So last week, I reintroduced my take of the Kensai as a Fighter archetype (found here), I had some “interesting” responses from many gamers and reviewers. I will return to it another time to perhaps fix and adjust the power level for that particular variant. Yes I am well aware that it was utterly terrible and overpowered, I plan to update it in the near future. I was on a power-train craze, it happens from time to time. I mean what’s a mad mage like myself to do?
So I might have gone to the deep-end of power crazy. I admit I wasn’t my best creative mindset at the time.
In light of that, I decided to take a more cautious approach with the next variant of the Kensai, which was a Monk tradition variant. I wanted to create the image of that samurai or wuxia warrior that honed their craft with the use of a single weapon to its ultimate perfect form. Keep in mind, these are just brainstorming homebrew concoction ideas.
Way of the One – A Kensai monk tradition
Monks of the Way of the One forge a bond with a single weapon. They learn techniques to channel their ki outward to influence others, to empower their allies, and to one singular strike with their signature weapon.
Signature Weapon: Starting at 3rd level, you can imbue your ki into a singular weapon to form a magical bond between yourself and the weapon. You perform the ritual over the course of 1 hour, which can be done during a short rest. The weapon must be within your reach throughout the ritual, at the conclusion of which you touch the weapon and forge the bond. You can only have one signature weapon at a time, if you attempt to bond with another weapon, you must break the bond with the first one. You are considered proficient with your signature weapon, it is considered magical for the purposes of overcoming resistance and immunity to nonmagical attacks and damage, and it is also treated as a monk weapon. This feature only applies while you wield the weapon, any other creature does not gain the benefits.
At 11th level, you add your Wisdom modifier to the damage roll when you hit with your signature weapon.
Author’s note: So we wanted to go the Weapon Bond route from the Eldritch Knight Fighter archetype but less so much the “magical” aspect of it. In the older versions of the Kensai, the character gains a signature weapon that would eventually gain powerful magical traits and abilities. In my Fighter variant, it seemed apparent that granting such abilities was far to powerful so we toned it down in this iteration. Plus it gave the opportunity for the Kensai to still bond with an actual magical weapon (though it would be redundant for part of the feature) but the fact the signature weapon would be considered a monk weapon was the true “cherry-on-top” part here. It is instrumentally powerful, it might even be too powerful but it made sense from a design perspective.
Ki Projection: Starting at 6th level, you learn to channel your ki outward that creates a presence that overwhelms others. You can spend 1 ki point to gain advantage on your next Deception, Intimidation, or Persuasion check. Additionally, you can spend 2 ki points, as an action, you extrude an aura in a 30-foot cube originating from you to make a Wisdom saving throw against your ki save DC. Creatures that fail their saving throws are all charmed or frightened (your choice) for 1 minute or until they are dealt damage.
Author’s Note: A powerful warrior would eventually develop a presence that would cause awe or fear in their foes. Granted there was a similar ability in the D&D 3.5th Edition, but I wanted to give some versatility. The first half has more social encounter applications outside of combat while the latter is intended more for combat.
Ki Surge: At 11th level, your mastery with channeling ki allows you to impart some of your prowess into your allies. As an action, you can spend 3 ki points to grant a creature you can see within 30 feet of you a bonus to their next attack roll equal to half your monk level.
Author’s Note: Okay, this one was a trickier implementation. Kensai can imbue their prowess into others, by channeling their own ki into them. I scaled the bonus granted by the Kensai in order to keep the bonus from getting out of control. At 20th level, the bonus would be a +10 bonus, which is may seem outrageous since the only other ability that would replicate that sort of bonus would be the War Domain Cleric, which can use the feature at most 3 times through Channel Divinity. At 20th level, the Monk has 20 ki points and can regain 4 when it has none whenever the monk rolls initiative. So realistically, the Kensai could do 6 uses of the ability, which is why we made the ability become an Action instead. It was the most logical means to balance it, since an Action was the most powerful and important part of a combat turn.
On the same token, the original ability that was the namesake was about granting a ridiculous Strength score bonus using a Concentration check (which would be Constitution check now). The original concept was honestly just out of place and would throw the combat mechanics out of proportion. I mean imagine a Monk gaining either a Strength or Dexterity bonus and basically be treated as having a 19? I mean yes that would probably be the incarnation but it still felt a bit out of place.
One Strike: At 17th level, you master a singular technique to instantly slay your foes. You can spend 4 ki points to gain advantage on one attack roll, a creature hit by this attack must make Constitution saving throw. If it fails, it is reduced to 0 hit points. If it succeeds, it takes 10d8 force damage.
Author’s Note: So this final ability was probably the most difficult to formulate. I envisioned the idea of Samurai mastering one single strike to instantly slay their opponent. I looked over at the Quivering Palm ability from the Way of the Open Hand, the idea to deal a crippling blow and the amount of respective damage was extremely appealing. Since this ability would be instant and grant advantage on the one attack roll, I figured upping the ki point cost would be reasonable, I was originally thinking 5 points instead of 4 but decided to lower it.
We added a Constitution saving throw to reflect the obviously powerful damage output from the “ultimate” strike, which resulted in the 10d8 force damage. The Quivering Palm ability has it set at 10d10 necrotic damage which lets the Monk repeated use an action to force the target to make saving throws until either the damage reduces the target to 0 or it fails the saving throw. Honestly, it is quite ridiculously powerful, even if it restricted to one creature at a time. This ability is limited to one attack which still requires a successful hit and a saving throw. Since it was force damage (which almost no creature is immune or resistant) I reduced the damage die to d8’s to be reasonable with the damage output.
Alright so time around, we went more tamed with the abilities and features. I hope this time around this version works out better for players and even reviewers. Thanks for reading along with my madness. Please like and/or comment about this article and subscribe with us. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter if you want to remain updated with the blog and anything else going with me D&D/gaming life. Check out our Amazon store link for all of your D&D product essentials, it’s the same Amazon prices but a little bit comes back our way to help fund the blog and the various ventures we hope to do in the future. Thanks again and see you guys soon!