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Mythological Figures: Sun Wukong (5E)

Here I was thinking King Arthur was going to be hard! For every bit of popularity the lord of Camelot has in the west, the Handsome Monkey King/Great Sage, Equal of Heaven/Victorious Fighting Buddha matches him in the east. You may know him through Goku but to most of the world he’s Sun Wukong!




This week in Mythological Figures we’re tackling the untackleable—the star sidekick of Journey to the West and a hero more powerful than any we’ve seen yet, the monkey with the unending pole: Sun Wukong. More than Dragon Ball characters are based off of this guy and with a wee bit of research it was easy to see why.

Let’s start at the beginning. A magic stone on the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit bursts open with a stone egg that, when touched by wind, cracks open to reveal a stone monkey beaming golden light out of its orifices (a sweet start). As it eats and drinks it becomes more like the other monkeys, and then on a sort of bet dives through a stream to find a waterfall and mountain where all the monkeys end up living. Since he won the bet he’s also Handsome Monkey King, and with his new title he wants a potent weapon so he travels across oceans to acquire his signature staff (Ruyi Jingu Bang) from Ao Kuang, the dragon-king of the Eastern Seas.

Also while he’s there—and a lot of his stories go this way—he battles and defeats all the dragons of the four seas, taking away more loot. Afterward he comes home and makes alliances with seven other demon kings, and when Hell comes for him he resists and wipes his name from the Book of Life and Death (along with the names of every monkey he knows). Then somebody snitches to the Jade Emperor.

The masters of Heaven think, “well we’ll give him a little respect and it should be alright” so they make Wukong the Protector of Horses—the lowliest job they have. He’s not having any of that so he unleashes the Cloud Horses in response, declaring himself the Great Sage, Equal of Heaven. Nobody’s ready to face off against him however so they’re like “alright, how about guarding the Heavenly Peach Garden?” That lasts until they exclude him from a royal banquet. Wukong steals a bunch of immortal goodies (peaches of immortality, pills of longevity, and the Jade Emperor’s royal wine) and absconds back to his home to make ready for war.

Wukong whomps 10,000 celestial warriors, all of the constellations, a quartet of heavenly kings, and the greatest of Heaven’s generals (Erlang Shen). Finally with the help of the Bodhisattva of mercy he is captured however, and then they try to kill him a few times but can’t, so decide to boil him down into an elixir so Laozi can get back those pills of longevity. Wukong hides in the crucible’s only spot where the fire does not reach and survives the 49 days, leaping out afterward with the ability to spot evil and a weakness for smoke. He’s not having it and wrecks the crucible along with the forces of Heaven he hadn’t already defeated.

I know what you’re thinking and it gets better. Buddha intervenes, making a bet that Wukong that can’t escape from his palm. The monkey king takes him up on it and makes a flying leap to the end of the world, marking his way by urinating on five pillars that turn out to be the Buddha’s fingers. Obviously this doesn’t go over well and Wukong gets sealed away beneath a mountain for 500 years, trapped there by a paper talisman that says Om Mani Padme Hum.

This is where Journey to the West begins and Wukong becomes the bodyguard of Tang Sanzang—but this article has already gone on long enough. Suffice to say that even if you’re familiar with Wukong here, you should definitely give his wiki a read and dig into the 81 tribulations they face off on their journey to India.


Design Notes: There is no legitimate way to do this RAW but I’ve tried my damndest by shuffling in the more extraordinary bits (lifting mountains or “leaping” across the world, for example) into his magic items (all of which are at the very least legendary if not artifacts). He is otherwise an awakened baboon with lots of class levels, although even this build is definitely a watered-down taste of a proper Sun Wukong—the real thing wouldn’t be very useful to GMs other than to be walking fiat. I almost went for fighter just to keep his statblock simpler, but ultimately without getting a flurry of attacks the character just wouldn’t feel right so it’s to monk it went (and not all the way because that gives him weird things that he shouldn’t really have). The actual math brings him in at just CR 11 but I think given the very powerful magic items he’s got that Wukong should be a touch higher so popped him up by 3 (looking at you Wild Shape and Uncanny Dodge. ALSO—credit where it's due, Michael McCarthy designed items the Cursed Circlet and Ruyi Jingu Bang are based on.


Sun Wukong
Small beast, neutral good rogue (thief) 12/monk (open hand) 8

Armor Class
19 (golden chain shirt)
Hit Points 110 (20d8+20)
Speed 45 ft., climb 45 ft.

STRDEXCONINTWISCHA
17 (+3)20 (+5)12 (+1)10 (+0)14 (+2)7 (-2)

Saving Throws Dex +11, Int +6
Skills Acrobatics +17, Athletics +9, Deception +10, Perception +14, Stealth +17, Survival +8
Tools thieves’ tools +6
Senses passive Perception 24
Languages Common (Chinese), Hindi
Challenge 14 (11,500 XP)

Background: Wildborn. Wukong never forgets the geographic arrangement of terrain, settlements, and areas of wilderness. In addition, he can forage fresh water and food each day for as many as 6 people as long as the environment nearby can support it.

Cunning Action (1/turn). Wukong can take a bonus action to take the Dash, Disengage, Hide, Use Object action, Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check, or to use thieves’ tools to disarm a trap or open a lock.

Cursed Circlet. This indestructible magical circlet is firmly attached to Wukong’s head and cannot be removed. When a specific sutra is spoken within 1,000 feet, the band tightens and gives Wukong unbearable headaches, causing him to have disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks for 1d4 rounds.

Evasion. When Wukong is subjected to an effect that allows him to make a Dexterity saving throw to take only half damage, he instead takes no damage if he succeeds on the saving throw, and only half damage if he fails.

Feat: Mobile. Wukong can Dash through difficult terrain without requiring additional movement. Whenever he makes an attack against a creature, he doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks from that creature until the end of his turn.

Golden Chain Shirt. Wukong’s AC while wearing this armor equals 14 + Dexterity modifier. In addition, his Strength increases to 17, he has advantage on Strength saving throws and ability checks, his Carrying Capacity is determined as if he were Gargantuan, and he can benefit from Unarmored Movement.

Huǒyǎn-Jīnjīng. Wukong can use his bonus action on his turn to light his eyes with golden fire and cast detect evil and good (evil only) without the need for components. In addition, he has disadvantage on saving throws the blinded condition because of smoke.

Ki (8 points/short rest). Wukong can spend ki points to fuel various ki features.

  • Flurry of Blows. Immediately after Wukong takes the Attack action on his turn, he can spend 1 ki point to make two unarmed strikes as a bonus action.
  • Patient Defense. Wukong can spend 1 ki point to take the Dodge action as a bonus action on his turn.
  • Step of the Wind. Wukong can spend 1 ki point to take the Disengage or Dash action as a bonus action on his turn, his jump distance is doubled for the turn.
  • Stunning Attack. Wukong can spend 1 ki point to attempt to stun a creature he hits with a melee weapon attack. The target must succeed on a DC 16 Constitution saving throw or be stunned until the end of his next turn.

Martial Arts.Wukong can use Dexterity instead of Strength for the attack and damage rolls of his unarmed strikes and monk weapons. In addition, when Wukong uses the Attack action with an unarmed strike or a monk weapon on his turn, he can make one unarmed strike as a bonus action.

Open Hand Technique. Whenever Wukong hits a creature with one of the attacks granted by his Flurry of Blows, he can impose one of the following effects on that target:

  • It must succeed on a DC 16 Dexterity saving throw or be knocked prone.
  • It must make a Strength saving throw. If it fails, Wukong can push it up to 15 feet away from him.
  • It can’t take reactions until the end of Wukong’s next turn.

Pack Tactics. Wukong has advantage on an attack roll against a creature if at least one of his allies is within 5 feet of the creature and the ally isn’t incapacitated.

Phoenix-Feather Cap. Wukong can cast fly on himself at will without the need for components and is able to Wild Shape as though he were a druid of 10th level. While using Wild Shape, Wukong retains his monkey tail no matter what beast he is transformed into. Wukong can use Wild Shape twice. He regains expended uses when he finishes a short or long rest.

Reliable Talent. Whenever Wukong makes an ability check that lets him add his proficiency bonus, he can treat a d20 roll of 9 or lower as a 10.

Ruyi Jingu Bang. As an action Wukong can command either or both ends of the staff to lengthen or shorten up to a total of 10 feet without increasing its weight. This expansion is quick but not fast enough to use as part of an attack. If the staff is longer than twice his height, weapon attacks with it have disadvantage. There is no limit to the length the staff can reach. The shortest it can shrink is 5 inches, at which point it has retracted entirely into its handle and appears to be a heavy sewing needle.
In addition, as an action Wukong can command the staff to increase or decrease in weight and density by up to 1 pound per round. If the staff’s weight exceeds 10 lbs., any attacks made with it have disadvantage, and if its weight increases to 17 lbs. or more it cannot be effectively used as a weapon. Like its length, there is no apparent limit to its maximum weight, but it cannot be reduced to less than 1 pound.
Finally, Wukong can use a bonus action to toss this magic staff into the air and speak a command word. When he does so, the staff begins to hover, flies up to 30 feet, and attacks one creature of his choice within 5 feet of it (+11 to hit, 1d8+5 magical bludgeoning). While the sword hovers, he can use a bonus action to cause it to fly up to 30 feet to another spot within 30 feet of him. As part of the same bonus action, he can cause the staff to attack one creature within 5 feet of it. After the hovering staff attacks for the fourth time, it flies up to 30 feet and tries to return to Wukong’s hand. If he has no hand free, it falls to the ground at his feet. If the staff has no unobstructed path to Wukong, it moves as close to him as it can and then falls to the ground. It also ceases to hover if he grasps it or moves more than 30 feet away from it.

Second-Story Work. When Wukong makes a running jump, the distance he covers increases by 5 feet.

Sneak Attack (1/turn). Wukong deals an extra 21 (6d6) damage when he hits a target with a weapon attack and has advantage on the attack roll, or when the target is within 5 feet of an ally of Wukong that isn’t incapacitated and Wukong doesn’t have disadvantage on the attack roll.

Stillness of Mind. Wukong can use his action to end one effect on himself that is causing him to be charmed or frightened.

Supreme Sneak. Wukong has advantage on a Dexterity (Stealth) check if he moves no more than 20 feet on the same turn.

Wholeness of Body (1/long rest). As an action, Wukong regains 24 hit points.


ACTIONS

Extra Attack. Wukong attacks twice when he takes the attack action (using a bonus action he can attack a third time with Martial Arts, or a third and fourth time with 1 ki to use Flurry of Blows).

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d4+3) piercing damage.

Unarmed. Melee Weapon Attack: +11 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (1d6+5) magical bludgeoning damage.

Ruyi Jingu Bang (quarterstaff). Melee Weapon Attack: +11 to hit, reach 5 ft.*, one target. Hit: 9 (1d8+5) magical bludgeoning damage.


REACTIONS

Deflect Missiles. Wukong can use his reaction to deflect or catch the missile when he is hit by a ranged weapon attack. When he does so, the damage he takes from the attack is reduced by 1d10 + 13. When the damage is reduced to 0, he can catch the missile if it is small enough for him to hold in one hand and he has at least one hand free. If he catch a missile in this way, Wukong can spend 1 ki point to make a ranged attack with the weapon or piece of ammunition he just caught, as part of the same reaction (+11 to hit, range 20/60 ft., 1d6+5 damage).

Slow Fall. Wukong can use his reaction when he falls to reduce any falling damage he takes by 40.

Uncanny Dodge. When an attacker Wukong can see hits him with an attack, he can can use his reaction to halve the attack’s damage against him.
 
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Mike Myler

Mike Myler

Eltab

Hero
Your text editor has failed you in the Reliable Talent and Ruyi Jingu Bang descriptions. It also gave you the language "Hindu" which is a religion (?should be "Hindi"?)

I was not familiar with Sun Wukong before this. The story was fun to read! Thank you!
I'm looking forward to future characters.
 


Mike Myler

Advanced Fifth Edition: https://www.levelup5e.com/
Your text editor has failed you in the Reliable Talent and Ruyi Jingu Bang descriptions. It also gave you the language "Hindu" which is a religion (?should be "Hindi"?)

I was not familiar with Sun Wukong before this. The story was fun to read! Thank you!
I'm looking forward to future characters.

Ack! Fixed on all three counts--thank you for looking out. Also yeah I knew some things about Monkey/Sun Wukong but definitely did not know all the awesome stuff like peeing on Buddha's hand. I think he might have skyrocketed to my top 5 myths. :D

Now - what you need here is some Monkey Magic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-SUoHmpRdM
Definitely
 

Marandahir

Crown-Forester
Clearly we need a 5e write up of the Vanara race!

Then we can have Zhu Baije as an Orc, Sha Wujing as an Oni/Ogre Mage, and Tang Sangzang as a Human Monk. ;)
 

Elf_flambe

Explorer
Your text editor has failed you in the Reliable Talent and Ruyi Jingu Bang descriptions. It also gave you the language "Hindu" which is a religion (?should be "Hindi"?)

The text is still confusing for Huǒyǎn-Jīnjīng, as well.

I'm enjoying this series of articles a lot! Keep up the great work!
 


caddo2000

Explorer
This was great, I would really like a write out for Zhu Baije and Sha Wujing with their 36 and 18 transformatons.
And I would be curious what you could make of Bai Longma, apart from the obvious dragon polymorphed to horse
 

The Monkey King is supposed to know all the magic spells.

The ability to Polymorph is also essential for Sun Wukong's major confrontation with the gods in the Journey to the West.
 
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