Ninja (Dungeons & Dragons)
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition (1977-1988)
The ninja class appeared in the original 1st edition Oriental Adventures book. In a review of the book, reviewer Ashley Shepherd commented: "The ninja is a class that everybody has had a go at designing. The 'official' version is the most satisfactory yet. It is not a whole character class, but a split class available only with one of the other new classes, and weaker than you might suppose, with fewer hit points, skill restrictions, and the possibility that the whole ninja clan might hunt you down if you fail in your appointed mission." Jim Bambra also commented on the ninja: "To be a ninja, a character must qualify for one of the 'normal' classes as well as that of the ninja class. In keeping with their secret nature, ninja use their normal class as a cover identity. They may adventure with other characters, but they must be careful to keep their ninja identities secret, as loss of honor (and sudden death) may occur if the PC is unmasked."
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition (1989-1999)
Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition (2000-2007)
The concept of a ninja was presented in 3rd edition as a prestige class titled the Master Ninja and went on as further prestige classes like the Ninja Spy from the 3rd edition Oriental Adventures. The first ninja base class produced by Wizards of the Coast made its debut in the Complete Adventurer supplemental book.
The ninja class is a class that favors stealth over sheer combat prowess. It is intended to come into the fray unseen, attack furiously and then depart without a trace. Relatively weak in a straight up confrontation, the ninja excels when it takes its foes by surprise. In this way it shares a large similarity with the Rogue.
The most prominent ability scores are:
- Dexterity: Ninja benefit from a high dexterity, since many of their skills use this ability and they are usually required to wear no armour.
- Wisdom: A ninja should have a high wisdom score, because it improves certain supernatural powers and bolsters defense.
No published race currently uses the ninja as a favored class.
As previously mentioned, the class is mechanically similar to both the rogue and the monk from the core classes. The ninja gets 6 + INT skill points per level, which is almost as many the rogue gets, and the ninja's sudden strike ability is comparable to the rogue's sneak attack. The sudden strike may seem weaker since flanking an opponent is not sufficient, but the ninja can become invisible and use sudden strike from a distance, which the rogue usually cannot do, making the ninja focus more on ranged combat than close combat.
The ninja class focuses on stealth and mobility. At higher levels, the ninja becomes extremely adept at climbing, jumping and tumbling, and is proficient with poison use. Unlike the rogue, most of the ninja's abilities cannot function while encumbered or wearing any type of armour; instead, the ninja relies on wisdom and insight to pre-emptively dodge any oncoming attacks, a feature shared with the monk.
The ninja class has kept with some common stereotypes of the ninja, most of which are reliant on the supernatural powers provided by the class to attain. For instance, ninja are adept at using an obscure energy known as ki to manifest special powers of stealth and movement. As ninja gain experience in the class, the power of ki is used to fuel abilities that allow them to turn invisible or even jaunt into the Ethereal Plane.
Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition (2008-)
- Gygax, Gary, with David Cook, and François Marcela-Froideval. Oriental Adventures (TSR, 1985)
- Shepherd, Ashley (February 1986). "Open Box: Dungeon Modules". White Dwarf. Games Workshop (74): 9–10. ISSN 0265-8712.
- Bambra, Jim (June 1988). "Role-playing Reviews". Dragon. Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: TSR (#134): 76–77.
- Allston, Aaron. The Complete Ninja's Handbook (TSR, 1995)
- "Class Acts: The Assassin - Secrets of the Ninja", Dragon #404