Iaijutsu Master (Samurai)

While trying to decide what to write up this week, I realized how heavily my content has been leaning towards the arcane, so I wanted to look at something more martial. Looking through my house rules and characters for ideas, I was reminded of my first samurai character.

Back in the 3.0 days, when the epic rules were released, a friend and player in my group decided he wanted to run an experimental game in which the plot took place at 1st, 5th, 10th, 15th, 20th, 25th, and 30th levels. During this time, I was really getting into Samurai Jack. I envisioned playing a quick-footed, light-armored, scion of the katana that could run and leap as Samurai Jack did. To accomplish this, I crafted a custom 20 level class that was somewhere between the fighter and samurai classes of the time. Instead of giving him supernatural powers of running and jumping, I felt it would fit the game and setting more to simply give him magical sandals akin to boots of striding and springing. I was happy with what I built, and still have fond memories of his (lightning fast) rise in power, and the way in which he took his own life.

When I looked at recreating the class in Pathfinder, I thought that perhaps an archetype would be the way to go. I scanned through all the materials I had access to, as well as some online resources. After lots of digging, I realized that most of the class could, in fact, be done as an archetype for the samurai class. More than that, almost every ability I wanted already had some class feature that was close enough that I was happy to use material that was already written instead of trying to craft and balance my own.


The Iaijutsu Master is the master of swordplay with the katana. Forsaking training in all other weapons, as well as medium and heavy armor, he combines speed and focus to make himself the ultimate weapon.

The iaijutsu master is an archetype of the samurai class.

Daisho Weapons: Iaijutsu masters begin play with a masterwork katana and a masterwork wakizashi as their Daisho. Iaijutsu mastery is such that the all of their class features and abilities function only when wielding a katana and wearing light or no armor.

This ability replaces Medium Armor Proficiency, Heavy Armor Proficiency, and Shield Proficiency.

Iaijutsu Strike (Ex): An iaijutsu master can perform a lightning quick iaijutsu strike against the target of his challenge to inflict devastating wounds while drawing his sword. After the iaijutsu master has challenged a foe, but before he has attacked the target of his challenge, he may choose to use his iaijutsu strike as a full-round action, making an attack roll with his weapon as normal. In order to use this ability, the iaijutsu master’s weapon must be sheathed at the start of his turn. If he successfully hits his opponent with an iaijutsu strike, his attack deals an additional +1d6 points of damage. This bonus damage increases by an additional +1d6 at 3rd level and every two levels thereafter to a maximum of +10d6 damage at 19th level. Any extra damage as a result of a successful iaijutsu strike is not multiplied by a critical hit.
After making an iaijutsu strike, an iaijutsu master takes a -4 penalty to his AC until his next turn, but his weapon is now drawn and he may continue to fight normally. Regardless of whether he hits his opponent with the iaijutsu strike, an iaijutsu master cannot use this ability on the same foe more than once per day.
At 10th level, an iaijutsu master learns to focus faster and is able to make an iaijutsu strike as a standard action, and the penalty to his AC is reduced to -2.

This ability replaces a samurai’s mount.
Originally from Sword Saint (Samurai)

Katana Training (Ex): At 2nd level, an iaijutsu master gains a +1 bonus on attack and damage rolls with a katana. This bonus also applies to CMD against disarm and sunder attempts while wielding a katana, as well as saves against any effect that targets a wielded katana (for example, grease, heat metal, shatter). The bonus improves by +1 for every four levels beyond 2nd.

This ability replaces the 2nd level Order ability.
Emulates Weapon Guard and Weapon Training from Weapon Master (Fighter)

Brutal Slash (Ex): At 4th level, an iaijutsu master’s iaijutsu strike becomes even more deadly. If an iaijutsu master threatens a critical hit with his iaijutsu strike, he adds a bonus equal to 1/2 his class level to the attack roll to confirm a critical hit. This overrides (does not stack with) the bonus from Weapon Expertise.

This ability replaces mounted archer.
Originally from Sword Saint (Samurai)

Terrifying Iaijutsu (Ex): At 5th level, an iaijutsu master’s iaijutsu strike devastates the morale of foes that witness it. When an iaijutsu master successfully hits with an iaijutsu strike, all foes within 30 feet must succeed at a Will save (DC 10 + 1/2 the iaijutsu master’s class level + the iaijutsu master’s Cha modifier) or become shaken for 1d4+1 rounds.

This ability replaces banner.
Originally from Sword Saint (Samurai)

Iaijutsu Defense (Ex): At 6th level, when wearing light or no armor and not using a shield, an iaijutsu master gains his katana training bonus as a shield bonus to AC.

This ability replaces the bonus feat at 6th level.

Roaring Iaijutsu (Ex): At 14th level, an iaijutsu master’s iaijutsu strike deafens foes upon impact. When an iaijutsu master successfully hits with an iaijutsu strike, all foes within 30 feet must succeed at a Fortitude save (DC 10 + 1/2 the iaijutsu master’s class level + the iaijutsu master’s Str modifier) or be deafened for 1d4 minutes.

This ability replaces greater banner.
Originally from Sword Saint (Samurai)

Unstoppable Strike (Ex): At 15th level, an iaijutsu samurai can take a standard action to make one attack with his katana against the target of his challenge as a touch attack that ignores damage reduction.

This ability replaces the 15th level Order ability.
Originally from Weapon Master (Fighter)

Uncanny Initiative (Ex): At 18th level, when wearing light or no armor and not using a shield, an iaijutsu samurai does not need to roll for initiative. He treats his initiative roll as if it resulted in any number of his choosing (from 1 to 20).

This ability replaces the bonus feat at 18th level.
Originally from Weapon Adept (Monk)

Suggested Samurai Orders: Black Daimyo, Eclipse, Warrior, Ronin
Suggested Cavalier Orders: Cockatrice, Flame, Hero, Monument, Penitent, Seal, Shield
Invalid Cavalier Orders (due to removing mount): Beast, Paw, Sword, Whip

You May Also Like

Leave a Reply