From 1d4chan
Fig. 1.1: A samurai

The Samurai were a warrior class which existed in premodern Japan. Generally heavy cavalrymen in their most prominent phase of development, the class was largely hereditary and eventually became the main holders of power, Samurai could be thought of as rough analogues to western knights. When referring specifically to a samurai who is in a militant rather than courtly or administrative role, the Japanese preferred to use the term bushi.


In the Heian Period (794 to 1185) the Imperial government in Kyoto slowly turned to rely on a type of militarized peasants given special offices by the land holding court nobility to serve as cavalry soldiers in wars of conquest against the people of Northern Honshu and as enforcers against rebels and people late with their taxes (who were often one and the same). As they were full-time fighters, they were generally more reliable than the forced peasant levies which they had been using before.

As time went on, these offices became more and more hereditary, with families of Samurai emerging. After all, a skilled warrior in your service will likely train his son to fight so the privileges of that office stay in the family among other reasons. After the end of the Heian Period, the most powerful Samurai Families got other Samurai to bend the knee to them, founding prominent dynasties which would dominate Japan for centuries. That said, it would remain possible for a commoner to become a Samurai up until 1600. Indeed, Japan's defacto unifier Oda Nobunaga was quite fond of these promotions and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Nobunaga's successor, rose from nothing to eventually reach the highest positions.

After the end of the Heian Period, central power broke down and local leaders took power. In this time of division, the Samurai became the main fighters in war as well as leaders of soldiers (either Samurai or Ashigaru aka peasant infantry) on the battlefield and eventually as political leaders as well, founding powerful clans whose lords (Daimyo) ruled over fiefdoms and vied for power with each other. Several clans would attain the position of Shogun (the hereditary supreme military commander and defacto monarch of Japan) for the next few centuries, but their rule was generally weak and broke down into more infighting, especially in the 15th and 16th century.

Eventually, order was restored under the Tokugawa Shogunate, in which the land was divided among various prominent samurai clans and lower ranking samurai served as policemen, bureaucrats, and public officials. The Tokugawa also imposed a formalized hereditary class system and made it basically impossible for a non-samurai to become a samurai. After the Boshin War (1868-1869) and the subsequent Meiji Restoration, the Samurai class was formally abolished with the rest of the Japanese feudal system. In government, samurai were replaced by non-hereditary civil servants and in military affairs they were replaced by a new conscript army. While some samurai resented the loss of their power and attempted to rebel, the majority of them were able to exploit their superior education and connections and found new positions as teachers, gun makers, industrialists, military officers, and government officials. (Related historical factoid; with the abolition of the Samurai class, many of the swordsmiths who served them had to find new careers, with many turning to knife-making. Remember that next time you buy a quality Japanese knife, you literally own something descended from Japan's finest swordsmiths)

Samurai Weapons and equipment[edit]

Samurai were very fond of these
  • Yumi: Composite bows made of bamboo. The first Samurai were mainly archers and archery would remain a very big part of samurai fighting. both as mounted archers and on foot. Yumi are notably asymmetrical in shape, with the user holding the bow about one third down the shaft's length. Yumi can be divided into two categories, hankyuu (half-bow) and daikyuu (literally greatbow but better translated as longbow). Daikyuu was generally preferred and the samurai developed a technique which allowed it to be used from horseback despite its size. The drawback of this was that it could only be aimed to the left side of the horse.
  • Yari: Spears, usually used to fend off cavalry and as lances. Some had pronged heads, some did not.
  • Kama: Originally a farming tool, like scythe-shaped sickle, it get the same role warhammers did in European warfare, or more accurately an eastern-European chekan, since it had no hammer side for bashing skulls, and it's beak was bladed. While it was mostly associated with ninja, Samurai were also fond of it, and even get the two-handed version - Nagikama when metallic armour become widespread even amongst ashigaru, and rich samurai clad themselves in bullet-proof imported Spanish plate.
  • Naginata: Pole-arms with a sword blade at the end. In general, it was better against infantry than a spear and better against cavalry than a sword. It also had a more powerful slash, even if it did have more of a risk of being decapitated. Female samurai in particular favored this weapon, as its long reach allowed them to compensate for any disadvantage they might have had in raw strength. In Samurai weddings the appropriate wedding gift for the family of the bride to give the happy couple was a Naginata.
  • Kanabo: A two-handed war club shaped like a baseball bat and covered in metal spikes. Either made from a wooden base or solid iron, this weapon was relatively rare as it required a lot of strength and skill to use effectively. Needless to say, you wouldn't want to get hit by one as it could smash bones on a warhorse and crush armor. This weapon is also heavily associated with Oni, due to the aforementioned strength requirement and altogether brutal nature of the kanabo.
  • Tanegashima: in 1543, some Portuguese ships got to Japan in search of business opportunities (specifically the Island of Tanegashima). When they got to Japan, they sold a few of their matchlocks muskets to a Daimyo who promptly had his smiths take them apart and soon had them replicated, which inspired others to do the same. The Samurai quickly became very keen on these new weapons and made heavy use of them. By the end of the 16th century Japan had the highest number of guns per capita of any place in the world, had good line fire tactics and had worked out sights and boxes to keep rain from putting out the matches. Matchlock pistols (bajōzutsu) were used by cavalry. During the Tokugawa period, the manufacturing Japan declined (though it did not completely die away) as there was no pressing internal or external threats, so they stuck with what designs they had until the 19th century when they began buying and replicating western guns. A major reason for Imperial Victory in the Boshin War was that the samurai who had controlled the key gun making regions sided with the Imperialists.
Common forging styles.
  • Sword: Their katanas of destruction Several varieties, including no-dachi (huge blades intended for anti-cavalry work with a blade up to 180cm long to cut through rider and horse), wakizashi (a short sword with a 30-60cm long blade often used either as a last ditch weapon or ritual suicide, but could also be wielded alongside a katana) and katana (the general purpose sword between 60 and 90 cm long). Originally their blades were straight, but eventually became single edged and curved. The iron ore in Japan has a high level of impurities, as such Japanese swordsmiths worked out a method of folding and refolding steel during forging to work out impurities. This made them rather sharp and fairly strong, though they were also fairly brittle and not the best weapons for use against heavier armor like metal plates. Additionally, samurai swords were more a symbol of their position and authority than the super death weapon romantics would insist (soft armor like silk and leather held no real resistance though). This is because after the unification of Japan the array of swords samurais carry were reserved to their class alone, no other class may carry the arrangement of swords samurais carry. This is why samurai normally carry out their popularized duels using their swords than their full arsenal; it is a matter of their class' honor than it being the ultimate weapon. In actual combat, however, the swords were normally reserved as backup weapons or were used against lightly armored targets, since they have long learned that poking their opponents to death with pointy sticks and/or shooting them with guns were more pragmatic options against other Samurai. It was also the go to weapon to execute people.
Samurai Armor, those dents were made by musket bullets
  • Armor: Several varieties existed, including chainmail, scale armor, lamellar (Small plates of metal held together by wire), laminated high quality wood, leather and eventually metal plate. Often suits of samurai armor would incorporate several types of armor, having laminar leg and shoulder guards with plate torso armor. Generally this would be backed up with leather and padded silk (silk having a high tensile strength, which meant that it offered above average protection against arrows) and would often be laminated to keep off rust. Towards the end of the 16th century, western elements (such as western style breastplates and morion style helmets) were incorporated into this, either being bought from European merchants or made locally. In general it was fairly good for its time period, sometimes even being proofed against musket fire, though it did not offer the same degree of coverage as contemporary European counterparts and often sacrificed protection for speed and agility.
  • Shuriken: Yes, samurai used these too.
  • War Fan: One of the quirkier weapons in a Samurai's arsenal. They would sometimes carry normal fans for cooling themselves off or to use for signaling to allied troops. However, all-metal fans were also made, which could double as a blunt sidearm or small shield for civilian wear, especially if they were worried about assassination attempts in otherwise unarmed meetings.
  • Jitte: A short, dagger sized iron baton, almost always sporting a hooked guard. During the Edo period, the carrying of swords in the presence of the Shogun was outlawed and palace guards began carrying the unsharpened Jitte instead for defense. This led to it being used as a badge of office for anyone who held any sort of civil authority under the Shogunate. Like the Okinawan Sai, the Jitte is an effective blunt striking and jabbing weapon, and with practice can parry or even trap a blade. These would remain in police use up through the Meiji era. The corresponding fighting techniques, jittejutsu, evolved into taiho-jutsu which is the current regimen of self defense techniques taught to Japanese police.

Female Samurai[edit]

As the Samurai gradually became a formalized hereditary class the term came to apply to both men and women from samurai families. The daughters of Samurai clans were like their brothers trained to fight so they could literally hold the fort while the men were off on campaign, to help train up the next generation and to protect themselves and their kids in an era of warring clans. The general term for a Female Samurai under arms is Onna-musha (woman warrior). Because swords were normally reserved for male samurai, they are associated with the Naginata or the bow. Though strict Japanese gender roles meant they were only taught household duties and self-defense, women could take up arms as Onna-musha when all their bros get wiped. There are also instances of them leaving homes behind for war, like entire units of female cavalry or graves where a third of the battle dead were female, but it should also be noted that whenever their presence was recorded, the people writing it thought it was kinda weird, making them the exceptions rather than the norm.


Ashigaru: Because even a Honorable Samurai Warrior needs a helping hand now and again

As previously mentioned the Samurai were not alone during their day, backing them up would be Ashigaru. The practice began with Samurai bringing along a few peasants (either volunteers or conscripted levies) with some basic weapons (usually Yari) to help them out on and off the battlefield as infantry and offering them a cut of the loot and the prospects of promotion in society as incentives. As time went on and wars became more common, this practice continued and was gradually refined and samurai started to always bring some peasant foot soldiers with them or otherwise risk losing simply by getting overwhelmed with numbers because their opponent did bring foot soldiers with them. Since the various clans of japan were in close proximity to each other some degree of military training became the norm for many peasants while organization improved, while Samurai began investing in armor and better weapons for their soldiers, as well as better organization and training.

By the 1500s, the Ashigaru had truly emerged, not solely as peasant soldiers serving their lord but also as mercenaries lacking any alliegance besides money, as one and half century of war meant that casualties need to be replaced and thus Samurai couldn't really just rely only on their own people. By this point in time, Ashigaru generally had some metal torso armor and a helmet and had been refined into professional soldiers that could be employed as pikemen and musketeers that, while not as good at fighting as Samurai were still capable of holding the line pretty damn well. Many Samurai clans had their start with an Ashigaru who managed to impress his superiors on the battlefield (most famous such example being Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who finished Oda Nobunaga's campaign to unify Japan after he died and ruled over all of Japan in the 1590s) and eventually there was a hazy grey area between well armed ashigaru and poor samurai, with the only real difference being that a samurai was generally better trained. When the Tokugawa Shogunate was established the Ashigaru military class was abolished with the remaining Ashigaru either being integrated into the samurai class or demobilized and sent back to the fields to be farmers.


In general samurai (or at least those who got somewhere besides an early grave) were an opportunistic, pragmatic and practical lot. Doing what was needed to be done to win and go forward and often quite innovative in how they did it. Even so, they did not want their subordinates to be a bunch of unruly armed drunken louts, a hazard to themselves and others. As such they were generally instructed to follow Buddhist and Confucian teachings and (especially for the latter) loyalty to one's superiors was a key part in this. Eventually you got rough codes of conduct emerging for samurai called Bushido (Way of the Samurai), which stressed (along with loyalty) frugality, honesty, duty and the importance of conducting their tasks and affairs in a proper manner. As is the case with other people elsewhere some Samurai were more pious than normal and some of these spent time as Buddhist Monks.

What many people get wrong about Bushido is that they assume it applied to samurai throughout history, when in reality it is something that became commonplace during the two and half centuries of peace of the Edo Jidai. It is quite easy to be a honorable warrior during peacetime. And once the chaotic years of the Bakumatsu set in, culminating in the Boshin War, the samurai quickly forgot about all this honor.

During the 1920s through the end of World War II, this rough philosophy would be blown out of proportion and mixed with a heaping dose of nationalism, at which point it became a big part of the standard school curriculum. This was done because the generals who controlled Japan at that time sought a militarized society to crank out fanatical conscripts to conquer China and East Asia with. This manifested in fanatical loyalty, a willingness to die for their cause, and utter contempt and horrendous cruelty to every enemy, especially those who surrendered. When modern people think of Bushido in the west, they are usually thinking of this, or at least a cleaned up version of it as the Imperial Japanese Army could be a rather nasty lot to say the least.

Anyone interested in the topic of Bushido would do well to check the book The Hagakure (or already has), given that in truth, actual comprehensive writings of the Bushido "code" are rare because it actually really wasn't, well, codified until many years since Samurai were last actually politically-relevant due to it being peaceful times - the Hagakure itself cannot be considered a sort of handbook to Bushido as it is actually a collection of musings from a samurai over the years who retired to be a monk that was written down by a younger friend who regularly met with him and only published it years after the old monk it's basically a more-coherent-than-usual bunch of old-man's rants about how the kiddy Samurai these days are soft weaklings who can't cut their enemies down. It also extols being gay.

Myths and facts[edit]

The samurai are not quite as bad as the Ninja in this regard but there are still a lot of myths generally believed as facts. It is worth noting though that unlike the Ninja, these myths often have at least some basis in reality, problem is that they are applied to Samurai throughout history even though in reality they emerged during the two and half centuries of peace of the Edo Jidai (1600-1868). Here is some of them:

1. Bushido was not practiced throughout Japanese history. As mentioned above, it mostly came about during centuries of peace and was quickly forgotten about once the peace had passed. During the periods of war, Samurai were quite pragmatic and did plenty of things which people today say samurai didn't do because it is dishonorable. Some Samurai might have had their personal honor codes but until the Edo government started pushing Bushido, there was more or less only one thing all Samurai could agree: Nothing is more honorable than bringing victory to one's lord, no matter what one must do to achieve it.

2. Katana was not the main weapon of the Samurai. It was primarily a backup weapon, to be used when one had lost their main weapon, typically a bow or a spear. The reason we have this myth is that during the Edo Jidai, katana carried together with a wakizashi (practice known as daishou) became a symbol of the Samurai, as only they were allowed to carry them. When you are carrying a weapon more as a symbol than as an actual weapon, it simply makes more sense to carry an easily carriable sword, rather than something like a bow or a spear. Also worth noting is that katana did not exist throughout Samurai history but started becoming common around the 14th century when tactics started to switch from cavalry-based tactics more towards infantry-based tactics. Before this, the Samurai used the longer and curvier tachi, which was made to be used from horseback.

3. A common myth is that Samurai did not use guns because they were dishonorable. Reality is that guns were used in Japan to such an extent that Japan was the by capita biggest user of guns in the world in the late 16th century. Oda Nobunaga was particularly fond of these and Takeda Shingen is quoted roughly saying "less spears, more guns". Likely reason for this myth is that during the Edo Jidai, (yeah we told you that many myths come from Edo Jidai things being applied to the entirety of Samurai history) Samurai fought each other not on the battlefield, but in duels and in such cases, swords were generally the preferred weapons. Another reason is that guns were more commonly used by Ashigaru rather than Samurai but honor had nothing to do with it; guns are simply easy to use and one can be trained to effectively use them in weeks, while Samurai trained their whole lives to use weapons that take years to master. As a result, it simply made more sense to give guns to Ashigaru than Samurai.

4. "Samurai were so honorable that they would commit seppuku rather than do something dishonorable" yeah you already know where we are going with this: to the Edo Jidai. It is during this period when seppuku as a ritualistic suicide became a practice. But it was not something made out of honor but a capital punishment which honors the fact that the one doing it is a Samurai, allowing them to have a last supper and a relatively painless death. A commoner accused of similar crimes would never have been given such an honor but instead a much more gruesome punishment, such as being boiled alive. Seppuku was certainly practiced long before this time but back then, it had more practical purposes, such as killing yourself to avoid capture and torture, lacking all the ritualistic meanings people now associate with the act.

5. Another common myth is that Samurai and Ninja were arch-enemies, though despite this, Samurai would hire Ninja to do things which they couldn't do because it is dishonorable. Of course you already know this shit about honor is complete bullshit. Many Ninja were in fact Samurai, as Samurai is not just a type of a warrior but a social class. Reason for this myth that Samurai and Ninja were arch-enemies comes from Oda Nobunaga leading a brutal campaign into the Iga Province, slaughtering hundreds if not thousands. The tactics used by the Iga against the Oda army is what gives us many of the things we know about the Ninja today.

6. Many believe that Samurai practiced Karate. Karate is not in fact of Japanese origin but of Ryukyuan, which was vassalized by the Satsuma Domain in the early 17th century and formally annexed by the then Empire of Japan in 1879. As the Japanese rulers did not allow Ryukyuans to have weapons, they took to practicing unarmed martial arts and martial arts making used of improvised weapons, now known as Karate and Kobudo. So naturally, Samurai did not practice Karate. A Samurai who did practice unarmed martial arts probably would have done jujutsu.

7. Many also believe that Samurai simply always existed throughout history. Reality is that they started to emerge during the mid Heian Jidai (794-1185), had been properly established during the late Heian Jidai and ended the period by seizing power, starting the Kamakura Jidai (1185-1333) and Japanese Feudal Period (1185-1868) in general.

Fictional Treatments[edit]

Like other "real world" things, the samurai has had a rich fictional history grow up around it in modern times that is only marginally connected to the historical realities of feudal Japan. Like the knight-errant of Medieval romances or the gunslinger of American westerns, the fictional samurai of the jidai-geki period drama is often a ronin or "wave man," an old derogatory term for a masterless samurai, who wanders the Earth bringing peace and order to a chaotic world by cutting down evil in a series of sword-battles as sensational as they are unrealistic. Bonus points if he gets tragically shot down by a wuss with a firearm, tearfully marking the end of an era as he heroically perishes while saving the day. Sure, it might not be 100% historically accurate, but do you really give a shit? Or do you want to see a badass hero solo an army with his super-sword skills?

Tabletop RPGs[edit]

Samurai S&F 3e.jpg

Samurai are a prominent fixture in just about any fantasy setting with an "ancient Japan" derivative somewhere in the world, which is to say that they're a prominent fixture in just about any fantasy setting.

In Dungeons and Dragons, the samurai was introduced as a class in the Oriental Adventures supplement of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition. It never really caught on.

Third Edition[edit]

Third Edition has two "samurai" classes, and an unrelated "Master Samurai" Prestige Class.

The Master Samurai prestige class debuted in Sword & Fist. It's a horribly designed (as most things in that book are) class that requires six feats for entry. Of these six, two (Improved Initiative, Power Attack) are good, two could be good in a build dedicated to them that this class isn't (Mounted Combat, Mounted Archery) and two are meh at best (Cleave and Weapon Focus). It also requires three skills trained to enter, but only gives two at each level. There was no way to enter the class in anything approaching a normal build since no class had Knowledge (Nobility), Ride and Intimidate when Sword & Fist came out, and six feats on a fifth level character is every feat they have including the Human bonus feat. Only a Human Fighter of above average intelligence could enter at minimum level, and that took all their skill points. What did you gain for this horrible entry? A lot of terrible abilities that have no synergy with each other or the entry requirements (like a small bonus to a skill you couldn't possibly be trained in and meet the entry requirements), and the ability to add double strength mod to damage when using a katana. Double strength mod to damage is actually a good ability, but even with the cheesy interpretation that this is on-top of (instead of a replacement for) the 1.5x strength mod to damage of using a two handed weapon, it's still not worth the entry cost.

We need megazord power!

The first base class, presented in the book titled Oriental Adventures, is essentially a variant fighter. They trade their first bonus feat and delay their feats at level 6+ for an "Ancestral Daisho" feature which is actually pretty decent. Ancestral Daisho gives a character a pair of free masterwork weapons and allows them to sacrifice treasure to make enchant them for the normal magic item price. What makes this good is that they can sacrifice treasure directly for its full value, instead of selling it for half value first. Samurai also trades heavy armor proficiency for more skills and skill points. In exchange for a will save that doesn't suck, their bonus feat options are limited based on clan, and they have to follow an honor code that's pure fluff and has no mechanical effect. They also have the rare (and potent if used right) Iaijutsu Focus skill as a class skill. Since Ancestral Daisho is based on character level instead of class level, it's a blatant Dip Class, with only the skills and RP being a reason to stay in class. Like Fighter, it's Tier 5: Focused on one thing (weapon combat) and not even that good at it (Easily outclassed by Barbarian).

While you were out drinking ale and fucking wenches, I was studying the blade

The second Third Edition Samurai came shortly after the transition to 3.5 in Complete Warrior. It's considered the worst class in the game that wasn't intended for NPCs (and is actually worse than half of those). See, Complete Warrior was one of the first supplement books published for 3.5 and Wizards of the Coast didn't understand how weak martial characters were compared to casting classes, even though they literally just flushed half an edition away due to including a spell that made casters even more stupidly OP, and designed most things in that book with the idea that Fighter was a perfectly fine base class. CW Samurai has only one good save, and the minimum possible skill points per level. Their first level feature is proficiency with the katana and wakizashi, something that literally could have just been included in their proficiency list. At level 2 they gain the Two Weapon Fighting feat (a sub-optimal choice in 3E without a source of bonus damage that applies to every attack) for free. At level three they gain a weak smite that just adds their charisma to attack and damage a few times a day. At fifth level he gets the Quick Draw feat anyone can take, except worse. At sixth level he gets a +4 to intimidate and the ability to do something anyone can do anyways, outright giving the page number for intimidate that says anyone can do it. Everything after this is improvements on these poor excuses for class features. To top it off, you need to follow a code of conduct or lose some of these features. CW Samurai are Tier 6: The weakest PC class (except maybe Truenamer even the Truenamer can do things when min maxed to all hell) with abilities that make it only barely better than the Warrior NPC class. It's actually better to fall as a CW Samurai and take their Blackguard equivalent Prestige Class than to stay in the class, since Ronin is actually acceptable. Ronin isn't a particularly great class, but a full base attack bonus class with sneak attack progression, the ability to trade armor class for extra damage on a charge and some bonus feats is at least playable.



Later, under the quasi-D&D system of Pathfinder, the samurai class became a tweaked variant of the Cavalier class, which, in addition to making sense (the cavalier class is basically a mounted knight, and samurai were basically the Japanese equivalent) also makes them mechanically playable. Samurai shares the Cavalier's bizzare lack of Knowledge (Nobility) as a class skill. Like their parent class, Samurai are Tier 5 (Tier 4 with some archetypes) since they're really not that good at anything but mounted combat, which terrain often prevents. Despite this, the pregen was actually one of the best, and easily the strongest melee one till Bloodrager and Warpriest came out, since he used a two-handed weapon with power attack (compared to using an oversized weapon with penalty to hit, two weapon fighting, sword and board or forgetting to take Power Attack) and came with three of the most useful skills in the game (Perception, Diplomacy, Sense Motive).

Cavalier was already fairly weak on support, and Samurai got less than that. It has a grand total of seven archetypes (four of which were released in 2018, the system's final full year of support), and none of the Cavalier ones are compatible. This is the fewest of any class since while Ninja technically gets less, it can use good number of Rogue archetypes.

  • Sword Saint: More in line with the traditional fantasy samurai, who forgoes his mounted class features for lightning-quick draw-fighting and other melee powers that let him cause a sonic boom every time he quick-draws someone to death, but this comes too late to be useful.
  • Yojimbo: A very minor and trades some offensive abilities for defensive ones, without doing anything to really make that defense viable.
  • Sovereign Blade: Trade your mount for a +2 to saves, your rare challenge uses for some energy resistance, and your bonus feats for a lame SLA. It came in Legacy of Dragons, which is considered one of the worst books ever published crunch-wise.
  • Brawling Blademaster: An archetype that tries to accomplish many things at once and accomplishes none of them, a lot like the CW Samurai. Non-light armor is traded for a very small bonus to AC that doesn't make up for it, a feature that would help two-weapon fighting is traded for two-weapon fighting as a bonus feat. Mount is traded for a monk's unarmed fighting.
  • Ironbound Sword: Trades quick draw for the ability to make non-lethal attacks without penalty. Banner for the ability to make a few attacks a day that force the enemy to save or be instantly knocked out and (much later) improved disarming that fixes the main problem with disarming by letting you disarm natural attacks (you dislocate their joints and force them to give up attacking for a turn to fix that). Overall the trades are perfectly acceptable, but nothing more. Would be awesome if the disarm ability came before 14th level.
  • Ward Speaker: In exchange for the limited resolve ability and a 1-minute ritual between uses the Samurai can pick from one of five sets of bonuses, some of which are pretty good and one of which does most of what you'd spend resolve on anyways. Compatible with Warrior Poet.
  • Warrior Poet: Actually pretty decent. In exchange for medium and heavy armor, they gain charisma (to a max of samurai level) to AC when unarmored. In exchange for mount, weapon expertise, banner and mounted archery they get free weapon finesse (that can be applied to extra weapon types), one from a list of bonus abilities (many of which are actually decent), and always on half level to damage on attacks made with weapon finesse. What makes this archetype particularly well executed is it was printed with the Order of the Songbird, which supports these abilities.

Fifth Edition[edit]

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition gave D&D its most competent samurai ever in the form of a Fighter subclass in November 2016. It's essentially a super-tank, as it can give itself temporary hitpoints and advantage on all of it attacks as a bonus action for a turn three times per short rest, proficiency on Wisdom saving throws (which changes to your choice of Int or Cha saves if you've already got that power), can trade advantage on a combat strike to instead strike that target twice once per turn, and can delay taking damage that would reduce it to zero hitpoints until the end of an immediately gained bonus turn once per long rest. Oh, and it also gets to add its Wisdom modifier to its Charisma modifier when making Charisma checks to please or persuade those of high social rank along with either a bonus language or free proficiency in either History, Insight or Persuasion. Appropriate, given that the samurai were courtiers and nobility as well as warriors.

Other Systems[edit]

Outside the gigantic D&D juggernaut, most of the player characters in Legend of the Five Rings are going to be samurai of one stripe or another, though unlike D&D it refers to the entire social class, including courtiers and sorcerer-priests along with the warriors.

Shadowrun uses the term "street samurai" to refer to runners who tend to be of a violent persuasion, though the term no longer explicitly refers to melee-focused characters. One of the megacorps, Renraku, has got an elite hit-team called the Red Samurai, who do rock the futuristic samurai armor look, though they use guns and explosives along with their katanas.

Appropriately enough, the Japanese RPG Log Horizon has Samurai as one of its eleven base classes.

Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition Classes
Player's Handbook: Barbarian - Bard - Cleric - Druid - Fighter - Monk
Paladin - Ranger - Rogue - Sorcerer - Wizard
Player's Handbook II: Beguiler - Dragon Shaman - Duskblade - Knight
Complete Adventurer: Exemplar - Ninja - Scout - Spellthief
Complete Arcane: Warlock - Warmage - Wu jen
Complete Divine: Favored Soul - Shugenja - Spirit Shaman
Complete Psionic: Ardent - Divine Mind - Erudite - Lurk
Complete Warrior: Hexblade - Samurai - Swashbuckler
Dragon Compendium: Battle Dancer - Death Master - Jester
Mountebank - Savant - Sha'ir - Urban Druid
Dragon Magazine: Sha'ir - Deathwalker - Fleshcrafter - Soul Reaper
Dragon Magic: Dragonfire Adept
Dungeonscape: Factotum
Eberron Campaign Setting: Artificer
Heroes of Horror: Archivist - Dread Necromancer
Magic of Incarnum: Incarnate - Soulborn - Totemist
Miniatures Handbook: Favored Soul - Healer - Marshal - Warmage
Ghostwalk: Eidolon (Eidoloncer)
Oriental Adventures: Samurai - Shaman - Shugenja - Sohei - Wu jen
Psionics Handbook: Psion - Psychic Warrior - Soulknife - Wilder
Tome of Battle: Crusader - Swordsage - Warblade
Tome of Magic: Binder - Shadowcaster - Truenamer
War of the Lance: Master
NPC Classes: Adept - Aristocrat - Commoner - Expert - Magewright - Warrior
Second Party: Mariner - Mystic - Noble - Prophet
Class-related things: Favored Class - Gestalt character - Multiclassing
Prestige Class - Variant Classes - Epic Levels - Racial Paragon Classes
The Classes of Pathfinder 1st Edition
Core Classes: Barbarian - Bard - Cleric - Druid - Fighter - Monk
Paladin - Ranger - Rogue - Sorcerer - Wizard
Player's Guide:
Alchemist - Antipaladin - Cavalier
Inquisitor - Oracle - Summoner - Witch
Class Guide:
Arcanist - Bloodrager - Brawler - Hunter - Investigator
Shaman - Skald - Slayer - Swashbuckler - Warpriest
Kineticist - Medium - Mesmerist
Occultist - Psychic - Spiritualist
Ultimate X: Gunslinger - Magus - Ninja - Samurai - Shifter - Vigilante

See also[edit]

  • Rising Sons: Samurai Space Marines
  • The Blades: The former protectors of the Emprah, who also hunting dragons with samurai sword.
  • Draconis Combine: Where you will find Space Samurai piloting Battlemechs with Katanas.
  • Legend of the Five Rings: Samurai the setting.