Mythological Figures: Musō Gonnosuke (5E)

We’re back in Japan this week for Mythological Figures to take a look at another one of history’s greatest samurai, perhaps the most famous combatant of Miyamoto Musashi and a fellow whose martial arts style is still practiced today: Musō Gonnosuke!

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Hailing from a proper samurai family with a long military history, Musō was never ronin—unlike Miyamoto, he chose to undertake a musha shugyō, traveling across the countryside to try his skills against other martial artists and learn from different schools. He was apparently pretty good too and whooped some ass, undefeated until he ran afoul of Miyamoto Musashi. The details of their first duel remain murky but it’s a certainty that he lost the fight. Afterwards Gonnosuke retreats to a shinto monastery to do 37 days of training and purification rituals, and this is when he gets divine inspiration to make the jo (something between a club and a staff—for statistics below I’ve leaned into the latter) and the Shintō Musō-ryū style (designed to make use of a short staff specifically when fighting someone wielding one or more swords). The second duel with Musashi is a point of contention—Gonnosuke’s followers claim that he won, everybody else says that he lost—but there’s no record outside of his school so there’s uncertainty about whether it took place at all. Either way he’s said to have becomes buddies with Musashi, traveling across Japan with him until settling down in Fukuoaka to train folks for the Kuroda clan.

Desig-HERESY! Grab hold of your hats and britches people—today Mythological Figures is GASP making use of a feat that is not RAW. I didn’t come up with this design tidbit however, it’s the work of Guy Larke Jr. (albeit on my behalf) in Mists of Akuma: Trade War. A martial arts stance increases a creature’s AC by 1 but otherwise only does what’s listed for it (which in this case means more effectively using the staff). Because our boy Gonnosuke here invented a style of martial arts (still used today!) for the short staff it felt right to me to use up a feat to that effect.

If you’re looking for a middle- to top-tier samurai this build will do the trick, although anyone employing more than one should consider dropping Maneuver Mastery for more stat boosts to Strength and Dexterity (increasing AC by 1, Strength save to +8, Athletics to +8, attack rolls by +1, and weapon damage by +1). Note that if you’re out for a mounted general,
Tomoe Gozen is the better choice.

Musō Gonnosuke

Medium humanoid (human), lawful neutral fighter (samurai) 11
Armor Class 17 (breastplate, martial arts stance)
Hit Points 71 (11d10+11)
Speed 30 ft.







16 (+3)​

16 (+3)​

12 (+1​

12 (+1)​

11 (+0)​

10 (+0)​

Saving Throws Str +7, Con +5, Wis +4
Skills Animal Handling +4, Athletics +7, History +5, Insight +4, Intimidation +4
Senses passive Perception 10
Languages Japanese, Korean
Challenge 6 (2,300 XP)

Background: Military Service - Rank. Musō still commands respect from his time serving in the army. Soldiers loyal to the same forces view him as their superior, and Musō can use his influence to temporarily requisition simple equipment or horses, possibly even gaining entrance to military fortresses and outposts.

Action Surge (1/Short Rest). Once on his turn, Musō can take an additional action on top of his regular action and a possible bonus action.

Feats: Maneuver Master (4d6 maneuver dice/Short Rest). Musō can expend a maneuver dice to perform a single maneuver with an attack.
  • Counter. Musō can use his reaction to make a melee attack against a creature that misses him with a melee attack, dealing 1d6 additional damage on a hit.
  • Disarm. A creature Musō has hit with an attack takes 1d6 additional damage and makes a DC 15 Strength saving throw or drops one held item of his choice.
  • Lunge. Musō increases his reach by 5 feet for one attack, dealing 1d6 additional damage on a hit.
  • Trip. Musō deals 1d6 additional damage and if the target is a creatures of Large size or smaller, it makes a DC 18 Strength saving throw or is knocked prone.

Feat: Stance of the Outstretched Branch (1). While Musō is wielding a quarterstaff with one hand, it gains the Reach property. While he wields a quarterstaff with two hands, it gains the Finesse property. Finally, it has the Thrown property (range 10/30 ft.), and on a successful hit Musō can use his reaction to catch it out of the air as it bounces back to him.

Indomitable (1/Long Rest). Musō can reroll a saving throw that he fails but must use the new roll.

Second Wind (1/Short Rest). On his turn, Musō can use a bonus action to regain 1d10+11 hit points.

Warrior Spirit (3/Long Rest). Musō can use a bonus action to gain 10 temporary hit points and advantage on weapon attack rolls until the end of his turn.

Extra Attack (2). Musō attacks three times.

Quarterstaff (one-handed). Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 10 ft. or range 10/30 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d6+3) bludgeoning damage.

Quarterstaff (two-handed). Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 10/30 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d8+3) bludgeoning damage.
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Mike Myler

Mike Myler

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