View Full Version : D&D 5e/Next [Martial Archetype] The Brawler

2018-06-06, 10:53 PM
I've long been frustrated by the lack of a Strength-based unarmed melee character. I know there is no shortage of homebrews trying to fill this void, but I haven't found one that felt right for me, so I made my own. This is my first time making a custom subclass, so I'd really appreciate feedback!

Brawlers are fighters that think of themselves as living weapons. They eschew traditional arms and armor, preferring to fight with their bare hands. Brawlers come from many walks of life, but are united by a desire to train their bodies to physical perfection. Fighters who emulate this archetype have nerves of steel, and anyone who underestimates them for being unarmed is sure to be crushed by their brute force.

Bare Knuckles
When you choose this archetype at 3rd level, you can roll a d4 in place of the normal damage of your unarmed strike. When you reach 5th level in this class, this die increases to a d6. When you reach 11th level, it increases to a d8. At 17th level, it increases to a d10.

When you make an unarmed strike as part of the Attack action on your turn, you can perform one of the following techniques as a bonus action:

Kidney Shot. Make an unarmed strike. If it hits, the target cannot take reactions until the start of your next turn.
Clinch Hold. Attempt to grapple a creature.
Shoulder Roll. Take a defensive stance, causing the next attack roll against you to be made with disadvantage if you can see the attacker.

Unarmored Defense
Beginning at 3rd level, while you are wearing no armor and not wielding a shield, your AC equals 10 + your Dexterity modifier + your Constitution modifier.

Starting at 7th level, your unarmed strikes count as magical for the purpose of overcoming resistance and immunity to nonmagical attacks and damage. In addition, when you make an unarmed strike against an inanimate object, treat your damage rolls as having rolled the maximum die result.

At 10th level, you learn how to throw all your strength into a single crushing blow. As an action, make an unarmed strike. On a hit, the attack's damage is doubled. The target is pushed 20 feet away from you and must make a Constitution saving throw. If it fails, it is stunned until the end of your next turn. The saving throw DC equals 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Strength modifier. When you reach 20th level in this class, the attack's damage is tripled.

If you miss this attack, you cannot use this feature again until you finish a short or long rest.

Relentless Conditioning
Starting at 15th level, you gain proficiency in Dexterity saving throws. When you are knocked prone, you can use your reaction to stand up at no movement cost. You may not do so again until you finish a short or long rest.

Perfect Technique
At 18th level, you become a master in hand-to-hand combat, improving all of your Bare Knuckles techniques.

When you use Kidney Shot, the target must succeed a Strength saving throw or be knocked prone. The saving throw DC equals 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Strength modifier.
When you use Clinch Hold, make your grapple check with advantage.
When you use Shoulder Roll, until the start of your next turn, any attack roll made against you has disadvantage if you can see the attacker.


Fixed Unarmored Defense
Removed Athletics ribbons
Removed Bob and Weave
Removed Sucker Punch
Changed Unshakable to give DEX save proficiency and counter to being prone
Changed the unarmed strikes to scale the same as the monk's Martial Arts

2018-06-06, 11:01 PM
This has significantly too many and too powerful features.

Bare Knuckles is like TWF+, Unarmored Defense is BETTER than a Monk gets for no discernible reason, Relentless Conditioning is just the cherry on top.

And so on and so forth.

2018-06-07, 03:30 AM
Remember that every feature should have a mechanical and thematic purpose. "What does this enable the player to do?" "What does this represent?"

A feature like Unarmored Defense should enable the player to fight unarmoured, and should represent the ducking and weaving of a boxer, right? Adding Dex and Con to AC fit those purposes! But what does the base AC of 11 have to do with any of that? It's gratuitous. It's power for the sake of power.

A feature like Bare Knuckles should enable the player to fight unarmed, and should represent how a pair of iron fists can be just as dangerous as a real weapon. Improving the unarmed strike's damage and giving it two-weapon fighting fits those purposes! But what mechanical need or theme justifies a d8 or d10 damage die (larger than any light weapon!). What mechanical need or theme justifies scoring a "sucker punch"—a sort of sneak attack—at the drop of a hat?

I think questions like these will result in a more subdued archetype that better represents a brawler.

2018-06-07, 08:07 AM
This archetype strikes me as two archetypes rolled into one: a fast, unarmoured, mobile brawler who weaves through the battlefield, and a hard-hitting brawler who dishes it out and takes it, eventually overcoming the opposition à la Rocky (I'm especially thinking Rocky... IV?)

However, it ends up having the features of two archetypes rolled into one, which means it has way too many features and they are overall too powerful, as others have said.

Features that make me think of mobility:
- Unarmoured Defence
- Bob and Weave
- Shoulder Roll from Bare Knuckles

Features that make me think of hard-hitting:
- Bare Knuckles (except for the Shoulder Roll option)
- Moxie (the extra damage to objects part)
- Haymaker
- Unshakeable
- Perfect Technique (insofar as it is an upgrade of Bare Knuckles)

Features that fit either archetype:
- Relentless Conditioning
- Moxie (the unarmed strikes count as magic part)

So, what I would suggest is one of the two following courses of action:
(1) You excise one of the archetypes. Make this archetype either a fast-moving, mobile hitter (sort of a monk without ki or magic), or a hard-hitting boxer-type.
(2) If you want both archetypes to be available within this subclass, make them mutually exclusive. When you choose this archetype, you choose which kind of brawler you are going to be, and you can't be both.

Whatever you choose, you do need to tone down some of the lower-level features.

Bare Knuckles, for instance, should not have a better unarmed strike damage progression than the monk class. Monk's martial arts damage scales at the start of each "tier of play", as cantrip damage does - 5th level, 11th level, and 17th level. I don't think it's too much to let this feature start with a d6 damage die, but if so it should cap at a d8 damage die, given no earlier than 11th level.

As for its sub-effects, all but Sucker Punch are good options: effective, but not overpowered. Sucker punch, however, is too much with the current unarmed damage progression. If you tone down the base Bare Knuckles damage, you could probably leave it as is, though.

Unarmoured Defence unaccountably gives a base AC of 11, where the barbarian and monk versions give a base AC of 10. Likewise, the class with the most ASIs doesn't really need to get both an increase to its speed and proficiency in Dexterity saving throws in a single subclass feature via Bob and Weave.

"Bashes in inanimate objects more easily" is not, I must admit, the sort of thing that springs to mind when I think of "moxie", so it seems weird having it in a feature named Moxie. It doesn't overpower the feature, since bashing objects is basically a "ribbon" effect, but it just doesn't seem thematic within the feature as it's named.

Haymaker is fine. It's actually probably the weakest feature. After all, you're giving up multiple attacks (and therefore multiple chances to score critical hits), along with the chance to use your Bare Knuckles bonus action options, in order to reposition and possibly stun a single creature. As a nitpick, you should specify that any feature that recharges on a short rest also does so on a long rest. Taken literally, if you trigger the "can't use until resting" part of the feature, you don't get it back after a long rest, which doesn't make much sense.

Unshakeable is fine at 15th level.

Perfect Technique is fine, though like most "martial" class subclass capstones, it suffers on account of arriving at a level when "full caster" classes are throwing down 9th-level spells, and even "Gish/hybrid" classes get their 5th-level spells, all of which provide vastly more utility and power. Fighter subclasses are particularly bad in this respect, because the fighter class itself is also getting nothing at higher levels except the ability to hit harder with a second Action Surge and an extra attack.

2018-06-07, 09:43 AM
Thanks for the feedback. The extra AC is a mistake from an earlier draft that I copy-pasted, so thanks for catching that. As for the other stuff, I appreciate it. When I started this, my initial concern was making up for the lack of protection that the fighter would have after giving up armor and other abilities. On top of that, I wanted it to have enough strength and durability to seem like a competitive option with the stronger archetypes like Battlemaster and Cavalier. But looking at it more closely, I definitely went overboard.

I'm going to clean it up, because I really would like to make this into something balanced and playable. Changes:

Scale damage to match the monk's Martial Arts
Fix Unarmored Defense
Move the Dexterity proficiency to 15th level
Remove Unshakable
Remove Athletics ribbons

Thematically, I'm trying to build something that focuses very much on brute force like a boxer, rather than the more graceful and quick martial arts of the monk. I think proficiency in DEX saves can fit that, though, since good boxers are quite nimble. Mechanically, it would also make them very durable up front on the front line, where they're likely to get hit with AoE abilities that will force DEX saves.

I like the idea of Sucker Punch, but I created it mostly so that the subclass would have a clearly-defined offensive option. But looking at it again, I think that Kidney Shot fits that niche just fine, and also gives the Brawler a role for keeping his enemies from reacting. I will probably remove it as well.

2018-06-07, 11:06 PM
Love this, very few options for us hand to hand combat lovers

2018-06-08, 11:41 PM
If you want to keep using unarmed, damage you’ll figure there is a drawback, almost severe and that’s that there is no way to enhance your damage, outside of level progression so me and my DM came up with this list to help, though it was mostly for monks.

“FIST WEAPONS” : can alter non-magical monk melee weapons into ‘fist’ type,(list below) These altered weapons do NOT replace your unarmed strike, but instead change the damage type and add half of their damage die to your unarmed strike and a special effecct per type. For example equipping a ‘fist type’ sickle would make your Unarmed Strike 1d4+2+3Dex Slashing. (Versatile Property damage does not apply)

Monks (and Brawlers now) can utilize their unique their effects which can be used the number of times Equal to your proficiency modifier per short rest or long rest.
EDIT NOTE:^^Was at the end of FoB but you don’t have that

Must have two gloves (Leather or stronger) and 3lbs of whatever material the weapon is made of (normally steel) to alter weapon for each hand. Unless unusual or rare materials are used all modifications take four hours, and smithing requires 1day.

1. CROW BLADE: needs 2 Sickles +2Slash (+2 to hit)

2. DRAGON FANG: needs 2 short swords +3/Prc (Critical hit on attack rolls of 18 and up)

3. HAMMER FIST : needs 2 Maces +3/Bldg (ignore 2AC on hit)

4. KI STRAPS** Handwraps Reacts to you allowing you to choose between +2 Sl,Prc, or Bldg on hit. (Spending an Extra Ki point with FoB adds WIS modifier in damage to each hit)

5. ROC’S TALON 2 Handaxes +3/Slash (targets loses half their movement. Can make a Medicine (WIS)check or Con Save against your Ki DC to end effect. Cannot effect same creature Twice.

6. SPIKED TONFA*: 1 spear. +2/Prc (Add a 1d6 attack with FoB)

7. TIGER CLAW : needs 4 daggers +2/Prc (Targets lose your Wis modifier in HP At the start of their turn for 2 rounds) Can make a Medicine (WIS)check or Con Save against your Ki DC to end effects. Constructs, elementals, and slimes are immune.

8. TONFA*: Requires 1 staff +2/Bld (Hitting Target with both FoB attacks Forces a Con save equal to Ki DC or be stunned

9. WARD CESTUS: +2 Bldg (Adds 1 point of Exhaustion), NOTE: (cannot stack effect)
*: No gloves needed
**: Needs -10lbs of metal (steel or better) and Must be made by you at a Forge Spending at least Four 8hr days and spend 1Ki point every 4hrs of crafting to create with them.

NOTE: +dmg is non-magical and all ‘Fist’ weapons can be enchanted with only elemental effects due to specialized nature of the weapons. You will still be counted as free handed when using Deflect Missile and rules for changing weapons stays the same.