July 13, 2015

Soul Knife

Monastic Tradition

**Special thanks to Joshua Egolinsky for submitting this awesome class!**

Way of the Soul Knife

Soul Knives are monks that have trained themselves to manifest their ki in the physical world. They can form semi-solid weapons with a thought and use them to channel great destructive power. Their training is focused on a specific fighting style that eventually gives them an advantage over others that use the same weapon type.

Mind Blade
Starting when you choose this tradition at 3rd level, you gain the ability to manifest a mind blade as a bonus action. You can form any melee monk weapon with which you have proficiency. You can use a single bonus action to create two mind blades if both weapons are light and they are held in separate hands. These weapons follow the normal rules for two weapon fighting. A mind blade disappears if it leaves your hands or you are incapacitated.

A mind blade is both form and function, being a product of your training but also an extension of your inner ki. As such, it is mechanically identical to a weapon with which you are proficient, but its appearance is as unique as the monk wielding it.

Psychic Strike
Your mind blade is more than just another weapon, it is a focus for your ki. Starting at 3rd level you can expend a number of ki points, to a maximum of half your monk level, rounded down, to charge your mind blade with ki as a bonus action. Your next attack with your mind blade deals an additional 1d6 force damage for each point spent. If you are fighting with a separate mind blade in each hand, each blade can be charged, expending ki points separately for each.

Fighting Style
At 6th level your training with your mind blade branches into a specific style. You may choose one fighting style and gain the benefits listed for it. These benefits apply only to your mind blade and don’t stack with any other fighting styles from other classes.
     Archery. You’ve harnessed your ki to the point where you are able to make ranged attacks with your mind blade. You can create bows, crossbows, and their ammo, and you can throw your mind blade if it has the thrown weapon property. You have proficiency with weapons created in this way. The stats for each weapon are typical for their type on the weapon chart.
     Defense. You’ve learned to harness your ki and form a barrier around yourself when you manifest your mind blade. Whenever you are wielding a mind blade, an invisible barrier of extra ki surrounds your body and as a result your armor class increases by 1.
     Dueling. Your focus on using a single weapon in combat allows you to use more force when attacking. Whenever you are using a single mind blade and no other weapons you gain a +2 on your damage rolls.
     Two-Weapon. You are able to use two blades as if they were one, your focus no longer split between the different weapons. When using two mind blades you can add your ability modifier to the damage of your second blade. In addition, you can charge both blades with a single action or bonus action, though each incurs its own cost of ki.

Improved Fighting Style
At 11th level your dedication to a fighting style has become so advanced that you have abilities beyond a normal person when using your mind blade. The fighting style you chose at 6th level improves as listed below.
     Archery. You can add your Wisdom modifier to attack and damage rolls for your ranged mind blades. This stacks with your existing bonuses to those attack. You can use this feature a number of times equal to your Wisdom modifier (a minimum of once). You regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.
     Defense. The barrier formed by excess ki when manifesting blades has become much more potent. You gain an additional +1 bonus to your armor class (to a total bonus of +2.) You can also make it visible if you wish and it can shed dim light in a 10 foot radius while visible. It does not block line of sight or obscure you in any way.
     Dueling. Your mastery of single weapon combat allows you to strike enemies when it first seemed you would miss. You gain a +2 to attack rolls when using a single mind blade. In addition, you may choose to reroll an attack if it misses as your blade shifts and bends. You must finish a short or long rest before using this ability again.
     Two-Weapon. You have mastered the art of dual wielding to the point where charging both blades with a psychic strike is no longer just a single action, but also a single cost. Your maximum ki expenditure is still equal to half your monk level rounded down, but now both blades benefit equally from a single charge.

Blade Wind
At 17th level you reach the pinnacle of your control over your mind blade. As an action, you can shatter your blade into several pieces and make a single attack against each enemy within your reach. Bonuses to your attack or damage, such as from the dueling fighting style or psychic strike, apply to each target. After you use this ability, you cannot do so again until you complete a short or long rest.

Changelog: 7/13/15: Mind blade now specifies that you can only create monk weapons with which you are proficient.
7/14/15: Psychic Strike: Damage changed to 1d4 and clause removed that implied that the charge expended only on a hit (points charged are intended to be lost on a miss.)
Archery: Now specifies that you are proficient with those weapons.
Defense: Grants only +2 AC total with Improved.
7/17/15: Psychic Strike: Damage changed to 1d6. I'll refine this with further math later. I'm afraid that the ability to blow a number of points in one round and "nova" makes 1d8 too powerful, but this is subject to change when I get around to more math.


  1. This class is way better in combat than ANY other monk monastic tradition. Seriously, the others don´t even come close. Mind Blade gives you a better attack than what martial arts normally gives you(you get longsword and longbow proficiency from beeing a woodelf) AND you gain the ability to enhance every strike to paladin level of damage, with a resource that recharges on a short rest AND that you have more of than a paladin. The level 6 and 11 feats are way better than what other classes get, and espescially dueling and defense are way too good at level 11.

  2. Also, two weapon fighting makes no sense as a monk, since the bonus action that that takes is already used up by martial arts.

    1. Good feedback. Let me reply to this one piece at a time:

      I'll change Mind Blade to "You can form any monk weapon with which you have proficiency." This will eliminate other sources of weapon proficiency, which is something I didn't consider when reading this class.

      Also, you're right that psychic strike is powerful. Should I increase the cost (2 ki per 1d8) decrease the damage (1 damage per ki point expended), or both?

      I disagree that the 6th level fighting styles are powerful. It's true that other monks get a healing or evasive ability at this level, I don't think these abilities are too great a mechanical advantage. Do you have any specific complaints about the 11th level improved fighting style?

      Lastly, I just learned something about Martial Arts: you get your Strength or Dexterity to damage on that second attack, which is strictly inferior to normal two-weapon fighting. I didn't know that until just now. This means I can cut out all that stuff about two-weapon fighting.

    2. Wait, that's not right. The second attack is unarmed-only. This means that if you spend your bonus action on your unarmed strike from martial arts, you can add your Dexterity or Strength modifier, but you are limited to dealing bludgeoning damage at your unarmed strike damage. A character with a +2 shortsword in his offhand might have a slight mechanical advantage over a one that forgoes that attack for an unarmed strike. In either case, it's a path that might be legitimate to take, so I'll leave it in.

    3. Regarding Proficiency: That´s better, but I think because of the way it´s worded now, the Archery fighting style now allows you to create for example a Crossbow in which you aren´t proficient in. So I guess the Archery Fighting Style needs an addendum that you gain proficiency with these weapons. I´m not sure if they should also count as monk weapons for the purpose of the Martial Arts feat, it seems very much like they should, but that way the soul knife monk could use the crossbow expert feat, gain a 1d10 attack 11 levels before he otherwise would, and still be able to make unarmed attacks in meelee as a bonus action.

      Regarding Fighting Styles: As far as I understood, the level 6 and 11 fighting styles work additionaly to each other, so with the Defense fighting style, the monk would get +3 AC at level 11, which is way too much. He will reach 23 AC sometime that way, which would be even better than what heavy armor can do. I think changing the level 11 part of Defense would be appropriate here, maybe to something on the same level as the Way of the Open Hands Tranquility feat. Dueling´s level 11 part has the same issue, +2 to hit is a bit too good in 5e. Leaving the 2nd part of the ability be and adding something different that doesn´t increase damage per round might be appropriate.

      Regarding Psychic strike: This is by far the most broken feat of this subclass. If you choose to leave the Fighting styles in their current form, I think you can scrap Psychic strike altogether and you´re at an acceptable level of balance. Maybe you could let the Mind Blade deal +1 psychich damage or something, but it´s really not needed.

      The other solution is heavily changing the ability. Either you leave the Ki-Conversion like it is, but allow it only once per short rest and change it to "when you hit a creature with an attack" instead of "Your next strike with..." like the Paladins Divine Smite. That allows the ability to be a bit better and more reliable, but only once per short Rest. The other option would be to leave the mechanic as it is (altough you need to clarify when the ability ends if you miss your target, currently it apparently lasts forever) and nerf the numbers. That´s my least favorite solution, as I can´t figure out an appropriate conversion rate that allows the ability to still feel significant and fun, while not beeing broken.

      Regarding Two Weapon Fighting: I´m not sure what you mean here, every single of the Two Weapon Fighting Style abilities only apply while wielding two Mind Blades, the way they´re currently written, so the +2 Shortsword is kinda irrelevant for them. The only advantage the Two Weapon Fighting Style currently has over the unarmed attack is the way it interacts with Psychic Strike. Seeing as how that feet should get changed or scrapped, the Two Weapon Fighting Style should follow whatever Psychic Strikes fate is.

  3. A note on balance that hasn't been covered is how the class regards magic items (aka: it doesn't).
    With this in mind, it becomes less powerful in magic-heavy campaigns and far more powerful in campaigns with sparse magic, overall resting in the happy position of guaranteed power rather than relying on DM whims.

    Also notable is that, as written, mind blades are not considered magic weapons, making this class entirely ineffective against golems.

    1. Without burning through ki that is, I had forgotten psychic strike deals force rather than psychic damage.

    2. Hmm. Should probably add a note about Ki-Empowered Strikes affecting Mind Blades as well. Good call.

  4. With the new changes this is still better than the open hand monk when it comes to fighting (which I don´t think is the way it should be), but at least its not terribly broken anymore...I hope. Defense and Dueling are just better than anything the open hand gets, Two Weapon Fighting still remains relatively bad at higher levels considering Flurry of Blows is something that a high level Monk will want to use often, making the option only relevant for maximum burst damage in one round, but in that specific situation at level 11, it´s probably better than what any other class can do. That fighting style seems so terribly designed to me, but whatever.

    1. I'm curious how much play testing you've done for this class, considering the amount of "feedback" you've given. Or is this all just knee-jerk theory crafting? Let's address Defense and Dueling.

      First, the claim that Defense can put you above a 20 AC is correct. Let's take a Fighter or Paladin with the Defense style and compare. With equipment only, either of those can have a 21 AC from full-plate and a shield. This requires no specific stats, and only the availability of the armor from the DM. Magic armor should be +1 by 5th level and +2 by 11th level, according to the DMG. Magic shields should be +2 at 5th and +3 at 11th. Of course this is the earliest these items should be appearing, but if we have a generous DM we're looking at 24 AC by 5th level or 26 AC by 11th. This is also ignoring the other magical benefits these items would provide. Now, in order for the monk to be at 23 AC by 11th level, they would require MAX stats in both Wisdom and Dexterity. Considering those conditions, how is 23 AC at 11th level too strong?

      Second, let's look at Dueling. +2 damage at 6th level is acceptable, but +2 attack at 11th is not? Once again, let's look at the items that the monk CAN NOT use. According to the DMG, +2 weapons should start appearing around 5th level, with the +3 at around 11th. Once again, we aren't accounting for the various other benefits magic items provide and once again the monk is still behind the magic item curve. So, again, tell me how +2 to attacks is too strong at 11th level.

      Let's move on to Two-Weapon Fighting. At its core, this gives the monk a choice between the extra attack of Flurry of Blows or the extra damage of Psychic Strike. It is a choice, something this entire archtype is based around. When I designed this class, I felt that Two-Weapon was the problem child, being that it had very high damage potential. If Psychic Strike is nerfed, this problem is already dealt with.

      Which brings me around to Psychic Strike. With this I'm going to be addressing the Finger as well. Dropping the damage down to 1d4 per point is an overzealous nerf and needs to be addressed. If we're going to compare to other classes, I'll use the rogue and paladin at level 11 as examples.

      -The rogue can do 6d6 sneak attack damage, once per round, without limit, under certain conditions. If you have a melee character in the party, very rarely is the rogue not going to be sneak attacking.

      -The paladin is doing +1d8 with every attack, extra if he spends spells. He has up to third level spells, which would give him +5d8 is he spent one. Let's look at slots, 4 1st, 3 2nd, and 3 3rd. Each first gives +3d8, each 2nd gives +4d8 and each 3rd gives +5d8. Added up (4x3, 3x4, and 3x5) we have 39d8. The trade off is that the spells could be used for something else.

      -The monk has 11 Ki at this level and can put up to 5 into a single Psychic Strike. Originally this gave them 5d8, which is a fair trade for almost half of their current Ki, which is also used to fuel things like Flurry of Blows, Patient Defense, or Step of the Wind. They can do this twice for a total of 10d8 and have a single Ki left over for another minimum Strike or one of their other abilities. They would require almost 4 short rests to have the same damage output as the paladin, in case you wanted to take the Short Rest defense. Now, dropped to 1d4 per point, they don't even rival what the rogue is doing EVERY turn, and they still have to spend half their resources to do it. The argument can be made for dropping the damage to a d6, at least then Two-Weapon doesn't seem as strong. But a d4 is WAY too low, and seems like a knee-jerk reaction.

      In the end, the monk is a versatile class, and this archtype is meant to be combat focused, while still maintaining the flavor of a warrior fighting with only their natural implements.

    2. Magic item curve is probably the most contentious point. The comparative balance of this class is highly dependent on the DM. Importantly, this is assured power vs. uncertain power. As my group's serial DM, I tend to give out magic weapons and armour fairly sparsely (I don't think my level 11 group has any +2 weapons or armours, that said, it is full of RP-centric people, rendering overpowered-ness a moot point). I rarely play as a player, and it is usually to someone who I introduced to the game, so my experience is limited, but I'd say the DMG magic item curve is on the generous side of things.

      Comparing this to classes, the closest I can come to is the Pact of the Blade warlock. This class can do much the same in terms of weapon generation with two major differences:
      -It is not a primary weapon-using class
      -It can replace the weapon with a magic weapon

      Considering these things, the only real suggestion I can give is to reduce the raw statistical benefits in exchange for effects (in much the same way that fighters can spend superiority dice, perhaps let psychic strike emulate specific magic weapons).

      Worthy of consideration as well is that class balance is not an issue to be covered in such number-crunching detail until the inherent imbalance is fixed (moon druid vs. beastmaster ranger etc.). Classes should probably be balanced around PHB2 classes and the inevitable revisions that come to official classes.

    3. Magic items in 5e are generally assumed to be very rare. This isn´t 3.5. As to how much are given out is obviously DM discretion, but if we go by official numbers, namely the officially released campaigns by WotC, players in PotA get a grand total of 0 +X armor, one +1 Shield, and a +1 longsword, a +1 Warhammer and a +1 dagger. This items are in areas where PC´s should be level 7 or higher, some of them even later. The only +2 weapons are the elemental weapons from the cult leaders, but those come with a curse and are "inferior" weapons (war pick, dagger, spear, trident). So while playing this OFFICIAL adventure, every point you made about how magic items make your class look weak in comparison has zero relevance. Also I´m pretty sure a DM has to be crazy to allow a player to get 24 AC by level 5. That is incredibly dumb in 5e.

      Also all of your other points are missing my point completly. I never compared the damage output of your subclass to the other classes (of course the damage is inferior if we do that, monk isn´t the best raw dps class, and not meant to be) I compared it to the other monk subclasses. And it is a fact that your class does way more damage than they do, espescially with your initial psychic strike without any meaningful trade-off.

      Also some of your damage calculations sound really weird. Comparing a level 11 Rogue to a Level 11 Monk (before subclasses) the Rogue deals 1d6+5+1d6+6d6. (two shortsswords, no feats) Thats an average of 33. The level 11 monk deals 1d8+5+1d8+5+1d8+5 without ki investment. That´s an average of 28,5. So without using any KiPoints, of which you have 11 per short rest you are only barely behind the Rogue. Utilizing Flurry of Blows raises that damage to 38 on average, so he will be ahead most of the time. And your class would now have the ability to add other 1d8´s on demand, AND have dueling to further increase damage by 4 if he wants to.

  5. Straight-up comparing this monk branch to the others, it really isn't that OP.

    Let's look at psychic strike, the main point of contention:
    -Originally it dealt 1d8 damage for 1 ki, this is less damage/ki than flurry of blows (up to 5th level, at which point flurry of blows overtakes it) for the same action type.
    -Granted, extra ki can be spent with one bonus action to magnify damage and the argument can be made that you could prepare it when you'd normally be wasting a bonus action while flurry of blows requires more specific scenarios.
    -However, at this stage, using flurry an open hand monk can apply prone, 15ft push or inability to take reactions on up to two targets (if two targets are in melee range), which I would say is more valuable than nova potential.
    -Shadow monks are entirely about remaining hidden at this level, then gain the ability to pinball-teleport and gain advantage on attacks for free, after which point there is almost no way they'll ever be attacking without advantage.
    -Elemental monks can at the same level spend 1 ki with no action to gain 10ft unarmed reach for 1 turn and spend 1 ki for every attack that hits that turn to deal 1d10 extra damage (with flurry of blows, this puts them at 5 ki for 3d10 damage, 6 ki for 4d10 if you include a reaction attack). Or they could spend 2 ki to make a 3ft ranged attack that deals 3d10 damage (+1d10 for each extra ki) with a 20ft push and knocking prone included and 1/2 damage on a successful save, they can then still use flurry on a different target, they could instead use water whip for the same cost and effect but with a 25ft pull in place of the push or they could cast burning hands for 2 ki. This is outright better than psychic strike, with the only exception that pretty much nothing has force resistance while bludgeoning and fire are relatively common resistances (though whether the bludgeoning resistances are to weapons that are non-magical or if only magical weapons bypass it is debatable).

    Basically, psychic strike is pretty ki-costly for the damage it does and is outpaced in damage/action by 1 of 3 monk subclasses outright. Of the other two, both offer more utility and open hand monks gets 10d10 damage ON A SUCCESSFUL SAVE, or instant kill on a failure, with an action for 3 ki at 17th level, massively outpacing this branch (once every 2 turns if not exploiting reactions to set it up).

    1. Water Whip isn´t an attack action, you can´t use flurry of blows afterwards. It was also changed to a full action with the most recent errata. Way of the open Hand´s options of pushing, prone-ing and denying reactions isn´t as valuable as the option to nova in 5e, but our opinions on that obviously differ. Level 17 is a terrible level to talk about balance in 5e, since wish just takes a gigantic crap over every notion of balance that exists at that level. Also most campaigns don´t even reach level 17, balance until that level is far more important than afterwards.

    2. Completely overlooked that flurry specifically requires an attack action, regardless, water whip is still debatably stronger (reach, cost, effect). I'd say that the open hand options offer more general use (I find novas rarely, if ever, useful, more often than not dealing overkill and leaving the character worthless for a while after).
      This discussion has tempted me to calculate each subclasses maximum nova potential (say, 5 turn limit, 2 adjacent enemies with infinite hit points and no defences seem reasonable?).
      That said, as a regular DM, I hate nova classes (had a nova sorcerer to put up with, double-fireballs are the stuff of nightmares).
      I do see the reasoning behind the nerf, but I think that a different capping system (up to proficiency bonus cost/use) or less damage but more utility (similar to open hand's or paladin's smite spells) would be better than nerfing the damage into worthless levels.
      Regarding the idea that wish is a balance breaker, I'd somewhat disagree. The risk of eternally unlearning it gives DMs a lot of leverage over how it's used, for instance, in a campaign that features a Tarrasque, unlearning wish is pretty much game over. While yes, it is a brutally overpowered spell, the restrictions are harsh enough to give it a semblance of balance.

  6. Assumptions an 18 dexterity for this math.
    3rd level
    So 3d4+12 damage normal monk average 18
    So over a three round period 54 damage
    Elemental disciple
    3d4+12+2d10 extra reach one round. 28+ 24
    Soul knife 1d6+4 + 1d6 so 10 damage 30 over three rounds
    So currently this ability is underpowered and not worth using. On average it is best to just use flurry of blows.
    6h level
    4d6+16 32 using 1 ki
    2d6+8 + 3d6 23 using three ki
    Still underpowered compared to just using 1 ki
    We have a twenty dex now
    4d8+20 36 I ki
    2d6+10 + 6d6 34
    Still doing less damage then a flurry of blows spending three times the chi with no added benefits.
    4d10+20 for 1 ki
    40 damage
    2d6+10 + 9d6 27+16 43 damage so we finally did a bit more than a naked monk channeling 1 ki but we blew half our ki to do it.
    Conclusion the ability is under powered and needs to be reworked to compensate for the additional features that are gained from the other traditions. If the damage output is similar and it does not have extra effects like the other monk traditions and can only be done twice per encounter at full power you are better off just using flurry of blows and ignoring the feature which makes it a bad design. Cool in concept do not get me wrong but it actually needs more to be viable. The open hand monk gets to toss the opponent around and murder them. The shadow monk ninjas around and the elemental monk turns into a ki destroying reach machine that throws fireballs.
    To the guy complaining that this is overpowered needs to learn how to game mechanics, this is actually a bit of an under powered class. The psychic strike is actually out damaged by a naked monk just using flurry of blows for 1 ki and nothing else attached. How this is going to be done I will contemplate when it is not four in the morning after a long night of drinking in which I will be miserable about while pretending to work at home. I will toy around with some stuff since I appreciate the design and the hours of time you have saved me from having to develop this concept out from scratch.

  7. It looks Star Wars inspired :D Anyway, what I wanted to ask is if you're gonna add some UA fighting styles, or some of your homebrew styles (now it's just Hand-and-a-half, I think), or are you gonna keep it simple? Thought, adding Hand-and-a-half would have to make the blades versitile,