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Thread: Sublime Shinobi - PEACH
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- Jun 2018
Sublime Shinobi - PEACH
This is my first time posting on these forums. I have a few homebrew things I've been working on for a while that I wanted some feedback on.
The first one is the Sublime Shinobi, a class I wrote a couple years ago and recently updated. It's a mix between the Swordsage from Tome of Battle and the Ninja from Complete Adventurer.
I'm basically looking for feedback in three areas:
- Is it balanced (aiming for Tier 3)? Are there any abilities which seem problematic?
- Does it seem interesting, viable, flavorful, and fun to play?
- Clarity: Do all the ability descriptions seem concise enough or are there places where I'm being too wordy? Conversely, are there any abilities which are unclear and need more description?
Good Saves: Reflex
Skill Points: 8 + Int
Hit Die: d6
Shinobi are masters of stealth and deception, using the Sublime Way to engage in espionage, sabotage, infiltration, assassination, and guerrilla warfare. While weaker in a straight up fight than other martial adepts, Sublime Shinobi more than make up for it with their utility, adaptability, and deadly sneak attacks.
[Light blue text is for the creator’s thoughts and explanations. This class is essentially a mixture of the Ninja class from Complete Adventurer (CAdv) and the Swordsage class from Tome of Battle: The Book of Nine Swords (ToB). It has a maneuver progression similar to but slower than the Swordsage while keeping many of the Ninja’s class features. It also pulls a few ideas from the Spirit Monk created by Slagger the Chuul.
The reason I made this class is because I was planning a D&D 3.5 campaign in an Asian setting and I was sad that the CAdv Ninja, while flavorful, was mechanically weak. A Swordsage with lots of Shadow Hand maneuvers already makes an excellent shinobi character, but I thought that I could do even better.
I tried to make the class interesting and viable all the way from level 1 to level 20 without requiring multiclassing or prestige classes. I also tried to balance this class so it would be just slightly weaker than a Swordsage, which would make it a solid Tier 3 class without overshadowing the normal Swordsage. However, after reviewing the class multiple times I think it may instead be slightly stronger than a Swordsage, and so I may need to make a few more minor tweaks.]
[These class skills are mostly the same as the CAdv Ninja, but with Survival and a few Swordsage skills added. Gather Information, Knowledge (local), and Knowledge (nobility and royalty) in particular are going to be useful for a stealth assassin trying to gain info about her targets.]
Balance (Dex) Escape Artist (Dex) Listen (Wis) Spot (Wis) Bluff (Cha) Gather Information (Cha) Martial Lore (Wis) Survival (Wis) Climb (Str) Hide (Dex) Move Silently (Dex) Swim (Str) Concentration (Con) Jump (Str) Open Lock (Dex) Tumble (Dex) Craft (Int) Knowledge (history) (Int) Search (Int) Disable Device (Dex) Knowledge (local) (Int) Sense Motive (Wis) Disguise (Cha) Knowledge (nobility and royalty) (Int) Sleight of Hand (Dex)
Weapon and Armor Proficiency
As a Sublime Shinobi, you are proficient with all simple weapons. You are also proficient with the bola, falchion, flail, handaxe, hand crossbow, kama, kukri, kusarigama, light pick, longsword (arming sword), nunchaku, rapier, sai, sap, scimitar, shortbow, short sword, shuriken, siangham, and trident. In addition, you are proficient with the bastard sword (katana) as a two-handed martial weapon.
You are proficient with light armor but not with shields.
[This proficiency list includes all the monk special weapons as well as almost all of the favored weapons for the Sublime Shinobi’s martial adept disciplines.
The limited number of two-handed weapons (falchion and katana) slightly reduces the Shinobi’s damage output compared to other melee classes unless the player picks up additional weapon proficiencies from feats or from multiclassing. This is balanced by the Shinobi’s Sneak Attack progression improving its damage output relative to other classes.
The kusarigama is an interesting weapon because it can be used like a double weapon for two-weapon fighting, or it can be used as a tripping weapon with reach similar to a spiked chain. While it is a thematically appropriate weapon for the Shinobi, DM’s are welcome to modify the proficiency list by removing the kusarigama or any other weapons they feel are inappropriate for their games.
The CAdv Ninja is like a Monk in that wearing any kind of armor interferes with certain class abilities. I didn’t like that, so I decided to give the Sublime Shinobi light armor proficiency and to not have armor interfere with class features.]
SpecialAcro-baticsSpirit StepMnvrs Known
1 Swordsage Training, Trapfinding +0 0 4 3 1 1 2 Sneak Attack +1d6, AC Bonus (Wis mod to AC), Bonus Feat: Improved Unarmed Strike, Acrobatics +1 0 5 4 2 1 3 Ghost Step (Cloak of Deception), Spirit Step +1 +10 ft 6 4 2 1 4 Poison Use, Wind Run, Bonus Feat (Run or Brachiation) +2 +10 ft 7 4 2 1 5 Great Leap (Leaping Dragon Stance), Ghost Sight +2 +10 ft 8 5 2 1 6 Improved Ghost Step (full round duration) +3 +20 ft 9 5 2 2 7 Sneak Attack +2d6 +3 +20 ft 10 5 2 2 8 Ghost Strike (move action) +4 +20 ft 11 6 3 2 9 Evasion +4 +30 ft 12 6 3 2 10 Improved Poison Use +5 +30 ft 12 7 3 2 11 Improved Ghost Sight (swift action, no concealment) +5 +30 ft 13 7 3 3 12 Sneak Attack +3d6 +6 +40 ft 14 7 3 3 13 Greater Ghost Step (ethereal) +6 +40 ft 15 8 4 3 14 Ghost Mind, Greater Ghost Strike (swift action) +6 +40 ft 15 8 4 3 15 Greater Ghost Sight (see ethereal) +6 +50 ft 16 8 4 3 16 Deadly Knowledge (Ancient Mountain Hammer or Finishing Move) +6 +50 ft 16 9 4 4 17 Sneak Attack +4d6 +6 +50 ft 17 9 4 4 18 Improved Evasion +6 +60 ft 17 10 5 4 19 Ghost Walk (ethereal jaunt 1/day) +6 +60 ft 18 10 5 4 20 Greater Deadly Knowledge (Mountain Tombstone Strike or Strike of Perfect Clarity) +6 +60 ft 18 11 5 5
Spoiler: Class Features
You begin your career with knowledge of four martial maneuvers. The disciplines available to you are Desert Wind, Diamond Mind, Setting Sun, Shadow Hand, and Tiger Claw. Once you know a maneuver, you must ready it before you can use it (see Maneuvers Readied, below).
[The Sublime Shinobi uses the same schools as a Swordsage except for Stone Dragon. I excluded Stone Dragon because it didn’t seem thematically appropriate (Stone Dragon requires you to be standing on the ground to execute maneuvers and a Shinobi will usually be jumping around or climbing on rooftops).]
A maneuver usable by a Sublime Shinobi is considered an extraordinary ability unless otherwise noted in its description. Your maneuvers are not affected by spell resistance, and you do not provoke attacks of opportunity when you initiate one.
You learn additional maneuvers at higher levels as shown on the table above. You must meet a maneuver's prerequisites to learn it. Follow the standard rules for initiator level to determine the highest level maneuver you can learn. The numbers listed in the table above do not include the bonus maneuvers gained from the Ghost Step, Deadly Knowledge, and Greater Deadly Knowledge class features.
Upon reaching 4th level, and at every even-numbered Sublime Shinobi level after that (6th, 8th, and so on), you can choose to learn a new maneuver in place of one you already know. In effect, you lose the old maneuver in exchange for the new one. You can choose a new maneuver of any level you like, as long as you observe your restriction on the highest-level maneuvers you know; you need not replace the old maneuver with a maneuver of the same level. For example, upon reaching 10th level, you could trade in a single 1st-, 2nd-, 3rd- or 4th-level maneuver for a maneuver of 5th level or lower, as long as you meet the prerequisite of the new maneuver. You can swap only a single maneuver at any given level.
[A Sublime Shinobi has a slower progression of maneuvers known than a Swordsage. Even though the Sublime Shinobi learns Cloak of Deception for free and gets bonus maneuvers at 16th and 20th levels, she will still have fewer total maneuvers known than a Swordsage.][/FONT]
You can ready three of your four maneuvers known at 1st level, and as you advance in level and learn more maneuvers you are able to ready more, but you must still choose which maneuvers to ready. You ready your maneuvers by meditating and exercising for 5 minutes. The maneuvers you choose remain readied until you decide to meditate again and change them. You need not sleep or rest for any long period of time to ready your maneuvers; any time you spend 5 minutes in meditation, you can change your readied maneuvers.
[At most levels, a Sublime Shinobi will have one less readied maneuver than a Swordsage. It is assumed that the Shinobi’s other abilities make up for having fewer maneuvers available.]
You begin an encounter with all your readied maneuvers unexpended, regardless of how many times you might have already used them since you chose them. When you initiate a maneuver, you expend it for the current encounter, so each of your readied maneuvers can be used once per encounter (unless you recover them, as described below). A single maneuver cannot be simultaneously readied more than once, unlike a spellcaster who can prepare the same spell multiple times if he has the spell slots available.
You can recover expended maneuvers by using a full round action to quickly meditate. Doing this does not provoke attacks of opportunity. If you complete your meditation, you can choose a number of expended maneuvers to refresh. The number of recovered maneuvers is equal to one-half (rounded down) of the number of maneuvers you can ready, as seen in the table above. For example, a 5th level Sublime Shinobi can ready five maneuvers. If she meditates as a full round action to recover maneuvers then she may pick two (five divided by two, rounded down) expended maneuvers to recover.
[Same recovery method as my house-ruled version of the Swordsage. You can also take the Adaptive Style feat which allows you to use a single full round action to recover all of your maneuvers at once and change which ones are readied.]
You begin play with knowledge of one 1st-level stance from any discipline open to you. At 6th, 11th, 16th, and 20th levels you can choose additional stances. Unlike maneuvers, stances are not expended, and you do not have to ready them. All the stances you know are available to you at all times, and you can change the stance you currently use as a swift action. A stance is an extraordinary ability unless otherwise stated in the stance description. Unlike with maneuvers, you cannot learn a new stance at higher levels in place of one you already know.
[The Sublime Shinobi has a slightly different progression of stances known than a Swordsage, including getting Leaping Dragon Stance as a bonus stance.]
Your Sublime Shinobi levels count as Swordsage levels when qualifying for feats which require Swordsage levels (for example, Extra Readied Maneuver or Adaptive Style).
[Because the Sublime Shinobi is based on the Swordsage, it makes sense to be able to select Swordsage feats.]
As a Sublime Shinobi, you can use the Search skill to locate traps with a DC higher than 20, and can use Disable Device to bypass a trap or disarm magic traps. See the Rogue class feature, page 50 of the Player’s Handbook.
[This ability is the same as that of the Rogue and CAdv Ninja.]
Starting at 2nd level, if you can catch an opponent when he is unable to defend himself effectively from your attack, you can strike a vital spot for extra damage. Basically, your attack deals extra damage any time your target would be denied a Dexterity bonus to AC (whether the target actually has a Dexterity bonus or not), or when you flank your target. This extra damage is 1d6 at 2nd level, and it increases by 1d6 every five Sublime Shinobi levels thereafter to a maximum of 4d6 at 17th level. Should you score a critical hit with a sneak attack, this extra damage is not multiplied. Ranged attacks can count as sneak attacks only if the target is within 30 feet. A Sublime Shinobi can't strike with deadly accuracy from beyond that range.
With a sap (blackjack) or an unarmed strike, you can make a sneak attack that deals nonlethal damage instead of lethal damage. You cannot use a weapon that deals lethal damage to deal nonlethal damage in a sneak attack, not even with the usual -4 penalty, because you must make optimal use of your weapon in order to execute a sneak attack.
A Sublime Shinobi can sneak attack only living creatures with discernible anatomies—undead, constructs, oozes, plants, and incorporeal creatures lack vital areas to attack. Any creature that is immune to critical hits is not vulnerable to sneak attacks. You must also be able to see the target well enough to pick out a vital spot and must be able to reach such a spot. You cannot sneak attack while striking a creature with concealment or striking the limbs of a creature whose vitals are beyond reach.
[I gave this class sneak attack like a Rogue instead of sudden strike like the CAdv Ninja because sudden strike has more restrictions and is less useful. The Sublime Shinobi’s sneak attack progression is very slow, less than half as fast as a Rogue’s. This is because maneuvers are powerful enough that the Shinobi shouldn’t need to rely on sneak attacks in order to maintain high damage output.]
AC Bonus (Ex)
Starting at 2nd level, you can add your Wisdom modifier as a bonus to Armor Class, so long as you wear light armor or no armor, carry a light load, and do not use a shield. This bonus to AC applies even against touch attacks or when you are flat-footed. However, you lose this bonus when you are immobilized or helpless.
[Because I couldn’t see any reason why a Shinobi shouldn’t be able to wear armor, I went with the Swordsage’s AC bonus (which works with light armor) instead of the CAdv Ninja’s AC bonus (which is like the Monk’s AC bonus and only works while wearing no armor).]
Improved Unarmed Strike
As part of their stealth training, Sublime Shinobi also learn a number of unarmed combat techniques. At 2nd level you gain Improved Unarmed Strike as a bonus feat.
[This means the Sublime Shinobi is never completely unarmed, and also makes it slightly easier to qualify for the Master of Nine prestige class, if the player so desires. If the player wants to use unarmed strikes as their main attack, the feats Superior Unarmed Strike and Snap Kick will be very useful. However, a Swordsage (unarmed variant) or a Spirit Monk will still be better at unarmed combat than a Sublime Shinobi.]
At 2nd level, gain a +1 untyped bonus to Jump, Climb, Tumble, and Balance checks. At 4th level and every 2 levels thereafter up to 12th level this bonus increases by an additional +1 to a maximum of +6 at 12th level and above. You lose these bonuses if you are wearing medium or heavy armor or carrying a medium or heavy load.
[Compared to the CAdv Ninja’s acrobatics ability, these bonuses come at an earlier level and you get a bonus to Balance in addition to the bonuses to Jump, Climb, and Tumble.]
Ghost Step (Su)
At 3rd level, add Cloak of Deception to your maneuvers known, even if you do not meet the prerequisites. This maneuver lets you turn invisible until the end of your current turn. In order to use this maneuver you must ready it just like your other maneuvers, and it counts against your total number of maneuvers readied. If you already know this maneuver you may instead pick another maneuver from the schools available to you for which you meet the prerequisites, and add it to your maneuvers known. Unlike other maneuvers, you cannot learn a new maneuver at higher levels in place of this one.
[This is meant to echo the CAdv Ninja’s Ghost Step class feature. However, it is now a per-encounter ability like other martial maneuvers, rather than using a ki pool which is a daily resource.]
Improved Ghost Step: At 6th level and higher, whenever you initiate your Cloak of Deception maneuver you become invisible as the spell greater invisibility until the start of your next turn instead of until the end of your current turn.
[This makes the Cloak of Deception maneuver become more like the CAdv Ninja’s Ghost Step ability, which lasts a full round even from 2nd level. Even though the effect only lasts a single round, it is still extremely useful for both offense and defense and is available slightly earlier than the spell greater invisibility becomes available to spellcasters.]
Greater Ghost Step: At 13th level and higher, whenever you initiate your Cloak of Deception maneuver you may choose to become ethereal until the start of your next turn instead of invisible.
[This echoes the ability of the CAdv Ninja to become ethereal when using Ghost Step.]
Spirit Step (Ex)
At 3rd level, your base movement speed increases by 10 ft. This bonus increases by an additional 10 ft every 3 levels after 3rd (+20 at 6th level, +30 at 9th level, etc.) as seen in the table above. The increase applies to all movement modes you possess. You lose this extra speed if you are wearing medium or heavy armor or carrying a medium or heavy load.
In addition, each round you can move up to the distance of a single move across liquid or vertical surfaces as if they were solid and horizontal. If you travel farther than a single move, you suffer the normal effect of being on that terrain (falling into the liquid, or falling from the vertical surface if unsecured).
If you fall, you can “move” up to twice your speed down an adjacent vertical surface, reducing the effective distance of your fall damage by the distance you move. At 20th level, there is no limit on the distance you can move down a vertical surface, and you can fall any distance without harm.
[This ability is borrowed from the Spirit Monk by Slagger the Chuul. This replaces the Speed Climb ability of the CAdv Ninja as well as increasing base movement speed. Plus it adds the ability to run on water which is sometimes mentioned in ninja legends.]
Poison Use (Ex)
At 4th level and higher, you never risk accidentally poisoning yourself when applying poison to a weapon.
Improved Poison Use: Starting at 10th level, you can apply poison to a weapon as a move action. (Normally, applying a poison is a standard action, like applying an oil.)
[These two abilities are the same as the CAdv Ninja, but I moved them both one level later so there wouldn’t be any “dead levels” in the Sublime Shinobi’s level progression table.]
Wind Run (Ex)
Thanks to their unique training, Sublime Shinobi are able to move quickly and cover great distances at speed. At 4th level and higher, you may run for a number of minutes equal to one-half your class level before you must stop and catch your breath (normally you can only run for 1 minute before you must rest). For example, a 4th level Shinobi could run for two minutes without resting. In addition, when using Overland Movement you may hustle for more than 1 hour before you take nonlethal damage and become fatigued. You may hustle a number of hours equal to one-half your class level without penalty. If you continue to hustle for more than one-half your class level in hours per day, you become fatigued and take nonlethal damage as if the total time spent in a hustle was reduced by one-half your class level (for example, if a 4th level Sublime Shinobi hustled for 5 hours straight, she would take nonlethal damage as if she had hustled for 3 hours instead of 5).
[This class ability is mostly for fluff, because the overland travel rules really aren’t used very often. It is meant to represent the Ninja Run trope and when combined with the movement speed increases from Spirit Step can let the Shinobi move very quickly.]
At 4th level you gain your choice of either Run (Player’s Handbook, page 99) or Brachiation (Complete Adventurer, page 106) as a bonus feat. You must meet the prerequisites of the selected feat.
[This bonus feat choice is mostly for fluff and goes along with the Wind Run ability above. The Run feat is great for fast retreats and also improves your leaping ability, on top of the boosts you already receive from the Acrobatics class feature and Leaping Dragon Stance bonus stance. The Brachiation feat lets you leap through the treetops the way they do in Naruto.]
Great Leap (Ex)
At 5th level, add Leaping Dragon Stance to your list of Sublime Shinobi stances known, even if you do not meet the prerequisites. If you already know this stance you may instead pick another stance from the schools available to you for which you meet the prerequisites, and add it to your stances known.
[This ability replaces the CAdv Ninja’s Great Leap class feature, but comes one level later. Like the Great Leap ability, Leaping Dragon Stance lets the Shinobi make standing jumps as if they were running jumps, but it also adds a +10 ft enhancement bonus to those jumps. This means the Sublime Shinobi will have the same total number of stances known as a Swordsage, though she gains them at different levels.]
Ghost Sight (Su)
At 5th level and higher, you gain the ability to focus your inner vision to perceive invisible creatures. Activating the ability is a standard action which does not provoke attacks of opportunity, and may be used an unlimited number of times per day. You are able to see invisible creatures as if they were normally visible, but this blurs your perceptions so that both visible and invisible targets have concealment against you (note that you cannot deal sneak attack damage against targets with concealment). Each use of this ability lasts for 1 round per class level, but can be ended as a free action.
[Like Spirit Step, this ability is borrowed from the Spirit Monk by Slagger the Chuul. I changed the name from Spirit Sense to Ghost Sight and modified it slightly. Being able to see invisible targets is very useful, but the concealment makes it a tactical choice rather than an “always on” ability]
Improved Ghost Sight: At 11th level and higher, your Ghost Sight ability now requires a swift action to activate instead of a standard action, and enemies no longer gain concealment against you.
[I combined the 10th level and 12th level abilities from Spirit Sense into one.]
Greater Ghost Sight: At 15th level and higher, when you use your Ghost Sight ability you can now see ethereal creatures as well as invisible.
[This replaces the CAdv Ninja’s ability to see invisible and ethereal creatures which comes at 16th level.]
Ghost Strike (Su)
At 8th level and higher, you gain the ability to strike incorporeal and ethereal creatures as if they were corporeal. You can also use this ability to strike foes on the Material Plane normally while you are ethereal (for example, while using your Greater Ghost Step ability, see above). Activating the Ghost Strike ability is a move action that does not provoke attacks of opportunity. It affects the next attack you make before the end of your next turn. You can use this ability once per day per class level.
[This ability is no longer limited by the Ninja’s ki pool but is still only usable a limited number of times per day. Requiring a move action to activate the ability also limits it significantly because of the “action economy.”]
Greater Ghost Strike: At 14th level and higher, when you use Ghost Strike it requires a swift action to activate the ability instead of a move action.
[Requiring a swift action instead of a move action means the ability will be usable more often but is still limited by the “action economy” because martial adepts already have a lot of things they want to use their swift actions for.]
At 9th level, you gain the ability to avoid even magical and unusual attacks with great agility. If you make a successful Reflex saving throw against an attack that normally deals half damage on a successful save, you instead take no damage. You only gain the benefit of evasion if you are wearing light armor or no armor, carrying a light load, and are not immobilized or helpless.
[This ability comes earlier than it does for the CAdv Ninja. This way it is more like the Swordsage, who also gets evasion at 9th level.]
Ghost Mind (Su)
At 14th level and higher, you gain a special resistance to spells of the scrying subschool. To detect or see you with such a spell, the caster must make a caster level check (DC 20 + your Sublime Shinobi class level). Scrying attempts targeted specifically at you do not work at all if the check fails. In the case of scrying spells that scan your area (such as arcane eye), a failed check indicates that the spell works but you simply aren’t detected.
[No change from the CAdv Ninja. This ability is similar to the nondetection spell.]
As a Sublime Shinobi, you can gain knowledge of particularly deadly maneuvers which are outside of the disciplines normally available to you. At 16th level, you may add either Ancient Mountain Hammer or Finishing Move to your list of maneuvers known, even if you do not meet the prerequisites. In order to use this maneuver you must ready it just like your other maneuvers, and it counts against your total number of maneuvers readied. If you already know both of these maneuvers you may instead pick another maneuver from the schools available to you for which you meet the prerequisites, and add it to your maneuvers known. Unlike other maneuvers, you cannot learn a new maneuver at higher levels in place of this one.
Greater Deadly Knowledge: At 20th level, you may add either Mountain Tombstone Strike or Strike of Perfect Clarity to your list of maneuvers known, even if you do not meet the prerequisites. In order to use this maneuver you must ready it just like your other maneuvers, and it counts against your total number of maneuvers readied. If you already know both of these maneuvers you may instead pick another maneuver from the schools available to you for which you meet the prerequisites, and add it to your maneuvers known. Unlike other maneuvers, you cannot learn a new maneuver at higher levels in place of this one.
[I added these bonus maneuvers because I didn’t want any “dead levels” in the class progression chart. The four maneuvers available are from Iron Heart and Stone Dragon, which are disciplines not normally available to the Sublime Shinobi. I picked these maneuvers because they seemed like they would be suitably deadly attacks for a stealth assassin to have. Also, getting an extra 9th level maneuver at 20th level seems like a decent “capstone” ability for the class.]
Improved Evasion (Ex)
From 18th level on, you gain the benefit of improved evasion. You still take no damage if you make a successful Reflex save against an attack, but even if you fail the Reflex save you only take half damage from the attack. You only gain the benefit of improved evasion if you are wearing light armor or no armor, carrying a light load, and are not immobilized or helpless.
[The CAdv Ninja does not get Improved Evasion, but the Swordsage does (at 17th level). Because I am basing the Sublime Shinobi off of the Swordsage I decided to add Improved Evasion. It probably won’t be a huge benefit since it comes at such a high level, but it’s still a decent ability and it prevents “dead levels” in the class progression chart]
Ghost Walk (Su)
At 19th level and higher, a Sublime Shinobi gains the ability to assume an ethereal state for an extended period of time. This ability functions as the spell ethereal jaunt, with a caster level equal to the Shinobi’s class level. It is usable twice per day.
[This comes from the CAdv Ninja, but because I removed the Ninja’s ki pool, I changed the ability to be usable twice daily.]
- Join Date
- Feb 2006
Re: Sublime Shinobi - PEACH
Not bad. Your reasoning for your choices is overwhelmingly good, even if I disagree with some of the choices themselves.
Before I give too much balance critique, I have to ask: What are you trying to balance against? Is this guy supposed to play with a Planar Shepherd Druid, an Incantatrix Wizard, and a DMM:Persist Cleric? Or is the expected party more like a Bard, a Ranger, and a Mystic Theurge?