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Though I decided against making a yakuza class – I think the basic rouge covers this well enough – the kensai is unique enough to have its own archetype in Oriental Adventures.  You can find other classes for OA here.


Kensai means “sword saint” or “swordmaster” and is usually applied to characters who have perfected the art of fighting with the sword – in particular, a katana.  In the Oriental Adventures setting this is broadened to include almost any type of weapon. Thus, there may be kensai who use halberds, kensai who use swords, etc. The player is allowed to choose the kensai character’s special weapon (referred to hereafter as the specialised weapon). In all cases, it is the kensai’s aim to become the perfect master of his weapon. For the man and weapon to become one, acting on a single thought, is the ultimate goal of a kensai.

Eventually, a specialised weapon will become an ancestral daisho if the kensai that wields it becomes famous passing it down within the kensai’s family (see the samurai class for details on ancestral daisho).

To achieve this spiritual unity the kensai must master his weapon and himself and must study and learn other arts. He must practice daily with his weapon, condition his body and purify his spirit through meditation and ordeal. The kensai must be lawful, although he can be good, evil, or neutral.


Because of your dedication to perfecting a combat art, you must follow certain restrictions.  You can never use a magical weapon of the type you specializes in since such a weapon is not a true measure of your skill. All types of armor are prohibited for the same reason.

A kensai must train and practice for at least two hours a day. Any practice over two hours has no additional effect. Ignoring practice has no immediate effect; it comes into play when the character is ready to advance to the next level. Every two-hour practice session skipped must be made up before the character can advance. When catching up on missed practice, the character can practice up to four hours per day: two hours for that day’s practice and two hours making up for the missed practice.

Each time you advances a level, there is a percentage chance equal to 10 times his new level that he will be challenged to a duel. The challenger is a kensai of the same level that you just attained. A duel is a one-on-one fight between two characters.  Neither character can receive aid or support from anyone else. Kensai characters cannot use magical weapons or armour in a duel.  The duel can be a very formal affair at a pre-arranged site and time or an impromptu meeting of two characters.

If the character refuses to duel, he has disadvantage on all attack rolls and a bane on all other d20 rolls until he attains a new level. Consistently refusing a dual will cause a loss of honour (DM’s discretion). The kensai can instead choose to lose an Honour point and not suffer these penalties.

If he accepts the duel and loses, he also has disadvantage on all attack rolls until he attains his next level, the same as if he had refused the duel, but does not incur the bane on other rolls. Alternatively, the kensai can instead choose to lose an Honour point and not suffer these penalties. This duel doesn’t need to be fought to the death, however; the duelists can agree on any conditions. Surrender, first blood, or first strike are common ending conditions; even first draw can determine a victor, although this is rare.  Note that when the character reaches 10th level, he must fight a duel every level.

A kensai may be challenged to duel an NPC at any time, not just when he advances to a new level. Refusing or losing such a duel costs the kensai honour (DM’s discretion) at a minimum the PC kensai will have a bane (-1d6) on his attack rolls until he accepts this specific dual, forfeits an Honour point or gains a level.

A kensai need not be of high birth as the fighting art of the class are available to everyone. However, family and honour are important.  Gaining and maintaining honour are a vital part of the kensai’s life; any kensai whose honour falls below his family’s honour loses his status in the class (assume family Honour is 10 unless otherwise stated). Thereafter the kensai is treated as a bushi (fighter) of the same level and advances in level according to the bushi character class. He loses none of the abilities he had as a kensai, but he can never gain new kensai abilities.

3rd level Kensai archetype feature.

You choose your specialised weapon. Once chosen this cannot be changed. The weapon must not be magical, however, like all inanimate objects, it has a kami spirit within it. Once you name your weapon the dormant spirit stirs and provides a +1 damage bonus to the weapon.

3rd level Kensai archetype feature.

Your specialised weapon is the only defence you need and you disdain armour which affects the Wa – harmony – between you and your weapon.  You lose all armour and shield proficiencies, however, while you are wearing no armour and not wielding a shield, your AC equals 10 + your Dexterity modifier + your Honour modifier.

3rd level Kensai archetype feature.

If you have disadvantage on an attack with your specialised weapon, you may spend your bonus action to negate the disadvantage effect for that turn. For example, if you have advantage on an attack, and some circumstance gives you disadvantage, instead of the two cancelling each other out, you can use this feature to negate the disadvantage effect to retain your advantage. You may also use this feature to add a boon (+1d6) to any attack roll instead. Once you use this ki power, you can’t do so again until you finish a short or long rest.  At 15th level, you can use this feature twice between rests and the boon increases to 1d8.

3rd level Kensai archetype feature.

You are lighting quick to draw and strike with your specialised weapon.  You gain advantage on initiative rolls when using your specialised weapon. You gain iaijutsu as a class skill and automatically gain inspiration when entering into a psychic duel.

7th level Kensai archetype feature.

You have further mastered your specialised weapon, choose an option from below:

  • Breath of Water. Attacks score a critical hit on a roll of 19 or 20.
  • Breath of Fire. You can add a level appropriate proficiency die to your damage with your specialised weapon (DMG pg. 263).
  • Breath of Lightning. Once per turn when you take the Attack action, you may teleport up to 30 feet as part of the same action, teleporting right before you make your attack. Attacking this suddenly leaves your target unprepared for the incoming strike, allowing you to use iajutsu even if your target has already taken its turn. You regain uses of this ki power after a long rest.
  • Breath of Earth. While wielding your specialised weapon, you cannot become charmed or frightened, and if you are surprised at the start of combat, you may act normally on your first turn but can only take the Dodge action.
  • Breath of the Insect. As part of your attack action, you may convert your damage to poison damage. From 10th level, a creature that takes poison damage from this attack must also make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or become poisoned for 1 minute.  From 15th level, you may also designate the poison type – see the DMG for suggested options.

7th level Kensai archetype feature.

Your specialised weapon is considered honourable for the purposes of overcoming damage resistance.

10th level Kensai archetype feature.

You may choose to maximise the damage of your attack with your specialised weapon.  You regain uses of this ki power after a long or short rest.

15th level Kensai archetype feature. 

You become immune to fear and inspire fear in your enemies.  Intelligent enemies within 10 feet of you must make a Wisdom saving throw or become frightened for 1 minute.  The DC for this save is 8 + proficiency bonus + Honour bonus. You do an additional 2d4 psychic damage against frightened foes (3d4 at level 20).

15th level Kensai archetype feature. 

This should be a custom dual or some other trial, at the end of the trial the kami in the kensai’s sword is awoken turning it into a legendary magic item.  For example, in my campaign, the kensai had a duel with a disguised Hachiman which he lost but he fought honourably. As a reward, Hachiman awoke the kami in his dai-katana (greatsword) creating Susanoo’s Fury.

18th level Kensai archetype feature. 

You gain the ability to make a whirlwind attack.  When you use your attack action, you can give up your regular attacks and instead make one melee attack against each opponent within reach.  You must make a separate attack roll against each opponent. You regain uses of this ki power after a long rest.

Posted in 5e, Class, Dungeons & Dragons, Oriental Adventures



  2. solomani

    Beginning at 7th level, your specialised weapon attacks score a critical hit on a roll of 19 or 20. In addition, you can add a level appropriate proficiency die to your damage with the specialised weapon (DMG pg. 263) and gain a to-hit bonus equal to half your proficiency modifier (round down, minimum of 1).

    With Ki Breath

  3. solomani

    The level 15 class ability is revealed by way of example. Due to the nature/power of this level 15 ability I changed KENSAI WEAPON II from “magical” to “honourable”. I fell this further enhances the level 15 reward.

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