In d20 combat-oriented characters are normally generalists. They may have a few areas of special skill – as determined by various feats – but, for the most part, they’re skilled with a wide variety of weapons and tactics.
There’s some truth to that. A grand master of the staff can usually do pretty well with a short rod, or with a club, or with various other items. A man who’s good with a longsword can usually do something with a scimitar.
On the other hand, training with a longbow won’t help you much with a lance, or a whip, or with a katana.
Thus specialists – masters of a particular weapon – are often pretty popular. The trick here is not to go overboard with the concept; a character who is really good with a particular weapon, and who knows a selection of special tricks with it, is good. A character who’s so specialized that he or she is useless without that weapon is not so good. They’ll be overwhelming when they can use their chosen weapon and useless otherwise (a situation that WILL come up if the game master is doing his or her job) – and neither is all that much fun.
The sword is pretty popular for this kind of build, so I’ll call it a “Kensai”. If a thousand bad movies can rip off classical Japanese culture, so can I.
Race and Attributes: Assign these as desired to suit the game. This is, after all, a general build, not a specific character. Kensai should ALWAYS have a good Dexterity. Constitution and Intelligence come after that.
Available Character Points: 264 (level ten base) + 24 (L1, 3, 6, and 9 Bonus Feats) + 10 (Disadvantages) +18 (Duties) +9 (Restrictions: the Kensai will never use a magical version of his or her favored weapon; it would sully purity of their technique) = 315 CP.
- Those “Disadvantages” are usually things like being hunted by rivals, an irrational obsession with proving their own combat style supreme, being outlawed for killing people in the attempt to demonstrate their supremacy, having a reward out for their deaths, dependents, and annoying would-be students.
- The Duties are usually related – teaching students who “prove themselves worthy”, rooting out enemy schools, serving some sponsor, redeeming their honor, or protecting the innocent.
First up, we’ll need the basics for a warrior-type: Hit Dice, BAB, Saves and Weapon Skills.
- Hit Dice: 1d12 (L1, 8 CP) +7d10 (L2-8, 42 CP) +2d8 (L9-10, 8 CP). As the Kensai reaches high levels, he or she normally invests more in defensive skills than raw toughness.
- Warcraft: +6 BAB (36 CP), +3 BAB, Corrupted/only in melee (16 CP), +3 BAB (Specialized/only with chosen weapon, 12 CP). That’s more complicated than it needs to be – but it does ensure that the Kensai is tolerably competent with a lot of weapons, good in Melee, and VERY good with his or her chosen weapon.
- Base Saving Throws: Reflex +8 (24 CP), Will +3 (9 CP), Fortitude +3 (9 CP).
- Proficient with All Simple, Martial, and Exotic Weapons (15 CP) – but No Armor (0 CP). In most depictions, the weapons specialist appears without armor – but they do seem to be at least competent with almost any weapon, if only because they can somehow adapt their training and skills somewhat.
That’s 179 CP already. Of course, combatant basics are always expensive.
Other Abilities (136 CP):
- 13 Skill Points (13 CP): Spend these however you want – but skills like Tumble will prove very very useful. If they’re allowed in the setting, a Martial Art focused on the character’s chosen weapon is a must-have. With the Fast Learner ability below, that’s (13 x Int Mod + 31) skill poitns – which should be enough.
- Adept (6 CP): pays half cost for any four skills – generally including Tumble, a Martial Art, and two other useful physical skills. That will cost 24 SP at level 10, leaving at least seven to invest in minor things. With a high intelligence, a Kensai may be quite skilled.
- Augment Attack (12 CP): The Kensai gets a +4d6 bonus to damage when attacking in some specific situation. Less pleasant Kensai usually take standard Sneak Attack. Skirmishers may take when using their split movement to attack. Those with particular vendettas may take their bonus versus rival schools, particular types of monsters, and other targets. Sadly, if they want to get it whenever using their favored weapon (which they almost always will be), the triple-cost modifier for “almost all the time” kicks in, reducing the bonus to +d6+1.
- Awareness (6 CP): Always on guard, a Kensai is very difficult to surprise.
- Block (Melee) with Master (6 CP): Specialized/only with the user’s favored weapon.
- Defender (4 CP): add (level/5) to AC as a dodge bonus. Corrupted/does not work if the user wears armor or carries a shield.
- Fast Learner (6 CP): Specialized in skills for double effect, for +2 SP/Level.
- Finesse (4 CP): A Kensai prefers skill and fine control to brute force. He or she may use his or her (Dex Mod) in place of his or her (Str Mod) in melee combat. Corrupted/does not work if the user wears armor or carries a shield.
- Imbuement, Improved (8 CP): weapons of the user’s favored type gain a magical bonus of (Level/3) when welded by the Kensai. Corrupted/this only works with a personal weapon, which the user must spend at least three days practicing with to attune.
- Improved Critical (6 CP): With the character’s favored weapon.
- Improved Initiative +4 (4 CP). Corrupted/does not work if the user wears armor or carries a shield.
- Lunge (3 CP): Specialized in the user’s chosen weapon only, this ability adds 5′ of reach to the use of that weapon as the user darts nimbly in and out.
- Opportunist (6 CP): Once per round, when a melee opponent misses the Kensai due to non-armor bonuses, he or she may spend an Attack of Opportunity to make a counterattack against him or her.
- Rapid Strike (4 CP): A Kensai is always focused on his or her opponents, and so may attack every four steps – thus, with Warcraft +12 with their chosen weapon at +12/+8/+4. Corrupted/does not work if the user wears armor or carries a shield.
- Reflex Training (6 CP): A Kensai’s weapons are as natural in his or her hands as air is in his or her lungs. They may draw and sheathe weapons on or off action without it counting as an action up to (Dex Mod) times per turn.
- Reflex Training (Combat Reflexes Variant) (6 CP).
- Split Movement (4 CP): The Kensai may split his movement around an attack – moving, striking, and moving again. Corrupted/does not work if the user wears armor or carries a shield.
- Trick (Stunning Attack) (6 CP): Wiser Kensai soon learn to deal with truly idiotic challengers, over-ambitious students, and similar nuisances without killing them. Less wise Kensai learn that it’s easier to run people through while they’re stunned.
That leaves 24 CP for some customization. In high-magic item games the Kensai will probably want to prepare for a specialized role – and perhaps boost their defenses a bit more with “multiple” on their block ability.
In low-item games, getting some boosts is most useful – so here’s a sample package for that.
- Innate Enchantment (12,000 GP total “item” value, 13 CP).
- Immunity/Dispelling and Antimagic (Common, Major, Epic, Specialized and Corrupted/only protects innate enchantments that provide personal augmentations, 9 CP). This is mostly important so as to save having to recalculate bonuses every time a “Dispel” of some sort gets thrown around. It wouldn’t need to be “Epic” for that – but I don’t want to have to worry about antimagic fields either.
- Immunity/the normal XP cost of Innate Enchantments (Uncommon, Major, Trivial [only covers first level effects at caster level one], 2 CP).
That provides 12,000 GP worth of Virtual Items. In this case, we’re going with unlimited-use, use-activated, personal-only effects – for a total cost of 700 GP for cantrips and 1400 GP for first-level spells where the personal-only (x.7) modifier applies. Unfortunately, this only works well in low-magic worlds; in high magic worlds most items won’t stack with these enhancements.
- (X)-Slayer (700 GP): Pick an opponent type and get a +1d6 bonus to melee damage when fighting that particular type of opponent. Sadly, the opponent type must be chosen when this ability is taken. Choose wisely…
- Enhanced Attribute (1400 GP): Add a +2 Enhancement Bonus to a chosen attribute
- Expeditious Retreat (2000 GP): Gain a +30′ bonus to all movement modes.
- Force Shield I (2000 GP): Gain a +4 Shield AC, negate incoming Magic Missiles.
- Fortune’s Favor II (1400 GP): Add a +2 Luck bonus to skills and attribute checks
- Inspiring Word (1400 GP): Add a +1 Morale Bonus on saves, attacks, checks, and damage
- Know Direction (700 GP). This just seems hand for a wandering swordsman. Who wants to get lost?
- Resistance (700 GP): Add a +1 Resistance bonus to Saves.
- Ward of Heaven (1400 GP): Add a +1 Luck Bonus to AC and Saves
That’s a grand total of 11,700 GP in value – leaving 300 GP. Unfortunately, hardly anything fits into that amount. Oh well.
The basics of this particular build were suggested by Mike, who wished to play such a character in Andrew’s campaign. I’m not sure how close this is to what he eventually wound up playing though.
Eclipse: The Codex Persona is available in a Freeware PDF Version, in Print, and in a Paid PDF Version that includes Eclipse II (245 pages of Eclipse races, character and power builds, items, relics, martial arts, and other material) and the web expansion.
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