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Shugenja, "Yoshitsune and Benkei Viewing Cherry Blossoms", by Yoshitoshi Tsukioka, 1885
“Yoshitsune and Benkei Viewing Cherry Blossoms”, by Yoshitoshi Tsukioka, 1885

Shugenja are practitioners of Shugendo. They were sometimes known as yamabushi, often mistakenly rendered as “mountain warriors”, “warrior priests”, “bandit monks”, etc. Warrior priests are correctly termed Sohei.

This version available at The Wu Jen.

Description: Shukenja (alternatively, shugenja) are holy men and women that are well respected among the common folk to whom they often administer. Likewise, men and women in power have been known to fall, and fall terribly, for having ignored a powerful member of this class. Most shukenja are itinerant, wandering about without ever establishing a permanent home. Some however, found and head temples. All can cast from a repertoire of divine spells. Honour typically counts for little among these priests.

Adventures: Shukenja adventure to advance their cause, whether good, evil, or neutral. A lot of their strengths come in combating spirits, which are quite common to the Asia world. Finally, adventuring itself is almost impossible to avoid as a result of the wandering lifestyle many adopt. Many shukenja join parties of mixed classes while travelling, but if such a group is not to be found, they just as easily take off on their own.

Characteristics: Shukenja are almost always soft-spoken and in-tune with the people of a region. Despite this connection however, they are highly aware of the spirits that inhabit everything in the land – large rocks, hills, streams, rivers, mountains, and even whole islands. As a result, their philosophies tend to be somewhat mystic and oriented toward nature.

Background: Shukenja come from all walks of life; no background is typical to the class. For those associated with a temple, the position may be hereditary, but just as many peasants and aristocrats alike have gone the lonely road of the shukenja.

Shukenja sever their familial ties upon entering the priesthood, however. Thus, they do not belong to a family or clan. They are also little affected by honour like other characters, though they do use the stuff.

Religion: Unlike western religions, Asian philosophies are often non-exclusive, meaning for example, that a person could pay homage to two gods in two religions and not be seen as unfaithful, although evangelic religions do exist. Nevertheless, shukenja are somewhat more devoted to a single deity or power than most. Shukenja can choose a deity among or a chosen power. The latter are derived from natural settings, and unlike a druid having chosen “nature” as a chose power, are more specific, such as mountains, the sea, wind, or earth.

Races: Most members of this class are humans, although other races typically have their own priesthood.

Other classes: Other classes especially gain from having a holy person with healing spells near. Likewise, a shukenja’s strengths do not lie on combat; thus a stout sword in the hands of a skilled companion is always welcome. Additionally, though shukenja are adept at hunting out and defeating troublesome spirits, having members of any other class to back up your words can be a boon. Owing to their wandering lifestyle, shukenja also get along well with wu jen. Also, sohei, monks, and shukenja are often found together on account of their religious commonalities.

Game rule information

Abilities: A shukenja relies heavily upon Charisma, which determines how powerful his spells are. Additionally, a high Constitution aids in their wide travels.

Alignment: Shukenja can be of any alignment, although most tend toward good. Good shukenja offer healing and other services to the common folk. Neutral characters might do the same, but less often. Evil shukenja are respected, but for the opposite reasons.

Hit dice: d6

Class skills: Animal Empathy (Charisma), Climb (Strength), Concentration (Constitution), Diplomacy (Charisma), Gather Information (Charisma), Handle Animal (Charisma), Heal (Wisdom), Intuit Direction (Wisdom), Knowledge (Arcana, Geography, Nature, Religion, Spirits), Listen (Wisdom), Scry Intelligence), Sense Motive (Wisdom), Spellcraft (Intelligence), Swim (Strength), Wilderness Lore (Wisdom). Using the Climb skill while wearing armor imposes an armor penalty check. Additionally, every 5 pounds of gear carried imposes a -1 penalty on Swim skill checks.

Skill points: (6 + Intelligence modifier) x4 at 1st, 6 + Intelligence modifier per level

The Shukenja

1+0+2+0+2Martial art and maneuvers, Ki focus 1/day, Animal companion, Meditation, Rites, Purification, Restrictions
4+3+4+1+4Ki focus 2/day
8+6/+1+6+2+6Ki focus 3/day
12+9/+3+8+4+8Ki focus 4/day
15+11/+4+9+5+9Timeless body
16+12/+5+10+5+10Ki focus 5/day
20+15/+7/+2+12+6+12Ki focus 6/day

Shukenja spells per day

levellevel 0level ilevel iilevel iiilevel ivlevel vlevel vilevel vii*
343+1– – 
553+12+1– – 
654+12+11+1– – 
764+13+12+1– – 
1266+14+13+13+12+1– – 
1366+15+14+13+12+1– – 
* OA only contained spells up to the seventh level.

Class features

Weapon and armor proficiency: Shukenja begin with proficiency in wearing light armor. They can also wield any simple weapon.

Martial art and maneuvers: Due to their wandering lifestyle, shukenja learn how to defend themselves.

If the character is overall first level, he begins play with the Improved Unarmed Strike and the Martial Art feats for free. Furthermore, he also receives two more feats to spend on his martial art. These are in addition to any granted for being a beginning character or race.

If the character isn’t overall first level (if the character multiclasses into shukenja), he gains the Improved Unarmed Strike and Martial Art feats free, but no bonus feats. If he already knows a martial art, he does gain a single bonus feat however, which he must spend in the martial arts.

Regardless of the level at which the character becomes a shukenja, if the chosen martial art also teaches the use of a specific weapon, the shukenja can learn to use that weapon with the Exotic Weapon Proficiency feat.

Ki focus: Once per day per at first level, a shukenja can summon his inner reserves of ki to grant him a +4 resistance bonus to any single saving throw. This power can be used any time during the round as a free action, albeit before the saving throw is made. The shukenja can use his ki in this manner twice a day at fourth level, thrice at eighth, four times at twelfth, five at sixteenth, and six times a day at twentieth. It works as a supernatural power.

Animal companion: At first level the shukenja gains the spell animal companion. This allows him to start the game with an animal companion native to the region in which he lives. The total HD of all animals befriending the shukenja under the auspices of this spell cannot exceed 2 HD per level.

Meditation: A shukenja has learned to meditate, concentrating on inner peace while not shutting out the world. It takes one minute to enter a state of meditation, but it can be relinquished immediately and without penalty. While meditating, the shukenja is somewhat oblivious to starvation and dehydration, which affect him at half theirnormal rate. He also gains a damage reduction against mundane fire and cold that ignores 1 hp of damage per round for every point of Wisdom bonus he possesses. One hour of meditation is as restful as two hours of sleep. While meditating, the shukenja cannot make Spot checks, but he can make Listen checks as normal. This is an extraordinary ability and counts as having the Meditate feat.

Rites: Shukenja can also perform birth-rites, weddings, coming-of-age ceremonies, burial rites, and services for holy days. Indeed, when a wandering shukenja comes into a village, he may receive quite a few requests to perform such services. If he is willing and does so without compensation (other than a simple meal and lodging for the time of his stay), the townsfolk will be well disposed toward him.

Purification: This is a special performance designed to ward off inimical supernatural influences, and it is usually part of the ceremonies mentioned above under Rites. A shukenja can perform a purification ceremony a number of times per day equal to three plus his Charisma modifier. There are two types of purification ceremonies:

remove curse: With a purification, a shukenja can remove curse as per the spell, but with a 5% chance of success per level. This is treated as a spell-like
ability, and can only be done once per object, creature, or area per level. Such rituals take a minimum of 10 minutes to perform and require full Concentration , although the shukenja can begin again if his Concentration is broken.

Ward: With this ritual, the shukenja creates a sanctified area against spirits. The ritual requires 1 round to perform and can be performed any number of times, but its effects are not cumulative, even if two shukenja work in tandem. At the end of the ritual, all persons standing within 5′ of the shukenja enjoy a +1 divine bonus to attack rolls and saving throws when combating spirits. The effect lasts as along as the shukenja remains conscious and within the area where he performed the purification, although others receiving the ward may leave the area without losing the penalties.

The shukenja also qualifies for the class-specific feat Improved Purification, described below. Only shukenja can take this feat.

Improved Purification [Special]

Your purification rites are more expansive and potent.

Benefit: When performing a purification to remove a curse, you can also add 5% per point of Wisdom bonus (if any) you have to the chance to dispel the effect. When instigating a ward against spirits, the effect increases to a +2 divine bonus to attack rolls and saving throws against spirits to all allies within 10′.

Special: The DM may allow this feat as a prerequisite for divine feats that have Improved Turning as a prerequisite (e.g., Divine Cleansing, Divine Resistance, and Divine Vigor, all described in S&F; the DM should also replace “Ability to turn undead” with “Ability to perform purification rites” in the prerequisite lists for these feats). Shukenja may also be able to take the Extra Turning feat, but apply it instead to the number of times they can perform a purification per day.

Restrictions: Shukenja must abide by certain restrictions or lose access to spells, ki powers, ability to perform rites and purifications until they undergo Atonement as per the spell. Shukenja cannot eat meat (although fish and birds are fine; rabbits are also considered “birds”). They are also sworn to poverty and must donate any excess treasure to the needy or their chosen religious cause.

Multiclass shukenja must also abide by these restrictions.

Spells: The greatest benefit afforded the shukenja class is a repertoire of divine spells. A shukenja must have a Charisma score of 10 plus a given spell level to cast spells from that level, and they gain bonus spells for high Charisma. Most shukenja spells are from the Divination school, and many are useful when combating spirits, common denizens of the Asia. Shukenja also have access to a wide range of healing spells.

Shukenja gain the ability to spontaneously cast cure or inflict (e.g., cure minor wounds or inflict light wounds) spells. This means that a shukenja can convert any other spell into a cure spell “on the fly,” without having the cure spell in a spell slot. The spell thus converted is lost from memory as if were cast and counts as a cure spell of equivalent level or lesser level if none exist at that the level of the converted spell. When creating the character, the player must decide which type of spells her shukenja will be able to access with this ability; from then on, the decision cannot be reversed.

Shukenja also gain access to Domain powers and their spells. Domains can be chosen according to those provided by the shukenja’s deity, or of he has instead decided to worship a chosen power, the shukenja can choose any two Domains compatible with his chosen power and not inimical to his alignment. (Note that shukenja do not gain the power to turn undead, but if a Domain allows the priest to “turn earth elementals as if they were undead,” for example, then the shukenja can perform this ability with the stated creature types. This should be treated as a normal turning
attempt.) He can also choose Domains based on his alignment (Good, Evil, Law, or Chaos).

Timeless body: At fifteenth level the shukenja no longer suffers ability score penalties for aging. He still gains ability bonuses, but dies when his time is up, however.

The class list of spells and their descriptions can be found here.

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