Kensai (Pathfinder Archetype)

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Kensai (Monk Archetype)[edit]

A Kensai, or Sword Saint, is a elite fighter, a warrior of exacting and dedicated ONE weapon. They dedicate their lives to the perfection of their art, turning deadly motion into fluid poetry.

Making a Kensai[edit]

The Kensai is a monk who trades most of his weapons and unarmed skill for skill with one particular weapon.


Intelligence powers many of a kensai's special abilities. Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution should be obvious.


Kensai tend to found among races that appreciate the dedication and single-minded focus required to truly master a weapon. As the class has Intelligence as a primary stat, this tends to mean that the more intelligent races are more likely to become kensai.


Unlike the monk, a kensai may be of any alignment. Perfection of a weapon form requires both dedication and artistry, so requires both law and chaos. Also, the dedication required leaves less room for moral ideals, so good and evil are of lesser importance to a kensai. If anything, neutral characters tend to have a edge in developing the mindset required to excel as a kensai.

Starting Gold: 1d4×10 gp, plus one masterwork weapon.

Class Features / Alterations[edit]

Weapon and Armor Proficiency

A kensai gets no proficiency in any armor, and gets proficiency in only one weapon, his chosen weapon. He also gains Weapon Focus with that weapon as part of his proficiency. This may be a double weapon, but it is never paired weapons (i.e. Two Weapon Fighting). A Kensai fights with a single weapon.

This replaces the monk's normal weapon proficiencies.

Armor Class and Initiative Bonuses

When unarmored and unencumbered, the kensai adds his Intelligence bonus to his AC and his CMD. At 3rd level, he adds his Intelligence bonus to his initiative, as well as Dexterity. In addition, a kensai gains a +1 bonus to AC, CMD and Initiative at 4th level. This bonus increases by 1 for every four kensai levels thereafter, up to a maximum of +5 at 20th level.

These bonuses to AC apply even against touch attacks or when the kensai is flat-footed. He loses these bonuses when he is immobilized or helpless, when he wears any armor, when he carries a shield, or when he carries a medium or heavy load.

This modifies the monk's normal AC bonuses and High Jump.

Stunning Blow

At 1st level, Stunning Blow can be done, and can ONLY be done, with the kensai's chosen weapon. Not with unarmed strikes. It is in all other ways identical to a monk's use of the same ability.

This changes the monk's normal use of stunning blow.

Focused Training

A kensai receives specialized weapon training training. Any attacks made with a weapon of his chosen type are considered to be unarmed. He can apply the effects of feats that have Improved Unarmed Strike as a prerequisite, as well as effects that augment an unarmed strike, as if attacks with the weapon were unarmed attacks. This allows the kensai to take advantage of any feats or abilities that would normally be restricted to unarmed strike. This explicitly includes the Pummeling Style.

All feats and abilities that would normally affect unarmed strikes, affect the chosen weapon strikes instead.

This replaces the monk's 1st level bonus feat.

Armed and Unarmed Damage

At 1st level, a Kensai, when fighting with his chosen weapon, has a Base Attack Bonus equal to his kensai levels, plus any acquired from other classes, and can flurry with that weapon. The damage of that weapon is the greater of the weapon's normal damage, or his unarmed attack damage.

While he learns Improved unarmed strike at 1st level, it is because unarmed martial arts are the foundation of armed martial arts. However, it is not his focus, so he is very limited there. He cannot flurry unarmed, and uses his normal base attack bonus. His unarmed damage is that of monk 8 levels lower than himself (1d4 until 8th level).

If for some reason (such as a second archetype), the kensai loses the flurry ability, it can be replaced with the two-Weapon Fighting feat chain (since that is really all that flurry is). A kensai may use a single weapon to execute all attacks either in a flurry or it's equivalent.

This replaces the monk's normal unarmed damage and alters the flurry rules.

Bonus Feats

The kensai's bonus feats are altered as follows:

Add all style feats to the kensai's list of bonus feats at 1st level. He does not need to meet any of the prerequisites for these feats.

Also add all fighter feats which can be applied using the kensai's chosen weapon to the kensai's list of bonus feats at 1st level. He DOES need to meet any of the prerequisites for any of these feats which were not already in the monk's list.

At 2nd level, add the 2nd feat in the style progression for any style feat the kensai has taken, as well as Improved Weapon Focus. He does not need to meet any of the prerequisites for these feats.

At 6th level, add the 3rd feat in a style progression for any style feat the kensai has taken, as well as Improved Weapon Specialization, and Whirlwind Attack. He does not need to meet any of the prerequisites for these feats.

This modifies the monk's normal list of bonus feats.

Complete Weapon Focus

At 3nd level, a kensai is considered a fighter with a base attack bonus equal to his level, and his levels stack with any fighter levels, for the purposes of qualifying for feats.

He also receives Weapon Training, as a fighter does, but it ONLY applies to the Kensai's chosen weapon. This ability starts at +1, and increases by +1 every 4 additional levels, just like the fighter's does.

This replaces Still Mind and the monk's slow fall ability.

Ki Pool

At 4th level, a kensai gains a ki pool, similar to that of a monk, only based on Intelligence bonus, not Wisdom. A kensai's ki ability only works with his chosen weapon. He may not use those ki abilities with any other weapon. He may use it with unarmed strikes, but all ki costs are doubled when he does so.

He loses the 10th level ability to treat his attacks as lawful weapons for the purpose of damage reduction, and gains the ability at the same level to treat his weapons as cold iron or silver weapons for the purpose of damage reduction.

He can also spend 1 point from his ki pool in order to maximize his weapon damage. Don’t roll for damage—the weapon deals maximum damage. This affects only the weapon’s base damage dice, not additional damage from sneak attack, magical weapon properties, spellstrike, or critical hits. If the kensai confirms a critical hit, he can instead spend 2 points from his ki pool to increase his weapon’s critical multiplier by 1.

This modifies the monk's ki pool and ki abilities.

Uncanny Dodge

At 5th level, the Kensai receives Uncanny Dodge. This improves to Improved Uncanny Dodge at 11th level.

This replaces Purity of Body, and Diamond Body.


At 7th level, a kensai may always act and may draw his weapon as a swift action during a surprise round, though he is considered flat-footed until he acts. During a surprise round or when attacking a flat-footed opponent, he adds his Intelligence modifier on damage with his chosen weapon (minimum 0).

This replaces Wholeness of Body.

Lightning Counter

At 12th level, kensai can make a number of attacks of opportunity in a round equal to his Intelligence modifier (minimum 1). This effect stacks with the Combat Reflexes feat.

He may make attacks of opportunity when flat-footed, and may draw his favored weapon as a free action as part of taking an attack of opportunity.

This replaces Abundant Step.

Beheading Stroke

At 14th level, a kensai can perform a Beheading Stroke. By spending 4 points from his ki pool, the kensai makes a single attack roll. If it hits, it is considered an automatic critical strike, doing maximum damage, and with a +1 critical multiplier. If this does more than half of the target's remaining hit points, that opponent must make a Fortitude save (DC equal to 10 + 1/2 the kensai's level + Intelligence modifier) or die. Success halves the damage taken, and the target does not die.

This replaces Quivering Palm.

Weapon Master

At 17th level, the Kensai achieves Weapon Mastery. His threat range with his chosen weapon increases by +1, as does his critical multiplier. This ability stacks with keen or the Improved Critical feat. He also gains a +4 bonus to critical confirmation checks made with his chosen weapon.

He also receives two additional bonus feats, chosen from his bonus feats list.

This replaces Timeless Body, and Tongue of the Sun and Moon.

Whirlwind Reaper

At 19th level, the kensai can make a full-attack action as a standard action. He may also use the Whirlwind Attack feat as a standard action, if he has that feat.

This replaces Empty Body.

Weapon Soul

At 20th level, a kensai's weapon truly becomes a part of him. He selects one single weapon, which can never be changed, short of a wish. He merges with that weapon, and can always summon or dismiss it as a free action. His weapon can never be truly stolen, as he can summon that stolen weapon from anywhere at will.

Twice the hit points of the weapon are added to the kensai's hit points. Attempts to damage or sunder the weapon yield hit point damage to the kensai. If enough damage is done to sunder the weapon, the weapon is forcibly dismissed, and can be re-summoned, fully intact, by a full-round action. All damage may be healed normally by any normal means. The kensai also has the ability to heal himself, by using item repair spells on his weapon.

This replaces Perfect Self.


The Kensai mixes well with the Master of Many Styles, as there is some overlap. Since the Kensai's bonus feat list includes the feats from the Master of Many Style's bonus feat list, when using these two Archetypes together, use the Kensai's bonus feat list. Allow the player to select which capstone ability to choose.

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