Welcome to Iconic Design, where we discuss the creation of exciting new character builds for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game!
I’ve got exciting news for today’s Iconic Design! Today’s installment was specifically requested by a reader, which makes it the first Iconic Design that I didn’t specifically choose myself! Huzzah! Today’s character was requested by Ryan Costello of Know Direction fame. Ryan asks, “As a follow-up to He-Man, could you do Skeletor?”
Yes, Ryan. Yes I can.
Skeletor is He-Man’s archenemy and master of all things evil. He has an extremely buff body but a skinless face, hence his name. He is a powerful spellcaster and uses his staff to augment his potent magical powers. He is able to spar somewhat with He-Man, although that might be due to He-Man’s disdain for violence. Unlike many “modern” villains, there is no sympathetic side to Skeletor. He is He-Man’s evil opposite in every possible definition of the word. Where He-Man is loyal, Skeletor is a cheat and a con. Where He-Man is peaceful and compassionate, Skeletor is hateful and destructive. Where He-Man is living, Skeletor is not. Maybe. I don’t know, it’s not really clear if he’s undead or not. Help?
All right, let’s take a quick look at how we’ll be building He-Man’s archnemisis. Skeletor is known for possessing magic of all sorts, but he has a fondness for illusions and evocations. That wouldn’t normally be a problem, except for the fact that Skeletor is also shown to be a passable melee combatant. As of now, we don’t have a class that passable in martial combat and possesses both illusion and evocation magic. The bard has dibs on illusions while the magus has most of the best evocation spells, and trying to multiclass these classes will ultimately leave us feeling unsatisfied, so how can we pull off a strong Skeletor build?
- Magus (Hexcrafter Staff Magus): Oh, yeah. THAT archetype. Hexcrafter is an AWESOME archetype for the magus because it gives the character slew of additional spells as well as access to a number of powerful supernatural abilities. Hexcrafter’s cost is surprisingly low: you bump back Spell Recall to 11th level and lose Improved Spell Recall. That’s about it. The Staff Magus is a must-have for Skeletor: it’ll allow Skeletor to fight with a magic staff without the hassle of enchanting it into a magic weapon in its own right.
- Believe it or not, but this ISN’T a crazy multiclass build! It’s like Skeletor is the evil opposite of He-Man or something. 😉 Instead, we’ll be grabbing almost all of the illusions and divinations that Skeletor needs through precise selections of the spell blending magus arcana, which adds sorcerer/wizard spells to the magus’s spell list.
Early Levels (1–7)
- Classes: Magus (hexcrafter staff magus) 7
- Feats: Quarterstaff Master (Bonus), Weapon Focus: quarterstaff (1st), Power Attack (3rd), Weapon Specialization: quarterstaff (5th), Accursed Hex (7th)
- Abilities: Arcane Pool (3+Int), Hex Magus (disguise), Knowledge Pool, Magus Arcana (hex arcana (evil eye), wand wielder), Quarterstaff Defense, Spell Combat, Spellstrike
Let’s look at early level Skeletor. At the beginning of the game, Skeletor’s build emphasizes his damage, which is the opposite of my build for He-Man. After Weapon Specialization, however, Skeletor’s feat selections focus mostly on his spell power. At this point in the game, Skeletor only has two witch hexes, evil eye, which is augmented by his Accursed Hex, and disguise, which circumvents the need for selecting disguise self with spell blending.
So yeah, while Skeletor is perfectly functional (and deadly) at this point in the game, he’s not very unique or imaginative at this point in the game. Don’t worry: things get better in the mid levels
Mid Levels (8 –14)
- Classes: Magus (hexcrafter staff magus) 14
- Feats: Quarterstaff Master (Bonus), Weapon Focus: quarterstaff (1st), Power Attack (3rd), Weapon Specialization: quarterstaff (5th), Accursed Hex (7th), Furious Focus (9th), Extra Arcana: spell blending (11th), Extra Arcana: hex arcana (13th)
- Abilities: Arcane Pool (3+Int), Greater Spell Combat, Hex Magus (disguise), Improved Spell Combat, Knowledge Pool, Magus Arcana (hex arcana (cackle, evil eye, hag’s eye), spell blending (hold person, hypnotic pattern, interrogation, suggestion) wand wielder), Spell Combat, Spell Recall, Spellstrike, Staff Training
So before we get to the discussion I need to point out the spell blending magus arcana. If you’re not familiar this arcana allows the magus to add sorcerer/wizard spells to his magus spell list. It allows either one spell of the magus’s highest spell level or two spells of any level lower than the magus’s highest. I personally have spell blending taken in two groups: hold person /hypnotic pattern and interrogation/suggestion. Skeletor also picks up one of his iconic scrying tools, the hag’s eye hex, as well as the cackle hex, which perfectly fits the “evil villain laugh” trope, of which Skeletor is king. Skeletor also picks up his long-delayed spell recall ability and grants himself an enhancement bonus on attack and damage rolls with any staff he wields based upon its caster level. In my eyes, Skeletor needs this ability before he can be used properly, so I wouldn’t use Skeletor before 10th level personally.
Aside from the Furious Focus feat, all of Skeletor’s feats are focused around gaining better mileage from his magus spell list and witch hexes, which’ll be a common trend going into high levels.
- Classes: Magus (hexcrafter staff magus) 20
- Feats: Quarterstaff Master (Bonus), Weapon Focus: quarterstaff (1st), Power Attack (3rd), Weapon Specialization: quarterstaff (5th), Accursed Hex
- (7th), Furious Focus (9th), Extra Arcana: spell blending (11th), Extra Arcana: hex arcana (13th), Extra Arcana: accursed strike (15th), Extra Arcana: bane blade (17th), Extra Arcana: hex arcana (dire prophecy) (19th)
- Abilities: Arcane Pool (3+Int), Counterstrike, Greater Spell Access (arcane mark, deep slumber, dominate person, getaway hallucinatory terrain, locate creature, locate object, minor image, lesser animate dead, permanent image, silent image, telepathic bond, touch of fatigue, ventriloquism), Greater Spell Combat, Hex Magus (disguise), Improved Spell Combat, Knowledge Pool, Magus Arcana (accursed strike, bane blade, hex arcana (cackle, dire prophecy, evil eye, hag’s eye, speak in dreams, summon spirit), spell blending (hold person, hypnotic pattern, interrogation, suggestion) wand wielder), Spell Combat, Spell Recall, Spellstrike, Staff Training, True Magus
And here it is, the final build of Skeletor! As you’ve noticed, I stopped taking the spell bending arcana and decided to wait until 19th level when the magus unloads 12 additional sorcerer/wizard spells onto the character via Greater Spell Access. In terms of the additional arcana, I finally found time to pick up the hexcrafter’s signature accursed strike as well as the extremely potent bane blade arcana. While Skeletor doesn’t possess what is arguably the best magus feat in the game (Intensify Spell), he is capable of dishing out respectable damage even without his magic thanks to Power Attack and Weapon Specialization: quarterstaff.
Skeletor’s witch hexes are what truly make him shine, however. In the end game he’s able to pick up some of the most powerful spell effects necessary for the character. Specifically, speak in dreams, summon spirit, and dire prophecy. Now Skeletor can commune with the spirits of evil (which is arguably more of a Mum-Ra thing, but still cool), make horrible doomsday predictions onto his foes, and use dream as a spell-like ability. The end result is a magus with scary-powerful divination and illusion magic, allowing Skeletor a degree of wicked subtly and foresight atypical of magi.
I guess if I took the time to make He-Man mythic, I should may Skeletor mythic too to keep up the evil opposite theme, eh? I concede: here you go!
- Mythic Path: Archmage (wild arcana)
- Mythic Abilities: Legendary Item: Staff (1st), Competent Caster (2nd), Coupled Arcana (3rd), Legendary Item: Staff (4th), Tangible Illusion (5th), Teleportation Master (6th), Enhance Magic Items (7th), Mythic Hexes (8th), Legendary Item (9th), Longevity (10th)
- Mythic Feats: Power Attack (1st), Weapon Focus (3rd), Weapon Specialization (5th), Accursed Hex (7th), Mythic Spell Lore (9th)
So, I might catch some flak for my decisions but as far as I can tell in my remembrance of the show as well as my research in making this build, I’ve found no evidence that Skeletor was undead, so I’m not going to suggest an undead template for him here. I mean come on, the guy was loaded with muscles for Pete’s sake! For that reason, my mythic build is pretty straightforward for Skeletor. Its heavily focused on magic and involves giving him access to his legendary staff, the Staff of Havoc. Enhance magic items will boost the power of that staff at later levels and coupled arcana is especially nasty here, since Skeletor has both magus arcana and witch hexes to combine with his wild arcana ability. Mythic hexes is a brutally powerful ability and tangible illusion makes use of Skeletor’s unique possession of illusion spells among magi.
As for his feats, Power Attack, Weapon Focus, and Weapon Specialization are there to help Skeletor stand toe-to-toe with He-Man and Accursed Hex is a dreadfully powerful feat made into an even more dreadfully powerful mythic feat. Mythic Spell Lore rounds out my list because none of Skeletor’s other feats have mythic counterparts and ten mythic spells is a nice way to round out the character. I would personally pick two or three illusions and rest evocations, especially shocking grasp (a magus’s best friend) and scorching ray.
And there you have it; a functioning character build for Skeletor! What did you think of this one? Did I faithfully recreate Skeletor or is something missing? Do you think grabbing so many powers that bends the core assumptions of the magus class makes for an interesting character or a clichéd one? What would you have done with this build? Are there any characters you’d like to see written into Iconic Designs? Leave your answers and comments below and I’ll see you next time!
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 magus, and his favorite pastime is posing for EVULZ memes.