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I am DMing for an in-person group. One of my players wants to play a drunk monk, with inspiration from the famous Jackie Chan movie Drunken Master.

I've been reading about a few homebrew classes but they don't really feel close enough to the movie, which involves drunken gods, each with their particular style.

The main focus of this class is to work around two aspects:

  • Drinking more matters: you get advantages for drinking more, but also drawbacks
  • Techniques are inspired by the Jackie Chan movie

Here's what I was thinking, would love any feedback, especially in terms of balance, and wording.

Before diving into the class I first have to establish some homebrew rules for alcohol (those apply to all non-drunken master characters).

Homebrew Alcohol Rules (applies to all players)

Alcohol is measured in units of alcohol. The more units, the more a character is drunk. The current units of alcohol for a character will hereafter be referred to as CUA. Every 1 hour after the last consumption of alcohol, CUA is reduced by 1.

Drinking alcohol:

Depending on the strength of an alcohol, it takes more or less quantity to gain a unit. The following table establishes those quantities, as well as the number of doses you can fit in a standard waterskin, and the time it takes to drink that quantity while in combat.

+-----------------------+--------------+--------------+-------------------+
|       Strength        | Qty per unit | In Waterskin |   Time to drink   |
+-----------------------+--------------+--------------+-------------------+
| Light (table beer)    | 50 cl        |            4 | 2 rounds          |
| Medium (strong ale)   | 25 cl        |            8 | 1 round           |
| Strong (Wine)         | 15 cl        |           13 | 1 round           |
| Very Strong (Spirits) | 3 cl         |           65 | 1 standard action |
| Pure                  | 1 cl         |          200 | 1 standard action |
+-----------------------+--------------+--------------+-------------------+

Effects of alcohol:

Effects of alcohol can be handled with the standard exhaustion rules. Every time a character increases his CUA, he must make a successful CON saving throw (DC= 10 + CUA) or gain a level of drunkenness:

+-------+------------+-----------------------------------------------------------------------------+
| Level |   Status   |                                 Description                                 |
+-------+------------+-----------------------------------------------------------------------------+
|     0 | Sober      | A character's normal state                                                  |
|     1 | Tipsy      | Disadvantage on atk rolls and ability checks                                |
|     2 | Drunk      | Disadvantage on all saving throws                                           |
|       |            | Attackers have advantage.                                                   |
|       |            | WIS and INT have a -CUA penalty.                                            |
|       |            | If any ability score drops to 0 or less, the character becomes unconscious. |
|     3 | Hysterical | STR, DEX, CHA also gain a penalty.                                          |
|       |            | The player can't control his character's actions                            |
|     4 | Coma       | CON also gains a penalty.                                                   |
|       |            | The character becomes unconscious regardless of ability scores.             |
|       |            | If CON drops to 0 or less, the character is dead.                           |
+-------+------------+-----------------------------------------------------------------------------+

Recovering from alcohol:

If the standard exhaustion rules were used, alcohol is just another form of exhaustion, and recovers likewise.

However when using the homebrew rules, whenever a character's CUA decays, the character makes a CON check (DC = 10 + CUA). In case of success the character loses a level of drunkenness but gains a level of exhaustion. In case of failure nothing happens.

If the character had ability score penalties, they remain until all units of alcohol have decayed, regardless of drunkenness level.

When a character drops to 0 units of alcohol, the character gains a level of exhaustion for each remaining level of drunkenness, and the character is now sober.

Way of the Drunken Gods

Alcoholic Fuel:

Starting at 3rd level, your monk abilities are fuelled by alcohol. To benefit from your monk powers, you have to have at least 1 CUA. Adepts of the Drunken Gods don't gain exhaustion levels as they sober up.

While Drunken monks gain great benefits from being drunk, there is also a disadvantage: for every 2 units of alcohol their WIS score is reduced by 1 (rounded down).

Ki Shot:

Starting at 3rd level, your monk can use a bonus action and spend 1 ki to gain 1 unit of alcohol. This ability can be used even if you have 0 CUA.

Prone fighting:

Being prone is a natural combat stance for you. Starting at 3rd level, you don't suffer any consequence for being prone during combat. Attackers more than 5 feet away still have disadvantage on their attack rolls. You can go prone or stand up as a free action.

Drunken Mastery:

Starting at 3rd level, the monk is able to harness his drunkenness to his advantage. When gaining a unit of alcohol you can choose to ignore the saving throw to automatically gain a level of drunkenness.

As your mastery grows, so does your ability to ignore drunkenness penalties and change their effect.

Level 3: Drunken Novice

Tipsy: You can use a bonus action to taunt a single foe (WIS save vs Performance) for 1 round.

Level 6: Drunken Initiate

Drunk: You have an advantage on all your performance throws. Taunted enemies have a disadvantage on their attack rolls against you. You can taunt up to 2 foes.

Level 11: Drunken Master

Hysterical: You have an advantage on all your attack rolls. You can taunt up to 3 foes

Level 17: Drunken God

Coma: You can use Drunken Gods Techniques at will, but each use costs a unit of alcohol. You can taunt up to 4 foes.

Disciple of the 6 Drunken Gods

You master the techniques of the drunken gods.

Once per short rest you can use a bonus action and spend 1ki to perform one of the drunken gods techniques.

You gain an additional use at levels 6, 11 and 17.

Drunken Strength:

Make an attack with a +CUA bonus to your attack roll and damage.

Drunken Cripple:

Make a swipe attack against all characters within a 5ft radius. Any character hit must make a STR save (DC = 8 + mastery + WIS + CUA) or be knocked prone.

Drunken Pot Defense:

Gain +CUA bonus to AC (lasts 1 round, you may spend up to 2 extra ki to last as many extra rounds)

Drunken Toss:

Make a Strength (Athletics) + CUA check contested by your opponent's Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) to toss your opponent 5 feet away and knock him prone. The opponent takes 1d4 + CUA bludgeoning damage.

Drunken Throat Lock:

Perform an ki strike to your opponent's throat. He must succeed a CON save (DC = 8 + mastery + WIS + CUA) or be silenced for 1 turn.

Drunken Flurry:

Perform a number of attacks equal to your CUA against a single target. All attacks rolls are done with a -CUA penalty, and cannot benefit from an advantage even if another effect would give one.

Is this class balanced in terms of the power of the abilities?

More concisely:

  • Is the "lose wisdom to gain power" mechanic is too big of a drawback?

    The overall problem for answers to this question to address is balance.

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First, a warning on resource management

The core of this build involves an immense amount of resource management - for the player and for the DM. Tracking the current state of CUA may be problematic and will require the DM to keep track of hours passed since first imbibing and for the player to track those hours and their CUA.

I'm not saying it's impossible, but it's a lot of management outside of their standard character resource management requirements. I am also not diving into the homebrew itself for analysis mostly because I think it is overcomplicated - but my real concern is how someone is going to track all of the moving parts.

The player is going to have to constantly ask "how many hours have passed since X", and you're going to have to provide that - and be correct. They're going to need to track when each CUA was imbibed so that they can track when it 'wears off'.

Second, this adds a layer of abilities in addition to Ki

Monk abilities are mostly generating off of Ki usage. While there are additional effects each class gets, this homebrew introduces an entirely separate system of managing those effects which no other class gets.

It may be better to look at this with fresh eyes using Ki for some abilities and then having others that require certain things to occur (but are based off of existing mechanics.) As an example, the Kensai monk has additional options for Ki usage, but they also have other options that are keyed off of certain actions they take (like attacking with a Kensei weapon lets them add +2 to AC.)

Overall, this class is way too complicated and involves too much additional homebrew

The class itself is overly complicated even without the resource management. You involve proficiency calculations that aren't standard by incorporating CUA into everything. I think you need to take a big step back and look at restructuring the class so that it's mechanics fall more in line with standard class mechanics.

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