Prestige Classes


Through the cultivation of martial skill and meditation, monks transcend the limits of flesh, finding mental and physical perfection as creatures of spirit that stand outside the natural order. Their journey is rigorous, insular, and ultimately, lonely.

In windswept mountain temples, fortresses buried in the heart of forests, and training halls hidden in city alleyways, small sects of martial artists follow a different road. They embrace the natural world, using combat techniques inspired by the movement and fighting spirit of one of seven animals: crane, dragon, mantis, monkey, panther, snake, or tiger. Known as shen, or "spirits," their training goes far beyond imitation; they master deadly skills and can transform into humanoid versions of their chosen animal.

Most shen begin adventuring as monks or druids, but barbarians, rangers, and rogues sometimes find themselves drawn to the way of the animal fist. On rare occasions bard, clerics, sorcerers, and wizards become shen. Few paladins or fighters willingly give up their heavy weapons and armor long enough to learn the shen's fighting secrets.

Hit Die: d8.


To qualify to become a shen, a character must fulfill all of the following criteria.

Base Attack Bonus: +5.

Skills: Knowledge (nature) 2 ranks, Survival 3 ranks.

Feats: Improved Unarmed Strike.

Special: Additional requirements are listed for each animal shen. Upon taking a level of this class, a character must choose an animal shen and meet the additional requirements. Each animal shen is treated as a different prestige class.

Class Skills

The shen's class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Balance (Dex), Climb (Str), Concentration (Con), Craft (Int), Escape Artist (Dex), Hide (Dex), Jump (Str), Knowledge (nature) (Int), Listen (Wis), Move Silently (Dex), Sense Motive (Wis), Spot (Wis), Survival (Wis), Swim (Str), and Tumble (Dex). Each animal shen provides additional skills as class skills.

Skill Points at Each Level: 6 + Int modifier.

Table: The Shen

Level Base
1st +0 +2 +2 +2 AC bonus, unarmed damage
2nd +1 +3 +3 +3 Shen ability, ki strike (silver)
3rd +2 +3 +3 +3 Hybrid form 1/day
4th +3 +4 +4 +4 Shen ability
5th +3 +4 +4 +4 Hybrid form 2/day, uncanny dodge
6th +4 +5 +5 +5 Shen ability, evasion
7th +5 +5 +5 +5 Hybrid form 3/day, improved uncanny dodge
8th +6 +6 +6 +6 Shen ability, ki strike (cold iron)
9th +6 +6 +6 +6 Hybrid form 4/day, wild spirit
10th +7 +7 +7 +7 Shen ability
Class Features

All of the following are class features of the shen prestige class.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: A character gains no new proficiency with any weapon, armor, or shield for taking a level of shen.

AC Bonus (Ex): A shen gains the AC bonus class feature of the monk class, allowing the shen to gain his Wisdom bonus to AC when unarmored and unencumbered. As with the monk special ability, the shen's AC improves by +1 for every five levels the character has in the shen class (+1 at 5th level, +2 at 10th level). Monk levels stack with shen levels for the purposes of determining the increase to the AC bonus. For example, an 8th-level monk with 7 levels in the shen prestige class would have a +3 bonus to his AC when unarmored and unencumbered. Levels of different animal shen also stack for the purposes of determining AC bonus increase. See the monk class feature for more guidelines about this ability.

Unarmed Damage (Ex): A shen's unarmed damage increases as a monk's unarmed damage, starting at 1d6 points of damage at 1st level for a Medium creature. Monk levels stack with shen levels for the purpose of determining unarmed damage. For example, an 8th-level monk with 7 levels in the shen prestige class deals 2d6 points of damage with an unarmed strike. Levels of different animal shen also stack for the purposes of determining unarmed damage.

Shen Ability: Starting at 2nd level, and at every even level thereafter (4th, 6th, and so on), the shen receives a special ability unique to his animal style. Shen abilities are listed in the order they are received in each animal shen's description.

Ki Strike (Su): At 2nd level, a shen's unarmed attacks are empowered with ki. His unarmed attacks are treated as silver weapons for the purpose of dealing damage to creatures with damage reduction. Ki strike improves with the character's shen level. At 8th level, his unarmed attacks are also treated as cold iron weapons for the purpose of dealing damage to creatures with damage reduction.

Hybrid Form (Su): Once per day at 3rd level, with additional uses at 5th, 7th, and 9th level, the shen can transform into a humanoid version of his style's namesake. This transformation requires a standard action, provokes attacks of opportunity, heals damage equal to a day's rest, and lasts one minute per two class levels.

A shen in hybrid form receives a +5 bonus on Spot, Listen, and Survival checks, has low-light vision, and has unarmed attacks considered as magic, ghost touch weapons. A shen in hybrid form can even wrestle spirits, and is able to grab and grapple incorporeal creatures. Each animal shen's hybrid form also has several unique abilities as described in its particular entry.

Uncanny Dodge (Ex): At 5th level, a shen gains the ability to react to danger before his senses would normally allow him to do so. He retains his Dexterity bonus to AC (if any) even if he is caught flat-footed or struck by an invisible attacker. However, he still loses his Dexterity bonus to AC if immobilized.

If a character already has uncanny dodge from another class, the character gains improved uncanny dodge instead, and the levels from the classes that grant uncanny dodge stack to determine the minimum rogue level required to flank the character.

Evasion (Ex): At 6th level or higher, if a shen makes a successful Reflex saving throw against an attack that normally deals half damage on a successful save, he instead takes no damage. Evasion can be used only if a shen is wearing light armor or no armor. A helpless shen does not gain the benefit of evasion.

If a shen already has evasion from another class, the character automatically gains improved evasion instead.

Improved Uncanny Dodge (Ex): At 7th level and higher, a shen can no longer be flanked; he can react to opponents on opposite sides of him as easily as he can react to a single attacker. This defense denies a rogue the ability to sneak attack the shen by flanking him, unless the attacker has at least four more rogue levels than the target has shen levels.

Wild Spirit (Ex): At 9th level, the shen becomes more animalistic than ever before. He receives a +4 bonus on all saves against effects that specifically target humanoids, such as charm person. Creatures of the animal type that attempt to attack or charge the shen must succeed at a Will save (DC 10 + shen level + Charisma modifier) or be unable to complete the action and lose that action for the round. An animal shen that succeeds can attack normally.

The shen also undergoes a minor but permanent physical change; he gains an animalistic feature related to his chosen style. Common features include: cat eyes, pointed ears, whiskers, multifaceted eyes, feathers instead of hair, or a forked tongue.


While walking near his monastery, an abbot witnessed an enraged ape attacking a crane. Although the ape was stronger, it could not touch the crane, which used its wings and claws to batter its foe. Suddenly, the crane attacked and plucked out the ape's eye with his beak. The ape fell down dead. The master bowed to the crane, and both went about their business.

The crane shen knows you can't be hurt if you can't be touched; her fighting style is cautious, favoring swift dodges and parries combined with evasive footwork and powerful jumps that keep her out of an opponent's reach. Her attacks are an arsenal of high kicks, wide arcing punches, and the crane's beak, a fist formed by tightly squeezing the tips of the fingers together. The graceful movements and dramatic, beautiful stances of the crane style are ideally suited for tall, willowy bodies. Elves have an affinity for the way of the Crane.

Additional Requirements: Combat Expertise, Dodge. Balance 5 ranks, Jump 5 ranks.

Additional Class Skill: Bluff.

1st Shen Ability - Gather the Blossoms (Ex): Crane shen receive Deflect Arrows as a bonus feat. In hybrid form she can also use the feat to deflect magic missile, Melf's acid arrow, and ray spells of 2nd level or lower.

2nd Shen Ability - Defensive Mastery (Ex): The crane shen is a master of defensive fighting. When fighting defensively, using Combat Expertise, or using the total defense option, the crane shen receives an additional +2 bonus to AC.

3rd Shen Ability - Wuxia (Ex): The crane shen receives a +10 competence bonus on Jump checks and determines the distance jumped as if making a running jump even if standing still.

4th Shen Ability - Slay the Ape (Su): Using the full attack action, the crane shen attempts one attack at her highest attack bonus. If successful, her opponent is required to make a Fortitude save (DC 10 + damage dealt) or be blinded. This supernatural ability works even if the opponent's eyes are shielded, and affects creatures with primary senses other than vision, "blinding" even blindsight and tremorsense. Slay the ape is usable once a day per two shen levels.

5th Shen Ability - Crane Dances in the Shallows (Su): For 2 rounds per crane shen level per day, the crane shen may move across or stand on any liquid surface as if it were solid ground. Rounds of duration need not be used consecutively. The crane shen is not immune to damage caused by traversing dangerous surfaces, but does receive a +4 bonus on applicable saving throws.

Hybrid Form: The hybrid form of a crane shen has a long beak, graceful neck and great white wings. Feathers cover every part of the hybrid's body but the shen's beak and legs, ranging in color from snow white to dark gray.

In hybrid form, a crane shen gains a +2 bonus to Dexterity, and the crane shen can fly at a speed equal to half her land speed with good maneuverability.


Steward to the Celestial Emperor and his heavenly court, protector of the Middle Kingdom, wise counselor to hero and king, the dragon of the Eastern World is chaos and spirit; his writhing coils are the winds that stir the grassland, and his breath is the father of storms.

To follow the path of the dragon, the student learns to cultivate his internal energy, using a combination of meditation, esoteric breathing patterns, and fighting techniques that imitate the coiling and whipping of the dragon's body. The greatest dragon shen can cause injury with a touch and unleash their internal power in a devastating burst.

Additional Requirements: Weapon Focus (unarmed strike), Concentration 4 ranks, Intimidate 3 ranks.

Additional Class Skills: Diplomacy, Intimidate.

1st Shen Ability - Heart of the Dragon (Ex): The dragon shen gains Great Fortitude as a bonus feat.

2nd Shen Ability - Mandate of Heaven (Ex): The dragon shen gains Iron Will as a bonus feat.

3rd Shen Ability - Celestial Emperor's Blessing (Sp): By clapping his hands together, the dragon shen can cause a fan of energy to explode out from his hands. This ability mimics the burning hands spell except that the dragon shen can choose to have it deal acid, cold, electricity, or fire damage. Caster level is equal to the dragon shen's class level. This ability can be used once per day per two class levels. Using this ability is a standard action.

4th Shen Ability - Four Hidden Sounds (Su): By activating his internal energies with one of four specific exhaled sounds, the dragon shen's unarmed strikes deal normal damage plus 1d6 points of acid, cold, electricity, or fire damage, as he chooses. Four hidden sounds affects all unarmed attacks for 1 round, and only one type of energy may be used each round. This ability can be used once per day per two class levels, and enabling it is a free action.

5th Shen Ability - Heaven's Hand (Ex): By focusing his internal power, the dragon shen resolves all his unarmed attacks for round as though he and the foes he attacks stand in an antimagic field. This ability can he used once per day.

Hybrid Form: The dragon shen's hybrid form possesses a sinewy, whip-thin tail, and his head has a mix of dragon and lion features, with a wide snout full of dagger-sharp teeth and a long mane of deep red or black. His body is flexible and thin, with scales that shimmer in rainbow colors, and his limbs, tipped with gleaming claws, are short but powerful.

In hybrid form the dragon shen gains +2 bonus to Strength and Constitution, and he may choose to deal slashing damage with his unarmed attacks.


A young warrior traveled to a monastery, seeking to test his skills. He was easily defeated by the lowest-ranking monk. Ashamed, he retreated to the mountains to meditate and train. One morning he was witness to a fight between a cicada and a praying mantis. The mantis's use of quick claw jabs and grappling to overwhelm the cicada inspired him, and he adopted its strategy as his own. When he returned to the temple, he defeated fully half the monks in challenge matches and was welcomed as a senior brother. Word of his accomplishment spread quickly, and students flocked to the monastery. In time, the mantis style became one of the world's most famous arts.

The mantis shen's form focuses on joint locks and quick strikes to the eyes, temples, and throat. The primary technique is the mantis fist, formed by bending the wrist and extending the index finger, supported by the thumb. A mantis shen is skilled at tripping and disarming opponents, and attacks well armed opponents with confidence.

Additional Requirements: Combat Expertise, Improved Trip, Concentration 2 ranks, Escape Artist 5 ranks.

Additional Class Skill: Intimidate.

1st Shen Ability - Improved Grapple (Ex): The mantis shen gains Improved Grapple as a bonus feat. If the mantis shen already has the Improved Grapple feat, she gains a +6 bonus on grapple checks rather than the normal +4 bonus granted by the feat.

2nd Shen Ability - Chi Sau (Ex): The mantis shen trains in chi sau, or sticky hands technique, learning to sense her opponent's location and movement first by touch, then by simple displacement of air. She gains the Blind-Fight feat as a bonus Feat.

3rd Shen Ability - Defang the Snake (Ex): The mantis shen is not penalized for using a light weapon (including an unarmed strike) when attempting to disarm a foe.

4th Shen Ability - Superior Trip (Ex): A mantis shen who succeeds at a trip attempt deals her unarmed strike damage in addition to knocking the target prone.

5th Shen Ability - One Finger Strike (Ex): Once per day per mantis shen level, a mantis shen can pierce an enemy's flesh and cause a bleeding wound, dealing 1 point of Constitution damage from blood loss in addition to the attack's normal damage. Immediately after a foe is damaged by a successful unarmed strike, a mantis shen can declare the attack a one finger strike. Creatures immune to critical hits are immune to the Constitution damage dealt by this attack.

Hybrid Form: The mantis hybrid form is an insect-like horror standing tall on spindly legs. Her eyes are huge and multifaceted, bulging over razor mandibles that jut from her mouth. Her entire body is armored with thick green chitinous scales, and each finger ends in a long claw of chitin.

The mantis shen in hybrid form gains a +4 enhancement bonus to her natural armor and benefits from the Improved Grab ability. Her unarmed attacks inflict piercing, slashing, or bludgeoning damage, as she chooses.


A young warrior with a weakness for drink was imprisoned for fighting. His jail cell had no bars, and the prison gate was always open, but he never dared to run. Just beyond the gate was a tree where five monkeys lived. The monkeys were always drunk on sour wine the prison warden provided, and they beat anyone who came near them with their long arms or branches torn from the tree. Since no one dared come near, the monkeys spent their days playing in the tree, drinking, and fighting with each other as they leapt from limb to limb. The young warrior studied their movements until he matched them flip for flip, then he walked through the gate, knocked the monkeys unconscious, and went home.

The monkey shen uses acrobatic skill and unpredictable footwork, coupled with quick strikes from every angle and direction, to frustrate his opponents. He's as likely to wield a quarterstaff as he is his hands and feet, and there is no one more skilled in its use. Monkey shen appear almost playful in combat, springing off tables, hanging from rafters, and flipping over enemies, but only the most dedicated and physically gifted can master the monkey shen style.

Additional Requirements: Weapon Focus (quarterstaff). Balance 5 ranks, Tumble 5 ranks.

Additional Class Skills: Bluff, Perform.

1st Shen Ability - Tall Monkey (Ex): At 2nd level, the monkey shen's acrobatic fighting style allows him to leap over obstacles with minimal effort. A monkey shen can leap onto any inanimate object equal to or less his height without a Jump check.

2nd Shen Ability - Clever Monkey (Ex): At 4th level, the monkey shen may attack with the quarterstaff or with unarmed attacks as though he has the Improved Two-Weapon Fighting feat. If the shen already has the Improved Two-Weapon Fighting feat, he may attack with the quarterstaff as though he has the Greater Two-Weapon Fighting feat.

3rd Shen Ability - Monkey King Staff (Ex): A monkey shen is a master of quarterstaff combat. If he has the Stunning Fist feat, he may deliver a stunning attack with a blow from a quarterstaff rather than an unarmed attack. In addition, the monkey shen can utilize the Weapon Finesse feat with both ends of the quarterstaff.

4th Shen Ability - Drunken Monkey (Ex): A monkey shen's footwork is confusing to opponents. When provoking an attack of opportunity due to moving through an opponent's threatened area, the monkey shen gains a +2 dodge bonus to his AC.

5th Shen Ability - Tumbling Boxing (Ex): The monkey shen tumbles with such ease that he can take 10 whenever he attempts a tumbling maneuver, even when distracted or endangered. Additionally, the monkey shen can attempt a Tumble check (DC 10 + opponent's Strength score) when tripped or overrun. A success means the monkey shen regains his footing immediately, negating the free attack granted by the Improved Trip feat.

Hybrid Form: The monkey hybrid form is lean and wiry, with a pronounced stoop and arms reaching just past the knee. Short fur the color of the shen's hair covers everywhere except the hands, feet, and face.

In addition to the abilities shared by all shen in hybrid form, the monkey shen enjoys several additional benefits. He receives a +4 bonus to Dexterity, and he may use his feet interchangeably with his hands (and his hands as feet) for any action except casting spells. Finally, the monkey shen gains a climb speed equal to his base land speed.


An unarmed monk crept among the tents of Zhang, the traitor warlord. She slipped through pools of darkness, moving tent to tent, and no guard noted her passing. At last she stood before the warlord's tent. The emperor's only son lay bound within, a prize that ensured the traitor's safety. The monk stepped inside. In later years, before his ascension, the prince would say only that he had been saved, and the traitor punished, by a shadow who faded away like smoke in the night.

The panther shen, sometimes known as the leopard shen, combines the strength of the tiger with the agility of the crane in a martial art famous for its lightning fast combinations and footwork. She prefers punches to kicks, and the panther fist, made by curling the first and second knuckles toward the palm, is her staple technique. A panther shen relies on stealth over force, stalking her opponents the way her namesake stalks a meal. When not in combat she moves with a measured, almost lazy, pace, but her natural grace is obvious to all.

Additional Requirements: Improved Initiative. Hide 5 ranks, Move Silently 5 ranks.

Additional Class Skill: Search.

1st Shen Ability - Panther Step (Ex): The panther shen gains an unarmored speed bonus just like the monk class. The panther shen gains a speed bonus as a monk of a level equal to her panther shen level plus 1 level. If the panther shen also has monk levels, the character's monk levels add to the panther shen levels to determine the character's unarmored base speed.

2nd Shen Ability - Like the Wind (Ex): The panther shen gains Lightning Reflexes as a bonus feat.

3rd Shen Ability - Chain Punches (Ex): The panther shen is so accustomed to unleashing rapid fire strikes that her penalty when using Flurry of Blows is reduced to -1 per attack.

4th Shen Ability - Seize the Moment (Ex): The panther gains a +4 bonus to initiative.

5th Shen Ability - Swift Reprisal (Ex): Whenever an opponent makes a melee attack against the panther shen and misses, the panther shen can exploit the opening to take an immediate attack of opportunity against that opponent. The opponent must be within a square threatened by the panther shen for her to use this ability.

Hybrid Form: The panther hybrid form is sleek and strong, with the rippling muscle and effortless grace of a trained dancer. Fine hair covers her body, commonly midnight black. Her head resembles a panther's, with luminous green eyes and razor teeth. Hands and feet are padded and end in claws, and a long tail lashes behind her.

She receives a +2 bonus to Strength and Dexterity in hybrid form. In hybrid form, the panther shen is considered to have the Spring Attack feat, even if she doesn't meet the requirements. A panther shen can inflict bludgeoning or slashing damage when attacking unarmed, as she chooses.


A young monk cooling his feet in the river watched as a hawk swooped down to catch a snake. The snake twisted its body this way and that, always out of reach of the hawk. All at once, the snake struck, and with a single bite killed the hawk. Impressed, the monk ran to his temple and told the abbot what he had seen. The abbot smiled and said, "You have learned a valuable lesson. The true master needs no second blow."

The secret of the snake style is knowledge of pressure points and meridian lines. A snake shen spends years poring over medical treatises, absorbing charts and experimenting on himself and his fellow students to predict the effects of finger strikes against every inch of the body. Obscure variables of time of day and year relating to the effect of each pressure point attack must be memorized, so only the most intelligent students thrive in the snake style. The snake shen's comprehensive knowledge of the body's functions makes them excellent healers; they are often found in major cities, operating clinics that double as training halls.

Additional Requirements: Stunning Fist. Concentration 4 ranks, Heal 2 ranks.

Additional Class Skills: Heal, Profession.

1st Shen Ability - Stunning Blow (Ex): A snake shen with the Stunning Fist feat may use his Intelligence modifier instead of his Wisdom modifier to determine the Fortitude save DC of his Stunning Fist attack. In addition, he may make one additional stunning fist attack per day.

2nd Shen Ability - Calculated Blow (Ex): The snake shen receives Improved Critical (unarmed strike) as a bonus feat.

3rd Shen Ability - Hands of a Surgeon (Ex): The snake shen knows how to turn his encyclopedic knowledge of anatomy to his advantage in combat. When fighting a humanoid creature, the snake shen adds his Intelligence bonus, rather than Strength, to his damage rolls and threatens a critical on an 18-20. Hands of a Surgeon can only be used with unarmed strikes, and it cannot be used against constructs, undead, incorporeal creatures, or creatures immune to critical hits.

4th Shen Ability - Poison Hand Method (Ex): Poison hand method uses vicious blows aimed at the most vulnerable areas of the body. Once a day per class level, a snake shen can, with a successful unarmed strike, inflict an automatic critical hit. This attempt must be declared beforehand, and failure to hit still constitutes use of the ability. If the normal attack roll results in a critical hit, damage is tripled. This ability can only be used with unarmed strikes, and it has no effect on creatures immune to critical hits.

5th Shen Ability - Healing Touch (Su): Through manipulation of ki and pressure points, a snake shen can heal himself and others, as well as cure a variety of ailments. With a touch and as a full round action, the shen may do one of the following: heal hit points equivalent to a day's rest, neutralize poison, cure blindness or deafness, remove paralysis, or cancel a hold spell. This ability is usable once a day per snake shen levels.

Hybrid Form: A snake hybrid has a whip-thin body and a snake head. He is covered in scales, usually of a dark greenish-black color, but the scales can he of any pattern found in nature. His tongue is long and forked, flicking out past long retractable fangs to taste the air.

A snake shen gains a +2 bonus to Dexterity and Intelligence while in hybrid form, and gains a bite attack that deals piercing unarmed strike damage.


An old monk searched the mountains for a suitable spot to build a temple. One morning he was ambushed by bandits and sorely wounded. As the bandits closed in, a female tiger leapt from the bushes and slew them all. She gently lifted the injured monk in her jaws, set him on her back, and bounded to her mountaintop cave. She guarded the injured monk for days, nursing him with her milk and licking his wounds. When the old monk was healed, he resolved to build his temple on the spot where the tiger had saved him, and in this way he honored her. For centuries, the fighting monks of that temple were renowned for their ferocious tempers and strength.

The tiger style develops strength and toughness to the limit of human potential. A tiger shen is fearless, throwing herself into battle, accepting blows without flinching, and overwhelming enemies with powerful strikes. She favors the tiger claw, formed by curling the fingers in toward the palm, used to rake, tear, and seize flesh. Tiger shen make excellent bodyguards; they're so intimidating that only the confident or foolish consider challenging them, even when not in hybrid form.

Additional Requirements: Power Attack. Concentration 2 ranks, Intimidate 4 ranks.

Additional Class Skill: Intimidate.

1st Shen Ability - Killing Stroke (Ex): A tiger shen can focus all her energy into a mighty strike that ignores armor. Using a full-round action, the tiger can make a single melee attack as a touch attack, dealing damage normally. A creature damaged by the strike must make a Fortitude save (DC 10 + shen level + Strength modifier) or be paralyzed for 1 round. The killing stroke ability can be used once per day per shen level. Failure to connect with the killing stroke uses one of the tiger shen's uses per day.

2nd Shen Ability - Tiger's Toughness (Ex): The tiger shen gains Toughness as a bonus feat.

3rd Shen Ability - Fearful Symmetry (Ex): The tiger shen is immune to fear effects.

4th Shen Ability - Primal Force (Ex): The tiger shen gains Endurance as a bonus feat.

5th Shen Ability - Frenzy (Ex): Once per day as a free action, the tiger shen can enter a frenzied state. While frenzied, she gains a +4 bonus to Strength and damage reduction 1/-. A frenzied shen cannot be stunned and is immune to nonlethal damage. The frenzy lasts 1 round plus the tiger shen's new Strength modifier. A frenzy does not cause the tiger shen to become fatigued.

Hybrid Form: The tiger hybrid possesses unmatched power. Her body, covered in coarse orange hair striped with black, bulges with muscle. Standing tall, with a tiger's head, gleaming claws, and a tail that whips violently behind her, the tiger shen is a fearsome sight.

A tiger shen in hybrid form gains a +4 bonus to Strength, and she may choose to deal bludgeoning or slashing damage with her unarmed strikes.