How To Play As A Samurai Fighter In DND

Poised and civil, yet relentless in battle, the samurai serves as a formidable warrior and gentle soul. This is a classic Dungeons & Dragons character, even if your campaign’s setting does not seem oriented around them. They are skilled in the art of persuasion, they are wise souls, and yet they can still dominate opponents.


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The samurai is in tune with the world around it, not just a machine for killing. They are civilized folk and remarkably well-rounded. Yet the classical ideas of the samurai should not limit you. The class is as versatile as they come, allowing flavor and handcrafting.


Samurai Features Overview

A Warrior confusing an Ettin blocking a door.
Power of Persuasion by Brian Valeza

The samurai is a versatile subclass. At third level, when selecting this archetype, you choose one extra skill proficiency between History, Insight, Performance, or Persuasion. Options are geared towards the non-combat portions of D&D.

In fact, at seventh level, the samurai gains Elegant Courtier, which adds your wisdom modifier to your persuasion checks. You also gain proficiency in Wisdom saving throws, which, if already proficient, you can swap out for other options.

The samurai is also relentless. At third level, you also gain Fighting Spirit. Fighting Spirit allows your samurai to become a formidable foe, granting both advantage and temporary hit points for your turn, up to three times a day.

The samurai playstyle relies on the Fighting Spirit ability. It is a powerful ability that can blend well with other options. Yet, this feature having limited uses means that you must be careful about when you use it.

That is fixed at tenth level when you gain the Tireless Spirit feature. It allows you to regain one use of Fighting Spirit at the beginning of combat if you have none remaining. Therefore, you will never be in a combat scenario without the option to use it.

Level 15 comes with the Rapid Strike ability, meaning, if you have advantage on an attack roll against a target, you can discard the advantage and opt for an additional attack once per turn.

At level 18, you can momentarily cheat death with the Strength Before Death feature. With this feature, when you drop to zero hit points, you can immediately take a full turn without falling unconscious for the duration of your turn. Yet, once the turn is over, you do fall unconscious.

Best Samurai Ability Scores

A dragonborn sits at a tavern table, weapon out
Jaded Sell-Sword by Randy Vargas

You can build your samurai based around Dexterity or Strength, and it will still be strong. Regardless, you will still want high Constitution and decent Wisdom scores.

Keep in mind, Dexterity-based characters do not need strength, whereas Dexterity is still important for Strength-based characters.

A samurai also has no abilities that need Intelligence, and, can add their Wisdom modifier to their Persuasion checks, making Wisdom the most important mental ability score for samurai.

If playing a Strength samurai, your point-buy spread could look like this:

Strength

Dexterity

Constitution

Intelligence

Wisdom

Charisma

15

10

14

8

14

10

If you are playing a Dexterity samurai, consider a point-buy spread similar to this:

Strength

Dexterity

Constitution

Intelligence

Wisdom

Charisma

8

15

14

8

14

12

Best Samurai Species

A Ranger, holding an ornate bow in the forest.
Ranger’s Longbow by Marcela Medeiros

When choosing a Samurai, it is hard to choose a species that would hinder you. Yet, there are still some options that lend themselves better to the Samurai’s ways.

Dwarf (Hill)

As a Hill Dwarf, you gain one additional hit point per level. This, in addition to the +2 Constitution a Hill Dwarf receives adds even more to the survivability of the samurai. The +1 Wisdom bonus also compliments the proficiency in Wisdom Saving Throws.

Dwarf (Mountain)

A +2 bonus to both Strength and Constitution is useful for any strength-based samurai.

Elf

  • The Elf enhances all the features that make a Dexterity samurai great. The Elven Accuracy feat synergizes well with the Samurai, as if you already had advantage on a Dexterity-based attack, you can give yourself double advantage.
  • This, in addition to a +2 Dexterity bonus makes it very easy to hit in those crucial moments.

Half-Elf

The Half-Elf can also gain the Elven Accuracy feat and has flexible ability score increases. Combined with the Skill Versatility heritage trait, your Half-Elf samurai could fill many niches.

Half-Orc

  • The Half-Orc is a solid choice for a frontlining, Strength-built samurai. Relentless Endurance allows you to effectively cheat death twice, provided you have the Strength Before Death feature.
  • Half-Orcs, with their Savage Attacks trait, also synergizes with the multiple uses of advantage samurai get. Advantage leads to more critical hits, which are more powerful for Half-Orcs.

Kobold

If you want as many uses of advantage on attacks as possible, choose a Kobold. The Draconic Cry ability, allows you to give yourself and your team additional uses of advantage, equal to your proficiency bonus.

Related: Dungeons & Dragons: Half-Orc Species Guide

Best Feats For A Samurai

An Elven ranger stands over their vanquished foe, with arrows sticking out.
Spoils of the Hunt by Justine Cruz

The samurai, being a type of fighter, gets seven ability score improvements as you level up. As this is two more than most classes get, your Samurai can take advantage of feats much more than other classes.

Feats enhance not only your character’s combat capabilities, but can make your characters more well-rounded outside of that. Keep in mind, sometimes having high ability scores in key stats can be more valuable than feats. Yet, with the two extra ability score improvements that a fighter gets, you have more than enough room to add them

Good feats for your character will depend on whether you are going with a Strength or Dexterity build. Keep that in mind when going through the following:

Elven Accuracy

As mentioned before, Elven Accuracy allows for you to have double-advantage on any dexterity attack roll. This is fantastic for a Dexterity fighter who has many opportunities for advantage. The only reason not to take it is if you are not playing an Elven species.

Great Weapon Master

  • The main downside to Great Weapon Master is the -5 to hit, yet the Samurai absolves this issue. Advantage minimizes the -5 penalty to attack rolls, allowing you to add an extra 10 damage to your attack roll.
  • The extra-attack portion of this feat, while nice, does cost your bonus action, which you spend on getting advantage in the first place.

Lucky

  • Lucky is a fantastic feat no matter who takes it. For the Samurai, it improves your advantage pool, while being even more powerful.
  • Lucky can be used after your die is rolled and can turn disadvantage into double-advantage.

Sharpshooter

  • Real Samurai were excellent archers. Harness that same ability by choosing Sharpshooter.
  • Sharpshooter is similar to Great Weapon Master, allowing you to deal an extra 10 damage in exchange for a -5 to hit.
  • The same logic as earlier applies, too. Advantage mitigates the penalty to hit.
  • Sharpshooter has other nice features such as being able to attack better from range and through cover, but nothing life-changing.

Slasher

Slasher is a control option for your samurai. It works for both Strength and Dexterity Samurai and can slow down your enemies and give them disadvantage.

Best Starting Equipment For A Samurai

A smith forging a sword over an anvil.
Ingenious Smith by Nicholas Elias

When selecting your starting equipment, there is no right option. It all depends on the type of samurai you wish to play.

Between chain mail or leather armor and archery gear, it is very subjective. The latter option is great for a Dexterity-oriented character, but not for a frontliner

A samurai doesn’t rely on a high AC, so a shield is not necessary. Taking the two martial weapons might be better and more versatile, yet ultimately, it is a personal choice.

A ranged weapon is almost always a better choice compared to thrown weapons. Go with the crossbow. And a dungeoneer’s pack or explorers pack are very similar. Decide which gets the edge based on what you know about your adventure.

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