In this series, we recreate a character from our favorite works in Pathfinder.
This installment’s character: Corvo Attano (Dishonored 1 & 2)
As I learn the ins-and-outs of Pathfinder, one of my favorite ways to test my knowledge is to recreate characters from others works. The Cloning Factory is a series in which I’ll try to build, using only official Pathfinder content, some of my favorite characters.
Each build will stick to a few rules:
- Each build will be a maximum of 10th level.
- Each build will have appropriate average recommended PC wealth-per level and use a 20-point buy.
- Each build will use only official Pathfinder content.
I have characters I’m looking forward to cloning, but if there are any you’d like to see let me know.
Check out the last Cloning Factory subject: Larxene, the Savage Nymph.
Today’s Cloning Factory subject is Corvo Attano, from Dishonored and its sequel, Dishonored 2.
Corvo is the Royal Protector of the Empress of the Isles, monarch of the setting in which Dishonored takes place. As Royal Protector, Corvo is charged with safeguarding the Empress’ life. In both games, Corvo seeks to undo the ministrations of the empire’s enemies. His player controls whether Corvo does his lethally or non-lethally (jury’s out on which one is more cruel), but the Dishonored games universally focus on stealth and creative solutions to problems.
Corvo is a mostly mundane character, in that magical ability isn’t intrinsic to him. In Dishonored 1, the only power he must gain over the course of the story is Blink, a short-range teleport. In Dishonored 2, Corvo can elect to gain no powers at all. As a result, the Corvo build I’ll work for is one in which there is very little magic intrinsic to the character. In fact, I’ll work towards giving Corvo only the Blink, and leaving everything else to flesh and steel.
We’re going to be focusing on Dexterity and Intelligence as his main ability scores.
There are a lot of ways we could get to our end goal of Corvo Attano. Some take more magical routes, some take more varied ones, but I’m going to focus on making a Corvo that’s stealthy, adaptable, and able to quickly incapacitate his enemies. And, I want to minimize his inherent magical ability as much as possible. I only want Corvo to have one magical ability; Blink. Everything else will be items. The class progression I take to get here is a bit convoluted, so stick with me.
Corvo is agile, evasive, resourceful, and tricky. To me, this screams Rogue. In 2015, Paizo released an alternate class to the Rogue, the Unchained Rogue or “UnRogue.” The UnRogue is generally considered a great revision of the Rogue that helps the class stand alongside its peers. The UnRogue strengthens the Rogue’s focus on Dexterity while adding more options for the Rogue to pursue than hoping for flanking. We’ll rely a lot on sneak attacks here, but the UnRogue puts us on the path to success. Corvo spends almost all of his time in urban settings, skulking around rooftops. Because of this, I’m going to use the Roof Runner rogue archetype. Most Rogue archetypes are applicable to the UnRogue, and the Roof Runner is no exception. Roof Runner lets Corvo perform his urban agility with ease, without losing much in the way of fidelity to his other abilities.
The Rogue doesn’t give us everything we want, though. The Corvo I’m looking to make is stealthy, but also handy in a fight and should be able to incapacitate enemies quickly and both lethally and non-lethally. I need a class that’s going to give me flexibility, but not take up too much of the Rogue progression I want. This is where the Brawler comes in. The Brawler is a very adaptable class that gains an ability called Martial Flexibility, which allows them to temporarily gain access to combat feats they otherwise don’t possess. With just one level in Brawler, Martial Flexibility will give my Corvo just enough of a solid basis upon which I can build the rest of his abilities.
But even then, we’re still missing the one-hit kill/knock-out Corvo’s so good at. To that end, we’ll be taking advantage of the Assassin prestige class. The Assassin continues our Rogue Sneak Attack progression, which will turn out very useful, but also gains a unique ability called Death Attack. Whenever Corvo studies an enemy for a few rounds, he can make a sneak attack against that enemy that can immediately kill or paralyze them. This is exactly the sort of thing that we’re looking for.
I’m also going to take advantage of the Variant Multi-classing Rules, an alternate rule set published by Paizo. These “VMC” rules allow a character of one class to select a secondary class, then forego their normal feats gained at levels 3, 7, 11, 15, and 19 to instead gain a class feature of that secondary class. I often think VMCing is a little underwhelming, but it puts us right where we want to be with Corvo. I’m going to select Wizard as my secondary class.
Other ways to create a Corvo of your own might include the Shadow Dancer prestige class for a more supernatural-oriented Corvo, or even a hybrid of Unchained Monk and Unchained Rogue, as this blogger demonstrates. Their Corvo inspired much of this one, but while theirs looks to bring out the character’s aggressive options, I’m going to be opting for a stealthier Royal Protector. Unfortunately, the Assassin prestige class requires that this Corvo be of any evil alignment. Those of you looking to play a neutral or good Corvo can go without the Assassin prestige class and stick with UnRogue.
|Brawler 1 / Unchained Rogue 5 (Roof Runner) / Assassin 4 / VMC Wizard
|AC 21, touch 17, flat-footed 15
(+4 Armor; +6 Dexterity, +1 Deflection)
hp: 84 (1d20+2+9d8+18)
Fort: +11, Ref: +17, Will:+4
|Speed: 30 ft.
Melee: +1 Keen Shortsword +14 (1d6+8, 18-20/x2)
Unarmed Strike +13 (1d6+0, 20/x2)
Ranged: +1 Bane (Human) Hand Crossbow (1d8)
Sneak Attack: +5d6
Knock-Out Artist/Sap Adept (nonlethal sneak attack with unarmed): 5d6+10
|Class and VMC Features|
2nd: Expert Leaper
4th: Fast GetawayRogue’s Edge
5th: AcrobaticsVMC Benefits:
1st: School Specialization (Conjuration (Teleportation))
3rd: Familiar: Rat (+2 to Fort Saves)
7th: School Power: Shift (Swift Action: Dimension Door, 25 feet; 7/day)Roof Runner Benefits
|Str 10, Dex 22 (16+2+4), Con 14, Int 20 (14+4+2), Wis 10, Cha 10
Base Atk +7/+2, CMB +13; CMD 23
Feats: Improved Unarmed Strike (Brawler Bonus); Agile Maneuvers (Human Bonus); Combat Expertise (1st level); Knock-Out Artist (5th level feat); Dimensional Agility (9th level)
Gear: +1 Keen Shortsword; +1 Hand Crossbow; +1 Shadow Studded Leather Armor; Mask of the Mantis; Ring of the Ram
Our Corvo starts out with Brawler to lay down a solid foundation of flexibility for the rest of his levels.
- Improved Unarmed Strike (Brawler Bonus)
- Brawlers get this feat as the class is geared towards unarmed fighting. We’ll put this to use later on as we try to represent Corvo non-lethally taking down enemies. As our Corvo has a 10 in Strength (+0 modifier) unarmed strikes aren’t going to be very useful, but he can carry his weight through combat maneuvers.
- Agile Maneuvers (Human Bonus Feat)
- Pathfinder requires a degree of specialization, and our Corvo is focusing on Dexterity and Intelligence. This feat lets us use our Dexterity modifier in place of our Strength modifier for our combat maneuver checks. Corvo isn’t out-muscling his enemies. He’s precise.
- Combat Expertise
- A bit of a feat tax, but Combat Expertise is going to let us use Martial Flexibility to access all sorts of useful combat feats later on.
- Brawler’s Cunning
- This lets our Brawler have 13 Intelligence for the purpose of meeting combat feats. Since our Corvo’s pretty bright, this is a bit of dead weight.
- Martial Flexibility
- Three times a day, Corvo can spend a move action to temporarily gain access to a combat feat he doesn’t otherwise know. He needs to meet all that feat’s prerequisites, however, and this is where Combat Expertise comes in handy. Combat Feat is a necessary hurdle to a lot of feats that are otherwise pretty situational for Corvo, like Improved Feint and Sap Adept. Because Variant Multi-classing restricts our feat availability so much, Martial Flexibility is required to allow Corvo to stack up against his peers and to give him the versatility we want.
- Martial Training
- This lets our Brawler levels count as Fighter and Monk levels for qualifying for feats. We’re only taking 1 level of Brawler, so it’s not of great use to us here.
- Unarmed Strike
- This gives us a bonus feat, Improved Unarmed Strike, another common feat prerequisite. It also improves the base damage of our unarmed strikes to a d6 and lets us deal lethal or nonlethal damage with our unarmed strikes.
- School Specialization (VMC Wizard)
- We’re going to select the Teleportation Subschool of Conjuration as our School Specialization. This doesn’t do anything for us now, since Corvo doesn’t cast spells, but this will come into play later as we get our Blink ability.
Brawler 1 (B1) / Unchained Rogue 1
- Weapon Finesse (Rogue Bonus)
- Weapon Finesse allows us to use Dexterity in place of strength when making attacks rolls with light weapons. Shortswords and unarmed strikes are each considered light weapons, so Corvo’s attack rolls are no longer reliant on his nonexistent Strength modifier. Of course, he doesn’t yet get Dexterity to damage, but this will help Corvo land his attacks more often when he needs to.
- Finesse Training
- This is what gives us Weapon Finesse above. At 3rd level, it will provide Dex to damage rolls with one type of weapon.
- Sneak Attack: 1d6.
- Roof Running
- Corvo spends almost all of his time in Dishonored 1 and 2 maneuvering around urban environments. The Roof Running ability from the Roof Runner archetype lets Corvo move at his full speed atop roofs and similar environments, and ensures that he takes no penalty to Dexterity or skill checks resulting from being in those environments.
B1 / Unchained Rogue 2
- Rogue Talent: Expert Leaper
- Roof Running makes us better at maneuvering across roof tops. Expert Leaper makes us better at acrobatics in general. Corvo’s nimble, and Expert Leaper makes it so that he is always considered to have a running start for the purpose of making Acrobatics skill checks and adds her rogue level to those checks. Whenever Corvo falls deliberately – like, say, descending from a rooftop – he can ignore the first 20 feet of falling damage with a successful Acrobatics check.
- Tumbling Descent
- Another supplement for our urban maneuvering, Tumbling Descent lets Corvo more gracefully descend from the rooftops and into and out of buildings as long as he makes a very reachable DC.
- Whenever Corvo successfully makes a Reflex saving throw against an attack that normally does half damage on a successful save, he instead takes no damage.
- Familiar (VMC)
- A necessary evil on our path to Blink. In Dishonored, Corvo doesn’t have any pets so the familiar the Wizard VMC grants us isn’t quite in line with the source material. However, Dishonored 1 featured rats heavily, and so we can grant Corvo a Rat familiar in homage to that. That the Rat also grants us a +2 to Fortitude saves is icing on the cake.
B1 / Unchained Rogue 3
- Finesse Training:
- At 3rd Rogue level, we select one type of weapon usable with Weapon Finesse and gain the ability to use our Dexterity modifier in place of our Strength modifier for damage rolls with that weapon. We’ll pick Shortsword, since that’s the weapon Corvo most uses to kill enemies quickly.
- Sneak Attack: 2d6
B1 / Unchained Rogue 4
- Knockout Artist
- Knockout Artist lets us add a bonus to our sneak attacks made with nonlethal weapons, like our unarmed strikes. This bonus is equal to the number of sneak attack die we roll (when we get this ability, that will be +3). While this alone isn’t a huge bonus, we can use Martial Flexibility to combine it with Sap Adept to get another +3. Knockout Artist isn’t a combat feat according to d20pfsrd.com, so we’ll need to pick this up using our feats granted by level, rather than though a combat trick rogue talent or through Martial Flexibility.
- Rogue Talent (Fast Getaway)
- Personally, it’s a toss-up between this trick and the Underhanded trick. With Fast Getaway, whenever we make a successful sneak attack or Sleight of Hand Check against an enemy, we can use a move action to move up to our base speed (30ft) without provoking an attack of opportunity. For someone who wants to excel at sneaky, hit-and-run tactics, Fast Getaway is great. However, Underhanded very situationally increases the effective damage of our sneak attacks by a lot. However, we’re looking to our Assassin prestige class later to take care of quick incapacitation for us. If your build doesn’t use the Assassin, Underhanded might be a good inclusion for you.
- Debilitating Injury
- In the event someone survives your sneak attacks, it’s good to make sure they’re still not fighting at your best. Debilitating Injury lets you penalize a sneak attack victim’s attack rolls or AC for 1 round, or cut their speed in half. If you’re looking to harry the enemy and use Fast Getaway to bolt, hobbling the enemy will make sure they can’t catch up with you.
- Uncanny Dodge
- Corvo can’t be caught flat-footed and doesn’t lose his Dexterity bonus to his AC even if his attacker is invisible. Sometimes, Corvo’s enemies get the drop on him. This helps keep him agile and prepared even if they do.
B1 / Unchained Rogue 5
- Rogue’s Edge (Acrobatics)
- At 5th level, the Rogue gains a unique benefit in a single skill in which he has 5 ranks. We’re going to choose Acrobatics here. Doing so lets us move at our normal speed through threatened squares by making a successful Acrobatics check and lets us keep our Dexterity bonus to AC whenever we attempt an Acrobatics check with a DC of 20 or lower. Like, for example, using Tumbling Descent or Expert Leaper to descend from a three-story building.
- Sneak Attack: 3d6
B1 / Unchained Rogue 5 (UR 5) / Assassin 1
- Sneak Attack: 4d6
- Poison Use
- Corvo doesn’t use a whole lot of poisons, with the exception of his crossbow’s sleeping bolts. The Assassin class grants us proficiency in hand crossbows and Poison Use lets us coat them with Blue Whinnis Extract or another poison of your fancy without the risk of harming yourself.
- Death Attack
- Corvo can study an opponent for three rounds, each round taking a standard action to do so. When he has, the next time he deals sneak attack damage to that opponent within three rounds becomes a Death Attack. Corvo picks Die or Paralyze and the opponent must make a Fortitude saving throw. If they fail, they die or are paralyzed for 1d6 rounds, + 1 round for each Assassin level Corvo has. This is the one-hit kill/knockout we’ve been waiting for. The DC is based on Corvo’s assassin level and Intelligence. Our Corvo’s intelligence modifier is +5 and he’ll have four levels of Assassin by the time we’re done, for a total DC of 19.
- Shift (VMC)
- It’s finally here! After several level of waiting, Corvo now gains access to the Teleportation subschool power, Shift. As a swift action, Corvo can teleport 5 feet for every character level he has, as if using Dimension Door. When he gets this ability, he’ll be able to blink 15 feet. By level 10, it’ll be up to 25 feet. Corvo can Shift a number of times per day equal to 3 + his intelligence modifier.
B1 / UR 5 / Assassin 2
- Poison Resistance
- Corvo gains a +1 bonus to his saving throws against poisons, which will increase to +2 by the time we’re done. Those of you who played Dishonored 1 know what I’m talking about.
- Improved Uncanny Dodge
- Even when outnumbered, Corvo can still fight back. With Improved Uncanny Dodge, Corvo can’t be flanked and other rogues can’t deal snack attack damage to him unless they’re a few levels higher.
B1 / UR 5 / Assassin 3
- Dimensional Agility
- The downside of Dimension Door, which Shift acts like, is that it prevents you from taking other actions in your turn after you’ve used it. This means that, before he picks up this feat, Corvo can’t Shift then attack in the same turn. Dimensional Agility removes that restriction and makes sure Corvo can use his swift action Shift at any point in his turn without worrying about lost actions. Make a sneak attack, then use Fast Getaway to escape, then Shift to move in unexpected or unpredictable ways. Shift to avoid one opponent’s threatened area to deliver a sneak attack to his friend, then use Fast Getaway to slink away. Combine Shifts with double move actions to become even more nimble!
- Sneak Attack: 5d6
B1 / UR 5 / Assassin 4
- Hidden Weapons:
- Corvo becomes better at hiding his arsenal, gaining a bonus equal to his Assassin level on Sleight of Hand checks to conceal a weapon. If you took the Underhanded rogue talent, this class feature might be of great help to you in benefiting from the talent more often.
For our Corvo, we want him to be dexterous, intelligent, stealthy, and versatile. We also want him to be able to use other powers to match the ones he had in-game, even if Blink/Shift is the only one we want him to use intrinsically. When equipping him, consider:
- +1 Keen Shortsword. Everyone loves critical strikes. Bane may also work.
- +1 Bane (Human) Hand Crossbow. Most of Corvo’s enemies in Dishonored are human and our focus on melee combat means his ranged combat could use the extra 2d6+2 damage from Bane.
- +1 Shadow Studded Leather. Armor can always be reflavored to look like anything, but unfortunately our Corvo is only proficient in light armor and many of his abilities don’t work in anything heavier. Still, the AC boost from the armor and the Shadow enhancement’s bonus to Stealth will help Corvo stay alive and sneak around.
- Mask of the Mantis. In Dishonored, Corvo gains a mask that lets him zoom in and a power that lets him see enemies and objects through walls. The Mask of the Mantis is a close approximation of both these abilities.
- Ring of the Ram. Corvo gains another power called Wind Blast, which he can use to blow away enemies and burst open doors.The Ring of the Ram has an effective Strength of 25, making it great at doing both of these.
- Belt of Incredible Dexterity +4
- Headband of Vast Intelligence +4
- Cloak of Resistance +3. Bless his heart, but our Corvo has a pitiful Will save. It’s fitting, given how much Corvo gets manipulated in Dishonored, but it’s not all that great for staying alive or for avoiding mind-affecting spells that might make him kill his teammates. Corvo won’t be staying coherent in the face of eldritch deities anytime soon, but the +3 this provides to his saving throws will help him stick around long enough to gape at them.
- Ring of Deflection +1. Every little helps, especially when it’s a deflection bonus to AC.
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