Niten Master (3.5e Optimized Character Build)
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- 1 Introduction
- 2 References
- 3 Game Rule Components
- 4 Highlights
- 5 Munchkin-Size Me
- 6 Side Notes
This build uses the Legend of the Five Rings dual system publications to create the ultimate niten-style samourai (niten is the two-sword style of kenjutsu). It is exceptionally tough and versatile, but also reflects well the background of the Rokugan campaign setting and the Dragon Clan in particular.
This build uses the PHB and the Oriental Adventues book, as well as the following Legend of the Five Rings publications; The Way of the Samourai, Secrets of the Dragon Clan, the Rokugan campaign setting, Magic of Rokugan and Fortunes and Winds.
Game Rule Components
The build uses several unusual components specific to the Rokugan campaign setting, namely Kata and Void points
No specific items are required as such, but Samourai in the Rokugan campaign setting can empower their swords as they gain levels. The Niten Master upgrades both Katana and Wakizashi, as follows; 4th level - +1 weapons, 7th level - +2 weapons, 9th level - +3 weapons, 15th level - +3 weapons of speed, 16th level - +4 weapons of speed, 17th level - +5 weapons of speed, 18th level - +5 Void weapons of Speed
Starting Ability Scores (Before Racial Adjustments): <- starting ability scores before racial adjustments ->
Race Human - Dragon Clan See bottom of page for progression table.
Starting Racial Traits:
|Character level||Class level|| Base
|Saving Throws||Feats|| Class
|1st||Samourai 1||+1||+2||+0||+2||Way of the Dragon(1st), Daisho technique (racial bonus)||Ancestral daisho||Kata - striking as earth, wind, fire and water, Fortune's blessing - blessing of Bishamon, dojo - the iron mountain|
|2nd||Fighter 1||+2||+4||+0||+2||Combat expertise (fighter 1)|
|3rd||Inkyo 1||+2||+6||+2||+4||Improved Unarmed Strike, Void Use, Combat Reflexes (all Inkyo 1), The Unrighteous Will Fall (3rd)||Kata - striking as void|
|4th||Samourai 2||+3||+7||+2||+5||Power Attack (samourai 2)||ancestral daisho +1|
|5th||Inkyo2||+4||+8||+3||+6||Depths of the Void (inkyo 2)|
|6th||Fighter 2||+5||+9||+3||+6||cleave (fighter 2), the river sword (6th)|
|7th||Dragon Swordsmaster 1||+6||+9||+3||+8||Daisho Stance +1||ancestral daisho +2|
|8th||Dragon Swordsmaster 2||+7||+9||+3||+9||quick draw (swordsmaster 2)|
|9th||Dragon Swordsmaster 3||+8||+10||+4||+9||let him go by (9th)||One with the sword +2||ancestral daisho +3, the time between breaths kata|
|10th||Dragon Swordsmaster 4||+9||+10||+4||+10||Daisho Stance +4||standing on the heavens kata|
|11th||Mirumoto Elite Guard 1||+10||+12||+6||+12||elemental attunement|
|12th||Mirumoto Elite Guard 2||+11||+13||+7||+13||dodge(12th)||dragon's talons|
|13th||Mirumoto Elite Guard 3||+12||+13||+7||+13||Dragon's eyes|
|14th||Mirumoto Elite Guard 4||+13||+14||+8||+14||Dragon's teeth|
|15th||Mirumoto Elite Guard 5||+14||+14||+8||+14||Improved trip (15th)||Dragon's soul||ancestral daisho - +3 weapons of speed|
|16th||Dragon Swordsmaster 5||+15||+14||+8||+14||One with the sword +3||ancestral daisho - +4 weapons of speed|
|17th||Dragon Swordsmaster 6||+16||+15||+9||+15||ancestral daisho - +5 weapons of speed|
|18th||Dragon Swordsmaster 7||+17||+15||+9||+15||Improved trip (18th)||Daisho stance +3||ancestral daisho - +5 void weapons of speed|
|19th||Dragon swordsmaster 8||+18||+15||+9||+16||Truth is in the killing (swordsmaster 8)|
|20th||Dragon swordsmaster 9||+19||+16||+10||+16||One with the sword +4|
<- anything not covered by the previous sections ->
I will take some time to explain why this build is effective, as I will explain some of the Legend of the Five Rings mechanics to those not familiar with them. The first point to be made is that this build does require a very small amount of lee-way from the DM - specifically, the character must be allowed to take combat reflexes as a kiho feat when gaining level 2 as an Inkyo. This isn't that unreasonable, as combat reflexes is on the feat lists for several of the martial arts styles outlined in Oriental adventures.
The character is a defensive, lightly armoured and fairly mobile character, skilled in using two weapons. As the character gains levels, he becomes extremely effective against spellcasters, and benefits from excellent saving throws. The character's mobility comes from the ability to take ranks in tumble, from the inkyo and swordsmaster classes. Below is a breakdown of the character's best features -
1. Defense. Total defense. This character can be practically unhittable against many foes. Although the character is limited to light armour (I use leather scale), while using daisho (the katana and wakizashi together) the character gains a +2 bonus to AC from the way of the dragon feat, and adds the daisho stance value to AC (for a total of +5 at 18th level). The combat expertise feat should then be used liberally, as the blessing of bishamon ability multiplies the bonus gained from this by 1.5 - giving a further +6 to AC if the maximum -4 penalty is taken. That is +11 to AC, before you add ability modifiers, the dodge feat, and any armour or magic.
2. Kata. Kata are an ability unique to the Rokugan campaign. They resemble feats, but are acquired by directly expending XP. The Niten Master's kata are formidable, and the striking as void kata allows two others to be used at once. The first of these is the time between breaths. This gives the Niten Master a +5 bonus to attack against any opponent who missed him earlier in the round, while also giving him a -5 penalty to initiative. When combined with the defence options outlined above, this is not good - you can gain a +6 bonus to AC using combat expertise, and then, should your opponent fail to hit you, your attacks are resolved with a net +1 bonus. The second major kata is standing on the heavens. This enables the Niten Master to expend a void point (see later) to force an enemy to re-roll a succesful attack roll. Add to the above and it can be virtually impossible for an opponent to hit you.
3. Multiple attacks. The Niten Master benefits from two-weapon fighting (for those not familiar, the daisho technique feat acts like exotic weapon proficiency - katana, ambidexterity and two weapon fighting, but only while using daisho), and, at 15th level, the Master's swords gain the speed ability, giving each one an additional attack at the Master's highest attack bonus (that is already six attacks after 17th level). Add to this the defensive throw feat, and you get a free trip attack against anyone who misses you. The let him go by feat is largely redundant with combat expertise, as it relies on the total defence action - I persuaded my DM to allow it to function when fighting defensively, but only if your opponent misses by 10 or more. This allows you to spend a void point to make an immedite attack at your highest attack bonus when an opponent attacks and misses. The Master also has the cleave feat, which can grant even more attacks.
4. Lots of damage. The Unrighteous Will Fall feat means each time you strike the same opponent in combat, you gain a cumulative +1 bonus on damage rolls. With this many attacks, it really adds up. The blessing of bishamon ability also works with power attack, so the Master can impose a further -4 penalty to attacks and gain a +6 bonus to damage with each attack. At high levels, the Master's void daisho each deal an additional D4 points of void damage - this may not seem that much, but void damage bypasses all damage and energy resistance, so it is useful.
5. I challenge you to a duel . . . At high levels, the Niten Master is an absolute juggernaut of destruction in a one-on-one duel. As well as having the iajutsu focus skill (this enables the master to strike for extra damage on the first round of a duel), the Truth is in the killing feat is devastating against many foes, preventing spell-like and special abilities from functioning, as well as technique feats that specifically target the master.
6. Void. Another unique ability in the Rokugan campaign, the Niten Master has four void points that can be spent to modify rolls (such as saving throws), or used to power abilities (like standing on the heavens or let him go by). Normally, a character doesn't regain void points until they have rested, but the Niten Master's river swords ability means he regains one every he makes succesful use of his cleave feat.
7. Versatility. The Master has spell resistance (15 + charisma modifier), and suffers no damage on a succesful save vs all elemental magic (this is most magic in the Rokugan setting). He can use the true sight ability, has excellent saves and is superb in combat against spellcasters, able to disrupt casting or inhibit spell-like abilities. He also has a wide range of skills available, and the character's dojo gives bonuses to spot and listen checks.
<- Take it to the next level ->
A master of two-weapon fighting and aikido - also a powerful samourai with potent void abilities and monk training
As noted above, this build is only possible with a (very) small amount of lee-way from the DM.
The character has a heavy focus on melee attacks over ranged attacks, and does not benefit from such large modifiers to AC against ranged attacks.
Some of the characters abilities, such as elelmental attunement and Truth is in the Killing, work best in the original campaign setting of Rokugan.
A number of the characters abilities, specifically the ancestral daisho upgrades and the Kata, require an expenditure of XP. This should be enough to balance this build to a satisfactory extent, as it should equate to a 1-2 level penalty.
If this build is becoming a real headache, you could always not allow it, as it does require a minor amendment from the DM. A less prohibitive approach is to use encounters with dangerous ranged opponents, as this exploits the only real weakness of this build.
<- Any other side notes that don't fit in the above sections. ->