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Hey people of the D&D community. I need your opinion about this subclass and whether if it's underpowered or not. It may not look like much against the 5-finger-heart-exploding-punch of the open hand. My intention was to create a super fast stalker cat monk.

Way of the Lynx

Feline Attribute:

Starting when you choose this tradition at 3rd level, you gain the following benefits:

  • You can choose your unarmed strikes to deal slashing damage instead of bludgeoning.

  • You gain climbing speed equal to your walking speed.

  • When you are prone, standing up uses only 10 feet of your movement.

  • In addition to the bonus granted by your unarmored movement feature, your speed increases by 5 feet. Your speed increases by an additional 10 feet when you reach 6th level (+15 feet), 17th level (+20 feet).

Wilder Prowess

At 6th level, You choose one skill from the following list to gain proficiency in: Acrobatics, Nature, Perception, Stealth, Survival.

You gain an additional skill proficiency from the above list at 11th and 17th level. If you already have proficiency in one of the listed skills at 11th or 17th level, you can instead choose to double your proficiency bonus for any ability check you make that uses the chosen proficiency.

Danger Sense

Beginning at 11th level, you gain an uncanny sense of when things nearby aren't as they should be, giving you an edge when you dodge away from danger. You have advantage on Dexterity saving throws against effects that you can see, such as traps and spells. To gain this benefit, you can't be blinded, deafened, or incapacitated.

Rapid Claw Strikes

Upon reaching 17th level, whenever you use your Flurry of Blows feature, you can make three unarmed strikes instead of two.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I am a little confused: "balanced(underpowered)" - I'm not sure this means you consider being balanced and being underpowered the same thing (i.e., if it is underpowered, it is fine) or if you want to know if it is underpowered. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jun 17 at 22:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ You may want to consult the meta post on asking Homebrew-Review questions. \$\endgroup\$ – william porter Jun 17 at 22:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related meta question: How should I ask about my D&D 5e Homebrew being balanced? \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jun 17 at 23:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ By the way, as I re-read your question, your point is to make a very agile stalker cat monk, right? Is there any reason that a Monk with the Tabaxi race described in VOLO would not fulfil your objective? I mean, it is literally a cat race with concept similar to your idea of a mobile and stealthy character. Thus it, at least flavor-wise, seems a good solution. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jun 18 at 3:12
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As written, it's underpowered and uninteresting.

In general, a class archetype should provide options and features that go beyond the baseline class. An archetype should give the player new options and open new styles of play, or at least provide benefits that build upon the strengths of the class.

By default, the monk is already a fast and mobile class, and so its archetypes are generally designed to supplement its close combat toolset. For example, consider what some of the official archetypes can do:

  • Way of Shadow monk can create areas of darkness and teleport between shadows, which are useful for a stealthy striker or infiltrator.
  • Way of the Drunken Master can disengage after attacking and can redirect enemy melee attacks, which are useful for a reckless hit-and-run style of combat.
  • Way of the Open Hand can heal themselves and shove opponents to create distance, supporting a defensive playstyle with some battlefield control.
  • Way of the Four Elements can spend ki to cast spells, such as AOE blasts, debuffs, flight, and defensive walls.
  • Way of the Sun Soul can combine their close-range martial arts with long-range blasts, letting them hit both nearby and distant enemies.

In comparison, the features of this “Way of the Lynx” add very little to the monk class. They provide no extra versatility, and don't significantly enhance the class's offensive or defensive capabilities.

3rd level features

Since these are obtained earliest, these are expected to come into play the most, and thus should be the most defining aspects of the archetype.

You can choose your unarmed strikes to deal slashing damage instead of bludgeoning.

There are few situations where this is a benefit. And in most situations where a character would need slashing damage instead of bludgeoning, they could just use a slashing weapon.

You gain climbing speed equal to your walking speed.

This is nice, but it needs more. At 9th level, it becomes obsolete, when the monk's Unarmored Movement lets them move along vertical surfaces. It can also be replicated by the spider climb spell, or anyone wearing slippers of spider climbing.

When you are prone, standing up uses only 10 feet of your movement.

In addition to the bonus granted by your unarmored movement feature, your speed increases by 5 feet. Your speed increases by an additional 10 feet when you reach 6th level (+15 feet), 17th level (+20 feet).

While these are measurable benefits, they are not adding anything new. The monk already gets an increased movement speed. Increasing that movement speed further is nice, but it doesn't expand the monk's options, support any particular playstyle, or make them a better combatant.

6th level features

This is basically a weaker version of the rogue's Expertise feature, giving the monk a bonus to a few skills. While the extra bonus can help out of combat, it's not enabling the monk to achieve anything new. So at 6th level, the other classes likely have their defining features, and yet the Way of the Lynx hasn't contributed much to the monk's abilities.

11th level features

Another redundant feature. By 11th level, monks are already defensive against threats that require a Dexterity saving throw. They already have Evasion and proficiency in Dexterity saving throws, and will likely have a high Dexterity anyway for their Unarmored Defense. So getting a conditional advantage is not a significant upgrade to the class.

17th level features

Getting an extra attack isn't bad. But as the archetype's capstone ability, it's strictly worse than the 17th level features of other archetypes, such as the Drunken Master getting up to 3 extra attacks, the Kensei getting to reroll missed attacks, and the Way of Shadow monk getting an extra attack as a reaction.

Verdict and suggestions

Overall, this archetype is underwhelming. While it is functional and uncomplicated, the player gets fewer interesting ways of contributing to gameplay. The class features are marginal benefits, and they don't add much to expand or enhance the monk's existing abilities.

The most substantial features here are the extra movement, via climb speed and flat increase to movement speed. But currently, the archetype lacks other features that would synergize with climbing or utilizing the extra speed. If the archetype is meant to reward movement, then the archetype should provide some benefits for doing so; perhaps something like a panther's pounce ability when moving, or some "plunging attack" when climbing above an enemy, or running stealthily for scouting.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ While I agree with the general point of view (which is "a class archetype should provide options and features that go beyond the baseline class, potentially giving the player new options and opening up new styles of play."), many official subclasses do not follow that, and yet are played/playable. As my main example, the Champion subclass is a quite consistent and useful subclass that sees play often enough from my experience, even if it does not provide anything "new", any kind of proactivity or a new style to what Fighters already have. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jun 18 at 2:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Therefore, I can't agree that "providing nothing new" to the class means the subclass is weak. "The class already does that, this feature only makes it do it more" is the definition of many (viable) subclasses. It makes them "boring" or "uninteresting", but not "weak". Basically, my feedback here is that I think the answer needs a more objective reasoning that the subclass is weak. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jun 18 at 2:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ I could have worded it better. It's not just weak because of low utility, it's weak because it's not getting anything significantly helpful. Sure, Champions don't get new actions, but their archetype makes them a better and more survivable combatant. The features here don't supplement the monk class in a useful way. \$\endgroup\$ – MikeQ Jun 18 at 2:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HellSaint Champion is the poster child of "underpowered and uninteresting". I have seen in many cases Battlemasters running circles around them. \$\endgroup\$ – András Jun 18 at 6:57
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Starting from the conclusion:

The subclass is mostly fine from a balance point of view. It lacks proactive play and, for that reason, will probably be considered a good class for players with little or no experience, while it will be left aside for other (more proactive) classes by more experienced players that wish more options and active features.

Detailed Answer

I will go bit by bit.

It may not look like much against the 5-finger-heart-exploding-punch of the open hand

Being honest, I don't think the Open Hand is overpowered or even the strongest Monk subclass. Drunken Master and Long Death are at least as strong, IMO. Therefore, I think that comparing to Open Hand is a fair comparison and it will be our metric.

Let's start.

3rd Level - Weak

At 3rd level, Open Hand gives the ability to, when using Flurry of Blows, force some negative effect on the enemy (prone, throw away or taking away their reaction).

You can choose your unarmed strikes to deal slashing damage instead of bludgeoning.

While this has some flavor, it's mechanically meaningless in essentially any scenario.

You gain climbing speed equal to your walking speed.

Also not sure how useful this will be. Climbing is essentially difficult terrain as written in 5e, i.e., you would have half of your speed as climbing speed normally. With this feature you can climb twice as fast, which is relevant if you are climbing high places while in combat... Not sure how often this should be relevant. In my adventures I can't recall a single time this would have been helpful.

Also, at 9th level Monks essentially get this feature anyway.

When you are prone, standing up uses only 10 feet of your movement.

Being knocked down is also not that common. I can see this being used more often, but still fail to see the actual relevance of it.

In addition to the bonus granted by your unarmored movement feature, your speed increases by 5 feet. Your speed increases by an additional 10 feet when you reach 6th level (+15 feet), 17th level (+20 feet).

It's rare that any creature will outrun a Monk anyway, thus I don't see this feature as highly relevant. It might help in a few specific scenarios and might be interesting if you are playing, e.g., a halfling which has a base speed of only 25 ft.

So, for a tier 1 adventure, this subclass seems underpowered, particularly because the features seem to be mostly irrelevant or just simply too situational.

6th level - Fair

While extra proficiencies and expertise are hard to come, I'm not sure I want my 6th level feature being just getting an extra proficiency. I would rather have that if I was playing a Rogue or Bard, which are usually the "skill monkeys" of the party.

On the other hand, as I said Open Hand would be a fair comparison, Wholeness of Body is not awesome either. I would call it a draw here. I don't think any of them are a necessary feature or a completely bad feature.

As a side note, having read Cubic's answer, I disagree that, compared to the ability of healing once per day, getting an extra skill proficiency (or, more likely how I would use it - expertise on one skill) is more boring.

11th Level - Fair

Advantage on Dex Saving Throws is usually good. Compared to Tranquility from Open Hand, it certainly seems better, being honest. But tranquility is, IMO, a bad feature, possibly the worst from Open Hand. Dex saving throws are one of the most common and important STs (along Con and Wis), and it's completely free!

Even compared to Drunkard's Luck, this is a fair feature. While the feature from the Drunken 11th level can be used for cancelling any disadvantage (attack, check or saving throw), it can only be used for cancelling disadvantages (not giving advantage) and it requires 2 ki.

On the other hand, I now agree with Cubic's statement: most of your features are now passive. You are giving little day-by-day choices. "When to use this feature?" is a question that none of your features raises.

17th level - Fair (Weaker when compared to Quivering Palm)

Ok, ok. Now I see your point. Quivering Palm is stupidly strong. Period. Yours is similar to Drunken Master's Intoxicated Frenzy, which is fine as well.

From a balance perspective, the subclass is fine

However, it lacks any extra way for the monk to spend their ki points other than the ones they get from the base class. This happens mostly due to the lack of active skills. Monk is already a martial class - which means it gets comparatively less options and activity than spellcasters. There is no inherent problem with that. Champion makes essentially the same for the Fighter class. The immediate consequence is, at least from my experience, that the class will be more chosen and liked by beginner players, and will not be interesting among more experienced players. If that is fine for you, your class should be fine.


Extra justification for the "The subclass is fine from a balance POV"

First, I don't think that a homebrew subclass has to be as good as the best subclass to be playable. It just needs to be... playable.

That said, a point that comes from my experience with the Monk class: the most useful and interesting features are actually from the base class for the Monk. Unarmored defense allows for a quite high AC even at low levels, Martial Arts provides your DPS, Deflect Missile is handy when fighting ranged enemies, Stunning Strike is quite good, Ki-Empowered Strikes allows your punches to hit enemies with non-magic resistances, etc.

Maybe for that reason, my opinion (based on my monk players and the monk I have been recently playing) is that the subclasses are usually underwhelming anyway and "even" the proposed subclass should be fine as it provides some extra utility to a class that already has a good base utility.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jun 18 at 20:09
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Yes

Partial answer for the level 3 ability:

You can choose your unarmed strikes to deal slashing damage instead of bludgeoning.

That's nice flavour, but is going to be relevant rarely enough that I'd not really consider it an actual benefit.

You gain climbing speed equal to your walking speed.

This is pretty bad at higher levels considering you're basically getting a better version of this starting at 9th level, but at 3rd level flying isn't easily available most of the time so it actually has some chance at being relevant due to getting it this early on. Pretty situational, but decent when the right situation arises.

When you are prone, standing up uses only 10 feet of your movement.

This is actually pretty good considering the large base movement speed of a monk would usually mean a pretty high standing up penalty. Might incentivise intentionally falling prone to avoid ranged damage, which I like. However, Drunked Masters get a strictly better version of this at 6th level.

In addition to the bonus granted by your unarmored movement feature, your speed increases by 5 feet. Your speed increases by an additional 10 feet when you reach 6th level (+15 feet), 17th level (+20 feet).

Hm, extra movement is nice but Monks already get a lot of that baseline. Realistically, there aren't really many things that can outrun a Monk as is, so I'm not sure how much adding even more movement on top of that really helps. Flavour wise I'm not sure I like this because while cats are fast, they're not really known for being able to sustain high speeds for very long.

So let's compare this with other monk traditions:

  • Way Of The Open Hand: Makes your flurry of blows better. Probably comes up more often and is more thematic than this IMHO.
  • Way Of Shadow: Gives you some stealth and crowd control related spells. More thematic and probably less situational compared to this.
  • Way Of The Four Elements: Gives you a cantrip and a single probably powerful but expensive ability (depending on which you pick). Hard to compare considering there's so much choice, but I'd say its more flavourful than this subclass.
  • Way Of The Long Death: Gives you temporary hitpoints upon killing things. Flavourful, can be quite powerful if there are many things that are easy to kill around.
  • Way Of The Drunken Master: Disengage upon using flurry of blows and get a little extra movement - flavour makes sense, a little bit weak compared to Way Of The Open Hand which you can use for a similar effect in many situations.
  • Way Of The Sun Soul: Get a ranged attack and let you use something like flurry of blows at range: super flavourful, makes you way better at ranged fighting than most monks.
  • Path Of The Kensei: Get access to more weapon choices and get additional features for ranged and melee weapons you chose which are pretty good. Also get really good at drawing. Very flavourful and useful.

Compared to all of the above I'd have to say that the main issue isn't the power; The individual abilities aren't good which is slightly balanced out by the fact that you get several of them. The problem is that the abilities are all pretty bland, they're mostly just slight buffs on things you can do anyway, so it doesn't really feel like you're changing up your playstyle that much, and what's worse is that all of the abilities are only useful in movement related situations which base monks are already good at. As such I'd say it is both underpowered and lacking in flavour that'd make it fun to play regardless of the power level.

(While I don't have the time to go over a detailed breakdown of the 6th, 11th and 17th level abilities, they more or less follow the same pattern - pretty much all the other classes get abilities that are more powerful or at least more interesting, and some of them are just straight up better versions of abilities of this subclass - just getting a single skill proficiency and 10 feet of speed at 6th level in particular stands out as really boring; The 17th level ability is actually pretty powerful; is similar to Drunken Masters, except it's better on average with the slight penalty of having a lower ceiling on the damage done, slightly boring flavour but this is probably the one ability that I think can stay as is)

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    \$\begingroup\$ If you don't have the time to submit a full answer, you shouldn't. You can always delete it and work on it until it's ready so that there aren't downvotes. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jun 18 at 0:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch considering that neither of the other upvoted answers here really go into any more detail than this one, I‘d say the answer is fine except apparently saying it‘s incomplete is enough to completely throw people off. \$\endgroup\$ – Cubic Jun 18 at 8:32

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