God of Mischief
When Marvel Comics brought superhero movies into the 21st century it sent shock waves through the world of entertainment, and smashed records into smithereens. The films also brought many of Marvel's flagship characters into the mainstream, including Iron Man, Captain America, Hawkeye, the Black Widow, and Thor. Along with Thor came his brother Loki, the god of mischief and lies. A villain who could have been a hero in his own right, Loki is usually one step ahead of everyone else. For players who want to be slick, sly, and clever it's easier than you think to bring the prodigal son of Asgard to your Pathfinder game.
If you'd like to see the rest of the Avengers, as well as character builds for Gotham City's vigilantes and the cast of Game of Thrones, then check out the Character Conversions page on Improved Initiative!
Also, have you ever wondered why superheroes (and villains) dress like they just stepped out of a circus? Check out this article, and wonder no more!
Race and Attributes
The Loki of Marvel comics fame is a frost giant. Adopted by Odin, Loki's nature was hidden from him until he discovered he'd been living a lie. The mythical Loki on the other hand was one of the only fire giants mentioned in Norse myth. Fire represented wit and cleverness, and if left unchecked it would consume and destroy. This build suggests neither and both of these at the same time.
The best fit for Loki both mechanically and thematically is the tiefling; specifically the Rakshasa variant. This variant provides a +2 to dexterity and a +2 to charisma, as well as a -2 to wisdom. What is more fitting for the god of it-seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time? It also provides access to the skills Disguise and Sense Motive (both useful things to have), as well as the use of detect thoughts as a spell-like ability instead of darkness. This race also gives Loki resistance to fire, cold, and electricity, perhaps just to spite his brother.
As far as attributes go Loki has more use for dexterity, charisma, and intelligence. While he isn't known for his toughness, he is a giant, so constitution shouldn't be his dump stat. Strength isn't primary, but it is useful.
Loki is a complex character, which is why picking traits for him can be difficult.Magical knack (+2 to your caster level up to your total character level) is a great trait for balancing out the caster level problems multi-classing incurs.Dangerously curious (+1 on use magic device, and u.m.d is always a class skill for you) is also a useful trait, since it sums up both Loki's personality as well as his use of magical items. Traits likeconvincing liar (+1 trait bonus to bluff or intimidate, and it's always a class skill for you), as well as charming (+1 trait bonus to Bluff, Diplomacy, and the DC of language dependent spells cast on someone who could be sexually attracted to the caster) are equally good choices.
Loki possesses a wide array of abilities, and he's proven himself readily adaptable. That said, he is an amalgamation of magic and guile that can only be thematically realized through the Arcane Trickster prestige class (Core Rule Book 377). All someone needs is 3 levels of rogue and 4 levels of sorcerer to enter the prestige class; this covers the 4 ranks of Disable Device, Escape Artist, and Knowledge Arcana, as well as 2d6 of sneak attack and the ability to cast mage hand in addition to at least 1 second level spell. Players should choose their bloodline carefully, but the Silver Tongue ability of the Rakshasa bloodline (Ultimate Magic 68) makes it a slam dunk with the ability to add a +5 to a Bluff check, and to make it more difficult for other people to force you to tell the truth. As far as the Rogue Talent, fast stealth is one of the more useful ones, but players can choose whatever they wish.
Arcane Trickster fulfills Loki's theme in a way that few other builds do. It provides decent skill ranks (4+Int modifier) per level, a long list of skills, it continues offering effective levels of spellcasting, and it provides unique abilities like Impromptu Sneak Attack as well as Tricky Spells (the ability to declare an attack a sneak attack and ignore verbal or somatic components on a whim respectively). Arcane Tricksters are extremely adaptable, and if focused are a force to be reckoned with.
Remember, Loki Could Be Anyone...
Loki's skills are diverse, but this build should focus on what the player needs. Disable device (for getting into and out of tricky spots), knowledge (arcana) [for that rare lore about ancient powers], and escape artist (because being tied up makes life difficult) are necessary investments (though the last may be impractical past the 4 ranks required). Loki should also have both bluff and diplomacy at their highest ranks (for obvious reasons), and intimidate is also a useful skill (for those who remember his speech to the Black Widow in Avengers). Stealth is a given, and disguise can be useful unless a player plans to use magic to affect a disguise instead of more mundane means. Acrobatics is useful for getting away, and sleight of hand is something that every Loki build should have, as the Arcane Trickster allows for its use at range. Use magic device is a requirement, particularly since it's a Charisma-based skill. Spellcraft is also important (since it's useful to know what enemies are casting), and it's key to identifying magic items. How many skills and what focus a player decides varies on what intelligence score he or she chose, as well as whether their Loki has become a hero, a villain, or if he is still going through his fall from grace.
Feats for Loki vary, but magical and skill feats will be what players find most helpful. Skill focus (Core Rule Book 134) is great for providing bonuses on any skill both now and later. Other skill feats like deceitful(Core Rule Book 121) help with disguise and bluff. Feats like spell focus and greater spell focus (Core Rule Book 134 and 125) are essential for making sure that enemies make their saves as rarely as possible. For damage dealing spells it's a good idea to invest in spell penetration and greater spell penetration (Core Rule Book 134 and 125), as well as varisian tattoo (Inner Sea World Guide 289) which increases your effective caster level by school.
With so many options it's important to ask what your Loki is going to focus on, and make sure it's available. Mundane trickery? Illusion magic? Enchantment? Once you've chosen your weapon of choice, make it count.
Magic is going to be key to Loki's abilities, and sorcerers only get a select number of spells. Most of Loki's magic tends to be illusion or enchantment, and early spell selections like charm person (Core Rule Book 254), disguise self (Core Rule Book271), and anything that can create a false double or protect Loki like mirror image(Core Rule Book 314) or minor image (Core Rule Book 314) are always good choices for spell selection.
When it comes to Loki's magic it's less about which specific spells a player chooses, and more about how the player uses them. For Loki magic isn't about incinerating his opponents or leaving them frozen in a permanent ice prison (well, most of the time). It's about misdirection, distraction, and making his enemies fight each other while keeping himself out of harm's way as much as he can. For instance, players who can charm enemies into fighting one another, or get those enemies to stand aside and let the party pass without harm, are sort of what the concept is all about. Not all enemies can be affected by charms and illusions though. That's why it's important to select at least a few battlefield control spells like obscuring mist (Core Rule Book317), as well as spells that create walls to trap enemies and provide safety. Invisibility is Loki's best friend as well, particularly when it comes time to sneak away undetected while a decoy pretends to stand and fight.
Just Remember What Happens if You Get Caught...
Loki, like all adventurers, will benefit greatly from getting his hands on the right equipment. A cloak of resistance (Core Rule Book 507) is always a good choice, as are bracers of armor (Core Rule Book 504). However, to really play into Loki's themes, it's a good idea to have items like a ring of invisibility (Core Rule Book 481), dust of tracelessness (Core Rule Book 510), or even really expensive items like the boots of teleportation (Core Rule Book 504). Any scrolls or wands that can save Loki's personal magic for when it's needed are also great investments, especially if they're for spells he doesn't normally have access to but might want in a pinch.
For those imitating Marvel's Loki down to the details though, one of the most important items to have is a rod of rulership (Core Rule Book 488). It allows for the rulership of up to 300 hit dice worth of creatures at a time, though intelligent creatures do get a save against the effect. While this scepter has a limited amount of time it can be used, 500 minutes total, it is certainly a thematically powerful item.
There will always be players who have different ideas and desires for how they'd like to play their version of a concept. Some players might think the Elemental bloodline is truer to Loki's myth and heritage, and that illusion and evocation spells would be a better combination. Others might think playing a straight sorcerer rather than diluting it with rogue and arcane trickster would be preferable. Remember; no player is wrong.
The only truly dumb decision a player can make when putting together a character is not to look ahead. This is particularly true with a multi-class character. Every skill choice, every feat, every spell learned should be a puzzle piece that fits into a complete image. Players should know what they can do at level one as well as at level ten or twenty, and they should be aware of what the holes in their strategy are. For instance, Loki's extremely low BAB means that he isn't going to mix it up well in combat, but if he's fighting someone immune to his spells or if he's out of magic then what does he do? What does a character focused on illusion and enchantment spells do when facing undead? Or when trying to deal with constructs? These are all questions that players need to ask themselves.
Remember, there's a counter to everything. No matter how stealthy someone is or how high a spell DC is, there's a foil. Players who expect their bags of tricks to never run dry often find that when they least expect it they run into something they didn't plan for. Like being used as a floor mace by the Hulk (whose build may be found right here!).