King Koopa himself, Bowser is the mortal enemy of Mario, eternal kidnapper of Princess Peach, and overall not real cool guy.

Who Is Bowser?

Who Are Bowser?

For a generation of gamers, Bowser represents the first Big Bad. He represents the first time a princess was kidnapped and needing saving, the first evil castle fortress, the first group of henchmen.

He even represents one of the first big twists: when we beat "Bowser" in that first castle, only to find out that wasn't Bowser at all. That rugpull was on par with Samus taking off her helmet, another great Nintendo twist.

Like many video game characters who first emerged in the 8 bit era, Bowser has had his characterization and backstory fill out a lot over time. We've seen his family grow, his powers expand, his strengths be confirmed. We've even seen his motivations change, like in the Super Mario Bros. Movie, where he longs to marry Princess Peach, which we find out through his belting of the song "Peaches".

We were a Nintendo family, so I have grown up through many appearances of Bowser. My favorites, by far, are in Super Mario World and Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars.

The first, because it is the Mario game I spent the most time with at that age. We would play it as a group effort. switching off between levels, getting excited with each Koopaling we took down. Several of Bowser traits were premiered there – his airship and his expanded family of underlings among them.

The second, Super Mario RPG, remains my favorite Mario game ever. It probably comes as no surprise, considering its roots with the team that makes Final Fantasy. It is in that game, though, where Bowser first is eligible to join the protagonists in their fight against a common enemy. Being able to use his powers with Mario, rather than against him, was a thrill.

But through all his appearances, one thing has remained: he is a big, heavy, angry monster. So how can we bring that to Pathfinder?

Keys to the Character

koopa shell

Shell Shock

Bowser is the king of the Koopas. What is a Koopa, you ask? Well it starts with the Japanese Kappa, then gets even more spiky dragon turtley. Any more questions?

bowser fireball

Bad Breath

Bowser's powers have grown and shrank over time. Sometimes he's magic, sometimes he's electric, but ALL the time he breathes fireballs.


Heavy Hitter

It was Super Mario Kart that first communicated to me how heavy Bowser (and DK) are. They are the slowest in the game, but a bump from them sends the other, lighter racers spinning out of control.

bowser ground pound

Put Your Foot Down

In Smash Ultimate, two of Bowsers move involve ground smashes: the Flying slam, where Bowser grabs a foe and piledrives them, and the Bowser Bomb, where he leaps into the air and comes down hard. Let's try for both in Pathfinder.

Building Bowser

Some builds are a balancing act of archetypes, feats and skills – a tricky mix of getting prerequisites just right for a single feat, then moving on to another – in order to get the flavor of a character we desire.

Bowser is a lot more straightforward. In many ways, this mirrors his character in the games. There is a low level of complexity to a brutish turtle dragon who just won't stop kidnapping.

We will be able to build a classic version of Bowser with a Lizardfolk Dragon Instinct Barbarian, without dipping into any archetypes. In fact, the only way we get cute with feats is in making sure we can build Bowser as stout and burly as possible.

On the battlefield, Bowser is a heavy, slow bruiser. His main gameplay loop is a) going into a rage and b) striking at everything close by with his claws, teeth and tail. And, from time to time, breathing fire.

Bowser is hard to push around, quick to anger and very scary to go up against. And, if you're too close, you might get grabbed and thrown.

Outside of battle, Bowser can use his network of hirelings to do some of the party's bidding. And, honestly, being a large lizardy guy is intimidating enough that everyone will be doing the party's bidding anyway.


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Frilled Lizardfolk

If Pathfinder 2e had D&D's Tortle race, maybe there would be some competition for ancestry – but not likely. Lizardfolk just offers too many of the things we want for Bowser.

For starters, the attacks. The Lizardfolk ancestry starts with a 1d4 agile and finesse claw attack, which is fine – but through ancestry feats we are also getting a 1d8 jaw attack and a sweeping 1d6 tail attack. Bowser will utilize handwraps to upgrade these unarmed strikes, and they will be the bread and butter of his strikes.

But the fun doesn't stop there with Lizardfolk. The Frilled heritage puts Bowser's spikey silhouette to work, giving a unique action that combines Demoralizing with Sudden Charging. It is niche, but nice to have.

Finally, the Lizardfolk Scion Transformation at level 17 turns Bowser into the hulking menace we know, with a permanent enlarge effect. Even the clumsy is kind of in theme here.





Sharp Fangs

A d8 unarmed attack, bigger than the claw one but without agile. Bowser's choice.


Tail Whip

Another unarmed attack choice – this time it's a d6 with the sweep trait.


Unarmed Cunning

Get the critical specializations for all three of Bowser's unarmed attacks.


Mountain's Stoutness

Through Adopted Ancestry. Extra health points to keep Bowser beefy.


Scion Transformation

Become the Bowser we know and fear. Permanent enlarge and more extra health.



We're not saying his schemes work out, but King Koopa is definitely a schemer. Usually those schemes revolve around one thing: kidnapping Peach and defeating Mario.

This background gives training in Diplomacy, which helps Bowser with step one of his negotations (step two is breathe fire). It also gives a Constitution boost, which is one of the two stats Bowser cares about most.


Red Dragon Instinct Barbarian

This is straight-ahead Bowser. The defining feat of the Dragon Instinct is the ability to perform a Dragon's Rage Breath attack while raging, based on the color of dragon. With red, it's a fire breath attack. Everything else after that just kind of seems like a bonus.

But in reality, so many Barbarian class feats are perfect for the Bowser build. It's actually a little tough to fit them all in, so we are prioritizing based on our keys to the character.

A few interactions to point out: 

One is the Bowser Bomb – a combo of the Powerful Leap skill, the Sudden Leap class action and the Impressive Landing class reaction. With this combo, Bowser can leap high into the air with Powerful Leap, come down on a target while striking them with Sudden leap, and then land impressively from the fall with Impressive Landing, causing damage and creating difficult terrain around the landing spot.

The other is the classic big guy move, the grab and throw. Bowser uses an action to strike, then an action to Furious Grab – automatically succeeding on a grapple attempt. Finally, he uses an action to Thrash – powered by Collateral Thrash and Whirlwind. This damages the foe, plus nearby foes, and then launches them 10 ft. away where they fall prone. Bowser!





Raging Intimidation

Bowser would rather be feared than respected, so it's important to be able to scare while raging.


Adrenaline Rush

As the team's heavy, Bowser needs to be able to tear things apart when asked.



Put that Tail Whip to good use with an attack against two foes.


Dragon's Rage Breath

It took six levels, but Bowser can finally breathe fire.


Sudden Leap

Combined with Powerful Leap and the later Impressive Landing, this is a Bowser Bomb combo.


Impressive Landing

Land heavy, causing damage and difficult terrain.


Furious Grab

Automatically grab an opponent after an attack.



When Bowser grabs an opponent, it's not just a hug.


Collateral Thrash

Bowser may not traditionally use weapons, but strikes with enemies count as unarmed.


Brutal Critical

Extra damage and bleeding on crits. Bowser means business.


Whirlwind Toss

Use a grabbed enemy to hit everyone around, then throw them away. If only he could do this to Mario.

Skills & General Feats

Despite being a king with subjects, being strong and scary are what matters most to Bowser. This makes Athletics and Intimidation his priorities, over Society and everything else.

Legendary: Athletics, Intimidation

Master: Society

Expert: -





Titan Wrestler

Bowser will be grabbing enemies left right and center, even big ones.



The first of several health point increasing options for the scaly Bowser.


Group Coercion

As someone with a lot of subjects, Bowser knows how to command many people at once.


Powerful Leap

The first part of the Bowser Bomb combo: higher leaps.


Hireling Manager

Is it better to be feared, respected or just wealthy enough to pay for help?


Intimidating Prowess

Who has more prowess at demoralization than King Koopa?


Terrified Retreat

Send those scared fools running back to the Mushroom Kingdom!


Adopted Ancestry: Dwarf

Let's consider all the time spent with the Smithy Gang, or Koopa Troopas to be Dwarves. Needed for Mountain Stoutness.


Quick Coercion

It doesn't take a minute for Bowser to convince a rube to do what he wants.


Terrifying Resistance

Who is brave enough to cast spells on Bowser? Kamek?


Pick Up The Pace

One does not simply lag behind while in Bowser's party.


Battle Cry

Start the encounter by scaring the shell out of enemies.


Lasting Coercion

If a dragon turtle scared you into doing something, would you change your mind fast?


Caravan Leader

I don't think he's leading that caravan with good vibes.


Group Impression

Deliver a speech from the airship.

Attribute Increases

Level Str Dex Con Int Wis Cha
1 18 12 16 8 12 12
5 19 12 18 8 14 14
10 20 14 19 8 14 16
15 21 14 20 8 16 18
20 22 16 21 8 16 19


Suggested Starting Equipment

Bowser's Signature Items

Key Spells


Bowser Resources