Sunday, July 14, 2019

Two Flavors of Monk

I recently re-watched Enter the Dragon. No surprise, it's still fantastic. But, as I was watching the Bolo fight sequences I was again struck by how poorly the 5e D&D monk models the brawn-based style of martial arts. You can do a monk who uses strength to punch suckers out in the rules as written, but unfortunately that puts you in the unfortunate position of relying on three attributes (Str, Dex, Wis) instead of just two (Dex, Wis).

Here's a house rules that fixes that: At character creation, a player can choose to use Strength for any monk class features that reference Dexterity. 

What does this look like in practice? Let's take a look at a couple features rewritten with the house rule above taken into account:

UNARMORED DEFENSE
Beginning at 1st level, while you are wearing no armor and not wielding a shield, your AC equals 10 + your Strength modifier + your Wisdom modifier.

DEFLECT MISSILES
Starting at 3rd level, you can use your reaction to deflect or catch the missile when you are hit by a ranged weapon attack. When you do so, the damage you take from the attack is reduced by 1d10 + your Strength modifier + your monk level.

Sorted!

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It seems clear that the Way of Four Elements monk is meant to provide an Avatar-esque character option. Unfortunately, it's in the running for worst-designed subclass in the Player's Handbook and is sure to disappoint anyone hoping to play Korra or Aang.

The problems with the subclass are many: if you compare the spells it gives you access to, they cost too much ki to use and you get too few of them. Compare what this subclass offers in comparison to the Way of Shadows subclass and the problem is obvious. Also, the features it gives you are poorly scheduled in terms of level and they're often going to be way less useful than the monk's core features.

It's tempting to adjust the subclass by giving more access to the elemental abilities, repricing the ki cost for using them, and maybe make the attack options usable with bonus actions, but...that sounds like a lot more work than it's worth.

Instead, if what you're after is a monk that has elemental blasts, just use the Way of the Radiant Soul subclass and swap out the damage types of its features for elemental damage types. (Bludgeoning for earth, water, and air, cold if you want to, fire for...fire, etc.) Hell, you could let the player choose per attack and it still wouldn't be unbalanced.

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