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I want to play a half-orc monk who specializes in combining unarmed strikes with natural attacks. By monk, I mean I'd at least like the character to be enough of a monk so that he benefits from the special abilities AC bonus and flurry of blows.

Are there class features or feats that enable my dream of a serene master of fist, tusk, and claw?

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    \$\begingroup\$ When you say "looking to play a monk" do you mean a character with some levels in the Monk class, a character with all levels in the Monk class, or a character who doesn't wear armor or use weapons? \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Jun 4 '18 at 3:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I was looking for racial variants and feats. I’ll edit the question to make it read more clear. \$\endgroup\$ – FrancisJohn Jun 4 '18 at 10:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Does half-dragon count as a racial variant? \$\endgroup\$ – MrHiTech Jun 4 '18 at 16:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ In this particular campaign, no \$\endgroup\$ – FrancisJohn Jun 4 '18 at 17:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @FrancisJohn Answering the question I asked you will almost certainly get you a reopen vote from me. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Jun 5 '18 at 1:01
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Beast Strike is one of the best options available

Beast Strike is a feat from Dragon vol. 355 allows you to basically combine your unarmed strikes and claw (or slam) attacks, adding your claw damage on top of your unarmed strike damage. The feat is fairly unclear—we have a number of questions about how it actually works—but no matter how you answer those questions, it’s really good for this.

The reason is because normally, natural weapons like claws get used once, period. You cannot attack with that claw again; want more claw attacks? Get more claws. That conflicts rather heavily with the notion of flurrying with claws. Since in this case, you are making unarmed strikes, that just happen to get a damage bonus based on your claws, you avoid that problem entirely.

Rapidstrike and Improved Rapidstrike might be alternatives

These feats are in Draconomicon, and allow you to attack twice, and then thrice, with a pair of claws, rather than the once each you would normally get. This gives you something flurry-like, but it doesn’t actually combine neatly with flurry of blows. Also requires that you be an aberration, dragon, elemental, magical beast, or plant, so that’s a limitation (of these, there are playable, LA +0 options for aberration and dragon).

Ultimately, these are really costly and not a great solution. Beast Strike works much better.

For class, psychic warrior is almost-certainly your best bet for Wisdom

There are two classes that really excel at natural weapons in D&D 3.5e: the psychic warrior, and the totemist. Both are quite good, and both work, but I like the psychic warrior better for you because you want to be monk-like, and the psychic warrior runs on Wisdom. On top of that, you can take the Tashalatora feat from Secrets of Sarlona to get monk-like unarmed strikes, unarmored AC bonus, and flurry of blows—effectively, in two feats, you get everything good about the monk class added on to your psychic warrior levels.

That leads to a very-simple build of simply being (aiming for) a 20th-level psychic warrior, taking Monastic Training (psychic warrior) and Tashalatora at 2nd level (Tashalatora is a psionic feat you can take as a psychic warrior bonus feat; the only reason you don’t take it at 1st is because of the skill rank requirements), and then taking Beast Strike at 8th. Focus on powers like bite of the wolf and claws of the beast, along with mainstays like hustle, lion’s charge, and vigor.

But this has basically nothing to do with being a half-orc

Half-orc is a really weak race; it gets a net −2 ability score modifier, unlike every other race, and otherwise all it gets is darkvision, which is hardly unique. There is no psionic half-orc that I could find, no half-orc-specific feats or class features that grant extra natural attacks, basically, nothing.

A desert half-orc at least has a net 0 ability score modifier, so maybe that’s something worth considering. Run is a poor feat, but hey, it’s free.

Another option is the frostblood half-orcs from Dragon Magic, which are dragonblooded (opening up a number of feats, though only Races of the Dragon’s Dragon Tail is particularly good for you) and get Endurance as a bonus feat. They also have resistance to cold 10, but vulnerability to fire, which is a bad trade since fire tends to be more common and 50% extra damage will quickly be more than 10.

Really, though, there just aren’t a lot of options. Wizards of the Coast never gave half-orcs much love, not in Player’s Handbook and not in any supplement. You’re probably best off, if you really want to play a half-orc, to just play one, accept what it is, and focus on the rest of the character. There just isn’t much of any way to really leverage the half-orc race into something more.

If you can see your way to a non-Wisdom-based approach, though...

Usually, this is where I’d be recommending a full-blooded orc (especially a water orc) over a half-orc—they’re generally far better—but since you want Wisdom that seems like a less-good option here.

But, for the sake of argument, you could go with Constitution rather than Wisdom. Constitution’s connection to Concentration means it’s not totally unrelated here, and there are enough good options for it. And it’s not as if focusing on Constitution was ever a bad thing, from a survival perspective.

Constitution instead of Wisdom means (water) orc becomes a much better choice. It also means that desert half-orc does more for you than it would otherwise. I still prefer the water orc, but either works.

If you wanted to go that route, I’d suggest going for totemist, from Magic of Incarnum, instead of psychic warrior, and I’d say you really have to consider a barbarian dip because rage and pounce are so good for a totemist. You could, in my opinion anyway, easily reflavor rage as a kind of “zen focus.” You could then go for fist of the forest from Complete Champion for a monk-like AC bonus based in Constitution rather than Wisdom, as well as a class feature literally entitled “feral trance,” which grants you, among other things, a bite attack. A 1st-level barbarian/4th-level totemist/3rd-level fist of the forest would work decently well, for example. (If alignment concerns are an issue, note that there is a chaos monk available in Dragon vol. 335.)

I would still aim to take Beast Strike, since fist of the forest requires Improved Unarmed Strike. Actually, seeing as it requires that as well as Power Attack (and the pure-tax Great Fortitude; maybe ask your DM if you can use Cerulean Fortitude instead, at least that way you get a bonus essentia point), a single level of monk following the overwhelming attack style might be quite appropriate: get Improved Unarmed Strike and Power Attack in one level, plus Wis-to-AC that will stack with your Con-to-AC, and flurry of blows. That does mean you need to have some Wisdom, but even if you start with Wisdom 10, you can consider getting items that enhance it later in the game.

Other key feats include Cobalt Rage and Bonus Essentia. But avoid the totem rager prestige class, even though you qualify: just taking more levels in totemist is better because totem rager delays a lot of meldshaping progression, especially opening new chakras, and while totem rage is OK, it’s not amazing, and basically all you get out of the remaining levels is a couple of extra rages per day. Speaking of, you probably want to instead use the Extra Rage feat from Complete Warrior for more rage uses, as it is much more efficient than either barbarian or totem rager class levels.

Ends up looking something like this:

\begin{array}{l|l} \textbf{Level} & \textbf{Class} & \textbf{Special} & \textbf{Feat} \\ \hline 1^\text{st} & \text{Barbarian} & \text{Rage, pounce} & \text{Great Fortitude} \\ \hline 2^\text{nd} & \text{Monk} & \text{AC bonus, flurry of blows,} & \text{Improved Unarmed Strike,}^B \\ & & \quad\text{unarmed strike} & \quad\text{Power Attack}^B \\ \hline 3^\text{rd} & \text{Totemist} & \text{Meldshaping} & \text{Cobalt Rage} \\ 4^\text{th} & & \text{Totem chakra bind (+1 capacity)} \\ 5^\text{th} & & \text{Totem’s protection} \\ \hline 6^\text{th} & \text{Fist of the} & \text{AC bonus, feral trance 1/day,} & \text{Bonus Essentia} \\ & \quad\text{Forest} & \quad\text{unarmed damage} \\ 7^\text{th} & & \text{Uncanny dodge, untamed strike} \\ 8^\text{th} & & \text{Feral trance 2/day, scent} \\ \hline 9^\text{th} & \text{Totemist} & & \text{Beast Strike} \\ 10^\text{th} & & \text{Chakra binds (arms, brow, shoulders)} \\ \end{array}

Of course, you can do more here.

  • You could drop the second two levels of fist of the forest—they don’t do very much. More meldshaping sooner is probably better.

  • You could consider cleric instead of barbarian, using Travel Devotion instead of pounce.

  • Again, if your DM lets you use Cerulean Fortitude instead of Great Fortitude for fist of the forest, starting totemist at 1st instead of 3rd so you can take it is worthwhile.

  • If you have flaws, getting Extra Rage in there would be solid. Even without, I would want to put that in at 12th here.

  • If you go for the frostblood half-orc, Dragon Tail is good, and you’ll definitely want Blazing Berserker from Sandstorm to negate your fire vulnerability (while raging)—at which point you probably want the Frozen Berserker feat from Frostburn to negate the cold vulnerability you get from Blazing Berserker (though your resistance to cold 10 will go a ways towards mitigating that).

  • You might even consider asking the DM if you can go with a desert frostblood half-orc—the largest deserts in the world, after all, are very cold—and then going with Weapon Finesse and ferocity instead of rage, just so you can ensure you have Blazing and Frozen Berserker up when you need them, and to improve your AC even further.

  • Steadfast Determination requires the rather-weak Endurance feat—which frostblood half-orc grants as a bonus feat! This is a fantastic feat, that prevents you from failing Fortitude saves on a natural 1, and allows you to use Constitution instead of Wisdom for Will saves.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Depending on how one interprets the Warshaper, there's some extra natural attacks to be had from that. Or boosted existing natural attacks, even if one is very strict against the Warshaper. \$\endgroup\$ – nijineko Jun 5 '18 at 20:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nijineko Yeah, but that would assume a druid, which doesn’t really seem to fit. The deadly hunter druid gets monk abilities, but loses wild shape and is therefore useless to warshaper. And half-orc is still pure downside, considering the existence of changelings—and even though there are half-orc druid substitution levels, and the 1st-level substitution is completely free, that doesn’t come close to making up for simply being a half-orc. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jun 5 '18 at 20:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan There are a fair number of ways other than druid to get into warshaper. But those ways do tend to be race and/or class restrictive. \$\endgroup\$ – nijineko Jun 6 '18 at 19:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ For example one feat (touchstone or planar touchstone) and a successful visit to the Wereglade can qualify you for warshaper, even if you later reform the feat away. \$\endgroup\$ – nijineko Jun 6 '18 at 19:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ RE: "[E]ffectively, in two feats, you get everything good about the monk class added on to your psychic warrior levels." How? The feat Tashalatora says, "Your levels in the psionic class you selected for Monastic Training stack with your monk levels to determine" stuff, so it sounds like at least 1 level of monk is still needed. (And—nitpick!—the feat Tashalatora has a prerequisite of 5 ranks of Autohypnosis and Concentration, so a typical level 1 psychic warrior can't take the feat.) Is the stacking thing better as its own question? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 7 '18 at 14:14
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Class features: None grant a half-orc specifically natural weapons

So far as I'm aware, no class features grant specifically a half-orc any natural weapons. Certainly, classes like sorcerer and totemist can use their class features like spells and soulmelds, respectively, to gain natural weapons, but such options are available to all creatures that take levels in such classes rather than only half-orcs. Likewise, no official half-orc variant that I'm aware of gains natural attacks.

Adding to the half-orc a template like feral (Savage Species 115–16) with its Level Adjustment of +1 or half-dragon (Monster Manual 146–7) with its LA +3 is the easiest way for the half-orc to gain natural weapons and still call itself, racially, a half-orc, but such options are typically far less beneficial in the long-term than just taking class levels.

In short, you're pretty much opting to play a half-orc purely for flavor reasons rather than, for example, because there's a uniquely cool half-orc monk alternative class feature squirreled away in some secret corner of a supplement or something. Not that there's anything wrong with playing the character you want purely for flavor reasons, of course! However, if the party is otherwise filled with optimized characters, at times the character may feel inadequate or be unable to participate, and other characters (or even players!) may end up resenting the character if he can't contribute equally.

Feats: Several can grant a half-orc (and some other creatures) natural weapons

A half-orc monk can gain a variety of natural weapons (also see Monster Manual 312) via feats… but so can many other characters. These feats are listed below and in order of the writer's preference.

  • The aberrant feat Deepspawn (Lords of Madness 179–80) grants 2 natural attacks, 2 tentacles that with each a Medium creature deals 1d4 points of damage. The feat's prerequisite is the aberrant feat Aberration Blood (178)—that has no prerequisites—and another aberrant feat.

    This would, at first, seem too high a price to pay, but one aberrant feature the feat Aberration Blood can grant is a tail, and a tail (even a gnoll's tail!) can wield either the exotic weapon tail blade (Savage Species 45, 46) (17 gp; 6 lbs.) or tail club (Savage Species 45, 46) (10 gp; 10 lbs.) so that such a weapon becomes usable as natural weapons. (Confirm with the DM the availability of a tail club; the table's first (and second) rule may be Don't talk about tail club.) While a −4 nonproficiency penalty with either exotic weapon may apply for the feat-starved, if the wielder cares more about the number of attacks rather than their accuracy, this is a thing—, after all, a d20 always has a 5% of a 20.

    Alternatively, the aberrant feat Mourning Mutate (Dragon #359 64) also has no prerequisites, and it counts as the feat Aberration Blood. One of the mourning features it grants is a warped limb, the description of which says, "Limb deals +2 damage with unarmed strikes." This is better than the tail from the feat Aberration Blood if considering the barbarian alternative class feature city brawler (see below). (If neither tail nor warped limb is desired, the feat Aberration Blood can, instead, grant a creature a +2 bonus on grapple checks via flexible limbs, and the feat Mourning Mutate can, instead, grant DR 3/— against nonlethal damage via spongy flesh.)

    Further, the aberrant feat Inhuman Reach (LoM 180) increases a creature's natural reach by 5 ft. Its prerequisite? The feat Aberration Blood (or, alternatively, the feat Mourning Mutate). A natural weapon specialist could do worse than these feats.

  • The general feat Dragon Tail (Races of the Dragon 149) grants 1 natural attack, a tail slap with which a Medium creature deals 1d6 points of damage. The feat has as its prerequisite the dragonblood subtype and can only be taken at character level 1. Combined with the feat Aberration Blood, above, a creature my end up with two tails… that are, obviously, better than one.

  • The feat Shape Soulmeld (Magic of Incarnum 40)—that has as its sole prerequisite a Constitution score of 13 and that can be, effectively, taken any number of times—grants the feat's possessor the ability to shape 1 soulmeld. Soulmelds that, for the least investment, grant natural attacks are described below.

    • The soulmeld chaos roc's span (Dragon #350 87) that's shaped to the creature's shoulders chakra grants the creature 2 natural attacks, 2 wing buffets that have reach and that with each a Medium creature deals 1d4 points of nonlethal damage.
    • The draconic soulmeld claws of the wyrm (Dragon Magic 83) that's shaped to either the creature's arms chakra or its hands chakra grants the creature 2 presumably natural attacks, 2 claws that with each a Medium creature deals 1d6 points of nonlethal damage. A creature must possesses the subtype dragonblooded to shape a draconic soulmeld.
    • If the creature picks for the feat Shape Soulmeld the soulmeld astral vambraces (Mind’s Eye Web column “Psionics of Incarnum”), the creature can take the feat Open Least Chakra (hands) (MoI 39-40)—that has as a prerequisite character level 6—and bind the vambraces soulmeld to its hands chakra (therefore the vambraces typically occupying the creature's hands magic item slot) to gain 2 natural attacks, 2 slams that with each a Medium creature deals 1d6 points of damage.
  • The general feats Bind Vestige and Practiced Binder (Tome of Magic 72–3 and 74, respectively) when used to bind the vestige Amon (21–2) grant the ersatz binder 1 natural attack, a gore with which a Medium creature deals 1d6 points of damage and an extra +1d8 points of damage on a charge. However, the other benefit of in this way binding the vestige Amon is, for a half-orc, the redundant extraordinary ability darkvision 60 ft.

    Instead of this complicated and expensive route, this player recommends that a creature seeking a gore natural weapon acquire it via the magic item the horned helm (Magic Item Compendium 112) (8,000 gp; 1 lb.) that grants the wearer 1 natural weapon, 1 gore with which a Medium creature deals 1d8 points of damage. Thing is, the feats are kind of cool because on days when a gore attack (and, I guess, overlapping darkvision) isn't needed, the creature can bind a different vestige other than Amon and gain totally different supernatural abilities; this makes an otherwise one-trick character slightly more versatile but at a considerable price.

  • The vile feat Deformity (Clawed Hands) (Dragon #341 24) grants 1 natural attack, a claw with which a Medium creature deals 1d6 points of damage. The vile feat Deformity (Teeth) (Heroes of Horror 121) grants, among other benefits, 1 natural attack, 1 bite with which a Medium creature deals 1d4 points of damage. Both of these feats have as a prerequisite the feat Willing Deformity (Dragon #357 27).

    A creature that desires claws is better served via the soulmeld claws of the wyrm (see above). A bite attack is better gained via the granted power of the domain Hunger (Spell Compendium 275) by taking either 1 level of cleric or the feat Touchstone (Sandstorm 53) and linking to the touchstone site Catalogues of Enlightenment (Planar Handbook 166–7).

  • The illithid heritage feat Illithid Grapple (Complete Psionic 61–2) grants, among other benefits, 1 natural attack, 1 tentacle with which a Medium creature deals 1d4 points of damage. The feat has the prerequisite Illithid Heritage (62) that itself has a prerequisite of psionic power point reserve, making this for the typical nonpsionic creature a three-feat investment for 1 natural weapon. However, once prerequisites are met, this feat can be taken up to four times, each additional time granting another identical natural attack. Nonetheless, this isn't a good option compared to say, the feat Deepspawn, above.

Summary: Having fun with this idea and optimizing it

While the race's fire vulnerability will mean the character's death—probably several times over the course of a campaign—, everything else about the frostblood half-orc (Dragon Magic 10) is fantastic for this character, specifically the race's dragonblood subtype opening up options that other characters just don't have.

I must agree with this fine answer, though, that the extraordinary ability pounce (MM 313) is an absolute necessity for this character if he's to feel useful even among other warriors. The barbarian alternative class feature spiritual totem (lion) (Complete Champion 46) grants the ability pounce. However, from a strict viewpoint, while one or two levels of barbarian offers some solutions, those barbarian levels create some problems, too.

The Solutions: The barbarian's pounce ability is all the time starting now, and barbarian is a half-orc's favored class so the character ignores multiclass XP penalties (PH 60). The Problems: Unless the DM can be convinced that the character's lawful acts have caused the character's alignment to change naturally, a low-level character struggles to change his alignment. (Doing so may mean finding a caster that possesses the alignment the character desires and persuading that caster to cast upon the character the 5th-level cleric spell atonement [abjur] (PH 201–2); that dude charges the character—for the privilege of becoming the caster's alignmentat least 2,950 gp plus the caster may require first that the character go on a quest to prove his changed convictions.). Perhaps more importantly, though, a lawful ex-barbarian loses the special ability rage.

This latter isn't really an issue if taking instead a variant barbarian class like the crafty hunting variant (Unearthed Arcana 58) that loses rage… especially if, as a level 2 crafty hunting barbarian, the DM can be persuaded to allow a ranger combat style other than archery, like the natural attack combat style of the Fangshields ranger 2 substitution level (Champions of Valor 41–2). Consider, also, if the DM allows two-weapon fighting while making a flurry of blows, the barbarian alternative class feature city brawler (Dragon #349 92) that grants the character, among other abilities, the feat Two-weapon Fighting (PH 102)… but only while unarmed (O, noes! right?) Because of the number of ways it helps this character—even though it creates some challenges—starting with 2 levels of barbarian looks like the way to go. The character will also need flaws, by the way; without them, the character'll never have enough feats.

So, for example, at character levels 1 and 2 the frostblood orc takes hunter barbarian 1 and 2, trading the ability fast movement for the ability pounce, trading some weapon proficiencies for the unarmed-only Two-weapon Fighting feat, maybe gaining the feat Multiattack (MM 304) via the Fangshields' natural attack combat style if the DM's amenable, and maybe trading the ability uncanny dodge for the feat Improved Trip (PH 96) via the variant barbarian totem (wolf) barbarian (UA 48–9) if the DM rules the two variants compatible.

Then it's all—extremely heavy sigh—monk, I guess… except that the variant martial monk (Dragon #310 45) allows a monk to take fighter bonus feats as monk bonus feats, so that's totally what this character's taking. (Although the special ability evasion may be necessary for survival due to the character's fire vulnerability, if it's not, consider the alternative class feature invisible fist (Elder Evils 21) that trades the ability evasion for the supernatural ability to become straight-up invisible for 1 round every 4 rounds. Seeing as how the character's AC will likely be terrible, it's something to consider.)

At character level 1 the frostblood orc takes the feats Aberration Blood, Dragon Tail, and Shape Soulmeld (claws of the wyrm) and 2 flaws. At character level 3 he takes the feat Inhuman Reach and, as a martial monk bonus feat, the feat Power Attack (PH 98). At character level 4 he takes as a martial monk bonus feat the feat Improved Bull Rush (PH 95). At character level 6 he takes the feat Deepspawn. At character level 8 he takes as a martial monk bonus feat the feat Shock Trooper (Complete Warrior 112). And at character level 9 he takes the feat Mantis Leap (Sword and Fist 7). Why? Because it's the only reason to take seven levels of monk! That's why.

The feat Beast Strike (Dragon #355 76) that adds to unarmed strike damage a creature's claw or slam damage is an option, too, I suppose, but the other feats give this character more options with—or just more—natural attacks, which is I think what's being asked for. So far as skills are concerned, the Jump skill is the only skill this character needs, but obviously the character'll benefit significantly from the skill Tumble, and everybody should try to get 5 ranks in the skill Balance; other skills—if this dude can even afford them—are just for fun.

At character level 9 this frostblood orc ex-barbarian 2/monk 7 leaps around the battlefield, his 50 ft. speed allowing 5 full attacks per turn via the (totally nuts) feat Mantis Leap, and each full attack administering 4 unarmed strikes, 2 claws, 2 tentacles, and a tail slap… all with a 10-ft. reach and damage ramped up by the feat Power Attack and maybe actually even hitting occasionally due to the Shock Trooper feat's tactical maneuver heedless charge. Sure, yeah, in the end, you're just a charger, but at least you're a charger with style.


Note: This answer's Feats section omits the confusing and prerequisite-heavy Races of the Dragon feat Draconic Claw (102) and race-specific feats that grant natural attacks (e.g. the awesomely-named Races of Eberron warforged feat Jaws of Death (119)). Also, it may be wise to ask the DM what happens if a creature that possesses several natural weapons activates the benefit of the Complete Champion feat Strength Devotion (62); if you brought beer and paid for pizza, a DM may have a creature's piddly base damage with all its natural attacks skyrocket upon the feat's benefit's activation, but really don't count on it—yeah, it's that kind of feat.

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