D&D Ninjas Have Arrived

A quick self-serving note that my first two official pieces for D&D have been published. In August, an adventure I wrote for the Chaos Scar series was published in Dungeon magazine called “Rumble in the Valley,” involving an evil party luring the heroes into a trap. Even though it was written as part of the Chaos Scar series and draws on some history of that series, it is designed so that you can swap in villains and situations from your own campaign easily.

Today, my first Dragon magazine article was published: “Class Acts Assassin: Secrets of the Ninja.” This article, as part of the Kara-Tur theme of this month, brings PC ninjas back into D&D as a build of the Executioner Assassin introduced in Heroes of Shadow.

A number of us freelancers and bloggers were offered a list of articles upcoming in Dragon and Dungeon magazines, and asked to submit for the ones we were interested in writing. (That’s why you see more bloggers showing up in its pages recently, like our very own ChattyDM’s 0th level rules and adventure.) The article on ninjas was at the very top of my list. In fact, it’s almost on the list of geek dream projects to be the guy who brought ninjas into the current version of D&D (and I talk in a sidebar about ninjas in all previous editions as well.) I remember buying a copy of the 2nd edition Complete Ninja’s Handbook for my friend The O for his birthday. Of course, it wasn’t entirely selfish, as I wanted to read it too…

I tried to give them an interesting backstory of how ninjas came to be in Kara-Tur and various snippets of roleplaying advice for ninja characters, something that given my own experiences playing them and running them in campaigns is often overlooked. Additionally, I was able to build onto one of my favorite 4e classes in a natural way that didn’t add on too many new pieces. The Assassin was already pretty ninja-like, I just gave it a few more tools. Now I just have to wait for it to make it to character builder!

As one final trick, I was able to write the art order to finally give the ninjas revenge for the 1st edition Oriental Adventures cover. In the original, the samurai has the drop on the ninja, out in the open. In my article, the ninja finally gets the drop on the samurai.

I hope you enjoy the article as much as I had fun making it. Plus, this isn’t the first ninja class I designed for 4e, and that just amuses me to no end.

About Dave

Dave "The Game" Chalker is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Critical Hits. Since 2005, he has been bringing readers game news and advice, as well as editing nearly everything published here. He is the designer of the Origins Award-winning Get Bit!, a freelance designer and developer, son of a science fiction author, and a Master of Arts. He lives in MD with e, their three dogs, and two cats.


  1. I loved the article! It was shorter than I expected, but you managed to add just what the Executioner was missing to make a convincing ninja. That is a really well-rounded at-will selection, using the iconic ninja weapons in flavorful yet effective ways. Easily one of the best things I have read in DDI in quite a while.

  2. I figured i’d come to the source for a RAI answer. but the shruriken power, the special line does that mean that 5 ammunition poisons can be applied and used for 5 attacks?

  3. Perico: Thanks! I thought there were so many things in the Executioner that were already pretty ninja-like it seemed like the right decision. Narrowing it down to just 3 ninja weapons was tough though!

    Josiah: RAI, yes, a poison that covers 5 pieces of ammunition can be used for 5 shuriken attacks (even though the attacks can come in up to groups of 3 with the power.) The special exception is for poisons that usually only apply to a single piece, which can be used against all 3 targets of the power. I have the feeling it might get clarified later more officially since I’ve been receiving some questions on it.

  4. Something feels off about the Kusari-Gama weapon. It’s kama end feels very lacking while the less interesting, weighted chain part gets the higher damage, and the reach and defensive properties. Isn’t that side of the weapon designed to hinder a foe rather than deal a powerful blow?

  5. Since we’re discussing necessary clarifications to the article, here’s the current list of suggestions:


  6. I’m afraid I don’t have much control over changing the article post-publication, but posting on the forums the developers should see it to determine if there’s any changes to be made. I will say that the the sickle part of the kursari-gama has the stats it does because it’s the stats of a sickle. In the research I conducted, the sickle end was primarily used to deal the finishing blow, it’s true, but not through force but to finish an opponent after entangling them. This is one of those areas where it doesn’t necessarily translate to D&D.

  7. Thanks for the quick response and insight into that, Dave. I felt that the “finishing blow” deserves something more. Maybe High Crit property. Otherwise, very nicely done article.

  8. No problem, I could definitely buy high crit for the sickle end if you wanted to give it a bit more bite.

  9. It does indeed have the stats of a sickle, but remember, this is a superior weapon: its stats represent not only the physical properties of the weapon but the improvement from the character’s specialized training to use it. Also, if you design the weapon such that using the flail end is always preferable (as it is currently), then you’re not representing the real weapon well. Having the sickle end be more accurate, more damaging, or both, so that using it is preferable when you’re at close range and don’t require the reach of the chain, not only gives the kusari-gama wielding character the proper value for their superior training feat, but better reflects the style of the actual weapon as well.

    Regardless, good work on the article overall.

  10. Just a clarification on the shuriken power, I think i was reading your response wrong.

    if you have 5 poisoned shuriken, is the intent that you can use poisonous shuriken 5 times each time hitting 3 enemies with poison? or make attacks with as many shuriken as you have?

    Also it would seem that since Shuriken are not ammunition, so they are not expended when throw. So you essentially have 5 ranged weapons with until the end of the encounter poisons attached to them.

  11. So standard disclaimer here: I am a freelancer who submitted work, WotC R&D takes passes through it, etc. and my answers are only based upon my RAI when submitting them and my rules answers are unofficial. OK, that out of the way… 🙂

    If you use one of the Assassin poisons that lasts until the end of the encounter, you can toss 3 shurikens every round that use the poison when using the shuriken power. If you use a poison that only lasts for the next attack, you can toss the 3 shurikens with the poison when using the shuriken power, and all 3 will be affected by the poison that you hit. So your Bloodroot Poison can potentially affect up to the 3 targets in a round in which you hit them all, whereas your Carrion Crawler Brain Juice can potentially hit 3 targets every round until the end of the encounter.

    Hope that helps.

  12. thanks! Its pretty much what I was thinking. Just wanted to make sure your Intentions were the same.

  13. See, and I used Ninjas as monsters. In keeping with every ninja movie ever made, I utilized the trope that one solitary ninja is a stealthy killing machine, while more than one ninja is a mob of useless mooks whose sole purpose is to serve as cannon fodder. I hit the party with a huge wave of ninja minions, and let them plow through them Kill-Bill-style. As soon as they had killed the second-to-last ninja, the remaining one became a solo lurker, disappearing and reappearing in clouds of smoke, laying out caltrops to make zones of damaging difficult terrain, and hitting for crazy damage.

  14. Thank you, I very much enjoyed your article, and I am glad you helped the Ninja to join the world of 4e. Congrats on another fine publication!


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