D20, Ninja, and Eclipse, Part II – the Complete Adventurer and Pathfinder Ninjas

And to continue our look at building Ninja through the years – and on how to upgrade the various variants to current standards here are the next few types of Ninja. And if you missed Part I (the Rokugan and Mystic Eye Ninjas) they’re HERE.

The next major Ninja class was The Complete Adventurer Ninja (2005). They were a rather hesitant attempt to make “Ninja” mean something more than “slightly refluffed Rogue or Rogue Multiclass” in baseline d20. Unfortunately, the writers were – once again – pretty shy about giving non-spellcasters all that much in the way of exotic powers, so this version of the Ninja wound up with some rather weak “Ki Powers” that could only be used a few times a day – not even really up to “a ninja always has another trick to pull” standard of most fictional ninja and some actual ninja. They got…

  • D6 HD (40 CP). What a rogue got, and functional enough in those days of less-optimized damage levels.
  • 138 SP (138 CP or – with a modern build using Adept and Fast Learner – 58 CP)
  • +15 BAB (90 CP).
  • +24 to Saves (72 CP).
  • Proficiency with all Simple and Ninja Weapons (9 CP)
  • Defender, Corrupted/only when unarmored and unencumbered (4 CP). This helped to make up for the lack of armor a bit.
  • Advanced Augmented Bonus (Adds Int Mod to AC), Corrupted/only when unarmored and unencumbered (8 CP). Another – and much earlier-into-play boost to AC. You’d still need some Bracers Of Armor though.

The Ninjas original Ki Powers were Ghost Step (L2, Invisibility for a round. You can become Ethereal for a round instead at L10), Ki Dodge (L6, one round of 20% miss chance), Ghost Strike (L8, Strike to and from the Ethereal Plane for one attack), Greater Ki Dodge (L18, 50% miss chance for a round), and Ghost Walk (L20, as per Ethereal Jaunt, 2 Ki) and a Ki Pool of (Ninja Level / 2 + Wis Mod) points. This version provides more powers, and a much wider selection of powers, because, honestly, the original set wasn’t very good for something that was a defining feature of the class and because building a power set that limited is actually a lot more trouble than setting up a worthwhile power set. Eclipse wasn’t designed to build useless abilities. This version also isn’t reliant on Wisdom, so it reduces the multiple-attribute-dependency problem.

  • Ki Pool: 4d6 Mana with Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect/only for use with quick (Swift or Immediate action) Reality Edits. Edits are divided into Minor (1 Mana, available at level 2+), Notable (1 Mana, available at level 6+), Major (2 Mana, available at level 14+), and Grandiose (4 Mana, available at level 25+ IF the game master is willing to put up with them) edits; the user is limited to a maximum of (level / 2 (increasing as the character levels up), rounded up) specific edits with his or her first purchase of Reality Editing and to half that (level / 4, also increasing as the character levels up) number of additional edits for each additional purchase. Edits are fixed once approved by the game master unless the user wishes to spend a lot of time on retraining or something. Will Save DC’s are 12/14/16/18 + Dex Mod (for fine control) for Minor/Notable/Major/Grandiose edits and all edits are considered Extraordinary Abilities (24 CP).

Minor edits usually approximate first or minor second level effects. Possible minor edits include (but are not limited to):

  • Blazing Stars: As per the Fire Shuriken (Spell Compendium) spell.
  • Breath Control: As per Resist Energy (SRD) for 2d4 minutes.
  • Dance Of Wings: Add +30 to all your current movement rates for 2d4 minutes.
  • Face Dancer: As per Disguise Self (SRD) for 2d4 minutes.
  • Grace Of The Kami: Move at normal speeds when using Acrobatics, Balance, Climb, or Move Silently without penalty for 2d4 minutes.
  • Jujitsu: Make an immediate Escape Artist check with a +30 bonus. You may attempt to “escape” Paralysis or similar situations, but at DC 50.
  • Ki Strike: Gain a +10 Insight bonus to an Attack and +(Level) Insight bonus on it’s damage.
  • Light Foot: You make take 20 on Acrobatics/Hide/Move Silently checks and always land safely after falling or being thrown for 2d4 rounds.
  • Mongoose Fist: Make an extra attack as an immediate action OR make two extra attacks as part of a full attack action.
  • Phantom Blade: Make one attack into a sneak attack, even if it normally would not be.
  • Qigung: Get a +5 bonus on a save if triggered before rolling or reroll a save if used afterwards.
  • Smoke Bellows: Generate a 30′ radius cloud of dense smoke centered up to 30′ away. It lasts for 2d4 rounds.
  • Tongue Of Kanji: Cast a spell without it’s normally-required somatic component.
  • Vanishing: Become invisible and leave no trail for 2d4 Rounds, although Attacking will negate the invisibility part as usual.
  • Wind Stride: As per Air Step (Pathfinder) for 2d4 Minutes.

Notable edits usually approximate second or third level effects. Possible notable edits include (but are not limited to):

  • Alchemic Bomb: Turn a dose of an alchemical substance or poison that you are carrying into a full-effect 20′ radius burst within medium range. At level 12+ you can use two doses to create two bursts that may, but need not, overlap, and at 25+ three. The “doses” do not all have to be the same substance if you are using multiple doses.
  • Alchemic Synthesis: Produces 100 GP worth of alchemical creations or poisons. While these are obviously crude and unsalable, and become inert within twenty-four hours, they are effective if used within that time. At level 12+ the user may spend a second Ki Point on this to provide either a +2 DC on created poisons or saves on alchemical creations or to double the effect of an alchemical creation.
  • Dancing Shadows: Mirror Image (SRD) for 2d4 Rounds.
  • Dispelling Strike: Add the effects of Dispel Magic (using your level as the caster level to a maximum of +10) to a physical attack.
  • Displacement: Attacks on you suffer a 50% miss chance for 2d4 rounds.
  • Expulsion: As per Neutralize Poison (SRD).
  • Find The Gap: As per the spell (Spell Compendium) for 2d4 Rounds.
  • Ghost Strike: The user mays see and strike to and from the Ethereal Plane for two rounds.
  • Golden Armor: Gain DR 6/- for 2d4 minutes.
  • Haunting Shadow: As per Phantom Foe (Spell Compendium) for 2d4 Rounds.
  • Healing Mudra: Personal-Only Cure Serious Wounds (SRD).
  • Ki Imbuement: As per Greater Magic Weapon (SRD) for 2d4 minutes, although it may also be applied to the user’s natural weapons, fists, or other “unarmed” martial arts attacks,
  • Lizard Walk: Full-speed wall-walking for 2d4 rounds.
  • Spellblade: You may make an immediate attack with a melee weapon to deliver any Touch spell that you just cast in place of the usual immediate touch attack that such spells provide.
  • Vital Strike: Trade dice of sneak attack damage for points of attribute damage with an attack. You may damage any attribute that you please.

Major edits usually approximate fourth or fifth level effects. Possible major edits include (but are not limited to):

  • Beast Jitsu: As per Bite of the Werewolf or Wereboar (Both Spell Compendium), lasting 2d4 Minutes.
  • Cloud Mind: As per Modify Memory (SRD).
  • Death Strike: Add the effects of Slay Living (SRD) to a physical attack. (Some Ninja use Enervation (SRD) instead).
  • Demon Ki Projection: As per Shadow Conjuration (SRD).
  • Doom Shuriken, as per Fire Seeds (SRD), but using shuriken for either function.
  • Dragon’s Breath: As per the Spell (Pathfinder).
  • Forge Of Ki: As per Greater Magic Weapon (SRD) for 2d4 minutes, but you may invest some or all of the “plusses” in special magic weapon functions. This effect may also be applied to the user’s fists, natural weapons, or martial arts attacks.
  • Freedom Of Movement: as the spell (SRD) for 2d4 minutes.
  • Ghost Step: Become Ethereal for 2d4 rounds.
  • Phantom Ways: as per Dimension Door (SRD).
  • Shadow Clones: Greater Mirror Image (Player’s Handbook II) for 2d4 minutes.
  • Shadow Form: as the spell (Spell Compendium) for 2d4 minutes.
  • Sniper: The user may make sneak attacks at any range for 2d4 rounds.
  • Spectral Mind: Personal Mind Blank (SRD) for twenty-four hours.
  • Unity of Mirage: Gain Greater Invisibility (SRD) for 2d4 minutes.

Grandiose edits usually approximate sixth to seventh level effects. They do, however, tend to be unique to each epic ninja, so I won’t be providing a sample list.

  • Evasive (Reality Editing, 3 CP). Using their Ki powers does not provoke attacks of opportunity.
  • Rite Of Chi with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted/onl to restore the “Ki” pool above, requires a nights rest) (6 CP). This is more than is needed, but that does make it easy to make their pool bigger.
  • Augmented Attack (Sudden Strike, A.K.A. Sneak Attack, 10d6, 30 CP).
  • Trapfinding (No cost in Eclipse: Skills work the same way for everyone).
  • Resistance/+2 to Will Saves, Corrupted/only as long as Mana is available (4 CP).
  • Poison Use (6 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment (5000 GP Value), Corrupted/only while unarmored and unencumbered (4 CP). All effects Spell Level 1/2 or 1, Caster Level One, Unlimited-Use Use-Activated for a base of 1000 or 2000 GP each.
    • Monkey Fish (Pathfinder) (2000 GP, gain Climb and Swim Speeds of 10)
    • Personal Haste (The Practical Enchanter) ( x.7, only to increase movement speeds by +30 (Enhancement), 1400 GP)
    • Apply Venom (Original, L0, safely applies carried poison to a weapon as a swift action, 1000 GP)
    • Acrobatic Master (The Practical Enchanter, L0 Skill Mastery / Tumble (Acrobatics in Pathfinder), +6 Enhancement Bonus, Personal-Only, 700 GP).

This little package gives them a +8 to Climb and Swim checks, with base speeds of 40 for both, 60 ground movement as a base (adding +12 to Jump or – in Pathfinder – to Acrobatics rolls made to Jump), and +6 Enhancement to Tumble (3.5) or Acrobatics (Pathfinder). That’s extremely efficient, but Innate Enchantment usually is – which is why it’s usually limited to 12 CP worth in total for any given character.

  • Great Leap (Immunity/Having to Run before Leaping, Uncommon, Minor, Minor, Corrupted / only while unarmored and unencumbered, 2 CP).
  • Fortune (Evasion Variant), Corrupted / only while unarmored and unencumbered, 4 CP).
  • Ghost Mind / Cloaking, Specialized and Corrupted / only versus spells of the Scrying Subschool, allows a caster level check of DC (20 + Ninja’s Level) to overcome it, otherwise the Ninja is not seen / detected.
  • Occult Sense / See Invisible and Ethereal things (6 CP).

This comes out to a total of 452 CP as a classical build or 372 CP as a modern one – and is still a notable improvement over the original design since that’s with the rewritten Ki powers and uses Innate Enchantment rather than buying the various minor boosts individually. The original 3.0 and 3.5 Fighter used 452 of their available 504 CP – so we should expect the Complete Adventurer Ninja to be just a bit more effective than they are since I used a couple of more efficient options in their design. So why does this class still fall behind? It’s most likely a result of the older tendency to evaluate combat-focused characters against the Fighter and to overrate Skill Points. Basic 3.0 and 3.5 Fighters simply are not that impressive, and skills have greatly devalued over the years – leaving the Complete Adventurer Ninja well behind the curve.

And, according to the rather extensive discussions underlying the Tier System, it is indeed down in Tier 5 with the Fighter, Monk, Healer, Soulknife, and Expert. Still, with either 52 or 132 CP left over, it’s easy enough to upgrade them considerably. You just have to go ahead and spend those points.

  • First off, upgrade the Rite Of Chi to get rid of the “requires a nights rest” corruption. That’s only (3 CP) – and another +16 bonus uses is only (12 CP). 25d6 worth of “Ki Points” (plus the basic recovery rate of one per night) daily will let them pull off a LOT more tricks.
  • Buying more powers is also in order – so another two incidences of Reality Editing (basically increasing their allotment of Ki powers to one power per level) will be very handy (12 CP).
  • Finally, another 2d6 Mana will help make sure that they don’t run out – and is only another (12 CP).

That’s only 39 CP – leaving enough room for a couple of bonus feats, even for the “basic” build, and will let a Ninja use a selection of swift and immediate action Ki powers in every fight. That makes them fast and tricky, which seems pretty appropriate. Throw in a decent Martial Art or two and you should be all right. For those two extra feats? Improved Initiative and Luck with +4 Bonus Uses Specialized in Attacks. That way, when you really need to hit, you can be sure that you will.

For a modern build, you’ll still have 93 points left over even after that C’hi upgrade. That’s quite a lot really – enough for fifteen levels of the Wilder or Psychic Warrior progressions (both at 90 CP), or becoming a skill-based Partial Caster (usually about 80 CP), or throwing in a Template or two. Go ahead. Be an Advanced Pulp Hero Ninja or an Ancient One Ninja (both 64 CP), or a Ninja Master Of Stars (58 CP), or even a Ninja Space Marine (63 CP) or Ninja Lycanthrope (from the basic Eclipse book, 64+ CP depending on what extras you buy).

  • If you’d prefer more combat power… buy off those “only while unarmored and unencumbered” corruptions (10 CP) and pick up some light armor with the “Smooth” modifier (6 CP). Get your BAB up to +20 (30 CP), use Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus (18 CP) to add your (Dex Mod) to your (Con Mod) for Hit Point purposes, and throw in five more combat-style feats (30 CP). OK, that’s 94 CP and you’ll have to drop a skill point – but it will work just fine.
  • If you want a full-out Spellcaster-Ninja, you might want to take the Entreaty Magic package (88 CP). It’s nicely flexible, and full of unexpected tricks, while holding down the total amount of magic available to keep it as a secondary focus.

All in all, any of those approaches should get this version of the Ninja firmly up into Tier 3 or so – and make them a great deal more entertaining to play.

Finally, we have the Current Pathfinder Ninja.

Pathfinder gave the Ninja the standard Pathfinder upgrades of +2 Skill Points per level and larger hit dice, but otherwise only gave the Ninja the usual slight overhaul. Their Ninja get…

  • d8 HD (80 CP).
  • 8 SP/Level (160 CP, presume Fast Learner and Adept for 80+12 CP).
  • +15 BAB (90 CP).
  • +24 Saves (72 CP).
  • Sneak Attack 10d6 (30 CP).
  • Proficiency with Ninja Weapons and Light Armor (12 CP).
  • Poison Use (6 CP)
  • 5d6 Mana as a Ki Pool (As per the Complete Adventurer Ninja above) (30 CP) This gets an extra die worth of Mana because a couple of minor abilities have been folded into the Ki abilities – and so a few extra points are needed to pay for using them on occasion.
  • Rite of Chi with +8 Bonus Uses, only to restore chi pool, requires a nights rest, 6 CP)
  • Reality Editing: Gains an extra edit at levels 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, and so on (6 CP).
  • Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted / provides only three minor swift action tricks for 1 Mana each (2 CP):
    • +1 Attack at Full BAB,
    • +20 Move for a round
    • +4 Insight Bonus to Stealth Checks for 1 Round.
  • Evasive (Reality Editing, 3 CP). Using their Ki powers does not provoke attacks of opportunity.
  • Immunity/Being Found or Recognized. Very Common, Minor, Major, Corrupted / not versus scrying or when you’re not making an effort to remain undiscovered (8 CP). This provides a +6 to Disguise and Stealth checks and a +6 on the DC of tracking the Ninja. Secondarily, it prevents spells such as Invisibility Purge, See Invisibility, and True Sight, from automatically revealing the user when he or she is invisible; the user must make a perception check against the ninja’s stealth skill to detect him or her even with such assistance. Similarly, the user can effectively use Stealth against Blindsense, Tremorsense, Scent, and similar unusual senses.
  • Awareness and Flankless (Specialized/Does not function against opponents with a four-level or better advantage over you) (9 CP).
  • Trapfinding (No cost in Eclipse: Skills work the same way for everyone).

That does simplify a couple of things from the original build – but it also somewhat expands the Ninja’s Ki Powers and gives them a slightly larger Ki pool, which is quite close enough.

Given that we’re well out of the “classical” era from before skills were devalued here, we need no longer consider anything but the “modern” build (using Fast Learner and Adept to make skills cheaper) – so this comes to a total of 446 CP – leaving 58 CP left over even with the minor upgrade to their Ki powers I’ve added to save time and avoid having to list individual “ninja tricks”. That’s not nearly as bad as many of it’s predecessor ninja classes, but it’s not very good either; it’s part of why the Pathfinder Ninja is still down on Tier 4 (with occasional arguments for Tier 3 or Tier 5) in the Pathfinder Tier Lists. Their tricks are rather neat, but they simply do not get enough of them – both in terms of the number of different tricks available and in terms of the number of times they can afford to use them.

If you just want to stick with the basics you can use the same approach as with The Complete Adventurer Ninja.

  • Upgrade the Rite Of Chi to get rid of the “requires a nights rest” corruption for ( 3 CP) and add another +16 bonus uses for (12 CP). With the ability to recover an average of 87.5 “ki” per day in minutes rather than 10-16 overnight, your ninja can now afford to use a Ki Power – all of which can be used as Swift or Immediate actions – in pretty much every round of every fight.
  • Add another incidence of Reality Editing (6 CP) to boost their allotment of Ki powers to one power per level. That gives them a pretty good selection of tricks to use.
  • Add another 1d6 Mana (6 CP) to get their average base Ki pool up to 21 points. That should be enough for any long fights.

That’s only 27 CP, leaving 31 – enough for a couple of bonus feats and a nice set of Martial Stances. A Ninja using the Call Of The Wyld Style – perhaps taking Kitsune Tricks, Panther Silent Prowls, Perfidious Rat Strikes, and Striking Serpent Coils for 4 CP each – will suddenly be a lot more dangerous in combat.

That should put this version of the Ninja firmly into Tier 3.

If you want to get into a real power build for any of these four versions of the Ninja, you’ll want to throw in:

  • Duties – perhaps to a particular clan or village – for +40 CP. This is where Clerics, Druids, and Paladin-types get some extra points – and ninja generally weren’t independent wandering rogues. They were working members of clans and undertook missions. Go ahead. Admit that you have allies, mentors, an organization to provide you with some backing and information, and a reason to go adventuring beyond “wealth and power”, and get character points for it. Admitting that you have ties to the rest of the universe is NOT a weakness.
  • Buy Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus (Adds Dex Mod to Con Mod when calculating hit points, 18 CP). This particular trick is in the system for the same reason that Adept and Fast Learner are; just as Skills have been devalued over the years, so have Hit Points. So this allows you to take a smaller hit die and still have plenty of hit points – giving the martial types a nice boost since dropping from – say – a d10 to a d8, or a d8 to a d6, or a d6 to a d4, saves them 22 CP over twenty levels. Dropping two steps saves 62 CP over those same twenty levels – and really, at (say) Con 16 and Dex 18… (1d4+7) averages 9.5 per die, while (1d8+3) only averages 7.5 per die. You can even Specialize and Corrupt it (“only applies to levels 1-4″ perhaps?) to save points at lower levels and buy off those limitations as you go up in level.
  • You might be able to apply a Restriction – perhaps you will never use non-ninja weapons or armor no matter how tempting (No Celestial Armor at higher levels for you!) and get +20 CP out of it at +1 CP/Level.

Squeezing in an extra 120 CP is enough to buy any one of…

  • 15 levels of Bard, Cleric, Druid, or Classical Illusionist casting. You won’t get the secondary features – but you can easily spend a few Feats to push up to getting those ninth level spells with Clerical and Druidic casting.
  • 20 levels of Adept, Psychic Warrior, or Wilder Casting. Go ahead; use a feat or two to throw in an augmentable version of Summon Monster instead of Summon Astral Construct and call up your own goon squads for backup.
  • Tbe Bokor (Binder) Package at about 60 CP. That still leaves room for – say – getting the BAB up to +20 (+30 CP) and five extra Feats (30 CP).
  • The Entreaty (87 CP) Magic Package and perhaps 30 CP worth of magic-absorbing or negating powers. Or you could get some Mana and Spell Enhancement to let you power your way up to casting the occasional ninth-level spell.
  • Twenty extra Feats at 6 CP each. For example…
    • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses Specialized in Saving Throws (6 CP) lets you automatically make five saves of your choice each day. Or perhaps it’s only for attacks, or skill checks? Automatic success under pressure can be very nice indeed.
    • Some innate enchantment? That little package from the Complete Adventurer ninja made them a LOT more mobile.
    • Reflex Training, to take occasional extra actions when you really need them.
    • Action Hero (Stunts)? The ability to pull out a trick you’ve never used before (and might never use again) every so often is often a lifesaver.
    • Some Path Of The Dragon to allow you to absorb incoming spells and turn the power in them to your own uses.
    • Mystic Artist? Bardic-style powers can be quite handy, and getting started is pretty cheap.
    • Berserker? Spell Resistance? Some Enthusiast and a Specialized version of Create Relic to let you make your own magical gear? A Stipend? There are many thousands of other possibilities.

While the Tier system is a lot less meaningful once you start using Eclipse to build unique characters and erase most of the division between “Full”, “Partial”, “Half”, and “Non” -casters in favor of a continuous spectrum of “who relies more on what”, this sort of thing will let a mystically-inclined Ninja power-build his or her way up into Tier 1. Personally I don’t really advise pushing things that far – more limited characters tend to be more interesting to play – but Eclipse was designed to let people build the characters that they want.

Next time around on this topic it will be a a look at building your own Eclipse-style Ninja, rather than using an older classed version as a base.

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3 Responses

  1. Some minor corrections for the Pathfinder ninja (presuming you weren’t setting everything to the same default 3.5 standard): because they don’t receive quadruple skill points at 1st level, they’d have only 160 skill points by 20th level (160 CP, or 80 + 12 CP is using Adept and Fast Learner). Also, giving them Rite of Chi with +8 Bonus Uses, specialized and corrupted, should cost them 6 CP rather than 9. That’s only 15 CP in savings, but it’s enough for one or two minor abilities.

    That said, I quite like the improved ninja abilities! I wanted to ask about one thing, though: the write-up says that “the user is limited to a maximum of (level / 2, rounded up) specific edits with his or her first purchase of Reality Editing and to half that (level / 4) number of additional edits for each additional purchase.” To be absolutely clear, does this mean that the number of edits you receive is when you purchase Reality Editing is fixed at (your level / 2) and doesn’t increase thereafter, or does it increase as (your level / 2) goes up? I ask because the former seems to be what’s implied, but that means that you’d be incentivized to wait until later in your adventuring career before making purchases.

    • Well, bother! Every time I get in a rush to complete something (all too often these days) I forget to change something. I really must get far enough ahead to put final proofreading a day or so after I finish something. I shall fix that, and thank you for pointing it out.

      And the number of abilities you’d get increases as you level up, so as to provide a gradually-expanding roster of tricks as the character reaches higher levels.

  2. […] Ninja’s Ki Pool and Recovery Boost (30+ CP) provides a variety of handy tricks, and is easily expanded if you want to build a (much […]

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