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I've been trying to wrap my head around the Order of the Lycan for Matt Mercer's Blood Hunter class. It looks to me like its designed around fighting unarmed in hybrid form, with a large number of its features centered around making unarmed attacks work better.

However, a character that intends to embrace this playstyle is faced with an odd decision at level 2: None of the available fighting style options to chose from work at all with unarmed attacks. Its just the old standard options of Archery, Dueling, Two-weapon fighting, and great weapon fighting, all of which require actual weapons (of a specific type). Its going to be a tough decision, not because of interesting trade-offs, but rather because none of the available choices will really help at all.

Does this class really revolve around the use of unarmed strikes as a primary attack method? If so, does this make the fighting style choice as concerning as I think it does?


Update: Interestingly, about a week after I posted this, Mercer released a new revision of Blood Hunter on DM's Guild. Some of the first comments there were very similar to my question in its original form. From Anna G:

One comment though: unless I'm missing something it appears the available fighting styles are useless for a lycan using unarmed strikes, as they are all offensive and weapon-based. Any chance of adding Defense or Protection?

So it looks like this question was not made obsolete by the recent revision.

(Oh, and Mercer answered a lot of comments there, but as near as I can tell none about fighting styles with Lycan)

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Yes, the Order of the Lycan is focused on melee, not unarmed strikes

The primary class features for this Order focus on melee combat, but not necessarily unarmed strikes.

Feral Might is for melee attacks - whether melee weapon, unarmed, or melee spell.

The other features aren't attack-related except for Predatory Strikes, which is for unarmed strikes. Depending on your primary weapon choice, this feature may not be as effective as using your primary weapon. The 1d6 (which increases to 1d8 at 11th and 1d10 at 18th level) really isn't much better than normal weapon damage dice.

The 7th level improvement allowing your unarmed strikes to bypass magical resistance/immunity is nice-to-have, but many tables will have magic weapons available by that level. If not, then using your unarmed strike against those creatures will remain optimal.

STR vs DEX

The ability to use Dex over Strength as your attack stat may come in handy, but with a rapier dealing 1d8 damage and using Dex, that's going to be equivalent for you until 18th level.

Because of that, the class really isn't focused on unarmed strikes like the Monk. Nearly all features work with melee weapon attacks and you can run this optimally based on that type of build.

Fighting Styles work well with this in mind

Really, the only one that doesn't is Archery. But even then, many of the Lycan features will still work, just not Feral Might.

If you are at level 7 and don't yet have a magic weapon, then the fighting styles could still work. Keep in mind that an unarmed strike isn't necessarily from an arm/hand, but could be a kick, head-butt, elbow, etc. You can retain the benefits of Dueling.

The other fighting styles do require a certain weapon decision (either TWF or Two-Handed) and you won't get bonuses for your unarmed strikes, but again, this is likely limited until you get a magic weapon.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You're right that the half-again proficiency bonus of Feral Might you get at lvl 3 works for any melee weapon. But that aside, the damage enhancing features of this class are Predatory Strikes, Enhanced Predatory Strikes, and Beastly Precision. All three require unarmed strikes. So if you aren't using those, you're giving up all the remaining core damage features of the class. What you're left with is an extra half a proficiency bonus, and no extra attacks (each of which should be applying the rite damage upon hit). \$\endgroup\$ – T.E.D. Jan 17 at 21:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ you're not really giving them up, those features are unfortunately no better than using a weapon normally (if magical) \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jan 17 at 23:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @T.E.D. The subclass is very defensively focused and weak offensively. That's just the trade off you make when taking it. You get, essentially, half damage from almost all sources for longer than barbarians do, and you get all sorts of other defensive bonuses as well. The "offensive features" are mostly to help with the "I'm a werewolf" theme-- you end up able to fight about as well unarmed as with weapons-- they definitely don't make up the difference but if they did the class wouldn't be balanced. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Jan 18 at 17:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ OK. I guess I can wrap my mind around what you all are saying. So essentially what we have here isn't one wasted class feature (an unusable fighting style) but rather 3 of them (all the unarmed-only features). And I probably shouldn't be shocked at that, because this is after all only playtest material. \$\endgroup\$ – T.E.D. Jan 21 at 20:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @T.E.D. And thanks for being open to this answer! I was hinting to this in our chat but knew it would be a bit of an uphill battle to change your expectations of the class. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jan 22 at 19:26

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