Monks get some new traditions this week, and the options they unlock are pretty stunning.
Time to dust off the martial arts table, double check how much extra movement per round you get at this level, and figure out just which class feature you want to remind the GM you have this round, because monks get two new traditions in this week’s Unearthed Arcana: the Way of the Kensei and the Way of Tranquility.
- Monks of the Way of Kensei train relentlessly with their weapons, to the point that the weapon become s like an extension of the body . A kensei sees a weapon in much the same way a painter regards a brush or a writer sees parchment, ink, and quill.
- Monks of the Way of Tranquility see violence as a last resort. They use diplomacy, mercy, and understanding to resolve conflicts. They are also skilled in the healing arts, and can preserve their allies in the face of daunting foes.
Each Way gives you a different route to take your monk as you level up. Let’s take a look…
Way of the Kensei
Another 3.x favorite seeing a triumphant return in 5th edition. The kensei is all about making your weapon an extension of the self. This character archetype is full of ways to make your attacks more accurate, deal more damage, and defend yourself better in a fight. As you might expect from a tradition that could also be called ‘sword saint,’ the first big feature of this archetype is all about picking a signature weapon. Starting at 3rd level, you gain proficiency with three martial weapons of your choice, and any weapon you’re proficient with becomes a ‘kensei weapon’ which means that:
- you can decide whether to use Dex or Str when attacking
- you can decide to use the weapon’s damage die or your martial arts damage die
- hitting a target with a kensei weapon lets you deal extra damage as a bonus attack to any target you hit during your initial attack (go flurry of blows)
- tossing in an unarmed attack along with a kensei attack gives you a defensive bonus.
So right off the bat, you’re given incentive to use a mixture of attack types (and a little extra bonus if you’re fighting many weaker enemies) in every combat. The rest of this tradition really helps you get the most out of your chosen weapon, including the ability to overcome damage resistance as though you were wielding a magic weapon, add up to 3 points of extra damage, and perhaps the most immediately useful feature: the ability to double your proficiency bonus on a single attack (for when you want to make sure you hit with the stunning fist).
Way of Tranquility
I really like this one. I don’t know that I’ve seen its like before in D&D–but this is a tradition that is all about defusing combats before they happen. The description says that monks who follow the Way of Tranquility avoid violence, preferring to use reason when they can, and this is the first class I’ve seen that feels designed to do it. And in a way that looks like it’d be fun to try out, even.
It begins with a Sanctuary that you can cast on yourself once per minute (one which lasts 8 hours, may I add). From there, layer in abilities like having advantage on any Charisma check to defuse a fight, or the ability to use a Stunning Fist-esque touch that forces an undamaged creature to make a save or be unable to attack, cast spells that deal damage or force a save, or otherwise engage in combat–so long as the rest of the party agrees. So you’ve got a number of abilities that complement you not fighting your way out of every encounter, and with that Sanctuary you can keep yourself safe.
Oh, and for when you can’t keep yourself out of combat, you also gain the ability to toss in some healing along with your flurry of blows, so you can punch the blood out of or into your targets as you see fit, and at 17th level, you gain the ability to go mildly berserk, dealing your level in bonus damage against a target for a round whenever that target drops an ally of yours to 0 hp. It won’t come up all the time, but when it does, you’ll be ready to pounce.
So there you have it. Two rather different archetypes for your monk to pursue. Whether you prefer to let your sword or your mouth do the talking, Wizards has got you covered with this week’s Unearthed Arcana. Try them out. Be sure to check back next week for some new Paladin options and the Monk survey.
Check out the new Monk options
Take the Fighter Survey
What do you think about characters who are focused about stopping fights through words? What do you think we’ll see for Paladins? Let us know below!