Prepare to Hulk Out
For many comic book fans the Incredible Hulk represents the slim margin by which the darker forces of human nature are held in check. For others he represents the power that everyone holds inside of them. No one can deny that the appeal of the Hulk lies in the freedom that comes with letting the monster loose to smash until its heart's content, though.
This guide will walk players through every step of creating their own Hulks using the Pathfinder roleplaying game. That said this is not the only way to make a Hulk; it's your character so feel free to build it the way you want. This build has been field-tested though, so it is a good idea to at least consider following these steps.
If you'd like to see the rest of the team, along with my Gotham Knights and Game of Thrones character build series, check out the Character Conversions page on my blog Improved Initiative.
Begin at The Beginning
Attributes, Race, and Traits
Before there was a Hulk there was Bruce Banner, celebrated nuclear physicist. Bruce is a human, and his intelligence is likely his high score (though for practicality's sake it's a good idea to put good stats in strength and constitution as well). When it comes to traits it's a good idea to think about what you want your Hulk to be doing. If he's going to be brewing up his own chemicals then a trait like alchemical adept(which provides a +2 on all craft [alchemy] checks and states that unless you roll a natural one on a check that you ruin no raw materials) might be what you need. If a life on the run has made your Hulk twitchy then reactionary (which provides a +2 to your initiative) is also a good option. Trait bonuses need to be geared toward abilities you're going to use often, so think carefully.
Start With A Base of Ragechemist
The obvious beginning for Bruce Banner is an alchemist, but not just any alchemist! The Ragechemist variant (Ultimate Combat) provides abilities that are more conducive to a real hulk-out. Ragechemists lose most of the alchemist's poison-based abilities but instead gain the Rage mutagen feature, and increased natural armor and damage-dealing capabilities.
It's important to remember that when a Ragechemist takes any kind of damage during a round in which the Rage mutagen is active the character has to make a Will save or take a -2 to both Intelligence and Will saves. These penalties stack in successive rounds. It's a steep price to pay, particularly since alchemists do not receive a good base will save. Feats like Iron Will (Core Rule Book 129) can grant bonuses, and any and all items that can increase this save should be invested in heavily.
Add A Dose of Barbarian
In addition to the Ragechemist players should add at least one level of the Drunken Brute (Advanced Player's Guide) to the list. The Drunken Brute grants the character the Rage class feature, another strength and constitution bump, and it also gives a character the ability to drink a potion or similar item as a move action that doesn't provoke an attack of opportunity. That's a handy power given how many things this build might need quaff when it's time to roll initiative. Players also gain access to more armor and martial weapon proficiency, which can make what was an already dangerous character even more threatening.
While it's up to you if you want to pursue more than a single level of barbarian, you shouldn't take more than two levels. The Ragechemist is going to provide more useful, and more thematically appropriate, benefits to your character. Ideally the Drunken Brute should be your second level, but for those who want to max out their hit points you can take it as your first level instead.
Stir in The Master Chymist
The Master Chymist prestige Class (Advanced Player's Guide) is the key to a solid Hulk. Based off the Jekyll and Hyde archetype, this prestige class is what alchemists who rely too much on their mutagens tend to become; a divided being where one half will have its own feelings, alignment, goals, and desires separate from the other persona that it shares a body with. Worse, while it was mutagen that gave this chimerical form its birth the changes can occur of their own volition after this class is taken.
The Master Chymist requires an alchemist who can make at least 3rd level extracts, and who have either the feral mutagen (which I would recommend) or infuse mutagen discoveries. That means that it takes at least 7 levels of Ragechemist, with a single level of Drunken Brute. This means that level 9 is when you really get to hulk out.
In addition to the flavorful effects of having an honest-to-goodness Hulk and Banner pair on your hands the Master Chymist gains other useful abilities. Increased access to extracts, continuing bomb damage, but also access to chimerical abilities that alter the shape and powers of the Hulk form. These abilities can make Hulk tougher, stronger, and may allow him to remain in the world for longer periods of time. Master Chymists also gain Brutality, allowing them to do even more damage than their altered physiology would allow.
For this build to work players need to take either the infuse mutagen discovery (allowing the creation of multiple mutagens) or feral mutagen (which provides two claws and a bite attack, along with an intimidate boost). If a player takes only one of these that's 1 of 3 discoveries before becoming a Master Chymist.
So what should the other two be?
Well that depends on what you want to do with your Hulk. If you want him to be a bomb-thrower then it's a good idea to take the precise bombs discovery to keep your allies out of the blast. On the other hand if you're intending to be mixing it up with enemies in melee then it's a good idea to also take the infuse mutagen (for backup imbibing), or a discovery like spontaneous healing which will keep you on your feet just a little bit longer.
As to the Advanced Mutagen ability granted by the Master Chymist class, again it depends on what you want your Hulk to do. If you're going to be a grappler (a personal recommendation) then the Burly ability will be useful for clamping down hard on enemies. Dual Mind provides a bonus to that dangerously low Will save, and Extended Mutagen allows the Hulk to exist for longer periods of time.
Ask what it is you're planning to do (especially if it's something other than Smash), and pick your discoveries accordingly.
Unlike some builds your Hulk is a product of chemistry and magic, rather than a carefully chosen feat tree. However, there are still several feats that can make combat that much more overpowered in your favor.
Improved Unarmed Strike (Core Rule Book 128): Make unarmed attacks as if armed.
Improved Grapple (Core Rule Book127): Make grapple attacks without provoking attacks of opportunity. Add +2 to CMB and CMD for grappling.
Greater Grapple (Core Rule Book125): Gain an additional +2 to CMB and CMD for grappling. Maintaining a grapple is now considered a move action, allowing a possible two grapple actions per turn.
The tree above is good for those who want to grab enemies and crush them into pulp. It utilizes the extreme strength of the Hulk, and takes away many enemies' abilities to harm you (since two handed weapons can't be wielded while grappled, and casting spells becomes much more difficult).
Power Attack (Core Rule Book 131): Take a negative to your to-hit, gain a bonus to damage.
Improved Sunder (Core Rule Book128): Receive a +2 to CMB and CMD on sunder maneuvers. Perform a sunder maneuver without provoking an attack of opportunity.
Greater Sunder (Core Rule Book125) Gain an additional +2 to CMB and CMD for sunder maneuvers. Any leftover damage when an item is sundered is transferred to the wielder.
While there are other feats (the Vital Strike tree is appealing for Hulks who are going to wield a greatsword or similarly huge weapon), these two most mimic the character's comic book style. As always, feat selections should be geared toward your fighting style and what most benefits your Hulk.
Which skills should Banner have? That depends largely on how you intend to play him and his alter ego. You do have a minimum of 5 (4+1 for being human) even if you had no intelligence bonus. You should though, since a high intelligence is key for the character.
Recommended skills include:
Craft (Alchemy): This is a no-brainer. Alchemists will be able to create so many items so quickly that there's no reason parties shouldn't have a treasure trove of alchemical weapons.
Intimidate: Bruce and Hulk are both frightening in their own ways. While the skill doesn't change too much, it's a fun challenge to try and use different kinds of intimidation in different forms. Bruce might describe the process by which his body will change, or bring up discussions about things the Hulk has done. Hulk, on the other hand, might twist a steel sword out of true and growl menacingly.
Use Magic Device: Neither Bruce or Hulk get spells, per say. But spell completion items are still great things to have on hand in a pinch.
Perception: Because when you're being hunted by the U.S. Army, it makes sense to be twitchy.
Spellcraft: Knowledge is power, and being able to understand the magic flowing through the world is an important skill.
Since you should have an intelligence modifier other skills to invest in include survival, disable device, knowledge (nature), knowledge (arcana), and heal. As always though skill selection should be based on what role your Hulk is fulfilling in the party.
Extracts and Equipment
Alchemists don't get spells, but you do get extracts. While the selection can be quite varied, there are several that should be selected at lower levels. Shield is chief among them, as is Bull's Strength and Enlarge Person. Other useful ones for brawlers and grapplers include Thorn Body, Barkskin, Invisibility, Haste, and Displacement.
As to what gear your Brute Squad should be carrying that also varies. Alchemical items are a given, including classic choices like tanglefoot bags, alchemist fire, and holy water. That said, items like troll styptics (which grant characters fast healing for a short period of time) are great to have on hand in the event the cleric goes down. Beyond these items though it's important to invest in good armor and other AC boosting items like rings of protection, amulets of natural armor, etc. Your Hulk isn't indestructible, so it's important to make sure he shrugs off as many attacks as possible. Any stat-boosting items are a good idea, especially if they help strength, constitution, dexterity, intelligence or wisdom. Charisma is often the one that falls by the wayside here. Hulk is a simple creature, and most of his capabilities come from your class abilities instead of his equipment.
Lastly, it's important to have the right equipment to carry all your extracts, potions, and alchemical gear. The bandolier and the adventurer's sash are great options for those who want to have their gear right to hand and ready to throw.
For more useful items check the links in the Bibliography below.