Samurai (Dungeons & Dragons)

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The samurai is a playable character class in the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game.

Publication history[edit]

Dungeons & Dragons (1974-1977)[edit]

The samurai appeared as a sub-class of the fighter in Dragon #3 (October 1976).[1]

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition (1977-1988)[edit]

The samurai was introduced in the original first edition Oriental Adventures book.[2]

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition (1989-1999)[edit]

The samurai appeared in The Complete Fighter's Handbook as a character kit.[3]

Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition (2000-2007)[edit]

A version of the samurai appeared in the 3rd edition Oriental Adventures book; this was subsequently revised in an article in issue 318 of Dragon Magazine to be in keeping with the 3.5 update.

A second class by the same name appeared in Complete Warrior.[4] There have also been numerous samurai related prestige classes in various books as well.

The samurai is supposed to represent the stereotypical "loyal retainer" who appears in Japanese fiction and movies. Currently, they are a brave and noble warrior trained in the use of the Daisho who can intimidate foes with fearsome shouts, and fight with two blades.

No currently published race has Samurai as a favored class, although the supplemental rules presented in Oriental Adventures has the class favored by the dwarves.

Oriental Adventures Samurai[edit]

Partly based in portrayals of samurai in fantasy and history, this class is also designed to fit the image of samurai as presented in Rokugan: nobles both male and female who are trained in a particular martial tradition, deeply rooted in the social and cultural structure of their homeland. Like fighters, the samurai is a martial class which receives bonus feats as they advance in level. Unlike fighters, these must be drawn from a list of feats appropriate to the character's clan, reflecting the specific traditions of each. Samurai not belonging to any of these clans are still required to choose from a single list, whether the character is simply imitating that style, or belongs to a tradition which is mechanically similar.

Mechanically the class is similar to both the fighter and paladin base classes. In 3.0 and the subsequent 3.5 update, it received bonus feats (though at a slower rate than the fighter) as well as having an alignment that must remain lawful, similar to the paladin or monk. It receives more skill points than either class, however, allowing a samurai to have some ranks in the diplomatic and artistic abilities that the romantic image of a samurai would justify. The inclusion of skills in the Oriental Adventures book like Iaijtusu Focus grant the class the necessary mechanics to perform duels between two samurai.

Ancestral Daisho[edit]

Perhaps the most notable aspect of the samurai class, this is a paired masterwork set of a katana and wakizashi (or similar weapons from other cultures) which are inherited from the character's ancestors. As the samurai advances in level, they may visit a shrine or temple to make sacrifices which draw out the latent powers of either blade, granting it bonuses and powers as a magical weapon. Note that the daisho remain ordinary masterwork weapons until thusly empowered, after which they are considered magic weapons for the purposes of spells and effects. Although not using their daisho causes no penalty to a samurai, the loss of either or both is considered dishonorable.

Complete Warrior Samurai[edit]

Built intentionally as a separate concept, the samurai that is presented in Complete Warrior is a marked change from the earlier base class presented in Oriental Adventures. Where the samurai in Oriental Adventures is a generic, generally customizable class with only one class ability and many bonus feats, the samurai from the Complete Warrior is described by author Dave Noonan as a "different take than the one presented in Oriental Adventures. This one has a squinty-eyed gunslinger feel about him"[2].

The Complete Warrior samurai is different from the older Oriental Adventures class due to its almost complete reliance on the two weapon fighting style. Over the course of the class progression the samurai gains the ability to wield both katana and wakizashi at once. Numerous other class abilities, most often in the form of specific bonus feats, are also conferred upon the character. An example of an ability that simply does not duplicate a feat is an ability that acts almost identically to the Smite Evil class ability of the Paladin. It relies heavily on the ability score of charisma to fuel some of the more specialized class features.

Furthermore, the grievous loss of honor or a change in the lawful alignment of the samurai character results in the complete loss of all class abilities that rely on a roll based on charisma. These class abilities cannot be used again until the samurai finds proper atonement. They also suffer the same multiclass penalty as the paladin and are unable to return to their class when they deviate from it.

Complete Warrior took a unique take on the status of ronin, one that the Oriental Adventures book does not. While the Oriental Adventures book looks at ronins as purely a social station that has no mechanical considerations, samurais who loses their station using the Complete Warrior rules are eligible to take levels in the ronin prestige class. This prestige class emphasises the infamy of the masterless samurai and allows them to regain some of their lost class abilities due to the loss of their class.

An attempt is made to give the class a bit of historical flavor, as their primary combat ability mimics the style of Hyoho Niten Ichi-ryu whereby the samurai wields both a katana and wakizashi at once. However, unlike the traditional style, the Complete Warrior samurai's class feature does not emphasise the use of the wakizashi as a defensive measure. It also doesn't provide for the application of the more historically common style of fighting, wherein a katana is used two-handedly, primarily when out of doors, and the wakizashi is used by itself primarily indoors— particularly in situations where as a matter of courtesy and security, the katana has been left at the door.

Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition (2008-)[edit]

In Dragon #404 (October 2011), the samurai has been added as a character theme.[5]


  1. ^ "A Plethora of Obscure Sub-Classes, Dragon #3
  2. ^ Gygax, Gary, with David Cook, and François Marcela-Froideval. Oriental Adventures (TSR, 1985)
  3. ^ Schick, Lawrence (1991). Heroic Worlds: A History and Guide to Role-Playing Games. Prometheus Books. p. 109. ISBN 0-87975-653-5. 
  4. ^ Although the two are similar, there are enough mechanical differences that they do not appear to be the same class, and the development team for the book has stated that it is not intended as an update for the OA samurai [1].
  5. ^ "Character Themes: Samurai and Yakuza", Dragon #404

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