I love creators like Monster Monday and Danger Rooms & Dragons that use tabletop systems like Pathfinder 2E and D&D 5E to create beloved pop culture characters (and monsters). I decided I’d push myself a little bit and try my hand at doing something similar. As a challenge to myself, I decided to try to build Superman in PF2E.
This was maybe not the best choice, considering that Clark Kent has had quite a few powers attributed to him over the years. I’m going to drop all the super-hypnotism and self-duplication and such, though, and just focus on the bare essentials of Superman. For this build, I’m trying to focus on a few key powers: strength, endurance, speed, flight, heat vision, and cold breath.
We’re going to start out by choosing an Ancestry, of course, and the easiest choice here is Human. Not technically accurate, but hey, there’s no Kryptonian race in Paizo’s products. We’ll toss those ability boosts onto Strength and Charisma, bringing both up to 12.
For his Heritage, I considered Aasimar–it would fit alright narratively, but there’s not much Feat-wise that fits the build I’m going for. Instead, let’s go with Versatile and use it to pick up the Diehard General Feat, which will make the Man of Steel a bit harder to kill.
There’s not a great selection of Superman-ish Ancestry Feats at first level, so I’m going with Cooperative Nature, which lets him Aid people more effectively–that feels appropriate.
For Background, how could I resist Farmhand? That will net us two more boosts, one of which I’m putting into Constitution to goose those hit points a bit more; the other I’m putting in Dexterity. We’ll also get the Assurance General Feat in Athletics (a skill which we’ll also become Trained in).
Now, class time! I think Monk is our best bet. Superman doesn’t use weapons, so unarmed strikes are a good match, and their increases to movement can help me reach the super-speed feel I’m going for. Let’s pick Strength as our core stat for a boost. At this point we’re sitting at Strength 14, Dexterity 12, Constitution 12, Charisma 12, and 10 in both Wisdom and Intelligence.
(Side note: initially, I wasn’t bothering with Charisma, but it turns out I’m going to need it later on down the road for a Feat I want… and besides, Superman is a pretty charismatic dude.)
Another thing I like about Monk: it will make him an Expert in all three saving throws and in Unarmored Defense! We’ll also get Trained in four skills; let’s go with Acrobatics, Diplomacy, Society, and… hm. Survival? Not a great fit, thematically, but it’s often used for investigation and tracking, so we can say that it represents Clark’s enhanced senses.
Supes will also get the Powerful Fist and Flurry of Blows class features, letting him hit hard and fast, just like a Superman should. For our inaugural Class Feat, we’re going to ignore all the Stances and instead grab Ki Rush, which let us move with blinding speed. Woo, on our way to that super-speed!
At level 2, I’m thinking we take Dancing Leaf as our Class Feat, which improves our jumping distance. We won’t quite be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but we’re getting there! For our Skill Feat, Titan Wrestler seems appropriate–we’ll be able to perform combat maneuvers on opponents much larger than us.
For level 3, we automatically gain Incredible Movement, bringing our speed up to 35 feet, as well as Mystic Strikes. We also get a skill increase, which I’m putting into Athletics to raise that to Expert. Lastly, we get a General Feat; Toughness can boost our health a bit more, so let’s go with that.
At level 4, I want Deflect Arrow for our Class Feat–we can’t make bullets bounce off of us, but we can at least knock aside arrows! For our Skill Feat, we’re working on our movement again with Powerful Leap.
Level 5 has a lot to unpack! First, Alertness is going to bump up our Perception to Expert and Expert Strikes will do the same to our unarmed strikes. Then, we get a skill increase; let’s put it in Diplomacy to raise that to Expert, too. More importantly, we get our first set of Ability Score boosts! I want to pump up the four that we’re already focusing on, resulting in 16 Strength and 14 Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma. Finally, we get an Ancestry Feat; again, there’s not a lot of Superman-related stuff for Humans, so I’m just going to pick Sense Allies and once more chalk it up to his Kryptonian senses.
Level 6 will give us our next Focus Spell, Ki Blast. This might seem like a slightly odd choice, but it forms the basis of Superman’s cold breath: it’s a damaging cone that pushes people back. Mechanically, it’s almost perfect! The only problem is that it deals Force damage instead of Cold damage… for now. For our Skill Feat, let’s take Quick Jump. Now, our jumps are faster as well as farther.
At level 7, our speed goes up again, taking us to 40 feet. We also get Path to Perfection, which allows us to bump one saving throw up to Master–I’m going to go with Fortitude here. We’re also going to gain some extra damage thanks to Weapon Specialization. For our Skill increase, we can bring Athletics up to Master now, which just leaves us with a General Feat to choose. I’m going to do something that might be considered a cheat and pick Numb to Death. One of the prerequisites is that the character has died at least once; Death of Superman counts, right?
Level 8 is going to look weird, but stick with me. I’m picking Champion Dedication, allowing Supes to multiclass into Champion. You’ll see why in a little while. The deity we pick as part of this Feat doesn’t really matter as long as they have access to the Fire domain; we’ll get Trained in Religion and, hm, let’s say Intimidation–an angry Superman is rare but terrifying. For our Skill Feat, I’m thinking Cat Fall; there’s not a lot of Skill Feats I’m wild about, but this one at least helps with the whole ‘leap tall buildings/fly’ thing we’re going for.
Level 9 grants us Metal Strikes, making our fists more potent, as well as Monk Expertise, which brings our Monk DC to Expert. For our Skill increase, I’m taking Acrobatics up to Expert. The real exciting part of this level, though, is our Ancestry Feat: we can grab Shory Aeromancer to gain the ability to cast Fly on ourselves once a day. Ta-da! You will believe a Pathfinder character can fly!
At level 10, we get four more Ability Score boosts; I think we stay the course, getting up to 18 Strength, 16 Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma, and 10 Intelligence and Wisdom. I’m pleased to report that for our Class Feat, we can grab a little thing called Entwined Energy Ki from the Fists of the Ruby Phoenix Phoenix Adventure Path. This’ll let us change the damage from our Ki Blast into Cold damage. Voila–cold breath complete! As for a Skill Feat, I think I’m just going to grab Intimidating Glare. Again, not a great fit, but Superman can be scary when he wants to be.
Okay, we’re at the halfway point; let’s review. We’ve successfully locked down flight and cold breath; we’ve got high Strength and a variety of boosts to unarmed strikes, making super-strength a pretty reasonable descriptor; our enhanced movement and Ki Rush make for pretty decent super-speed; and high Dexterity and Constitution, plus Feats like Toughness and Diehard, make him pretty resilient to damage. The only thing we’re missing so far is heat vision.
At level 11 our speed goes up again to 45 feet and we get a Second Path to Perfection. I’m going to pick Reflex for this one to make him even harder to physically hit. We also get a Skill increase; let’s get Acrobatics to Master. Last but not least, we get a General Feat. How about Fast Recovery?
Now, level 12 is where the final piece clicks into place. First, let’s take Aerobatics Mastery as our Skill Feat since we’re Masters in Acrobatics now–that’ll make flying a bit easier. Then, for our Class Feat, we’re going to grab another Champion Archetype Feat: Basic Devotion. This is why we took that Dedication. Basic Devotion allows us to choose a 1st or 2nd level Champion Feat, and we’re going to choose Deity’s Domain. For our Domain of choose, we’re choosing Fire, which grants us access to the initial Fire Domain Spell: Fire Ray. Bam! Heat vision!
Now, you can actually do this a bit earlier. If we’d put our second boost from our Background into Charisma instead of Dexterity, we’d have had 14 Strength and 14 Charisma at level 2, which would allow us to take the Champion Dedication instead of Dancing Leaf; then, we wouldn’t need to take the Dedication at level 8 and we could’ve grabbed Basic Devotion there instead. That’s honestly probably the better call–Dancing Leaf doesn’t add a ton to this build–but, well, I forgot that you needed 14 Charisma for the Champion Dedication initially and I was too lazy to go back and make this more efficient. The point is, you can have a pretty functional Superman by level 10 instead of 12, if you want.
Level 13 nets us Graceful Mastery, bringing our Unarmored Defense up to Master rank. As an aside: I feel like Unarmored Defense is the right call for Supes. I know that in certain portrayals his costume is some kind of Kryptonian fabric that’s more resilient or whatever, but I just think of it as spandex, so I don’t think he should be wearing armor. An argument could probably be made that he should be wearing Light Armor, though. Anyway, we also get Master Strikes, which puts our Unarmed Strikes at Master rank, too. We can likewise raise Diplomacy up to Master with our Skill increase. This is an Ancestry Feat level, and while Shory Aerialist is tempting, it’s a bit redundant with Aerobatics Mastery–they both grant a circumstance bonus to flight that won’t stack, so all we’d get is a small buff to flying speed. Instead, I’m going to take Stubborn Persistence, which makes it harder to get Fatigued.
For level 14, we have a lot of great options for Class Feats! We’re done dealing with most of our superpowers, so at this point we can grab pretty much whatever we want. I’m going to go back a few levels and take Ironblood Stance. We haven’t taken any Stances yet, so this won’t have any competition, and it’s not very restrictive–it gives us access to Iron Sweep attacks, but doesn’t require us to use them. More importantly, it gives us damage resistance! For Skill Feats… frankly, we’re running low on ones that interest me. Let’s take Kip Up so we can stand up for free if we’re knocked prone; Kal-El gets knocked down, but he gets back up again. You’re never gonna keep him down.
Take a deep breath, because level 15 is a big one. First off, we get Greater Weapon Specialization to beef up our punches further. Then, our speed increases a bit more, putting us at 50 feet per move action. Next up is our Third Path to Perfection, which brings one of the two throws we selected earlier up to Legendary–Fortitude seems like the best choice here. But wait, there’s more! We have a Skill increase, so let’s become Legendary rank in Acrobatics to make sure we’re top-notch flyers. We have four Ability boosts, too. Let’s put them in Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, and Wisdom this time around. That means our Ability Scores should be as follows: 19 Strength, 18 Dexterity, 18 Constitution, 10 Intelligence, 12 Wisdom, and 14 Charisma. Finally, we get a General Feat, and… I don’t know. Feather Step? Sure.
For level 16, we again have lots of strong choices for Class Feats. I like the look of Flinging Blow. Sending people flying with a single punch is an iconic Superman move, after all. For a Skill Feat, let’s put our Society skill to use and grab Read Lips.
At level 17 Monks get Adamantine Strikes (better punches yet again) and Graceful Legend (which maxes out our Unarmored Defense and raises our Monk DC to Master). There’s another Skill increase to deal with; you know what? Let’s go ahead and put it in Society, bring that up to Expert. Then, we can nab our final Ancestry Feat, which simply has to be Heroic Presence–who wouldn’t be inspired by Superman’s presence?
I had a tough time picking a Class Feat for level 18. I almost went with Diamond Fists; some earlier Feats, like Whirlwind Throw or Arrow Snatching, are tempting as well. Ultimately, I think I want to go with Shattering Strike, so that Clark can punch through barriers as well as foes. We’ll take Glean Contents for our Skill Feat.
Nearly there now! Level 19 raises our speed to a grand total of 55 feet (much faster than a regular character–and while there’s at least one or two ways I could get it higher, I’m saving those in case I ever want to build the Flash, since he’s even faster than the Man of Steel). It also grants us Perfected Form, making it harder for us to miss when attacking. For our final Skill increase, I’ll bring Athletics up to Legendary. That just leaves a General Feat. How about Incredible Initiative?
And here we are: level 20! We’ll pop our last four Ability boosts into Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma, leaving us with 20 Strength, 18 Dexterity, 18 Constitution, 12 Intelligence, 14 Wisdom, and 18 Charisma. For our final Skill Feat, we can take Cloud Jump to finalize our ‘leap tall buildings’ directive; that just leaves one more Class Feat. Enduring Quickness is tempting, but again, I feel like that works better for the Flash (also, before anyone says something like, “Well, in the Justice League movie, Superman is actually faster than Flash,” I don’t care. Crisis on Infinite Earths firmly establishes that Barry Allen leaves Clark in the dust, and that’s how it should be). Instead, I’m going to sneak something from the Age of Ashes Adventure Path: Golden Body, which gives our hero fast healing and even better punches.
So, there you have it! That’s one way to build Superman in Pathfinder 2E. He’s not quite Pathfinder Society Play legal, I don’t think, but I’d allow him at my home table for sure.
This is the first time I’ve ever tried something like this. I’m still relatively new to Pathfinder 2E, and I probably didn’t build, like, the most efficient version of the character–in fact, I know I didn’t. But I had a lot of fun figuring stuff out! This was a blast. I’d like to try making more comic book characters in the future.