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One my players who's a monk was interested in taking up a Home-brew Monastic Tradition called 'Way of Transcendence' which is based on the Overwatch Character Zenyatta.

However, one of the abilities that Zenyatta is famous for, but is not in the Tradition, is his natural ability to hover everywhere he goes at a fixed height. In the game (for some reason) he can still get stuck in things like bear-traps, despite not walking, and the only really mechanical effect this has is that you can't hear his footsteps.

My player really wants to be able to hover like this for narrative and role-play purposes, but I imagine it will be a severely broken mechanic if I allowed it without alterations. So my question is, what alteration can I have so that perpetually hovering isn't as broken as it sounds? And what safeguards should I have in place to make sure that the ability don't get abused or used too heavily outside of narrative and role-play?

The character is a level 3 wood elf monk, no multi-class yet (if that helps).

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    \$\begingroup\$ "it will be a severely broken mechanic if I allowed it without alterations" — why do you think it is so broken? \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Jul 1 '18 at 11:50
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To have your player permanently hovering silently would be a significant advantage for that player and be very unbalanced, it would stop creatures with tremor sense detecting that character, triggering floor traps and make it easier to move silently (obviously).

If your character just wants to be able to float slightly above the ground then one possible mechanic would be to have the ability to float still exert a pressure on the ground like a footfall. You could justify this as movements of air pressure or some magical force if you wanted to.

These "virtual" footfall would still trigger floor traps, make vibrations that alert tremorsense and make noises that create noise that could be heard.

This reduces the ability to float slightly above the ground to merely a special affect but has no game affects.

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    \$\begingroup\$ One way to rationalize this: he needs control over his momentum and movement. A hovercraft, for example, is notoriously difficult to control because it has very little friction it can exploit for sudden changes in direction and velocity. If he has no substantive connection with the ground, then the player would control like a hovercraft: being pushed or bumped into could send him careening to the side, he can't do much more than move in a straight line in any move action, etc. That would balance things, or convince him to take your approach: he moves "normally", but it's mostly cosmetic. \$\endgroup\$ – zibadawa timmy Jul 2 '18 at 10:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Could make it require concentration as well. No floating during combat. \$\endgroup\$ – Sh4d0wsPlyr Jul 3 '18 at 19:12
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While Sarriesfan’s answer is good, and I support that, there is precedent in D&D for a constant-hovering ability that might be worth considering. In 3.5e, the elocater’s scorn earth ability allowed members of that class to hover permanently just above the ground.

Now, 3.5e is very different from 5e in a lot of ways, including being higher-power, and as Sarriesfan has already established, silent/pressure-less movement could be a large advantage in 5e (it was nice, but not amazing, in 3.5e). This version of scorn earth also takes any challenge out of climbing, which could be a big deal (though even in 5e, levitate and fly also do that).

What I propose, then, is that you consider having this tradition improve into something scorn earth like at an appropriate level. The character would still not move entirely silently, but might avoid ground-based difficulties and traps, and be able to “climb” without regarding for the surface they are climbing up. Eventually, this could even expand into true freedom from any surface, allowing them to properly fly. After all, aarakocra can do so even at 1st level, and regardless of class.

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This isn't really a problem

Several races allow you to fully fly from level 1 which is way more powerful than hovering for most things that matter.

As long as hovering requires conscious effort and they can be knocked to the ground with enough effort (IE: not immune to prone) it should be fine.

Sneaking, tremor sense, traps and other things can easily be worked around by a DM and are not so common as to unbalance a campaign. In fact they could be a detriment when the rogue scouts and area and completely fails to notice that it is guarded by a tremor sensitive creature and pressure plates, then the whole party is led into a series of traps and an ambush!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ D&D Adventurer's League does ban any race that grants you a fly speed for power reasons, so it's clearly still very strong. \$\endgroup\$ – fortyCakes Jul 2 '18 at 8:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Chronocidal: See also Paul A. Clayton's comments on KRyan's answer for more ideas about making it detrimental, like losing out on benefits from ground contact, or finding steep slopes "slippery", or being the focus of attacks because you stand out. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes Jul 2 '18 at 11:48
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What about putting a time limit on it and having it cost ki points to maintain? That way, there could be benefits to it, but it would still have a resource cost. Sure, it gives advantage on Stealth and avoids difficult terrain and some traps, but if it costs a few precious ki points, it might keep it from being overpowered and force the player to decide if it's still worth it in a tough fight.

You should have it take an action to activate and probably make it require concentration as well.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you played using such a house rule? If so, how has it worked for you? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jul 2 '18 at 5:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ No one would accept hoover with these conditions. \$\endgroup\$ – user2617804 Jul 3 '18 at 0:09
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Hover without proper flight is not well-defined in DnD 5E but following the Watery_Sphere you could house-rule into zero movement speed, totally affected by force effects- can be pushed, disadvantage on melee attacks, disadvantage on stealth, AC goes to armour plus dex modifier-you need feet on the ground to get monk benefits.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you played using such a house rule? If so, how has it worked for you? Why do you think this would solve the problems with perpetually hovering? You should elaborate a bit more to support your suggestion. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jul 2 '18 at 1:58

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