|"Not in my game."- Mark, Experienced DM|
Actually, You Know What That Sounds Like...
If you're one of those DMs who keeps the samurai class out of a game because there just isn't the proper flavor in your part of the game world press pause for a moment, because we're going to do an experiment. Take the word "shogun" and replace it with "baron" or "count". Now take the word "samurai" and replace it with the word "knight". Now ask yourself if by changing these terms you find the class more palatable to your game.
|"Yes, I do." -Mark, Slightly Confused DM|
The problem DMs have with the samurai is never that it's not a mechanically-balanced class. The problems arise because of the name, and all of the cultural associations that come with it. The idea is that if your game isn't set across the sea in a place like Tian-Xia then there's no reason for a samurai to show up barring some extreme straw-grasping. Even a wandering ronin would have to come halfway around the world to take part in a game set in the Inner Sea.
Unless, that is, the noble warrior is a home-grown knight.
You Can't Just Re-Skin A Class Like That!
Why can't you? Like I mentioned in my post A Gunslinger By Any Other Name... the words we use to refer to our classes and abilities can have a lot of impact in our perception of what these characters can do and how they should act. If you examine the samurai though it's a class that represents a warrior dedicated to a lord who tends to be most effective when standing alone against her liege's enemies. While the class maintains the mount, banner, and challenge abilities of the cavalier, it strips out the teamwork feats and gives you resolve so that you can overcome challenges and finish any fight to the end. Not only that but it gives you more skill points than the cavalier, and if you join the Order of the Warrior you gain knowledge (history) and knowledge (nobility), both of which are things knights would be trained in.
Know who that sounds like?
|Don't pretend you don't watch the show.|
For those who missed my latest Game of Thrones character conversion for Brienne of Tarth I used samurai as the base for her build. Brienne is loyal, steadfast, a deadly mounted warrior, but she's still quite formidable even when she's not on her horse. Proficient and even comfortable in all kinds of armor, she holds her honor above all other things (often to a fault). You replace bushido with chivalry, and you have a class that will fit in any traditional fantasy kingdom where the nobility has a warrior class. The only ability of the samurai that should be changed (and you don't even need to, it would just be fair) is to take the weapon expertise and apply it to more western-style weapons like bastard sword, lance, etc. instead of the katana, naginata, and the other listed weapons.
Just Play A Cavalier If That's What You Want!
While you can play a character in the spirit of a knight by building a cavalier who is a member of the Order of the Lion, just saying they're the same thing is missing the point. While the cavalier is the father of the samurai, they are most definitely two different beasts when it comes to mechanics and play. For players who love the abilities a samurai has (and which standard cavaliers simply don't) this one terminology tweak is a great way to work the class into your game and to open up other character options.
|"Sounds Legit."- Sir Troll Knight, 9th Level Samurai|
If you're still not convinced though, there are lots of different ways you could play a samurai simply by examining the races and locations available in Golarion. For instance, would elven warriors with their honor and grace be considered samurai? What about aasimar who were raised in the celestial realm instead of the material plane; would the culture and norms of their home make sense for the samurai? Would tieflings raised by infernal forces bear the oni masks and curved blades of their forebears?
I could keep going with this list, but my point is that just because there is a certain association in your mind with what a particular class should or shouldn't be that doesn't mean it has to be that. Step outside the box, and you'll see a lot of innovation come to your campaign quite quickly.