Ronin (3.5e Class)

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Author: Azya (talk)
Date Created: August 12, 2010
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In accordance with custom, the combatants exchanged names and swords were unsheathed, the three samurai on one side facing the solitary opponent with whom the sympathies of the onlookers evidently lay. The keen blades of the duelists glittered in the sun.

The ronin, as calm as a mirrored lake, advanced steadily with the point of his weapon directed against the samurai in the centre of the trio, and apparently indifferent to an attack on either flank. The samurai in the middle gave ground inch by inch and the ronin as surely stepped forward. Then the right-hand samurai, who thought he saw an opening, rushed to attack, but the ronin, who had clearly anticipated this move, parried and with lightning rapidity cut his enemy down with a mortal blow. The left-hand samurai came on in his turn but was treated in a similar fashion, a single stroke felling him to the ground bathed in blood.

All this took almost less time than it takes to tell. The samurai in the center, seeing the fate of his comrades, thought better of his first intention and took to his heels.

—Harrison, Human historian, on the prowess of ronin

When a samurai is exiled from the service of his lord, he either commits seppuku or becomes a ronin. But this class is not for those ronin. Instead, this focuses on the progeny of the dishonorable warrior, who is recognized as a ronin himself, whether he has done anything dishonorable or not. Growing up in a harsh world, bearing the weight of their father's actions, and otherwise fending for himself has taught the ronin one thing: Truly honorable duelists never win. As such, the ronin is a master of cheap shots and intimidation.

Making a Ronin[edit]

A ronin focuses on mobility and flanking. While he shares several abilities with that of the rogue and ranger, he is better at head on combat then either of them. Unfortunately, he lacks the hit points of some of the more martially inclined classes.

Abilities: Charisma is the most important ability for a Ronin, followed by Dexterity and Strength. A ronin has little use for Wisdom or Intelligence, and Constitution is only important if you want more hit points.

Races: Any race that can become a samurai can become a ronin. Still, most ronin are humans, elves, or hobgoblins.

Alignment: Ronins tend to be chaotic, simply to spite the lawful society that outsted them, but there is no reason that they cannot be lawful.

Starting Gold: 5d4×10 gp (125 gp).

Starting Age: Moderate.

Table: The Ronin

Hit Die: d8

Level Base
Attack Bonus
Saving Throws Special
Fort Ref Will
1st +1 +2 +2 +0 Cheap Shot +1d6, Confidence,
2nd +2 +3 +3 +0 Evasion, Ronin's Ire
3rd +3 +3 +3 +1 Cheap Shot +2d6, Kiai Smite 1/day
4th +4 +4 +4 +1 Uncanny Dodge, Staredown
5th +5 +4 +4 +1 Cheap Shot +3d6, Ronin's Ire
6th +6/+1 +5 +5 +2 Supreme Confidence
7th +7/+2 +5 +5 +2 Cheap Shot +4d6, Kiai Smite 2/day
8th +8/+3 +6 +6 +2 Improved Uncanny Dodge
9th +9/+4 +6 +6 +3 Cheap Shot +5d6, Moving the Mountain
10th +10/+5 +7 +7 +3 Ronin's Ire, Improved Staredown
11th +11/+6/+6 +7 +7 +3 Cheap Shot +6d6
12th +12/+7/+7 +8 +8 +4 Kiai Smite 3/day
13th +13/+8/+8 +8 +8 +4 Cheap Shot +7d6
14th +14/+9/+9 +9 +9 +4 This is Easy!, Greater Staredown
15th +15/+10/+10 +9 +9 +5 Cheap Shot +8d6, Ronin's Ire
16th +16/+11/+11/+11 +10 +10 +5 Kiai Smite 4/day
17th +17/+12/+12/+12 +10 +10 +5 Cheap Shot +9d6
18th +18/+13/+13/+13 +11 +11 +6 Frightful Presence
19th +19/+14/+14/+14 +11 +11 +6 Cheap Shot +10d6, Supreme Staredown
20th +20/+15/+15/+15 +12 +12 +6 Ronin's Ire, Kiai Smite 5/day

Class Skills (4 + Int modifier per level, ×4 at 1st level)
Bluff (Cha), Climb (Str), Diplomacy (Cha), Escape Artist (Dex), Gather Information (Cha), Intimidate (Cha), Jump (Str), Knowledge (Int), Listen (Wis) Move Silently (Dex), Search (Int), Sense Motive (Wis), Speak Language (None), Spot (Wis), Swim (Str), Use Magic Device (Cha), Use Rope (Dex).

Class Features[edit]

All of the following are class features of the Ronin.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Ronin are proficient with all simple and martial weapons, and with one exotic weapon appropriate for their culture. Ronin are proficient with light and medium armor, but not with shields of any kind.

Cheap Shot (Ex): If a ronin can catch an opponent when he is unable to defend himself effectively from his attack, he can strike a vital spot for extra damage, and therefore being a bit of a cheater.

The ronin’s attack deals extra damage any time his target would be denied a Dexterity bonus to AC (whether the target actually has a Dexterity bonus or not), or when the ronin flanks his target. This extra damage is 1d6 at 1st level, and it increases by 1d6 every two ronin levels thereafter. Should the ronin score a critical hit with a cheap shot, this extra damage is not multiplied.

Ranged attacks can count as cheap only if the target is within 30 feet, because aiming with that good accuracy is hard.

With any weapon that can deal nonlethal damage with no penalty (ex: the sap), a ronin can make a cheap shot that deals nonlethal damage instead of lethal damage (some opponents would argue that getting hit with a cheap shot hurts more then lethal damage, if you know what I mean). He cannot use a weapon that deals lethal damage to deal nonlethal damage in a cheap shot, not even with the usual –4 penalty.

A ronin can only cheap shot living creatures with discernible anatomies—undead, constructs, oozes, plants, and incorporeal creatures lack vital areas to take advantage of. Any creature that is immune to critical hits is not vulnerable to cheap shots. The ronin must be able to see the target well enough to pick out a vital spot and must be able to reach such a spot. A ronin cannot perform a cheap shot while striking a creature with concealment or striking the limbs of a creature whose vitals are beyond reach.

This ability is otherwise identical to the rogue's sneak attack, and is treated as such in regards to feat and prestige class prerequisites, and it stacks with sneak attack damage from other sources.

Confidence (Ex): A ronin is supremely confidant in his abilities, and may add his Charisma bonus to his Dexterity bonus to modify his Armor Class. This only works when he is wearing armor lighter than heavy and not using a shield. As with normal Dexterity AC modifications, positive modifiers are lost when the ronin is flat-footed.

Evasion (Ex): At 2nd level and higher, a ronin can avoid even magical and unusual attacks with great agility. If he makes a successful Reflex saving throw against an attack that normally deals half damage on a successful save, he instead takes no damage. Evasion can be used only if the ronin is wearing medium, light, or no armor. A helpless ronin does not gain the benefit of evasion.

Ronin's Ire (Ex): A ronin can bring his full wrath down upon his enemies. Starting at 2nd level, a ronin may designate one opponent as the receiver of his ire. The confers several benefits. First, a ronin automatically has the Edge on the subject of his rage, even if their base attack bonus is higher than his own. Additionally, he gains a +2 bonus to attack rolls and +1d6 bonus to all attacks (not spells) against any creature that is designated as the subject of his ire. This damage bonus increases by another d6 every time he gains the ability again, and stacks with any extra damage from Cheap Shot damage. Every time he gains this ability, he can select one additional creature to receive his ire, to a total of 4 receivers at one time at 20th level. Switching the subject(s) of his ire is a swift action.

Kiai Smite (Ex): Once per day, a ronin of 3rd level or higher can give a great cry during combat that invigorates him. When a ronin shouts (a free action that automatically gives away his position), his next attack gains a bonus on the attack roll and the damage roll equal to his Charisma bonus (minimum 1). As a ronin gains levels, he can make a kiai smite more often.

Uncanny Dodge (Ex): Starting at 4th level, a ronin can react to danger before his senses would normally allow him to do so. He retains his Dexterity bonus to AC (if any) even if he is caught flat-footed or struck by an invisible attacker. However, she still loses her Dexterity bonus to AC if immobilized. This does not affect the Charisma bonus to AC gained from Confidence.

If a ronin already has uncanny dodge from a different class he automatically gains improved uncanny dodge (see below) instead.

Staredown (Ex): At 4th level, a ronin becomes able to strike fear into the hearts of his enemies by his mere presence. He gains a +5 bonus on Intimidate checks and can demoralize an opponent as a standard action.

Supreme Confidence (Ex): A ronin of 7th level gains weapon finesse as a bonus feat, except that it uses Charisma instead of Strength for attack rolls, rather then Dexterity. In addition, his confidence has increased so much that he no longer loses his Charisma bonus to AC when he is flat-footed.

Improved Uncanny Dodge (Ex): A ronin of 8th level or higher can no longer be flanked.

This defense denies others the ability to sneak attack the character by flanking him, unless the attacker has at least four more levels than the target does.

If a character already has uncanny dodge (see above) from a second class, the character automatically gains improved uncanny dodge instead, and the levels from the classes that grant uncanny dodge stack to determine the minimum level required to flank the character.

Moving the Mountain (Ex): At 9th level, a ronin learns how to use the weaknesses of armor against its wearer. The ronin gains a dodge bonus equal to the armor check penalty of the opponent striking him.

Improved Staredown (Ex): At 9th level, a ronin has enough skill to cow multiple opponents. Using an Intimidate check, he can now demoralize all opponents within 30 feet with a single standard action. In addition, all demoralized foes remain shaken until they lose sight of him.

This is Easy! (Ex): At 14th level, a ronin gains the ability to bypass damage reduction, and, in addition, he gains Damage Reduction X/-, where X is half his ronin level, rounded down.

Greater Staredown (Ex): At 14th level, a glance from the ronin is enough to give his foes pause. He can now demoralize opponents within 30 feet as a move action, not a standard action. Additionally, opponents who would become panicked by your fear effects are cowered instead.

Frightful Presence (Ex): An 18th level ronin's confidence, superiority, and fighting prowess have become legendary. When the ronin draws his blade, opponents within 30 feet must succeed on a Will save (DC 20 + ronin's Cha modifier) or become panicked for 4d6 rounds if they have fewer Hit Dice then he does + his Cha modifier. Any foe that successfully resists the effect cannot be affected again by the same ronin's fightful presence for 24 hours.

Supreme Staredown (Ex): At 19th level, a ronin is so experienced at striking fear into the hearts of foes that he can now demoralize opponents within 30 feet as a swift action, not a move action. Any time the ronin confirms a critical hit in melee, the target is cowered until they lose sight of you. This is a fear effect.

Epic Ronin[edit]

Table: The Epic Ronin

Hit Die: d8

Level Special
21st Cheap Shot +11d6
23rd Cheap Shot +12d6, Bonus Feat
24th Kiai Smite 6/day
25th Cheap Shot +13d6, Ronin's Ire
26th Bonus Feat
27th Cheap Shot +14d6
28th Kiai Smite 7/day
29th Cheap Shot +15d6, Bonus Feat
30th Ronin's Ire

4 + Int modifier skill points per level.

Cheap Shot: The damage bonus from cheap shot increases by 1d6 every odd numbered level.

Kiai Smite: The ronin gains another usage of his kiai smite every 4th level (24, 28, 32, etc.)

Ronin's Ire: At every fifth level (25, 30, 35, etc.) the bonus damage from his ire increases by 1d6, and more opponents can receive his ire simultaneously.

Bonus Feats : The epic ronin gains a bonus feat (selected from the list of epic ronin bonus feats) every 3 levels after 20th.

Epic Ronin Bonus Feat List: Armor Skin, Dire Charge, Energy Resistance, Epic Prowess, Epic Speed, Epic Toughness, Epic Weapon Focus, Exceptional Deflection, Great Dexterity, Improved Combat Reflexes, Infinite Deflection, Reflect Arrows, Superior Initiative.

Human Ronin Starting Package[edit]

Weapons: Bastard Sword.

Skill Selection: Pick a number of skills equal to 4 + Int modifier.

Skill Ranks Ability Armor
Bluff 4 Cha
Intimidate 4 Cha
Search 4 Int
Spot 4 Wis

Feat: Weapon Focus (Bastard Sword).

Bonus Feats: Improved Iniative.

Gear: Backpack, bedroll, flint and steel, scale mail, tent, trail rations (x4 days worth), waterskin, winter blanket.

Gold: 30 gp.

Campaign Information[edit]

Playing a Ronin[edit]

Religion: Religion among ronin vary. Some spurn religion, and others are devout believers. Those that do pay homage to a higher power prefer gods of travel, revenge, and secrets. Even those ronin often worship loosely, perhaps invoking a short prayer before battle and little more.

Other Classes: Ronin have an inner distrust of samurai, for they represent the people that cast off their parents, and thus them, into the lawless existence, and the feeling is mutual. While they laugh inwardly at the strictness of the paladin's code of conduct and the monk's strict regime, they do recognize their use in combat, which is more important above all else. Ronin get along best with rogues and other shadowy characters, and a ronin/rogue tag-team can demolish an enemy in seconds.

Combat: Ronin are typically second-line combatants, but are able to hold their own if need be. With his high charisma, a ronin is a master of demoralizing and feinting in combat, and can take out foes that earn his rage. Typically they will flank opponents with the barbarian or fighter, hoping the monster will pay more attention to those classes.

Advancement: Most ronin stay ronin throughout their entire career, but those that decide to multiclass are generally pick levels of rogue or fighter. With their high charisma, some ronin are naturally inclined to become sorcerers.

Ronin in the World[edit]

You dare to mock me?! Then you dare to die!
—Yazaki, Human ronin

Ronin are adept swordsmen who often function as mercenaries or bodyguards. The ability of famous ronin is legendary, for they possess abilities far above those of normal men. Most ronin wear their weapons in plain sight, usually to attract the attention of employers and challengers alike. Like samurai, ronin are knowledgeable about an ancestral exotic weapon, but they have no qualms about using the ancestral weapons of other samurai.

Daily Life: All ronin have wanderlust of varying degrees, and rarely stay in the same place for more then a few months. This is part of necessity, for they carry their father's bad reputation for dishonor. Many accrue large gambling debts, and often become heavy drinkers and smokers.

Notables: Yasuga was a powerful ronin who saved the emperor of the Rising Sun and was able to regain his honor, advancing as a samurai after that. Many ronin seek to follow in his footsteps, but they usually fail.

Organizations: Ronin will occasionally gather in bands or groups, acting as mercenaries or enforcers for a noble. Ronin tend to propagate in the worst areas of a city, and many serve as bodyguards for high-ranking members of the criminal underworld.

NPC Reactions: NPC reactions are mixed, but most shun as simple criminals, and react accordingly. Commoners fear the ronin, and honorable warriors like the paladin and samurai do not trust him.

Ronin Lore[edit]

Characters with ranks in Knowledge (nobility) can research ronin to learn more about them. When a character makes a skill check, read or paraphrase the following, including information from lower DCs.

Knowledge (nobility)
DC Result
5 Some swordsmen prefer to use intimidation. They are called ronin.
10 Ronin are the sons and daughters of dishonored samurai, and carry the weight of that on their shoulders.
15 Ronin are adept at taking cheap shots, and some can make opponents flee with a mere glance.
20 Information about specific ronin.

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Facts about "Ronin (3.5e Class)"
Allowed AlignmentsLawful Good +, Lawful Neutral +, Lawful Evil +, Neutral Good +, Neutral +, Neutral Evil +, Chaotic Good +, Chaotic Neutral + and Chaotic Evil +
Article BalanceHigh +
AuthorAzya +
Class AbilitySneak Attack +
Class Ability ProgressionFull +
Fortitude Save ProgressionGood +
Identifier3.5e Class +
Length20 +
Minimum Level1 +
RatingUnrated +
Reflex Save ProgressionGood +
SkillBluff +, Climb +, Diplomacy +, Escape Artist +, Gather Information +, Intimidate +, Jump +, Knowledge +, Listen +, Move Silently +, Search +, Sense Motive +, Speak Language +, Spot +, Swim +, Use Magic Device + and Use Rope +
Skill Points4 +
SummaryThe progeny of dishonored warriors, Ronins specialize in cheap shots. +
TitleRonin +
Will Save ProgressionPoor +