Last Updated on January 22, 2023
From the films of Akira Kurosawa, like Yojimbo, Rashomon, and Seven Samurai, to modern anime like Yasuke, or manga like Vagabond by Takehiko Inoue, the death-dealing warriors and warlords of feudal Japan are some of the most iconic fighters in history.
Obviously, it was only a matter of time before they found their way into Dungeons & Dragons.
The Samurai is a martial tradition available to the Fighter class at 3rd level. The subclass was added to the fifth edition of D&D as part of Xanathar’s GUide to Everything and, with its mixture of devastating single-target damage and personal gravitas, makes for an interesting and valuable addition to any adventuring party.
In this guide, we’ll go over what sets the Samurai martial tradition apart from other Fighter subclasses, and why you might want to play one in your next campaign (or in the campaign you’re playing right now if your current character beefs it), as well as touching on some of the Samurai’s limitations and how to overcome them.
We’ll also look at some of the multiclass options that can help you take the Samurai in new and interesting directions.
Next, our Getting Started section goes into the features that define the Samurai in detail. It tackles the basics, like ability scores, races, backgrounds, fighting styles, and skills, so you’ll know how to get the most out of the class from level one, and make choices that set you up for taking this martial archetype when you reach 3rd level.
Then, we go through what this subclass gives you each level in detail.
We’ll also be taking a look at Feats. Feats are an optional part of 5e that some people tend to skip in favor of a few extra ability points.If you’re interested in feats and how they can transform your Samurai build, we’ve also broken down some of the ones that synergize best with this subclass.
We’ve put together a progression section, which shows you how to build a Samurai Fighter from level 1 to 20.
And Lastly, we’ve got a beginner’s guide to round out some of the other concerns you might have about representing a Samurai at the table, playing them in combat, and getting them to synergize with the rest of your party.
You can jump to any of these topics below using the table of contents below.
Black Citadel’s Ranking and Tier System
In our ongoing series of 5e class guides, we use the following color-rating scheme:
Red – C Tier. Red options can sometimes be situationally useful and might make for an interesting narrative choice but are largely less effective than other tiers.
Green – B Tier. A solid choice, but nothing that is absolutely critical for a build, or can be very good but only situationally.
Blue – A Tier. An excellent choice. Widely regarded as powerful in some way, useful, highly effective.
Purple – S Tier. The best of the best. Objectively powerful or transformative in some way. No choice in D&D is essential, but these options are definitely worth considering when you create your character.
Our goal here is to provide scannable, but comprehensive guides for you as you develop your character.
While we might sometimes make reference to unofficial or homebrew content to illustrate a point (or just because it’s too cool not to talk about) every option we suggest is legal in the official rules for D&D 5e as published by Wizards of the Coast.
What Is a Samurai Fighter?
The lone swordsman, the honorable duelist, the bodyguard sworn to serve their lord until death.
Like all Fighters, the Samurai’s extensive weapons and armor training make you a devastating force on the battlefield. Other subclasses might focus on developing a wide array of tactical abilities like the Battle Master, or on combining their weapon attacks with spellcasting prowess like the Eldritch Knight.
The Samurai is dedicated to embodying the role of the honorable duelist, focusing on outlasting and outfighting their opponents with a devastating flurry of accurate strikes. Added offensive capabilities are combined with a temporary hit point boost for a truly devastating presence in combat.
At the same time, the Samurai can use their discipline and attention to detail to excel in social situations.
This mixture of offensive capabilities and honorable conduct makes the Samurai a classic “striker” style subclass, but also a passable “face” for the party in a pinch.
If you want to play a highly effective duelist, monster hunter, or other kind of character that focuses on wading into battle focused completely on attacking their opponents, then there’s no better (no more badass) subclass than the Samurai.
The Samurai’s Defining Abilities
- Devastating offense and good survivability
- Strong social skills from 7th level
- One of the best capstone abilities in the game
The heart and soul of the Samurai is the subclass’ Fighting Spirit ability.
Three times per long rest, the Samurai can harness their focus and discipline to augment their attacks and survivability. Using a bonus action, the Samurai’s Fighting Spirit grants them advantage on all weapon attacks for the rest of their turn and gives them 5 temporary hit points.
The number of temporary hit points increases when you reach certain levels in this class, increasing to 10 at 10th level and 15 at 15th level.
This is immensely powerful, doubling your chances of landing a blow in combat and compounding its effectiveness as you gain more attacks at 5th, 11th, and 20th level.
This ability also synergizes well with your Action Surge, allowing you to potentially gain advantage on five attacks in a single round when you reach 20th level or, if you use your Rapid Strike ability, make a full 6 attacks. Get your Wizard to cast Haste on you and make an eye-watering 8 attacks per round.
This, combined with an extra hit point boost means that you can throw yourself into a fight with relative impunity, taking any big hits dished out by an enemy who doesn’t immediately succumb to your flurry of devastating strikes.
Just remember that temporary hit points work like a buffer (kind of like how a shield works in a lot of video games) that’s separate from your base hit points. You take damage to your temporary hp first, and when they’re exhausted you resume taking damage as normal.
Also, if you gain temporary hit points, they don’t stack with any existing temporary hp you have; if you have 8 temporary hp and gain 10 temporary hp, you now have 10 temporary hp, not 18.
If you’re playing in a party that doesn’t naturally have a “face” (a character whose high Charisma and abilities make them suited to fronting the party in social situations) then the Samurai’s Elegant Courtier ability can be a lifesaver.
At 7th level, you get the ability to add your Wisdom modifier to all Persuasion checks, as well as proficiency in Wisdom saving throws – or Charisma, or Intelligence saves if you’re already proficient in Wisdom.
Lastly, when you reach 20th level, you gain access to one of the most powerful “capstone” abilities in the game. When you’re reduced to 0 hit points, your Strength before Death ability lets you take a whole additional turn (a whole turn!), allowing you to dish out even more damage or chug a healing potion.
If your capstone is triggered on the same turn you use a hasted action, action surge, and all your other abilities, you can (as posited by this post from reddit user u/Spicyartichoke) theoretically make 22 attacks in a single round, although I have my doubts.
This mixture of devastating offensive capabilities and survivability make the Samurai one of the most capable “strikers” (characters that focus on damage output above utility, support, and defense) in the game. However, this laser-like focus on attack does mean that there are areas where the Samurai falls short.
The Samurai’s Limitations
First, the major limitation of the Samurai’s core ability, Fighting Spirit, is that (unlike pretty much every other Fighter subclass’ abilities) it resets on a long rest rather than a short one.
This means that, while a Battle Master gets to refresh their superiority dice on a short or long rest, you’re only going to be getting three uses of your Fighting Spirit per adventuring day.
This can leave you feeling pretty underpowered (not to mention a little foolish) if you end up having to go into a boss fight lacking combat prowess and survivability. The subclass compensates for this at higher levels, with your Tireless Spirit ensuring that you regain a charge of Fighting Spirit if you ever roll initiative without one in the tank.
You’re still going to have to manage this metacurrency more closely than most martial archetypes, however.
Also, it’s worth noting that, because Fighting Spirit requires you to use a bonus action, the subclass isn’t well-suited to two-weapon fighting.
Because the Samurai’s abilities are so focused on attacking and outlasting enemies, they don’t leave much room for the utility of other subclasses.
Martial Archetypes like the Eldritch Knight gain access to a broad toolkit of spells, the Battle Master gets to cherry pick from a suite of maneuvers to mix and match damage with defense and battlefield control, and the Rune Knight can channel the magic of giants to gain access to a host of new abilities, from darkvision to Animal Handling proficiency.
By contrast, the Samurai has very little going for it by way of maneuverability and control. And, while Fighting Spirit’s temporary hit point buff can be crucial to keeping you alive in a tight spot, there’s very little you can do to keep your allies alive beyond trying to keep your enemies focused on you.
Because you have essentially no mechanisms to support or protect your allies in combat, the Samurai ends up being somewhat independent to a fault.
If you want to compensate for the Samurai’s loner playstyle, there are a number of ways that you can make up for their shortcomings. You can use a number of Feats, from Magic Initiate for a dash of healing or utility magic, to Martial Adept for some extra utility, courtesy of the Battle Master Maneuver list. There’s more information on which Feats pair best with the Samurai below.
If you want to take the Samurai along a more extreme diversion to make up for its lack of support abilities (or even more wholeheartedly embrace its role as a damage dealer), multiclassing can be a useful way to augment your skillset.
As a Fighter first and foremost, you’re going to want to give a lot of love to your Strength and Constitution scores (unless you’re favoring a build that uses ranged or finesse weapons).
Beyond that, however, your 7th-level ability, Elegant Courtier, not to mention the characterization of a Samurai as a wise and dedicated warrior, makes Wisdom a great choice to emphasize.
As such, if you want to augment your role with a healthy dash of healing, support, and utility magic, multiclassing into Cleric (which uses Wisdom as its spellcasting modifier and Strength for its smiting-enemies-with-the-hammer-of-spiritual-forgiveness modifier) can be a great choice to make your Samurai more of a team player.
If you want to play a Dexterity based build from the get-go, and lean into the spiritual side of a Samurai, not to mention find a way to make even more attacks when your Fighting Spirit runs out, the Monk can be a great shout.
And, if you want to prioritize Charisma (above all else) instead, you can multiclass into Hexblade Warlock for an unholy, devastating mystic warrior, forgoing Strength entirely. For a full explanation of a truly disgusting Hexblade Samurai build, level by level, check out this post on D&D Beyond by user frankiepunkxo.
Your fighter isn’t going to become a Samurai until they hit 3rd level. However, that doesn’t mean that the choices you make right from the get-go aren’t important. Let’s assume we’re building a “classic”, archetypical Samurai, who fights with speed, fury, and a razor-sharp katana.
As a Fighter of just about any stripe, you’re going to want to be prioritizing Strength to deal damage (or Dexterity if you’re going for a ranged or Finesse weapon-based build) and Constitution to stay alive.
It’s worth noting that your temporary hit point buff from Fighting Spirit and your 7th-level Elegant Courtier ability can make the case for pulling a point or two from Constitution and putting it into Wisdom.
- Primary: Strength
- Tier II: Constitution
- Tier III: Dexterity, Wisdom, Charisma
- Absolute Dump Tier: Intelligence
Strength: The modifier that drives your melee (and thrown) weapon attacks, which really are the heart and soul of your build. You want to get this stat as high as possible – at least 16 at 1st level, preferably 18 – using your starting ability scores and racial bonuses.
Dexterity: Dexterity is never going to be a bad thing to put your points into; it’s the saving throw that comes up most frequently in play, and helps with some of the game’s most frequently-used skills like Stealth – where heavy armor is going to give you disadvantage.
Also, the Dexterity-based Samurai that uses the longbow (or Yumi) and a scimitar (reflavored as a Tachi – a longer, more noticeably curved sword that predates the katana), and wears medium armor, is a wholly viable option.
Constitution: Constitution equals more hit points. Even with an extra dose of temporary hp three times a day, you’re going to want to make sure you don’t skimp on this ability if you want to survive your life as the party’s frontliner.
Intelligence: This can definitely be useful as a way to power skills like History, Religion, and Investigation. However, there are probably other people in your party who can already use those skills, so unless you like the idea of playing a higher Intelligence character, or it helps with your backstory, you can feel free to make this your dump stat.
Wisdom: Not only does Wisdom power your Perception checks – arguably the most important skill in the game – but from 7th level onwards, you can add your Wisdom modifier to your Persuasion rolls, making you a force to be reckoned with in social encounters.
Charisma: Social skills like Deception, Persuasion, Performance, and Intimidation are never going to go amiss, but unless you’re going for a dip into Hexblade warlock (or something else Charisma-driven like a Bard) later down the line, this isn’t a super high priority.
When it comes to choosing a race for your Samurai, there are a few things to consider. Does this race give us the ability score increases that we need? Do we gain access to interesting or useful abilities? Is it freaking cool?
We’ve chosen three possible races that make for a good basis when building a Samurai. The Variant Human and Half Orc are available in the D&D 5e Basic Rules found in the Player’s Handbook. The Goblin is available as a playable race through Volo’s Guide to Monsters.
Humans are known throughout D&D for their versatility, and the Variant Human is no exception. A +1 bonus to two ability scores of your choice (choose Strength and Constitution) is nothing to sniff at.
It’s the Variant Human’s access to a Feat at 1st level that makes this an enticing option. We’ll go into Feats in greater detail below, but if you want to use one (like Great Weapon Master, Sharpshooter, or Lucky) to build a Feat-focused Samurai.
The Half Orc might just be the perfect Strength-based Samurai. Not only do they get a +2 bonus to Strength and a +1 bonus to Constitution, but their racial traits really do double down on everything the Samurai is about.
If you are reduced to 0 hit points, once per long rest your Relentless Endurance allows you to instead drop to 1 hit point and remain conscious, making you even more able to confidently throw yourself into the heart of a melee.
Also, when it comes to damage output, the Half Orc’s Savage Attacks mean you get to roll some juicy extra damage when you crit with a weapon attack – something the advantage from Fighting Spirit is going to mean you do twice as often.
If you want to play a Dexterity-based Samurai armed with a finesse weapon and a bow, the Goblin is easily one of the best choices you can make.
Not only do you get a tidy +2 bonus to your Dexterity and a +1 boost to your Constitution, but Goblins get access to some of the best damage and survival-focused racial abilities in the game. Check out our guide to Goblins here for more information.
Backgrounds are both a great way to help flesh out your character’s personal history, and your primary source of skills.
Each background also has its own special feature – something which I maintain remains a woefully underused aspect of D&D; take the Criminal’s natural ability to draw upon a network of contacts for information, leads and jobs, or the fact that the Sage’s Researcher feature means that, even if they can’t recall a piece of lore, they know exactly where to go to get it.
Background features are a fantastic way to make your character feel competent within the environment in which they live, as well as help the DM flesh out the world around you.
Backgrounds also give you access to new languages, tool proficiencies and, most importantly, skills. As a Samurai with Strength as your primary attribute – but the potential to have a secondary focus in Wisdom or Charisma – choosing a background that gives you a few skills in your natural wheelhouse can be a good place to start.
However, if there’s a different background that isn’t “optimal” but instead helps you express your concept/backstory, then choose that. Have fun with it.
The Soldier background is a strong choice for any Fighter, giving you access to Charisma (Intimidation) and Strength (Athletics) based skills. Also, it makes a lot of narrative sense, given the Samurai’s historical role in their lord’s army.
If you’d prefer to lean harder into the trope of the wandering ronin – a swordsman without a master – popularized in Kurosawa’s iconic films, then either the Far Traveler (Perception, Insight) – particularly its All Eyes on You feature, which marks you out as a curious, exotic figure from a far off land – or the Folk Hero (Animal Handling, Survival) are both great ways to go.
Other backgrounds, like the Noble, Mercenary Veteran, Knight (particularly good if you want a handful of bumbling retainers and hangers-on – a classic trope of any Samurai movie), and Haunted One (a good choice of skills and the best starting gear in the game) can all make for excellent Samurai backgrounds.
Skills and Languages
Any race you choose is going to be able to speak Common, and beyond that you should choose languages that fit with your background and the campaign you’re playing in.
Choosing something exotic, like Sylvan, Draconic, or Primordial can be a good way to mark your Samurai as a traveler from a far-off land.
As far as Skills go, Athletics is going to play into your primary ability, Strength. Beyond that, Stealth (useful to counteract disadvantage from wearing heavy armor), Perception, Insight, and Intimidation are all universally powerful and gel with the traditional conception of a Samurai.
When you create a Fighter, you get to pick a fighting style that helps to emphasize what you’re good at in combat. There are six fighting styles in the Basic Rules and a further five available through Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.
Archery: You gain a +2 bonus to attack rolls you make with ranged weapons. Great if you’re playing a Dexterity-based, ranged-focused build. If you’re going to be favoring melee, skip this.
Defense: While you are wearing armor, you gain a +1 bonus to AC. The Samurai is a great candidate for using a two-handed weapon, meaning that Defense style fighting is a handy way to make sure your AC remains high without a shield.
Dueling: When you are wielding a melee weapon in one hand and no other weapons, you gain a +2 bonus to damage rolls with that weapon. Another fantastic source of damage output, but works best when paired with a shield, which isn’t very Samurai (nothing in the rules against it; it just feels wrong). Get around this hangup by going down the Dexterity-based route and picking up the Defensive Duelist Feat.
Great Weapon Fighting: When you roll a 1 or 2 on a damage die for an attack you make with a melee weapon that you are wielding with two hands, you can reroll the die and must use the new roll, even if the new roll is a 1 or a 2.
The weapon must have the two-handed or versatile property for you to gain this benefit. A great offensively-focused damage option. Use with a greatsword (which uses 2d6 for damage) for maximum opportunities to reroll 1’s and 2’s.
Protection: When a creature you can see attacks a target other than you that is within 5 feet of you, you can use your reaction to impose disadvantage on the attack roll. You must be wielding a shield. None of this works with the playstyle or aesthetic of the Samurai. If you want to go for a bodyguard vibe, see Interception below.
Two-Weapon Fighting: When you engage in two-weapon fighting, you can add your ability modifier to the damage of the second attack. Two-weapon fighting requires that you use your bonus action, which is already going to be taken up by Fighting Spirit. Pass.
Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything
Blind Fighting: You have blindsight with a range of 10 feet. Within that range, you can effectively see anything that isn’t behind total cover, even if you’re blinded or in darkness. Moreover, you can see an invisible creature within that range, unless the creature successfully hides from you. As thematically cool as a blind samurai is, this is still a very niche option.
Interception: When a creature you can see hits a target, other than you, within 5 feet of you with an attack, you can use your reaction to reduce the damage the target takes by 1d10 + your proficiency bonus (to a minimum of 0 damage).
You must be wielding a shield or a simple or martial weapon to use this reaction. If you want to compensate for the Samurai’s lack of team-based abilities (and are playing with a particularly squishy group of allies) this can be a good solution. It’s better than Protection at least.
Superior Technique: You learn one maneuver of your choice from among those available to the Battle Master archetype, and superiority die, which is a d6. I’d wholeheartedly recommend this fighting style, but one d6 superiority die and a single maneuver per short rest feels kind of underpowered.
Still, the extra versatility of a maneuver like Bait and Switch or Riposte makes for a good use of your reaction. The Martial Adept Feat is still probably a better option.
Thrown Weapon Fighting: You can draw a weapon that has the thrown property as part of the attack you make with the weapon. In addition, when you hit with a ranged attack using a thrown weapon, you gain a +2 bonus to the damage roll. Reflavor a dart or dagger as a Shuriken and this is a pretty badass addition to your build.
Unarmed Fighting: Your unarmed strikes can deal bludgeoning damage equal to 1d6 + your Strength modifier on a hit. If you aren’t wielding any weapons or a shield when you make the attack roll, the d6 becomes a d8. At the start of each of your turns, you can deal 1d4 bludgeoning damage to one creature grappled by you. This is an undeniably powerful fighting style, but very little about it is useful to a Samurai.
While a lot of DMs tend to ignore Feats (they’re a somewhat maligned element of 5e), if you’d rather get something a little more flavorful than an ability score bump, here are a few options that synergize well with a Samurai build.
If you’re interested in Feats, one of the best races to play is a Variant Human. The +1 bonus you receive to two ability scores of your choice, and the free Feat at 1st level make for a really good start to the class, particularly if you pick one of the feats below.
Martial Adept: Since the launch of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything dramatically expanded the list of Maneuvers, the Martial Adept Feat has become a fantastic pickup for a bit of extra damage and battlefield control. Gain two Battle Master maneuvers and a superiority die that recharges on a short rest.
Given the Samurai’s singular focus on damage – not to mention the fact that Fighting Spirit only recharges on a long rest – a couple of Battle Master Maneuvers are a great way to expand and diversify your toolkit.
Great Weapon Master: Whenever you score a critical hit with a two-handed weapon or reduce a creature to 0 HP, you get to make another melee weapon attack as a bonus action – a great way to make even more attacks per round (theoretically ad infinitum) at advantage when your Fighting Spirit is active.
Also, you can use your natural advantage when making weapon attacks to boost the Great Weapon Master’s ability to take a -5 penalty to hit in order to add +10 to the attack’s damage roll, which is devastating at lower levels.
Lucky: If you want to take the Samurai’s ability to gain advantage on as many attack rolls as possible to the next level (verging on the comically cheesy), then grab Lucky. You get to reroll a d20 (attack, check, or save), or force an enemy to reroll their attack 3 times per long rest. Combine this with Fighting Spirit to never miss an attack again.
Sharpshooter: For ranged-focused Samurai, this is the equivalent to Great Weapon Master. You can take a -5 penalty to hit (which is negated by your advantage from Fighting Spirit) for the chance to inflict an extra 10 damage. Also, attacking at long range doesn’t impose disadvantage on your ranged weapon attack rolls, and your ranged weapon attacks ignore half and three-quarters cover.
Defensive Duelist: For the Dexterity-based Samurai who likes to get up close and personal, Defensive Duelist lets you use your reaction to add your proficiency bonus to your AC for that attack.
Let’s take a look at the unique features that take a Samurai from 1st level to 20th. Note that this guide won’t be covering the class features available to all Fighters like Second Wind, Action Surge, and Extra Attack in detail.
1st & 2nd Level
Until you choose your martial archetype at 3rd level, you’re going to be playing a bog standard Fighter. Your HD is a d10, which is good, and you have access to pretty much every weapon proficiency in the game. You also start out with Second Wind for more survivability and grab Action Surge at 2nd level for an extra action on your turn.
That refreshes on a short or long rest. When you use your Fighting Spirit later on, always make sure to save your Action Surge for when it gives you advantage if you’re going to use it to Attack.
Bonus Proficiency: When you choose this archetype at 3rd level, you gain proficiency in History, Insight, Performance, or Persuasion. Alternatively, you learn one language of your choice. This is a nice way to round out any additional skills you happen to be missing. Also, choosing a skill over a language is infinitely more useful.
Fighting Spirit: That’s what I’m talking about. Three times per long rest, you get to gain 5 temporary hit points and advantage on all attack rolls for the remainder of the round as a bonus action. This is the core of the Samurai, allowing you to throw yourself into the heat of battle with a nice buffer of hit points and an excellent chance to deal some devastating damage.
Elegant Courtier: A nice little bonus on your way towards 10th level, the Elegant Courtier ability lets you add your Wisdom modifier to the result of a Persuasion (Charisma) check, which is situationally nice.
The best part of this feature, however, is the fact that you gain proficiency in Wisdom saving throws (perfect for preventing enemies from messing with your mind, or facing down anything that can cause fear) or, if you already have Wisdom saving throw proficiency, proficiency in your choice of Intelligence or Charisma saving throws.
Tireless Spirit: A useful remedy for your rather limited pool of Fighting Spirit uses. If you roll initiative and have no Fighting Spirit charges remaining, you instantly gain one. This would be purple, but this actually kind of punishes you for carefully managing your Fighting Spirit usage, encouraging you to burn through them at the beginning of the day rather than save any up for a boss fight.
Fighting Spirit: Your temporary HP boost from Fighting Spirit is now 10. More HP is never a bad thing.
Rapid Strike: An absolute game changer. This ability lets you trade accuracy for swiftness. If you take the Attack action on your turn and have advantage on an attack roll against one of the targets, you can forgo the advantage for that roll to make an additional weapon attack against that target, as part of the same action. You can do so no more than once per turn.
Fantastic source of an extra attack per round, even though you can only use this on one of your attacks.
Fighting Spirit: Your temporary HP boost from Fighting Spirit is now 15. Lovely, although this still doesn’t necessarily scale with the kind of damage output enemies will be throwing your way in late game play.
Strength before Death: Fighters get their capstone abilities a few levels ahead of other classes. The Samurai’s Strength Before Death is honestly one of the best (both in terms of flavor and mechanical impact) high level features I’ve seen in the game.
If you’re reduced to 0 hit points, you can use your reaction to delay falling unconscious and immediately get to make another turn – action, reaction, bonus action; the whole shebang – independent of the initiative order.
You still make death saving throws if you take damage in this state and three failed saves can still kill you. At the end of your extra turn, you fall unconscious if you still have 0 hit points; always carrying one last emergency healing potion that you can drink as a bonus action is compulsory here.
You must finish a long rest before you can use this feature again.
Example Samurai Build Progression From 1st to 20th Level
If you want to make an absolutely classic Samurai warrior, like Yojimbo, the Bride from Kill Bill Vol. I,i or (I would argue), Mace Windu, then this is how you can do it from 1st to 20th level.
Ability Scores (Standard Array): Strength (14), Dexterity (12), Constitution (15), Intelligence (8), Wisdom (13), Charisma (10).
Race: Half Orc
Ability Score Increase: Strength +2 (16), Constitution +1 (16)
Speed: 30 ft.
Darkvision: Thanks to your orc blood, you have superior vision in dark and dim conditions. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
Menacing: You gain proficiency in the Intimidation skill.
Relentless Endurance: When you are reduced to 0 hit points but not killed outright, you can drop to 1 hit point instead. You can’t use this feature again until you finish a long rest.
Savage Attacks: When you score a critical hit with a melee weapon attack, you can roll one of the weapon’s damage dice one additional time and add it to the extra damage of the critical hit.
Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common and Orc.
Background: Far Traveler
Skills: Intimidation (racial), Insight and Perception (background), Athletics and Survival (class)
Hit Dice: 1d10 per fighter level
Hit Points at 1st Level: 10 + your Constitution modifier
Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d10 (or 6) + your Constitution modifier per fighter level after 1st
Armor: All armor, shields
Weapons: Simple weapons, martial weapons
Tools: Shakuhachi (a traditional Japanese musical instrument)
Saving Throws: Strength, Constitution
- Greatsword (2d6 slashing damage, heavy, two-handed – Reflavor as an Odachi)
- Longbow (1d8 piercing, Ammunition, range 150/600, heavy, two-handed) You’re going to need to spend some starting gold on arrows.
- Two handaxes (reflavor as shuriken if you’re allowed or Ono, meaning axe)
- Explorer’s Pack
- Traveler’s Clothes
- “Poorly wrought maps” from your homeland that depict where you are in Faerûn
- Musical Instrument (Shakuhachi)
- Small piece of jewelry worth 10gp
- Pouch containing 5gp
Fighting Style: Defense
Martial Archetype: Samurai
- Bonus Proficiency
- Fighting Spirit (5 temporary hp)
Ability Score Increase (ASI): +2 Strength (18)
Extra Attack (+1)
Feat: Great Weapon Master
ASI: +2 Wisdom (15)
Indomitable (one use)
Fighting Spirit (10 temporary hp)
Extra Attack (+2)
ASI: +1 Wisdom (16), +1 Strength (19)
Indomitable (two uses)
ASI: +1 Strength (20), +1 Intelligence (9)
Fighting Spirit (+15 temporary hp)
Action Surge (two uses)
Indomitable (three uses)
Strength before Death
ASI: +2 Intelligence (11)
Extra Attack +3
Beginner’s Guide to the Way of the Samurai
Because the Samurai is one of the subclasses in D&D with the most recognizably “baked in” aesthetics, I want to devote some time to talking about how you can best being a Samurai (or ronin) from the Sengoku Jidai into Greyhawk or the Forgotten Realms.
Then, because you might not be interested in playing a Samurai ripped from the pages of history in your fantasy campaign, we’re also going to try and extricate the core identity of the Samurai martial tradition from the aesthetic of the samurai, and look at some of the different character concepts that can just as effectively embody the Samurai’s fighting spirit.
There are few subclasses in D&D that are so overtly drawn from a specific period of history or explicit culture. Barbarians can be anything from viking berserkers to warriors that draw inspiration from indigenous cultures – I’ve even played a Barbarian whose rage was reflavored as the divine power of a magic sword (a la She-Ra or He-Man).
Even other martial archetypes with a specific ingrained playstyle, like the Cavalier, can be twisted and tweaked to be anything from a mounted feudal knight to a winged hussar.
The Samurai, by contrast, is very explicitly, well, a samurai. It’s a very singular aesthetic with iconic armor, weapons, and fighting style from a particular period and place in history.
Whether you choose to play the wandering ronin (a Samurai without a master) or a noble warrior sworn to defend their liege’s lands, there’s a great deal of existing cultural and aesthetic context that sticks to the samurai and, if it’s not to your taste, can feel hard to shake.
If you’re playing a Samurai in D&D, there’s probably a good chance that you want to channel that aesthetic. And there’s nothing wrong with that; Samurai are awesome.
You can channel the titular hero from Yojimbo, Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai, the legendary African samurai Yasuke, or one of a huge number of fantastic, inspirational touchstones.
There are the Onna Musha – female samurai who fought alongside men in battle as long ago as 1180 CE – or the visionary warlord Oda Nobunaga who united the country after a century of war.
If you want to play a Samurai with a decidedly Japanese aesthetic, it’s worth discussing this with your DM first. Work with them to figure out where feudal Japan fits into their world.
If you’re playing within the rules as written for D&D’s setting (and there aren’t a whole lot of reasons why you should be, but still) the Asian-inspired setting on Wuxia might be a good fit.
When it comes to weapons and armor, the versatility and variety of existing samurai weaponry makes it very easy to reflavor the decidedly euro-centric armaments in the official rules to fit with more of a Samurai tone.
The Longsword becomes the iconic Katana; the Halberd becomes the deadly Naginata; the Spear is now the Yari; the Longbow is the Yumi; the dagger or shortsword is a Tanto; and the Greatsword becomes the fearsome Ōdachi.
However, if you want to step outside of the decidedly Samurai aesthetic, there are plenty of ways to do so.
The core abilities of this subclass – hyper-focus on weapon attacks with a dash of durability – can be applied to just about any offensive-centric build.
For inspiration, you could look to other media touchstones that embody the fighting style of the Samurai, like the jedi master Mace Windu – a devastating duelist with a huge focus on offensive capabilities – or the Bride from Kill Bill, who’s admittedly a modern Samurai, but shows that you can blend aesthetics as you like.
You could also avoid Asian-inspired characterizations altogether; any classic fighter who devotes themselves entirely to mastery of the sword could be a Samurai.
With a touch of creative license, even Wolverine from the X-Men comics could be a Samurai (the Logan series even had the character working as a modern ronin in Japan). The legendary Greek hero Achilles (untouchable, deadly, and famously not a team player) could be recreated using this martial archetype.
Whether you want to channel the spirit of Bushido to bring a Samurai of old into your D&D campaign, or just want to play the most relentless, devastating warrior imaginable, the Samurai subclass might just be exactly what you’re looking for.
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I played my first tabletop RPG (Pathfinder 1e, specifically) in college. I rocked up late to the first session with an unread rulebook and a human bard called Nick Jugger. It was a rocky start but I had a blast and now, the better part of a decade later, I play, write, and write about tabletop RPGs (mostly 5e, but also PBtA, Forged in the Dark and OSR) games for a living, which is wild.