A new skill for 5e Oriental Adventures.  The rules are taken from 3e OA with little modification.  They work fine in 5e IMO.


Iaijutsu is the art of fast drawing a melee weapon—unsheathing and sheathing it with blinding speed.


Use this skill to gather your personal energy (ki) in an iaijutsu duel.  If you have combat advantage immediately after drawing a melee weapon, you can deal extra damage, based on the result of an Iaijutsu Focus check. In addition, if you and your opponent both agree to participate in a formal iaijutsu duel, your Iaijutsu Focus check replaces your initiative check for the ensuing combat.

To make an iaijutsu check roll a d20 and add your Iaijutsu Focus skill bonus to the roll.  Divide this number by 5 and this is the number of additional d6 you add to your first strike.

In an iaijutsu duel, you and your opponent make opposed Iaijutsu Focus checks, and the winner accumulates extra damage dice according to the above calculation.

You can also use Iaijutsu Focus in preparation for striking an inanimate object, assuming no distractions. This is the technique martial artists use to shatter objects.

Iaijutsu focus is an Honour based skill.


Samurai believe the greatest honour and the truest expression of their training is their expertise with the katana. The pinnacle of this armed martial art is the iaijutsu (“fast-draw”) duel: a dramatic face-to-face confrontation in which each samurai focuses his ki, then attempts to strike his opponent while drawing his blade in a single, smooth motion.

The process of conducting an iaijutsu duel is highly formalised. Since iaijutsu duels are often fatal to one or even both duelists, they are never provoked by minor insults or passing arguments. When a samurai has been deeply wronged and decides to challenge his enemy to an iaijutsu duel, he must first get his lord’s permission to issue the challenge. Since his life and body belong to his lord, the lord must consent to a duel that could mean the loss of this property. If his lord agrees, the samurai seeks out his enemy and formally requests a duel, stating the reason for the challenge and precisely naming the terms of victory.

If the second samurai is willing to fight the duel, he must ask his lord’s permission to accept. The challenged samurai may himself refuse to accept the duel, though this is not a particularly honourable course of action. His lord may refuse permission or may name another samurai to accept the duel in place of the challenged samurai. Assuming permission is granted, the challenged samurai has the right to name the place where the duel will occur (always a public place, with witnesses from both sides), as well as the time (no more than one year in the future). If circumstances prevent one samurai from appearing at the appointed time for the duel, his lord may name a samurai to fight in his place.  Once this formal process has been followed, the actual duel can occur. An iaijutsu duel has three phases: stance, focus, and strike. During the stance, the duelists face each other and study each other’s stance to assess their opponent’s skill. During the focus, the samurai gather their energies and prepare for the strike. During the strike, one samurai draws first and the other loses the duel.

Specialised duelists master the Iaijutsu Focus skill.


In the first round of an iaijutsu duel, the two samurai stand a few steps apart and appraise each other, looking for signs of their opponent’s skill, training, and reflex in the samurai’s ready posture. Many duels go no further: One samurai concedes victory to the other, recognizing a clearly superior opponent. Such duels are the only bloodless iaijutsu duels.

Conceding in this manner is not dishonourable. When the duelists assume their stance, they each make an Insight check. The check result determines how much information they discern about the other samurai:

Check Result Information Gleaned
15 or higher Opposing samurai’s character level
20 or higher Opposing samurai’s ranks in Iaijutsu Focus
25 or higher Opposing samurai’s total attack and damage bonus with his primary weapon


Both duelists make an Iaijutsu Focus check. If you do not have ranks in the Iaijutsu Focus skill, you can make a raw Charisma check (and you shouldn’t be in an iaijutsu duel).


After both duelists attempt Iaijutsu Focus checks, they draw their katanas and strike. The result of the skill check replaces each character’s normal initiative roll unless the character’s normal initiative modifier (Dexterity modifier plus any bonuses) is better than his Iaijutsu Focus check modifier (ranks in Iaijutsu Focus plus Charisma modifier), in which case he makes a normal initiative check.

The first round of an iaijutsu duel’s strike phase is essentially a surprise round.  With a successful hit, a duelist deals the bonus damage achieved through his Iaijutsu Focus check in addition to normal (or critical) weapon damage. The initiative winner strikes first, naturally. The initiative loser, if he survives, must attack on his action as well—he cannot hold back the ki he has focused. Note that since the loser is not attacking a surprised foe, he does not get the opportunity to strike with his bonus damage dice from Iaijutsu Focus.

If the initiative check is a tie, the attacks actually occur simultaneously, with both samurai considered to be surprised.  On rare occasions, two samurai have been known to strike each other down in the same instant in what is called a karmic strike.

After the initial round of the duel, the two samurai can continue fighting in normal combat, if both survive. They no longer receive any bonus damage dice to their attack rolls unless the circumstances under which Iaijutsu Focus checks may be attempted somehow arise again in the course of the fight (the combat ends and one or the other returns his weapon to its sheath).


You can use your Iaijutsu Focus bonus damage in normal combat too, but only when you are attacking a surprised opponent and you draw your weapon in the same round you strike (as part of the attack action).  This means that a character can use Iaijutsu Focus in a surprise round, either to strike someone standing within sword reach.

In a normal first round of combat, a character whose initiative is higher than his opponent’s can draw a weapon, move to the opponent, and attack using Iaijutsu Focus.   It can also be used in this way during a surprise round.


Banner: Iaijutsu by MachiavellianMaiden


4 thoughts on “SKILL: IAIJUTSU

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