Batman might be one of the most infamous heroes of the DC comics universe, skilled and strong enough to take on all comers, but he’s only one man. Like all great crusaders, the Dark Knight needs a squire, thus he adopted Robin. While the Boy Wonder has gone through many incarnations, and every one has been greatly influenced by the man who trained him, every version of Robin remains a hero distinct in his own right. That said, this particular build will focus on Dick Grayson who was the first Robin who grew into the hero Nightwing.
For Batman’s character build, read this article.
Players who prefer Marvel characters can find a list of Avengers’ builds at this link, and a build for Spider-Man at this link.
The Beginning of The Boy Wonder
Robin is human, just like Bruce. This gives him access to the same bonus feat and bonus skill point as his mentor, which is going to come in quite handy. Traits to prioritize are his strength, dexterity, and wisdom, though much like Batman Robin doesn’t really have a “dump stat” per se. When it comes to his traits it’s important to remember that Dick was raised by a family of acrobats, and that he wasn’t exactly unskilled when Bruce took him in as a ward. Keeping that in mind there are a wide variety of traits that might fit Robin, including reckless (+1 to acrobatics, and acrobatics is always a class skill for you), crowd dodger (+2 to acrobatics checks to move through another creature’s square and to avoid attacks of opportunity), and deft dodger (+1 trait bonus on reflex saves). Traits like reactionary (+2 bonus on initiative checks) or dangerously curious (+1 bonus on use magic device and use magic device is always a class skill) are also good choices.
Remember that as long as a trait provides a bonus you’re going to use and that helps flesh out your concept, it’s a good trait to take. Some traits are just used more often than others.
Master of the Martial Arts
Robin is an unparalleled acrobat, and a master of various martial arts styles (as Nightwing he favors escrima sticks, though he can use a wide variety of weapons). As a youth he isn’t dedicated to a code in the same way the Batman is, which means Robin is a little more on the neutral or chaotic side. Combined with his lack of spiritual teachings from monasteries and holy sites across the world, this makes him an ideal candidate for the Martial Artist monk variant. He keeps all of the damage, but never gains a ki pool or the associated abilities that come with it.
What does the Martial Artist (Ultimate Combat 59) offer the build? Starting at level 3 it provides bonuses on critical hit confirmation rolls, and increases the DC of both stunning fist and quivering palm. These abilities are extremely useful for a monk who wants to stun, confuse, and ultimately strip his opponent of the ability to be threatening to the party. A Martial Artist can also use his monk level to qualify for fighter feats, and can exploit creatures’ weaknesses to ignore hardness and DR, along with gaining bonuses to any and all attacks. With extreme endurance, physical resistance, and access to a rogue’s defensive roll ability to shrug off punishment, this class fits Robin just as well as it does his more adult version.
Robin learned from one of the best, which means that he has quite a slew of skills of his own. With monks there’s a minimum of 5 skills ranks (4 for the class and 1 for being human), which should be invested in Acrobatics, Stealth, Perception, Escape Artist, Use Magic Device (for the last one, remember Dangerously Curious?). If you have bonus skill points left over try investing in Climb, Intimidate, or Sense Motive. All of these are quite useful skills, but they’re of secondary use for a character who operates as combat backup.
Much like his mentor Robin could (and should) have most of the feats in the book. Since that’s not possible, here’s a list of some of the feats he does have access to that will be helpful in bringing him across. The feats are listed in trees to make them easier to acquire.
Combat Expertise (Core Rulebook 119) Gain dodge bonus, take attach negative.
Improved Disarm (Core Rulebook 127) Gain +2 to disarm, provoke no attack of opportunity.
Greater Disarm (Core Rulebook 125) Gain +2 to disarm, weapons land 15 feet away.
Improved Trip (Core Rulebook 128) Gain +2 to trip, provoke no attack of opportunity.
Greater Trip (Core Rulebook 126) Gain +2 to trip, falling enemy provokes attack of opportunity.
Improved Steal (Advanced Players Guide) Gain +2 to steal, provoke no attack of opportunity.
Greater Steal (Advanced Players Guide) Gain +2 to steal, opponent doesn’t notice theft.
Point Black Shot (Core Rulebook 131) +1 to attack and damage within 30 feet.
Precise Shot (Core Rulebook 131) Avoid -4 penalty on shooting or throwing into melee.
Quick Draw (Core Rulebook 131) Draw weapon as a free action.
These feats, taken in whatever order best suits the player, allow Robin to use thrown weapons like his mentor, and they also allow him to perform a variety of combat maneuvers with huge bonuses. Stealing opponents’ weapons, disarming them, or knocking them flat on their butts (since you can replace regular attacks with trip or disarm maneuvers during a flurry of blows) is a great way to take away whatever threats enemies pose. While it isn’t necessary to have steal, disarm, and trip, it’s a good idea to have at least one of these maneuvers on hand for combat purposes. Other feats that might be useful for your Robin include:
Weapon Focus (Core Rulebook 136) +1 on attack rolls with selected weapon (quarterstaff recommended).
Weapon Specialization (Core Rulebook 137) +2 on damage rolls with selected weapon.
Quarterstaff Master (Ultimate Magic 154) Use a quarterstaff as a 1-handed weapon.
Greater Weapon Focus (Core Rulebook 126) Additional +1 on attack rolls.
Greater Weapon Specialization (Core Rulebook 126) Additional +2 with selected weapon.
Spring Attack (Core Rulebook 134) Attack after moving 10 feet, then continue moving. Do not provoke attacks of opportunity (may be taken as a monk feat after 6th level).
Some of these feats may be taken as monk bonus feats, but it’s important to sit down before you begin and decide which feats you’re going to take in which order. This will let you know which of Robin’s abilities you can use at which levels.
Tools and Tricks
Much like Batman, Robin’s bag of tricks is part of what makes him such a dangerous adversary. With a monk’s battlefield maneuverability and enhanced movement Robin can engage nearly any target that he wants to.
But it helps if he has the right tools on hand for it.
Alchemical items are life savers, both at low levels and at higher ones. A suggested list of common alchemical items can be found right here, but Robin might also find items like clear ear (Adventurer’s Armory) to be useful along with the usual tanglefoot bags, thunderstones, and troll styptics. While there’s no utility belt equivalent, it’s important to keep at least a few of these thrown items on hand to deal with any threat that might rear its ugly head.
Since monks can’t wear armor a lot of Robin’s gold will be focused on his armory. A quarterstaff is a solid choice, but so are the kama, the sai (disarming weapons), shuriken and crossbow. Brass knuckles are a good way to add magic to your attacks while keeping your monk unarmed damage, and the same is true of the cestus. While a monk is always armed, it never hurts to have every kind of damage on hand, particularly with shuriken which can be poisoned or enchanted with relatively little difficulty.
It’s important to make sure that your Robin gets every possible advantage when it comes to adventuring. For those concerned with increasing his armor class, a list of useful items and spells may be found here. Any and all stat-enhancing items (gloves, belts, headbands, etc.) are also quite useful. Significant attention should be paid to Robin’s wisdom score, as that affects the save for his stunning fist and quivering palm. The boots of elvenkind (Core Rulebook 503) and the cloak of elvenkind (Core Rulebook 507) are also solid choices for enhancing his acrobatic and stealth skills. The iron bands of binding (Core Rulebook 521) are a great way to end a character’s effectiveness in a combat without injuring him, and items like the necklace of adaptation (Core Rulebook 524) make Robin immune to gas-based attacks (useful when fighting scarecrow). The gloves of reconnaissance (Ultimate Equipment) allow you to see through doors, and the great combination of the eversmoking bottle (Core Rulebook 512) and the fogcutter lenses (Ultimate Equipment) means you have 50 feet of smoke where you can see your enemies, but they can’t see you.
Don’t be afraid to go down the lists of magic items and make some strategic purchases either. A few potions of cure here, and a few scrolls of hold person there can be quite useful in the right moment. Wands for low level spells you’ll use a lot of, like mage armor or protection from evil are also great to have on hand. If you have a high use magic device skill then they also become easy to use regularly and with only a 5% chance of failure (the dreaded natural 1).
Sidekick or Hero?
Robin is best known as Batman’s monkey wrench, blindsiding the bad guys when Bruce most needs a helping hand. Dick Grayson eventually grew into his own mantle, and even took over as Batman for a time. So the question you face as a player is whether or not to make him a primary character or a cohort?
Once you know that the next thing you need to figure out is what Robin’s story is. Is he an orphaned boy from a Varisian circus? Is he an unwanted cast off from Cheliax’s state run systems? A daring cut purse from Taldor? There are all kinds of ways you could spin your Robin, so feel free to get creative with his flavor once you have his mechanics firmly set in place.
Even wondered why superheroes wear costumes? This article has your answer.
For more gaming tips and tricks check out my gaming blog Improved Initiative.