Unearthed Arcana – Monastic Traditions

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year readers! Now that the festive season is well and truly over I’m back on the Unearthed Arcana reviews! This time we’re going to focus on the new monk subclasses which can be found here!

Way of the Kensei

During my free time at the moment I’m painting minis whilst binge watching the tv show Heroes. I remember watching it when I was much younger, but never got past the first series so thought I’d try and binge it all. This is relevant because Hiro Nakamura, I’ve if the main characters, travels back in time to visit an ancient Kensei and get his sword. Needless to say, the Kensei in Heroes is an incredible fighter (not least because he’s also invincible). Hence I’m looking forward to this!

Path of the Kensei

I’ve seen a lot of beef on Twitter already about whether on not the Kensei works, and the major issue is contained in this piece of ruling. Kensei weapons here are defined as ‘a martial weapon you’re proficient in’. This means that they are not the same as mink weapons, which for some has become a real issue.

I’m not part of this group. Whilst it would be cool to have monk and Kensei weapons overlap, it would probably end up being somewhat overpowered. This subclass already gives you a load of benefits for using a Kensei weapon, which when stacked with a monk weapon would get out of hand. For a start all monks would have a permanent +2 to AC, when they’re hard enough to hit already!

I like the idea that these special weapons are unique to the Kensei, and have their own special rules  which pertain only to this monastic tradition. I think they are powerful and flavourful, even if they don’t 100% match the existing monk.

One With The Blade

Here we have even more benefits associated with using a Kensei weapon! Not only are they magic from now on, but you can also focus in on a target’s weakness and deal extra damage. Great flavour and mechanically powerful.

Sharpen the Blade

Unlike the OP magic weapon making of the Forge Domain cleric, I really like the idea that a Kensei can augment their weapons with Ki. A +3 weapon is pretty intense, but the monk has to burn a lot of it’s other cool stuff to make that happen, plus by 11th level a lot of players will probably have some kind of magic weapon.

Unerring Accuracy

Pretty basic mechanical ability that will vastly improve your combat capability. It’s far from inspiring but it works.

Conclusion

I like this Kensei subclass. I think a lot of monks want to fight with more ‘exotic’ weapons and this allows them to do so! Yes it’s a little confusing with the whole monk v Kensei weapon thing but really I can’t see anyone having a big problem understanding it.

Way of Tranquility

In contrast to the kensei, I’m really not fussed by the idea of a pacifist monk in Dungeons and Dragons. One of the central tenets of the game is that there are evil monsters that must be e, many people, including myself, like to add a political layer to our worlds but having a subclass which focuses on such a niche area seems a little risky to me.

Path of Tranquility

This is exactly what I feared would happen. You have that one arrogant player who wants to run the game as a super pacifist monk and won’t raise a weapon against anyone and whenever the party enter combat they just stand in the middle, cast Sanctuary and tut. It’s just as bad for party dynamic as the Secret Bard who wants to silently sew chaos and poison the world. I don’t want or need this in my game.

Healing Hands

Not only will they refuse to fight, but while they’re at it they will also step all over the paladin with their far superior version of Lay on Hands. Don’t get me wrong, I think this ability is very cool, but it does kinda steal a paladin’s thunder. The image of a monk throwing fists at enemies and healing at friends in the same turn is awesome, but they can do that without being a thorn in the parties side.

Emissary of Peace

Perhaps Imm wrong, but I can’t see anyone being pleased with their ability to reliably talk to people in social settings at level 6. It’s boring, and even in hyper political and social games I just can’t see it having any meaningful impact on game play.

Douse the Flames of War

Your DM builds up to a super awesome boss fight. You’ve been waiting to kill this recurring villain since session 0, and now you finally have them where you want them. The villain moves to strike at your ally, but in a swift move of genius you delay the fight for one minute so that you can all give each other a little pep talk. ps it won’t work if the villain has so much as stubbed a toe prior to the fight.

At 11th level this is a bad ability. I honestly don’t know why you’d do this rather than casting Charm Person.

Anger of a Gentle Soul

This ability has awesome flavour and is incredibly powerful. It’s one of the coolest abilities I think we’ve seen from unearthed arcana so far. Unfortunately it doesn’t make up for the other abilities of this monk, nor the fact that I think it’s probably going to slow down your game.

Conclusion

I love the Kensei. I think it fits the expectations of what a Kensei style character could do, it’s not overpowered or underpowered, and although it doesn’t perfectly synergise with the existing monk abilities, it’s still super awesome and flavourful.

On the other hand, I think the Tranquility monk is a boring party killer. I can’t see it playing nicely with other characters, and although it has some cool abilities, most of them are naff.

I think it’s fair to say that of all the unearthed arcana so far, none have particularly impressed me. There have been some gems scattered throughout, but most of it feels a little lackluster. 

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