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Pathfinder - The Samurai Handbook

Disclaimer

I will use content from the core rules, but will intentionally omit any content not published on the official Pathfinder SRD due to the unmanageable volume of non-SRD content, and the wildly varying quality of non-SRD content. If you would like me to write handbooks for specific content not published on the official SRD, please email me and I will consider it on a case-by-case basis. 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: Pathfinder Unchained and Occult Adventures were both recently added to the SRD. I'm excited to explore them, and I am actively working on adding their contents to my collection of handbooks. I appreciate your patience while I make these changes.

Introduction

The Samurai is an alternate class to the Cavalier. While it shares most of the Cavaliers abilities and mechanics, the Samurai is much less dependant on mounted combat or teamwork feats, making the Samurai easier to drop into a party. Compared to the Fighter, the Samurai is less of a living stat block, but trades much of the Fighter's offensive capacity for flavor and survivability. Of course, the Samurai fails to address the Fighter's biggest problem: Forcing enemies to attack you instead of the squishy people behind you.

Samurai Class Features

Hit Points: d10 hit points like nearly every other front-line class.

Base Attack Bonus: Full BAB.

Saves: With heavy armor and no need for Wisdom, the Samurai really needs help with Reflex and Will saves.

Proficiencies: Armor, shields, simple weapons, martial weapons, and exotic weapons to fit three potential combat styles.

Skills: 4+ skill ranks and all of the skills to be the party's Face, but almost no other skills. Remember that your choice of Order will add two additional class skills.

Challenge (Ex): While not quite as powerful as Smite, Challenge is considerably more versatile. The extra damage is great motivation for two-weapon fighting builds, but not so much that single-weapon build can't keep up. Orders further supplement Challenge with a variety of buffs.

Mount (Ex): Despite the strict limitation on your choice of mount, an Animal Companion is still and excellent feature. See my Practical Guide to Animal Companions for help with your Mount.

Order (Ex): Orders are a fantastic way to customize a Samurai, and many provide excellent abilities. See my Cavalier Order Breakdown for help selecting an Order.

Resolve (Ex): Resolve provides some exellent options both offensively and defensively.

Weapon Expertise (Ex): This removes the need for Quick Draw, grants a modest bonus to confirm critical hits, and opens up a ton of useful feats. Samurai looking to use Longbows can now get Point-Blank Master without levels in Fighter.

Mounted Archer (Ex): Effectively the same as giving your Mount the Stable Gallop feat.

Banner (Ex): Somehwta situational, but the bonuses are nice.

Bonus Feat: An excellent way to take advantage of Wepon Expertise.

Greater Resolve (Ex): Almost like 100% fortification. This could very easily save your life from an unfortunate roll.

Honorable Stand (Ex): Sometimes you need to put your life on the line to get the job done. Using this more than once per day seems excessive, but you get to reroll any save by spending Resolve.

Demanding Challenge (Ex): This is a great Defender ability because it discourages your target from attacking other targets, but at this level a -2 penalty isn't significant enough to actually force your enemy to attack you.

Greater Banner (Ex): Granting a reroll on one save to each of your allies is really fantastic. This could save your whole party from big spells like Mass Hold Person.

True Resolve (Ex): This will absolutely save your life, though you are still vulnerable to whatever took you down.

Last Stand (Ex): Intended for when you absolutely need to kill one thing and don't care about other targets. In fights with multiple opponents, this is basically suicidal.

Compatible Archetypes

None. Cavalier archetypes all trade mounted combat abilities or expert trainer.

Abilities

The Samurai's abilities are largely identical to a Fighter, but if you plan to play a face your may not want to dump charisma as hard as a Fighter usually does.

Str: As a primarily melee character, this is your main ability.

Dex: Helpful for filling out your maximum dexterity bonus, Combat Reflexes, and ranged attacks. Not necessary for every build, but don't dump it.

Con: As a front-line class, the Samurai needs all of the hit points it can get.

Int: Only useful for skill ranks. If you don't need to fill in gaps in your party's skills, dump it.

Wis: Necessary for the Samurai's awful Will save.

Cha: Only needed if you want to be the party's Face.

Big Dumb Fighter
25 Point Buy 20 Point Buy Elite Arrray
  • Str: 18
  • Dex: 12
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 14
  • Cha: 7
  • Str: 17
  • Dex: 12
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 9
  • Wis: 14
  • Cha: 7
  • Str: 16
  • Dex: 13
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 7
  • Wis: 14
  • Cha: 7
Samurai Face
25 Point Buy 20 Point Buy Elite Arrray
  • Str: 17
  • Dex: 12
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 13
  • Str: 16
  • Dex: 12
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 11
  • Str: 16
  • Dex: 12
  • Con: 12
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 11
  • Cha: 10

Races

Samurai don't need much beyond ability score bonuses, but some racial bonuses can be put to good use..

Dwarf: A Dwarf makes for an excellent Defender Samurai. With bonuses to constitution and wisdom, plus a laundry list of racial defensive bonuses, the Dwarf is a great choice. The penalty to Charisma may be annoying if you want to play a Face, but if you don't it's a penalty to a dump stat. Because Samurai is an alternate class to the Cavalier, you can use the same favored class bonuses. Dwarfs get a little bit of extra damage against the target of their challenge. It's not a lot, but it will add up eventually.

Elf: Bonuses to low stats and a penalty to constitution.

Gnome: The penalty to strength and small size make for a very poor Samurai.

Half-Elf: A flexible ability bonus is always nice, and the Dual-Minded alternate racial trait really helps with the Samurai's poor Will save. The Half-Elf favored class bonus is terrible, but you can take the Human favored class bonus instead to boost your banner bonus.

Half-Orc: The flexible stat bonus is nice, and you can rely on the racial bonus to intimidate to help compensate for dumping Charisma. Darkvision is always welcome. The Half-Orc favored class bonus is terrible, but you can take the Human favored class bonus instead to boost your banner bonus.

Halfling: Potentially good for a mounted archer samurai, and fine as a face, but Halflings rarely make for good front-line characters.

Human: Flexible ability bonus, a free feat, and bonus skill rank to compensate for dumping Intelligence. The Human favored class bonus for Cavaliers (and therefore Samurai) adds to your banner bonus, which can be helpful if your banner is helpful for your allies.

Traits

Skills

Feats

The Samurai's feat choices are generally dictated by his fighting style and weapon selection. The Wakizashi lends itself to two-weapon fighting builds, the Katan works for sword-and-board or two-handed builds, and the naginata works for two-handed and area control defender builds. For ranged combat, stick to the Longbow like any decent ranged combat build. Before you start picking feats, decide how you want to function in combat.

Weapons

Armor

Cross-Classing and Prestige Classes

There really isn't much that the Samurai wants from other classes. Fighter levels can provide helpful bonus feats, but other classes don't generally complement the Samurai's concept.