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A monk is characterized as being all about unarmed combat. While grappling in combat is generally viewed as something to avoid due to its convoluted rules, one of my players wishes to make her monk a capable wrestler without sacrificing a feat to do so.

I agree with her that a class that focuses primarily on unarmed combat should automatically enjoy grappling benefits.

But would replacing the Deflect Missiles feature with the Grappler feat (PHB, p. 167) cost her more than it should? Should she receive a bonus or something/anything additional?

Note: We only use the core books, so answers should be based on that source material.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I edited in that correction, but I will ask: do you intend to charge a ki point per grapple, or to completely remove Deflect Missiles and Replace it with that feat, and no ki cost? \$\endgroup\$ Aug 17 '18 at 20:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ What is the monk PC's race? And have they already made their character and played already or is this planning ahead? \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Aug 17 '18 at 20:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's planning ahead and we definitely don't plan to charge any ki points for grappling. The idea was to remove Deflect Missiles and replace it with grappler. My concern was that the substitution left the new class weaker and thus was interested in ways to balance it out. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 18 '18 at 10:24
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This is a difficult question to answer, because there are a lot of moving parts for class features that you want to identify. To answer this, I'm going to break down each aspect into simpler parts.

First, Deflect Missiles:

Starting at 3rd level, you can use your reaction to deflect or catch the missile when you are hit by a ranged weapon attack. When you do so, the damage you take from the attack is reduced by 1d10 + your Dexterity modifier + your monk level.

If you reduce the damage to 0, you can catch the missile if it is small enough for you to hold in one hand and you have at least one hand free. If you catch a missile in this way, you can spend 1 ki point to make a ranged attack (20/60 feet) with the weapon or piece of ammunition you just caught, as part of the same reaction. You make this attack with proficiency, regardless of your weapon proficiencies, and the missile counts as a monk weapon for the attack.

Or basically:

Spend your reaction to reduce incoming ranged damage, scaling with how strong you are. You can also spend a Ki point to attempt a ranged attack if the incoming damage was weak enough.

Now, the Grappler feat:

Prerequisite: Strength 13 or higher

You've developed the skills necessary to hold your own in close-quarters grappling. You gain the following benefits:

  • You have advantage on attack rolls against a creature you are grappling.
  • You can use your action to try to pin a creature grappled by you. To do so, make another grapple check. If you succeed, you and the creature are both restrained until the grapple ends.

Or basically:

You need strength for this feat. You hurt enemies more when they're grappled(uses strength), and you can do a super grapple which effectively paralyzes you and a bad guy.

Analysis

  • The monk will lose out on a way to spend their reaction. What other ways could a monk spend their reaction on a regular basis?
    • Answer: Slowfall, Subclass abilities
  • The monk will have fewer means of dealing with ranged attacks. What other ways can monks deal with ranged attacks?
    • Answer: Nothing other than standard AC and movement
  • Grappling uses a Strength (Athletics) check against the opponent to succeed. Does the monk utilize Strength?
    • Answer: Likely not
  • The monk will be restrained when using the "super grapple". Do they have the protection they need to fight while restrained?
    • Answer: Likely not

In most circumstances, this is very unfavorable. Monks generally do not use Strength, which is a core component of grappling. You could decide to allow Dexterity for grappling with this feature change.

But the key component is the lack of ranged defenses. Monks can only run and punch. They do not have many means of spending their reactions. They will take more damage, and they're already known for being fairly fragile compared to other melee fighters, especially if they're grappling someone.

My suggestion

Is to either keep things as they are, or incorporate grappling as a defensive maneuver with these changes.

Consider making ranged attacks against you have disadvantage while you are grappling. This would result in an average of -5 to hit you with ranged attacks while grappling, where Deflect missiles prevents 6-30 damage (Depending on stats). This would make it reminiscent of prior editions, where "shooting into melee" was a common concern for ranged attackers, as they would receive penalties for attacking targets engaged in melee combat (since it's hard to shoot a specific target in the frey).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Given your points I suspect that I should simply give Grappler to Monks freely. It's in keeping with their archetype and would hardly leave them overpowered or even grant them much a jump over other classes. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 18 '18 at 13:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BasementCat Rather, it'd be better to allow Grappler to grant Monks the ability to use Dexterity for grapples. It's still a feat, it should feel like a feat, rather than a random addition to a class that nobody thinks will be relevant. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 19 '18 at 17:09
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It makes the Monk a lot weaker

I agree with Daniel's answer on it being a bad trade for the Monk. It is also an awkward trade, since you are trading a defensive feature that uses reaction for a utility feature that is conditional and may use an action. That's hard to balance, usually. There is also another major problem not mentioned in Daniel's answer: Grappler sucks - it's a bad feat even for Str-based grappler characters, and I have played some. It is better to just get +2 STR or some good-for-everything feat like Lucky or Resilient. For grappling, there are also better feats like Mage Slayer. Point being: the feat iself is really, really bad. If you are interested, the ENWorld's Grappler Manual is quite good.

That said, changing a really good defensive tool, that enables the Monk's reaction every round against ranged enemies with no cost, for a really bad utility tool is obviously a bad change for the Monk and the class will suffer considerably from it.

Less unbalancing options

First, you can offer a decent feat instead. I disagree with Daniel's answer that avoiding ranged damage is critical for the Monk - Deflect Missiles is a great feature, but a monk can survive without it. It just makes the monk a huge pain against ranged characters. A reflavored Sentinel is a good choice - if the creature breaks the grapple, you can stop them from moving using the Sentinel feat, for example.

But a better solution is to homebrew something that actually has similar characteristics to Deflect Missiles, mainly Action Economy-wise, which are:

  • Not being conditional - you can use it any time.
  • Uses the Monk's Reaction.
  • Doesn't have a cost, but has an option to spend 1 ki point and do something nice. This part could be conditional ("if the damage is reduced to 0" in the Deflect case) or not. Monks already have many ways of using their ki points, so this part is not necessary at all.

You might want to give the Monk a feature that let him use his Dex modifier for Grappling instead of Str as well. Monks were heavily MAD in past editions because they needed both Str and Dex, and you don't want to make it like that again. How much imbalance this will cause is playtest content though :P

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The question hasn't changed substantially since it was originally posted... but your edit was a pretty easy fix anyway. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Aug 17 '18 at 23:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast Lol, looked through the edit history. I misread the original title. Whoops. Edited either way, also added some details. \$\endgroup\$
    – HellSaint
    Aug 17 '18 at 23:20

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