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Pathfinder - Shuriken Spam Ninja Build Guide

Last Updated: November 21, 2019

Disclaimer

I support a limited subset of Pathfinder's rules content. If you would like help with Pathfinder player options not covered here, please email me and I am happy to provide additional assistance.

I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks. Also note that many colored items are also links to the Paizo SRD.

Temporary Note: Paizo has recently discontinued support of their official SRD. From this point forward SRD links on RPGBOT.net will instead link to d20PFSRD.com. While Archive of Nethys is now Paizo's officially licensed partner for the purposes of serving the Pathfinder SRD, Archive of Nethys is a horribly designed website and it simply doesn't match d20PFSRD's ability to keep pace with published content and d20PFSRD's search functionality.

If you encounter any links which still point to the old SRD, please email me so that I can correct them. I also recently added a page explaining my supported content which you may find helpful. --September 15, 2018

Introduction

Ninjas have access to a ninja trick called Flurry of Stars which allows ninjas to throw a big pile of Shurikens. That's a great trick, so let's take it to the logical conclusion and see exactly how many shurikens we can and see if it's effective.

Let's Talk About Shurikens

Shurikens are a unique weapon with a special rule:

Although shuriken are thrown weapons, they are treated as ammunition for the purposes of drawing them and crafting masterwork or otherwise special versions of them, and of what happens to them after they are thrown.

To understand that, we also need to know how magic ammunition works:

Ammunition fired from a projectile weapon with an enhancement bonus of +1 or higher is treated as a magic weapon for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction. Similarly, ammunition fired from a projectile weapon with an alignment gains the alignment of that projectile weapon.

That means that they are purchased as masterwork and magic weapons in stacks of 50. However, it also means that shurikens are single-use. Because they're single-use and we plan to use them in vast quantities, we need to find a way to cut the cost of magic shurikens. That's going to rely on spells like Abundant Ammunition and Greater Magic Weapon.

However, it also means that you can draw shurikens as a free action like other ammunition without the need for the Quick Draw feat. This saves you a feat, which is a big deal in Pathfinder.

The numerical stats of shurikens are garbage. 1d2 damage at medium size, x2 crits, and 10 ft. range means that on their own shurikens are one of the worst weapons in the game. However, the ability to draw them as a free action and the other options surrounding them make shurikens a powerful weapon if you know how to use them.

Shurikens can't be used as a melee weapon. Normally you can at least use a ranged weapon as an improvised weapon, but you can't do that with shurikens. Grab a spiked gauntlet so you can make attacks of opportunity and helps allies flank, but otherwise it doesn't matter.

Abilities

Str: Strength applies to your Shuriken damage, so don't dump it too hard unless you really need the points. Unfortunately there isn't a way to apply Dexterity in place of Strength to your thrown weapon damage within the content options which I support.

Dex: Attacks, AC, Reflex Saves.

Con: You need hit points and Fortitude saves, but you're going to be spending more time trying not to be attacked than trying to survive damage.

Int: Great for skill ranks.

Wis: You need a bit for Will saves and Perception.

Cha: Use Magic Device and your Ki Pool both rely on Charisma.

25 Point Buy 20 Point Buy 15 Point Buy Elite Array
  • Str:
  • Dex:
  • Con:
  • Int:
  • Wis:
  • Cha:
  • Str:
  • Dex:
  • Con:
  • Int:
  • Wis:
  • Cha:
  • Str:
  • Dex:
  • Con:
  • Int:
  • Wis:
  • Cha:
  • Str:
  • Dex:
  • Con:
  • Int:
  • Wis:
  • Cha:

Races

Dexterity increases are crucial. Small size is fantastic, and Charisma increases are also helpful because they help our Ki pool and make UMD a reliable option sooner. Darkvision is helpful for sneaky characters, but you can get it from spells or the Darkvision ninja trick.

You can use Reduce Person to reach small size, but small size isn't the goal: the intent is to be as small as possible to get sizes bonuses to attacks, AC, and stealth.

Traits

Very few traits matter to the build, so pick up Reactionary (or one of the equivalent race-specific traits) and something to boost your saves.

Skills

Feats

Weapons

Armor

Armor is presented in the order in which you should acquire it, rather than alphabetical order. Magic armor is covered below in the Magic Items section.

Magic Items

This advice is in addition to my normal advice regarding magic items for rogues and ninjas. The assessments have been altered to suit the build.

Weapons

Because shurikens are ammunition it's a terrible idea to enchant them.

Rings

Staffs

Wands

Wondrous Items

Permanent Spells

Example Build

Wait, how much damage?

As described above, the purpose of this build is to throw as many shurikens as possible as quickly as possible and do as much damage as possible with each of them.

At each level I'll detail our "best case scenario", which is a full attack made with shurikens against a target denied their Dexterity bonus and within 30 ft. This does not include magic items or permanent spells, both of which will greatly affect your attack bonus.

Abilities

12 (10) / 18 (20) / 12 / 11 / 8 / 14 (16)

Race

We'll use halfling here. Small size, Dexterity, and Charisma are great. I like the Fleet of Foot alternate racial trait, but it's not strictly necessary. The halfling favored class bonus for ninja is terrible, unfortunately, so use the favored class bonuses to get extra skill ranks.

Skills

Your specific skills don't matter much, so long as you max out Stealth and Use Magic Device.

Traits

We'll take Reactionary and Life of Toil, but the second trait doesn't matter much.

Levels

Level Feat(s) and Features Notes and Tactics
1 - Ninja 1
  • Feat: Two-Weapon Fighting
  • Poison Use
  • Sneak Attack +1d6

At first level you're a very conventional TWF ninja. Flank whenever you can, or throw shurikens if it makes sense.

Best Case Scenario: +4/+4 1+1d6

2 - Ninja 2
  • Ki Pool
  • Ninja Trick: Flurry of Stars

Flurry of Stars may be difficult to use at this level, but when it works it works really well. With TWF and Flurry of Stars you get four attacks at full BAB -2. Unfortunately, without Sneak Attack you're not doing much damage with those attacks. You may consider taking Vanishing Trick here instead and delaying Flurry of Stars to 4th level.

Best Case Scenario: +5/+5/+5/+5 1+1d6

3 - Ninja 3
  • Feat: Point-Blank Shot
  • No trace +1
  • Sneak Attack +2d6

You need to be within 30 feet to make a Sneak Attack, so this is an easy boost to attack and damage. It's also a crucial prerequisite. The additional Sneak Attack die nearly doubles our damage output.

Even if you're not going to try shurikens this early, don't overlook Ki Pool. You can spend a point of Ki as a swift action to make an extra attack at your full BAB, which complements two-weapon fighting nicely and can present a useful damage boost even if you're in melee waving daggers around.

Best Case Scenario: +7/+7/+7/+7 2+2d6

4 - Ninja 4
  • Ability Increase: Dexterity
  • Ninja Trick: Vanishing Trick
  • Uncanny Dodge

Vanishing Trick is just all-around good. It's good on any ninja. Unfortunately it won't let you full attack and sneak attack on every attack while you're in combat, but it's great for positioning yourself before you get into combat.

Best Case Scenario: +8/+8/+8/+8 2+2d6

5 - Ninja 5
  • Feat: Rapid Shot
  • Sneak Attack +3d6

5th level is a great level. Rapid Shot gets us an extra attack, albeit at a -2 penalty, and we get an extra Sneak Attack die. But on top of all that, this is the earliest level at which your friends can cast Greater Weapon Weapon. Because it's the highest-level slot available to your party, don't expect the wizard to forgo Fireball in order to give you +1 with your shurikens, but it may be time to start looking for a wand.

This level also marks when we have picked up all of our most crucial character options. Despite a relatively poor attack bonus, 5 attacks, each potentially dealing Sneak Attack damage, is excellent. If you have allies who can provide you with bonuses to attack and damage (bardic music, cleric buffs, etc.) those bonuses are extremely effective for you.

Best Case Scenario: +6/+6/+6/+6/+6 2+3d6

6 - Ninja 6
  • Light Steps
  • Ninja Trick: Combat Trick
  • Bonus Feat: Improved Initiative
  • No Trace +2

At this level we have every ninja trick we care about (at least until we get Ninja Master Tricks), so pick up Combat Trick to help pick up all of those feats we want. Improved Initiative, coupled with our already excellent Dexterity and Reactionary, gives us a truly excellent initiative bonus. Going first is the best way to guarantee that we can deliver a Sneak Attack.

Best Case Scenario: +7/+7/+7/+7/+7 2+3d6

7 - Ninja 7
  • Feat: Far Shot
  • Sneak Attack +4d6

10 feet is a brutally short range for a ranged character. Moving 10 feet further away without losing attack bonus goes a long way to improve your survivability.

Best Case Scenario: +8/+8/+8/+8/+8 2+4d6

8 - Ninja 8
  • Ability Increase: Dexterity
  • Improved Uncanny Dodge
  • Ninja Trick: Weapon Training (Shuriken)

8th level brings our first iterative attack. Because it's at BAB -5 it's not likely to hit often without other buffs. Fortunately, Greater Magic Weapon also improves at this level, so if you have allies spending spell slots to enhance your shurikens you'll get another +1 to attack and damage.

Our second ability increase also means another point of Dexterity bonus.

Your choice of Ninja Trick isn't especially important at this level, but Weapon Training gives us Weapon Focus, and even tiny bonuses to our attacks can result in significant improvements to our damage output.

Best Case Scenario: +11/+11/+11/+11/+11/+6 2+4d6

9 - Ninja 9
  • Feat: Improved Two-Weapon Fighting
  • No Trace +3
  • Sneak Attack +5d6

Improved Two-Weapon Fighting is a gamble. You get another attack at BAB -5, so it's not clear if you'll be

Best Case Scenario: +11/+11/+11/+11/+11/+6/+6 2+4d6

10 - Ninja 10
  • Master Tricks
  • Ninja Trick: Vanishing Blade

10th level brings Master Tricks, which means it's time for Vanishing Blade. We also get another point of BAB, which always feels good.

You should spend basically every fight invisible at this point. Improved Invisibility means that, in most cases, you can sneak attack every turn without issue.

Best Case Scenario: +12/+12/+12/+12/+12/+7/+7 2+4d6

11+

11th level and beyond is a blank canvas. You have everything that you strictly need. Since you're throwing 7 shurikens a turn, it should be apparent by now why permanent magic shurikens are a mistake, but by now you should also be able to easily afford wands or staffs which can be used to enchant your shurikens.

At this point consider class dips, but you may want to stick to ninja to continue advancing your Sneak Attack damage dice. Each die means up to 7d6 more damage per flurry.