So I've just started watching the Avatar: The Last Airbender animated series (it's quite a few years old now, but I've never watched it before), and immediately I am reminded of the Way of the Four Elements monk archetype, which is clearly based on air-bending, water-bending, etc. The flavour of this archetype is really cool.
However, in practice, this is a really lackluster archetype. I believe it is popularly considered to be the weakest monk archetype, but even if that's presumptuous on my part, I at least think it's weak; I remember playing one a couple of years back, and I ended up having to multiclass them into Sorcerer just to get the feel I was after.
So, since watching some Avatar and getting more of a feel for what I think this archetype should be, I propose the following (based somewhat on comparing them to an Eldritch Knight):
- Whenever the archetype says you learn a new elemental discipline (i.e. 3rd, 6th, 11th, 17th), you instead learn two (this is excluding the the Elemental Attunement "cantrip" discipline).
- You can learn from a subset* of cantrips, and have the same number as an Eldritch Knight does (since Four Elements monks roughly seem equivalent to 1/3 casters to me; so that's 2 cantrips initially, and a 3rd one at level 10); these cantrips would use Wisdom as your spellcasting ability.
This would make them seem like they have more control over the elements, give them more versatility, but without giving them loads of spells. They still only have a grand total of 8 disciplines by level 17, as opposed to the Sorcerer's 15 known spells (other full casters have more), the 10 of a ranger (14 if it's a Xanathar's ranger archetype; this will become 11 or 15 by level 19), or the 11 of an Eldritch Knight/Arcane Trickster (who would know 13 by level 20).
Would this make them significantly stronger in combat than other monk archetypes, or other casters (such as a Sorcerer or an Eldritch Knight)? Do these suggestions need to be dialed back a bit, or is my assessment of the RAW archetype's weakness way off?
*This subset is: control flames, frostbite, gust, mold earth, produce flame, ray of frost, shape water - I left out fire bolt because I felt that produce flame was good enough and they really don't need that d10 damage.