In this series, we recreate a character from our favorite works in Pathfinder.

This week’s installment: Sherlock Holmes

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:

  1. Each build will be a maximum of 10th level.
  2. Each build will have appropriate average recommended PC wealth-per level and use a 20-point buy.
  3. 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: Lexaeus, the Silent Hero

Today’s Cloning Factory subject is Sherlock Holmes, chiefly an amalgamation of the original Doyle character and the depiction by Robert Downey, Jr. in the films directed by Guy Ritchie.

Sherlock Holmes requires little in the way of introduction. He is the world’s finest detective, brought in to handle indecipherable mysteries that his supremely logical mind twists and dissects into the simple truth. He is, in short, a genius.

But Sherlock Holmes is more than just a particularly smart person; the character is something of an eccentric. Doyle’s character and most, if not all, later interpretations suffer from a profound intellectual boredom with the world around them and take strange steps to solve that. Drug use is common, as are curious experiments with unclear aims. He’s socially maladroit and reliant upon Watson when it comes to tying himself to the mundane world. Doyle’s version and RDJ’s are also trained in the fictional martial art of “baritsu.” In the Ritchie films, Sherlock is shown analyzing his enemies’ movements and the consequences of potential strategies mid-fight. This is something we’ll look to reproduce here. Doyle’s Sherlock also has mentionable physical strength, but since Pathfinder requires a degree of specialization we’ll treat him as being of average strength here.

The Sherlock we’re going to make will:

  • Be highly intelligent
  • Employ that intellect as his primary method of interacting with the world
  • Demonstrate a degree of martial ability
  • Employ eccentric or unusual means of achieving success

Class Choice

The simplest method of creating Sherlock Holmes is simply to play an Investigator. The Investigator class is an INT-heavy skill monkey that features a pool of points called Inspiration, which they can spend to further enhance their skill checks. Investigators also receive a Studied Combat class feature that represents them assessing and evaluating their opponent mid-fight and eventually turning that into an advantage.

We’re going to use the Investigator class, eventually, but there will be a few twists and turns to it.

Sherlock Holmes is trained in a martial art, and we’re going to want a way to ensure that he’s slightly more combat capable than a pure Investigator. To that end, we’re going to take a dip into the vanilla Monk class, specifically the Master of Many Styles archetype. The Monk is an excellent unarmed, unarmored fighter. It’s unarmed strikes have a larger damage die, it gains enhanced movement, a bonus to its AC when it isn’t wearing armor, and several bonus feats. But we want a little more out of the class. The Monk is a Wisdom-heavy class, and though Sherlock certainly has some wisdom, Intelligence is his main ability score. This is where the Master of Many Styles archetype comes in. This archetype lets us gain early access to Style Feats. Style Feats represent different forms of martial arts and, usually, have pretty restrictive entry requirements. Since the archetype grants us these feats as bonus feats for which we don’t need to meet the prerequisites, we can get access to some feats that are central to our concept.

zz fighting ring sherlock_holmes50

Specifically, Kirin Style and Kirin Strike. Kirin Style gives us a bonus to our saving throws and dodge AC against an opponent about whom we’ve made a successful Knowledge check. Kirin Strike allows us to, once per round, add twice our Intelligence modifier to a damage roll against such a target. Now we’re talking.

After a few monk levels, we’ll go back into Investigator using the Empiricist archetype. The Empiricist gains the ability to use Intelligence for many of its skill checks that otherwise rely on different ability scores. Sherlock’s intellect is his only real tool for interacting with the world around him. Empiricist allows us to make sure that’s the case here.

The Build

Sherlock Holmes
Monk (Master of Many Styles) 3 / Investigator  (Empiricist) 7
Lawful Neutral Medium Humanoid (Human)
AC 19, touch 16, flat-footed 13
(+4 DEX, +2 WIS, +3 Armor)
(+2 dodge vs. Attacks of Opportunity from Kirin Style target)
(+4 Shield bonus if using Shield extract)
HP: 61 (10d8+10)Fort: +8, Ref: +14, Will: +12
(+2 to Will vs. enchantment spells or effects; +2 to Will vs. illusions or spell-like abilities that allow a save to disbelieve; +2 vs. effects from Kirin Style target)
Speed: 40 ft.
Melee:  Unarmed Strike +13 (1d8+2, 20/x2)Special Attacks:

  • Studied Combat: Move action, study single creature. Gain ½ investigator level as an insight bonus to attack and damage rolls against that creature for a number of rounds equal to your Intelligence modifier or until you use a Studied Strike.
  • Studied Strike: Free action, when hitting a studied target with a melee attack, add 2d6 precision damage. Ends Studied Combat.
  • Kirin Strike: Swift action, 1/round. vs. an opponent you’ve identified with a successful Knowledge check, add 2xINT to damage roll after a successful hit.
  • Stunning Fist: 1/round, before you announce an attack roll, declare attack will be Stunning Fist. On successful unarmed strike, opponent must pass Fortitude save equal to 10 + ½ character level + wisdom modifier or be stunned for 1 round.

Alchemy Formulae Known:

1st (6/day) – Shield; Disguise Self; Polypurpose Panacea; Heightened Awareness; See Alignment; Detect Secret Doors; Blurred Movement; Expeditious Retreat; Cure Light Wounds; Vocal Alteration

2nd (4/day)- Bull’s Strength; Owl’s Wisdom; Bear’s Endurance

3rd (2/day)- Arcane Sight

Class Features

AC Bonus (Add Wisdom modifier to AC when unarmored and unencumbered)

Evasion: If you succeed on a Reflex saving throw that would reduce the effect’s damage to half, you instead take no damage.

Fast Movement: Increase base movement speed by 10.

Maneuver Mastery: Use monk level in place of BAB for CMB.

Still Mind: +2 to saves against enchantment spells and effects.


Studied Combat:
Studied Strike: 2d6

Inspiration Pool: 10

  • Free action: add 1d8 to any Knowledge, Linguistics, Spellcraft, Diplomacy, Heal, Perception, Profession, Sense Motive, Bluff, Disable Device, Disguise, Intimidate, or Sleight of Hand
  • Free action: spend 1 Inspiration point: add 1d8 to any other skill or ability check.
  • Immediate action: spend 2 Inspiration points: add 1d8 to any attack roll or saving throw.

Investigator Talents

  • Expanded Inspiration
  • Underworld Inspiration
  • Perceptive Tracking 
  • Amazing Inspiration

Alchemy: Gain bonus equal to Investigator level when using Craft (alchemy) to craft items.

Trapfinding: Add ½ Investigator level to Perception checks to find traps and Disable Device checks

Trap Sense: +2 to Reflex saves and dodge AC vs. traps


Ceaseless Observation

  • Use INT for Disable Device, Perception, Sense Motive, Use Magic Device, and on Diplomacy checks to gather information

Unfailing Logic

  • +2 insight bonus to Will saves vs. illusions or other effects that allow a saving throw to disbelieve. Can expend 1 inspiration to use INT modifier in place of WIS for all such throws for 1 round.
Str 10, Dex 18, Con 12, Int 24 , Wis 14, Cha 8

Base Atk +7/+2, CMB +9; CMD 23

Feats: Weapon Finesse (Human Bonus); Improved Unarmed Strike (Monk Bonus); Stunning Fist (Monk Bonus); Kirin Style (Master of Many Styles Bonus); Catch Off Guard; Kirin Strike (2nd Monk bonus); Bruising Intellect (3rd level); Monastic Legacy (5th level); Extra Investigator Talent (7th); Jabbing Style (9th)

Traits: Student of Philosophy

Gear: Headband of Vast Intelligence +4; Belt of Incredible Dexterity +4; Amulet of Mighty Fists +2; Bracers of Armor +3; Cloak of Resistance +2

Level Advancement

Master of Many Styles Monk 1


  • Weapon Finesse
    • Since our Sherlock is not a strength fighter, we need a method of making our Dexterity matter in combat. Weapon Finesse allows us to use our Dexterity modifier in place of our Strength modifier on our attack rolls with light weapons, including unarmed strikes. Gained through the bonus feat received by humans at 1st level.
  • Improved Unarmed Strike
    • With this feat, we can deal lethal damage with our unarmed strikes and are considered armed at all times. A necessary component of any unarmed fighting build. Gained as a bonus feat through the Monk class.
  • Stunning Fist
    • A nice, but unnecessary, addition to this build from the Monk class. Since we’re not heavy on Wisdom, we won’t be getting too much mileage out of this but the DC scales with character level, so it’s a nice Option C should we ever need it. Gained as a bonus feat through the Monk class.
  • Kirin Style
    • This is one of the style feats we can grab early because Master of Many Styles says we don’t need to meet the feat’s prerequisites. Kirin Style lets us make a swift action Knowledge check against an enemy. If we succeed, we get a bonus on our saving throws against effects from that enemy and a dodge bonus to our AC against that enemy’s attacks of opportunity. Useful, and certainly fitting the Intelligence-based combat we expect from Sherlock. Gained as a bonus feat through the Master of Many Styles archetype.
  • Catch Off-Guard
    • Sherlock is an unorthodox person, so I couldn’t help but grab this feat. Enemies are flat-footed against attacks you make with improvised weapons and you receive no penalty for making attacks with improvised weapons.

Class Features:

  • AC Bonus
    • Monks get to apply their Wisdom modifier to their AC as long as they’re unarmored and unencumbered. That’s useful for us, providing a bit of a cushion, but because we’re focusing on Intelligence over Wisdom we don’t get quite as much mileage out of it as it we would in a more traditional monk build.
  • Bonus Feats
    • Monks get a lot of bonus feats at first level. We’ve discussed this above in our 1st level feat selection.
  • Unarmed Strike
    • The monk’s unarmed strikes have larger damage die than those of most other classes, going from a d4 to a d6. As the monk gains levels, the damage die increases. Right now, our strikes deal 1d6, but that will increase to 1d8 by the time we’re done.
  • Fuse Style
    • If we have feats from two different styles, we can use them simultaneously. Normally, they’re mutually exclusive. While this won’t be useful to us yet, as we’re still looking for a very specific continuation of our Kirin Style feat selection, this will come in handy later.

Master of Many Styles Monk 2


  • Kirin Strike
    • The second style feat we’ll take early. Kirin Strike allows us to, once per round as a swift action, add twice our Intelligence modifier as a bonus to a damage roll on a successful hit against a creature we’ve made a successful Knowledge check about. For our Int-heavy Sherlock, this is a godsend. Gained as a bonus feat through the Master of Many Styles archetype.

Class Features

  • Evasion
    • Since our Sherlock is Dex-focused, this makes his Reflex saves even more valuable. Now, instead of taking half damage on a successful save against certain spells and effects, Sherlock will take no damage.
  • Bonus Feat
    • See “Feats” above.

Master of Many Styles Monk 3


  • Bruising Intellect
    • Our Sherlock has a low Charisma score, but he still certainly strikes fear into the hearts of those who oppose him. Bruising Intellect allows him to add his Intelligence modifier to Intimidate checks that he makes. Gained through the feat received through normal level advancement.

Class Features

  • Fast Movement
    • Sherlock was never remarkably faster than most, but as a function of the monk class he’ll be receiving a 10-foot bonus to his base movement speed.
  • Maneuver Training
    • Our Sherlock uses his monk levels in place of his BAB when calculating his CMB. While it’s unlikely our Sherlock will be a master of combat maneuvers, this does pump up his ability to perform them when necessary.
  • Still Mind
    • Sherlock gets a +2 bonus to resist enchantment effects. With the amount of drugs Sherlock takes, and the single-minded focus on reason and logic, being unswayed by magical wiles is fitting.

Master of Many Styles Monk 3 (M3) / Empiricist Investigator 1

Class Features

  • Alchemy
    • Sherlock becomes much more adept at using Craft (Alchemy) to identify the properties of potions and elixirs he encounters. Further, he adds his Investigator level on Craft (Alchemy) checks to create alchemical items. Finally, Sherlock gains a psuedo-casting ability through alchemical formulae. While Sherlock was never an alchemist, per se, in the world of Pathfinder this is an acceptable deviation. Sherlock experiments wildly during his bored periods. It’s within character for him to subject himself and others to the tests of his strange hypotheses.
  • Inspiration
    • Sherlock gains a pool of points based on his Investigator level and Intelligence modifier. He can use these points to enhance his skills, flavorfully turning his intellect to the task of excelling at whatever he’s doing. He can even increase the results of some skill checks – Appraise, Knowledge, Spellcraft, and Linguistics – without needing to expend any points from this pool.
  • Trapfinding
    • Sherlock can use his Perception skill to notice traps more easily and disable them more efficiently.

Formulae Known:

  • 1st:  Shield; Disguise Self; Polypurpose Panacea; Heightened Awareness; See Alignment; Detect Secret Doors; Blurred Movement

M3 / Empiricist Investigator 2


  • Monastic Legacy
    • We left the Monk class before our unarmed strike damage die could increase. Monastic Legacy allows half of our non-monk levels to count as monk levels for the purpose of determining our unarmed strike damage die. Selecting this feat bumps up the die from 1d6 to 1d8. Gained through the feat received through normal level advancement.

Class Features

  • Ceaseless Observation
    • This replaces the poison lore and poison resistance class features normally gained by Investigators. Ceaseless Observation allows us to use our Intelligence modifier on Disable Device, Perception, Sense Motive, and Use Magic Device checks, rather than the normal ability for those skills. Further, we can also use Intelligence instead of Charisma on our Diplomacy checks made to gather information. Sherlock rarely uses another skill where intellect will suffice.

Formulae Known:

  • 1st: Expeditious Retreat

M3 / Empiricist Investigator 3

Class Features:

  • Investigator Talent (Expanded Inspiration)
    • With this Investigator Talent, we can now add Inspiration die to Diplomacy, Heal, Perception, Profession, and Sense Motive checks without expending a point from our pool. Sherlock’s a master of many skills. Expanded Inspiration helps that make translate into Pathfinder.
  • Keen Recollection
    • Keen Recollection allows Sherlock to make knowledge checks even without being trained in them. Sherlock historically has an eidetic memory. Of course he would recall something without having ever dedicated time to studying it.
  • Trap Sense +1
    • Sherlock gets a +1 to his Reflex saves to avoid traps and a +1 to his dodge bonus against attacks from traps.

Formulae Known:

  • 1st: Cure Light Wounds

M3 / Empiricist Investigator 4


  • Extra Investigator Talent (Underworld Inspiration)
    • Sherlock is intimately familiar with the criminal element, and easily turns his intellect to those same tasks if necessary. Underworld Inspiration allows him to add 1d8 to his Bluff, Disable Devise, Disguise, Intimidate, and Sleight of Hand checks without expending a point of Inspiration. Gained through the feat available through normal level advancement.

Class Features

  • Unfailing Logic
    • Awarded through the Empiricist archetype, Unfailing Logic gives Sherlock a +2 bonus to will saves against Illusion spells and any spell-like ability that allows a save to disbelieve. Additionally, he can expend 1 point of Inspiration to use his Intelligence modifier in place of his Wisdom modifier for the purpose of these saving throws.
  • Studied Combat
    • As a move action, Sherlock can study an opponent, gaining half his investigator level as a bonus on melee attack and damage rolls against that creature for up to a number of rounds equal to his Intelligence modifier. Given that Kirin Strike already has us focusing on one opponent at a time and can be activated with a swift action, it and Studied Combat work well together by setting up favorable combat all in one turn.
  • Studied Strike
    • Studied Strike is the other side of Studied Combat’s coin. While Studied Combat is active, when Sherlock makes a successful melee attack against an enemy he can, as a free action, end Studied Combat to deal 1d6 damage to that enemy. This increases at 7th level and every three levels thereafter.

Formulae Known

  • 2nd: Bull’s Strength
    • Since our unarmed strikes still deal damage based on our strength, it might behoove us, every now and again, to actually have some.

M3 / Empiricist Investigator 5

Class Features

  • Investigator Talent (Perceptive Tracking)
    • More Intelligence modifiers to skills! Perceptive tracking lets Sherlock use his Intelligence modifier instead of his Wisdom modifier on Survival checks to find and follow tracks.

Formulae Known

  • 2nd: Owl’s Wisdom
    • We’re grabbing Owl’s Wisdom here in the event we’re ever in dire need of a quick AC upgrade beyond what Shield provides or a DC upgrade for our Stunning Fist.

M3 / Empiricist Investigator 6


  • Jabbing Style
    • Remember that we can fuse styles as a swift action from Master of Many Styles. Whenever we hit an enemy with an unarmed strike and have hit that enemy previously this round with another unarmed strike, we add 1d6 to our damage rolls. In a flurry of blows with Kirin Style, Jabbing Style, and Studied Combat active, our subsequent unarmed strikes against our studied opponent will deal 1d8+STR+1/2 our Investigator level + 1d6 and one of them, as a swift action, deals an additional 2xINT (for us, 14). Studied Strike increases this damage further.

Class Features

  •  Studied Strike: 2d6

Formulae Known:

  • 2nd: Bear’s Endurance
    • If we’re going to be spending time in melee range, we’d better bump up our hit points.

M3 / Empiricist Investigator 7

Class Features

  • Investigator Talent (Amazing Inspiration)
    • Whenever we would use Inspiration to add 1d6 to a roll, we instead add 1d8. Every little helps, and every advancement puts Sherlock one step above his contemporaries.

Formulae Known

  • 3rd: Arcane Sight

Recommended items are a Headband of Vast Intelligence +4 and a Belt of Incredible Dexterity +4, as well as an Amulet of Mighty Fists, Bracers of Armor, and Cloak of Resistance. These items, and this build, are geared towards a combat-capable Sherlock Holmes. Your tastes might differ and, if so, I encourage you to check out some of the more niche wondrous items. They’re great fun and ripe for excellent roleplay.

If you’d like to play a combat-capable Sherlock Holmes of a different sort, keep an eye out for any classes that offer features like the Duelist‘s Canny Defense, which adds a scaling portion of your Intelligence bonus to your AC. Some magus archetypes, like the Bladed Scarf Dancer or Kensai, grant that ability. For a more interactive application of your intelligence in combat, look at the Inspired Blade swashbuckler archetype, which might do a good job of conveying the European influences that combined with Japanese martial arts to form baritsu, the style upon which “bartitsu” is almost definitely based.

Sherlock Holmes content and materials, as penned by Doyle, are in the public domain under United Kingdom law.

“Sherlock Holmes” content and materials, as filmed and directed by Guy Ritchie and distributed by Warner Bros’, are trademarks and copyrights of Warner Bros. Pictures.