D&D 5E A Monk Based on Kvothe, from "The Name of the Wind": How Do?

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
For my upcoming campaign, one of my players has told me he wants to play a Monk. Specifically, he wants to play a monk based on the character of Kvothe, in the novel "The Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss. "I want to play someone who has a mystical ability with his sword," he said. Now personally, I feel that the character of Kvothe would probably be best represented as a Bard, and I suggested it to the player, but no dice. "Nope, I won't play a spellcaster," he said. Not "can't," not "doesn't want to," but "won't." Like a druid with metal armor, it's not happening.

Now I don't need to tell you that this kind of input from your players is solid gold, and most DMs would kill to have their players inject this amount of planning and forethought into their characters. So I am happy to oblige, even though the character doesn't quite fit the campaign setting (which is more of a swashbuckling, Renaissance Italy-flavored setting). I'm not so enamoured with my setting that I won't make changes to accommodate my players. So I asked him why he chose monk, and he said that he had been looking at the Way of the Kensei subclass in Xanathar's Guide to Everything and he thought it would be a good fit for that character. I can't argue with that; it's his character and his interpretation of Kvothe.

You see, there are 5 players in my gaming group, and they are a good mix of min-maxing optimists, rules lawyers, and story-focused improv actors. The player who wishes to play this Kvothe Clone is one of the latter: he does not care about combat optimization, and it drives him nuts how everyone else at the table will examine the rules with a fine-toothed comb, trying to eek out every tiny bonus and advantage for every roll possible. He wants to play this character simply because he admires the character in the story, and wants to examine the game world through Kvothe's perspective. He probably picked Way of the Kensei because the description mentions "weapon" more often than the other subclasses, and isn't a spellcaster.

I'm a little bit out of my element here. Monks are not a common character class in my campaigns...I think I've only ever seen one in this gaming group, and it was years ago, and it was a shadow-monk-assassin-rogue that was optimized all the way to hell and back. And I'm struggling to figure out how to build one that resembles the character of Kvothe, and still makes sense in the campaign. Any advice? How would you do this? Pretend it's an Iron DM challenge, and you were given the following ingredients:
  • 5th Edition Monk
  • "The Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss
  • Renaissance Italy
  • Mystical Swordsman
  • No Spells
I've got a few ideas floating around in my head, but more heads are better than one. What would you do?
 
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CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
It’s been a while since I read the book, but I don’t remember Kvothe doing anything monk-like. Maybe the player needs to elaborate on the character’s qualities he wants to emulate.

Now, off to play my gnome warlock that I patterned off of Conan.
I know right? He's pretty much a textbook Bard. He studies music at the Magic School, he broke a guy's arm just by singing at it. I mean, just look at the cover art:

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But I need this character to be a Monk. The player is very excited about playing a Monk, and is very opposed to playing a Bard. And creating a Way of the Bard subclass for it would probably get me laughed out of the room (but it's crossed my mind a couple of times.)

I think it can be done; it's just gonna take some mental elbow grease.
 

I’m confused as to why you are building this character. Let the player figure it out. Have them come up with a reason there’d be a monk in the setting and how the character is like Kvothe. Collaborate with them if/when needed.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
I’m confused as to why you are building this character. Let the player figure it out. Have them come up with a reason there’d be a monk in the setting and how the character is like Kvothe. Collaborate with them if/when needed.
I'm not building his character. He asked me for input on how he could build the character. This is the "collaborate with them when needed" stage that you described.
 

Stormonu

Legend
I know right? He's pretty much a textbook Bard. He studies music at the Magic School, he broke a guy's arm just by singing at it. I mean, just look at the cover art:

View attachment 261429

But I need this character to be a Monk. The player is very excited about playing a Monk, and is very opposed to playing a Bard. And creating a Way of the Bard subclass for it would probably get me laughed out of the room (but it's crossed my mind a couple of times.)

I think it can be done; it's just gonna take some mental elbow grease.
I've never heard of this book, but what about "Way of Song" or "Way of Music" as the name instead?

<EDIT> Maybe use elements of Drunken Master that are highly reflavored?
 

Mull Ponders

Explorer
Your answer should be "I can't give you any concrete suggestions until Rothfuss finishes the trilogy." That should buy you at least another decade! :)

You are right, Kvothe in no way resembles a Monk. I guess you could build it out with skills, backgrounds and feats? Entertainer is his main profession, proficiency in Perform: Lute. The weapon will have to be a short sword, as there are no simple weapons that match as closely. Edit: or Path of the Kensei. That actually makes sense, as Kvothe didn't start with a sword.
 

Huh. This is something, but players will be players, and if they didn't throw us curveballs now and then, gaming wouldn't be as interesting.

While I agree the Kvothe is a bard, in Wise Man's Fear he is taught to fight with a sword as part of the martial arts of the Adem. I'd assume that's where this idea is coming from. Between the Entertainer Background and Way of the Kensei, that should suffice. The only thing I'd add is to swap Disguise kit proficiency for Alchemist's tools.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Huh. This is something, but players will be players, and if they didn't throw us curveballs now and then, gaming wouldn't be as interesting.

While I agree the Kvothe is a bard, in Wise Man's Fear he is taught to fight with a sword as part of the martial arts of the Adem. I'd assume that's where this idea is coming from. Between the Entertainer Background and Way of the Kensei, that should suffice. The only thing I'd add is to swap Disguise kit proficiency for Alchemist's tools.
This is...

...

...frustratingly good advice. Thanks Ralif! I'll suggest it to the player and see what he thinks.
 

I'm not building his character. He asked me for input on how he could build the character. This is the "collaborate with them when needed" stage that you described.
Gotcha. Apologies for misunderstanding.

There’s an order of monks (people who live in monasteries, pray to a god, take vows, make gnarly beer), that take orphans (possible connection to Kvothe’s backstory), and raise them to be bounty hunters and lawmen. They are trained to be exceptional swordsmen and have an otherworldly connection to their weapons. Or, the character has some sort of innate ability to wield a weapon and not all of these monks are Kensai.

As for the Kvothe stuff, I think your player really needs to nail down what parts of the character they want to incorporate into the game, because I don’t see it jiving well with the monk class if they just want to play a carbon copy.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
That's a tough one. As written, Kvothe is one of those perfect examples of how classic D&D concepts can completely fail to capture literary characters. He has classic bardic tropes, like playing the lute and singing, yet a good part of the book is spent on him learning magic that is the product of intense technical study driven by his ridiculously high Intelligence stat. On top of that, he also has a latent talent for a more innate style of magic (with fey overtones), and semi-randomly picks up a weapon-based martial art (which I guess is where the monk is coming from.)
 

Happy to help. While a person could come up with A Way of Songs and tack on some bard abilities with minimal work, I think it's possible to get sufficiently "Kvothe-y" without homebrewing. I could be wrong, but it sounds like the player wants to roleplay as Kvothe more than just have Kvothe's cool abilities like sympathetic magic. I would think that all this character needs is to be close enough to not break his immersion.

This is...

...

...frustratingly good advice. Thanks Ralif! I'll suggest it to the player and see what he thinks.
 

Hawk Diesel

Adventurer
I might also suggest as a race going with a medium sized gnome and reflavoring it as a human. That would allow the aspect of being a tinker from the first book to fit into the mechanics, as well as his preternatural talent with his mind via gnomish cunning. I might also replace the 5e version of the Tinker ability with the One D&D version, since it is more streamlined and provides prestidigitaiton, which seems appropriate. Plus I just like that version better than the convoluted clockwork options from the 5e version.
 


doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I’m confused by one thing in the OP. How does the character based on Kvothe with a focus on being a mystical sword fighter not fit the setting?

Seems like a perfect and natural fit for a Renaissance Italy inspired swashbuckling game.

Kensei is an excellent swashbuckler, especially with some levels of rogue for swashbuckler or fighter for Battlemaster after level 5.
 

Focus less on the monk aspect being tropes with cultural association. Instead focus reworked lore on the dedication to the blade and how that works. I think Lan from Wheel of Time would be built with Kensei, for example.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
Kvothe is a bit of an artificer isn't he?

So, to me the "key concepts" about Kvothe are:

  • Magic (but that's out)
  • artificer magic
  • swordplay (several ways of doing this, kensei monk is one)
  • fey dealing
  • music
  • origin as a street urchin

Fey dealing I think is going to be something to do in game (archfey warlock or fey-touch feat won't do because they don't want magic).

Artificer I think the "reflavor a gnome to human" idea by @Hawk Diesel is the best way to go.

Music - since he's not taking bard, the entertainer background is the way to capture this...

... but then you can't take street urchin as a background! Will probably have to be sacrificed.
 


Quickleaf

Legend
  • Human variant with Mobile feat
  • Entertainer background ("Renaissance man" to emulate Kvothe)
  • Monk with these Tasha's options: Dedicated Weapon, Ki-Fueled Attack, and Focused Aim (oh and call Ki Points "panache points")
  • Kensei subclass (re-skinned as an Italian Renaissance swordsman subclass)
 

You make a good point - Kvothe could be created using different classes, depending on which part and time period of him a person focuses on. If you look at Kvothe during his student period, he's very much a mechanically-based magician.

I'm also reminded of how Deities and Demigods/Legends and Lore would frequently use at least three different classes to try to simulate certain literary characters.

Kvothe is a bit of an artificer isn't he?

So, to me the "key concepts" about Kvothe are:

  • Magic (but that's out)
  • artificer magic
  • swordplay (several ways of doing this, kensei monk is one)
  • fey dealing
  • music
  • origin as a street urchin

Fey dealing I think is going to be something to do in game (archfey warlock or fey-touch feat won't do because they don't want magic).

Artificer I think the "reflavor a gnome to human" idea by @Hawk Diesel is the best way to go.

Music - since he's not taking bard, the entertainer background is the way to capture this...

... but then you can't take street urchin as a background! Will probably have to be sacrificed.
 

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