Sublime Samurai (3.5e Class)
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Warriors of legend, master swordsmen, and combatants believed to have crafted swordsmanship into an art form, the samurai are held by many as some of the finest warriors the world has ever known. While this status is controversial, one thing is certain: The samurai were good at what they did. Masters of sword and spear, bow and arrow, leather and plate, the samurai are strong, insightful, hardy warriors capable of killing enemies with one swing of their deadly blades.
Making a Samurai
The samurai is a veritable frontline combatant. Their hefty proficiencies with weapons and armor, combined with an unmatched knowledge of various stances and maneuvers, make the samurai a feared and deadly opponent. Since most samurai must draw on perception and raw instinct, they can function as perceptive combatants and helpful interrogators.
Abilities: Strength and Constitution are among the samurai’s most important abilities. These abilities let him kill his enemies more quickly and last longer in combat. A high Wisdom score is also necessary for the samurai to capitalize on his most useful abilities. Since most samurai are dressed in heavy armor, a high Dexterity may not be helpful, but being above average in this area could help the samurai’s already considerable Armor Class.
Races: Most samurai are human. Some half-elves do join, but it is usually only because the half-elf had a parent who was a samurai him or herself. Dwarves join the ranks of the samurai surprisingly often, seeing a sense of purpose and meaning in the code of bushido. Elves are rarely samurai as the devotion to a code of conduct does not appeal to them. Half-orcs are much the same in that regard.
Alignment: Samurai live by the code of bushido, a set of principles based around devotion to one’s lord, frugality, and humility. While a samurai is truly capable of thinking for himself and will stray a little from the code if they believe it right or necessary, they cannot roam about and always do as they please. In that regard, the samurai can be of non-chaotic alignment. Most samurai are lawful, with the majority of them being neutral. Good and evil samurai are often seen, bending or perverting the principles of bushido to embrace fanatical justice or oppressive tyranny.
Starting Gold: 5d4 x 10gp (125gp)
Starting Age: As a fighter
|Saving Throw||Special|| Maneuvers
|1st||+1||+2||+0||+0||Instinctive reflexes, jujutsu||2||2||1|
|4th||+4||+4||+1||+1||Kenjutsu or bajutsu||3||2||2|
|10th||+10/+5||+7||+3||+3||Ceremony of cha||6||4||4|
|20th||+20/+15/+10/+5||+12||+6||+6||Claws of the dragon||11||6||6|
Class Skills (4 + Int modifier per level, ×4 at 1st level)
Weapon and Armor Proficiency: The samurai is proficient with all simple weapons and all melee martial weapons, as well as the shortbow and longbow. The samurai is proficient in light, medium, and heavy armor, but not with shields.
Maneuvers: The samurai starts his career with knowledge of 2 maneuvers. The disciplines available to the samurai are Diamond Mind, Iron Heart, Setting Sun, and White Raven.
Once a samurai knows a maneuver, he must ready it (see Maneuvers Readied above). The samurai’s maneuvers (and stances) are extraordinary abilities unless noted otherwise. These maneuvers are not subject to spell resistance and do not provoke an attack of opportunity.
You learn maneuvers at higher levels (see Table: Maneuvers Known). However, you must meet all pre-requisites for the maneuver you wish to select before taking it.
At 4th level, and every other level after, the samurai may select a new maneuver in exchange for one he already knows. In effect, he loses the old maneuver and gains the new one. This new maneuvers does not have to be the same level as the new maneuver, but the samurai must still observe the restriction for the highest level maneuver he knows, and must meet all other pre-requisites before taking the new maneuver.
Maneuvers Readied: The samurai can ready both of his maneuvers at 1st level. He may ready additional maneuvers at higher levels. In order to ready these maneuvers, the samurai must spend 5 minutes in a meditative state. The samurai may change his readied maneuvers, but only if he spends an additional 5 minutes in a meditative state.
Refreshing Maneuvers: The samurai draws on insight and intuition to lend strength to his skills. As a standard action, the samurai may recover a number of maneuvers equal to his Wisdom bonus (Min 1). The samurai may not perform anything else during this action, and he does not provoke attacks of opportunity while refreshing his maneuvers.
Stances Known: The samurai begins his career with knowledge of one 1st level stance. At 3rd, 6th, 10th, 14th, and 18th levels, he may select an additional stance. Unlike maneuvers, stances are not expended, and they do not have to be readied. All stances are available at all times, and initiating or changing a stance counts as a swift action.
Instinctive Reflexes (Ex): Starting at 1st level, the samurai is able to use pure combat instinct to dodge an incoming danger.
The samurai can apply his Wisdom bonus (if any) to Reflex saves. He does not gain this bonus if he is denied his Dexterity bonus to AC.
Jujutsu (Ex): The samurai are trained in Jujutsu, a martial art meant to incapacitate foes.
Beginning at 1st level, the samurai gains Improved Unarmed Strike as a bonus feat.
Iaijutsu (Ex): The samurai are well-trained at drawing their blades with uncanny quickness, knowing that those who draw the first blade will draw the first blood.
Beginning at 2nd level, the samurai gains Quick Draw as a bonus feat.
Battoujutsu (Ex): Over time, when the samurai is able to draw his blade more proficiently, he is able to unleash a deadly slash.
Beginning at 3rd level, once per round, if the samurai draws and attacks with a melee weapon in the same round, he can deal an extra +1d6 points of damage. If the samurai makes a full-attack action, only the first attack receives the extra damage from battoujutsu.
The samurai can only use battoujutsu with weapons that deal piercing or slashing damage.
The samurai’s battoujutsu deals an additional +1d6 damage every three levels after 3rd (+2d6 at 6th level, +3d6 at 9th level, and so on)
Kenjutsu or Bajutsu (Ex): The samurai are trained in both swordsmanship and horsemanship, but most prefer to specialize in one area or another.
Beginning at 4th level, the samurai must choose either bajutsu (horsemanship) or kenjutsu (swordsmanship). If he chooses bajutsu, he gains Mounted Combat as a bonus feat, even if he does not meet the prerequisites for it. If he chooses kenjutsu, he gains Exotic Weapon Proficiency (bastard sword) as a bonus feat.
Insightful Slash (Ex): When the samurai reaches 7th level, his natural quickness and acute perception of his surroundings give him the necessary skill to cut down his enemies when the chance presents itself.
When the samurai makes an attack of opportunity and is unarmed, he may draw a melee weapon as part of the attack, and he may add his Wisdom bonus (if any) to the attack roll. If the attack hits, this counts as a battoujutsu.
Favored Stance (Ex): Beginning at 8th level, the samurai becomes more comfortable with one of his stances, allowing him to use it more effectively.
Select one of the samurai's stances. He may now initiate or switch into this stance as a free action (instead of as a swift action). The samurai may select an additional favored stance at 16th level.
Ceremony of Cha (Ex): When the samurai have free time, many of them conduct a small ritual involving cha (tea). This ritual focuses the mind and brings an inner calm to the samurai. The same could be said of those who drink this tea.
Beginning at 10th level, the samurai may spend 5 minutes preparing this special tea. This requires a small amount of tea leaves and a small pot filled with hot water. Anyone, including the samurai, who drinks this tea gets a +5 bonus to all Wisdom-based skill checks and a +5 bonus on Will saves against all mind-affecting abilities for 1 hour.
Stance Focus (Ex): Beginning at 17th level, whenever the samurai uses a stance he prefers, his attacks become deadlier. However, his mind must remain focused entirely on combat.
When the samurai is in a favored stance, he may add his Wisdom bonus (if any) to his melee damage rolls as long as he does not move more than 5 feet during a single turn.
Claws of the Dragon (Ex): When the samurai reaches 20th level, he calls upon the famed “claws of the dragon”, a powerful attack believed to rip enemies to shreds.
When the samurai makes an attack that qualifies as a battoujutsu, he treats his weapon as vorpal for that attack. He may treat a weapon that deals piercing damage as vorpal for the attack. If the samurai is already using a vorpal weapon, he gains a +4 bonus to confirm the critical hit.
The samurai can only use claws of the dragon while he is in a favored stance.
A samurai who becomes chaotic cannot take additional levels in the samurai class. He retains all class features gained from the class. If the samurai returns to a non-chaotic alignment, he may continue taking levels in samurai.
4 + Int modifier skill points per level.
Battoujutsu: The samurai's battoujutsu increases by +1d6 at 21st level and every three levels after.
Bonus Feats: The epic samurai gains a bonus feat (selected from the list of epic samurai bonus feats) at 22nd level and every three levels after.
Epic Samurai Bonus Feat List: Armor Skin, Damage Reduction, Extended Life Span, Fast Healing, Great Constitution, Great Wisdom, Penetrate Damage Reduction, Perfect Health
Dwarf Samurai Starting Package
Weapons: Katana (bastard sword, 1d10, crit 19-20/x2, 6 lbs.), Wakizashi (short sword, 1d6, crit 19-20/x2, 2 lbs.)
Armor: Scale mail (+4 AC, armor check penalty -4, speed 20 ft, 30 lbs.)
Skill Selection: Pick a number of skills equal to 4 + Int modifier.
Feat: Power Attack.
Gear: Waterskin, sunrod, bedroll, one day's trail rations.
Gold: 2d4 gp.
The samurai is more than just a class: It is a way of life. When you are one of them, you have displayed a dedication not just to your lord, but to the steel you carry in your hands. Through training and practice, you hone your skills to a razor-sharp edge, ready to strike at the appropriate time. When it comes to the sword, the spear, the bow, or the knife, you are always prepared to put your very soul into the fight.
Playing a Samurai
Religion: The samurai typically show stronger devotion to their respective lord than they do to a god. Nevertheless, prayer and meditation are just as important to them in achieving purity of heart and soul, as is training and service. Some samurai find themselves drawn to Heironeous, the god of valor. Evil samurai tend to worship Nerull, the god of death. A large portion of samurai also devote themselves to St. Cuthbert.
Other Classes: The samurai form the best relationships with fighters. Their devotion to the mastery of combat makes them strong allies, even if their philosophies are not the same. They have great respect for the healing powers of the clerics, viewing their abilities with great appreciation. Some samurai have good relations with paladins, whereas others prefer to keep their overly fanatical ways at arm's length. The samurai have little respect for barbarians, seeing strong warriors with no skill and untapped potential, and they care little for the wandering bards.
Combat: The samurai are warriors, first and foremost, and they will usually be the first ones to jump into combat. using their lethal quickness with their weapons and their knowledge of martial maneuvers, they can be expected to hold their own in combat for long periods of time. Even though they learn the fewest maneuvers, the samurai, as well as the swordsage, have the most stances, and it is in these stances where the samurai truly shines.
Advancement: The samurai are of a largely military nature, and they usually learn their skills through constant training. Of course, meditation is also paramount to the samurai's life, giving them both comfort and insight into themselves. Sometimes, experience comes not from confronting others, but confronting yourself.
Samurai in the World
|“||A blade of grass is still a blade||”|
|—Hajime, human samurai, only writing|
The samurai can be easily inserted into a campaign involving any sort of Far Eastern setting. Their history, and the legend they have about them, make them easy to adapt into such settings. Even if that is not the case, they could still be incorporating as a new group of warriors that emerged recently. It is also possible to create the samurai as a sort of bodyguard, if the idea of them serving a lord is not appealing.
Daily Life: A samurai lives by serving his lord and performing the duties set by them. Whatever the task, the samurai lives for his lord. On days where such service is unnecessary, the samurai will still strive to achieve perfection, be it physical, spiritual, or artistic. The ceremony of cha is one of the many rituals a samurai throughout his life, in addition to prayer and combat training. Writing is a subject that appeals to many samurai, even ones who do not have a talent for it.
Notables: There are many warriors throughout the years that have earned the name "samurai", but none are more revered than the master known as Hajime. It is believed, long ago, that Hajime was the first human to have passed the tests set forth by the hobgoblins in the halls of Ur-Thaldaar, becoming the first outsider to learn the skills of the Iron Heart. Over time, his mastery grew to the point where not even the greatest goblinoid master could hope to best him. In time, Hajime took his leave and it was believed he established a school of swordsmanship somewhere in the Valley of Ravens. However, history does not know if this is true, and it does even know how the samurai truly came to be.
Organizations: Many samurai dojos have emerged since the fall of the Temple of Nine Swords, but one appears more distinguished: The Green Dragon. Said to be the first school established after the temple's fall, the samurai there strive to embody the Iron Master, the greatest warrior of the Iron Heart discipline. Through their teachings, they believe that they will one day reach the pinnacle of weapon skill that even Reshar himself cannot match.
NPC Reactions: Samurai are often treated with a degree of politeness, sometimes out of courtesy, and sometimes out of fear. Some samurai, particularly evil ones, will repay the slightest discourtesy with a beheading. Most of them, however, are much more civil. What they desire is perfection, not superficiality.
Characters with ranks in Knowledge (history) can research the samurai to learn more about them. When a character makes a skill check, read or paraphrase the following, including information from lower DCs.
|10||The samurai are a group of warmasters who pursue martial perfection.|
|15||The samurai are well-trained with bladed weapons, using them with lethal quickness.|
|20||Though they learn the fewest maneuvers, the samurai still learn from a variety of disciplines.|
|30||PC's who make this check can learn about a specific samurai.|
Samurai in the Game
The samurai function primarily as military men. Their service to their lord means they are not swayed by religion or gold. A samurai not in service to a lord could always be found by the side of a merchant or noble, acting as a vigilant bodyguard. Even if that is not the case, never expect the samurai to commit an act they view is outside their code.
Adaptation: The maneuvers of a samurai can easily be substituted for the bonus feats of a fighters. With a slower progression, this void could easily be filled. In addition, one could include the ancestral daisho ability from Oriental Adventures. A player looking for a more precision warrior could also change battoujutsu to sneak attack.
Sample Encounter: The samurai are front-line warriors. You will not expect subtlety from them, but you may be taken aback by the power they possess in their stout bodies. Their quick attacks and powerful strikes are potent weapons, making them deadly opponents to the uninitiated.
EL 9: A servant of a local daimyo, the samurai called Shin protects his lord from those who would wish him harm. Ever vigilant of possible enemies, Shin possesses a perceptive eye that notices many things.
|Male human samurai 9|
|LN Medium humanoid (elf)|
|Init/Senses||+4/Listen +13, Spot +14|
|AC|| 22, touch 18, flat-footed 18|
(+4 armor, +4 Dex, +4 Wis)
|hp||58 (9 HD)|
|Speed||20 ft. (4 squares)|
|Melee||+2 katana +13/+8 (1d10+4/19–20) or|
|Melee||mwk wakizashi +13/+8 (1d6+4/19–20)|
|Ranged||shortbow +10/+5 (1d6/×3)|
|Atk Options||battoujutsu +3d6, insightful slash|
|Combat Gear||potion of cure moderate wounds|
|Maneuvers and Stances Known|| (IL 9th):|
Stances—(1st), (1st), (3rd)
Disciplines: Desert Wind, Diamond Mind, Shadow Hand
|Abilities||Str 18, Dex 12, Con 16, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 8|
|SQ||able to notice secret or concealed doors, shunshin, spiritualism, trapfinding|
|Feats||Combat Reflexes, Quick Draw, Weapon Finesse|
|Skills||Balance +15, Climb +8, Disable Device +13, Hide +15, Jump +10, Listen +13, Move Silently +15, Open Lock +15, Search +13, Spot +14, Tumble +19|
|Possessions||combat gear plus +1 ninja-to, 20 arrows, mithral chain shirt, goggles of night, masterwork dagger, masterwork thieves' tools, periapt of wisdom +2, shortbow|
Shin had the following ability scores before racial adjustments and ability score increases: Str 16, Dex 12, Con 16, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 8.