach. NOW can you see it? The strength bonus? The natural armor? The Constitution bonus? Because I sure can!
  • Improvised Weapons: Although Popeye isn’t afraid to pummel his foes into dust with his fists, every now and then he’ll use props like chairs and stuff to fight foes. To simulate this, I am going to give Popeye some feats that make him proficient with improvised weapons.
  • Amateur Investigator: I’m not going to go very fair with this potential feat chain, but Popeye is remarkably intelligent, especially in the cartoon. He does a surprising amount of sleuth work to get himself into the confrontations that he has with his villains. So yeah, if you’re going to dump a stat with this build, dump Charisma, not Intelligence. It would certainly make sense considering how difficult it is for Popeye to speak to others with that studdering of his.

Early Levels (1–7)

  • Classes: Brawler (mutagenic mauler) 7
  • Feats: Toughness (Human Bonus), Catch Off-Guard (1st), Power Attack (Bonus), Weapon Focus: unarmed strike (3rd), Amateur Investigator (5th), Weapon Specialization: unarmed strike (Bonus), Pummeling Style (7th)
  • Abilities: beastmorph, brawler’s cunning, brawler’s flurry (Two-Weapon Fighting), brawler’s strike (magic), maneuver training (reposition +2, trip +1), close weapon mastery, knockout 1/day, martial training, mutagen (+2 damage), unarmed strike

So, the first thing you’ve noticed is that I gave Popeye Toughness. I think its appropriate, so I’m sticking with it! Most of Popeye’s feats revolve around him pummeling foes; I even go so far as to give Popeye the Pummeling Style feat. I also make sure to take advantage of the brawler’s martial training class feature to give Popeye the normally fighter-exclusive Weapon Specialization feat. And as mentioned, I took Amateur Investigator to represent Popeye’s dabbling in sleuthing. Because believe it or not, but the brawler actually has pretty good skill ranks (much better than the fighter’s for some reason, anyway).

Other than the feats and the cool mutagen benefits, there isn’t anything too special about Popeye here. He’s simply traded one type of flexibility (feats) for another type of flexibility (mutagenic bonuses). Pretty fair overall.

Mid Levels (8 –14)

  • Classes: Brawler (mutagenic mauler) 14
  • Feats: Catch Off-Guard (1st), Power Attack (Bonus), Weapon Focus: unarmed strike (3rd), Amateur Investigator (5th), Weapon Specialization: unarmed strike (Bonus), Pummeling Style (7th), Pummeling Charge (Bonus), Improvised Weapon Mastery (9th), Combat Expertise (Bonus), Improved Reposition (11th), Improved Trip (13th), Pummeling Bully (Bonus)
  • Abilities: beastmorph, brawler’s cunning, brawler’s flurry (Improved Two-Weapon Fighting), brawler’s strike (alignment, cold iron, magic, silver) maneuver training (reposition +3, trip +2, grapple +1), close weapon mastery, knockout 2/day, martial training, mutagen (+3 damage), unarmed strike

Again, nothing too mind-blowing in the mid levels. We build more on the Pummeling Style feat by picking up Pummeling Charge and by the end of the mid levels, Pummeling Bully as well. Reposition is a surprisingly good combat maneuver; its saved several characters in my Pathfinder Society games when players have fallen unconscious next to blazing skeletons or got knocked out while six feet underwater in a fountain. The characterization of Popeye as a bully is somewhat appropriate if you’re sympathetic to the villain.

In order to make this work, I took trip and reposition as Popeye’s maneuver training combat maneuvers. Popeye also gets better at smashing people with chairs and stuff, which is always fun. Other then that, not much to see here that isn’t in a standard brawler build.

Endgame (15+)

  • Classes: Brawler (mutagenic mauler) 20
  • Feats: Catch Off-Guard (1st), Power Attack (Bonus), Weapon Focus: unarmed strike (3rd), Amateur Investigator (5th), Weapon Specialization: unarmed strike (Bonus), Pummeling Style (7th), Pummeling Charge (Bonus), Improvised Weapon Mastery (9th), Combat Expertise (Bonus), Improved Reposition (11th), Improved Trip (13th), Pummeling Bully (Bonus), Greater Weapon Focus: unarmed strike (15th), Penetrating Strike (Bonus), Greater Weapon Specialization: unarmed strike (17th), Greater Penetrating Strike (Bonus), Greater Reposition (19tH), Greater Trip (Bonus)
  • Abilities: awesome blow, beastmorph, brawler’s cunning, brawler’s flurry (Greater Two-Weapon Fighting), brawler’s strike (adamantine, alignment, cold iron, magic, silver), improved awesome blow, maneuver training (reposition +5, trip +4, grapple +3, trip +2, dirty trick +1), close weapon mastery, knockout 3/day, martial training, mutagen (+4 damage), unarmed strike

You know, they say that not every creation is earth-shattering, and that’s certainly true with Popeye. Much like an old 1940s character, Popeye’s build isn’t delivering anything extremely new at any point in his career. But then again, doesn’t that make it very appropriate for Popeye? The build is old, tried, and grisly, but that one interesting power, the mutagen, certainly makes an interesting difference. While this isn’t the most inventive build I’ve ever tossed at you, its certainly a practical one, which is a positive in and of itself. Overall, I like this build for its genericness, not inspite of it.

What do you guys think? Interesting build? Bland? Don’t care? Leave your answers and comments below, and I look forward to providing you with something extra-different next week. You see, next week starts the Christmas Holidays, so I got you, my readers, something special.

Three days of Iconic Designs.


See you there.

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 sailor man, because those guys are unbeatable.

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.


  1. How does Popeye do all his ‘swimmin with bare naked women’ if you dump his cha?! Hehe j/k.

  2. that’s pretty awesome.

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