Kensei (3.5e Class)

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The kensei is a man who dedicates himself to a single purpose throughout his life; to become a master of a single specific weapon that he possesses a deep bond with. The devotion he pours into studying the weapon is intensive and he forsakes the use of other weapons almost completely; while he can pick up and use other weapons he will be no more proficient than any fighter picking up a weapon. Peculiarly the kensei is also no better with any weapon he picks up that is not considered his bonded weapon, and he can not perform the same feats of mastery without his signature weapon.

Making a Kensei[edit]

The Kensei abilities are focused in speed, strength and reflexes boardering on the supernatural to produce the effects he learns through his years of practice and travel. Because the kensei relies on speed they normally forsake the use of medium and heavy armor as these types deny him access to many advantages that his specialized training provides. Kensei most commonly come from the melee fighter ranks, though it is not unheard of for a kensei to be an archer and have a specialized bow for a signature weapon. A kensei in combat is terrible to behold, all of his training enables him to finish an opponent in the most expedient way possible.

Abilities: Strength, Dexterity and Constitution are all equally important to the Kensei for combat purposes. However these are not the only abilities the Kensei needs, as both Wisdom and Intelligence help him. Intelligence adds to the Kenseis' AC and helps a Kensei with skills. Even Charisma can be considered important for a Kensei as they are expected to have outstanding manners and etiquette when not using their martial skills.

Races: Anyone that has received formal martial training has potential to be a Kensei but few are willing to devout themselves so completely to the blade. A Kensei from any race becomes a paragon of law, rigid adherence to their codes and devotion to the weapon of choice are requirements in order to maintain their abilities.

Alignment: Kensei can be of any Lawful alignment.

Starting Gold: 2d4 x 10 + 1 Masterwork Weapon (Typically a sword, but any weapon is possible).

Starting Age: Moderate.

Table: The Kensei

Hit Die: d10

Level Base
Attack Bonus
Saving Throws Special
Fort Ref Will
1st +1 +0 +2 +2 Kensei's Blessing, Spiritual Bond, Weapon Focus (Signature Weapon)
2nd +2 +0 +3 +3 Evasion
3rd +3 +1 +3 +3
4th +4 +1 +4 +4 Uncanny Dodge, Weapon Specialization (signature weapon), Spiritual Bond Enhancement Bonus +1
5th +5 +1 +4 +4 Spiritual Enhancement +1
6th +6/+1 +2 +5 +5
7th +7/+2 +2 +5 +5
8th +8/+3 +2 +6 +6 Flash Step 1/day, Greater Weapon Focus (signature weapon), Improved Critical (signature weapon), Spiritual Bond Enhancement Bonus +2
9th +9/+4 +3 +6 +6
10th +10/+5 +3 +7 +7 Spiritual Enhancement +2
11th +11/+6/+1 +3 +7 +7
12th +12/+7/+2 +4 +8 +8 Flash Step 2/day, Greater Weapon Specialization (signature weapon), Spiritual Bond Enhancement Bonus +3
13th +13/+8/+3 +4 +8 +8
14th +14/+9/+4 +4 +9 +9
15th +15/+10/+5 +5 +9 +9 Spiritual Enhancement +3
16th +16/+11/+6/+1 +5 +10 +10 Flash Step 3/day, Spiritual Bond Enhancement Bonus +4
17th +17/+12/+7/+2 +5 +10 +10
18th +18/+13/+8/+3 +6 +11 +11
19th +19/+14/+9/+4 +6 +11 +11
20th +20/+15/+10/+5 +6 +12 +12 Flash Step 4/day, Spiritual Bond Enhancement Bonus +5, Spiritual Enhancement +4

Class Skills (4 + Int modifier per level, ×4 at 1st level)
Bluff (Cha), Climb (Str), Craft (Int), Intimidate (Cha), Jump (Str), Knowledge (religion) (Int), Listen (Wis), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex) Swim (Str), Tumble (Dex), Spot (Wis)

Class Features[edit]

All of the following are class features of the kensei.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: The kensei is proficient with all simple and martial weapons. In addition to the martial weapons he automatically receives any weapon proficiency that applies to his chosen weapon. He is proficient with light armor, but is not proficient with any kind of shield. The kensei may add his Intelligence modifier to his AC, in addition to his Dexterity modifier, as long as he is wearing light armor.

Kensei's Blessing (Ex): At 1st level the kensei gains a masterwork weapon - his personal weapon. As long as the kensei possesses and uses this weapon he has access to all other Kensei powers, without it all other powers are lost to him. In the event of the weapon being stolen or destroyed the kensei must spend one month to atune a new weapon of the same type to himself. Often a kensei will find it easier to recover a lost blade then to bind a new one to themselves.

Spiritual Bond (Su): At 1st level the kensei forms a strong bond with his personal weapon; from this point forward whenever the kensei wields his weapon it counts as a magical weapon for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction. As the kensei increases in level the abilities of the blade increase as well; starting at 4th level his personal weapon is treated as having a magical enhancement bonus equal to 1/4th of his kensei level rounded down to a minimum of one.

Weapon Focus (Ex): At 1st level the kensei gains the bonus feat weapon focus. This feat only applies to his personal weapon and does not extend to any other weapon (including weapons of the same type) that the kensei wields.

Evasion (Ex): At 2nd level and higher, a kensei 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 kensei is wearing light armor or no armor. A helpless kensei does not gain the benefit of evasion.

Uncanny Dodge (Ex): Starting at 4th level, a kensei 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, he still loses his Dexterity bonus to AC if immobilized.

Weapon Specialization (Ex): At 4th level the kensei gains the bonus feat weapon specialization. This feat only applies to his personal weapon and does not extend to any other weapon (including weapons of the same type) that the kensei wields.

Spiritual Enhancement (Su): At 5th level the kensei's weapon is furthered strengthened as his and the weapon's souls attune. Whenever the kensei wields his personal weapon he receives an enhancement modifier equal to 1/5th of his level rounded down to a minimum of one. This enhancement modifier can be assigned through eight hours of meditation to apply any modifier, however the modifiers magic enhancement bonus can never exceed the number presented by Spiritual Enhancement. (Example: If the kensei is level 10 with a +2 enhancement bonus he may have two +1 or one +2 enhancement active.) This bonus can be reassigned if the kensei spends 24 hours in meditation with the weapon.

Flash Step (Su): At 8th level the kensei is capable of moving with blinding speed, covering great distances in a short amount of time. This is treated as the spell Dimension Door, with the restriction that it is limited to line of sight to his destination and it counts as a swift action. The Kensei may use this supernatural ability once per day, and an additional use every 4 levels.

Improved Critical (Ex): At 8th level the kensei gains the bonus feat improved critical. This feat only applies to his personal weapon and does not extend to any other weapon (including weapons of the same type) that the kensei wields.

Greater Weapon Focus (Ex): At 12th level the kensei gains the bonus feat greater weapon focus. This feat only applies to his personal weapon and does not extend to any other weapon (including weapons of the same type) that the kensei wields.

Greater Weapon Specialization (Ex): At 16th level the kensei gains the bonus feat greater weapon specialization. This feat only applies to his personal weapon and does not extend to any other weapon (including weapons of the same type) that the kensei wields.

Epic Kensei[edit]

Table: The Epic Kensei

Hit Die: d10

Level Special
21st Spiritual Bond Enhancement Quality (+6)
22nd -
23rd Bonus Feat
24th Spiritual Bond Enhancement Quality (+7), Spiritual Bond Enhancement Bonus +6, Flash Step 5/Day
25th -
26th Bonus Feat
27th Spiritual Bond Enhancement Quality (+8)
28th Spiritual Bond Enhancement Bonus +7, Flash Step 6/Day
29th Bonus Feat
30th Spiritual Bond Enhancement Quality (+9)

4 + Int modifier skill points per level.

Spiritual Bond (Ex): The Kensei forms a strong bond with his personal weapon. The weapon grows as he does, it gets an enhancement bonus equal to 1/4 his Kensei level rounded down as a straight enhancement bonus. The weapon will also gain a weapon enhancement quality at level 6 and every three levels after.

Flash Step (Ex): The Kensei moves with blinding speed, covering great distances in a short amount of time. This is treated as the spell Dimension Door, with the restriction that it is limited to line of sight to his destination and it counts as a swift action. The Kensei may use this supernatural ability once per day, and an additional use every 4 levels.

Bonus Feats: The epic Kensei gains a bonus feat (selected from the list of epic Kensei bonus feats and either melee or ranged list depending on his signature weapon) every three levels after 20th.

Epic Kensei Bonus Feat List: Armor Skin, Damage Reduction, Devastating Critical, Energy Resistance, Epic Endurance, Epic Prowess, Epic Toughness, Epic Weapon Focus, Epic Weapon Specialization, Exceptional Deflection, Improved Combat Reflexes, Infinite Deflection, Legendary Rider, Overwhelming Critical, Penetrate Damage Reduction, Reflect Arrows, Spellcasting Harrier, Superior Initiative.

Epic Kensei Bonus Feat Melee List: Dire Charge, Improved Whirlwind Attack.

Epic Kensei Bonus Feat Ranged List: Combat Archery, Distant Shot, Improved Manyshot, Instant Reload, Swarm of Arrows, Uncanny Accuracy.

Level 1 Human Kensei Starting Package[edit]

Weapons: Katana (1d10, crit 18–20/×2(x3 if two handed), 2 lb., one-handed, slashing).
Armor: Chain shirt (+4 AC, +4 max dex, 25lbs, -2 check penalty,

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

Skill Ranks Ability Armor
Climb 4 Str -2
Intimidate 4 Cha -
Jump 4 Str -2
Knowledge (religion) 4 Int -
Jump 4 Str -2
Tumble 4 Str -2

Feat: If Dexterity is 13 or higher, Dodge; if Dexterity is 12 or lower, Improved Initiative instead.

Bonus Feats: Power Attack (Human Bonus feat), Exotic Weapon Proficiency (Bastard Sword)

Gear: Backpack with waterskin, one day’s trail rations, bedroll, sack, flint and steel, three torches.

Gold:6d6 gp

Campaign Information[edit]

Playing a Kensei[edit]

Religion: Kensei are very spiritual and have great bonds with their weapons however this does not preclude the worship of a deity if he or she chooses. Any god or goddess that emphasises skill would be considered appropriate for their devotions if they choose a deity after coming into their sword abilities.

Other Classes: A Kensei is most likely to get along and interact with fighters within a group as the fighter is a generalized fighter, while the kensai is specific. Kenseis also will get along with other classes that see their skills as something to hone and enhance, as they continually strive for perfection with their weapon abilities. Kenseis will find they have the least in common with individuals that do not put effort into their actions such as sorcerers and barbarians.

Combat: In combat a Kensei has one objective; get into range and start hammering away on the enemy. If he is melee oriented he will attempt to close and start dealing as much damage as possible taking out opponents one at a time. Ranged kensei students will tend to advance to the closest range where they no longer suffer penalties then start raining death onto their enemies.

Advancement: The Kensei with effort can meet most prerequisites for the majority of fighter prestige classes. The Kensai prestige class in complete warrior is also a very viable option (though a lot of the abilities are similar and do not stack, in essence it would null features of this class.)

Kensei in the World[edit]

"Two men in battle

Two Blades strike, One man meets death

One blade returns home."

—Minho Tagatchi, haiku written about duel between Misaga Toshi and Koban Delecruix (Kensei), Historian

Kensei are not common as few individuals possess the willingness to devote themselves fully to a cause; even less are willing to devote themselves fully to a weapon. However even though they are uncommon they can still be found moving from place to place in search of new opportunities to hone their skills. Kensei will rarely abandon any pursuit that even hints at being able to teach them new abilities for their weapons.

Daily Life: Meditation, practice and taking care of their equipment are primary concerns for the Kensei. The desire to be centered is important for the Kensei since anger makes a man careless and calm prevents a man from acting when required. Daily practice with his signature weapon is expected from every kensei as it keeps his skills honed. Care is essential as the other daily practices, as equipment can fail if neglected too long. If a Kensei fails to care for his weapon (about 5 minutes) he will find that it loses the properties until proper care and a short purification ceremony are performed (cermony takes 1 hour.)

Notables: Laviat, Female Human Kensei, Knight in the Order of Chodon

Myron Grasmon, Human Kensei, Wandering swordsman

Kross, Half Orc Kensei

Organizations: While Kensei won't normally create an organization they will join standing organizations on occasion based upon their goals. It is just as likely that they won't join an organization simply because other groups are normally no where near as focused as the kenseis' approach to learning.

NPC Reactions: Most Adventurers are able to secure for themselves at least a modest income and some renown for their various deeds. NPCs are likely to react based upon hearsay of his exploits rather than through direct interaction. While this can be very beneficial in certain settings (the town is greatful you slew the giants) it can be detrimental in others (those bandits are certain you have money since you killed the giants.)

Kensei Lore[edit]

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

Knowledge (History) or Knowledge (Local)
DC Result
10 Kensei devote their lives to mastering a single weapon and become very deadly with it.
15 Kensei weapons become deadly in the hands of their masters, but they are no better than a normal weapon in the hands of someone else.
20 Kensei can move faster than the wind as they grow in age.

Kensei in the Game[edit]

The Kensei class adds an option to combat expertise without a lot of the frills of other classes. Further he is able to produce very strong results in combat as his expertise increases and his weapon becomes stronger through its spiritual bond. Overall he is valuable contribution to any party that needs an additional damage dealer.

Adaptation: Adapting a Kensei to the current setting can take some time and effort mainly because they are in pursuit of perfecting their weapon skills. A wandering Kensei has been known to turn around and travel 500 miles from where he just came from in order to seek out masters that might know knowledge that would improve their abilities. However with a little effort this can be quickly converted into helping advance the story (i.e. the master swordsman you are looking for is actually a magical creature in the back of this monster filled cave.)

Sample Encounter: Kuwara is a Kensei that has been traveling for two months searching for the entrance to the Library of Gramis, and ancient academy famed for its fighting texts. He believes in these ruins he will find books and manuals to increase his swordsmanship and allow him to achieve new heights of ability.

EL 9:

Kuwara Toma

CR 9

Male human
LN Medium humanoid (human)
Init/Senses +5/Listen +8, Spot +1
Languages common
AC 19, touch 14, flat-footed 18 (armor 5, Deflection 2, Dex 1, Wis 1)
hp 63 (9d10 HD)
Fort/Ref/Will +5/+7/+7
Speed 30 ft. (6 squares)
Melee +16/+11 (1d10+1d6+7)
Base Atk/Grp +9/+4/+12
Combat Gear Mithral Chain shirt +1, Ring of protection +2, Masterwork Katana (+2 Corrosive)
Abilities Str 16, Dex 13, Con 15, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 10
SQ Kensei's Blessing, Spiritual Bond Enhancement +2, Spiritual Enhancement +1, Evasion, Uncanny Dodge, Flash Step 1/day
Feats Weapon Focus Katana, Weapon Specialization Katana, Greater Weapon Focus Katana, Combat Reflexes, Improved Initiative, Power Attack, Cleave
Skills Climb (Str) +7, Craft (Int) Weaponsmith +6, Intimidate (Cha) +7, Jump (Str) +7, Knowledge (Religion) (Int) +5, Listen (Wis) +7, Ride (Dex) +7, Swim (Str) +7, Tumble (Dex) +7
Possessions combat gear plus Handy Haversack, 3x Potion Cure Light Wounds

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