UA Monks Introduces the Kensai and Tranquility Traditions

WotC's Mike Mearls and Jeremy Crawford have posted the latest Unearthed Arcana column, this time introducing the Kensai and Tranquility traditions. The Kensei trains relentlessly with their weapon to create art out of combat; the Tranquility tradition seeks peace and mercy over violence.
 
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Comments

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
The Kensei was pretty much exactly how I expected/wanted it to be. With the exception of the bludgeoning damage. A d4 that doesn't scale? I hate d4s, and especially at higher levels it's hardly worth anything. Especially since as a monk, I could just use my bonus action to make an unarmed attack and use monk damage dice for that.

I've never been a fan of pacifist PCs, so the tranquil monk isn't my cup of tea. I understand others may feel differently though.
 

UnknownDyson

Explorer
Monk is my favorite class, but this was my least favorite UA. I like the idea of a kensei but I feel like it's missing that quintessential lvl 17 monk ability. Way of tranquility was pretty bland except for the level 17 ability which is amazing. I'm imagining Toki from Fist of the Northstar as a Way of Tranquility monk.
 
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lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Overall very happy to see monk traditions that don't just use your ki in different ways, but give you new monk things to do. As with much of the UA it could use a little tuning.
That's the part I agree with. I think that's good.

As for the specific examples? Meh. My earlier thesis was that this would be difficult because Monk was an example of a class they have already done very well. So what did they do?

Let's see. The Kensei! What's the signature thing about monks. Um ... they don't use weapons (well, not really, you get the point). So let's have a monk that (wait for it) USES WEAPONS! Brilliant!

Look, I know that there are weapons specialists, and "kung fu fighters" that use weapons in genre, but this is meh and uninspiring. If you like it, good for you, but if I wanted a monk that used weapons, I'd play a fighter. Or a barbarian. Or a rogue. Or a pala... HA! I would never play a paladin.

And the tranquility monk? Again, not much use I would see for it in most campaigns. Reminds me of the cloistered cleric; great conceptually, who wants to play it?
 

ad_hoc

Adventurer
Kensai: This is fine I suppose, maybe overpowered. It's not interesting to me because there isn't narrative power to it. It's just a Monk with a weapon. As is it is better than the Open Hand.

At level 5 you can attack for 2d6+4, 1d6+4, 1d6+4, and get +2 AC all for no Ki cost. That's pretty good.

Tranquility: I like the idea but it needs more. A Monk with disarm, shove, grappling, and other non-damaging incapacitating powers would have been cool. For example, they could have a power to attempt to disarm (while taking the weapon) in the place of an attack. They could also have a power to attempt to shove an opponent as a reaction to their opponent missing them with an attack, and if successful it ends their opponent's turn (Judo inspired).
 
Personally I don't mind if the Monk gets a better healing pool then the Paladin. Paladins have a bunch of spells to back up their healing.

Overall I like these two variants.
 

Dkamanus

Villager
Kensai: This is fine I suppose, maybe overpowered. It's not interesting to me because there isn't narrative power to it. It's just a Monk with a weapon. As is it is better than the Open Hand.

At level 5 you can attack for 2d6+4, 1d6+4, 1d6+4, and get +2 AC all for no Ki cost. That's pretty good.

Tranquility: I like the idea but it needs more. A Monk with disarm, shove, grappling, and other non-damaging incapacitating powers would have been cool. For example, they could have a power to attempt to disarm (while taking the weapon) in the place of an attack. They could also have a power to attempt to shove an opponent as a reaction to their opponent missing them with an attack, and if successful it ends their opponent's turn (Judo inspired).
That is actually VERY good. Giving more incapacitating moves, dodges and heals is what would make this monk perfect.

Edit.: Re-reading the Kensei, holy :):):):), dual handed 1d10 long sword + 2 CA after the first unarmed attack.

Seems like the best UA for me, so far.
 
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Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
Another thing that sits weird with me is precise strike. IME playing monks (one of my favorite classes), is that you're pretty much doing a bonus action every turn. Moreso than probably any other class. So many monk abilities are tied to bonus actions.

So giving up an extra attack, dodge, or movement to get double prof on one hit that can only be used once per short/long rest? Kinda meh to me, to be honest. Hitting monsters isn't too terribly hard, so what's the math trade off between attacking twice at normal prof bonus, or attacking only once with double prof bonus?
 

TwoSix

Lover of things you hate
The Kensei was pretty much exactly how I expected/wanted it to be. With the exception of the bludgeoning damage. A d4 that doesn't scale? I hate d4s, and especially at higher levels it's hardly worth anything. Especially since as a monk, I could just use my bonus action to make an unarmed attack and use monk damage dice for that.
The d4 is mostly there so it keeps pace with a standard monk attack progression at low levels. If you use a quarterstaff for your Attack and unarmed strike for bonus action, you'll do 1d8+1d4+6 (assuming 16 Dex for a low level monk). Kensei using a greatsword will do 2d6+1d4+3, which is pretty much identical. (13 avg versus 12.5). Where kensei pulls ahead is when you use flurry of blows, since that damage is identical [2x(1d4+dex)] whether you use a kensei weapon or a martial weapon. The other benefit is being able to mix in the shield bonus (the +2 AC bonus) when needed, without a real drop off in your offensive output. Mixing in a unarmed strike with a weapon attack post level 5 to boost AC is pretty phenomenal, especially since (I think) you can use a full unarmed strike as a BA as long as you make at least Unarmed Strike as part of the Attack action.

All told, I'm pretty impressed with Kensei. Not better than Open Hand, but comparable, and the aesthetics of a monk using a greatsword is just fantastic. I have a new front runner for my next character.
 

hejtmane

Explorer
Kensai fits with what I want to build character concept wise but it would be a multi class build with fighter. At quick glance the build would probably be at least 11 fighter/6 monk but man that so fits a concept. Kensai Battle Master Multiclass yea may have to introduce him as an npc for play testing in our next session in a couple weeks
 

Koren n'Rhys

Explorer
Kensai: This is fine I suppose, maybe overpowered. It's not interesting to me because there isn't narrative power to it. It's just a Monk with a weapon. As is it is better than the Open Hand.

At level 5 you can attack for 2d6+4, 1d6+4, 1d6+4, and get +2 AC all for no Ki cost. That's pretty good.

Tranquility: I like the idea but it needs more. A Monk with disarm, shove, grappling, and other non-damaging incapacitating powers would have been cool. For example, they could have a power to attempt to disarm (while taking the weapon) in the place of an attack. They could also have a power to attempt to shove an opponent as a reaction to their opponent missing them with an attack, and if successful it ends their opponent's turn (Judo inspired).
So much this. A grapple/control based monk would be cool - judo/aikido inspired rather than kung-fu.
 

lkj

Explorer
That's the part I agree with. I think that's good.

As for the specific examples? Meh. My earlier thesis was that this would be difficult because Monk was an example of a class they have already done very well. So what did they do?

Let's see. The Kensei! What's the signature thing about monks. Um ... they don't use weapons (well, not really, you get the point). So let's have a monk that (wait for it) USES WEAPONS! Brilliant!

Look, I know that there are weapons specialists, and "kung fu fighters" that use weapons in genre, but this is meh and uninspiring. If you like it, good for you, but if I wanted a monk that used weapons, I'd play a fighter. Or a barbarian. Or a rogue. Or a pala... HA! I would never play a paladin.

And the tranquility monk? Again, not much use I would see for it in most campaigns. Reminds me of the cloistered cleric; great conceptually, who wants to play it?

In fairness, the existing monk is already designed to use weapons. And there is a clear archetype of the kensai as a mystical martial artist with intense focus on weapon fighting. And it's a concept that I think fits better with ki than superiority dice, at least conceptually.

I'm not arguing they couldn't do it through the fighter chasis. I'm justing saying I can see why they placed it with the monk.

AD
 

TwoSix

Lover of things you hate
Another thing that sits weird with me is precise strike. IME playing monks (one of my favorite classes), is that you're pretty much doing a bonus action every turn. Moreso than probably any other class. So many monk abilities are tied to bonus actions.

So giving up an extra attack, dodge, or movement to get double prof on one hit that can only be used once per short/long rest? Kinda meh to me, to be honest. Hitting monsters isn't too terribly hard, so what's the math trade off between attacking twice at normal prof bonus, or attacking only once with double prof bonus?
Yea, it's kind of blah. It might be ok at higher levels, especially if you're using Great Weapon Master. I think at single digit levels it's weak, though.
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
The d4 is mostly there so it keeps pace with a standard monk attack progression at low levels. If you use a quarterstaff for your Attack and unarmed strike for bonus action, you'll do 1d8+1d4+6 (assuming 16 Dex for a low level monk). Kensei using a greatsword will do 2d6+1d4+3, which is pretty much identical. (13 avg versus 12.5). Where kensei pulls ahead is when you use flurry of blows, since that damage is identical [2x(1d4+dex)] whether you use a kensei weapon or a martial weapon. The other benefit is being able to mix in the shield bonus (the +2 AC bonus) when needed, without a real drop off in your offensive output. Mixing in a unarmed strike with a weapon attack post level 5 to boost AC is pretty phenomenal, especially since (I think) you can use a full unarmed strike as a BA as long as you make at least Unarmed Strike as part of the Attack action.

All told, I'm pretty impressed with Kensei. Not better than Open Hand, but comparable, and the aesthetics of a monk using a greatsword is just fantastic. I have a new front runner for my next character.

The bonus action to pummel for d4 doesn't scale though. So the minute your base martial arts damage goes to d6, this ability is neutered. Why would you spend a bonus action for d4 damage when you could spend a bonus action on an unarmed attack for d6, d8, and then d10 damage? I guess it gives you another opportunity for stunning strike, and an additional attack roll isn't need.

But gawd, d4s? I don't care if mechanically it's better, I loathe d4s lol
 

Dkamanus

Villager
The bonus action to pummel for d4 doesn't scale though. So the minute your base martial arts damage goes to d6, this ability is neutered. Why would you spend a bonus action for d4 damage when you could spend a bonus action on an unarmed attack for d6, d8, and then d10 damage? I guess it gives you another opportunity for stunning strike, and an additional attack roll isn't need.

But gawd, d4s? I don't care if mechanically it's better, I loathe d4s lol
Because at level 11, those pummels might do +3 attack and +3 damage also. Considering the Kensei is focusing his ki on making the best of those 3 ki points to cast Sharpen the blade, I think it's a good attack to use after it, or when having just 1 Ki.
 

Kobold Avenger

Adventurer
I really wanted them to tweak the Way of the Elements, or bring back the Tattooed Monk or the Sacred Fist...

Anyways with the Kensai I feel there's the odd usage of switching attack types, just to get that AC bonus. That extra 1d4 damage as a bonus action thing I feel is odd, though weirdly not likely to be used by a bow wielding Kensai to clobber someone since ranged attacks in melee get disadvantage. Precise Strike I'm not a fan of a bonus action for super accuracy, and while Unerring Accuracy is good, it's doesn't feel too interesting.

The Way of Tranquility while it's a good concept, I doubt too many players would pick such a Monk, even if it certainly works with the Buddhist virtue of non-violence. I do like that it gets healing hands, since a non-violent character is going to be doing a lot of support in an adventurer party.
 

bganon

Explorer
Also, for a Fighter 11/Kensei 3 that pummel might apply to three targets if you hit them all with your Attack action. So then it's 3d4+(3*magic bonus) damage.

Still not sure it's worth it, really, but it does scale with Extra Attack.
 

gweinel

Explorer
It is the first UA of this class series that actually like it.
Kensei seems strong enough and Tranquility Monk seems pretty interesting. I loved the 8hour sanctuary preaching in the midst of the battle and healing here and there. Maybe not something i would play as a player, but i am surely use it as an NPC.
 

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