Inspired by the noble warriors of feudal Japan, the Samurai is a formidable subclass for the Fighter in Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition. Discipline, combat prowess, unwavering resolve, and the pursuit of honor are the primary focus for those that take up this class.
In this guide, we will prepare you to master the art of the sword by showcasing how to make your own Samurai 5e build, complete with a breakdown of the subclass so that you may showcase your own honorable warrior on and off the battlefield.
Samurai Build 5e Race Selection
Your Race will determine how your character views the world, what your code of honor is for your Samurai, as well as exert a major influence on your backstory. The world will react to your character based on your selected Race as well.
With this in mind, choosing the Race that offers the best balance of flavor and inherent advantages is crucial to having fun and finding success at your game’s table.
Best Race Pick – Dragonborn
The Dragonborn offers itself as an excellent Race pick for any fledgling Samurai. Your increased Strength will make you a formidable blade wielder. Your increased Charisma will make you a dominating personality, likable or not.
And your breath weapon will add the right amount of versatility so that you can cover more damage options than other Race options are able to. Combine all these factors and you can see why the Dragonborn is a great pick for the Samurai’s combat-focused play style.
Be sure to take time to look over the varying Draconic Ancestry options to pick one that best fits your character’s flavor.
Second Best Race Pick- Half-Goliath
The large frame and imposing presence of the Half-Goliath make for a great secondary option for the Samurai if Dragonborn does not fit the bill. Like the Dragonborn, you gain an increase in strength as a Half-Goliath, which is important for your attack rolls and various checks.
Additionally, Stone’s Endurance will increase your durability during battle, a critical aspect of this class since you will be fighting up close and personal with all your enemies.
Alternate Race Pick – Elf
The Elves are graceful and agile folk that can uniquely complement the Samurai’s combat style. Take Eladrin or Shadar-Kai as your Elven subrace: Eladrin offer an otherworldly elegance as well as the Fey Step spell, while Shadar-Kai are connected to the Shadowfell, granting some key resistances and the ability to teleport as needed.
While the Strength bonuses are not inherently available, the Elf can offer more to your flavor than either of the previously listed options if you are creative enough.
Step 2 – Ability Score Allocation
After selecting your Race, your next step should be to allocate Ability Scores. Ability Score allocation should reflect the stats you want to invest most in, so we will offer a priority list of the important Ability Scores, starting with the most important.
Highest Priority – Strength
Strength is your most crucial stat as a Samurai. It is your primary attack stat, so having a high Strength score ensures your melee attacks are potent enough to fell your enemies. You will also be able to effectively use Heavy Armor without incurring any penalties.
Unlike most Fighters who can dip into Dexterity early on for ranged weapons, the Samurai cherishes their blade and will use it in almost every encounter that allows, so Strength should take top priority before investing into Dexterity.
Second Priority – Constitution
Constitution is important because it enhances your overall bulk by increasing your Health Points. A high Constitution with some investment can mean surviving a hard encounter whereas a high Constitution with no investment would kill a player.
Once your Strength is in a good spot, consider putting your Ability Score increases into Constitution to help your survival rate.
Alternate Investment- Charisma
Investing into Charisma as a Samurai offers no real combat advantages. However, the Samurai live by a strict code of conduct, regardless of moral alignment. Because of this, there may be times when your way of life and another’s are juxtaposed.
In these instances, having a high Charisma will support the dialogue that happens, boosting the various checks needed such as with Persuasion or Intimidation checks.
While Dexterity can support your bulk, a proper build and good rolls on Constitution and Strength will subvert the need for more bulk, so consider Charisma if it fits your character’s niche better.
Step 3 – Exploring the Samurai’s Kit
Keeping in line with the feudal Japan inspiration, you gain a bonus proficiency when taking this Fighter Archetype at Fighter level 3. Alternatively, you may learn one new language of your choice.
Starting at the 3rd level, you gain the ability to grant advantage on all attack rolls until the end of your current turn as well gain 5 temporary Hit Points, all as a bonus action. The amount of health increases at various levels, and this feature can be used up to three times per long rest.
At Fighter Level 7, you become more personable. Whenever you make a Charisma/Persuasion check, you may add a bonus to the check equal to your Wisdom modifier.
You also gain proficiency in Wisdom saving throws; however, if you are already proficient in Wisdom saving throws, you may choose Intelligence or Charisma saving throw proficiency.
At Fighter level 10, you may add one use of Fighting Spirit to your character if you have none remaining and roll initiative.
At Fighter level 15, you gain one of the strongest abilities of the Samurai class. If you take the Attack action and have advantage, you may replace the accuracy from the advantage for a swift extra strike.
Instead of rolling with advantage, you may make two separate attacks against your target as part of a singular action. This can only be done once per turn.
Strength Before Death
Finishing off the Samurai class at Fighter level 18, you gain the ability to delay death. If you take a hit that reduces you to 0 HP, you may use your reaction to immediately take an extra turn.
You still have 0 HP, damage to you causes saving throw failures as normal, and three failures will still kill you. Once your extra turn ends, you fall unconscious as normal if you are still at 0 HP. This feature is only usable once per long rest.
Combat Strategies for a samurai build
- Choose a Fighting Style- Once you have built up your Samurai and understand what your character is capable of, select proper Fighting Styles from your main Fighter class. Great Weapon Fighting is an excellent choice as it supports using two-handed weapons and offers the potential to increase your damage rolls. Based on how you view your katana, one-handed or two-handed weapon styles will be helpful. For one-handed users, take Dueling as the benefits and damage output are similar.
- Frontline Fighter- As a Samurai, you will primarily fight in close quarters, which can incur multiple enemies attacking you at once. Take care to prime your defenses and healing abilities when doing so, but also keep in mind the more enemies fighting you, the more breathing room your mages and supportive allies have, so use this to your advantage. At higher levels, you gain the ability to prolong your turns, making each action more useful and valuable.
- Live Honorably- The Samurai have their Bushido– a strict code of conduct to follow. Take time to research some rules you’d like your character to live by, or develop your own. While you do not need to be Lawful Good when playing a Samurai, you should have solid reasoning for your decision-making process. Have fun with what you create and remember to explain these rules to your allies so they can also see where you are coming from during roleplay.
- Balance Combat with Discussion- While combat is fun and the Fighter is a combat-focused class, take time to partake in civil discourse. As a Samurai, you can act as a jack-of-all-trades similar to a Bard given your Charismatic nature and Wisdom increase throughout levels. Engage in discussion with NPCs to try to sway them to your side, but also be ready to back up anything with your blade. Samurai do not make promises- when they say something will happen it is as good as done. Empty threats have no place in your life, so speak with conviction and back your words up with power if needed.
Conclusion on a 5e Samurai build
The Samurai Fighter is an incredibly fun class that can bring a unique style to any table. While bound to honor, the Samurai is not quite like a Paladin, and while strong with a blade, the Samurai is quite different from the other Fighter Archetypes.
You are a unique case that can lead from the front of act as hired steel for the wealthy. The most important aspect of the Samurai is to live by your Bushido, even if have no allegiance- even the ancient Ronin of feudal Japan lived by their specific laws after all. Now, take what you have built from this guide and share it with your allies in your next game.