Author Topic: Shugenja Handbook  (Read 6205 times)

Offline InnaBinder

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Shugenja Handbook
« Topic Start: November 15, 2011, 07:33:30 AM »
Shugenja Handbook




Note:  This is under construction.  Please contribute any links, builds, strategies, equipment, or thoughts you find useful for a shugenja.  Thanks in advance to jameswilliamogle, Kuroimaken, AfterCrescent, and j0lt for their help with this project.

"Satori to Tenkai wa imi no nai mono soshite baka na mono ga iku.  Seisho wa kami kirei de omae no kao no doro wo nuguu mono da.  Shitai wa ohaka no naka no obake.  Kore ga doushite omae ga jiyu ni naru michi nanoka?" 

Enlightenment" and "Nirvana"? They are dead trees to fasten a donkey to. The scriptures? They are bits of paper to wipe the mud from your face. The four merits and ten steps? They are ghosts in their graves. What can these things have to do with you becoming free?
– En No Gyoja

Shugenja Class Features:

Pro:
•   Spells – Shugenja are full divine casters with access to 9th level spells, some of them not readily available to any other divine casters.
•   Elemental and Order Focus – By zoning in to a specific element, a Shugenja can emulate the role of Blaster, Healer, Illusionist, or Support, depending on preference.  While each element has two different orders dedicated to it, a shugenja is not restricted to an order dedicated to her element by RAW (thanks to Kuroimaken for this catch).
•   Spontaneous Caster – Shugenja cast spells as Sorcerers do, without the worry that a spell cast in the first round of combat will be unavailable if needed later in the day, or completely wasted if the opponent made the save.  This also makes metamagic feats more attractive for added utility to their spells.
•   Single Attribute Dependency – Unlike other divine spellcasters who rely on both WIS and CHA for various class abilities, a Shugenja needs only a decent CHA score to be fully functional.  In a tight point-buy or other strict character creation method, this can really help out.
•   Skills – 4 Skill points/level off of a short but decent list make it easier to contribute when not casting spells.
•   Sense Elements – Use this intelligently and often.  Your party will become much more difficult to ambush, without any resource expenditure.
•   Proficiency with Short Sword – While it’s a relatively underwhelming example of the type, automatic proficiency with a martial weapon can potentially open up more Prestige Class options.
Con:
•   Restricted Spell List – Shugenja need to choose an element in which to specialize, and are barred from spells of an opposing element.
•   No Armor Proficiency – A complete lack of armor proficiency makes low-level Shugenja squishy, and can further limit spell choices in the name of survivability.  Most will eat the non-proficiency penalties and strap on light armor.
•   d6 Hit Dice – Okay, not just squishy, extra squishy.
•   Lack of Supplemental Support – This might be the biggie.  Aside from their Complete Divine source material, there are four (!) spells in Complete Champion, and virtually no others without 3rd party access.
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Offline InnaBinder

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Re: Shugenja Handbook
« Reply #1: November 15, 2011, 07:34:17 AM »
Attributes:

COLOR KEY: Terrible, Bad, Average, Good, YEAH BABY!

Shugenja are Charisma-based divine spellcasters.  As such, they benefit primarily from a high casting stat (CHA), and secondarily from stats that improve general survivability.
•   Strength:  You will most likely find STR a low priority stat.  Lack of armor proficiency, small HD, and a limited weapons arsenal mean you’re not well-suited to combat.  On the other hand, armor explicitly does not interfere with your spellcasting.  Only invest in this if you wish to wear armor without encumbrance.
•   Dexterity:   Better secondary benefits, combined with otherwise poor defensive capabilities, make DEX more important to most shugenja than STR.  Don’t dump this.
•   Constitution:  Every character needs hit points, and every caster needs a good Concentration check.  This is your second most important stat.
•   Intelligence:   A short but good class skill list combined with 4 skill points/level means human shugenja can probably dump this, while non-humans will want to avoid a penalty, nothing more.
•   Wisdom:  Dump stat.  It improves your Will save – already your strongest – and two skills of marginal utility at best.
•   Charisma:   You’re a primary caster.  This is your casting stat.  Your best stat should go here.
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Offline InnaBinder

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Re: Shugenja Handbook
« Reply #2: November 15, 2011, 07:35:21 AM »
Races:
•   Human: (PH) As always, this is a solid choice.  Between the bonus feat, extra skill points, and favored class freedom, it’s hard to go wrong with human.
•    Half-Elf:  (PH) A racial bonus to one of your best class skills, and no multiclassing restrictions or stat penalties, make this a decent choice, if not spectacular.
•   Gnome: (PH) A CON bonus and a penalty to an unimportant stat combine with the perks of Small size to make this a decent option.  Air Shugenja can consider the Forest Gnome variant a blue racial choice.  Chaos Gnomes are amazingly good Shugenja if you can buy off the LA.
•   Halfling: (PH) As with Gnomes, Halflings get a bonus to a secondary stat (DEX) and an unimportant STR penalty along with Small size (and a bonus to thrown weapons), for a decent if unspectacular choice.   If available, Strongheart Halflings are a strong blue option thanks to their extra feat.
•   Elf: (PH)  The CON penalty is more hindrance than the DEX bonus is benefit, given your small HD.  Avoid unless you’ve got access to a Star Elf.
•   Dwarf: (PH)  CHA penalty hurts too much to recommend them.  Gold Dwarf elavates up to black.
•   Half-Orc: (PH) A penalty to your most important stat and a bonus to one you don’t need? Avoid.
•   Illumian: (RoD) The various sigil combinations can be used to greatly enhance your spellcasting prowess.  This is a good option.
•   Spellscale: (RoDr) Even with the CON penalty, these make a good choice, with a CHA bonus and blood-quickening meditations for versatility.  Mix with Dragonborn of Bahamut for teal level awesome.
•   Kobold: (RoDr) Venerable Dragonwrought Kobold, specifically.  You get a CON penalty, sure, but you’re now a DRAGON, get more spells known, are (arguably) able to gain Epic feats, and with (Greater) Draconic Rite of Passage cheese available for more fun.  Desert Kobold is the dark chocolate fudge topping on your shugenja sundae.
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Offline InnaBinder

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Re: Shugenja Handbook
« Reply #3: November 15, 2011, 07:37:12 AM »
Elements:

The choice of elemental focus  - whether  Fire, Water, Air, or Earth - is key to how your shugenja plays and the role(s) you fill in the party.  The shugenja can mimic the role of warmage (Fire), healer (Water), beguiler (Air), or dragon shaman (Earth) to a limited extent. 

I quote here from the gospel of Kuroimaken:

Having played extensively with Shugenja (at least until 3.5 came out; but to be frank, they haven't changed any from 3.0 anyway), here are my ideas. One thing of significant note is that your order's element does NOT have to match your chosen element, and some of the order spells are not normally available to Shugenja to choose, so order selection plays a big part. You still cannot select spells from an element opposed to your own, however. Also, though your element dictates half the spells you know, some elements have quite worthy spells on their lists. I will consider each Shugenja based on their favored element.

"Honoo wa ikiteiru... Kokyu oshi , tabe, soshite kirau."  [Fire is] a living thing... It breathes, it eats, and it hates. - Robert DeNiro, Backdraft

Fire Shugenja: This guy is a blaster, pure and simple. Over 80% of his spell list is intended to deal damage, either over an area or individually. No access to save-or-dies (except for Implosion), has a few double threats and save-or-suck spells, and very few boosts. Not good with battlefield control because pretty much none of his spells last long -- but if it's about dealing damage, this is your guy. 

         .      .      .

"Shikou wo karanisuru, katachi ga naku nari, mizu no youni ni naru."  Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless--like water. - Bruce Lee

Water Shugenja: By contrast, the Water Shugenja is a healer. He has access to pretty much every healing spell in the PHB (including True Ressurrection). The downside being, of course, that their offensive power is incredibly limited. No boosts, but they get access to some good early level battlefield control effects such as Obscuring Mist. On mid to late levels, they can gain access to some offensive effects, and they have the odd divination spell thrown in here and there. Weirdest noteworthy point: they gain access to Righteous Might for some bizarre reason, but no other boosts besides.

         .      .      .

"Sore wa kuuki to sora to tobukoto no naka no ai, bouken no miriyoku, bi no kansha."  It was a love of the air and sky and flying, the lure of adventure, the appreciation of beauty. - Charles Lindbergh

Air Shugenja: The biggest problem Illusionist fans will have with this guy is that he has no access to Shadow Evocation and Shadow Conjuration. This can be detractive to his role as an Illusionist, as he has to rely on spells from other elements to have any effect on the battlefield when his opponents are immune to illusions. No shadow spells of any kind. Also has access to a few defensive buffs, a couple of early-level debuffs (such as Color Spray), and lots of transportation spells, mainly Teleport. No Dimension Door. He also has a few divinations thrown in, but nothing to go crazy about.

.      .      .

"Yama no youna yutakasa ni mieru."  It can be seen that mountains are full of riches. – Guang Zhong

Earth Shugenja: These guys are... odd. Earth Shugenja focus mostly on buffs and protection (and the occasional save or suck), right up to the point where they gain 6th-level spells. Then they start throwing crap into the fan and getting offensive with stuff like Disintegrate, Flesh to Stone and Earthquake. Overall, their buffs are nothing to sneeze at, particularly at low levels, when that Magic Weapon spell can really save your sorry rear. Despite this, they're actually pretty decent, considering what they give up in exchange, and though they lack more defensive options at later levels, they make for decent support characters. No War Weavers or Bards by any means -- but not Healers, either.

Kuroimaken’s Addendum: Element picking is entirely dependent on what your role is going to be, but there's a catch: each element has at least one spell you cannot do without under any circumstances - except for water. Given that healing is considered a waste of an action by most CO/minmaxers (and water doesn't have the vigor line), this leaves the majority of its spells out. What's left are oddball divinations and early game battlefield control. Therefore, unless you're looking at a secondary role as a healbot, it's actually fairly safe to pick fire nearly every time. Picking Earth forfeits Teleport and picking Wind forfeits Disintegrate - and picking Water forfeits nearly every blasty spell left, which means you can do NOTHING but support for nearly the whole time before level 13.

The Fifth Element:  No, not that one.  The Shugenja’s fifth element is Void, taught by only one Order: the Order of the Ineffable Mystery.  See below for more.

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Offline InnaBinder

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Re: Shugenja Handbook
« Reply #4: November 15, 2011, 07:38:18 AM »
Order:

If the Element you choose is the most important aspect in defining your role, the Order you choose is a close second.  Orders function for Shugenja similarly to how Domains function for Clerics: they provide both versatility and focus to the spell list.  Certain Orders will work better for a specific Elemental focus, while others will be nigh useless because of an Element’s restrictions.  Each Order gets a rating of one to five stars based on which Element it’s taken in conjunction with. 



Order of the All-Seeing Eye
:  Very useful out of combat if your party lacks a diviner, but completely without offensive boosters to help in combat.  The divination spell focus here is also notoriously DM-specific in its utility. 
Fire: ***(Now you have something to do besides blow stuff up); Water: *(Versatility without any combat contributions – yay?); Air: ***(Settling into the roles of illusionist and scout); Earth: **** (You’re officially a swiss army knife, now).

Order of the Spring Zephyr:  Misdirections galore, for all your covert ops needs.  No damaging spells, but you’ll be better able to help out in combat than with the All-Seeing Eye.
Fire: ***(You’re still a blaster, but now you’re a sneaky blaster); Water: **(Make yourself useful while waiting to heal people. Yawn); Air: **(If the enemy’s immune to illusions, you’re officially dead weight); Earth: *(No fourth level spell for you!).

Order of the Impenetrable Crucible:  A solid combination of buffs, plus a direct damage spell with a decent secondary effect.
Fire: *** (Things to cast on your party without making them scream at you); Water:****(Positive combat contributions, including – gasp! – damage); Air: **** (Not every effect you cast is illusory); Earth: *(Department of redundancy department, may I help, aid, or assist you?).

Order of the Perfect Sculpture
:  If your DM has you spelunking or investigating underground catacombs, there will be utility here; count on it.  Please note the first word of that previous sentence.
Fire: *** (Might as well make a kiln and put Ghost on the DVD player.…); Water:***(Your party will stop calling you ‘The Band-Aid’ now); Air: 0 stars (Seven spells on your banned list, out of ten.  Enough said); Earth: * (There’s something very familiar about these spells….).

Order of the Consuming Flame:  For all your pyromaniac needs.
Fire: * (You already cast these spells); Water: 0 stars (ALL of the spells are banned.  I need a smaller number of stars than zero); Air: ***(“Don’t worry, Abner, the fireball is an illusi - oh, god, the pain!”); Earth: ** (You have better ways of hurting your foes).

Order of the Forbidding Wasteland:  No real unifying theme here.  There’s some rejuvenation, divination, and damage dealing, some of which is hard to get otherwise.
Fire: ****(This gets the most versatility for your wannabe warmage); Water: * (You’ve got a couple of redundant spells on this list); Air: ** (Some duplication to go with some awesome); Earth: * (Spells from your banned list are less than helpful to you).

Order of the Gentle Rain: So, you want to be a healbot.  You really, REALLY want to be a healbot.  Newsflash: healbots are categorically BIJNTU, and Shugenjas don’t have the really useful vigor line of spells that would allow you to heal and then do something else. * for all Elements except Fire, who can’t cast them, so 0 stars.

Order of the Ineffable Mystery:  The mysterious fifth element is Void, apparently.  If you’re one of the minority who is a fan of counterspelling, this list is for you.  The nature of a typical D&D campaign makes this the only ***** Order, able to fundamentally shut down enemy spellcasters with a modicum of luck and tactical sense on your part.
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Offline InnaBinder

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Re: Shugenja Handbook
« Reply #5: November 15, 2011, 07:40:06 AM »
Feats:

Combat Casting: As useful as ever.  Skill Focus (Concentration) is arguably a better investment for versatility, but more Prestige Classes require Combat Casting than a Skill Focus.

Improved Initiative: Always a worthwhile choice.

Empower Spell: Sorcerers love metamagic.  You're a divine Sorcerer.  Need I make this clearer?  Best for Fire Shugenja, least useful for Air Shugenja.

Enlarge Spell: Fire and Earth Shugenja will use this often.  Water Shugenja will find few reasons to take it.

Extend Spell: Air and Earth Shugenja get the most mileage out of this one.  Water Shugenja, not so much.

Heighten Spell: Fire Shugenja could see utility from this one; none of the other Elements care enough about saving throw DCs to make this an obvious choice.

Maximize Spell: Empower Spell is better.

Energy Substitution: Fire Shugenja could find good uses for this to overcome immunities.  They're the only blasters, so the only ones who should consider it.

Chain Spell: Myriad uses for this one with a creative spellcaster.  Prerequisites keep it from being blue.

Persistent Spell: Earth Shugenja might consider this one essential.  Fire and Water Shugenja find it harder to utilize as effectively.

Knowledge Devotion: All Knowledge skills are class skills.    If you're filling a blaster or melee support role, you'll find yourself benefiting immensely from this.  It has amazing synergy with Paragnostic Apostle.

Reach Spell: Earth and Water Shugenja find the most options opened up from this choice.

Practiced Spellcaster:If you dipped out of Shugenja or have a partial-caster PrC, you need this feat.

To Avoid:

Armor Proficiency (any): "No ASF" cannot be overemphasized, and your weapons list is not what melee monkeys are made of.  If you're taking the Earth Shugenja toward a a melee support prestige class, you might possibly find yourself needing this.  If so, look at PrC options that grant it instead of burning one or more feats.

Martial Weapon Proficiency (any): Repeat after me: Shugenja is not a BSF class, Shugenja is not a BSF class.... You're already proficient in one martial weapon.  That's plenty for the roles you'll fill in almost every circumstance.

Sudden Metamagic: Another TRAP, here.  Use per day limitations exacerbate the problem of the Five Minute Work Day.  Use metamagic rods instead.
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Offline InnaBinder

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Re: Shugenja Handbook
« Reply #6: November 15, 2011, 07:42:26 AM »
Prestige Classes:

Sacred Exorcist: Air Shugenja would need multiclass shenanigans to get in; Earth Shugenja get virtual free admission.  This will fill one of the huge, gaping holes in the Shugenja’s divine spellcaster arsenal: the ability to Turn Undead.  DMM Persist, right this way.

Divine Oracle:  Domain access, 10/10 casting, and Evasion in any armor?  I’m not seeing a downside here for any except the Fire Shugenja, who will have some difficulties qualifying.

Contemplative:  Any domain your deity offers, and no restrictions that limit which Element or Order you follow for qualifying.  Amazingly good.

Seeker of the Misty Isle:  Requires a feat expenditure and is racially limited.  That said, TRAVEL Domain.  Take no more than 4 levels, preferably after a Sacred Exorcist dip.

Stormlord:  Meh.  It’s a full casting class that has some thematic synergy with Air or Fire Shugenja, but requires a multiclass dip and some truly subpar feats to qualify in a timely fashion.   Best if paired with a Cleric dip for the War Domain or a level of Fighter or Warblade.

Void Disciple:  IT’S A TRAP!  This 13 level PrC was clearly made with the Shugenja’s Order of Ineffable Mystery in mind, and was clearly made to tone down its alleged power.  Five, count them, FIVE caster levels lost along this path.  If you absolutely must have it, get out after the useful 4th level ability is gained.  Mentioned here mostly for completeness.

Paragnostic Apostle:  Assuming you’re not a frontline combat type – and you shouldn’t be, as a Shugenja – the Paragnostic Apostle is a nifty little class to consider.  Easy enough to qualify for, full spellcasting, and a buffet table of various cookies for advancing along the path.

Anima Mage: You're thinking 'Hey, if Turn Undead is that amazing for a Shugenja, why isn't the Binder dip to get Turn Undead all day long even MOAR amazing?'  Well, the text for Tenebrious - the Turn Undead vestige - says 'as a Cleric' and then goes on to say 'after you use this ability, you cannot do so again for 5 rounds.'  The number of DMs who would read the latter as 'You get unlimited Turn Undead per day; rock and roll!' is probably calculable on the fingers of one kneecap.  A more generally accepted reading is that the 'cannot do so again for 5 rounds' is an additional limitation on Tenebrious' granted ability.  That makes the loss of caster levels too bitter a pill for most to swallow.  If you managed to get your DM inebriated enough to allow you NI Turn attempts, go nuts.

Other PrCs of interest for Shugenjas, from Omen of Peace:
- Singer of Concordance (RotD): to qualify, the only real constraint is that you must be dragonblooded and worship Io. You gain a good Ref save, a domain at level 2 and some useless-to-nice abilities.
Fluff-wise, it suits Earth and Water Shugenjas better IMO.

- Earth Dreamer (RoS): easy to qualify for (1 feat), this PrC grants really cool abilities. Very flavorful for an Earth Shugenja as well.  (IB's note: on the fence about a BLUE vs. TEAL rating for this one.  No Domain access and fairly campaign-specific abilities, along with a reduction in HD.  Thoughts?)

- Shadowcraft Mage (RoS) is actually accessible: in Eberron, the Shadow domain has the whole Shadow Conj/Evoc line. Get it with Contemplative and have fun. Suits Air Shugenjas well (if they then proceed to take Earth Sense/Spell to optimize, it's their problem !). Build: Shugenja 10/Contemplative 1/ScM 5/X 4 - late blooming but... you're an ScM ! (IB's note: if X 4 = another BLUE PrC, the overall level of awesome for the build is TEAL IMHO.)

- it's possible to qualify (late via Contemplative) for Holt Warden(CC) but I'd recommend against it.

- Mythic Exemplar(CC) is easy to qualify for but loses 1 or 2 CL.

- Rimefire Witch (Frostburn) requires 2 feats. It gives decent abilities that should suit a WS well (one is a cold Eldritch Blast-alike).

- In the same book, the Winterhaunt is underwhelming.

- Stormcaster (Stormwrack) can only be taken by Air and Fire Shugenjas. It loses a CL but is pretty cool otherwise.
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Offline InnaBinder

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Re: Shugenja Handbook
« Reply #7: November 15, 2011, 07:44:32 AM »
Builds:

Spellscale Fire Shugenja 6/Divine Oracle 2/Sacred Exorcist 2/Contemplative 6/Paragnostic Apostle 4
Order of the Impenetrable Crucible
(click to show/hide)
Trap Sense, Detect Evil at will, 12 Turn attempts, Divine Health, self healing, Poison immunity, Prescient Sense (Evasion +1), faux Bardic Knowledge, and three Domains from which you can diversify your spell list.  Aside from the required Oracle Domain and listed Planning Domain, I like the Mind Domain for Diplomacy and Divine Oracle synergy.  Additional note: Spellscale Meditation to Tamara allows him to use cure spell completion items at no penalty.

Akalsaris' Death Debuffer
(click to show/hide)

Omen of Peace's Offense-Minded Healbot
(click to show/hide)

Ivory Knight's Eldritch Elementarist
(click to show/hide)

Omen of Peace's Air Faux-Beguiler
(click to show/hide)
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Offline InnaBinder

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Re: Shugenja Handbook
« Reply #8: November 15, 2011, 07:46:16 AM »
On Multiclassing and Domains:Shugenja is a fairly flexible class, given that the various Elemental and Order foci allow for the emulation of various other classes.  That said, the only benefit to advancing Shugenja beyond 1st level is spellcasting; for many optimizers, that's a clear indicator to get out of Shugenja as quickly as possible, into another base class or PrC.  If you choose this route, here are some thoughts on the various benefits:

Barbarian:Get some extra HP, weapon and armor proficiencies, and the ability to froth at the mouth instead of casting spells.  This sounds like a recipe for trouble.  A minority of Earth Shugenja with good physical stats, and who are emulating a gish build, might find utility here in a one or two level dip.
Bard:With no change in primary stat focus, gain additional skill points and a whole lot more skills, along with the bardic music goodies. Two levels here add much to your versatility, including a gateway to that juicy Sublime Chord progression.
Cleric:A single level dip into Cleric nets you that coveted Turn Undead ability for DMM fun, as well as access to a couple of Domains.  However, it won't let you progress Domain casting as a PrC would, and requires that you spent on what is otherwise your dump stat.  Fire Shugenja might consider it for the access to healing.
Druid:The Animal Companion will be stuck at low levels of effectiveness, and you'll have to allocate WIS for the spells.  You'll also probably be getting out before you can Wild Shape. Fire Shugenja might consider it for the access to healing.
Fighter: A single level dip - maybe two, no more - gets you considerable benefits if your Shugenja regularly finds himself in the thick of the battle.  Those bonus Feats can help Earth Shugenja especially, as the ones most likely using attack oriented spells.
Monk: Emphasis on your dump stat and physical confrontations, for which you are otherwise ill-equipped, in order to do less damage than a well-conceived 1st level spell.  Pass.
Paladin: Assuming you can live with the PITA code/alignment issues, this is arguably the best choice for a martial Shugenja.  Two levels here will do you and your party a world of good.
Ranger: A small HP increase, some off-focus skills, and a combat style you're probably minimally equipped to use make this among the less attractive martial options for a Shugenja unless you're facing hordes of a specific enemy.  It's better if you have access to the variant Ranger fighting styles from Dragon magazine.
Rogue: A wide variety of social skills - along with UMD - with plenty of skill points, Evasion, and a small, reasonable boost to your combat prowess make a two-level dip into Rogue a very tempting idea.
Sorcerer: Single attribute focus: check.  Spells: check.  Lots more versatility: check.  If you go this route, you're aiming for a Theurge PrC of some sort.
Wizard: For a CHA-focused build, Sorcerer is just a more sound option.  If Scribe Scroll is this important to you, buy the Feat.

Domains:Since I've sung the praises of Domain access throughout this handbook, naturally, the following retort came up:
Quote from: Omen of Peace
Then what domains would you recommend ? (Don't tell me you didn't see that coming.  ;))
Well, alrighty then.
(click to show/hide)
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Offline Sinfire Titan

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Re: Shugenja Handbook
« Reply #9: December 08, 2011, 10:17:24 PM »
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