We’re back with a Marvel-themed Staying in Character, where we mix, match, and mash our beloved pop culture icons into our favorite tabletop role-playing game systems. There are always some issues when trying to fit a character into the mold, but we’re up to the challenge.
The Black Widow movie isn’t being released until May 1, 2020, but that doesn’t mean that we’re any less hyped at Nerds on Earth. This week we’re going to be translating the quick-hitting, no-nonsense assassin into Pathfinder Second Edition.
Known for her special ops training, Black Widow is a master at hand-to-hand combat and securing objectives without a trace. She is effective working alone but also knows how to operate as part of a team.
Onto the Black Widow build!
Step 1: Create a Character Concept
It’s a shame that we haven’t seen a feature-length film for Black Widow, despite her immense contributions during the Infinity Saga. Fortunately, there are multitudes of comic book lore for us to draw from like the Champions of Los Angeles series.
Here are the big three points of emphasis for the character that we want to convey in our build:
- Secret Agent: Natasha Romanova is a spy, first and foremost, and she is capable of infiltration and espionage missions.
- Born Leader: As especially shown in Avengers: Endgame, Black Widow isn’t afraid to take the reins and lead the charge when necessary.
- Independent: Being a spy, Natasha is used to working alone. As such, she has honed her skills to ensure that if her survival comes down to her own ingenuity, she’s going to make it out intact and with the objective completed.
Step 2: Start Building Ability Scores
Paizo likes to ease us into the character-building process. During this step, the main point is to mark off a starting value of 10 for each of your ability scores.
It’s not too early, however, to start thinking about how we might want to disperse those points. Natasha is agile and nimble, which immediately points to increasing her Dexterity. This also translates to general quickness, flexibility, and speed.
It’s also worth our while to pump up Strength because she’s way stronger than you might think at first glance. Her insane training in Russia also grants her mental fortitude in the form of Wisdom.
Step 3: Select an Ancestry
Black Widow is a Human, which is the case for most of the Avengers from the Infinity Saga. Looking at you, Vision.
As it turns out, the Human ancestry affords us a lot of flexibility because we can choose which two Ability Scores that we want to increase. Immediately, I’m motioning to increase Dexterity and Wisdom. If you want to really lean into the leadership aspect of her character, you could also choose Charisma over Wisdom here. Depends on what role you want to fill in the party.
Humans aren’t required to take any Flaws, so we’ll leave that blank for now.
Although she isn’t a half-orc or half-elf, we also get the option of selecting a Heritage for Natasha. Since her upbringing was so in-depth, I’m opting for the Skilled Heritage, which grants her proficiency to a skill of our choice. Let’s go with Acrobatics as a tribute to the flips she incorporates into martial encounters.
To capitalize on her leadership abilities, let’s give Natasha the Cooperative Nature Ancestry Feat. This gives her a +4 circumstance bonus on checks to Aid. Even though she tends to work alone, she will always complete the objective. If that means yielding to someone more gifted in a particular skill, she is more than willing to step aside and help them out as best she can.
Lastly, we get to select an Skill Feat to go along with being Human. One of Black Widow’s strengths is that she is able to use momentum to take down enemies bigger and stronger than herself. The Titan Wrestler feat does this to a T, so that’s my choice here. We aren’t trained in Athletics yet, so put a pin in that.
Step 4: Pick a Background
Backgrounds are representative of a character’s upbringing. We know that Natasha was trained as a martial artist, spy, and sniper. Having such an intense childhood led to her supremacy as one of the world’s best combatants.
Pathfinder Second Edition offers two distinct backgrounds that will fit this perfectly. Either the Martial Discipline (Acrobatics) or the Martial Discipline (Athletics) would work; I’m settling for Athletics so that we can tap into that Titan Wrestler feat we took in the previous step.
This grants us the Quick Jump skill feat, which will be beneficial for Natasha as she navigates the battlefield. Additionally, I’m selecting Dexterity and Wisdom as her related ability boosts, thanks to her training being ingrained in her mind. Don’t forget about Warfare Lore being a trained skill, either!
Step 5: Choose a Class
Ninja seems like it would be a perfect Class choice for Black Widow if we were still in First Edition. Combining the hand-to-hand prowess of the Monk with the swiftness of the Rogue seems like a match made in heaven. Multi-classing isn’t out of the question, but for now let’s just choose one.
Rogue seems to fit better with the spy persona. Natasha operates within the limitations of her own abilities first, but still knows how to function as a valuable unit in a team. Her mobility will allow her to flank enemies and catch them unawares.
Step 6: Determine Ability Scores
Most of our Ability Score adjustments are already accounted for, but we still have our 1st Level boosts to make. I’ll recap each skill to show the choices that I made, and the reasoning behind them:
- Strength: 12 = 10 (Base) + 2 (1st Level). Black Widow relies on finesse, but still has some oomph behind her attacks.
- Dexterity: 16 = 10 (Base) + 2 (1st Level) + 2 (Ancestry) + 2 (Background). We really want to showcase Natasha’s quickness and agility by pumping up Dexterity.
- Constitution: 12 = 10 (Base) + 2 (1st Level). She has slowed aging and an enhanced immune system.
- Intelligence: 10 = 10 (Base). The nice thing about Rogues is that they don’t necessarily rely on Intelligence for their skills. You could just as easily put the Charisma boost here.
- Wisdom: 14 = 10 (Base) + 2 (1st Level) + 2 (Ancestry). Natasha’s training is comprehensive and her abilities are more than second-nature.
- Charisma: 12 = 10 (Base) + 2 (Ancestry). Spies require some modicum of charm and deception, so let’s put a pair of points in here.
Step 7: Record Class Details
As a component of selecting the Rogue class, we have to choose a Rogue’s Racket. Although the sneak attack damage from the Ruffian would be nice, that overall description doesn’t sound like Natasha. We want something that prioritizes finesse over brute strength, so Scoundrel is a better fit.
We also get another skill feat! Twin Feint sounds fun – using one attack to distract an enemy before following up with a second strike. We also know that Natasha uses a pair of batons, so maybe we can work that into her character in some way.
Now it’s time for the Skills. Based on what we’ve already selected, Natasha is already trained in Acrobatics (Skilled Heritage), Athletics (Martial Discipline), Deception (Rogue), Diplomacy (Rogue), Stealth (Rogue), and Warfare Lore (Martial Discipline). She has an impressive seven skills to choose from, so this is what I went with:
- Intimidation: Being able to take down multiple foes in the blink of an eye is certainly intimidating.
- Medicine: When you work alone, getting hurt can mean death unless you’re equipped with the knowledge to treat wounds yourself.
- Nature: Traveling through the wilderness requires knowledge to recall geography and weather patterns.
- Survival: This goes hand-in-hand with Nature, although it also reflects the ability to track prey and traverse the countryside undetected.
- Society: Spies need to understand the geopolitical landscape if they want to be successful at blending into the general populace.
- Thievery: Sometimes the objective is to steal something, so Natasha needs to have sticky fingers.
- Cold Terrain Lore: This is mostly a nod to her Russian heritage, but is certainly a useful skill to have in a campaign.
Step 8: Buy Equipment
Starting out, we have 150 sp to spend as we desire. Since Black Widow doesn’t really require much in terms of expensive items right out the gate, we can prepare her for any situation the GM throws at her.
For weapons, let’s give her a pair of daggers. This allows us to take advantage of our Twin Feint feat that we took earlier. They’re also cheap, and fit well-within the range of weapons Rogues are proficient with.
Rogues also benefit best from Light Armor, so I’ve outfitted Natasha with a standard set of leather armor for 20 sp. You could spring for some studded leather armor for 30 sp, but I prefer the lower Dexterity cap penalty of the regular stuff.
We also want to be sure that Black Widow has everything she needs to survive out in the wilds. As such, I’ve purchases a Rogue Class Pack, which includes necessities like a backpack, belt pouches, chalk, rope, sleeping gear, and more. It only comes with a single sheath, so I forked out a copper piece for another one.
Lastly, what’s a Rogue without a set of Thieve’s Tools? If you want to have a fighting chance at picking locks or disabling traps, these are a necessity. They’re not cheap, but 30 sp will pay for itself three times over the first time you unlock that treasure chest.
At this point, we still have some gold to our name, so spend that as you see fit. Otherwise, put it in the rainy-day fund for some future equipment upgrades.
Step 9: Calculate Modifiers
Work through the calculations for your Perception, Saving Throws, Strikes, and Skills. I’ve provided a character sheet for this build below, which has everything calculated for you. If you’ve made any changes, however, you’ll be on your own for doing the math.
Step 10: Finishing Details
All that’s left to do is tie up the loose ends on the character sheet, and Black Widow is ready to go! Be sure to fill in these details on the appropriate sections of your character sheet.
- Alignment: Lawful Neutral. Always tough to determine, Natasha has a loose resemblance to the Lawful Neutral designation. Black Widow completes the objectives that are dished out to her. Additionally, she sides with the law during the Sokovia Accords during the Civil War timeline. She has a tendency to follow orders, but will do what’s right when push comes to shove.
- Deity: Irori is a decent choice here, symbolizing the ability for others to perfect themselves. There’s a focus on discipline and personal betterment that fits Black Widow’s personal ideology.
Those are the big two decisions to make in this section. The Class DC, Armor Class (AC), and Bulk values are all determined by previous choices. Check the Core Rulebook (pg 29) for additional information in calculating these.
Step 11: Beyond 1st Level
Let’s flash forward to 5th level, which is where Black Widow will really start to shine as a unique character. As I mentioned at the beginning, taking the Monk Dedication Feat is huge here. Not only do we unlock the basic Monk abilities, but it makes Natasha more versatile as a combatant.
In order to take the Monk Dedication Feat, however, we will need to use our Ability Score boosts to increase our Strength to 14. Once you have the feat, I recommend Basic Kata as your second Class feat. This allows us to take a 1st or 2nd level Monk feat. Keeping with the Russia theme, Tiger Stance is a powerful feat that grants Natasha the ability to deal slashing damage with her hands, and take 10-foot steps.
Now that we can make some skills Expert-level, it’s time to focus on our bread and butter. Acrobatics is already Expert at this point, so let’s increase Athletics, Stealth, Intimidation, and Deception.
Now for the Feats. Feather Step is a great General Feat that couples well with our Tiger Stance, allowing Natasha to Step into difficult terrain. You have a wide range of choices for the rest, but I recommend Cat Fall to reflect how Natasha always seems to land on her feet. Rapid Mantel, Confabulator, and Combat Climber will all come in handy as well.
As far as equipment, here are a few suggestions that you’ll get some mileage out of. A Ring of the Ram is good for battlefield control against multiple enemies. If enemies are pushing in too close for comfort, blast them backward. Boots of Elvenkind are a solid utility item to improve Acrobatics, which is already an Expert skill for us.
Eventually, a Ring of Climbing would work wonders to ensure Natasha can navigate through rocky terrain with ease. You may also consider a Monk staple – the Handwraps of Mighty Blows. If you decide to ditch the daggers all-together, these are a must for all unarmed attacks.
Black Widow Meets Pathfinder 2E
I’ve attached a Hero Lab Online Character Sheet that outlines the choices we made in this build. This should give you a decent starting point to building this character, or else free to use it as-is!
There are four total files below, representing the Level 1 and Level 5 versions of this character. Each Level has a character sheet and an abilities/gear description file to go with it.
Level 1 Character Sheet Files
Level 5 Character Sheet Files
This series will feature builds in Starfinder, Pathfinder, and D&D 5E. Keep your eyes peeled for future installments. Reach out to us on Twitter if there’s something you really want to see.
Until then, in the words of Black Widow, “Let me put you on hold!”