It’s Marvel’s 80th Anniversary today, and it’s been a while since I’ve made a “superhero turned into D&D character” article. Add to these that a friend of mine and I were talking during Comic Con Lima not only about our favorite superheroes, but also about why we chose them as such. No need to say it was a very touching and enlightening conversation, but its scope is beyond what I regularly talk about in this blog. What matters is that when I mentioned my plans for a YouTube channel, my friend asked me turn Iron Man into a D&D character. If I was able to, he would accept the invitation to teach him how to play.
The Rules of the Game
So, before we start, it’s best if I set the rules I’ll follow in order to transform Iron Man into a D&D character.
- This will be done following the rules for the 5th Edition. Core rules, official supplements and Unearthed Arcana content are fair game.
- Sometimes we’ll pick a mechanic element for mechanic purposes. If it’s just for that, I’ll probably suggest flavorful re-doings for such elements.
- The build is not meant to be optimized, but to reflect the character as much as possible.
- Finally, we will follow the step-by-step character creation process as it is shown in the Player’s Handbook, but brace up for the unexpected when it comes to going beyond first level.
Alright, let’s roll! As his bio in Marvel.com database states, “(…) Tony Stark applies his genius for high-tech solutions to problems as Iron Man, the armored Avenger.” Tony Stark is a genius, billionaire and philanthropist playboy whose confidence is only matched by his high armor, mobility and range of gadgets available in his armor suit. Having said that, in order to represent Iron-Man adequately, we need to focus on his most notable features. These two are the ones that will be cornerstone to our character:
- Energy blasts: sometimes called “unibeam”, the chest-centered weapon in the Iron suit can project not only dazzling light but also a powerful force beam.
- Repulsor rays: every suit has these as its primary weapon, as they are used to repel and disrupt enemies. They are generated from the suit’s gauntlets.
- A response for everything: Iron-Man has the right tool for almost any mission, be it the Extremis system or the experimental nanotechnology that gives him ultimate versatility.
Now that we have a general idea of our goals, we can start our build-up. The first step is to choose a race, and to surprise of absolutely no one, we picked Human. We are thinking on picking the Variant Human, because if there is something characteristic to Tony Stark, it’s that he knows his moves in an armor, so Heavily Armored sounds like a feat he should have from the very beginning. We fulfill the prerequisite for it with our class selection, gaining as main benefits a +1 to STR and the ability to wear heavy armor from the feat. As ability scores go, let’s pump both his STR and INT scores. For a skill proficiency, let’s give our Tony some Athletics bonus.
Our second step is to choose the class. As we hinted above, in order to fulfill the feat prerequisites, we need a level in a class that provides Medium Armor proficiency. We’ll pick a level of Artificer, which provides many other proficiencies. This shouldn’t come as a big surprise, as we’re just treating Marvel Comics high technology as D&D arcane magic here. Magic Tinkering will be the armor’s special effects and holograms, and we get both Identify and Detect Magic as rituals, as well as choosing two cantrips. We’ll pick Mending and Fire Bolt. For skills, we chose History and Investigation.
It’s time to determine ability scores. As a very impulsive genius, we are thinking that Intelligence and Wisdom are in the opposite side of his scores. And we know that fighter-style characters get not much use of Intelligence, and you saw us already focusing on that score during race selection, so trust us on this one, and may it work as a spoiler alert: don’t think of what is the most obvious class to benefit of a high INT score. It’s coming. We suggest picking your abilities in this order: INT, CHA, CON, STR, DEX, WIS. Even if Charisma is not used that much with this build, we need to recognize the personality Tony Stark projects with a high score there. Keep in mind to have that STR score as high as necesary to be able to bear the heavy armor you will be wearing.
When describing him, typically we have to choose an alignment (are we right when saying he’s Chaotic Good? He’s always trying to protect the innocent, and he has little patience with regulations, except maybe during the Civil War saga), an ideal (“Ingenuity is a tool for protecting the innocent”), a bond (“Avenge whoever has been abused by external threats”), a flaw (“Put into practice something without properly testing can be dangerous”) and a background. We think Guild Artisan suits our Tony particularly well since he is, in essence, a magical blacksmith. This will give him not only smith tools and proficiency with them, but also Insight and Persuasion and one additional language. Guild Membership in his case is more of a Guild Ownership (“Stark Smith & Sons”), but we’ll handle it the same.
Before we get into the whole “Beyond 1st Level” section, we need to choose equipment. Since the build is already complex, for the equipment we’ll try to keep it simple. Heaviest armor available until you can get your hands on an Armor of Invulnerability. We might try in the not-so-far future to create a full Extremis armor as a magic item, but in the meantime, deal with what the official books offer you.
Running before walking
And now, it’s time to step up. Our second level may be a little more controversial: We’re gonna make Tony a Wizard. You’ll see, the Artificer levels will give us a lot of versatility, but we’ll use Wizard for the sheer arcane firepower. We’ll pick up five levels of wizard, stacking in our arsenal cantrips such as Shocking Grasp (the tasers) and Message (the intercom) and spells such as Burning Hands (a flamethrower), Thunderwave (the Repulsor rays), Magic Missile (the never-missing minigrenades), and Mage Armor (just because we want more AC). As Arcane Tradition, the best option seems to be War Magic. This will give us Arcane Deflection (reactive defenses) and Tactical Wit (better initiative) right from the start. Extra spells for the following levels include offensive spells like Scorching Ray, until we can pick Fly, an obvious feature for this character.
In 4th level, it’s up to you and your DM if you decide to go for a feat or a pair of ability scores increase. If you can go for feats, we suggest Heavy Armor Master. It will give you damage reduction from non magical weapons, and increase your STR by one.
So far Iron Man is an Artificer 1 / Wizard 5. Now that we fly, we can diversify a little, and for that we’ll continue with the Artificer path. The infusions we get at second level and the tool expertise will join some additional utility spells to round up the character. The most evocative ones we can get are Enhanced Defense (duh!) and Replicable Magic Item (Goggles of Night, Lantern of Revealing and Wand of Secrets can make up for the sensors the suit usually has available). From the Specialists offered to the Artificer Class, the Artillerist is the one focusing on combat and the Arcane Turret can be treated as a detachable section from the armor suit (with the offensive and defensive capabilities of the Flamethrower, Force Ballista and Defender modes). From the artificer spell list, we’ll select spells like Cure Wounds (the Extremis healing system), Expeditious Retreat (a turbo speed), Alarm (even more sensors), Darkvision, See Invisibility, etc.
For your 4th level, if you have the chance to pick a feat, consider Tough for that extra resistance in the form of two extra hit points per level. Once we reach 5th, the Arcane Armament feature lets you attack twice when doing so with a magic weapon, but you mostly deal with spells, so it won’t be as useful as it would be for a regular artificer, but the 6th level Wand Prototype feature gives us ultimate versatility in the shape of a wand that can be, for flavor, a hidden trick inside the armor’s gauntlet.
For the remaining levels, we can round up the arcane firepower with some more levels of Wizard, picking spells such as Fireball (a blast grenade), Counterspell (a nanite neutralizer that powers you up) and Fabricate. The Power Surge feature represents that extra boost of energy that Tony demands from his armor every once and then. You can also continue with the Artificer, since the Artillerist gives you a nice selection of combat spells in the line of Shield, Ice storm and even Cone of cold. How to mix all those Artificer and Wizard levels depends on what spell you want to add to your arsenal.
- Race: Human (PH 29), Variant Human (PH 31)
- Classes: Artificer version 2 (UA May 14 2019), Wizard (XGtE 59)
- Background: Guild Artisan (PH 132)
- Feats: Heavily Armored (PH 167), Heavy Armor Master (PH 167), Tough (PH 170)
- Equipment: Armor of Invulnerability (DMG 152)
So, what do you think? Have you ever wanted to play D&D as Iron Man? Are you planning to now? Do you have any other ideas to better represent him? Go ahead, hit the comments below with all you got!