View Full Version : D&D 5e/Next Monk - Way of Harmony (an arcane magic path for the 5e monk)

2017-07-31, 08:54 AM
Hello, everyone!

I've been creating some new class options for 5e in order to cover character archetypes I liked and used in 3.5 (and are thus a part of my setting). One of those archetypes was a spellcasting monk, a Kung-Fu Wizard if you will, for those who like to visit tvtropes.

3.5 players will probably remember the Enlightened Fist prestige class which was this archetype to a T. This monk path endeavors to capture a similar spirit, but there are complications and considerations to take into account when trying to add spellcasting to a class already as capable as a monk. Thus, I'd very much appreciate the opinion of players more experienced with playing 5e on how well balanced the path is compared to other options.

I'm not allowed to link my .pdf from the Homebrewery since I'm new, so I'll copy the path text into a spoiler. You'll have to do without the Spellcasting table, but it's identical to the Arcane Trickster's. I'll explain my reasoning for each of the abilities below.

Body, Mind and Spirit
You seek perfection or enlightenment through the harmony of body, mind and spirit. You still pursue a degree of physical power through martial arts and the embodiment of spiritual strength in ki, but also study arcane magic as a palpable manifestation of your mind. While this divided focus makes you a master of no particular aspect, you observe each as part of the whole and apply them with a harmony that bridges any gaps in power.
Monks that follow this Way, usually called sages, are often wandering diviners and exorcists, traveling the lands to hone their skills - whether by helping the common folk or rooting out the secrets of those who came before.

Class Features


When you reach 3rd level, you gain the ability to cast spells. See chapter 10 for the general rules of spellcasting and chapter 11 for the wizard spell list.
Cantrips. You learn three cantrips from the wizard spell list, one of which you must be an abjuration, conjuration or divination cantrip. You learn another wizard cantrip of your choice at 10th level.
Spell Slots. The Way of Harmony Spellcasting table shows how many spell slots you have to cast your spells of 1st level and higher. To cast one of these spells, you must expend a slot of the spell's level or higher. You regain all expended spell slots when you finish a long rest.
For example, if you know the 1st-level spell protection from evil and good and have a 1st-level and a 2nd-level spell slot available, you can cast protection from evil and good using either slot.
Spells Known of 1st-Level and Higher. You know three 1st-level wizard spells of your choice, two of which you must choose from the abjuration, conjuration and divination spells on the wizard spell list.
The Spells Known column of the Way of Harmony Spellcasting table shows when you learn more wizard spells of 1st level or higher. Each of these spells must be an abjuration, conjuration or divination spell of your choice, and must be of a level for which you have spell slots. For instance, when you reach 7th level in this class, you can learn one new spell of 1st or 2nd level. The spells you learn at 8th, 14th, and 20th level can come from any school of magic.
Whenever you gain a level in this class, you can replace one of the wizard spells you know with another spell of your choice from the wizard spell list. The new spell must be of a level for which you have spell slots, and it must be an abjuration, conjuration or divination spell, unless youíre replacing the spell you gained at 8th, 14th, or 20th level.
Spellcasting Ability. Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for your wizard spells, since you learn your spells through dedicated study and memorization. You use your Intelligence whenever a spell refers to your spellcasting ability. In addition, you use your Intelligence modifier when setting the saving throw DC for a wizard spell you cast and when making an attack roll with one.

Ritual Casting
Also at 3rd level, you have learned a number of spells that you can cast only as rituals. These spells are written in a ritual book, which you must have in hand while casting one of them.
You acquire a ritual book holding two 1st-level spells of your choice. Choose one of the following classes: bard, cleric, druid, sorcerer, warlock, or wizard. You must choose your spells from that classís spell list, and the spells you choose must have the ritual tag. Regardless of the chosen class, Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for these spells.
If you come across a spell in written form, such as a magical spell scroll or a wizardís spellbook, you might be able to add it to your ritual book. The spell must be on the spell list for the class you chose, the spellís level can be no higher than half your monk level (rounded up), and it must have the ritual tag. The process of copying the spell into your ritual book takes 2 hours per level of the spell, and costs 50 gp per level. The cost represents material components you expend as you experiment with the spell to master it, as well as the fine inks you need to record it.

Exorcist or Hexer
A lot of sages on their quest for enlightenment make ends meet by practicing their arts among the common folk. The Ritual Caster feature is profoundly important for this purpose, allowing for feats such as fortunetelling or purifying spoiled food. The rituals can come from different spell lists to reflect different schools and traditions among these monks. For the utility they add to the class, however, it is best to choose cleric, druid or wizard for this feature.
Good-aligned sages might become exorcists, using spells such as remove curse or banishment to rid the common folk of evil. To them, following the Way of Harmony means perpetuating harmony both within and without.
An evil-aligned sage could be one who casts these curses. As a variant, consider replacing divination with necromancy in this sage's choice of spells. They might learn spells to raise undead servants or summon demonic ones. To them, the Way of Harmony means pursuing internal balance - and exerting the power that comes with it over others.

Enlightened Fist
By 6th level, you have achieved a harmony of mind and body. You gain the following benefits:
-When you use your action to cast a cantrip, you can make one unarmed strike as a bonus action.
-When you use your action to cast a cantrip, you can use Flurry of Blows as a bonus action.

By 11th level, you have attuned your mind with your spirit. By weaving your Ki into your spells, you can forge them into extensions of yourself, no different than your hands or feet. You gain the ability to augment your spells to suit your needs. You gain one of the following Metamagic options of your choice. You gain another one at 17th level. You can use only one Metamagic option on a spell when you cast it, unless otherwise noted.

[standard Metamagic Options follow, expending Ki points instead of Sorcery points and using Wisdom in place of Charisma where relevant]

The Path of Enlightenment
At 17th level, you have achieved a higher state of mind. Your Intelligence and Wisdom scores increase by 2. Your maximum for those scores is now 22.

And now for my comments:

Obviously a must for a Kung-Fu wizard, fitting the Spellcasting feature into an already versatile Monk class is where most of my concerns lie. I gave it the standard 4-level spellcasting progression for a Path, identical to that of the Arcane Trickster or the Eldritch Knight from the PHB.
-Like these two classes, I made the Harmony Monk draw spells from the Wizard's spell list. Naturally, its opus had to be limited to a pair of schools, so I decided to use onmyoji as a starting point in order to give the class a cohesive flavor and not just take two randomly useful schools. Since onmyoji were sealmasters, diviners, curse-breakers, and warders of evil spirits, the selection of Abjuration and Divination imposed itself.
-However, upon inspecting the selection of Wizard spells from these two schools, I noticed that there were so few of them that the choice of spells (excluding numerous divination rituals, see below) at each level was practically implicit. I thus decided to add Conjuration as a third choice, since onmyoji were also known for summoning and controlling shikigami and other spirits. They were also occultists, considered to have eerie and mystical powers, so spells like Fog Cloud fit the flavor perfectly while expanding the path's spell choices just enough by my reckoning.
-There was an Unearthed Arcana article that gave guidelines about modifying each class. For the Monk, it specifically states that one should be careful while adding extra capability to what is already one of the most versatile classes in the game. I agree completely, so I took a few steps to balance this extra capability out. One of them was making the Spellcasting feature Int-based. While this makes sense from a meta perspective - since the spells are drawn from the Wizard's spell list - the main idea is to increase the number of ability scores the Monk relies on. The base class itself is already heavily reliant on both Dex and Wis, with a moderate reliance on Con. This path adds a moderate-to-high (depending on the spell selection) reliance on Int, forcing the Monk to skimp on some of their other stats to pay for this extra capability. In essence, it turns him into a sort of jack-of-all-trades, increasing versatility at the price of focus.

Ritual Casting
Onmyoji often occupied the position of a court wizard in feudal Japan, using various tools and rituals to divine the ruler's fortune and protect his domain from evil spirits. As mentioned before, there are a lot of ritual spells (divinations in particular) that fit this role perfectly and both the Eldritch Knight and Arcane Trickster gain a minor flavor-wise feature to go along with their Spellcasting at 3rd level. Allowing the Harmony Monk to cast spells as rituals is the most logical choice. However, with such a limited number of spells known, learning spells just to cast them as rituals becomes less than viable, so I decided on essentially giving the path the Ritual Caster feat for free, with two spells to start them off. This allows the Monk to have at least things like Detect Magic and Identify, which an onmyoji would be expected to be able to perform. Anything further requires an expenditure of resources, which I thought was a fair trade.

Enlightened Fist
A homage to the class that inspired this path, this feature seeks to emulate its key ability in a way fitting for 5e. Much like the 3.5 Duskblade, the Enlightened Fist could channel spells through their melee attacks, attacking with both simultaneously. The 5e Eldritch Knight (and Valor Bard, too) handles this by allowing an attack as a bonus action after casting a cantrip/spell, so I used the same logic here. I expanded the base Monk's Martial Arts bonus unarmed strike and Flurry of Blows to work with cantrips as well as the Attack action. He never gets the ability to combine non-cantrip spells with bonus attacks, which I find to be fair. I also find it to be cohesive with the flavor since only the spells that are natural and require no more effort than a punch or kick can be combined seamlessly with a martial art.

-Since a Monk gets an identical Ki Point progression to the Sorcerer's Sorcery Point progression, adding Metamagic to his repertoire seemed like the most logical way to create a synergy between the base class and the path's abilities. The ability to convert spell slots to Ki and vice-versa seemed too much to add in addition to Metamagic, so I decided to put in only one of them - the better and more interesting one. If a Monk wants to both cast a full spell and attack in the same round like an Eldritch Knight, he can take Quicken Spell and do it at the cost of his Ki.
-He only gets the ability at level 11, and only gets to choose two options for it (the second arriving late, at 17th level), reducing it in scope and versatility when compared to the Sorcerer.
-This is another of my methods of tolling the path's increased capability. Metamagic uses its already supremely useful Ki pool, making it a drain on the Monk's resources. The Monk does regain all Ki on a short rest but also relies on it much more heavily to be effective than the Sorcerer does on his Sorcery points and will commonly drain the whole thing even without Metamagic.

The Path of Enlightenment
A Monk's final path feature is usually something amazingly awesome, an ultimate art or skill. The Way of the Open Hand gets one of the two (to my knowledge) instant kill powers available to a player character without using magic items, the Way of Tranquility gets an awesome beatdown ability and the Way of Shadow gets an at-will ability to make an extra attack per round if played smart. Since this path already expands the versatility of the class considerably, I decided against an ultimate art/secret technique/finishing move for it, as I think it would be way too much.
Instead, I made it a passive benefit that helps mitigate the class' multiple attribute dependency, making it a weakened version of the Barbarian's Primal Champion (since you do get it earlier and, again, already have plenty of capability). I think it supplements the path's jack-of-all-trades nature in a good way, allowing it to resolutely break free of the master-of-none distinction, but not quite ascend into master-of-all territory.

So there, this is my spellcasting path for the 5e Monk and the reasoning behind it. Any impressions, opinions, and suggestions on the path's balance are more than welcome and greatly appreciated.