Monk with Primal Savagery

Paul Smart

Explorer
Has anyone played either a Druid 1 / Monk x or a variant human with Magic Initiate Druid (Primal Savagery)? If so was it any good? I am thinking of building something like this as it sounds great in theory, but I would like to hear how it works in practice. Thanks.
 

RogueJK

It's not "Rouge"... That's makeup.
Haven't played it personally, but looking at it on paper, there's a significant drawback...

Namely, using the Primal Savagery cantrip doesn't trigger the Monk's bonus action Martial Arts attack, Flurry of Blows, Stunning Strikes, Extra Attack, etc.


For example, a 1st level Monk would be making 2x unarmed strikes for a maximum possible 2d4+6 if all attacks hit and you have a 16 DEX (or a few more points if they're using a 1d8 monk weapon like a Spear/Quarterstaff for one of those attacks).

Compare to a 1st Level Monk with Magic Initiate Druid making 1x Primary Savagery attack for 1d10 on a hit.

The monk making unarmed strikes will not only will be hitting more often, and doing more damage on average, they will also have twice as many opportunities to crit.


Moving up to 5th level, a 5th level Monk would be making 3x or 4x (Flurry) unarmed strikes for 3d6+12 or 4d6+16, if they all hit and you have an 18 DEX by that point. (A few points more if they're using a 1d8 Spear/Quarterstaff monk weapon for one of those attacks.)

Compare to a 5th level Monk (or 4th level Monk/1st Level Druid) making 1x Primal Savagery attack for 2d10 acid damage.

In addition to hitting more often, critting more often, and doing more average damage, the monk making unarmed strikes can now Stun with some of their hits too. (And potentially do other things with these hits, depending on their subclass.)

Plus, Primal Savagery's acid damage is one of the more commonly resisted elemental damage types, which starts being an issue about now. Whereas at 6th level, the Monk starts doing magical bludgeoning damage with his unarmed strikes.


Bumping up to 10th level, you're looking at a 10th level Monk making the same 3x-4x unarmed strikes for 3d6+12 or 4d6+16, or +14/+18 if you're up to 20 DEX at that point. (A few points more if they're using a Spear or Quarterstaff monk weapon for one of those attacks.)

Compare to a 10th level Monk or 9th level Monk/1st Level Druid making 1x Primal Savagery attack for 3d10. Getting a bit closer in average damage, but still lagging. And still doing Acid damage, with no Stun or subclass features. And still hitting and critting less often.


I haven't specifically crunched the percentages against every AC at every level, but overall, the monk with unarmed strikes is almost certainly hitting more often and doing greater average damage than a Monk relying on Primal Savagery. Plus they're definitely Stunning, Critting, and using their attack-related subclass features more often.
 
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Paul Smart

Explorer
Interesting. You said:

Namely, using the Primal Savagery cantrip doesn't trigger the Monk's bonus action Martial Arts attack, Flurry of Blows, Stunning Strikes, Extra Attack, etc.

Where does it say that? I am not seeing it. Is there sage advice on this? Not saying you are wrong, just not seeing any rules on this.

Thanks
 

RogueJK

It's not "Rouge"... That's makeup.
Casting a cantrip means you're using the Cast A Spell action.

The monk abilities rely on using the Attack action:

When you use the Attack action with an Unarmed Strike or a monk weapon on Your Turn, you can make one Unarmed Strike as a Bonus Action
Immediately after you take the Attack action on Your Turn, you can spend 1 ki point to make two unarmed strikes as a Bonus Action.
Beginning at 5th Level, you can Attack twice, instead of once, whenever you take the Attack action on Your Turn.

The only one that doesn't specify requiring the Attack action is Stunning Strike, so that means it can be used on some other types of attacks like an Opportunity Attack. But that class ability does require a melee weapon attack, while Primal Savagery is specifically listed in the spell description as a melee spell attack.

Starting at 5th Level, you can interfere with the flow of ki in an opponent's body. When you hit another creature with a melee weapon Attack, you can spend 1 ki point to attempt a stunning strike.
You channel primal magic to cause your teeth or fingernails to sharpen, ready to deliver a corrosive attack. Make a melee spell attack against one creature within 5 feet of you.
 
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Paul Smart

Explorer
You channel primal magic to cause your teeth or fingernails to sharpen, ready to deliver a corrosive attack. Make a melee spell attack against one creature within 5 feet of you. On a hit, the target takes 1d10 acid damage. After you make the attack, your teeth or fingernails return to normal.

The spell’s damage increases by 1d10 when you reach 5th level (2d10), 11th level (3d10), and 17th level (4d10).

So you are saying a melee spell attack is not an attack action?
 

RogueJK

It's not "Rouge"... That's makeup.
So you are saying a melee spell attack is not an attack action?
Correct. Casting a spell, even if it includes a melee/ranged attack as part of it, is the Cast A Spell action. That is different from using the Attack action on your turn.

Page 12 of the Sage Advice Compendium:

Can a spell with an attack roll be used as the attack in the Attack action or as part of the Extra Attack feature?

The short answer is no.

As explained in the Player’s Handbook, you can take one action on your turn in combat, in addition to moving. You choose your action from the options available to everyone—options such as Attack, Cast a Spell, and Dash—or you choose from among the special actions you’ve gained from a class, a feat, or another source.

If you want to cast a spell on your turn, you take the Cast a Spell action. Doing so means you’re not taking the Attack action or any other action. It is true that a number of spells, such as fire bolt and ray of frost, involve making an attack, but you can’t make such an attack without first casting the spell that delivers it. In other words, just because something involves an attack doesn’t mean the Attack action is being used.

By extension, the Extra Attack feature (given by several classes, including the fighter and paladin) doesn’t let you cast extra attack spells. That feature specifically relies on the Attack action, not the Cast a Spell action or any other action.

In summary, to make a spell attack, you have to first cast a spell or use a feature that creates the spell’s effect. A game feature, such as Extra Attack, that lets you make an attack doesn’t let you cast a spell unless it says it does.
 

Eltab

Adventurer
If you ever DM, you could modify a Martial Artist to dish out Acid damage, and use this concept as justification.
A homebrew Tiefling might trade Prestidigitation for Primal Savagery. You release the untamed beast within, sorta werewolf style.
 

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