Welcome to Iconic Design, where we discuss the creation of exciting new character builds for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game!
Whelp, now that I’m going to be writing for the Private Sanctuary podcast, I guess I gotta start getting used to working with other people. Ryan Costello Jr. challenged me through Facebook a few weeks ago to try and build a Pathfinder version of Steve Irwin. Being competitive as I am, I said, “Heck yeah!” and got to work.
Here’s the result.
Australian native Steven Irwin was literally born in a zoo. His parents owned the Australian Zoo and he spent his formative years working with wildlife of all kinds. You probably know him as the Crocodile Hunter, however.
There’s a lot more you can learn about Steve Irwin from a quick Google search; although he passed away young, he was a very accomplished man with zoological discoveries, awards, and honors to his name in addition to his cinematic success as the Crocodile Hunter. Go on, check him out!
So, how do you build Steve Irwin? Well, the man loved martial arts and was a tournament-level competitor when he was younger. We’ve all seen Steve wrestle with crocodiles and get in close to some of the most dangerous animals ever to have live on his show, The Crocodile Hunter, too. Here’s the best representation I could come up with for the late Mr. Irwin.
- Ranger: Heck yes’s a ranger! Accomplished martial artist, wildlife nut, treats animals like people. Highly intelligent, skilled guy. He SCREAMS ranger at the top of his lungs. In your face.
- Irori Combat Style: This is the only combat style that works for Steve: it’s focused on unarmed strikes, grappling, and tripping. You can find this combat style in Inner Sea Combat and its absolutely perfect for our needs.
- Skirmisher: Steve Irwin is not a spellcaster, so I grabbed an archetype that trades the magic away for some good ‘ole fashion ranger tricks.
Early Levels (1–7)
- Classes: Ranger (Skirmisher) 7
- Feats: Skill Focus: Knowledge – nature (Focused Study Bonus), Improved Unarmed Strike (1st), Monastic Legacy (Combat Style), Power Attack (3rd), Endurance (Ranger Bonus), Favored Defense (5th), Improved Grapple (Combat Style), Kirin Style (7th)
- Abilities: Combat Style: Irori, Endurance, Favored Enemy (Animal +4, Humanoid: Humans +2), Favored Terrain (Swamp), Hunter’s Bond: Companions, Hunter’s Tricks (3 + Wis/Day: Ranger’s Counsel, Upending Strike), Track +3, Wild Empathy, Woodland Stride
- Monk Track: (1d6 unarmed strike damage)
This is a character designed to combat animals. Although “favored enemy” sounds antagonistic, it’s the best mechanic for showing how Steve was able to get into dangerous situations with some of the nastiest predators the world over and live. By picking animals as Steve’s primary enemy type, he’s going to end up with a pretty huge bonus on attack and damage rolls against them, which serves well with his focus on unarmed combat. Pathfinder Steve is able to punch a croc in the face without having to worry about killing it because he can strike for lethal or nonlethal damage with his unarmed strikes, thanks to Improved Unarmed Strike. At 5th level, Steve gains Favored Defense, which you might remember from my Lion-O build. This time, it gives Steve an impressive bonus to his AC and CMD against attacks and combat maneuver checks made by animals; since he also has Improved Grapple, its actually VERY difficult for an animal to maintain a grapple against Steve Irwin, and grabbing and tripping are an animal’s favorite CMB tactics.
So, you might notice that Steve Irwin has a bit of a weird combat style: Irori. Irori is one of Pathfinder’s deities, and in their Inner Sea Combat product, Paizo introduced deific combat styles for rangers. Irori’s is absolutely amazing: it includes Monastic Legacy, a feat that lets you treat half of your non-monk levels as monk levels for the purpose of determining your unarmed strike damage. The feat is great, don’t get me wrong, but what makes it amazing is that it is granted as a Combat Style feat, meaning the ranger can ignore its still mind class feature prerequisite, which normally requires the character to be a 4th-level monk. In short, Steve can gain a decent amount of unarmed strike damage without needing a single level of monk. That is very, very cool!
At the end of the this bracket, Steve grabs Kirin Style as a style feat. I’m not crazy about Steve needing 6 ranks of Knowledge: arcana in order to select this feat, but whenever you would watch Steve interact with a deadly animal on his show, he had a very clear stance defensive that he adopted. This feat is the closest I can do to that, so oh well. With Kirin Style active, Steve has an impressive +4 dodge bonus to AC and a +4 bonus to CMD against attacks made by animals, and that number only goes up as his level improves.
The final choice I made was to drop the ranger’s spellcasting for skirmisher tricks. That’s not going to be a popular PC choice, I’m sure, as people love pointing out some of the useful ranger spells like instant enemy, but since we’re going off of our world’s Steve for inspiration, the magic doesn’t make sense and the skirmisher tricks are really, really cool. At this point in the game, Steve has the ability to trip foes with his attacks or provide a temporary skill bonus to his allies, both of which are very useful. The theme of Steve Irwin as a person who wanted to teach others about animals is also shown in the choice to give him a hunter’s bond with his companions, rather than an animal companion.
So where does this build go from here? Let’s take a look at the mid-levels!
Mid Levels (8 –14)
- Classes: Ranger (Skirmisher) 14
- Feats: Skill Focus: Knowledge: nature (Focused Study Bonus), Improved Unarmed Strike (1st), Monastic Legacy (Combat Style), Power Attack (3rd), Endurance (Ranger Bonus), Favored Defense: Animals (5th), Improved Grapple (Combat Style), Kirin Style (7th), Skill Focus: Perception (Focused Study Bonus), Greater Grapple (9th), Improved Trip (Combat Style), Pinning Knockout (11th), Favored Defense: Humans (13th), Two-Weapon Fighting (Combat Style)
- Abilities: Camouflage, Combat Style: Irori, Endurance, Evasion, Favored Enemy (Animal +6, Humanoid: Humans +4, Vermin +2), Favored Terrain (Desert +4, Plains +2, Swamp +4), Hunter’s Bond: Companions, Hunter’s Tricks (7 + Wis/Day: Chameleon Step, Distracting Attack, Ranger’s Counsel, Rattling Strike, Upending Strike), Quarry, Swift Tracker, Track +3, Wild Empathy, Woodland Stride
- Monk Track: (1d8 unarmed strike damage)
All right, so here we have Steve getting better at what was already laid out in the Early Levels; he gets faster at grappling, can deal more (nonlethal damage) while grappling, and as his Favored Enemy bonus improves, he gets even better at fighting animals. We’re at a +8 bonus to AC/CMD and a +6 bonus to hit and damage against animals. Pinning Knockout is really neat; when dealing nonlethal damage to an enemy, you double your nonlethal damage from unarmed strikes. It’s essentially a sleeper hold. Two-Weapon Fighting as Steve’s 14th-level combat style is mostly because at this point in the combat style, we’re running low on appropriate, Steve-y things to take.
The new skirmisher tricks are situational, but they can be cool. The golden winner of the group for this batch is rattling strike, which is almost like a free, Intimidate-less demoralize attempt. Hopefully you don’t roll a 1 when determining its duration, though. That would stink! Afflicting someone with the shaken condition is cool, however, because it’s effectively another +2 to your AC because your target is taking a –2 penalty on its attack rolls. Combined with distracting attack and you could very easily save an ally’s life with a grand total of a –4 penalty on attack rolls. Way to go, Steve!
- Classes: Ranger (Skirmisher) 20
- Feats: Skill Focus: Knowledge: nature (Focused Study Bonus), Improved Unarmed Strike (1st), Monastic Legacy (Combat Style), Power Attack (3rd), Endurance (Ranger Bonus), Favored Defense: Animals (5th), Improved Grapple (Combat Style), Kirin Style (7th), Skill Focus: Perception (Focused Study Bonus), Greater Grapple (9th), Improved Trip (Combat Style), Pinning Knockout (11th), Favored Defense: Humans (13th), Two-Weapon Fighting (Combat Style), Rapid Grappler (15th), Skill Focus: Stealth (Focused Study Bonus), Two-Weapon Defense (17th), Spring Attack (Combat Style Feat), Punishing Kick (19th)
- Abilities: Camouflage, Combat Style: Irori, Endurance, Evasion, Favored Enemy (Animal +10, Humanoid: Humans +8, Vermin +6, Magical Beast +4, any one favored enemy +2), Favored Terrain (Desert +4, Plains +4, Swamp +4, Water +2), Hunter’s Bond: Companions, Hide in Plain Sight, Hunter’s Tricks (7 + Wis/Day: Chameleon Step, Distracting Attack, Ranger’s Counsel, Rattling Strike, Upending Strike), Improved Evasion, Improved Quarry, Master Hunter, Quarry, Swift Tracker, Track +3, Wild Empathy, Woodland Stride
- Monk Track: (1d10 unarmed strike damage)
A class capstone ability? Isn’t that a treat for one of my builds! Yup, Steve Irwin is a ranger through and through in my books, and he’s really good at dishing out punishment and taking it from animals. By 20th level, we’re looking at a total of a +14 to AC and +12 to CMD against attacks made by animals thanks to Favored Defense, Two-Weapon Defense, and Kirin Style. His bonus is only 2 less against humans, which are going to make for a sizable chunk of the enemies fought in a campaign. I do wish that Favored Defense was a little more flexible, because having these bonuses against all of his favored enemies would have made sense, but four feats is a little bit expensive, especially when favored enemy 4 is only going to be worth a +4 bonus. Its good, but not as monumentally amazing as giving it to the first, second, and even the third favored enemy.
But yeah! I’m pleased with this build. Its very specialized, but it definitely feels like a realistic interpretation of Steve Irwin.
Not going to go deep into a build for this one, but either trickster, champion, or marshal are going to be your best bet here. Trickster is simply fun to have while champion and marshal each have one granted ability that interacts with favored enemy. Champion has a lot of good mythic grappling abilities, however, so going trickster / champion and using path dabbling to pick up the one good marshal ability is a strong plan.
For feats, Monastic Legacy (Mythic) is a must-have. It gives you the monk’s AC bonus along the same progression as unarmed strike damage; half character level. Furthermore, you can spend mythic power to add your tier to your effective monk level for these bonuses. Power Attack (Mythic) is always a smart investment and picking up Improved Unarmed Strike (Mythic) and Titan Strike (Mythic) are also smart investments for this character. From there, pick what you want. Two-Weapon Fighting (Mythic) could be a pretty good choice overall.
And there you have it; a Steve Irwin-themed Pathfinder character! What do you think? Is the lack of ranger spells a deal-breaker on the skirmisher archetype for you? Is this build too specialized in fighting animals to see use in a campaign? How would you alter this class’s favored enemy choices to make it work better for you? Would it be mean to take this same build and use it in Wrath of the Righteous, switching Animal for Outsider (evil) and Vermin for Undead? Leave your answers below and until next time, take care!
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 skirmisher, and he sort of felt bad about making Favored Terrain: Water Steve’s worst terrain.