Sunday, February 5, 2017

Monastic Tradition: Way of the Zen Archer [Second Draft]

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Monks are a massive pain in the behind to do anything with.

You've got the ki system, of course, which itself isn't so bad. But then you've got Martial Arts, a list of weapons which do/do not synergize with that feature, Flurry of Blows vs. the basic MA bonus attack, and a whole lot of hidden balance math that can be upset when you try and do something obscene like make monks synergize with using ranged weapons.

There's a reason the Kensei has to kind of be a mess and include "kensei weapons," is what I'm saying.

But! I have the advantage of being able to release multiple incarnations of one class archetype whenever I feel like, allowing me to fix and update much faster than a UA release.

That said, this version of the Zen Archer greatly improves the balance and feeling of the original, making the whole experience of being a bow-or-crossbow monk a much cleaner, more flavorful experience.



  • Incorporated Martial Arts directly into Bonus Proficiencies, because trying to pick and choose how the feature interacts with MA without explicitly stating it was a losing battle.
  • Spiritual Archery no longer has a bonus action attack, now using a bonus action to increase the damage of your attacks directly. It still has a Flurry of Blows equivalent option, but it waits until 5th level to coincide with Extra Attack. 
  • Immaculate Lance has its math rebalanced, giving it a higher front-end damage but lower back-end damage. It also has new verbage to allow it to be cast using 0 ki, similar to the Sun Soul monk's Searing Sunburst, and now deals no damage on a successful save. 
  • Exquisite Accuracy now only negates disadvantage, allowing advantage from things like true strike to persist. 
  • Some people expressed vague concern over Stunning Strike being available at range, but after looking it over a couple of times I can't find anything that makes it inherently gamebreaking. The most imbalanced thing I can find is pulling off a Stunning Strike / Immaculate Lance wombo-combo, and that requires careful planning and about half your ki at the level it becomes available. 
  • True strike continues to be marginally useful, but is handy if you're using your action for something other than attacking. It synergizes well with Immaculate Lance, if nothing else. 
  • The new Spiritual Archery makes advantage and disadvantage a bigger deal than it would be for a regular monk, but that doesn't seem balance-breaking by its nature. 
  • I'll miss the spirit arrow. Ah well, these mechanics are much smoother. 
  • I deeply, deeply miss how relatively easy it is to make something like a rogue. Maybe next time. 


  1. I so badly want to run a pair of Monk brothers with someone. One, a Human Zen Archer. The other, a Warforged Kensai. Anyways!

    Balanced Bow: I almost think I get what you're going with this, but the wording is still confusing. So basically, if an enemy within 30 feet has 3/4 cover, you could fire a shot 30 feet away from you towards your direction, hitting the enemy from behind and negating 3/4 cover?

    -Immaculate Lance: Small curiosity, but I've seen you considering making this force damage to differentiate it more from the Sun Soul. I know spirit arrow is gone now, but is there any reason it is still radiant?

    1. >Balanced Bow

      That's exactly the idea. If there's a spot within 30 feet of you that has a vantage on the creature so that it wouldn't be in cover when attacked from that location, you can shoot from there instead.

      I know it's a little confusing, that's why I put the line about avoiding cover in there to try and explain a little bit.

      >Immaculate Lance

      I thought pretty hard about this one before siding with radiant. The main reason ended up being what I wanted the spell to look like: a giant, glowing spear of ki.

      For comparison, here are all the spells that deal force damage in 5e: Banishing Smite, Bigby's Hand, Disintegrate, Eldritch Blast, Magic Missile, Mordenkainen's Sword, Spiritual Weapon, and Teleportation.

      As you can see, they tend to be mostly raw magical effects and magical constructs. Force would make sense for conjured arrows (they'd be similar enough to Mordenkainen's Sword or Spiritual Weapon), but force isn't a giant-fucking-lazer sort of damage. Radiant is, so that's why I went with it in the end.

    2. Both of those sound pretty solid! Thank you for the explanation!

    3. Ryū ga waga teki wo kurau!

      Ryūjin no ken wo kurae!

  2. I am not sure if true strike is of any use. If you really want to hit something it might be good, but the main reason i would want to use it is if i am attacking at long range and disadvantage. Sadly the spell only has a range of 30 feet. In the old draft where its range was equal to the long range of your weapon it had some use, but not i don't see a reason to ever use it over the bonus damage.

    1. >true strike

      Oh whoops, I didn't mean to delete the range bit. I wondered why the column formatted shorter than it did before.

      Adding it back in.

  3. Also for Immaculate Lance it says you can spend 0-3 ki points. I think its better to use the working of: You can spend up to 3 ki points.

    1. I kind of wanted to explicitly state that you could spend 0. If I say "up to," people might make the assumption that you have to spend at least 1.

    2. i still feel their could be a better way to phrase it, but the feature is fine.

    3. Would this wording work?

      "As an action on your turn, you can produce a line of radiant light 120 feet long and 5 feet wide, which leads away from you in a direction you choose until it strikes a wall at least 1 foot thick or a solid, non-living object of similar thickness. Each creature in the line must make a Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, a creature takes 4d4 radiant damage. Additionally, when you use this feature, you can spend up to 3 ki points and deal an extra 3d4 radiant damage for every point spent."

      Also, feel like Lance should have half damage on a successful save. Would really suck to gamble up to 3 Ki and have it just fizzle for nothing.

    4. Yeah, that wording works. Now it's just a matter of me wedging it sideways into the existing formatting.

      As for half-damage on a save, I had that with the first draft and took it out. While it would be nice to guarantee damage, my point of balance is the Sun Soul's feature at the same level, which also deals no damage on a successful save.

      I could prooooobably get away with half-damage-on-save anyway, but Immaculate Lance already does slightly more damage and I'd prefer to play it conservative with how much further I push balance.

  4. I like it a lot. I can see why people would be concerned with the stunning strike at range but I think it is fine since zen archer can only maybe do 2 stunning strikes at range compared to any other monk maybe being able to do 4. Ummm it all looks pretty clean and good. 17th level isn't very flashy but certainly is reliable.

    1. Actually, Zen still can make 4 stunning strikes, 2 with ranged and 2 from Furry of Blows.(FoB needs Attack action with any weapon, so you just can shoot, then run and strike with your FoB to the enemy. But such a style is Kensei one)
      And yeah, overall it sounds quite good, but i think compared to revised kensei from one of latest UA its a little bit weaker.

      What about to change Immaculate Lance with Exquisite Accuracy by places, and(just my opinion), lance by itself sounds good, but what about to make some kind of Ki-powered strikes, Aiming a single target, launching at it Ki-infused arrow, that have such immersive power, that when it would hit a target, it will deal amount of force damage(same as lance) but, also it will hit every creature in 15ft cone behind the main target(dex con vs Ki DC)dealing same(half on success) bonus amount of force damage as to a main target?