Author Topic: The Sensational Samurai Handbook  (Read 24797 times)

Offline SleepyShadow

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The Sensational Samurai Handbook
« on: September 08, 2012, 06:06:12 PM »
The Sensational Samurai Handbook

Welcome to the Samurai Handbook, where I will be attempting to examine, utilize, and optimize the samurai from Complete Warrior. I can hear you already ...


Samurai? Really?

Yes, you heard me correctly. The Samurai. Why doesn't this class have a handbook yet? It's been out for years, there's plenty of material to work with, and surely there is something we can do with this class. I mean, really, even the True Namer got a handbook before the Samurai.

True Namer? Really?

So, I have taken up the arduous task of taking the samurai and attempting to glean some gem from its dusty soul. Come with me now on a journey of pain, suffering, and nonsense.
« Last Edit: September 12, 2012, 04:41:09 PM by SleepyShadow »

Offline SleepyShadow

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Re: The Sensational Samurai Handbook
« Reply #1 on: September 08, 2012, 06:06:35 PM »
The Samurai: Breakdown

First things first, let's take a look at what you get.

Full BAB: Excellent! Clearly you are meant to be a front line warrior, as any good samurai should be.
d10 HD: Another indication of a primary melee combatant. You have the second highest hd in the game. Congratulations.
2+Int Skill Points: Ouch. Well, it doesn't look like you'll have many skill points to devote to your mastery of tea ceremonies. A shame, really.
Good Fortitude: You are more or less safe against one-half of the save-or-die spells out there.
Bad Reflex, Bad Will: With your bad will saves, you are vulnerable to the other half of save-or-die spells. As for your bad reflex, well, that's why you have d10 hit dice, right?

Daisho Proficiency: Not bad. Exotic Weapon Proficiency (Bastard Sword) at level 1. Could be better, but hey, at least you get to use your staple weapon without blowing a feat on it.
Two Swords As One: Eww. You are treated as if you had TWF. Problem? You don't actually have the feat, so you don't qualify for any of the entertaining/effective two-weapon style feats. If your DM allows this to count as the feat, then you're much better off.
Kiai Smite: Not too shabby. You get your charisma bonus to hit and damage on your next attack. Unfortunately, you only get to use it a very few times a day. However, there are several smite feats out there, and this should allow you to qualify for most of them.
Iaijutsu Master: Like Two Swords as One, you get to pretend you have Quick Draw, which is even less helpful than pretending to have TWF. Sadly, the CW Samurai doesn't even get the Iaijutsu Focus skill as a class skill. No way they are the master of it.
Staredown: A +4 untyped bonus to the Intimidate skill. Not bad at all.
Improved Initiative: Excellent! A real bonus feat that can be used for real things.
Mass Staredown: This is your best class ability by far. The ability to intimidate multiple foes at once is quite nice, and with just a little bit of work your intimidate skill bonus will be incredibly high.
Improved Two Swords As One: Meh, you pretend that you have ITWF. Problem is, you don't even get this as soon as your BAB would allow you to take the feat if you had real TWF.
Improved Staredown: Excellent. You may now intimidate as a move action, rather than a standard.
Greater Two Swords As One: Congratulations. You now get to pretend that you have GTWF. Again, later than the real feat could have been taken.
Frightful Presence: Um ... eww. You panic/shaken everything with 19 HD or less you when you draw your sword. This ability does not work. Ever, really. Unless your DM is a fan of sending hordes of minions at you with great frequency, you will likely forget that you even have this ability. You can't even cheat and rinse+repeat this ability with Quick Draw, since everything that makes the Will save against it is immune for 24 hours. Another note of how bad this ability is, it doesn't even scale into epic levels if you ever took a single class Samurai up to that point.

Dead Levels
The samurai has six dead levels, the first of which occurs at 4th level. The samurai class is a highly specialized warrior who is extremely talented at demoralizing opponents, two-weapon fighting, and making a single decisive strike. Their primary dead level ability offers an alternate use of a daily charged ability by developing a skill that samurai are already good at using.

Breaking Stare (Ex): At 4th level, the samurai can internalize their mastery of kiai into making a subject fear for their life. When attempting to change behavior, a samurai can spend 1 use of their kiai smite ability to negate a target's Wisdom modifier for a single Intimidate check. At 9th level, a samurai negates a target's modifiers on saves against fear. At 13th level, a samurai negates a target's immunity from being intimidated for being a paladin of 3rd level or higher. At 15th level, a samurai reduces the size modifier of a target by one category. At 18th level, a samurai reduces the size modifier of a target by two categories.

Interrogator (Ex): At 19th level, the samurai becomes so certain in the use of Intimidate to change behavior that the character can use it reliably even under adverse conditions. When making an Intimidate check to change behavior, the samurai may take 10 even if stress and distractions would normally prevent the character from doing so.

Okay, so just a quick overview of what we get that we can work with: TWF for free, a smite ability that works on everything, and AoE intimidation.

For a Samurai, I would recommend placing your stats in this order: Str>Con>Cha>Dex>Wis>Int. However, keep in mind that there are many times when charisma needs to be a much higher priority, so if you intend on using kiai smite and intimidate more often than merely being a melee meat grinder, I would recommend Cha>Str>Con>Dex>Wis>Int. Lastly, as Carnivore pointed out, samurai were not only proficient in swordsmanship but also were superb archers. To replicate this, prioritize your stats thus: Dex>Cha>Str>Con>Wis>Int.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2016, 09:07:59 PM by SleepyShadow »

Offline SleepyShadow

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Re: The Sensational Samurai Handbook
« Reply #2 on: September 08, 2012, 06:06:47 PM »
Way of the Samurai: Races

Samurai are surprisingly diverse when it comes to their choice of race. A major factor in what race you should consider is what facet of being a samurai you are attempting to fulfill. As such, I will break down the races in handy, easy to read sections.

Melee Combatant
Human: Not surprisingly, humans are quite good at being samurai. Despite your "bonus feats", samurai are rather feat starved, so the extra feat will always help.
Orc: Though the hit to your mental stats hurt a bit, the bonuses to more important stats is always appreciated. Do be sure to ask your DM if Water Orcs from Unearthed Arcana are allowed. An extra +2 con never hurts  :D
Dwarf: The hit to charisma sucks, but +2 con and regular speed in full plate (which you should be wearing) is always nice. Besides, I'm 85% sure that the samurai depicted in Complete Warrior is a dwarf, so you have that going for you too.
Elf: Elves have their place in the ranks of the samurai. Just not in melee. The dexterity bonus will be lost to you while wearing heavy armor, and the constitution penalty makes you dangerously fragile.
Gnome: Seriously? A gnome samurai? Yes! Small size negates your strength penalty, the constitution bonus and size bonus to AC are greatly appreciated, and you can do all sorts of fun things with Underfoot Combat, Confound the Big Folk, and other such silliness.
Halfling: Sadly, the same is not true for halflings. A boost to dexterity will not help you.
Goliath: They're big! They're strong! They're ugly! They have a level adjustment. It's only +1 LA, so it very well could be worth it. If LA Buy-Off is allowed, by all means feel free to be a Goliath.
Necropolitan: Horrible. This template is fine for some. However, you would end up with roughly the same hp as a necropolitan if you had a constitution score of 12. Hopefully, you have higher than that. The immunities from being undead are just not worth it in this case.
Warforged: These guys are great. Even with the charisma penalty, being a warforged may be just what the samurai needs.
Dragonborn: This template is fantastic. If it is allowed, take it and don't look back. Personally, I suggest either Dragonborn Water Orc or Dragonborn Warforged. I suppose Dragonborn Goliath would work, too.

Scarier Than The Exorcist!
Human: It's very hard to beat humans.
Spell Scale: Not bad at all with their +2 charisma and interesting blood abilities. However, do be warned that their -2 constitution will be detrimental.
Star Elf: Identical stat adjustments as a Spell Scale, this elf variant hails from Faerun. Elves have more options than spell scales.
Aasimar: An outsider that grants +2 wisdom and +2 charisma. Certainly worth the +1 LA, especially since you now are immune to a host of effects that would otherwise cause problems for your humanoid brethren. If you don't like having the level adjustment, the Lesser Aasimar exists, though without the outsider type. I feel that the lesser ones are good only if LA Buy-Off is not allowed.
Half-Orc: Wait, why are these even mentioned, much less as an average rating? Simple. Half-Orc Paragon and Intimidating Rage.

Master of the Daikyu
Human: Once again, humans are good at this. Archery is a feat-heavy road, so the bonus feat from humans will always be handy.
Halflings: A good choice for the bow-slinging samurai, their small size and bonus to dexterity is essentially netting you a +2 bonus to your attacks and AC. If your DM will allow it, use the Strongheart Halfling for the bonus feat. Regardless of what flavor of halfling you choose, the penalty to strength is a nominal drawback at best. However, the small size does decrease your damage output, something that archers already struggle with.
Elf: Elves doing what they do best, the penalty to constitution should be a non-issue for you. If you are doing your job right, you should be farther away than a typical charge attack will allow anyway, and Fortitude saves are your strong point just by virtue of your class.
Warforged Scout: I like these little guys. Being a living construct is always nice, and these little guys are like super halflings. Penalty to wisdom and charisma hurts though, otherwise they would be blue-rated.
Tiefling: Like their celestial counterparts, tieflings give a host of benefits for little drawback. Also like the aasimar, the tiefling comes in a +0 LA "lesser" version as well. I'd still pick the regular one, personally, especially if LA Buy-Off is allowed.

There we go, we now have a good idea of what makes a good samurai. In general, melee samurai want boosts to strength and/or constitution, intimidating samurai want boosts to charisma, and ranged samurai want bonuses to dexterity. If there is something out there that you think deserves special mention in one or more categories, please let me know!
« Last Edit: December 07, 2016, 05:59:27 PM by SleepyShadow »

Offline SleepyShadow

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Re: The Sensational Samurai Handbook
« Reply #3 on: September 08, 2012, 06:07:00 PM »
Bushido Boot Camp: Feat Selection

Welcome, young grasshopper, to basic training. I, Sensei SleepyShadow, shall guide your through the arduous task of refining your chosen style of the art of the samurai. First, I will instruct all on general techniques that could be learned by all but the most stylized of samurai. From there, I will break down the lessons based on the styles of samurai are most likely to be found.

General Feats
Improved Initiative: Never a bad choice. Going first is always beneficial.
Improved Toughness: You have d10s for HD, samurai are feat-starved, and you should have a good constitution anyway. If you insist on taking this, please do yourself a favor and make sure that you need absolutely nothing else.
Martial Study: There are plenty of good maneuvers out there, and they help a samurai just as much as any other warrior-type class. Iron Heart Surge, Wall of Blades, and the Diamond Mind saving throw maneuvers are generally good picks.
Martial Stance: Like with maneuvers, stances are a solid pick-up.
From Smite to Song: This one requires DM approval since kiai smite is not smite evil. However, turning your smite attempts into Inspire Courage is a fantastic effect. Be sure to ask your DM about this one. I would rate this blue if it did not require finagling.
Extra Smite: Never a bad one to have. Intimidators and Archers will likely have more need of this feat, since they'll typically have the charisma to back it up.

Two-Handed Melee
Power Attack: For those who choose to forsake the use of their wakizashi and instead grip their mighty katana with both hands, this feat is an invaluable source of damage.
Cleave: Not a bad choice, though not a great one either. Remember, Samurai are feat starved, so choose this feat only if you're really sure you don't need something else more.
Great Cleave: A stinker. Really, think about the odds of this happening: You rush in, hack down your first target, cleave into a conveniently nearby enemy who is already badly wounded, kill that target is a single blow, whip around to attack another conveniently nearby target ... so on and so forth. It just won't happen often enough to make it worth the feat.
Shock Trooper: A golden feat, and a staple in many THF characters. Just remember, few are impressed by yet another leap attacking shock trooper.
Leap Attack: Again, a great feat, but most are not impressed by seeing another uber-charger.
Combat Reflexes: Quite helpful, though not as much as it is to some due to your lack of a reach weapon. Still, quite nice if you happen to be a large sized race.
Combat Expertise: This decent feat opens up a lot of options, but ultimately ranks low for a samurai due to intelligence being the typical dump stat.
Combat Brute: A nice tactical feat, but sadly requires Improved Sunder.

Two-Weapon Fighting

Note: The feat selection here is ranked as it is only if your DM allows you to treat your Two Swords as One abilities as the feats for purpose of qualification. If not, I suggest you specialize elsewhere.

Combat Reflexes: Why this, you ask? Simple. It is an amazing feat if you can find ways to provoke attacks aside from the baddies moving.
Double Hit: An excellent feat. This allows you to attack with your off-hand in addition to your main hand when you get AoO.
Oversized TWF: Not a bad feat if you want to trade in your wakizashi for another katana.
Karmic Strike: A good feat, especially if it is combined with Double Hit. However, it (like so much else) requires Dodge, which is doubly painful due to the samurai's lack of feats.
Robilar's Gambit: An amazing feat, and quite fitting with the samurai's flavor. Likewise it is excellent when paired with Double Hit. Ask your DM if you can stack it with Karmic Strike.
Two-Weapon Pounce: This is the poor man's pounce. Take it only if you have no access to the real thing.
Two Weapon Rend: A nice feat that can lead to a lot of extra damage quickly. The only drawback is that it only works on each opponent once per round, but with Double Hit and Karmic Strike/Robilar's Gambit you can put the hurt on any other baddies attacking you aside from the one you're targeting.

Point Blank Shot: Say it with me kids: Feat Tax!
Precise Shot: A good way to not shoot your friends. Unless your into that kind of thing. Just know that I'm judging you.
Rapid Shot: Yay, your first real archery feat! An extra attack per round is always nice.
Manyshot: Extra attacks are nice, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. It really doesn't matter if you get fifty attacks per round if your highest to hit is -15. Avoid this feat unless ...
Woodland Archery: ... you combine it with this feat! The other benefits of this feat are nice, but the stellar effect of getting +4 to hit after you miss a ranged attack is phenomenal.

Dreadful Wrath: A staple with intimidation characters, being able to make intimidate checks on a full attack is very powerful.
Imperious Command: Another mainstay of the intimidator. This feat can lock down groups of enemies for the entire battle.
Intimidating Rage: If you can get rage or frenzy from something, this is a great feat to take.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2016, 04:39:32 AM by SleepyShadow »

Offline SleepyShadow

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Re: The Sensational Samurai Handbook
« Reply #4 on: September 08, 2012, 06:07:06 PM »
Multiclassing and Prestige Classing
Listed here in no particular order are a few classes that go quite a long way to helping out our Sensational Samurai. Unfortunately, there just is not a lot of incentive to stay in the class for very long. My recommendation for cutoff points would be level 1 if you need easy access to EWP: Bastard Sword, level 3 for the kiai smite, or level 10 for the mass staredown if you are dedicated to the intimidate plan.

Warblade: Wonderful maneuvers and solid class features. Never a bad choice for a samurai. A little clunky due to wanting a few point in intelligence.
Crusader: I actually like this choice better than warblade, since the charisma synergy present is quite nice.
Paladin: Clashing flavor, perhaps, but grabbing a couple levels of paladin for charisma to saving throws can certainly help. Particularly useful for the archer samurai.
Hexblade: A three level dip for mettle, or four levels if you need a tiny bit of casting to qualify for something. Charisma to your saves against spells is quite nice.
Fighter: Like with most combat classes, a two-level dip into fighter for the bonus feats is always helpful for a samurai.
Psychic Warrior: Psionics can be a welcome power boost, but the missing BAB and the wisdom required can sometimes prove problematic.
Sohei: A gem of a class from Oriental Adventures, this is a lawful-aligned class that grants a frenzy ability. If you're looking for a way to pick up the Intimidating Rage feat, this is an easy way to get it without shifting alignments. However, because it's from Oriental Adventures, you would likely be using that version of Samurai anyway ...
Sorcerer: If you're looking to make a gish-samurai for whatever reason, I recommend sorcerer over wizard. Again this is due to charisma synergy.
Marshal: A one or two level dip for the auras is quite good if you feel like being a team player.
OA Samurai:
One thing that might be good to add is a footnote about "The Other Samurai", as in the base class from Oriental Adventures. Its related only in that they share a name, but since it is a dip class (nobody ever takes the 3rd level of Oriental Samurai) even an in-depth handbook for the class would only take up a post, if that. It is, however, a good dip class, so a mention of it would be handy, especially considering somebody who clicks on the Samurai Handbook might actually be looking for it.

(click to show/hide)

We could put the Samurai in our Samurai for more Samurai per Samurai.

Exotic Weapon Master: This three-level class is particularly easy to qualify for, and can add quite a bit of power to your samurai. Of particular note is the "Show Off" ability. Adding your BAB to your intimidate checks is absolutely devastating.
Incarnum Blade: Another easy prestige class to qualify for, this class reinforces the idea that the samurai's ancestral katana is tied to their soul. The abilities are nothing impressive, but almost all of them are useful.
Horizon Walker: Eats a feat and not terribly useful. However, getting dimension door every 1d4 rounds is nothing to sneeze at.
Blackguard: No. You're already struggling in the power department. You don't need to hinder yourself further.
Ronin: Here we go. This is the only reason to stay in Samurai until level 11. Ronin is to samurai what blackguard is to paladins. Banzai Charge is quite powerful.
Order of the Bow Initiate: Specifically for the archer samurai, the ranged precision can be used in conjunction with your kiai smite for spectacular effect.
Occult Slayer: Another flavorful class for bonding with your weapon, this one also helps shore up your bad will save and gives you a chance at fighting casters. At 5th level in the class, you pick up a reasonably effective form of mind blank.
War Mind: Although a bit difficult to qualify for, having access to psionics can go a long way to bringing your power level up.
Legendary Leader: If the Leadership feat is allowed in your game, this class can help you be more of a team player in your party. It also has nice charisma use.
Dragon Disciple: Oftentimes an overlooked class, the stat increases and d12 hd can be quite useful. A good way to qualify for the class is with Hexblade.
Tactical Soldier: Although it costs a couple of feats to enter, this prestige class is pretty solid. Gaining the Sidestep feat without spending dodge and mobility on it makes it all worthwhile.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2016, 04:07:03 PM by SleepyShadow »

Offline SleepyShadow

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Re: The Sensational Samurai Handbook
« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2016, 05:18:09 AM »
Sample Builds
Here are a few examples of Samurai characters that are ready to be used at a moment's notice. This class has never been and will never be a powerhouse. It takes a lot more work than most classes just to be functional, and the fruits of your optimization labor can often be bitter. Still, if your group is not keen on a high power level, it can be made into a serviceable character.

Miyuka the Intimidator
(click to show/hide)

Chizuo the Archer
(click to show/hide)

Kiritsu the Flaming Blade
(click to show/hide)


Offline SleepyShadow

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Re: The Sensational Samurai Handbook
« Reply #6 on: January 28, 2018, 01:29:58 PM »
Rokugan Samurai
I've wanted to tackle the OA/Rokugan Samurai for a long time now, but I wanted to get some personal experience playing with the class before I really dove into working on a handbook for them. Now that I've had the opportunity to put in the sessions with one, I can comfortably say that the OA Samurai ... is fine. Like any martial class pre-ToB, they are not a powerhouse by any stretch of the imagination. However, I believe they are more powerful than a standard Fighter, and if the Rokugan Campaign Setting specific options are available to them, the OA Samurai could make the climb into Tier 4 territory. Since the OA Samurai base class is rather vanilla, I'll be focusing on the unique options available to them within the campaign-specific material. I'll use the abbreviation "RCS" when referring to the Rokugan Campaign Setting, and call out whatever odd splatbook when necessary. With that preamble out of the way, let's take a look at what the OA Samurai has to offer.

Full BAB
d10 HD
Lawful Alignment Only - A marginal drawback.
Good Fort and Will saves - A martial class with saving throws that matter. This is quite nice.
Bad Ref save - See the d10 hit dice and realize this is generally not an issue.
4 skill points per level - The OA Samurai isn't a skill monkey, but it's nice to be more knowledgeable than the common fighter. They have a decent list of skills, and that gets expanded further within Rokugan.
Weapon and Armor Proficiency - Perhaps the oddest downside to the OA Samurai is that they aren't proficient with heavy armor or shields.

Ancestral Daisho - This is the class feature that you're here for. You get a family weapon set (usually a katana and wakizashi, although Oriental Adventures expressly talks about being able to start with a different weapon "based on campaign") and that weapon scales with your character level at set intervals for a gp sacrifice based on level. The ancestral daisho lets you sacrifice raw loot to satisfy the gp requirement, meaning that oftentimes you will get your magical katana at a fraction of the price of what you would have had to pay for it normally. Put vendor trash to good use!
Bonus Feats - Starting at 2nd level and following a slightly slower progression than the fighter from there, you get combat related bonus feats. The catch is that these bonus feats come from a set list based on what clan the samurai is in. The lists from Oriental Adventures are somewhat limited in scope, but with access to the RCS the number of clans (and therefore feats available) grows considerably. While bonus feats are nice, you are likely to prestige class out before you have more than five levels of OA Samurai.

"Alternate" Daisho Payment - Available from RCS, samurai can spend a laughably small amount of experience points to upgrade their ancestral daisho instead of spending money. For example, in OA it costs 2,000 gp to upgrade the weapon at level 4, while in RCS in costs 80 experience points. With this rule in play, the samurai can potentially get ahead of WBL by a good margin. Just not as far ahead as an artificer.