Xena: Warrior Princess was one of my favourite TV shows growing up, and I still consider it my favourite series of all time. Since doing my Captain America build, I’ve been thinking about building other characters from popular culture in Pathfinder. Many of them have already been done, but I failed to find much on Xena or Gabrielle. So I thought I would try my hand at some possible builds for these characters.
I’ll start with Gabrielle today, and do Xena in a future post. Both have fighting styles that are tricky to translate into Pathfinder, so I’ll present a number of options here to use as starting points for building your own version of Gabrielle. If you need a refresher on Gabrielle’s fighting style, check out this video.
Gabrielle starts out as a sidekick with little in the way of combat ability. She does, however, excel in situations where she can talk her way out of something. As time goes on, she becomes pretty handy in combat, slowly becoming a hero and fighter in her own right. By the end of the series, Gabrielle is a capable and pretty high-level adventurer.
Weapons: Gabrielle has uses two main weapons over the course of the show’s 6 seasons, adapting her fighting style to work with the new weapon. Interestingly, both of her weapons of choice are monk weapons.
- Quarterstaff (seasons 1-4): Gabrielle wields her quarterstaff two-handed, using both sides to attack. She also trips enemies with it, but rarely does lethal damage. It’s a simple weapon, so proficiency isn’t a problem.
- Sai (seasons 5-6): Gabrielle wields two sai, often using the hilts to do damage, but striking with the pointed ends as well. She incorporates a lot of kicking and some punching when using her sais. It’s an exotic weapon, and only ninjas and monks (and the odd archetype here and there) get free proficiency with it.
Armour: Gabrielle doesn’t wear much in the way of protective armour. At best, I’d say her usual clothing might qualify as light armour.
Attributes: Gabrielle’s primary stats should include Charisma and Strength. Depending on the build, you’ll probably need Dexterity for two-weapon fighting and to boost her armour. I would say she gains a fair amount of Wisdom as time goes on as well. She’s pretty tough as well, and certainly not stupid, so her other stats would be at least a little above average.
Alignment: Gabby follows a very strict code that doesn’t involve killing. In the last couple of seasons, her stance on killing relaxes a little bit, but she never kills for no reason. I would consider Gabrielle to be lawful good.
Skills: Gabrielle uses skills quite a bit, especially early on when she can’t contribute much to combat. Diplomacy and Bluff are important ones, as are Heal, Intimidate and Sense Motive. I would consider Knowledge (history) and Linguistics as well. Acrobatics and Profession (scribe) would also make sense.
This is where things get a bit complicated. In the series, Gabrielle is frequently referred to as a bard, but she doesn’t have any of the magical powers that a Pathfinder bard has. She doesn’t really inspire allies in combat, even though she does write epic tales about Xena’s adventures. With this in mind, I’ve ended up with two possible paths for Gabrielle, one with magical powers, and one without.
If we take Gabrielle’s title the ‘Battling Bard of Potidaea’ literally, her base class should almost certainly be a bard. The negotiator (to focus on Gabrielle’s social abilities) or songhealer (if you want to focus on her healing abilities) archetypes are worth a look for this build. You’ll want spells that buff or heal allies, or help end combat in a way that leaves the enemies alive.
At level 6, consider the Pathfinder Chronicler prestige class, which at 4th level gives a character the ability to convey the effects of bardic music through the written word – very Gabrielle-like! This could even work with the non-magical options below, as it doesn’t actually grant any spells.
Gabrielle is an Amazon Queen, and Amazons are strong combatants. Gabrielle fights almost exclusively with her staff for the early seasons of the series. Since it’s a monk weapon, it’s possible to flurry with it, suggesting the monk or brawler class. The unarmed fighter archetype is also worth considering. Given that she uses both ends of the staff, that suggests two-weapon fighting, which could mean ranger, but tracking and hunting quarry doesn’t really fit the character.
Her use of skills might even suggest a rogue (perhaps the rake or scroll scoundrel archetype) or ninja of the social variety. Though she wouldn’t be very sneaky, she could flank opponents and use her staff to deal non-lethal sneak attack damage. With the sap adept and sap master feat, and possibly dazzling display or knockout artist, this is another strong contender.
Based on the above considerations, I felt that monk or brawler would be the best choice for a non-magical Gabrielle. Both grant access to flurry of blows with monk weapons like the quarterstaff (and the sai as well, though only monks get free proficiency with this weapon), and improved unarmed strike, and work with light or no armour. I do feel that the brawler makes a bit more sense for Gabrielle, as she doesn’t go for a lot of the acrobatic stuff you’d normally associate with a monk, and the ki pool doesn’t quite fit either.
There are numerous archetypes that could give additional ‘Gabrielle’ flavour to the build. For the monk, these include the sensei, the monk of the lotus, the monk of the healing hand or ki mystic. For the brawler, the only archetype that stood out for me was the exemplar, but you would be giving up several key abilities, including unarmed strike, which would mean you’d probably want to take some monk levels at some stage to regain it. Both the sensei and the exemplar give the character some form of bardic performance, adding a bit of bard flavour back into the character.
At the end of season 4, Gabrielle becomes an even more capable fighter, showing skill with a sword and eventually switching to using a pair of sai instead of her staff. For both the magical and non-magical options above, this change almost certainly means levels in a class with a full base attack bonus. The brawler or unchained monk are potential candidates here, as is the fighter, which has a number of archetypes that have the right kind of flavour: cad, lore warden, tactician, two-weapon warrior or unarmed fighter, though the last two archetypes are my favourites.
Your choice of feats and other character options is going to depend a lot on what aspects of the character you want to emphasise. Gabrielle is a really diverse character who excels in social situations and can also handle herself in combat. I hope I’ve given you some good starting points.
How would you build Gabrielle? Magical? Non-magical? A bit of both? Let me know in the comments below!