Author Topic: Sohei Handbook  (Read 1166 times)

Offline Skyrock

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Sohei Handbook
« on: August 18, 2017, 06:05:30 PM »
"Hence it comes that all armed prophets have been victorious, and all unarmed prophets have been destroyed. For, besides the things that have been said, the nature of peoples is variable; and it is easy to persuade them of something, but difficult to keep them in that persuasion. And thus things must be ordered in such a mode that when they no longer believe, one can make them believe by force."
- Niccolo Machiavelli: The Prince

Even ascetic warrior-monks can't escape the Chainmail Bikini Trope.

Welcome to the Sohei, an obscure base class from 3.0 Oriental Adventures. It got a half-hearted 3.5 upgrade in Dragon Magazine #318, but has since not been acknowledged by WotC in the official 1st party books, unlike many other OA base classes like the Shugenja, the Samurai or the Wu Jen.

You are a primary martial, but with only a medium BAB and without the maneuvres that made the Swordsage viable despite that handicap.
You are a divine half-caster like the Paladin, but without the splatbook support to make your casting still viable, such as through Battle Blessing.
You are one of the last base classes in 3.5 - along with the Factotum and the Expert - to have the 3.0 Iaijutsu Focus as a class skill, but your major class feature makes it impossible to use it, along with your meager spellcasting.

If you know half a thing about CO, you must by now realize that you are in for a wild ride with a terrible, conflicting, self-defeating class, and you are perfectly right. Bear with me as we try to salvage this wreck as best as we can.

Color Scheme

Red - An extremely weak option, or one that could even leave you worse than you were
Purple - An sub-optimal option. You should generally avoid it, but it can sometimes be made to work or good for flavour.
Black - An average option. You don't do terribly if you go with it, but neither is it particularly good.
Blue - A good option. You generally do well to get it.
Gold - An option so good that you shouldn't pass it up ever.

Table Of Contents

1. Class Features
2. Ability Scores / Skills
3. Races / Templates
4. Feats
5. Spells
6. Multi-Classing (Break-Off Points / Base Classes / Prestige Classes)
7. Partial Gestalt
8. Items
9. Sample Builds (TBD)
« Last Edit: April 01, 2018, 08:12:00 PM by Skyrock »

Offline Skyrock

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(Continued) Sohei Handbook
« Reply #1 on: August 18, 2017, 06:06:40 PM »
Class Features

"When we meet real tragedy in life, we can react in two ways - either by losing hope and falling into self-destructive habits, or by using the challenge to find our inner strength. Thanks to the teachings of Buddha, I have been able to take this second way."

- Dalai Lama

Alignment - only lawful: Alignment restrictions are very commonly ignored by DMs, but don't count on it.
Hit Die d10: On par with most other martial classes, and enough to make it to the front lines where you belong.
2 Skill Points: This stings, especially as your skill list is rather short and you won't be able to focus on Intelligence.
Proficiencies: All simple and martial weapons, and all armor (except shields). Sword&Board isn't the winner's fighting style anyway, so we can work with it.
Good Fortitude and Will Save: Being good in the two most important saves will be helpful, and it synergizes well with Mettle later down the road.
Bad Reflex Save: One bad save, and fortunately it is the least important one. We will only have a moderate Dex bonus at best as baseline, but Ki-Frenzy helps a bit.
Medium BAB: That stings on any melee class. Better hope that you are in a partial gestalt game to get that one fixed.

Ki-Frenzy: Welcome to your main shtick, which combines a poor man's Barbarian Rage with a poor man's Monk Flurry of Blows. While you get a boost to Dexterity and Strength, you won't have access to any of your spells and skills for that time, and be fatigued afterwards.
Ki-Frenzy might or might not qualify you for feats and prestige classes that require Rage or Frenzy to enter. There is the old 3.0 precedent of the OA Bear Warrior who could enter based on either Rage, Frenzy or Ki-Frenzy, while the CW 3.5 update has eliminated Ki-Frenzy. Check with your DM ASAP, your options and the overall viability of the Sohei depend a lot on it.
Weapon Focus: One of the weakest feats you could get, but at least it is free and a very common prerequisite.
Deflect Arrows: Not really useful, but it's for free.
Diehard: Another useless feat for free. The best that can be said about it is that it could later provide a free bonus feat from Ordained Champion and possibly Singh Rager.
Spellcasting: Like the Hexblade, Paladin or Spellthief, it is too little too late. The lack of splatbook support to expand the original tiny spell list and make it more useable through things like Battle Blessing add insult to injury.
Strength of Mind: Immunity to stun? Yes please! Immunity to sleep will probably not play much of a role at level 5 and beyond.
Defensive Strike: If you use Total Defense, you gain a cumulative attack bonus against the whiffer next turn. You will most likely never use Total Defense, if you even remember in play that this option exists at all, so this is another useless freebie.
Damage Reduction: DR1/- would have been nice on low levels, but on level 7 it is both negligible and commonly ignored. It improves up to DR5/- over the course of the Sohei levels, but like your spellcasting it is too little too late.
Mettle: A great feature to have. The Hexblade got his already at level 3 while you are at level 9, but this is yours and yours alone.
Greater Frenzy: Improve your Ki-Frenzy bonuses to +4 and reduce your flurry penalty to -1. We are at level 11, but as Sohei we count and treasure our blessings.
Tireless Frenzy: No more fatigue penalties after frenzying. Finally. At level 17. Many Sohei won't ever see it as they have multiclassed out a long time ago, and there are other ways to deal with fatigue.
Whirlwind Frenzy: Frenzy bonuses up to +6, no more Flurry penalties and a speed increase are your capstone. Virtually every non-Epic Sohei who survives to level 20 will never ever see it, but it is nice to know that this feature theoretically exists.
« Last Edit: March 31, 2018, 07:44:35 PM by Skyrock »

Offline Skyrock

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(Continued) Sohei Handbook
« Reply #2 on: August 18, 2017, 06:07:46 PM »
Ability Scores

"There are three things that are beyond my control: The rapids of Kamo river, the dice at gambling and the monks of the mountain."
- Emperor Go Shirakawa-In

Strength: Your main stat. Put all you can into it.
Dexterity: You are a loud, clunky heavy armor oaf, so go figure. Penalties should still be avoided (although Ki-Frenzy could temporarily cancel them). 10-12 will do.
Constitution: Everyone likes hitpoints and a good Fort save. As a melee type, you like them doubly so. 14.
Intelligence: You only get 2 skillpoints and will want to up that. As a human or with Nymph's Kiss, you could get away with a 10, but 12 is even then the safer bet.
Wisdom: Fuels your spellcasting, but that grows so slowly and gently that you can cover that with items and ability increases over the course of levels. 12 ensures that you get your first spell at level 4. - If you plan to dip Cleric and/or Psychic Warrior and advance their casting through prestige classes, the usefulness of this goes way up.
Charisma: Your only true dump stat. If you plan to dip Cleric for Devotion Feats, don't go too deep into the negatives as this determines your Turning Attempts to fuel them. If you don't plan to: Go crazy.

You must be this strong to be deemed a viable Sohei.


Balance (cc): Any character who can should have 5 ranks in Balance to avoid being flat-footed when the Grease spells and the marbles get tossed around. You might want to hold off getting them until you multiclass into something with Balance as a class skill.
Concentration: You are a crappy spellcaster, but you are still a spellcaster. Get it as high as you can. It is also a prerequisite for Kensai.
Craft: <insert witty underwater basket weaving joke>
Diplomacy: Diplomacy is one of the most ridiculous skills in the game, but you have most likely dumped Cha and are starved for skill points.
Heal: If you don't know anymore where to put your skill points, Heal 5 to get the Healing HandsCS skill trick isn't the most terrible idea. Most likely you won't have that luxury.
Iaijutsu Focus:OA Both one of the best and the worst skills for a Sohei. It can potentially give you a lot of precision damage if you attack a flat-footed target - but you can't use it while ki-frenzying, and your abilities to make a target flat-footed are sharply limited. If you rely on Ki-Frenzy, only get a few spare points in here in case that a Calm Emotions snaps you out of it pre-maturely or that you have more encounters than Ki-Frenzy uses. - It can also be viable to focus primarily on Iaijutsu damage, and use Ki-Frenzy only afterwards or as an emergency ability in case that you can't get your target flat-footed. In that case, max it.
Listen (cc): Terribly necessary against sneaky types and invisible. As with Balance, you might want to hold off until you multiclass into something with Listen as class skill.
Knowledge (Religion): If you plan to grab Knowledge Devotion or to enter a prestige class with this skill requirement, obviously put some points into it. Else 1 rank to be allowed rolls at all can do.
Knowledge (Shadowlands):OA This is a left-over skill from 3.0 OA that covers that region and the creatures hailing from it. If you are playing in Rokugan or if your DM is planning to use OA Shadowlands monsters, it might be useful. If he isn't, this is worthless.
Profession: Even you have better ways to earn money.
Spot (cc): See Listen. If you can only get one of them (which is very likely), high Listen and no Spot is more effective at detecting invisible things than both mediocre Spot and Listen.
« Last Edit: March 31, 2018, 07:24:07 PM by Skyrock »

Offline Skyrock

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(Continued) Sohei Handbook
« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2017, 06:08:52 PM »


Dwarf: Bonus to an ability you like, penalty to a dump stat, and better movement in heavy armor. Not bad. Earth DwarfUA could be even better if you can live down loss of Dex.

Elf: Penalties to Con and bonuses to Dex don't help you, and none of the elf variants have a line of stats that is helpful to you. Pass.

Gnome: Constitution is always welcome, but Strength penalties are not. Iaijutsu-focussed Sohei could get some use out of the Gnomish QuickrazorRoS.

Half-Elf: Does nothing useful, and doesn't even bring any racial substitution levels. Next.

Halfling: The stats and the small size just don't work for you, and the other features don't make up for it. Strongheart Halfling with its free feat is probably the best of the bunch.

Half-Orc: You don't really care about the Charisma penalty, while a plus to Str and and a minus to Int cancel each other out. The remaining features are nothing useful for you. Half-Orc ParagonUA is mildly interesting if your DM equates Ki-Frenzy with Rage, as it grants one extra use of it per day.

Humans: Free feat, more skill points. As always among the best choices.

Oriental Adventures

Hengeyokai: Wis penalties hurt, but some of the ability score increases could make it worth it, and there are some nice special abilities like fly or burrow speeds from level 1 on. It might also help to get into Warshaper earlier. Note that the Dragon #318 3.5 update has reduced their LA to +0.

Korobokuru: More Con is nice, but Int penalties hurt such a skill-starved class, and the rest of the race does little good for you.

Nezumi: Bonus to Con, penalty to a dump stat. Access to a natural unarmed strike could be helpful for a reach weapon fighter, access to Scent as a feat is quite unique. Not ideal, but neither terrible.

Spiritfolk: No stats changes, nothing impressive, nothing debilitating. The swim speeds of River and Sea Spiritfolk could be handy in a nautic campaign, but other than that this race is unremarkable for our purposes.

Varana: No stats changes since the 3.5 update in Dragon #318, bonuses to skills that armor penalty will make you fail anyway, and a natural climb speed. Not very helpful.


Azurin:MoI If you plan to use soulmelds, a viable alternative to humans.

Buomman:Planar Handbook Wisdom bonus and penalty to a dump stat. Their Silent Bob routine might be inconvenient for role-playing.

Earth Genasi, Lesser:PGtF/FRC Has plusses on two right things and minusses on one thing that hurts and one thing that you don't care about. If you can't use the Lesser version for LA+0, the full race isn't worth LA+1.

Illumian:RoD Aeshkrau helps to catch up on caster levels and to make you less Wisdom dependent for your spellcasting. It might also make Psychic Warrior a more viable dip if your baseline Strength is high enough. The other sigils are probably not too useful for you.

Kobold: A race with a very low optimization bottom, but probably the highest ceiling depending on how much cheese you can stomach. Not a fan of them and not the focus of this handbook, so look elsewhere for details. The code word is "Dragonwrought".

Maenad:XPH Only worth mentioning for the novelty of the Outburst ability, which allows you to pack even more mindless frenzy on top of your Ki-Frenzy. For actual optimization, this brings very little to the table.

Water Genasi, Lesser:PGtF/FRC One plus in the right place, one minus on a dump stat. If you can't use the Lesser version for LA+0, the full race isn't worth LA+1.

Warforged:ECSThe best thing about this race is its built-in immunity to fatigue while still having a Constitution score, which is both good for making the most of your Ki-Frenzy. The ability adjustments are about even for you, making this roughly as good as a human who took Tireless as starting feat.

Water Orc:UA The massive Strength bonus and the Con bonus might make it bearable to have a penalty on all mental ability scores. Not the best race for a Sohei, but neither terrible.


Arctic:Dr306 LA+0. Plus to Con, minus to a dump stat. Something for nothing.

Draconic Creature: LA+1. Bonuses to Str, Con and a dumpstat, some natural armor, a weak natural weapon and also darkvision if you hadn't already. With LA buy-off, it is a good trade.

Dragonborn:RotD LA+0. Con bonus and Dex penalty, combined with elimination of the original racial features and a choice of a new one. Can be terrible, can sometimes be very worth it.

Necropolitan:LM LA"+0" (special one-time XP penalty). This one is normally good to reduce MAD by taking Con out of the equation, but you need Con for your Ki-Frenzy.

Unseelie Fey:Dragon Mag #304 LA+0. This template is only worth mentioning for Vernal Touch, which removes fatigue at-will as a standard action. The stat modifiers are terrible for a Sohei.
« Last Edit: December 16, 2017, 09:56:30 PM by Skyrock »

Offline Skyrock

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(Continued) Sohei Handbook
« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2017, 06:11:28 PM »

General Feats

Able Learner:RoD You will multiclass a lot. This one will help you to buy class skills always at class skill price, not cross-class price. 1st level humans and doppelgangers only (could also appy to azurin, illumians etc.)

Apprentice:DMG2 This one could be used to fix your skill list, depending on your mentor. Philosopher and Spellcaster can make it easier to get into Horizon Walker, Slayer and Warmind depending on which Knowledge you pick (and net you UMD as class skill or Concentration bonuses). 1st level only.

Tireless:PGtF Let's you ignore fatigue, which will happen very frequently to you as Ki-Frenzy runs out. 1st level only, and the fluff restrictions may tie you to one of a few races and/or make this unavailable in your campaign.

Combat Feats

Back to the Wall:Ravenloft Player's Handbook This 2nd party feat is only worth mentioning because it helps to make more of the bad Diehard feat in a thematically very fitting way, by providing fixed attack and damage bonuses below certain HP tresholds. You probably don't have the spare feat to throw good money after bad.

Combat Reflexes: You most likely wield a reach weapon. Combat Reflexes is better the more Dex you have. Ki-Frenzy boosts your Dexterity. Go figure.

Improved Initiative: If you plan to focus on Iaijutsu Focus over Ki-Frenzy, this is a good way to catch a target flat-footed. Even if not, it is a solid feat.

Improved Unarmed Strike: If you wield a reach weapon, this is one way to threaten your inner 5' ring. Spiked gauntlets and armor spikes will probably do well enough for cheaper.

Intuitive Attack:BoED You can replace your Strength Mod for your Wisdom mod for attack rolls (not damage). As your Wisdom gets no boost from Ki-Frenzy, not really worth it.

Power Attack: You won't be as good at that as other melee types with your 3/4 BAB and your Flurry penalties, but you will still want it to do any noticeable damage.

Quick Draw: Even if you plan to make use of Iaijutsu Focus, a cheap Least Crystal of Return from MIC on your main weapon does the same for a very cheap price.

Travel Devotion:CD The lawful way to pounce. Much better if you get if for free as part of a Cleric dip, but if you are really tight in class levels it could be taken on its own.

Spellcasting Feats

Practiced Spellcaster:CA/CD Can up your caster level in either Sohei or another class. The skill requirement will be tough without multiclassing. The psionic counterpart is Practiced ManifesterCPsi.

Rage Feats

This section depends on your DM accepting ki-frenzy as equivalent to rage and frenzy for prerequisites. If he doesn't this whole section becomes obviously so deep red that I'd need a new color to express how terrible it is.

Cobalt Rage:MoI If you have some essentia lying around, this could make your ki-frenzy attacks more effective.

Ettercap Berserker:UE If you can get your DM to apply this RAW, you get a +6 Con bonus while frenzying. He will probably go with the more sane RAI reading that it provides a +2 Con bonus over a regular rage/frenzy, which makes this a worse Improved Toughness.

Extend Rage:CW/ECS +5 rounds to the duration of your ki-frenzy. Another way to make fatigue an effective non-issue in long fights.

Extra Rage:CW +1 Ki-Frenzy per day.

Gnoll Ferocity:RotW Gain a natural bite attack while frenzying. Restricted to gnolls, but "the DM may make this feat available to other animal-headed races". Listen up, Nezumi and Hengeyokai.

Ice Troll Berserker:UE +2 natural armor bonus during ki-frenzy. Has some synergy with Reckless Rage.

Instantaneous Rage:CW You can enter your ki-frenzy now in reaction to others. If you really need more Dex for your Reflex Save, or have another use for ki-frenzy like Mad Foam Rager, it could have an occassional use.

Intimidating Rage:CW You are too terrible at intimidating to get any use from it.

Mad Foam Rager:PHB2 Delaying one attack, spell or other effect against you for 1 round 1x/rage can be life-saving, but it is very situational and one round isn't much time.

Raging Luck:ECS Gain a temporary action point while frenzying. Those d6 could save your life or turn that failed all-out Power Attack into a hit.

Reckless Rage:RoS Gain an AC penalty during your frenzy in exchange for more Str and Con. Ice Troll Berserker could cancel that penalty if it upsets you.

Righteous Wrath:BoED Add a weak shaken rider dependent on your dump stat to your ki-frenzy attacks against evil creatures. Good alignment only.
« Last Edit: December 02, 2017, 07:50:10 PM by Skyrock »

Offline Skyrock

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(Continued) Sohei Handbook
« Reply #5 on: August 18, 2017, 06:12:56 PM »

As the Sohei spells and their updates are so scattered over the books, I will list the most current source even if it is the PHB.

A cheap way to expand your tiny spell list that costs you nothing but locking you into good alignment are Sanctified SpellsBoED. I will denote them with an asterisk (*) after the regular spells.


Attraction:OA Increases damage against a single target for a short while, and depends on your caster level. Target also gets a save against your mediocre DC.

Bane:PHB It allows a Wis save and is relient on your caster level. Bless is better.

Bless:PHB It relies on your caster level, but is still one of the better spells you can use at this level.

Detect Chaos/Law:PHB Not really useful, and someone else in the party could probably cast it a long, long time ago.

Divine Favor:PHB Like a personal Bless. One of your better choices at this level, despite relying on caster level for overall effectiveness.

Doom:PHB Causing a single target to become shaken after a failed Will save could have been nice on earlier levels on a class that can go SAD on Wisdom, but certainly not now and certainly not relying on you.

Endure Elements:PHB Could help on a trek through bad weather, but you are getting it late.

Magic Weapon:PHB If you or another martial companion in the party haven't gotten your magical weapon yet, this is how to fake it until you make it.

Protection from Chaos:PHB You are late to get it, but being able to say "Fuck you" to any possessing or mind control ability is worth every single spell slot when you need it. The AC and save bonuses against chaotic creatures aren't impressive, but a gladly taken cherry on top.

Resistance:PHB It was OK as a beginner Cleric orison, but as a 1st level spell on a latecomer as you this is a ridiculous price tag.

Shield of Faith:PHB Mid-term deflection bonus to AC dependent on caster level. You are not the best at using it, but given your crappy spell list this is one of your better ones.

Virtue:PHB It was OK as a beginner Cleric orison, but as a 1st level spell on a latecomer as you this is a ridiculous price tag.

Weapon Bless:OA A long-term one-shot Magic Weapon +5 for a single attack against a named single target, grandfathered in from OA without an official 3.5 update, and independent of your CL in its effectiveness. If you know who you are up against and don't suffer from time pressure, this is worth it as a pre-adventure buff, as you can cast it in advance and then rest to prepare other spells.

*Divine Inspiration:BoED If it weren't so short and unpredictable in its duration, it could be worth the sacrifice. -1d2 Str.

*Twilight Luck:BoED It's a weak save bonus, but the fact that it lasts relatively long and comes with no strength sacrifice makes it the best of the sanctified ones at this spell level.

*Visions of Punishment:Champions of Valor Too short and your save DC is too bad. -1d2 Str


Animal Messenger:PHB An utility spell to prepare when you know you need it, and very likely something someone else in the party does better at less personal cost.

Bull's Strength:PHB If you want a short-term strength buff without disabling your spell-casting and skill use, this could be an useful Ki-Fenzy alternative for you.

Delay Poison:PHB By the time that you can delay poison, someone else can very likely cure it outright.

Lesser Restoration:PHB Heals both ability damage and fatigue. Great to remove your own fatigue from Ki-Frenzy in a long fight, and generally a good just-in-case spell to have prepared when you don't know what else to prepare.

Remove Paralysis:PHB When you expect someone to get paralyzed or slowed, this is good to have prepared. A wand or scrolls will probably do all other days.

Resist Energy:PHB Grants Energy Resistance 10 against one of five damage types you can pick as you cast the spell. Flexible and a potential life-saver.

Shield Others:PHB Allows you to take half an ally's damage on behalf of it. You could become the punching bag for the squishy wizard, but isn't that a bit demeaning even to you?

Warning:PGtF Bonus to Listen and Spot, Uncanny Dodge and not getting flat-footed for one single ally on the mid-term. Great on your dedicated scout, and a sweet buff on anyone else if flat-footed or dealing with invisible foes.

*Ayailla's Radiant Burst:BoED The blindness is very handy when it gets through, but in your hands it is more likely just weak AoE blasting. -1d2 Str

*Luminous Armor:BoED You will have a better armor bonus by this time, but the melee penalty against you combined with the long duration could make it handy even on top of armor. -1d2 Str

TFW you agree to make yourself the pin-cushion for the party squishies and actually cast Shield Others.


Castigate:SpC A weak alignment based blasting AoE centered on you. The OA and the SpC versions differ somewhat, but neither version of the spell is really worth your time.

Discern Lies:PHB A poor man's Zone of Truth. Has some utility for interrogation, but when you can detain them, you can take a nap to prepare it as needed.

Dispel Magic:PHB Handy, but your weak caster level doesn't make you a viable threat to dedicated spellcasters.

Greater Magic Weapon:PHB One of the staples of the CoDzilla for a good reason. If CoDzilla won't cast it for you, and if you have seriously taken Sohei that far, one of your best spells at this level.

Magic Circle against Chaos:PHB AoE Protection vs Chaos, and good for the same reason the original was. As you aren't a summoner, you probably won't find use for the version that contains an extraplanar being.

Mental Strength:OA A short-term buff to Will saves for a single target. Didn't Protection from Chaos do the same thing better two spell levels ago?

Prayer:PHB Bless and Bane rolled into one, without the save against Bane. A bit short on duration for a standard action, but not the worst spell you can prepare.

Protection from Elements:PHB Similar to Resist Energy, but with a Stoneskin-like protection pool that lasts until it is all full, rather than to take a chunk of damage off for every hit during the full duration.

*Brilliant Emanation:BoED AoE blindness would be nice if you had a better save DC. -1d3 Str

*Celestial Aspect:BoED 1min/CL buff with a nice selection of possible effects, including flight, a holy longsword and a natural gore attack that can dismiss summons. -1d3 Str.

*Create Lantern Archon:Champions of Valor You can only get a single non-hazardous task up to 1 hour out of it without payment, but there is a lot of out of combat utility in a lantern archon as a translator, messenger and mobile Magic Circle against Evil. -1d2 Con

*Hammer of Righteousness:BoED Single-target force blasting could be helpful if you have no other way to deal with incorporeal creatures, but hopefully you have better options by now. -1d3 Str

*Path of the Exalted:BoED It's the "OK DM, where do we need to go next?" spell. You will have to abstain from divination spells 24h prior, but as this is a downtime spell this shouldn't pose an issue.

*Phieran's Resolve:BoED Very niche save bonus. -1d3 Str.

*Telepathy Tap:BoED It has some niche utility when you expect to need to eavesdrop on telepathic messages. If only the duration were better. -1d3 Str


Death Ward:PHB Late immunity to death and negative energy effects is still a good immunity to have.

Discern Shapechanger:SpC Very, very situational, and the wizard got his as a 2nd level spell.

Dispel Chaos:PHB Good when it gets through, but your caster level and Save DC are much too low. The secondary effect of extra deflection AC would have been nice many levels earlier.

Divine Power:PHB A staple spell of CoDzilla for good reason. You are late to the party and lack CoDzilla's options to persist it cheaply, but for you it is one of your best options.

Fatigue:OA It costs a standard action. It allows a save. Fatigue and even exhaustion are trivial to deal with at at the time you get it, if the target isn't even outright immune. Next.

Freedom of Movement:PHB Being grappled and entangled are things of the past now. One of the best spells in the game, even if you get it late.

Neutralize Poison:PHB Someone else in the party does it probably better and for cheaper.

Order's Wrath:PHB Alignment-dependent AoE that doesn't enough damage even under ideal circumstances.

Remove Fatigue:BoED Out-of-combat spell that gives "the benefit of a good night's sleep". It explicitely heals fatigue and exhaustion, but says nothing about HP and ability damage. An oddity is that it specifically rules out spell recovery for "arcane spellcasters". You could make a RAW argument that Psi Points and daily SLAs should still be recovered by this, as they aren't arcane spells. Please send me a card when you can talk any sane DM into it.

Restoration:PHB Lesser Restorations big brother that is good to have around just in case.

Spell Immunity:PHB Even if you didn't have to specify the spells to protect against, protection against 4th level spells isn't really relevant anymore at the time you get it.

Sustain:BoED Even if you still had an use for going without food and water by now, access to the material component would make it unnecessary.

*Animate with the Spirit:Champions of Valor Some weird good-aligned undead-but-not-really-undead creation. Might have some use if you have a suitable corpse lying around, but the 6HD cap makes the creature not even sword fodder if you got this from Sohei levels. -1d3 Str.

*Celestial Fortress:Champions of Valor Leomund's Secure Shelter with free Magic Circle vs Evil and Consecrate thrown in to make it more "sanctified". Getting out of a rest with attribute loss is not the perfect start in the day. -1d2 Con.

*Diamond Spray:BoED AoE blasts that allow saves aren't your strong suit, and the material component is quite pricey for what it does.

*Holy Fire Shield:Champions of Valor Fire Shield, but half of the damage is untyped divine energy. -1d3 Str

*Luminous Armor, Greater:BoED More armor bonus, and sadly no increase to the melee penalty. -1d3 Str

*Sunmantle:BoED A weird mix of Daylight, damage reduction and light retributive damage. Not impressive at the time you get it. -1d4 Str
« Last Edit: March 31, 2018, 07:40:50 PM by Skyrock »

Offline Skyrock

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(Continued) Sohei Handbook
« Reply #6 on: August 18, 2017, 06:14:05 PM »

Break-Off Points

Sohei 0: Cynics might say that the best Sohei is a Sohei with no Sohei levels who dives for his features in other, better classes, but what would then the point of this handbook be?
Sohei 1: Ki-Frenzy 1/day, free Weapon Focus and a boost to the two most important saves. You can offcially call yourself a Sohei now and will have several levels ahead before something good comes up, maybe flee to greener pastures while you can?
Sohei 3: Ki-Frenzy 2/day and Deflect Arrows.
Sohei 4: Your first divine spell if you need it.
Sohei 5: Immunity to stun makes this one of the high points of the Sohei. Ki-Frenzy 3/day doesn't hurt either. This is also where prestige classes generally begin to get available, so good time to leave.
Sohei 9: Mettle is the crowning achievement of the Sohei class and a good point to leave. Potentially having 2nd level spells doesn't hurt either.
Sohei 11: Greater Ki-Frenzy is a nice upgrade for your main shtick, and Ki-Frenzy 4x/day and possibly 3rd level spells are helpful, but was it really worth it to stick with the class for two levels after Mettle? At least you can call yourself now a majority Sohei build for bragging rights, and use the opportunity to scramble quickly for a different class.
Sohei 17: There are cheaper ways to ward off the fatigue of Ki-Frenzy then to take that many Sohei levels.
Sohei 20: Unless you are in a pure T5/6 campaign, I must salute your steadfast determination to endure this class for so long. May the capstone of Whirlwind Frenzy finally bring a little ray of sunshine into your adventurer life while the wizards gate in solars.

Base Classes

Barbarian: While a very common and good dip for most martials that can get you Pounce among other goodies, alignment restrictions will lock you out of the features of either class or both.

Cleric: Goes especially well with Knight of the Raven and/or Ordained Champion, but even without them a Cleric dip is always going to be greatly helpful for a Sohei. As you don't gain any BAB either way, going Cloistered ClericUA for Knowledge Devotion is a clear trade up. Travel DevotionCC is a must-have in the absence of Barbarian dips to do effective charging. Pick for your second Domain whatever seems fun. Dipping Cleric 1 is so powerful and popular that it has its own handbook.

Crusader:ToB Fits thematically well and is like all ToB initiators a great dip. The slight Charisma focus is a mild annoyance.

Divine Mind: There is one reason to dip this otherwise terrible class: Repose Mantle, allowing to you to ignore fatigue as long as you are psionically focussed. Also a viable entry way into War Mind.

Fighter: As usual, take 1-2 levels if you are desperate for the feats, but never go to Fighter 3 or beyond.

Hexblade:CW If you only care about Mettle, this can net you it within just 3 class levels at full BAB. With you poor Charisma, this grants little else.

Monk: 1-2 levels to grab feats might be OK, but the 3/4-BAB is not helpful, and you will most likely fight in the heaviest armor you can find, locking you effectively out of most of the class features. - If you plan to go Kensai, The Passive Way(UA) grants you Combat Expertise without the Intelligence prerequisite.

Psychic Warrior:XPH If you have good Wisdom (or are a sufficiently strong Illumian Aeshkrau muscle wizard casting fist), this could make an alternative to the Fighter for bonus feats. You lose BAB, but you gain some Psionic powers and PP, and it potentially unlocks the Slayer and War Mind prestige classes later.

Swordsage:ToB It has Wis synergy, but it doesn't help your BAB, and many Swordsage strikes use standard actions which doesn't synergize with your Ki Frenzy. If for some weird reason you don't get Travel Devotion or another way to charge with a full-attack, standard action strikes could be more viable for your opening gambit as you close in.

Warblade:ToB Like all initiators, it is a rock-solid dip, although the Weapon Focus at first level is a slight waste on a Sohei.

Warlock:CA One or two least invocations could shore up a weakness of you. Devil's Sight makes you see in magical darkness, and can be combined with Darkness (from the invocation of the same name or cheap scrolls and wands) to make you a mean Iaijutsu fighter. See the Unseen is at-will See Invisible with darkvision as a bonus. Spiderwalk and Swimming the Styx can up your mobility if you expect to do a lot of climbing and swimming. You need to be lawful evil at the time you dip if you want to keep your Sohei features, but warlocks don't lose their features if they fail their alignment restrictions later, they just can't advance anymore.

Wizard: Even with moderate Intelligence and massive arcane spell failure you can get a lot out of a single wizard level thanks to ACFs, such as activating wizard scrolls and wands without needing UMD (Grease for Iaijutsu Focus!), a fighter bonus feat, free Alertness through a familiar or a couple of immediate action teleports. Hit a wizard handbook for details.

The fly guy in the middle is a Swordsage. Don't be like the stiffy Sohei to the left - be like the Swordsage!

Prestige Classes

Geomancer:CD Theurge-style arcane/divine PrC that it is noteworthy for being able to gain Pounce around PrC level 7 without stepping out of Lawful alignment. The prerequisites will be tough without multiclassing and/or the Southern Magician feat.

Horizon Walker: One level of it for Terrain Mastery: Desert makes you immune to fatigue. It has some other nice features, but nothing that stands out.

Iaijutsu Master:OA It's a trap! While Iaijutsu-themed and while Sohei automatically solves the Weapon Focus prerequiste for you, this PrC relies heavily on Charisma (which you will have dumped).

Kensai:CW Easy to get into if you can spare the Int for Combat Expertise (or dip Passive Way Monk), but isn't really delivering much in exchange. Power Surge takes a standard action and must be done before entering ki-frenzy, as it relies on a skill. Power Surge might also be useful on its own, as unlike Ki-Frenzy you still get to use skills and spells. The free enchantment on the weapon may help a bit with your BAB problems, but Kensai also being only a 3/4 BAB class undermines this effect.

Knight of the Raven:EtCR Easy to qualify for. Full BAB, 9/10 spellcasting, and some decent features. Good alignment only. For best results, dip Cleric before entering.

Ordained Champion:CC Falls practically in the lap of a Sohei and is a complete upgrade. 3/5 spellcasting progression on a half-caster is easily made up for by full BAB and the extra uses for swift action alone. Bonus points for getting Diehard a second time, so one can be traded for an actually useful feat. For best results, dip Cleric before entering.

Shiba Protector:OA Three feats are a steep cost, but if you are unusually Wisdom-focused, adding your Wis mod on top of your attack and damage rolls might be worth it. Under no circumstances take more than 1 level.

Singh Rager:OA Another lawful way to get pounce, but the earliest at level 11 when many campaigns already begin to fall apart, and at the steep price of two crappy feats (one of which requires Charisma 13+, which you most likely can't afford). At least you get Diehard a g a i n along the way to trade for an actually useful feat, and at least you get full BAB while plunging down this particular rabbit hole.

Slayer:XPH If you dipped Psychic Warrior, this is a feasible way to extend it at full BAB and 9/10 manifesting along with some features.

War Mind:XPH If you dipped Psychic Warrior, this is another way to extend your psionics at full BAB. Slayer is probably better if you go its full length, but this one has great flavour for a warrior monk schooled in the art of war.

Warshaper:CW If you go Bear Warrior and/or are a Hengeyokai, this is a logical upgrade. Possibly game-breaking if you spawn an unlimited number of crotch tentacles to draw your enemies into their worst hentai nightmare.

Rage-based Prestige Classes

Bear Warrior:CW/OA Noteable for explicitely allowing ki-frenzy as an entry prerequisite in OA (which has been dropped in the 3.5 update in CW). This might make for a problem if your DM is particularly dense about this change.
Sacrifice you spellcasting advancement and features other than Ki-Frenzy for full BAB and the ability to transform into a bear with great ability boosts and several natural weapons while you frenzy. Overall an upgrade, and might open the door to WarshaperCW.

Runescarred Berserker:UE Gives you separate Wis-based divine spellcasting at full BAB and extra frenzy uses. Depending on how your DM interprets its interaction with Ki-Frenzy, Greater Rage on level 8 could grant you Greater Frenzy without needing to go Sohei 11. - Would be blue if it weren't for the prerequisites, especially the background feat conflicting with Tireless.
« Last Edit: March 31, 2018, 07:36:42 PM by Skyrock »

Offline Skyrock

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(Continued) Sohei Handbook
« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2017, 06:14:50 PM »
Partial Gestalt: Classes to Gestalt with

In the Tier System FAQ, there is the house-rule proposal of Partial Gestalt to help characters from weak tiers:

Option #2: Partial Gestalt. Tier 1s and 2s are normal. Tier 3s and 4s may gestalt their levels with an NPC class of their choice (Adept, Expert, Commoner, or Warrior). Tier 5s and 6s may gestalt their levels with any other Tier 5 or 6 class of their choice, or Adepts. Result? Again, a healthy power boost for the low Tiers. Suddenly the Rogues can have full BAB and lots of hitpoints, and the Monks can have Fighter powers too. Very handy. Plus, multiclassing works... it's just that if you start as a Fighter//Monk and want to take a level of, say, Ranger, that level must have an NPC class on the other side. If for some reason you wanted Sorcerer, you wouldn't be gestalt at all in that level. Lord knows Fighters get a lot better when they can be Fighter//Monks or Fighter//CA Ninjas or whatever.

If you are lucky, your DM will use this or something along these lines, which will be greatly helpful to make your Sohei a viable party member.

Tier 5

Fighter: Full BAB and a whole bucket of feats do a lot to make the Sohei more viable. The Fighter gets a lot of ridicule, and rightfully so, but here he is a strong choice.

Healer:MHB Getting even more MAD by adding Cha to the necessary ability scores is bad for a Sohei, losing access to virtually all class features of your Gestalt half in metal armor is bad for a Sohei, not doing something for your medium BAB is bad for a Sohei. +2 skill points, the possibly weakest full-caster list in the entire game and a sundry list of x/day healing abilities doesn't make up for it.

Knight:PHB2 Full BAB and a d12 hit die are all the good news about this one. You bring nothing to the table to help the Knight to survive his knight's challenges or to make good use of his mounted abilities, and there is also a heavy flavour clash.

Monk: Monk can be a nice dip to grab feats, but it shouldn't be the life partner of a heavy armor loving class. High Dex and Wis could make it work, but then you are more like a monk than like a sohei, and for a monk there are better dedicated life partners too.

Ninja:CA More skill points, better skill list, some Wis based Ki tricks and a big bucket of Sudden Strike dice, the poor man's Sneak Attack. An Iaijutsu focussed Sohei who wants to catch his enemies flat-footed anyway could make this partnership work, but still being stuck with medium BAB makes for a rocky relationship even then.

Paladin: The SerenityDrC feat is the secret to make this relationship work. All your features are suddenly based on Wisdom, you get greatly improved saves all around, Lay on Hands, some Smites for extra damage, a mount and double the spell slots you had before, along with all the splatbook support of the Paladin. And on top of that, the much coveted Full BAB. If you can live with the paladin oath, one of the best choices at this tier.

Samurai:CW The probably weakest Tier 5 Full BAB class you could enter, but even pre-set, bad feats are better than getting no feats at all from the Tier 6 Warrior.

Swashbuckler:CW Full BAB and slightly more skill points is nice, but a class focussed on Dex and light armor clashes in a lot of places with the Sohei. A Rogue dip combined with Daring OutlawCS could do real wonders for the damage output and be worth dealing with the conflicting features.

Soulknife:XPH You still have only medium BAB, but at least your mind blade enchants itself for you. Slowly. And technically seen - very technically - you are psionic now. Pass.

Tier 6 / NPC Classes

Adept: They are both Wis-based divine spellcasters, even if they are both crappy ones, so there is some synergy. Does nothing for your sparse skill points and your medium BAB, and don't expect to hold up a candle against a real divine fullcaster in the same game.

Aristocrat: +2 skill points, slighty more versatile skill list and the best starting money of anyone. Not worth your time.

Commoner: Other than being potentially chicken-infested and getting Listen and Spot as class skills, Commoner brings nothing to the table. Pass.

Expert: The most favourable skill list this side of the Factotum combined with +4 skill points is the main draw. Could work in some fringe cases when you are really desperate for class skills and skill points.

Magewright:ECS Adept-like Int-based arcane caster with a narrow spell list that offers very little for your purposes. Pass.

Warrior: If you are restricted to Tier 6 and NPC classes (such as by your DM being so deluded that he puts Sohei into Tier 4 or even 3), this might be your best bet to shore up the Sohei's weaknesses. Full BAB does all the heavy lifting, and that is about all you gain from Warrior as a groom.
« Last Edit: August 20, 2017, 01:04:46 PM by Skyrock »

Offline Skyrock

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(Continued) Sohei Handbook
« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2017, 06:15:48 PM »

I won't go at great lengths about magic items in general - there already great general resources for that, of which I especially recommend:

What follows are items that are of special interest to Sohei.

Breath of the Waves:MoE 9,000 gp graft. Remove fatigued condition 1x/hour, as well as exhausted, nauseated, paralyzed, sickened and stunned.

Chronocharm of the Horizon Walker:MIC 500gp, throat slot. Move half your speed 1x/day as a swift action. Poor man's pounce until we can afford better ways to get full-attack charges going.

Crystal of Return, Least:MIC 300gp. The Quick Draw feat is just a too steep price to pay for such a minor benefit, even if you plan to use Iaijutsu Focus to the hilt.

Marbles:A&EG 2sp. The cheapest mundane way to get someone flat-footed to go all Iaijutsu Focus on them. Better when an unseen servant, familiar or henchman does the pedestrian task of tossing them.

Nightstick:LM 7,500gp. A rod that grants 4 extra turning attempts. With your poor charisma, very handy to fuel devotion feats, and could enable you to try out some Divine Metamagic cheese if you can stack a whole golf bag of them.

Reliquary Holy Symbol:MIC 1,000gp. +3 turning attempts/day make this the Nightstick's low-level companion, and still handy enough later.

Sandals of the Vagabond:CC 4,000 gp, feet slot. Immunity to fatigue helps your ki-frenzy, and a luck bonus to initiative helps your Iaijutsu Focus.

Valorous:UE +2 magic weapon ability. One of the basic ingredients of the ├╝bercharger that will serve your Power Attack charges well.

Warning: +1 magic weapon ability. A cheap price for a +5 insight bonus to initiative, but probably better on a gauntlet or an armor spike than on your main weapon.
« Last Edit: September 19, 2017, 05:45:27 PM by Skyrock »

Offline Skyrock

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(continued) Sohei Handbook
« Reply #9 on: April 01, 2018, 08:11:12 PM »
Sample Builds

SRD + Oriental Adventures only

Clerical Sohei

Partial Gestalt Sohei

E6 Sohei

Offline Skyrock

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Re: Sohei Handbook - Discussion
« Reply #10 on: August 18, 2017, 06:31:55 PM »
Let the discussion begin! This is obviously still in a raw and incomplete state, but I thought it was better to share early rather than to let it ripen unseen on my hard drive.

One class that I have rarely seen discussion about is the Sohei from Oriental Adventures (updated in Dragon #318). It is so bad that it makes the CW Samurai and even the NPC Warrior look like serious alternatives. Putting it on the very bottom of Tier 5 might actually be flattery.
Someone at WotC must have thought: "Hm, we need something like a Paladin in OA, but Paladin is much too strong, so let's pummel it with the nerf bat, and while is convulsing with pain on the ground, quickly add some monk to make it feel more oriental before it can resist. - What, we have too little for the barbarian? Add some barb too, but first nerf it some more before it gets too strong."

Still, the quirkiness and complete mish-mash nature of the Sohei class and the challenge to optimize such a weak class as much as possible is weirdly attractive to me. With Partial Gestalt, there might even be ways to make it viable.

I have enjoyed and used the handbooks here for years, but this is the first time that I try my grubby paws on one myself. I will probably make some stoopid mistakes, if not a lot of them, and miss a ton of good stuff that could and should go into the handbook. I want all my errors mercilessly torn out without any regards for my fee-fees to get the best possible handbook. Be honest and direct, I have probably heard worse.

Offline Samwise

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Re: Sohei Handbook - Discussion
« Reply #11 on: August 20, 2017, 01:32:04 AM »
Someone at WotC must have thought: "Hm, we need something like a Paladin in OA, but Paladin is much too strong, so let's pummel it with the nerf bat, and while is convulsing with pain on the ground, quickly add some monk to make it feel more oriental before it can resist. - What, we have too little for the barbarian? Add some barb too, but first nerf it some more before it gets too strong."

In this case . . . actually, no.
It is a pretty close conversion of the sohei from AD&D Oriental Adventures. Those abilities are straight up conversions for the primary ones (cleric BAB and saves, weapon focus, deflect arrows, diehard, ki frenzy), and expansion for the rest (mettle, greater ki frenzy, and such).
The only significant change are:
Spellcasting - the AD&D sohei got the full (at that time) shugenja (spelled "shukenja) list instead of the junk pseudo-paladin list.
Semi-leadership - 10-30 1st level sohei at 6th level, 10 more every level they gained, replaced as needed unless all were killed. Then at 9th level, they get sent off to build and command a monastery, where they can recruit even more sohei to follow them.
Overall, the sohei was equally sucktastic back in AD&D days.

As for the conversion, non-update, and lack of support, note that the sohei isn't used in the Rokugan setting, making it an orphan even in OA3E, and less-than-relevant to support after that.

Otherwise, "what you said".
The class is basically "monk with hardwired naginata style".
And much as "fighter with hardwired daisho style" = "CW samurai", it manages to be worse than the "base" class it is derived from.
Barring major hacks, like handwaving it the full splatbook paladin spell-list, letting ki frenzy qualify as rage or frenzy, and giving it actual class features for those dead levels, it is pretty much never going to be more than "monk with hardwired naginata style".
So as DM The Lord Humongous (Ruler of the Wasteland, the Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla) says, "Just walk away from the class, and I'll spare your character's life. Just walk away."

Offline Skyrock

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Re: Sohei Handbook
« Reply #12 on: August 20, 2017, 09:50:24 AM »
Oh, I perfectly realize that Sohei is a massive turd with a weak chassis, lots of dead levels and crappy features even in the levels that aren't dead. This one is meant along the lines of the existing CW Samurai and Truenamer handbooks - looking at a truly terrible class and finding out what can be done to salvage as much as possible of it.

Offline Stratovarius

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Re: Sohei Handbook
« Reply #13 on: August 20, 2017, 11:10:12 AM »
If you want, I can probably whip up a T3 Sohei based on a combination of the OA Sohei, Shugenja, and the 2nd Edition version. Doubt it would take more than half an hour, maybe less.

Just as something to suggest at the end of the guide that captures the flavour but without the crappiness.

Offline Skyrock

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Re: Sohei Handbook
« Reply #14 on: August 20, 2017, 11:41:19 AM »
Do you mean a build, or a rework of the class? There is already a rework by Littha that I could mention:

Offline Stratovarius

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Re: Sohei Handbook
« Reply #15 on: August 20, 2017, 11:50:46 AM »
Rework of the class. That one is still tier 4 at best.

Build wise, you're currently missing a lot of the "normal" optimization tricks like Binding, Charge Abuse, various incarnum melds, etc. Most of them are generic enough that you can plug them into almost any martial class, but usually still worth at least mentioning in passing.

Offline Skyrock

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Re: Sohei Handbook
« Reply #16 on: August 20, 2017, 02:36:55 PM »
Added colours (and did some prettying).

Rework of the class. That one is still tier 4 at best.
It's always good to have more and better reworks of weak classes (and I'd link such a rework), but a simple rework would go beside the point of this handbook. As with the CW Samurai and the Truenamer handbooks, the point is to tackle the class warts-and-all and see if and how as much as possible can be salvaged.

Build wise, you're currently missing a lot of the "normal" optimization tricks like Binding, Charge Abuse, various incarnum melds, etc. Most of them are generic enough that you can plug them into almost any martial class, but usually still worth at least mentioning in passing.
I absolutely plan to mention the usual stuff when I get to the polishing stage, but I first wanted to get out the stuff specifically relevant for the Sohei. A handbook for an obscure and terrible martial base class that any new player should avoid (if he even knows that it exists) doesn't need to go at great lengths on on how and why Power Attack + Shock Trooper + Leap Attack + (pseudo-)Pounce + Two-Handed Valorous Weapon are  what makes for a viable martial, although I should mention it in the final stage, and also put that into one of the sample builds to make my point.

Vestiges and Soulmelds may have something specifically useful for Sohei, in addition to the usual martial picks. I will need to scour through them.

Same for magic items. The classics like Valorous Weapons should get passing mention, but I want to mostly look for the stuff that specifically eases Sohei weakpoints. Chronocharm of the Horizon Walker is an obvious one for getting some cheap pseudo-pounce at the early levels, from the top of my head.

Speaking of specific stuff, I need to compile ways to avoid and undo fatigue. No one should be forced take 17 Sohei levels for something so trivial.
I'll also need to scour the Barbarian handbooks for Rage feats.

Offline Skyrock

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Re: Sohei Handbook
« Reply #17 on: August 21, 2017, 12:43:37 PM »
Spells and break-off points for multiclassing added.

Offline Skyrock

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Re: Sohei Handbook
« Reply #18 on: August 23, 2017, 10:14:33 AM »
Added rage feats, rage PrCs and sanctified spells.

Offline PlzBreakMyCampaign

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Re: Sohei Handbook
« Reply #19 on: August 26, 2017, 08:07:50 PM »
I love the sohei. Nice handbook. The commentary is gold.