Alternate Class - Ninja : Masters of the Silent Shadow

by Jesse Decker, Dragon #318

The ninja's home is the shadow. In a lethal flash they deftly strike down their prey, only to vanish again without a sound or the merest trace. Walking where others cannot, they blend their training in stealth and assassination with a disciplined mind. Their rigorous training sharpens their senses and bodies, giving them supernatural powers of shadow and silence, making them phantoms to even the keenest eyes. Although ninjas lack the martial prowess of fighters or barbarians, their battles occur on the treacherous grounds of their choosing, where they appear when their foe is weakest.

Historically, ninjas came from clans of assassins and guerrilla warriors in feudal Japan. In a fantasy setting, they blend a gift for stealth and infiltration with devastating surprise attacks and supernatural means of avoiding blows. Although the specific abilities of the ninja class differ from those attributed to the historical ninja, the class's abilities mirror the ninja's fearsome and sinister reputation as a spy, assassin, and martial artist.

Adventures: Ninjas adventure for a variety of reasons. A loyal ninja might adventure at her lord's orders, using her abilities of stealth and subterfuge to ferret out enemies or to recover powerful treasures. A mercenary ninja might seek only treasure and fame, selling her blade to any who meet her price and forging a bloody name men fear to whisper. Or, a more idealistic ninja might seek to thwart a growing evil, becoming a vigilante hero against injustice and revealing hidden evils.

Most ninjas prefer anonymity to fame, and they go out of their way to disguise their profession and abilities. A rare few, however, revel in the mysterious reputation that surrounds ninjas and their training, making their abilities known and their role in an adventuring group clear. As ninjas grow in wealth and power, their goals often change, and their ability to uncover secrets and kill stealthily can shape the plans of entire nations. Rulers both fear and covet the skills of the ninja, and high-level ninjas whose identities are known often find adventures coming to them rather than the reverse.

Characteristics: Highly skilled spies and assassins, ninjas master a broad range of skills and combat techniques. Nearly every ninja perfects the arts of moving quietly and remaining hidden, but their secondary skills are often what define their role. Many ninjas perfect skills that help them become better spies, mastering the arts of social interaction and disguise. Others take on cat-burglar-like roles, practicing those skills that help them find and bypass traps and locks. Some even focus on their martial skills to become the deadliest of killers, able to strike at seemingly any target from anywhere.

In combat, a ninja can deal devastating blows to an unsuspecting opponent, but she's not as adept as a rogue at delivering such attacks in a prolonged battle. Ninjas jump and climb farther and faster than members of other classes, and they are skilled acrobats. They also receive special training in the use of poisons, which they often employ in the midst of combat. Even with these skills, a ninja's most dangerous and impressive powers involve the ability to step briefly into the Ethereal Plane. By focusing her ki, the ninja can vanish from sight, walk through nearly any barrier, and deal devastating attacks even while not physically present in a room. As a ninja advances in level, she can even turn this ability to defense, causing potentially crippling blows to pass harmlessly through her body.

Alignment: Although ninjas have a reputation as dangerous assassins and deceptive spies, they follow many different philosophies and ideals, allowing them to be of any alignment. For every dangerous mercenary who uses her ninja training to kill for money, an honest and loyal ninja stands guard over a just lord. Most ninjas follow their own beliefs first, rather than the dictates of a noble or magistrate, and therefore ninjas are more chaotic than lawful.

Religion: A ninja's religious beliefs follow those of her clan. Ninjas can follow any god, although most clans devote themselves to gods of stealth or trickery. Neutral or mercenary ninjas might devote themselves to Olidammara, while evil ninjas often revere Nerull or Erythnul.

Ninjas who have left or lost their clans follow any deity they care to, and they often choose not to worship a god.

Background: Many ninjas come from isolated clans that train in secret. They spend many years perfecting the arts of stealth and subterfuge in distant villages and hidden training camps. These warriors, whether in the service of an honorable lord or hired as mercenary assassins, carefully conceal their identity and origin. These ninjas weave complicated webs of disguises, strike only from hiding, and deal through intermediaries whenever possible. Because of their strong ties to their clan, these ninjas must often put aside personal preferences or goals to serve their lord or clan, but in return they gain the support of a powerful political force and access to the clan's many safehouses and hideouts.

Although most ninjas come from isolated clans, exceptions exist at every turn. Some ninjas receive specialized training from a single mentor, perhaps even a retired adventurer who wishes to pass along her skills. Others learn alongside monks and other ascetics in peaceful monasteries. In some places, Far-thinking nobles set up ninja training centers of their own, including anything from a single teacher with a handful of students to full-blown ninja schools where students endure a rigid series of tests and trials. Ninjas from such diverse backgrounds often find the life of an adventurer appealing. Without the ties of clan and honor that keep other ninjas tied to a lord or mission, these skilled warriors find adventuring puts their abilities to the test and rewards the skills they hold in highest esteem.

Races: Humans, halflings, half-elves, and half-orcs often have the combination of adaptability and ambition necessary to master the techniques of the ninja. Elves, though both graceful and deadly, rarely become ninjas, but those who do often achieve great fame or notoriety. Such elven ninjas often attain the heights of ninja training, shaping the history of many human generations through their daring exploits. Dwarves and gnomes seldom train as ninjas. Not only is their clan structure to open to shelter hidden clans of ninjas, their martial instincts run to more straightforward forms of combat.

Other Classes: Ninjas work best with rogues and rangers. Although they appreciate the healing power of clerics, the ability of sorcerers and wizards to kill with a word, and the sheer offensive might of fighters and barbarians, ninjas rely too much on stealth to completely embrace the idea of adventuring with other classes. Conversely, when traveling or not actively adventuring, ninjas who wish to go unnoticed benefit greatly from the presence of other classes - the less subtle and more visible their adventuring companions, the easier it is for the ninja to remain in the background and disguise her own abilities.

Role: Depending on her skill selection and the mission that the group finds itself on, the ninja's role in the party can vary dramatically. A ninja practiced in disguise and diplomacy might assume a false identity and act as the group's leader and front-person. A stealthy ninja who has perfected the arts of infiltration might benefit the group the most by acting as a scout or point-man, while a more cautious ninja might hang back, covering the group's rear. Whatever the ninja's role during routine dungeon exploration or other adventures, the ninja is a dangerous and unpredictable combatant who can disable foes with poison, strike from seemingly nowhere, and escape almost any situation by using her supernatural abilities.

Game Rule Information

Ninjas have the following game statistics.

Abilities: Ninjas benefit from high Dexterity, as many of their abilities require that they wear no armor, and it affects many of their most important skills. A high Dexterity also helps a ninja to act first in initiative and take advantage of her sudden strike ability.

Alignment: Any.

Class Skills

The ninja's class skills are Balance, Bluff, Climb, Concentration, Craft, Disable Device, Disguise, Escape Artist, Gather Information, Hide, Jump, Listen, Move Silently, Open Lock, Search, Sense Motive, Sleight of Hand, Spot, Swim, and Tumble.

Skill Points at 1st Level: (6 + Int modifier) x 4.

Skill Points at each additional level: 6 + Int modifier.

Class Features

All of the following are class features of the ninja.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Ninjas are proficient with all simple weapons, plus the hand crossbow, kama, nunchaku, sai, shortbow, short sword, shuriken, and siangham. Ninjas are not proficient with armor or shields.

AC Bonus (Ex): A ninja is highly trained at dodging blows and has a sixth sense that lets her avoid even unanticipated attacks. When unarmored and unencumbered, the ninja adds her Wisdom bonus (if any) to her Armor Class. In addition, a ninja gains a bonus to Armor Class at 5th level. This bonus increases by for every five ninja levels thereafter (+2 at 10th, +3 at 15th, and +4 at 20th).

These bonuses to AC apply even against touch attacks or when the ninja is flat-footed. She loses these bonuses when she is immobilized or helpless, when she wears any armor, when she carries a shield, or when she carries a medium or heavy load.

Ki Power (Su): The ninja can channel her ki to manifest special powers of stealth and mobility. The ninja may use her ki powers a total number of times per day equal to one-half her level plus his Wisdom bonus (if any).

Ki powers may only be used if the ninja is wearing no armor and is unencumbered.

As long as the ninja's ki pool isn't empty (that is, as long as she has at least one daily use remaining), she gains a +2 bonus on her Will saves.

Each ki power is described under a separate entry, below.

Sudden Strike (Ex): If a ninja can catch an opponent when he is unable to defend himself effectively from her attack, she can strike a vital spot for extra damage. This ability works like sneak attack, with the exception that ninjas using the sudden strike ability do not deal extra damage to opponents that they flank, but only to creatures that are denied their Dexterity bonus to Armor Class (whether the target has a Dexterity bonus to AC or not). Sudden attacks extra damage dice stack with those from sneak attack whenever both would apply to the same target. This extra damage is +1d6 at 1st level, and increases by +1d6 every two levels.

Ranged attacks count as sudden strikes only if the target is within 30 feet. A ninja can't strike with deadly accuracy from beyond that range.

A ninja can only use sudden strike against 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 sudden strike damage. The ninja 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 ninja cannot make a sudden strike while attacking a creature with concealment or striking the limbs of a creature whose vitals are out of reach.

Trapfinding: Ninjas can use the Search skill to locate traps with a Difficulty Class higher than 20. Ninjas can also use the Disable Device skill to disarm magic traps. A magic trap generally has a DC of 25 + the level of the spell used to create it.

A ninja who beats a trap's DC by 10 or more with a Disable Device check can study the trap, figure out how it works, and bypass it (with her party) without disarming it.

Ghost Step (Su): At 2nd level, the ninja can spend one daily use of her ki power to become invisible for 1 round. Using this ability is a swift action that does not provoke an attack of opportunity.

At 10th level, the ninja can become ethereal for 1 round when using ghost step instead of becoming invisible.

Poison Use (Ex): Beginning at 3rd level, a ninja no longer risks accidentally poisoning herself when applying poison to a weapon. At 9th level, a ninja can apply poison to a weapon as a move action, and at 13th level, she can apply poison to a weapon as a swift action.

Great Leap (Su): At 4th level and higher, ninjas always make Jump checks as if they were running. This ability can only be used if the ninja is wearing no armor and is unencumbered.

Acrobatics (Su): At 6th level, ninjas gain a +2 bonus to Climb, Jump, and Tumble checks. This bonus increases to +4 at 12th level and +6 at 18th level.

ki Dodge (Su): At 6th level and higher, a ninja can spend a daily use of her ki power to cause attacks against her that might otherwise hit to miss. When she activates this ability, the ninja's outline shifts and wavers, causing some attacks to miss. This distortion grants the ninja concealment (20% miss chance) against all attacks for 1 round. Using this ability is a swift action.

See invisibility has no effect on the miss chance caused by the ki dodge ability, but true seeing negates it, The miss chance caused by this ability does not stack with that caused by concealment or spells like blink or displacement.

This ability can be used only if the ninja is wearing no armor and is unencumbered.

Speed Climb (Ex): At 7th level and higher, a ninja can scramble up or down walls and slopes with great speed. She may climb her full base speed as a move action with no penalty; however, she must begin and end the round on a horizontal surface (such as the ground or a rooftop). If she does not end her movement on a horizontal surface, she falls, taking falling damage as appropriate for her distance above the ground.

The ninja also needs only one free hand to use this ability. When climbing normally, the ninja requires both hands free. This ability can be used only if the ninja is wearing no armor and is unencumbered.

Ghost Strike (Su): At 8th level and higher, a ninja can spend a daily use of her ki power to strike incorporeal and ethereal creatures as if they were corporeal. The ninja can also use this ability to strike foes on the Material Plane normally while on the Ethereal Plane (for example, while using her ghost step ability).

Activating the ghost strike ability is a swift action. It affects the next attack made by the ninja, as long as that attack is made by the end of the next round.

Evasion (Ex): A ninja of 12th level or higher can avoid even magical and unusual attacks with great agility. If she makes a successful Reflex saving throw against an attack that normally deals half damage on a successful save (such as a red dragon's fiery breath or a fireball), she instead takes no damage. Evasion can be used only if a ninja is wearing no armor and is unencumbered. A helpless ninja (such as one who is unconscious or paralyzed) does not gain the benefit of evasion.

Ghost Mind (Su): At 14th level and higher, a ninja gains a special resistance to spells with the scrying descriptor. To detect or see a ninja with such a spell, the caster must succeed at a caster level check against a DC of 20 + the ninja's class level. In the case of scrying spells that scan the area that the ninja is in, such as arcane eye, a failed check indicates that the spell works but the ninja simply isn't detected. Scrying attempts targeted specifically at the ninja do not work at all if the check fails.

Ghost Sight (Su): At 16th level and higher, a ninja can see invisible and ethereal creatures as easily as she sees material creatures and objects.

Greater ki Dodge (Su): At 18th level, the miss chance caused by the ninja's ki dodge ability increases to 50%.

Ghost Form (Su): At 20th level, the ninja can spend two daily uses of her ki power to enter the Ethereal Plane for an extended period of time, This ability functions as the ethereal jaunt spell cast by a sorcerer with a level equal to the ninja's class level, except that the ninja can use this ability only on herself.

NinjaHit Die: d6
CLBABFortRefWillAC bonusSpecial
1st+0+0+2+0+0Ki Power, sudden strike 1d6, trapfinding
2nd+1+0+3+0+0Ghost step (invisible)
3rd+2+1+3+1+0Sudden strike +2d6, poison use
4th+1+1+4+1+0Great leap
5th+1+1+4+1+1Sudden strike +3d6
6th+4+2+5+2+1Acrobatics (+2), ki dodge
7th+5+2+5+2+1Sudden strike +4d6, vertical run
8th+6/+1+2+6+2+1Ghost strike
9th+6/+1+3+6+3+1Sudden strike +5d6, poison use (move action)
10th+7/+2+3+7+3+2Ghost step (ethereal)
11th+8/+3+3+7+3+2Sudden strike +6d6
12th+9/+4+4+8+4+2Acrobatics (+4), evasion
13th+9/+4+4+8+4+2Sudden strike +7d6
14th+10/+5+4+9+4+2Ghost mind
15th+11/+6/+1+5+9+5+3Sudden strike +8d6
16th+12/+7/+2+5+10+5+3Ghost sight
17th+12/+7/+2+5+10+5+3Sudden strike +9d6
18th+13/+8/+3+6+11+6+3Acrobatics (+6), greater ki dodge
19th+14/+9/+4+6+11+6+3Sudden strike +10d6
20th+15/+10/+5+6+12+6+4Ghost form

Source: Complete Adventurer
Oriental Adventures

Alternate Character Classes
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