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New Monk Path for D&D 5E – Way of the Sohei

29 November, 2020

Ready to fightWay of the Sohei

Monks of the Way of the Sohei are the unusual in that they use weapons and armor to enhance their formidable martial arts skills. Their focus is on defense and defending others, when an armored sohei blocks your path, they are difficult to get out of the way.

For the purpose of this document polearms refer to the following weapons from the OGL: glaive, halberd, quarterstaff, pike, spear, and trident. It may also apply to campaign specific weapons as well, talk to your DM.

The Way of the Sohei is inspired by the Japanese warrior monks of the same name who were once a fearsome presence on the battlefields of medieval Japan.

Armored in Life
When you choose this tradition at 3rd level, you gain proficiency in polearms, and in light and medium armor. Polearms are monk weapons for you.

You have advantage on saving throws to resist being knocked prone or moved against your will, and saving throws against the frightened condition.

Whenever you hit a creature with an opportunity attack, it must make a Strength save or its speed drops to 0 until the end of the current turn. The saving throw DC for this equals 8 + your Wisdom modifier + your proficiency bonus.

When you spend a ki point, you gain resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage until the beginning of your next turn.

Shield of Pure Soul
Starting at 6th level, when you spend a ki point, you gain resistance to one of the following: acid, cold, fire, lightning, necrotic, poison, psychic, radiant, or thunder damage. This lasts until the beginning of your next turn. Additionally, when you spend a ki point if you are below half of your hit points, you gain temporary hit points equal to your proficiency bonus that last for one minute.

While wearing light or medium armor, your walking speed increases by 10 feet. At 14th level, the increase to your walking speed while wearing light or medium armor increases to 20 feet.

Whirlwind Strike
Beginning at 11th level, when you are wielding a polearm, the first opportunity attack you make each turn does not cost your reaction. When a creature within your reach makes an attack against a creature other than you, you can make a melee weapon attack against it as a reaction.

Due to your peerless mastery of the polearm, you may add your proficiency bonus to your damage when you successfully hit with a polearm.

Digression, what do upper level class abilities represent? Are they something out of legend used to define a character even if they can only be used once or are they just another class ability? Two 17th level abilities follow for the Path of the Sohei: one, Hold the Bridge, is designed to be used once (even though it has a way to reset it) as a legendary defence of a point, as the heroic warrior monk Benki did in legend. The second, Immovable Stance, is designed for repeat usage. Discuss with your DM and decide which works best for your character and the campaign.

ImmoveableHold the Bridge
At 17th level, you gain the ability to choose a point to defend, it must be a narrowly defined area such as a bridge, a gate, or similar fixed geographic point, you must spend 3 ki points to activate this ability and for the next hour (or until the enemy is defeated) you gain the following abilities:

  • You gain immunity from any effect, other than death, that would move you away or prevent you from acting to defend your chosen place (such as paralysis or sleep).
  • You have resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage.
    After the first time you take damage from an energy type caused by an enemy, you gain resistance to that energy type.
  • You add your Wisdom modifier to your armor class.
  • You gain an additional reaction each round only for performing attacks of opportunity.
  • If you have not be attacked in a round and you are below half your hit points, you heal one point of damage for each point of Ki you have unspent.
  • When you die, it is not immediately obvious to your enemies (unless it is caused by disintegration or something similar that by definition destroys the body) outside of melee range that you are dead.

This ability cannot be used again until after the monk has taken a long rest and a ritual purification (which can be as simple or as complex as what the player and DM agree).  Though by activating this ability, you are signalling that you have chosen to end your character’s story here with a legendary defense.

Immovable Stance

At 17th level, when you hit with a weapon attack, you can choose to deal additional damage equal to twice the number of hostile creatures within your reach, if you have not moved since the start of your turn. If you deal this additional damage, your speed becomes 0 until the start of your next turn, and you cannot be moved or teleported against your will until the start of your next turn.

Optional Rule

If a player commits their character to the Path of the Sohei at 1st level, implicitly agreeing to take their character’s first three levels in Monk with the Path of the Sohei at 3rd level, they can start with the polearm, light and medium armor proficiencies. As it is a bit strange as something you suddenly learn, changing your fighting style dramatically, at 3rd level.

My thanks to Brandes Stoddard (who journals at Harbinger of Doom) for his help in refining this monk path.  Any mistakes or problems in the design are mine.

Notes: Upper photograph A Fighting Monk. The above represents a belligerent monk of the Kamakura epoch.  From:”Military Costumes in Old Japan”, Photographed by K. Ogawa, Under the Direction of Chitora Kawasaki of Ko-yu-kai (Tokyo Fine Art School), Tokyo, K. Ogawa, 1895 (Meiji 28),  Found on Wikimedia Commons and is in the Public Domain.

Lower photograph “Benkei” by campra is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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