Pathology: The Drunken Master Monk – So you wanna be Jackie Chan?

Welcome to Pathology, the series where I take a look at a specific Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition Class and Path, and break down its abilities to hopefully help you understand how to make it work for you.  Today, after a vote, we are going to look at the Monk Path from Xanathar’s Guide, the Drunken Master.

I mean, lets face it.  We all want to be Jackie Chan at times!

First, in order to really understand the Drunken Master and how they work, you need to have a brief overview of the major abilities of the Monk.  Early on in your Monk career you will gain a few major abilities, and when I say early on I mean level 1 and level 2.

First are your Martial Arts.  This causes your unarmed attacks to be treated as Melee Weapon attacks (technically though Unarmed Strikes are always weapons), and increases the damage you do with punches and kicks based on your level.  This also allows you to switch between using STR and DEX for you attack bonuses and damage bonus when using Monk Weapons or Unarmed Strikes.  Additionally you can make an Unarmed Strike as a bonus action when attacking with a Monk Weapon or Unarmed Strike, thus giving you 2 attacks right from level one.  Admittedly your Unarmed damage at level one is only 1d4 but it increases as you level.

Second is Unarmored Defense, which allows you to apply your WIS and DEX to your Armor Class when not wearing armor.

We all know Pandaren are excellent Drunken Masters

At second level you get the other two major Monk features, which are Unarmored movement, and Ki.  Unarmored Movement is straightforward, you gain a bonus to your move speed based on level, starting with an additional 10ft of movement at 2nd level.  Ki is your Monk Resource, and can be spent at level 2 to do one of the following actions:

  • Flurry of Blows: You gain 2 Unarmed Strikes as a bonus action instead of 1 for this turn.
  • Step of the Wind: Take either Disengage or Dash as your bonus action for the turn, and double your jump
  • Patient Defense: Take the Dodge action as a bonus action on your turn.

These all cost 1 Ki point, and you will gain more Ki as you level up.  The monk gains a lot of other fun class features (like Stunning Strike at level 5!) as you level but these 4 are really the CORE of the basic monk class.  Everything else sort of builds on this in my opinion.

What this means to me is that the monk as a base line is a Pressure class.  They are designed to get where others cannot easily reach and cause trouble for the squishy backline of the enemy, or inflict many repeated hits on a single target in the hopes of causing disruption.  A wizard will have a hard time concentrating on a spell when a Monk hits then 4 times, causing Concentration rolls for EACH hit!  A monk has the potential to do more damage than the Fighter or Barbarian, but more often than not they will do more consistent damage but less overall due to having their damage spread out over multiple hits.

But what about the Drunken Master?  What powers do they get when they take the Path at level 3?  Let’s take a look!

First, at level 3, you gain one of my favorite abilities as a Drunk Master.  It’s called “Drunken Technique” and to understand why it’s amazing, we need to talk about the Disengage action.  As written, Disengage allows a user to ignore all opportunity attacks that would be triggered by movement for the turn.  Normally, it takes a full action to activate unless you have an ability (Like the monks Step of the Wind) to activate it in another way.

However, the Drunken Master’s “Drunken Technique” ability grants them the following when the activate Flurry of Blows.  It grants both Disengage for the round, AND an extra 10ft of movement for the round.  This means that when a Drunken Master decides to Flurry, then can now move around the battlefield with impunity, ignoring any Opportunity attacks their movement would trigger, even moving say through an enemies square.  And since you can trigger Flurry at any time, and you can break up your movement AND attacks as you see fit, a 3rd level monk can easily bounce around and hit 1 to 3 different targets without worrying about getting hit back.  This ability is important by the way for when we get the Drunken Masters level 17 Capstone power.

At level 3 you also gain bonus proficiency in both the Performance skill and brewers supplies if you don’t already have them.

I want to take a moment here and discuss Stunning Fist, which ALL monks gain at 5th Level.  I want to explain a tactics you can use as a Drunken Master that other monks cannot do without taking a specific feat (Mobility).  You see, if you notice, a Drunken Master’s ability to move around the battlefield is unparalleled on a turn that they use Flurry of Blows.  They can easily reach multiple enemies.  At level 3 they could in theory reach and attack 3 unique targets.  At level 5, when they get Stunning Fist, they can reach 4 targets with their Flurry.

The main reason I bring this up is how Stunning Fist was changed from 3rd Edition, where it used to be a separate action, to 5th edition, where its now a Ki activated power.  When you successfully hit an enemy, you can spend 1 Ki to attempt to Stun the target.  They make a Con save vs your Martial Arts Save DC, and if they fail they are stunned till the end of your next turn.  You can, if you keep hitting one target, lock someone into doing nothing if they keep failing their saves.  However, the Drunken Master can easily with Flurry attempt to stun MULTIPLE TARGETS in one round.  This is a major deal and can let the Drunk Master control enemies very easily should they fail their Con saves.

At level 6 the Drunken Master gains two abilities.  One is called Leap to your Feet, allowing you to stand from prone for only 5ft of your movement, rather then half.  This is an incredible ability allowing all sorts of fun tricks.  For example: Fighting a bunch of archers?  Drop prone on your turn, so they get disadvantage on all attack rolls against you.  Next turn, stand for only 5ft of your movement, get near em, action to drop prone again.  Very easy for the monk to close the distance in this way.  This tactic is a bad idea if there is an enemy who can get within 5ft of you though so keep that in mind.

Also, you get Redirect Attack, which for 1 Ki Point, which lets you use your reaction to cause a melee attack roll that misses you to hit another target within 5ft of you that is NOT the attacker.  Pretty handy to mess with enemies.

At level 11 a Drunken Master gains Drunkards Luck, which lets them negate disadvantage on a save, attack, or ability check for 2 Ki Points.

Finally at level 17 Drunken Master Monk’s get their capstone power: Intoxicated Frenzy.  This ability lets them activate Flurry of Blows to gain not 1, not 2, but 3 additional Flurry Strikes!  This means they get a total of 5 Flurry of Blows attacks on top of their 2 normal attacks.  The negative here is that each of the 5 Flurry strikes must be made against a unique target.  So you could hit 1 enemy with both normal attacks, 1 flurry strike, and then move around hitting up to 4 other unique enemies with Flurry strikes.

Now personally, I love how thematic this final ability is but I think it’s a tad hampered by the requirement that each flurry attack must be against a unique enemy.  If you don’t have 5 enemies in the fight, you cannot get the maximum benefit from the power.  In any game I run, I would allow a player to split the attacks between 2 targets, and each attack cannot be made against a consecutive target.  IE If there are 2 enemies, you could hit one of them 3 times, and one twice, alternating the strikes between them.

So there you have it!  The Drunken Master Monk in all its glory!  Now, unlike the Divine Soul Sorcerer where I broke down some suggested spells per level and even homebrewed some Bonus Spell Lists, for this guy I am going to bring you a multiclass build that I discussed on twitter a while back with a few folks.

I present to you the concept of the Angry Drunk.

For this build you will be taking either 1 level or 3 levels of Barbarian.  The rest of your levels will be Drunken Master Monk.

This build works by leveraging the Rage ability of the Barbarian, mixed with the multiple attacks of the Monk, to generate some heavy damage spikes.  Now for this build to function, you actually need to have a high Strength score, as Rage only applies its bonus damage to attacks made with Strength based weapons.  Since a Monk can alternate which stat they use for their Martial Arts attacks between Dex and Strength, this is not really an issue.

Additionally, you will gain access to the Barbarian’s Unarmored Defense, which does NOT stack with the Monks.  You can use either calculation but not both to determine your overall AC.  This gives you a bit more flexibility in where you put your stats.  Do you go with CON, DEX, and STR?  Or WIS, DEX, and STR?  My personal suggestion is WIS, DEX, and STR since your Monk saves are tied to WIS.

Now if you only take a single level of Barbarian, you will gain access to a D12 hit die for that level, Rage, and Unarmored Defense.  You would have 2 Rage uses per long rest, and they would grant you +2 to your damage rolls when using STR for your Martial Arts, advantage on Strength checks and saves, and resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage of the nonmagical variety.  What you give up is the level 20 Monk ability, which lets you instantly gain 4 Ki if you start a fight with no Ki available, which I honestly never see happening unless you are slogging through a long extended fight.

However, if you take 3 levels of Barbarian, thats an additional 3d12 Hit Die, Rage 3x per long rest, Reckless Attack (to give yourself advantage on your first attack each round), Danger Sense to give yourself advantage on Dex Saves vs things you can see, and most importantly the Primal Path.

I am not going to go too deep here on any of the Barbarian paths, but my personal suggestion would be to go Totem Warrior and choose either Bear or Wolf.  Bear would make you resistant to all damage except psychic (and its magical and nonmagical by the way), while Wolf would mean you get advantage on attack rolls as long as an ally is within 5ft of your target.  Either would greatly enhance the Drunken Master.  Also you can roleplay as an angry wrestler, like THE BOULDER!

I hope this has helped you realize your dreams of being the true Jackie Chan, and if you are looking for more Path breakdowns, feel free to check out my “Pathology” tag here on my blog for more posts!

As always thanks for reading everyone and Stay Nerdy!  Make sure to follow me on TwitchYoutubeTwitter, and join my Steam Group and Steam Curator pages!  Pledge to my Patreon!  Spread the word on social media & help me get out there so I can bring even more content to the masses.  You do want more content yes?

Steel Strides & Mechanical Hearts: A Mechanized Tale RPG – Beginnings

I decided to do something many might consider mad.

I am writing an RPG.  Now, I am no professional game designer.  I am an enthusiast at best.  I love games in all forms and have been gaming in some form or another since I was a child.

But I have never tried to write an entire system before.  Well, technically that is untrue but that game was written in 10 hours and never touched again, and done back around 6-7 years ago.  I dont suggest you buy it or even download it.  Its….not even really an alpha in my opinion.

The reason I decided to write my own game is because frankly I can’t FIND a game in this particular theme or genre that fits what I am after.  I have decided to write a Mech focused RPG.  Yea, you heard me.

Big ol robots like these fine specimens!

TASTE FREEDOM! Battletech Mechs are baller

My problem however has been one of theme and tone.  Most mech games are focused first and foremost on the Mechs themselves, the pilots only being sort of paper cutouts with no real use.  The second issue I have is that almost all mech games are either WAYYYY crunch heavy, with massive charts dictating everything from overheating to hit locations, or the opposite with an almost pure focus on narrative.  Further, all mech games for the most part are all about mechs vs other mechs.  Very rarely have I found Mechs vs say Giant Monsters, or mechs doing non combat stuff such as Salvage Operations and the like.

At first I was trying to come up with a way to create a mech “system” for 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons but everything I could think of just felt like creating a second character that the first character would basically ride.  It didn’t feel right to me.

So I started mulling this over in the back of my head.  Finally, on this past Friday night the 23rd of February, I had an epiphany.  I had this epiphany as I sat awake with my stomach hurting, tired and wanting to sleep (I suffer stomach issues from my diabetes).  Suddenly my brain spit out a sort of system where you would could play as both a Pilot AND the Mech, with a sort of “second skin” feeling of the Mech itself, using a modular yet not too complex system for mech design which would allow the player to create the mech THEY wanted to use.

I present to you a brief overview of my goals with “Steel Strides & Mechanical Hearts: A Mechanized Tale RPG”.  Thanks to Death by Mage and 42nd Alchemist, along with Zardoz and Barantor on twitter for the name.  Zardoz and Barantor came up with an awesome name each (Steel Stride from Barantor, and Mechanical Hearts from Zardoz), then 42nd Alchemist came up with a combination, and then finally Death by Mage made it bloody perfect to me.

I am going to share with you the overall “concept” that I am keeping in mind as I write this rules lite RPG:

Overall concept: Players form a team of Mech pilots who work as either mercs or for some government / agency.  They do jobs relating to hunting giant monsters, salvage ops, para military ops, ect.  They can take missions that require either mech usage or on foot usage.  I wanted to have a simplistic system where there was one set of “stats” that players had to keep track of, while also allowing freeform customization of both the pilots and mechs, with a definite advancement option.  I also happen to like dice pools a lot so I went with that for the rolling mechanics.

Essentially I am using a system similar to that of the World of Darkness / Storyteller setup, where players have Ratings, and then Skills.  Players will have both a Physical Rating, a Mental Rating, and their Pilot Rating.  Then there are currently 5 skills under both Physical and Mental that control everything the player does.  Resolution is going to work by rolling a number of dice equal to the Rating (Physical or Mental) + Skill.  So if you have a Physical rating of 2, and a close combat skill of 1, you would roll 3 dice.  I chose to go with d8’s because I feel they are underused, and a success right now is going to be on a 6+.  More successes = better results or more damage, that sort of thing.

Mechs will work in a similar way but with a small addition.  When in a mech, rolling is the Pilot Rank, plus the Mechs overall Rating, plus the Skill.  Mech Rating will be dictated by an average of all the parts Ratings.  This allows players to customize their mechs but still use their pilots skills.  Right now I got 5 “parts” to each mech.  You got a head, torso, two arms, and a set of legs.  Parts will be swappable, requiring a different Pilot Rank to purchase, showing that a more experienced Pilot is able to handle more complex and advanced parts.  I also aim to have things like repair costs and the like but a lot of it is going to be very basic and hopefully easy to understand.  My goal here is some crunch, some rules, but not enough to really bog people down.

Additionally, I am going to do my best to keep it setting neutral.  I intend to write a small setting in the back to give people a starting point as well as mission suggestions, a bestiary / npc collection, and plenty of gear for both the Pilots on foot as well as the Mechs.  I also want to write it to support a “Mission of the Week” style of gameplay, but with the ability to form a more long running campaign.  Of course, much of that is up to the GM but I want to have some tools to support it and suggestions.

I have no idea what I am doing, but it should be fun.  What I have written thus far is the literal bare bones of the system, the resolution for combat mechanics, and how advancement works.  Its very very rough and I don’t want to really share it but a few folks have seen it and seem to like what I have so far.

Lets see if I can keep it up!

 

Michtim: Fluffy Adventures! A Review

I present to you a Valentines Day gift.  The gift of a wonderful game, full of cute and fluffy hamster like spirits just ready and willing to go with you on an adventure!  Lets take a look today, at Michtim: Fluffy Adventures by Georg Mir.

This game is really quite a cute little number, and honestly I really like it.  Admittedly, while designed with everyone in mind, its really not FOR everyone.  Those who prefer gritty realism or super dense mechanics will not find a lot to love here, but for those of us who are still just giant ass children at heart, we can certainly find something to love here.

I mean, I can be a Cook who has a Noodle Booth on robot wheels that buffs my party.  That alone sold me.  Anyone want some tasty Michtim Ramen?  Only 5 Acorns!

You can find Michtim on the web here, and the creator Georg Mir here on twitter!

The Rook & The Raven Mischief & Misadventure Campaign Diary: A Review

Today I bring to you a very fascinating and interesting product which I think absolutely has a place in our hobby, assuming you play in person that is.  Welcome one and all to the Rook and Raven Mischief and Misadventure Campaign Diary, a handmade book that allows you to house your character sheets, background, notes, and even maps within its bindings.  These are customizable with various cover colours and page blocks, and they even have dry erase sheets in there.

At $35 (The Price Increased from my original review) for the basic setup, plus an extra $5 if you want the plastic covers, I think this is an absolute steal.  You can pick these up at https://shop.therookandtheraven.com and I urge you to give them a look.  Right now at the time of this posting (2/7/18) they are doing preorders, with a plan to go full on in March.

One thing to keep in mind: These are currently ONLY designed with 5E DND in mind.  I hope they consider adding page setups for other systems as well to give players more options on what they want.

Fame: Its such an Odd Thing from the Inside

Fame is an odd thing.

Now I don’t consider myself a celebrity by any means.  Sure, I am fairly well known comparatively on twitter, oddly enough, and I recently was given an honorary membership to World Anvil (thanks guys) for all the help I have given them, but I myself don’t think I am all that big a deal.

Perception, however, can be a different beast.

Years ago I wrote an article about how famous people handle fame, musing about my experiences with being thrust into concert after-parties, meeting some VG Cover bands such as Metroid Metal, The NESkimos, Bit Brigade, Armcannon, Danimal Cannon, and others.  This occurred back at a festival called Nerdapalooza in 2012.  That article actually connected me to now long time friend Travis, who was once known as Careless in the band Random Encounter.  He currently creates the Liberty Comic series, Podcast, and soon a few other tidbits.

But now, with my own notoriety increasing, I start to wonder how it feels to be famous, to be known, and how others who are much more “known”, at least in the DND world, see it.

I asked a few of the more “famous” folks on twitter how they are dealing with it, and with their permission I will present their responses and my thoughts in regards to them, starting with the mistress of maps Deven Rue!

Click on the image to be taken to the thread, but basically Deven here doesnt see herself as famous.  However, many people in the dnd twitter community, and the dnd community at large online do know of her.  Does that make her famous?  I say yes, even if she herself doesn’t feel that way.  Perception is everything, both in how we view ourselves, and how those view us from the outside looking in.  How about Matthew Mercer, the DM of the highly popular Critical Role and known Voice Actor?  Here was his response:

Again, click on the image to be taken to the conversation on twitter.  In this case, we can see that Mr. Mercer feels that he has lost some privacy, but gained the ability to inspire people.  He also mentions the feeling of higher pressure and being held to a higher standard, which I personally already feel and I am no where near as large as he is.  He also mentions, similar to Deven, that his fame is all part of the microcosm or community of DND Fans online.  This is true.  Its possible to become well know in a small circle online much easier now then it has ever been, but at the same time be a relative unknown outside in the larger world.  Being a Voice Actor, Matt is not someone that say my parents would know, like they would Brad Pitt, but among my peers he is a fairly well known name, even among just video game players.

Lets take a look at someone that I personally am a fan of myself, and I am amazed all the time that this dude thinks I am cool enough to support: Jim Davis of Web DM.

Click on the image blah blah.  As you can see, despite being part of a Youtube channel with over 83k subscribers and a highly successful Patreon page, he still feels he is just a normal guy.  To others however he is a source of inspiration, much like Deven and Matt, and his advice (in my opinion) can help many a people.  I am glad to call this guy a friend.  You might also be noticing a pattern here, but I think Emmett hits the nail on the head here with this.  Emmett, by the way, is a retired Star Trek producer and yet another DND fan.

Image, link, ect ect.  You should know the drill by now.  As you can see here, he enjoys the moments when he can just be another fan.  He also points out that just because a person is famous doesn’t mean they are not a fan of someone else.  And I think that statement alone points out the biggest thing to always keep in mind when it comes to fame, celebrities, and so on.

They are people.  Just like me and you.  That’s the pattern you can see here from each of these fine folk.

They might be more well known yes.  They might be something others aspire to be.  But they are humans.  They like things, dislike things, play games, idolize others, have fears, ect.  I know I sure do.  I worry every day about what I say and how it might be interpreted, and it freaks me out when people rally behind me, like they did back during the Gatekeeping or Word of Mouth stuff.  That level of influence, however minor it may be, is a sign that I am becoming more then I ever thought possible.  It tells me that, like Matt, I need to be mindful of what I say.  And I too feel like Deven, that I am just a normal guy, a dude hammering away at a keyboard.  What makes me different at the end of the day from any of these folks?

Nothing really.  I have the people I am a fan of (these four are excellent examples of that).  I have fears.  I don’t make a living off this nor do I expect I ever will.

Hell, my biggest dream, the moment I will say that I truly am “famous”, is the day a Con contacts me to be a guest on a panel and offers me hotel and airfare.

And even then I will not change who I am.  And I hope everyone around me treats me as they do now: as a friend, a comrade, a normal every day guy who loves his hobbies.  Just like these folks.

Fame is a weird thing.  Perception is everything.  The trick, I suppose, is to not let it change who you are at the end of the day.

And I aim to stay, well, me.

Stay Nerdy folks, and thanks for reading.