Level Up (A5E) Adept: My Nitty Gritty Feedback


With the Ranger and Sorcerer already receiving the Level up Treatment, its time for the other problem child to get a new look. The monk is one of those classes that is very divisive. Pages and pages have been written on how its the worst class in the game, with equal pages exalting the class as a real gem if you know how to play it right.

From my standpoint, the monk has always lacked a bit of something, whether white room math says its up to snuff...there's at least the perception that the class has weaknesses. So this is one of the classes I've been looking forward to seeing.

As usual, the Rating System:

A - Perfect, solid, I love it.
B - A bit more niche than I would like, but probably in the right campaign it will be fine.
C - Needs some work, its on the weak side.
O - Overpowered, just too strong, needs a tone down.

Further, I do want to dig in to Flavor at bit as well, as that is an important part of the analysis, so I will also include a Flavor rating for certain abilities. If I don’t mention anything, I assume a base “good” rating, aka I think it’s perfectly fine and serviceable flavor.

F+ I love this flavor, I immediately thought of playing a character with X.
F- Something is lacking here, this idea is not jiving with me.

Overall Balance (A/O)

Again your thoughts on the balance of this class are going to be dependent on where you fall on the monk spectrum. Overall....this is a better monk. Yes you do lose a few things, no evasion, your purity of body is a little weaker, you don't get water and wind walk for free. But in the areas you generally care about....more KI, more movement earlier....access to manuevers to give you even more monkish things to do....its just better. So if you think the monk could use a little work, its an A. If the monk was just fine, this is an O.

But beyond the power bump, its just feels like a more fun journey with this class. You can really tailor it the way you want....you want a mystical monk with super speed, no problem. You want a warrior trained from birth with no mystic voodoo....absolutely. You can mix and match the monk abilities you want, and push the ones you don't to the curve. The build flexibility alone is going to be a major appeal to many players, and regardless of power....that alone will be a reason so many will want to play this class.

Maneuvers vs Focuses: Something I'll be taking a close look at as we move through the class. At its core, maneuvers and focuses are basically the same thing, special extras that use exertion. So the natural question is...why do I need both? Now currently maneuvers use str/dex for their DC (and adepts get a special +1 DC here), and focuses use wisdom....but you could easily add an adept ability to allow wisdom with maneuvers. Many adept abilities I will be looking at through this lens, as there is no reason to duplicate design space if its not necessary.

Adroit Defense

Brutal Defense (B): Its a common idea on many alt-monks to allow for strength instead of dex, freeing the monk up to use different ability score combinations. So I am a big fan of this allowance. That said, generally unarmored defense will have the better scaling if the person focuses on those stats, so it will be interesting to see how this gets used.

Unarmored Defense (A): The staple.

Martial Arts (F-): This is exactly the same as the base monk class, and carries the same flaw. There is literally no reason other than flavor that every monk in the world should not start life with a quarterstaff. There are a few dances that try to fix this, but its hard to argue with just raw damage. I really really wish some clause was added that gave you a d8 on the base attack so then weapons become a flavor desire, or mechanical as you gain magic weapons and dances...and not just a presumed default.

Exertion Focus (A, F+): So this is the elephant leaving the room. Monks are often desperate for KI, especially at low levels, and the adept instead gains a big boost here. The adept often has 2 more exertion than the equivalent monk, and that really gives the class some freedom to use its ability and go to work. All you need is a sidebar explaining how exertion works with monk subclasses using Ki and your good to go. Beyond that, all the monk abilities still work as they have.

Focus Feature (F+): So we have taken the Ranger concept and really expanded here, putting in a whole list of abilities to choose from, allowing us to tailor our adept, and decide how mystical vs martial we want the class to be. Conceptually I like this a lot, its a cool design, and I think a lot of players will enjoy making an adept just for that flexibility. Now the question will be, are there combinations of abilities acquired at low levels that is too good? We will have to dig in to see.

Battle Dance (C): This ability is a bit clunky. I'm using bonus and reaction, I'm still taking OAs (as opposed to just negating OAs), for the chance at dealing some damage. Now at 1 exertion, I don't think its great but it has some uses. However, at 2 exertion....no way. This will be a common critique for several abilities, just like WOTC I think the design of the adept just adds exertion costs way too often as a balancing mechanic, and exertion is too precious of a resource for the class to be doing that. 2 exertion is a LOT.

Battle Meditation (O): I think almost every adept will take this. Everything you do is powered by exertion, more exertion is just more better, especially if I am getting 2 or 3. I would personally just change it to a straight up "your exertion pool increases by 1". Simple, consistent, and still quite strong.

Closed Soul (B): If it was a single saving throw it would be too much, but since you can get several it becomes pretty solid, even with a high exertion cost. Honestly I don't think it needs to be 9th level restricted, its a good ability but unless the game is casters all the time there are a lot of other good abilities that will get used more often than this one. I also have to ask is whether the Faith Within maneuver should be used here, and just adjust Faith Within if it needs a little buffing.

Deflect Missiles (A): No changes here, and none needed. This is a hidden gem of the monk that is often overlooked, and I think the ability is great as is.

Deflect Spells (B): Huge exertion cost and the fact that casters aren't always commonplace tends to limit the usefulness of this ability. I really don't think this needs to be 9th level restricted, its cool when it comes up, but how often is it really going to come up in the vast majority of games.

Distant Death Dance (B, F-): So the flavor of this is weird, and by that there is no flavor. So I just have 60 foot range? Am I moving super quick, did my arms stretch like Mr Fantastic? Also again 2 exertion...many times I could just spend 1 exertion to disengage, move around, and hit would I need to hit. It has uses, but I think the ability is overvalued.

Eye for Detail (A/O, F+): This is a neat ability, and can be exceptionally useful. Some DMs might even find it too useful as the idea that their super bluff bad guy can get revealed "automatically" can be irksome. You might add a clause that a creature with training in deception is immune from this ability.

Focused Strikes (SPECIAL): So I do not think this should be a normal choice on the list, but is better as a sidebar. The trick is this ability is so incredibly campaign specific. In some low magic games this may be THE most powerful class ability, in many others an adept will feel foolish to pick it, and it again creates tension between having to use a magic weapon vs the flavor of just using your fists. I feel like this ability should just be given to the adept in certain campaigns, and not be a choice on the list.

Forbidden Strike (A): This is a solid extra damage maneuver, that also can nova well with abilities like trained swing.

Hooked Swords Dance (B): So this is an attempt to make the two shortsword style cool, which I do applaud. So the rub is, at absolute best... on Round 1 you give up flurry of blows for a +1d10 damage, and then on round could in theory with flurry of blows gets a +2d10 damage (by hitting 2 different targets with your 4 attacks). So that's +5.5 and +11 damage respectively. But since we aren't using a quarterstaff, we are giving up 2 and 4 damage just for going shortswords....so we've already lost a bit off the top. Personally I don't think the reach is all that attractive, but it can come up. In general, I feel like the ability is worth the exertion cost, but then the fact you are given up better weapons and have to actually choose this ability....I don't know.

Last Dance (B): For a player really wanting to focus on the dances, I could see the appeal, but man does this burn through your exertion fast. Generally if you are willing to blow through your exertion in a single encounter like this, wouldn't it be better to nova with some pile on maneuvers instead of adding a round or two to a dance? I can also say that 3 exertion for the extra dance option is just too expensive, the dances are cool but I don't think they are that cool.

Maneuver Focus (C): On the surface, any ability that doesn't require exertion is worth taking a look at. But I looked through all of the maneuvers presented, and honestly I couldn't come up with any combos worth much to me. The best I could see is using whirlwind strike twice, but you don't actually get all that many attacks considering the exertion cost. My mind could be changed with future maneuvers, but right now this one is a hard no for me.

Mind over Body (A): Taken later it can provide a decent amount of temp HP, assuming your party doesn't have other ways to do that. That said, I feel that we are duplicated design space here. Just give them the Mountain's Might maneuver (and if you really want replace the con bonus with wis).

Mirage Dance (A): Only one of the two dances I really like. Its expensive on exertion but is a good bit stronger than a standard dodge, and the fact that it lasts until the next turn means its no more expensive than 2 rounds of dodging (and you regain a bonus action). So this benefit seems worth the cost.

Paralyzing Strike (C): Yes, paralysis is stronger than stunning. But for twice the price, and the fact that many many more monsters are resistant to paralysis than stunning...I just don't think I would ever take this.

Powerful Blow (C): Why would I ever use this, when I could just spend my bonus action to get an extra attack that doesn't cost exertion?

Pressure Point Secrets (C): I am giving up the ability to do 2 (2!) extra stunning strikes to make my current one 25% harder to save against (aka -5 to saves). That's a terrible deal in general, I would always rather just attack some more and generate more stun saves....which also helps more against legendary resistance. That to me would be the key here, if you added something that says "I have to use 2 legendary resistances to remove the effect" or "this bypasses immunity to stun and paralysis" or something like that....than we could be talking, otherwise no way.

Purity of Body (A): Its a decent one to take, but I do ask why it went with an action instead of outright immunity. The immunity is not so great that its overpowered, and its not like the regular monk having the immunity is a real selling point to choose monk over adept.

Shockwave (B): I think when you first can take this, its not bad. You can hit a lot of bad guys with this, and the fact that it requires no action and can prone them means you get to follow up with regular attacks at advantage, which is really solid. However, the damage doesn't scale at all, and you can't trade out abilities, so I fear it becomes less useful as you increase in levels. But maybe not, again while its incredibly exertion spending...it is a nice area damage with a solid condition rider for absolutely no action cost. This is one I really want to see in play.

Slow Fall (A): A solid staple.

Stillness of Mind (A): Another good staple ability.

Stunning Strike (A): The defining monk ability.

Warding Dance (A): Between this and mirage, its the question of power versus consistency...so its really player choice. Again, the fact that you get this benefit for two rounds....and the fact that its often useful for hazards outside of combat....makes this a really good ability.

Weapon Skill (A/O): I see the two main uses of this are:
a) Make your attacks from d8 (quarterstaff) to d10 (longsword) damage.
b) Add a ranged weapon like a sling to your adept arsenal.

Its a strong A as I think most builds are going to want straight up more damage all the time, which again removes a lot of the flavor of the unarmed combatant. But its not so much more damage that I think its unbalances things...per say. It would definitely be on my watch list.

Battlefield Etiquette (A, F-): I think its a neat ability just needs a new name. "Honor among Warriors" or something.

Empty Mind (A, F+): A cool ability, its not one that will likely come up often but when you know your going against certain kinds of creatures, spending 1 exertion for an hour's worth of good protection is really solid.

Maneuvers: With so many adept abilities require exertion, I would imagine most adepts will choose stances and abilities that are very exertion friendly for their maneuvers. Most of the combos I see can be useful but are pretty exertion expensive. Example: Distant Death Dance + Warning Strike can shut down a single enemy in a large area, but at 3 exertion cost. Swift Combat Stance I think will see common use for adepts wanting to maximize speed. Dangerous Strikes and/or Trained Swings may see a lot of use with the plethora of monk attacks...but then its a question of more nova at the expense of losing a flurry of blows or a stunning strike later in the fight. I do think its strange that adepts don't get tooth and claw, that seems to be a perfect fit flavor wise. Honestly I feel that many of the focus abilities will ultimately be at odds with the maneuvers, and so while it seems like you could have tons of adept builds, you will likely see adepts settle on a small core of maneuvers.

Knacks: Again I ask the question of what levelup really wants to do with knacks. These are not little abilities only used for exploration, these are strong and useful combat abilities.

Adept Speed (A): Likely most monks first pick, the fact that it stacks can make it really cool as you get around 6th level. +10-20 speed is nice but not always gamechanging, but once your in the +30 feet range (especially taking the +5 speed stance), your now in a possible position where you can disengage, move in, attack, and move out...with the enemy having no means of getting an attack on you. At that point, it become really useful.

Gale Walk (A): At first the triple jump would seem to be somewhat overlapping with the longstep ability, but technically they stack if your willing to spend the exertion, for the ultimate jump. And the advantage on all jump athletics checks is solid as well. Of course, the real reason you take this is for hurricane walk.

Hurricane Walk (A/O): The fact that you can get this as early as 6th is a really cool ability, could in fact by the defining ability of this character. I think as a single fly its already really good, and I've seen a lot of alt-monk ideas reference something to the same. However, if you interpret that you could just keep spending exertion and maintain the fly without having to come back down, that could be too good for certain games. I really like it, but would need to see it in action....as you basically are negating most of gale walk, so in effect this is costing you two knacks.

Nimble Athlete (B): Its a good knack if you want to play a dex based monk that is a good grappler. So niche, but it does that niche well.

Power Tumble (C): I'm sure there are some builds that could use this, but I think they would be few and far between. Honestly I think you could just combine this with Nimble Athlete and say "For the athletics and acrobatics skill, choose either strength or dex". That gives you a more well rounded and solid knack.

Religious Training (A, F+): I like the flavor here, its a way to add mysticism back into the class for players that want it. Its a true exploration ability that will be fun for a lot of players.

Wall Walk (B): Hurricane Walk is better in every way except for the prereq. I would at least remove the bonus action requirement.

Water Walk (B): Same issue as Wall Walk.

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