The lone warrior stood and surveyed the battlefield, the sound of steel clashing and bones breaking. He tightened the grip on his blade, it responded with an eerie ring, it sought to do battle. The both of them sought it. For nearly two years, the warrior and his trusted blade had perfected their form and technique for such a grand stage. Now, all of their dedication and training would be put to the ultimate test, fear no longer clung to the warrior as he charged forward toward the chaotic pits of the battlefield. 


From the early days of the Oriental Adventures to the hayday of D&D 3.5th edition, the Kensai was the spiritual dream of the warrior who dedicated their fighting style and techniques to a singular weapon or weapon family. Ultimately perfecting their deadly art and performing rites that would bestow magical properties on their singular weapon.

The kensai in the early parts of 3.0 and 3.5 were ways for martial characters to get one supped up magical weapon with very little cost, in a system that ultra monetized it. The premise for the class came strictly from the warrior story for ultimate focus and enlightenment through the use and study of one single weapon. Over time the weapon and its user would form a mystical bond that was in truth a reflection of the warrior’s soul. At least, that was the flavor’s intention.

The kensai was a prestige class in D&D 3.0 & 3.5 edition, in 4th edition it was a Fighter paragon path that focused on the one perfect strike with the weapon and using the weapon as a whirlwind of death on multiple enemies. Within Paizo’s Pathfinder series, the kensai was a Magus archetype that followed the similar course of its D&D predecessors but with the inclusion of spellcasting.

When I thought about this type of class, I took the time to re-access the class as either a 5th edition sub-class or as a prestige class using the Unearthed Arcana content. The prestige class would have made the class broader for various martial classes to take it. But the prerequisites were harder to define than in previous editions due to the lack of “weapon focuses”, even the Fighting style special feature was not enough of a limiter. In light of this situation, I considered the idea of a sub-class but which class? Fighter was an obvious possibility, but so was the Monk. In previous incarnations, the kensai was able to project some notion of ki, but honestly the ki flavor can easily be re-flavored. For example, in Pathfinder, the kensai uses the magus’ arcane pool to fuel their abilities. So honestly, the idea to re-purpose ki into something else made else. BUT using existing flavor also made the integration a heck of a lot easier and less time-consuming.

Kensai as a Fighter archetype

“He who conquers himself is the mightiest warrior” – Confucius

kensai
A Kensai master is a deadly foe with years of mastery and skill with his signature weapon.

Signature Weapon: At 3rd level, you learn a ritual that creates a magical bond between yourself and one weapon. You perform the ritual over the course of 1 hour, which can be done during a short rest. The weapon must be within your reach throughout the ritual, at the conclusion of which you touch the weapon and forge the bond.

Once you have bonded a weapon, you can’t be disarmed of that weapon unless you are incapacitated. If it is on the same plane of existence, you can summon that weapon as a bonus action on your turn, causing it to teleport instantly to your hand. The bonded weapon is considered a magical weapon for the purposes of resistances and immunity. In addition, the weapon is treated as a +1 weapon, if the weapon already has a magic property, you choose which property is expressed.

You can only have one bonded weapon, if you attempt to bond a second weapon, you must break the bond of the previous one.

Enhanced Weapon: Starting at 7th level, you impart a ritual to draw out the inner reflections of yourself onto your signature weapon. The signature weapon is considered as a +2 weapon. In addition, the weapon deals 2d6 additional damage of a specific type: acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder. Once you select the type, it cannot be changed until you take a short or long rest.

At 12th level, the weapon is considered a +3 weapon, and the damage dice increases by 1d6. At 17th level, the additional damage dice are now d8’s.

Superior Weapon: Starting at 10th level, the signature weapon begins to take a feature of its own and continues to reflect its wielder. The signature weapon can now be considered to have one of the following properties:

  • Vicious
  • Warning
  • Speed (make one attack with the signature weapon as a bonus action)

You can change these properties after finishing a short or long rest.

Projection of the Perfect Warrior: Starting at 15th level, you have introspectively looked deep within yourself and the reflection that your signature weapon has brought before you. You hone on this image and channel it through your physical form. Your Strength or Dexterity score (your choice) is considered a 19 (if your ability score is already 19 or higher, this feature does not stack) for one round whenever you use your Action Surge. You can choose to use this before or after the additional action.

Weapon of Legend: Starting at 18th level, your signature weapon becomes the perfect personification of your soul. Your signature weapon gains the unbreakable property. In addition, the signature weapon gains one of the following property:

  • Defender
  • Life-stealing
  • Luck (the weapon allows the user to reroll one attack roll, ability check, or saving throw, keeping the second roll. The feature cannot be used again until the next dawn).

Alright guys, thanks for reading along with my crazy ideas. I will do a Monk variant of the Kensai soon, so please look forward to that. If you guys like what you see or want to make comments, please do so down below. If you want future updates please follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe to our email notifications as well. If you want to help keep this content flowing, we have a donate button, OR you can visit our Amazon store here to get your D&D products and supplies (a little bit comes our way, please help us!). Thanks again for reading along, we highly appreciate it. Hope to see you guys soon!

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