Druids, as with any pure casters, are going to be tricky to incorporate unarmed martial arts into, simply because making a melee weapon attack is going to be overshadowed by casting a spell most of the time.Currently there is a thread about unarmed attacks not counting as weapons and It's actually kind of interesting that this has popped up as I've recently been thinking about making subclasses that provide unarmed combat ability for other classes. So far, I have one for wizard (tentatively called the arcane fist) but I am planning on adding in the Brutal Mauler for barbarian as well (currently I only have the name, I have no idea what the brutal mauler will become). I was going to do a divine fist for cleric, but because of the way cleric subclasses works I didn't think it really fit well so I might just make it a monk subclass adding in some divine power to the monk.
I've thought about a few other classes as well but I'm not sure that they really fit the concept.
Druid: I thought maybe the druid could have something where they turn halfway into a beast but I don't know if that would be all that different from the moon druid to warrant it (that is, transforming into a melee creature as your main offensive ability).
If I had to I would probably go with animal-themed stances activated by spending a wild shape use, and that used spells in different ways.
For example Tiger stance might allow clawlike unarmed strikes that you could spend a spell slot to boost the damage of like a divine smite.
Maybe Snake stance would allow you to spend a spell slot to grant additional reactions that you could use to dodge attacks or take attacks of opportunity.
Dragon style would perhaps allow a bonus action attack after casting a spell.
Crane style - spend spell slot to Improve AC and saving throws maybe? No effect rather than half on successful save and redirect damage when an attack misses you.
I mentioned in the other thread how I'd deal with a Fighter archetype that incorporated unarmed martial arts alongside the armed martial arts from the base class. Basically grant an increased unarmed strike damage and ability to make a bonus action unarmed strike, alongside increases in the effectiveness of shoving and grappling (I suggested dealing Strength modifier damage when successfully winning a grapple or shove, and getting to roll both Str(Athletics) and Dex(Acrobatics) when you would normally have to pick one to roll.) Add a couple of minor abilities such as unarmoured (and unshielded) AC of Prof bonus + Dex Modifier.Fighter: Master of the Sweet Science. I think this one might work but I need to figure out my Brutal Mauler barbarian subclass first to make sure they are distinct. There is also already a variant monk class out there that is essentially this which I've been meaning to check out, though that doesn't mean I'll stop making this subclass.
That gives you a versatile fighter able to incorporate weapon attacks, unarmed strikes, and grappling/shoving into a very versatile combat style.
That might get tricky in terms of avoiding the Shadow monk, which is already the pop culture ninja with the supernatural abilities to match.Rogue: A ninja/shinobi subclass. I think if I was adding this subclass to rogue that I'd focus more on the supernatural abilities of mythical/pop culture ninja rather than martial arts.
Wizard: You could do something like an unarmed version of Bladesinger, but again, that is usually just treated as a defensive buff rather than incorporating fighting into spells.
I think that I'd go a different way and make the "martial arts wizard" the "action at a distance" type of martial artist. They would get benefits to Force-type spells, as well as ones like telekinesis, levitate etc, and additional bonuses (perhaps knocking the opponent back) if delivered as a melee attack.
I think that for the purposes of this thread, the OP is taking the popular conception of martial arts as talking about unarmed combat. - They specifically mention unarmed strikes in the post for example."Martial Arts", hmmm, let me spoil your party (and be the smartass).
Using weapons is "Martial Arts", and far more effective than unarmed strikes.
As such you can probably assume that they're mostly limiting concepts to those using unarmed martial arts styles. - The Fighter concept probably cover the armed martial arts fairly well.
A fist is probably the least finesseable (in 5e D&D terms) weapon available. As such, outside of the Monk (where their magic grants them the ability) I would probably not allow Dex modifier to attack and damage with unarmed strikes. There is a reason Bruce Lee did an insane level of strength training.The above mentioned feat is also okay, except for the finesse thing.
Dexterity to damage is a big mistake of 5e IMO.
Again something I learned from my martial arts (weaponless) training:
If I had to go to a (not only fist-) fight and I could take some guys from my gym, I would take the heavyweight guys with me, not the lightweights. Mass hits harder. Period.
Oops, even more smartassery...
Hitting in the right place sounds more like skill than grace. I think I'd keep Dex (grace, reflexes, balance) as the defensive stat and Str (athleticism, power generation) as the offensive one in most cases.I think the Dex to damage is supposed to be "hitting vitally more accurately" concept. So, sure mass hits harder, but high dex will punch your throat and cut off your air supply while str will give you a body blow that might knock the wind out of you.
I don't mind it outside of the fact that it just piled onto Dex's god stat status as best for saves + init + AC + att/dmg + some of the best skills, etc.