I am creating a character for my first D&D campaign (5th edition). I would like to create a Samurai character, but I'm not sure what class I should choose.
Is it a fighter?
Or is it some kind of fighter-variant?
If so, what kind of abilities should it have?

When I was creating him I used a few pages this being one https://www.dandwiki.com/wiki/Samurai_(5e_Class). As I read more into it, it says that its a fighter archetype. I have no clue what that means. Is that like a subclass of a fighter or something like that?

The character I want to play is more like Samurai Jack and less like a classic fully-armored samurai.

Based on the responses, I am going to restart the character sheet all together to make it more official; it will probably be a monk. If I have any more questions I'll come back and ask a question about making that like a samurai.

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    \$\begingroup\$ When you ask another question about your monk, make sure to ask a separate question that stands on its own and remember to link to this question as a point of reference. Best wishes, and happy gaming. :) \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 7 '18 at 17:39

The Samurai you have linked is a class of its own.

The link you've provided to a homebrew Samurai is a class on its own. It is not a subclass of the 5e Fighter class, nor is it a variant.

However, be aware that it is just that: homebrew. This means it is not official D&D content, and it is up to your DM to allow it. It may not be balanced, and even the page itself states that the class is incomplete, so you may be wildly over- or under-powered compared to your allies, if your DM allows it at all to begin with.

Assuming your DM does allow this class to be played, you would create the character following the "Creating a Samurai" and "Class Features" rules listed on the page. If you are unsure how to create a character at all, you can view the official Basic Rules for free on the D&D website, which include character creation rules.

The official Samurai is contained in Xanathar's Guide to Everything.

XGE contains the Samurai archetype, which is chosen when you reach 3rd level as a Fighter. Unfortunately, XGE is not free content, so you will need to acquire this information in some way. There's many legal options:

  • You or someone in your group purchases Xanathar's Guide to Everything.

  • You borrow a copy from the local library or gaming group that lends books.

  • You purchase just the Samurai rules on their own from D&D Beyond.

Nothing stops you from roleplaying a samurai.

If you have no way to acquire Xanathar's Guide, and your DM does not allow homebrew, not all is lost. There's nothing preventing you from roleplaying as a samurai. Create a Fighter (or as others have mentioned, possibly a Monk or even Barbarian), and flourish your descriptions in game with how you imagine your samurai character fighting and behaving. Mention to your DM that you are attempting to style your character after Samurai Jack, and any decent DM will be able to assist you with that goal.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You say that someone would have to purchase Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. I understand that this site doesn’t encourage content piracy, but checking it out from a public library or even reading it there and memorizing the pertinent section are both options. \$\endgroup\$ – Obie 2.0 May 7 '18 at 18:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ You can also pay just $2 on dndbeyond.com for the subclass. It costs me $2 in gas just to go to the library twice to check out and then return a book. \$\endgroup\$ – Derek Stucki May 7 '18 at 19:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yep, DNDBeyond lets you buy content piecemeal; if you end up buying the full book later from there, the cost of the piecemeal content you've already bought is subtracted from the cost of the book. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast May 7 '18 at 20:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the "roleplaying a samurai" advice. People forget how much control they have over the theme of the character. A barbarian can be a musician without being a bard, a bard can have a temper problem in combat without being a barbarian. \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis May 11 '18 at 13:46

Classes and Archetypes

In general, you should choose a class which gives you options that support your idea for your character. You have a fun idea (something inspired by Samurai Jack). Look for something with abilities that reflect that, rather than something with a description that sounds appropriate.

Fighters and monks are both good choices for you based on your idea.

Each class also has a number of archetypes. These archetypes are "subclasses" of their main class. For example, the fighter has subclasses such as arcane archer, cavalier, and battlemaster. Each archetype gives the fighter a different specialization.

Information on classes and archetypes are primarily found in the Player's Handbook, but some books add more. Basic class options can be found through the 5e SRD (Roll20 has published that information here). The information here is not comprehensive (only one archetype is presented for each class), but it is a lot better than using D&D wiki or nothing at all.

Options for You

Here are two options you might consider:

  • Fighters are weapons and armor experts. You will get proficiency with beefy swords and gain abilities that help you use them. Although fighters are proficient with heavy armor, there is nothing saying you have to use it. You might be interested in the battle master archetype (which gives you tactical combat options, it's in the Player's Handbook). If someone at your table has Xanathar's Guide to Everything, I would recommend checking out the samurai archtype printed there.
  • Monks are also a great option for you. They are lightly armored (and have an AC bonus when not wearing armor). They can use some swords (though not the biggest and beefiest ones). Their "martial arts" ability lets them take extra attacks with some weapons. Some of their other abilities support the idea of a mobile warrior who makes quick attacks.

Don't Use D&D Wiki

D&D Wiki is a notoriously poor source. It doesn't include much of the information you need and includes a large amount of poor-quality homebrew material. Using it is sure to lead you astray.

This isn't to say you shouldn't use homebrew material, but without more tabletop experience it will be difficult for you to know what material is balanced and mechanically sound. Avoiding D&D Wiki is the best way to go.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Barbarian might also be an option, just reskin the rage as intense concentration on the enemy. It will also give an unarmored defense and damage reduction. \$\endgroup\$ – RonV May 7 '18 at 16:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ hey ive made a tiefling barbarian and have a question about "tiefling variants" are those official or homebrew? Because I only see one place to read about them that being the wiki and from what you guys say its not trust worthy. \$\endgroup\$ – khaos May 7 '18 at 22:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @khaos What does the article say? Does it have the large "homebrew" banner at the top, or does it source the content from official WOTC material? \$\endgroup\$ – Baron May 7 '18 at 23:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @khaos, it looks like you're a new user. Welcome to the site and take the tour when you get the chance. To you and Baron: comments are not the place for questions and answers. Khaos, if you have a question about tiefling variants, please feel free to ask it as its own question. \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis May 8 '18 at 4:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer is old now, and edits now probably won't help the OP anymore, but... you mention monks, which is a great suggestion (one of the reasons I upvoted this answer ages ago), but you also say that they can't use that many swords, which is mostly true, but it might be worth mentioning the Kensei monk archetype (from XGtE), which allows monks access to more weapons, and many of their additional features are geared towards improving their use with said weapons. A Kensei monk with a "katana" (longsword) is a good approximation to a samurai (without having to go the fighter route). \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Feb 14 at 14:14

Your first character can use all kinds of crazy options, including things from other books like Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, or homebrew found on the Internet like the one you link. If that’s what you want to do, don’t let anyone (well, other than your DM) tell you otherwise. My first character was a sorcerer with all kinds of things going on, and even from the beginning I was asking my DM if he’d allow this thing or that—so it can be done. I loved reading up on all the different options and thinking about how they could work together and what kind of character I could make.

But often, new players find it easier to stick with more basic options. I did a lot of reading and research to make that first sorcerer. I even started a forum thread (not here) that went 127 posts long, discussing my options, before I’d even officially joined a game. That was a lot of work—work I loved, but a lot of work. If you aren’t interested in all that, this answer might suit you better.

And that answer is to stick with basic options, and allow your imagination fill in the blanks for your character, rather than needing some book to tell you that you’re playing the character you want.

It’s worth noting here, I think, that page 140 of Player’s Handbook—where the soldier background is described—has a picture of a woman in traditional samurai armor, holding a katana. This is despite the fact that neither “katana” nor “samurai” appears anywhere in the book. That’s because being a “samurai” is about more than picking a class or background or anything else that has “samurai” in the title. Even if you did have a class that was called “samurai,” that wouldn’t necessarily make your character one, and just because you don’t have anything called “samurai” doesn’t mean you aren’t one. This fallacy is a trap that a lot of D&D players fall into—it’s so common that Order of the Stick made a joke about a samurai with no levels in samurai classes—, but it’s really important to recognize that it is false. Your character is a samurai because of the training they received, the code of honor they adhere to, the outlook they have on life—not because of what their character sheet says. The character sheet can only say so much, after all.

So with that said, if we ignore the labels on things, how could we create a character like Jack?

Samurai Jack fights with a katana; those are actually really heavy weapons. And he spends most of the show wearing nothing more than a tunic, rather than heavy armor. So if you want to play a character like Jack, you have to simultaneously wield a big weapon, and wear no armor. Do any classes fit that mold?

Fighters certainly wield big weapons, but they’re usually seen in armor, too. And monks famously fight unarmored, but they also usually fight unarmed or with “monk weapons,” which would not included a heavy two-hander like a katana. You could use either of these if you really wanted—nothing says a fighter has to wear armor, or that a monk can’t use a heavy weapon—but it seems like kind of a waste.

But the barbarian class gets unarmored defense, just like the monk. And barbarians certainly use heavy weapons. But is Jack a barbarian? He’s definitely not barbarous, he’s actually fairly cultured and refined. But he also has anger issues, and certainly has a kind of relentlessness and stubbornness that barbarian seems well suited for. So you could kind of see Jack as a barbarian, kind of.

The main take-away here, though, is that you shouldn’t feel limited by what the books say. The books aren’t trying to restrict you; they’re trying to help inspire you, and give you a possible approach to a character. You’re allowed to change things up. So your “barbarian,” according to the books, is actually a “samurai,” in terms of how he thinks of himself, his social standing and training, and what he will respond to. If someone were to actually call him a “barbarian,” he might well fly into a rage at the insult—and some might see that as proving their point, while others would feel that a true barbarian wouldn’t find it offensive, and wouldn’t show the same appreciation for the finer things in life.

D&D 5e also includes backgrounds, separate from your class. You’re allowed to put together any combination of class and background you like. For example, you could use the noble background to reinforce that your barbarian isn’t actually barbarous at all. After all, Jack was a prince. Or you could use sage, since Jack was well-educated and much of his time was spent researching a way home. These background can help talk about your character beyond being a typical version of your class.

But you can really bring this to life by making appropriate class feature choices with your character, too. For example, at 3rd level, a barbarian must choose between the path of the berserker, and the path of the totem warrior. The berserker becomes almost mindless in a rage—not a lot like Jack. Meanwhile, the book says that “The Path of the Totem Warrior is a spiritual journey, as the barbarian accepts a spirit animal as guide, protector, and inspiration.” For a samurai, the “spirit animal” may actually be an ancestor—possibly an ancestor known as the Bear, the Eagle, or the Wolf in life, and that is why he or she returns in that form now.

The book doesn’t say anything about the spirit animal being an ancestor. That’s a detail I just made up. But making up details like that is how you turn a class in a book—a kind of proto-character the book’s authors made up—and turn it into your character.

So if you are looking for a simpler approach to your first game, and want to play a character like Jack, I recommend sitting down with your teacher and saying you want to play by the book’s rules for a barbarian—but a “barbarian” who is actually a samurai.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Jack is also very fast. What about kensai monk? \$\endgroup\$ – MikeQ May 7 '18 at 16:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MikeQ Absolutely valid, as are many other things. But this answer is focusing on using just the initial options presented right there in Player’s Handbook. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan May 7 '18 at 16:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer has a great amount of good advice, but I definitely suffers a bit from being a wall of text. If you can do anything to format it to break it up into sections I think it would help readability/usefulness quite a bit. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose May 7 '18 at 17:03

While there are source books for Samurai classes, the easiest solution is just to reskin.

5e was designed with reskinning in mind. I would just pick a class that matches the play-style you want (probably fighter, possibly barbarian or rogue) and take a couple minutes to rewrite all the flavor text.

Same stats, same abilities, different descriptions.

Boom, Samurai.

As an afterthought; a reskin doesn't need DM approval. Well, you still want to ask (to make sure it matches the campaign style), but there are no rule checks needed.

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Look at Xanathar's Guide to Everything

If you pick the Fighter class and look at Xanathar's Guide to Everything, they have a Samurai Archetype in there for when you hit 3rd level. That may be what you're looking for.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is “refer to resource X” a viable answer when the querent’s access to resource X is in question? \$\endgroup\$ – Stop Being Evil May 7 '18 at 16:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ While it’s not appropriate to post so much of something that readers could skip buying the source, generally we expect answers to offer a little more than this. For instance, though Xanathar’s Guide to Everything may call this archetype a “samurai,” the question specifies that they are looking for a character more like the titular Samurai Jack than the classic samurai—how well does the samurai in Xanathar’s cover that request? What features does the archetype get that fit that character, are there any notable things it misses, or things it gets that don’t fit? \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan May 7 '18 at 16:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also OP is clearly confused about what class and archetype even mean and your answer does nothing to address this. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose May 7 '18 at 16:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1. This is the correct answer to the title question. Xanathar's Guide is the official way to play a samurai, not counting the Unearthed Arcana preview release of that same archetype. A correct answer need not always be lengthy. \$\endgroup\$ – Quadratic Wizard May 11 '18 at 13:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ As the above comments point out, you should expand on this answer a bit. You shouldn't quote the entire subclass here, obviously, but you should elaborate on how the subclass in question lets OP build the kind of "samurai" character they want (i.e. how it answers their question). Simply having the name "samurai" doesn't necessarily indicate whether it lets OP make their desired type of character. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mar 5 at 19:14

While an updated version is available in Xanathar's, a Samurai subclass for the fighter is available for free in a 2016 Unearthed Arcana: https://media.wizards.com/2016/dnd/downloads/2016_Fighter_UA_1205_1.pdf

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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you tried it out? How does it compare with the official? GIven that they released an official, there were likely changes due to concerns that should be at least mentioned in this answer. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Mar 5 at 19:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ Link-only answers are discouraged on Stack Exchange, not least because they become useless if/when the linked content is moved or deleted. You shouldn't quote the entire subclass here, obviously, but you should elaborate on how the subclass in question lets OP build the kind of "samurai" character they want (i.e. how it answers their question). Simply having the name "samurai" doesn't necessarily indicate whether it lets OP make their desired type of character. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mar 5 at 19:13

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