Iconic Design: My Life As a Weapon

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 build for Hawkeye, of Avengers fame.

Now, before you leave, I SWEAR this article isn’t a carbon copy of my Katniss Everdeen build! Honest! Stick around and see for yourself.


From Wikipedia:

Clint Barton was born in Waverly, Iowa. At a young age he lost both of his parents in a car accident. After six years in an orphanage, Clint and his brother Barney ran away to join the Carson Carnival of Travelling Wonders. Clint soon caught the eye of the Swordsman, who took the young boy on as his assistant. Along with the help of Trick Shot, the Swordsman trained Clint to become a master archer. Clint later found the Swordsman embezzling money from the carnival. Before he could turn his mentor over to the authorities, Clint was beaten and left for dead, allowing the Swordsman to escape town. Clint’s relationship with his brother Barney and Trick Shot soon deteriorated as well.

Clint adapted his archery skills to become a star carnival attraction, a master archer called “Hawkeye”, otherwise known as “The World’s Greatest Marksman”. He spent some time as a member of Tiboldt’s Circus, before joining the Coney Island Circus. He witnessed Iron Man in action and was inspired to become a costumed hero. However, after a misunderstanding on his first outing, Hawkeye was accused of theft and believed to be a criminal. On the run, the naive Hawkeye met the Black Widow, a spy for the Soviet Union, with whom he fell in love. Blindly following the Black Widow, Hawkeye aided her attempts to steal technology developed by Tony Stark. In one of their battles with Iron Man, the Black Widow was seriously injured. Hawkeye rescued her and fled the battle to save her life. But before Hawkeye could take her to a hospital, the Black Widow disappeared. Hawkeye decided to be a “straight-shooter” from then on.

Build Concept

Alright, so how are we going to design Hawkeye in a way that keeps him unique from my other archery build? Well, this is a great place to emphasize the differences between the ranger class and the class that better suits, Hawkeye, the fighter. So here’s how we’re going to pull this off:

  • Fighter (Archer): This archetype, which I’ve dipped into for other builds, is absolutely PERFECT for Hawkeye. I mean, its 2nd-level ability is CALLED hawkeye! You don’t get any better then that. The archer archetype opens up a lot of doors for a ranged build, namely the ability to use bull rush, sunder, and even grapple at range with the bow. But the progression getting those cool tricks is rather slow, so how are we going to emphasize Hawkeye’s prowess early on? Easy.
  • Targeting Feats (Ranged Tactics Toolbox): These feats allow ranged characters to perform either trip or disarm maneuvers at range. Both maneuvers can be done using the archer archetype, but taking these feats frees up the build to pick the more unique options, like feint or sunder, instead. Also, they have a great synergy with another rules set, which I’m going to use for this build.
  • Called Shots (Ultimate Combat): Sorry PFS folks, but the called shot rules are PERFECT for Hawkeye, so I’ll be grabbing the two called shot feats that are in the game for his use.

Alright, you’ve got the blueprint, so let’s see the end result!

Early Levels (1–7)

  • Classes: fighter (archer) 7
  • Feats: Point-Blank Shot (Human), Precise Shot (Bonus), Far Shot (1st), Deadly Aim (Bonus), Rapid Shot (3rd), Ranged Trip (Bonus), Ranged Disarm (5th), Manyshot (Bonus), Trick Shooter (7th)
  • Abilities: expert archer +1, hawkeye 2, trick shot (feint, sunder)

So this build is actually ingeniously simple in its execution. You get feats. You spend them on bow stuff. You get class features to be get better at bow stuff. Since most of the archetype’s abilities scale, I don’t have a whole lot to talk about, but I’ll try.

Hawkeye, which replaces bravery, is one of the best bravery trades in the game. You give up a bonus on saves against fear for a +1 bonus to Perception and a 5 foot bonus to the range increment of any bow that you wield. Pretty darn good, right? Best skill in the game AND a range increase to your weapon? What if I told you that this bonus got bigger at 6th level and every 4 levels afterwards? Pretty sick, right? Expert archer, which is earned at 5th level, is weapon training but its bonus applies only to bows. Thanks to a FAQ, however, its still considered to BE weapon training for all effects, though, so feel free to pick up a set of gauntlets of dueling to improve that attack/damage bonus. Finally, you get trick shot, which allows Hawkeye to perform one of three specific maneuvers (or actions, in feint’s case). Initially, the choices are disarm, feint, and sunder. I chose feint and sunder because I fully intend to gain the ability to disarm with my bow via a feat.

Speaking of feats, let’s talk about those. The first few are pretty standard: Point-Blank and Precise are required for 1st level, but the rest of them you can pretty much take in any order that you chose. I picked Far Shot at 1st level because it lowers penalties rather than applies them, but taking Rapid Shot at 1st level is VERY good, and if you’re looking to improve your damage that’s the way to do it. Now, whenever you decide to pick up Ranged Disarm and Ranged Trip is up to you, but know that you need Deadly Aim to qualify for them. These feats are, by all means, a little bit worse than the trick shot class feature. They require full-round actions to perform and have more penalties and rules associated with them than trick shot does; one of the big parts is that these maneuvers ALSO deal your weapon damage to the target, which is very good! That said, their biggest boon is A) the fact that you can remove most of those penalties with the Trick Shooter feat and B) that if you’re playing in any campaign aside from Pathfinder Society, attacks made with those feats are considered called shots for Improved Called Shot and Greater Called Shot, which takes them from being “meh” options to fantastic ones. Let’s move on and you’ll see what I mean.

PS. Trick Shooter is pretty awesome in its own right. Not only does it give you a +2 bonus when using your targeting feats, effectively canceling out their CMB penalties, but it also allows you to deal nonlethal damage to enemies with ranged maneuvers. Pretty sweet!

Mid Levels (8 –14)

  • Classes: fighter (archer) 14
  • Feats: Point-Blank Shot (Human), Precise Shot (Bonus), Far Shot (1st), Deadly Aim (Bonus), Rapid Shot (3rd), Ranged Trip (Bonus), Ranged Disarm (5th), Manyshot (Bonus), Trick Shooter (7th), Weapon Focus: longbow (Bonus), Combat Expertise (9th), Weapon Specialization: longbow (Bonus), Improved Precise Shot (11th), Improved Called Shot (13th), Greater Called Shot (14th)
  • Abilities: evasive archer +2, expert archer +3, hawkeye 4, safe shot, trick shot (grapple, feint, sunder)

Class feature wise, the new abilities here are evasive archer, safe shot, and the ability to select more kinds of trick shots. At 11th level, the grapple trick shot is our next choice, which is as good as it sounds. But better still is safe shot. Although it comes three levels later than Point-Blank Master, it has the same effect: you don’t provoke attacks of opportunity when firing a bow. Finally, evasive archer nets Hawkeye a +2 dodge bonus to his AC against ranged attacks. Not great, but hey, we’ll take it.

There are two main strategies going on in the mid-levels for Hawkeye: 1) qualify for Greater Called Shot and 2) increase damage. #2 is pretty normal for archer builds; Weapon Focus, Weapon Specialization, and Manyshot are standard for archer fighters. But Greater Called Shot requires Combat Expertise, which could theoretically be useful for Hawkeye if he needed to focus on keeping himself out of damage, plus it stacks with evasive archer, which is helpful. Improved Called Shot gives another +2 on called shots and allows Hawkeye to replace one attack per round during a full-round or standard action that gives him multiple attacks with a called shot. Specializing in called shots means that Hawkeye can inflict virtually any condition onto his enemies if he’s able to make the tricky shots, so this is both fun and flavorful. (Sadly, we PFS players can’t have this. : / ) Greater Called Shot removes the one-called-shot-per-round requirement and effectively allows Hawkeye to make a called shot whenever he makes an attack. This is especially helpful when he reaches the end game and gains Pinpoint Targeting. (As a matter of fact, that might be a feat that you want SOONER, just so you can target touch AC with your called shots.) Additionally, it makes it easier to deal a debilitating blow to your opponent, reducing the amount of hp damage that you need to deal to your target from 50 points to 40 points. That’s basically an attack’s worth of damage.

With all this cool stuff, let’s look at the end game!

Endgame (15+)

  • Classes: fighter (archer) 20
  • Feats: Point-Blank Shot (Human), Precise Shot (Bonus), Far Shot (1st), Deadly Aim (Bonus), Rapid Shot (3rd), Ranged Trip (Bonus), Ranged Disarm (5th), Manyshot (Bonus), Trick Shooter (7th), Weapon Focus: longbow (Bonus), Combat Expertise (9th), Improved Called Shot (Bonus), Improved Precise Shot (11th), Weapon Specialization: longbow (13th), Greater Called Shot (14th), Greater Weapon Focus: longbow (15th), Penetrating Shot (Bonus), Greater Weapon Specialization: longbow (17th), Greater Penetrating Shot (Bonus), Pinpoint Targeting (19th), Relentless Shot (Bonus)
  • Abilities: evasive archer +4, expert archer +4, hawkeye 5, ranged defense, safe shot, trick shot (bull rush, grapple, feint, sunder, any one), weapon mastery: longbow.

Standard feats here, folks. Nothing to see. Except … Relentless Shot? Basically, when you trip someone with a ranged weapon (see Ranged Trip), you threaten that target. Like, attacks of opportunity threaten them. Neat, but not 100% necessary for this build, which is why I left it for last. Part of me wants to revise this build to get Pinpoint Targeting sooner, but I’m not 100% sold that it works with called shots because of their wording that states that called shots always target AC rather than touch AC. That could use a clarification. Pinpoint Targeting is still awesome in spite of this confusion, especially with the trick shot class feature (touch AC BULL RUSH!!). But it might not be AS cool as I wanted it to be, so 19th level.

Other then that, nothing too interesting. Ranged defense is DR against ranged attacks as well as the ability to shoot arrows back at enemy archers, a la Snatch Arrows. Weapon Mastery is Weapon Mastery. Evasive archer goes up to +4. That’s all, folks.

So, I think this build does an awesome job of showing how characters like Katniss and Hawkeye are different. Katness is a huntress. She has nature survival skills and is great at getting along in the wilderness. Hawkeye is a trick shooter and a master athlete first and foremost. He doesn’t have anything n the way of special knowledge or training, because in a way his ridiculous, superhuman skill with the bow IS his special knowledge or training. I would argue that Hawkeye would probably be a better archer than Legolas, if only because Legolas clearly has a myriad of other helpful skills at his disposal (such as when he pulls out a sword and starts dueling surprisingly well on the bridge in The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies). At least, that’s my thoughts on this, anyway. What do you think in this regard? Leave your answers, questions, and comments below and I’ll see you back next Monday for another article here at Guidance!

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 and his favorite Pathfinder Race/Class combination is kitsune avenger. Because we need a kitsune avenger.

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. Love this build! Alex I was wondering if you had any ideas for the toxiphilite archetype introduced in RTT? I still think it’s better to go the fighter:archer route instead of ranger:toxi for a bow-based character, as you did here, but there seems to be a couple cool features for the toxi.

  2. Darrell Vin Zant Reply to Darrell

    You mean this (http://paizo.com/paizo/faq/v5748nruor1fm#v5748eaic9qto) FAQ which specifically states the Archer Fighter does *not* qualify for gloves of dueling?

    Other than that issue, I enjoy this build. One downside to this build is that if you ever decide to do a Green Arrow or Speedy build, they’ll practically be the same as all three are master archers that use their bows to do tricks and stuff.

    I think, you should have included a list of specialty arrows that would be thematically appropriate for Hawkeye/Green Arrow/Speedy as well. They each use specially tipped arrows, so having special arrows (like smoke arrows, or splintering arrows) would probably be a good idea.

  3. Really enjoyed this build.

  4. Well there’s only one way to find out if he’s a better archer than Legolas…

    You need to build Legolas.

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