Welcome to Iconic Design, where we discuss the creation of exciting new character builds for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game!
I don’t try to hide the fact that I’m a sucker for weird and strange races; specifically things that aren’t core. I’m not usually interested in playing humans or halflings or even elves and dwarves because they’re too familiar. If I’m going to be immersing myself in a fantasy setting, I want to be fantastic! (This is why I played a khajiit in Skyrim, for example.)
It also shouldn’t be a shocker that despite my youth, I have a soft spot for the 80s. Specifically 80s cartoons. When I was 12 or 13, my parents got cable TV for the first time and Cartoon Network was big on rereleasing older shows at little to no production cost to themselves on Toonami. Everything from Sailor Moon to Dragonball Z was trying to sate my generation’s lust for Japanese animations. But despite all that, I found myself enjoying one particular show that started coming back around that time too, an odd tale about a bunch of cats that were stranded on a fantastic version of earth with too many weapons and vehicles and not enough clothes. That show is, of course, ThunderCats. Today we’re going to indulge my inner 80s spirit by building the Lord of the ThunderCats, Lion-O.
Okay, so where to begin about Lion-O? In both of his incarnations (the original 80s show and the remake in 2011) Lion-O is the somewhat hot-headed Lord of the ThunderCats, the ruler of his kind. He wields a mystic weapon called the Sword of Omens, which is set with a mystic jewel that has phenomenal cosmic power. Lion-O is typically depicted as a strong, agile warrior and a just leader. As Lord of the ThunderCats, Lion-O also has command over all felines, who all bow to his decrees. Similarities stop there: in the original show, Lion-O is a 12-year old trapped in a 23-year old’s body after a suspension capsule malfunction occurred while the ThunderCats fled their home world (this was a huge trope in 80s fantasy/sci-fi). In the remake, he is a teenager and heir to Thundaria’s throne. But semantics aside, we have all of the information that we need in order to faithfully recreate Lion-O!
Naturally, we need to make Lion-O a catfolk. Making him anything else doesn’t make sense for the build. Here’s the build outline:
- Ranger: Lion-O’s skill set practically screams “Ranger.” We’ll be giving him the Two-Handed combat style and favored enemies that befit his Third Earth foes: undead (Mum-Ra), monstrous humanoid (mutants), aberration (lunatanks), and evil outsider (a nice round-off). To finish the build off, we’ll also be grabbing the Spirit Ranger archetype, which has a few highly appropriate abilities for Lion-O.
- Fighter: One fact that many fans often forget about Lion-O is that he fights not only with his greatsword, the Sword of Omens, but also with his claw shield. In order to function effectively, we’ll be having Lion-O take a small dip into the aptly named thunderstriker fighter archetype to gain the ability to more effectively fight while wearing a buckler.
I think this might be the first character that I only suggested two classes for! On that note, let’s dive headlong into this build! For Lion-O’s 20 pt. buy, I recommend the following: STR 13, DEX 16, CON 13, INT 12, WIS 13, CHA 12.
Early Levels (1–7)
- Classes: Ranger (Spirit Ranger) 4 / Fighter 3
- Feats: Catfolk Exemplar: enhanced senses (1st), Power Attack (Combat Style), Missile Shield (Bonus Feat), Shield Focus (3rd), Nimble Striker (Bonus), Improved Initiative (5th), Endurance (Bonus Feat), Run (6th)
- Abilities: Bravery +1, Favored Enemy (undead +2), Favored Terrain (forest), Spirit Bond (augury; 1 spell), Strapped Shield, Track, Wild Empathy
- Ranger Spells: Because of the whole “I can prepare whatever I want and don’t actually know my spells” aspect of the ranger, I’m not going to bother with this section for Lion’s build.
“AAAAAAH! HE’S TELLING US TO TAKE LEVELS IN A WISDOM-FOCUSED CLASS WITH A RACE WITH A WISDOM PENALTY! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! AAAAAH HE’S MAKING US TAKE THE RUN FEAT TOO!!” Playing Lion-O is 100% about playing a fast, physically strong character first and foremost. Feats like Catfolk Exemplar (which gives us scent) and Run are extremely appropriate for the build. The strapped shield ability, which we spent three levels in fighter earning, allows us to wear the claw shield without suffering a penalty on attack rolls, which is nifty. Missile Shield is basically Deflect Arrows for shielded folk and being able to auto-block arrows feels right for Lion-O. Wild Empathy (plus the ranger spell list in general) is great for replicating Lion-O’s mastery over cats, and Nimble Striker is a set-up for Lion-O’s later feats. I’m well aware that this isn’t the most mechanically optimized build (I did take Run, after all) but this is the most thematically appropriate build! Speaking of thematics, let’s talk about spirit bond, the spirit ranger’s ability. This ranger power allows Lion-O to use augury at-will as a spell-like ability while Lion-O is in his favored terrain, which is restricted to forests at this point in the game. Let’s continue and see how Lion-O progresses.
Mid Levels (8 –14)
- Classes: Ranger (Spirit Ranger) 11 / Fighter 3
- Feats: Catfolk Exemplar: enhanced senses (1st), Power Attack (Combat Style), Missile Shield (Bonus Feat), Shield Focus (3rd), Nimble Striker (Bonus), Improved Initiative (5th), Endurance (Bonus Feat), Run (6th), Great Cleave (Combat Style), Furious Focus (9th), Diehard (11th), Dreadful Carnage (Combat Style), Favored Defense (13th)
- Abilities: Bravery +1, Evasion, Favored Enemy (undead +6, monstrous humanoid +4, aberration +2), Favored Terrain (forest, jungle), Quarry, Spirit Bond (augury; 2 spells), Strapped Shield, Swift Tracker, Track, Wild Empathy, Woodland Stride
In the middle levels, Lion-O picks up a number of cool tricks, including Diehard and one of my personal favorites, Favored Defense. This feat accounts nicely for why Mum-Ra never seems to be able to hit Lion-O in a brawl and it also allows the instant enemy spell (which Lion-O should be preparing) to pull double duty as both a damage and a defensive option. Because it grants a dodge bonus, it stacks with everything. In my opinion, if you’re a ranger with a favored enemy, you take Favored Defense and you LIKE IT.
One of the most beautiful aspects of the Ranger is its ability to gain powerful feats while ignoring their prerequisites. This is especially beautiful when Lion-O picks up Great Cleave as his second combat style feat. Great Cleave’s text doesn’t rely on Cleave whatsoever; just swing and chop your way to happiness! Since Lion-O has the catfolk-exclusive Nimble Striker feat, he doesn’t suffer a penalty to his AC when cleaving either! Diehard allows Lion-O to pull off those heroic last stands that he’s known for and Furious Focus is always a solid choice. Rounding out the lot is Dreadful Carnage, which allows Lion-O to make a free Intimidate check to demoralize anyone who watches him down a foe. Perfect for those quick 80s “flee after the big guy goes down” moments. Overall Lion-O really comes together in this phase of the game, but can he hold up in the End Game? Let’s see.
- Classes: Ranger (Spirit Ranger) 17 / Fighter 3
- Feats: Catfolk Exemplar: enhanced senses (1st), Power Attack (Combat Style), Missile Shield (Bonus Feat), Shield Focus (3rd), Nimble Striker (Bonus), Improved Initiative (5th), Endurance (Bonus Feat), Run (6th), Great Cleave (Combat Style), Furious Focus (9th), Diehard (11th), Dreadful Carnage (Combat Style), Favored Defense (13th), Lunge (15th), Pushing Assault (Combat Style), Catfolk Exemplar: fast sprinter (17th), Leadership (19th)
- Abilities: Bravery +1, Evasion, Favored Enemy (undead +8, monstrous humanoid +6, aberration +4, evil outsiders +2), Favored Terrain (forest, jungle, plains), Hide in Plain Sight, Improved Evasion, Quarry, Spirit Bond (augury; 4 spells), Strapped Shield, Swift Tracker, Track, Wild Empathy, Wisdom of the Spirits, Woodland Stride
And here we are, folks! Lion-O’s finest hour. The Lord of the ThunderCats ends the game with a massive +20 BAB (the best of any character I’ve built on Iconic Design so far!) and a number of neat tricks. Lion-O can now knock enemies away from him with Pushing Assault, charge foes even quicker with a second selection of Catfolk Exemplar, and improve his reach with Lunge. In regards to Lunge, Lion-O’s Nimble Striker feat removes the AC penalty for using Lunge, so feel free to Lunge and Great Cleave opponents into dust at the same time. His Favored Enemy bonuses get even higher and are only slightly smaller than a standard ranger’s. He also has Improved Evasion and receives Hide in Plain Sight as his “capstone” of sorts. Overall, it’s a very well-balanced build that gives Lion-O a whopping 120+ (20 * Int) skill points, a great number of class skills, a full Base Attack Bonus, d10s for Hit Points, and all-around excellent defenses. This is a build that will make any player lord over their table!
Quick advice for going Mythic: Legendary Item is a must-have for Lion-O. This Mythic Path ability will allow you to create the Sword of Omens rather effectively, if I do say so myself. I would give it divination and evocation powers via the Intelligent Item spellcasting ability myself, and I also think that foebiting is an appropriate choice for the Sword of Omens. For Lion-O himself, I see him as either a marshal or a Dual Path marshal/champion personally. If its up your ally, you could even take one of the Mythic Powers that grants Leadership as a bonus feat and use Lion-O’s 19th level feat for something else: I’m thinking either Dazing Assault or Stunning Assault myself. That said, any ability that focuses on Lion-O’s strength or agility is bound to make an excellent mythic choice for Lion-O!
And there you have it; an Iconic Design for an iconic character: Lion-O, Lord of the ThunderCats! What’s you’re take on this build? Is it a faithful depiction of Lion-O or did I forget something important? Would you have wanted to see Snarf as a familiar or something? (does anyone ever want to see Snarf ?) Do you or your GM allow catfolk at your table? If not, does this give you an itch to try it? Take care, and I’ll see you next week for another Iconic Design!
Alexander “Alex” Augunas has been playing roleplaying games since 2007, which isn’t nearly as long over 90% of his colleagues. Affectionately called a “budding game designer” by his partner at Radiance House, Alexander is the author of the Pact Magic Unbound series (Radiance House) and a handful of other Third-Party Products. Before founding the Everyman Gaming blog, Alexander gained notoriety for writing the GM’s Guide to Challenging Encounters, which remains accessible to this day. His favorite color is blue, his favorite Pathfinder Race/Class combination is kitsune ranger, and his favorite pastime is singing along horribly to Reliant K’s song, Lion-O.