“Criminals, by nature, are a cowardly and superstitious lot. To instill fear into their hearts, I became a bat. A monster in the night.”
It’s been a long time coming, so thanks for sticking with us Buildies! Today we’re tackling a brutal build for a brutal man, the Dark Knight himself: Batman! We’ll be creating the mortal who stands shoulder to shoulder with gods and monsters in Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, so you can bring the Bat to your gaming table when that epic level 20 session gets called. Let’s summon the Batmobile and ‘Batman Begin’! (The first of many bad puns, I assure you.)
You all know the story: A 9 year old Bruce Wayne witnesses his parents shot down in front of him, their lives ended in Crime Alley. This drives the boy to hone his mind and body, pushing himself further and further until he has become the ultimate weapon in the war against criminals… The Bat of Gotham.
As he stands, Batman is much like Vader and Wolverine before him: Too powerful in his feats to be represented well on the tabletop. But he’s also just a man, not a mutant or a Kryptonian, so we might have a better chance if we play this out logically to see what he would look like in D&D. As one of Earth’s premiere superheroes, he’s easily a level 20 character, a paragon of human achievement.
I try to do a 27 point buy with all of my characters, so that they can be brought into Adventurer’s League games with little difficulty. However, to really define Batman and how he became the man that he is, I’m going to include an optional “Superhero” set of stats that represent him a bit better. With that in mind, let’s crack Batman open and see what makes him tick!
While Batman himself is a symbol, an immortal icon of fear for the guilty, Bruce Wayne is very much a man. A human, so we’ll be using the Variant Human for his race. I’ll do my best to explain step by step what part of Bruce’s history his features line up with, to build a better picture of the man beneath the cowl:
- Ability Score Increase: This race nets Bruce a +1 to 2x different stats. We’ll be putting those into Intelligence and Dexterity. Bruce was always a brilliant kid, a genius like his father. He was also quick, learning to pick locks at the age of 12. These skills would serve him well in his career as a superhero.
- Extra Language: Since we’re translating Bruce into a D&D setting, we’ll assume he’ll be starting with Common. A young Bruce would probably have studied a more esoteric language like Infernal for the challenge, as he’ll pick up more common trade languages from other features soon. Pick whatever you’d like for this portion, it’s very subjective!
- Extra Skill: From his studies as a young man, Investigation would be extremely high on Bruce’s list of skills to master. No matter what his class will be, it’s vital that The World’s Greatest Detective be good at investigating crime scenes.
- Extra Feat: Prodigy is the best feat in the game for Humans besides Lucky, IMO (In My Opinion.) And it’s one that describes Bruce to a tee. In retrospect, I may go back and eventually give Snape this feat at level 1, but that’s for a later date. Here’s what Prodigy gets Bruce:
-Proficiency in a skill, which we will choose Perception for. Going hand in hand with Investigation, this is a strong choice for a detective.
-A tool proficiency, which we will put towards Alchemist’s Supplies. Bruce is an accomplished chemist, studying chemistry at the Master’s level at some of the finest universities in the world. Of course, he left before graduating, as he only needed the important knowledge. Sleep gas, tranquilizers,antitoxins, etc.
-An extra language, which we should put towards something common enough to see use. I put Dwarvish for an example, but feel free to use what’s common in your setting.
-One skill to receive Expertise, or a double proficiency bonus. I went with Investigation, to represent his focus on re-constructing crime scenes and building a case to bring to the police.Remember, Batman isn’t the World’s Greatest Fighter, or Inventor, or even Martial Artist… At the end of the day, he’s the World’s Greatest Detective, a title that heavily influenced this particular build.
This is where things get tricky. See, 27 points is nice and all for your standard farm boy/city girl who puts down their plow/books and becomes an adventurer. Bruce? He’s different. He’s the peak that a human can become, the exception to every rule that says ‘it’d be insane to train yourself to these lengths.’ He’s the perfect storm of potential and training, and yes, I’m being a bit of a fanboy here. Therefore, I’ll give the 27 point buy, but with a caveat: If you really want to represent comic book Batman, I’d go with the following at level 1:
These are stupidly high stats for a 1st level character, so here’s what I like to call “The Nolan-verse stats” for our 27 point buy:
- STR: 10 While in comics Batman can bench an incredible amount of weight, he’s not a hulking man by any means. His practical strength doesn’t come into play all that often, but to represent him a little better you can use that sweet Wayne money to buy some Ogre Strength Gauntlets when possible. Think of it as a part of the Batsuit that enhances his athletic ability to allow him to keep up with superhumans, whose STR scores routinely would go above 20.
- DEX: 15(+1) Bruce is acrobatic, relies on dodging his opponents’ hits, and his fighting style is a combo of precision martial strikes and projectile weapons. DEX is a huge focus, so boost this whenever you can.
- CON: 10 Again, while comic book Batman is a lot tougher than this, I think that representing his mortality with an average CON score is kinda fitting. Boost it with items if/when you’re able, but wear it like a badge of honor when you can’t. Batman suits up every day and fights, just like Superman. Only one of them doesn’t have invulnerability.
- INT: 15 (+1) Bruce’s intelligence is his greatest asset, even more so than his agility. Boosting this with a Headband of Intellect or something similar would be ideal.
- WIS: 10 Bruce is a smart man, but a truly wise man doesn’t dress up like a bat and punch criminals instead of going to therapy. Comic Book Batman is aware of his flaws, and is incredibly perceptive/resistant to mental control, so his score might be higher, but there’s no shame in having an average score right off the bat. (The puns never stop!)
- CHA: 13 We can always boost this later, but even though Bruce is a broken, hurting man on the inside, he exudes confidence on the outside. Good looking, and able to successfully seduce, charm, cajole and/or threaten (during his nighttime activities) with the best of them, his presence isn’t something to take lightly.
This was a difficult build (as evidenced by how long it took to get public! Sorry everybody!) but the least difficult part was deciding the Background. Bruce is a Noble, through and through. Privileged, practiced, and all alone in a huge mansion, with only his butler to watch over him, it wasn’t a childhood that many would wish for. Coming from this background gives Bruce the following:
- Skill Proficiency- We receive History and Persuasion training from this background. The Waynes are a staple of Gotham City during Bruce’s lifetime, and its history is linked with his own in myriad ways. It stands to reason that the Waynes would educate their son properly in that regard, as well as in logic, rhetoric, and persuasive speech.
- Language- Elvish strikes me as an upper-class language, perhaps the D&D equivalent of French or Russian. This is pretty fluid, again.
- Gaming Set Proficiency- Bruce would probably have played chess as a child, and Dragonchess is the D&D equivalent.
- Feature- With the Position of Privilege feature, Bruce (when he’s out of costume) has a standing invitation in every elite Gothamite’s mansion, as the city’s debutantes and upstarts vie for his approval and endorsement. A privilege and a burden.
Maybe someday I’l make a Paladin of Vengeance Batman, or a Battlemaster Fighter Batman, or even an Alchemist Artificer Batman, since all of these builds are viable. My friends and I were discussing what class Batman would need to be, and we joked that you could build him as any class. “He’s a Cleric… of Batman! And a Warlock, whose patron is also Batman!” You get the picture.
So to settle on a build was tough, but I’ve done so in the spirit of the character as best I can. We’ll be building Batman as an Inquisitive Rogue 13/Way of Shadow Monk 7. I’ll once again do my best to explain my choices next to each part of the build below, but the order of the build isn’t super critical, so add each class’ respective levels when you feel you can use them:
- Starting Proficiency- Getting Light Armor proficiency is all we need for Batman, really. As a Monk, we can just use a cloth costume like the (amazing) Animated Series Batman and be just fine, but Light Armor proficiency gives us the potential to make an awesome Batsuit out of something like, say, +3 Studded Leather Armor eventually.Thieves’ Tools and simple weapons are also good proficiencies, and the DEX/INT saves are a combo of highly/not so highly useful. As for Skills, we get 4x, so we’re in a great place starting off. I went with Acrobatics, Intimidation, Stealth, and Insight.Acrobatics is pretty clear from the way Batman moves, flipping and using parkour to scale buildings quickly and make his way across the city skyline. Intimidation is useful for when you’re dangling a criminal by his ankle over the side of said building, then stringing his legs together and leaving him for the cops. Stealth is pretty key to his ‘I am the night’ shtick, and Insight completes the trifecta of detective-related skills. Being able to tell when someone is lying is a pretty important trait for an investigator.
- Expertise- We’ll be putting these in Stealth and Intimidation. This means we’re moving invisibly and getting answers when and where we have a need. At 6th level, we’ll tack on Expertise for Acrobatics and Insight. This gives us a staggering 5x skills with double our proficiency at this point, which is pretty killer.
- Sneak Attack- Putting those studies in anatomy and physiology to good use, Bruce is acutely aware of where the pressure points and critical areas of a person’s body are. Although he chooses not to kill, his nonlethal strikes are still bone-shattering and able to brutalize his foes.
- Thieves’ Cant- During his training with the detective Henry Ducard, Bruce would learn how important it is to create a presence in the criminal underworld to keep his finger on the pulse of crime. Going undercover himself as petty criminal “Matches Malone”, Bruce learned the code talk and phrases that criminals use to signal their interests and communicate without the cops overhearing. This talent has paid dividends over the years.
- Cunning Action- Able to leap for cover, disappear into the shadows, or rush a reloading goon in the blink of an eye, Batman is used to moving in ways that confound his enemies.
- Ear For Deceit- The first of his Inquisitive features, this gives Bruce an edge in discerning if a criminal is lying to him. Not being able to roll lower than an 8 on an Insight check is pretty fantastic for a detective of Bruce’s reputation.
- Eye For Detail- Noticing hidden creatures with a bonus action and using Investigation checks to decipher clues are Bruce’s bread and butter.
- Insightful Fighting- This is what makes Batman a dangerous opponent to face: His ability to out-think and out-plan an enemy, even when his environment might not be ideal. Succeeding on an Insight check vs. an opponent’s Deception check gives Batman unlimited Sneak Attack against them for a minute, even if he doesn’t have advantage or an adjacent ally.
- Uncanny Dodge- Bruce’s ability to reduce incoming damage through expert timing and martial prowess is well-known, and he studied with many martial arts masters that taught him how to control his body’s response to pain.
- Evasion- The result of all of his training with martial artists, acrobats, explosives experts and assassins was that Bruce is able to achieve near-superhuman feats of agility, including reacting quickly enough to an exploding bomb to duck behind cover, or dodging bullets based on the angle of the shooter’s gun.
- Steady Eye- If Bruce doesn’t move more than half of his speed, he can tap into the training he’s received from master detectives to give himself advantage on Perception and Investigation checks. Pretty amazing!
- Reliable Talent- Batman’s proficient skills are so honed, he now can’t roll lower than a 10.
- Unerring Eye- The culmination of his investigative training, Bruce can take an action to detect magical illusions, shapechangers, and other misleading or deceptive effects within 30′. Call it his sixth sense.
- Unarmored Defense- When Batman is without his Batsuit, he’s still armored. Bruce’s martial arts training has made him quick enough to give anyone a hard time hitting him, armor or no.
- Martial Arts- Training alongside great masters like Lady Shiva, David Cain, and Ras’ Al Ghul, Batman is a master of a wide variety of martial arts. Studying killing techniques carefully so as to learn restraint, Bruce will be using martial arts as his main method of dealing damage to enemies. Although, buying Darts (simple 1d4 weapons we can flavor as Batarangs) and chucking them as our Monk weapons is good for situations we can’t get up close and personal in.
- Ki- Being able to channel his spirit’s energy into his body, Batman is capable of flurrying multiple strikes into an opponent, moving incredibly fast, becoming a fortress of defensive blocks, or even controlling his body temperature to keep himself warm under an icy waterfall.
- Unarmored Movement- Again, if Batman is stripped of his gear, you haven’t made him weaker… you’ve made him faster.
- Shadow Arts- Since Batman doesn’t use magic, we’re going to refer to these as ninjutsu that Bruce learned while training under ninja masters in Japan. The ability to channel his ki to cloak himself in shadows, manipulate mirrors and smoke for illusions, see in the dark, and move silently? All ninja skills.
- Deflect Missiles- A true master of martial arts can catch an arrow fired at full draw. Bruce can catch it, and throw it back if he so desires.
- Slow Fall- Call it his Bat-glider cape, slowing his momentum to a crawl as he uses it like a hang glider.
- Extra Attack- Hitting more times for more damage is always a good thing!
- Stunning Strike- Getting hit in a pressure point by Batman is gonna leave a mark, and might even sap your ability to think for a few seconds.
- Shadow Step- Much like abilities from characters like Geralt, we won’t call this true teleportation, more like a cinematic version of moving so silently and quickly that anyone watching would call it “teleportation”.
- Ki-Empowered Strikes- We can flavor this as Batman’s electric gauntlets, channeling energy into his blows to overcome a foe’s natural resistances.
- Stillness of Mind- Bruce finally becomes the true master of his fear, and cannot be made afraid of anything any more. He becomes fear.
If by the grace of God you have room for feats once you’re done getting your Ability Scores boosted, here’s some very thematic ones for Batman:
- Sentinel- A monk with Sentinel is an awesome sight to behold, and Batman shutting down enemies in their tracks with precise, bone-popping strikes is thematic as all get-out.
- Alert- You don’t get the drop on Batman, he gets the drop on you.
- Observant- It’s canon that Bruce can read lips, and we’re already an evidence gathering machine. This just makes the machine run that much smoother.
- Sharpshoter- Want to make stunning shots with your Batarangs at ludicrous ranges? This is the way to go!
- Skilled- Picking up some extra skills like Survival, Medicine, and Forgery Kits could be very useful.
And thus, the Batman is born! Click HERE for the D&D Beyond character sheet, where I’ve used some of the Wayne fortune to equip him with some laughably good gear. Tune in next time where we’ll be building…
Johnny Blaze, AKA Ghost Rider, the Spirit of Vengeance!
Seeya Next Time!