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This is a monk to emulate be a force user, as from the Star Wars universe.
There is a spoiler from The Last Jedi film. I thought that the ability to telekinetically affect your environment is too cool a concept to be left to a couple of spells, so I wanted to create a martial class that could utilise these concepts.

The homebrew subclass in this question was finally playtested, so I can come back and try and refine it.

However, it was not an extensive playtest, so assessment from the community is appreciated. Prior to playing, I removed the multiple concentration feature of Force Prowess, leaving just the increased cost for more targets component.

The main issues seen were:

  • the contested checks resulted in both more rolling and more swinginess in whether the ability worked
  • using contested checks instead of saves meant that boss targets couldn't circumvent the abilities
  • the ability to force something prone from range or to restrain something were both very powerful (especially against flying targets)

It was also unsatisfying to attempt to use an effect, just for it to fail, and my limited resource be wasted. As I was playtesting, I also found myself unwilling to use the Greater Telekinesis feature that lets you move creatures as an attack - maybe this was just due to the situations I was in, but it could just be a quirk of the combats I found myself in.

Additionally, I made some changes to Force Choke, but was unable to test it.

The changes I've made off the back of the above issues are changing all of the contested checks to Strength saving throws. This simplifies the text, and lets legendary creatures save from the effects, as well as reduce the amount of rolling. I also switched to using the player's wisdom modifier instead of proficiency modifier for effects that I wanted to have a limited number of targets; I don't think this should change too much, however.

I am still worried about the balance and feel of this subclass. It still has the issue that, quite often, a turn can be wasted trying to get a target to succumb to a force effect, and you fail consistently, wasting a lot of resources. Other subclasses get features they can use without resources; currently, this subclass only has Life Sense for that. Additionally, the ability to force something prone, or to restrain a target, from range gives a large incentive to just keep trying to get these powerful effects. The use of Strength saving throws instead of Dexterity saving throws is also a tad worrying; I'm not sure how unbalanced that is, though.

How balanced does this subclass seem in relation to officially published monk subclasses? What ways could it be improved to increase player satisfaction, with regards to resource expenditure, that official subclasses take into account?

Way of the Force

Monks that follow the Way of the Force have learnt how to use their ki to manipulate their surroundings with their mind, tapping into the energy that inhabits all things.

Telekinesis

Starting when you choose this tradition at 3rd level, you can use your ki to telekinetically manipulate the world around you. You gain the mage hand cantrip if you don’t already know it, and it is invisible.

Force Radius. A force radius of 30 ft that is centered on you defines where you can use ki specific force features. Your force radius increases to 60' at level 11, and increases to 120 ft at level 17.

When you take the Attack action on your turn, you can forgo one of your attacks to spend 1 ki point to achieve one of the following effects against a Large or smaller creature, or an object, in your force radius.

  • Force Shove. The target must make a Strength saving throw. If they fail the save, you can do one of the following: knock the target prone, push the target up to half your Force Radius directly away from you, or pull the target up to half your Force Radius directly towards you. Unattended objects automatically fail this save, and if an object is held by a creature the creature makes the save.

  • Force Grab. The target must make a Strength saving throw. If the target fails the saving throw, it is grappled for one minute while you concentrate on the effect (as if concentrating on a spell). The target can use an action to try and break the grapple, repeating the saving throw.
    Unattended objects automatically fail this saving throw, and if an object is held by a creature the creature makes the save. An object held in this way can be moved to a location within your force radius up to half your force radius away from its origin point as an object interaction, and stay aloft in the air at the end of the move if you wish.

Greater Force Connection

Mind Powers. At level 6 your connection to the Force grows. You gain the ability to cast Charm Person (1 ki point) and Suggestion (2 ki points) using Wisdom as your spellcasting ability modifier. You can cast Charm Person at higher levels by spending one ki point for every level above first level you wish to cast it at, to a maximum total number of ki points equal to your wisdom modifier.

Life Sense. You can concentrate for a minute and learn the number of creatures within double your force radius, as well as their locations relative to your own. You do not learn any further information about these creatures, such as creature type or identity. You cannot detect either undead creatures or constructs with this feature.

Greater Telekinesis. Your Telekinesis abilities now work on Huge or smaller creatures and objects, and you can move creatures with Force Grab as well as objects. When moved in this way, you must use an attack to force the creature to make a Strength saving throw. If they fail, they are moved to a location of your choice within your force radius, following the same rules as moving objects with Force Grab. If they succeed, they are not moved.

Force Prowess

At 11th level you can apply the effects of Telekinesis to additional creatures and objects beyond the first by spending one ki point for each additional creature, up to a maximum of your wisdom modifier. When moving objects using Telekinesis, you can move any number of held objects using a single object interaction.
Your Telekinesis abilities now work on Gargantuan or smaller creatures and objects.
Finally, when you attempt to Force Grab a creature, you can increase the number of ki points you spend to 3 ki points and try to hold a creature more fully. Instead of being grappled when they fail the save, a target is restrained, and repeats the save at the end of each of their turns. When you target additional creatures with this effect you must spend 3 additional ki points for each additional creature.

Force Mastery

At 17th level your mastery over your ki and the ki of others is legendary.

  • The radius of your life sense increases to 1 mile, and you can tell the creature type of each detected creature.
  • Creatures remain unaware of the effect you have had on their mind when you use Greater Force Connection abilities on them.

In addition to the features above, you can choose to gain one of the following features:

  • Force Choke. When a creature is held and restrained by your Force Grab, you can choose to start choking them if they are within half of your force radius. As an action on your turn, you can choose one creature that is under the effects of your Force Grab, and start choking them. They begin choking, and they become paralyzed for a minute. If they take any damage while paralyzed in this way, this effect ends on them. Additionally, you can use an action on following turns to crush the windpipe of any creature that has started choking in this way. They have to make a Constitution saving throw, or be reduced to 0 hit points. Creatures that don't need to breathe cannot be reduced to 0 hit points in this way, but can still be paralyzed by this feature. If a creature manages to escape your Force Grab, they are no longer under any of the effects from this feature.

  • Force Lightning. As an action on your turn, you can spend 5 ki points to start spewing lightning at your foes, concentrating on this effect for up to one minute. A beam of lightning flashes out from your hand in a 5-foot-wide, 120-foot-long line. Each creature in the line must make a Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, a creature takes 10d6 lightning damage. On a successful save, it takes half as much damage. You can create a new line of lightning as your bonus action on any subsequent turn until your concentration ends, without having to spend further ki points. These lines of lightning vanish at the end of your turn.

  • Force Projection. As an action on your turn, you can cast Mislead by spending 5 ki points. Instead of the duplicate appearing where you are, however, you can choose to make the duplicate appear within 30ft of an ally you are aware of on the same plane of existence as yourself.

My playtesting experience, unfortunately, consists of only one one-shot, which was at level 13. There were three combats. In the first combat, I had issues with the contested rolls against a number of weak enemies. In the second combat, I managed to restrain an enemy early in combat, which helped trivialise the fight. In the third fight, I used a lot of resources trying to ground a flying enemy, which, although is useful, made me feel like my turns were wasted, as well as burning a lot of my limited resources.

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    \$\begingroup\$ There's a few points where you forgot to change 'contested check' to 'save'. Otherwise, this looks like a fun subclass. \$\endgroup\$ – BBeast Jul 2 '20 at 13:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BBeast thanks for pointing that out - I've fixed those, as far as I can see \$\endgroup\$ – L0neGamer Jul 2 '20 at 14:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'll do a detailed analysis later, but here's a round of applause for a nice update to your home brew idea from before. stands, claps Lvl 17 feature: is each supplemental line of lightning also 10d6? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jul 2 '20 at 14:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ What levels have you playtested it? \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jul 2 '20 at 14:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast thank you for your time; and yes, the intention is that you focus your energy, and each turn you can choose to blast in a direction with lightning as a bonus action, with the same intensity \$\endgroup\$ – L0neGamer Jul 2 '20 at 14:58
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Starting with the answer to the title question: It is balanced from a power level point of view, but, as you noticed, it is likely to end in the frustrating side of game-play, both to the player and to the DM.

The analysis

As clarified in the comments, you have playtested it in a quite high level (13) one-shot. From my point-of-view, a few things were missed in the review of the first homebrew. My review is based on the assumption that most 5e campaigns go through tiers 1, 2 and sometimes 3, and the experience chart means the characters will spend some time on levels 1-4, a long time on levels 5 to 10 and then some time at levels 11 to 15.

My comparisons will be mostly made against the Open Hand from PHB and Drunken Master from Xanathar, which are, in my opinion, the two most viable Monk subclasses. I will also randomly make comparisons against other classes, for reference.

3rd level

These features are quite hard to evaluate. They are quite useful battleground control features, and can be deadly in some scenarios (e.g. nearby a cliff). I think it is okay to allow them to be.

The most concerning uses of these features, on the strong side, are, for me:

  • Using the Force Grab against a melee enemy, allowing your ranged party to keep attacking him from a range. This use is very similar to Levitate, which does not even grant new saving throws. Both are, in fact, concentration, Levitate's range is larger in the early game (60 ft.) and both are able to completely disable a melee enemy if successfully applied.
  • Prone a flying target. Again, spellcasting classes have ways to do it as well. Sleep, Hold Person, Hideous Laughter, and many other spells that make a flying enemy basically drop dead.
  • Drop someone off a cliff. Well, a Grappler can do that as well. You can do it safely. Not the most common situation either.

These comparisons are made just to make the following point: even in the strong cases, you are not doing something that doesn't already exist in the game.

So, my concern is now on the weak side: in the many situations where you are not in a very favorable scenario, this 3rd level feature is quite weak. When compared to Open Hand Technique, you are losing your ability to even attack, since you are not making an attack and thus can not make the bonus action attack either (or use Flurry of Blows). Against a melee enemy, OHT is simply vastly superior: when using Flurry of Blows, they get two attempts essentially for free, i.e., they get their full attacks, spend 1 Ki for furry of blows, and then have an extra addition. Drunken Master's Drunken Technique also is essentially a free buff for Flurry of Blows.

My point here is: This feature synergizes quite poorly with the Monk class main features, and, at 3rd and 4th level, it seems basically unusable, except as a Save-or-suck against particular enemies in particular scenarios.

I would, at least, make it a bonus action. This way, it does not cost two attacks at these levels. If you consider that these actions count as "unarmed strikes" or "monk weapons", i.e., the character can still use the bonus action to make additional attacks, then this is not a problem.

It still feels a little bit on the too situational side of things, though.

6th level

This one seems okay. Both the OHW and the DrM get quite specific features. Mind Powers is a nice situational roleplaying feature, I don't see anything nearly broken or underwhelming on it. Life Sense is also a nice feature, similar to features the Ranger or the Paladin have, although I would say the rage is a little bit on the weak side. It will certainly still be useful inside dungeons or closed spaces, though. Maybe, in Wild/Open areas, you can increase the range, and in closed areas, keep it as is. Something about the walls making it harder.

Finally, Greater Telekinesis helps in that you now can use it on Huge creatures. This is one of the main weaknesses of Grappler builds, where in later stages of the game, you become useless because the enemies are too large. At 11th level you do the same for Gargantuan, which is nice.

Comments so far

So, let us see the problems you stated so far.

It was also unsatisfying to attempt to use an effect, just for it to fail, and my limited resource be wasted.

This seems highly related to what I mentioned as a problem in your 3rd level feature. The feature is not in synergy with your Monk abilities, it is just an extra ability option, which is nice, but at the same time, means you are giving up something (an attack, for example) to use them. If an OHW monk uses this Flurry of Blows and the enemy succeeds in the saving throws, he does not feel like he wasted a Ki point for that: he used the Ki point to get one extra attack through the Flurry of Blows - the possibility of an extra effect is just a bonus.

It seems quite hard to find a solution in your case, since it is inherently distinct from the base features of Ki uses. But perhaps you should consider giving some effect that does not rely on the enemy succeeding or failing the saving throw.

I also found myself unwilling to use the Greater Telekinesis feature that lets you move creatures as an attack

It is a flavor feature, from my point of view, and there is nothing wrong in that. Sometimes it will be useful, either to move an enemy far away from your backlines, or to push him off a cliff. As I mentioned, 6th level features of the Monk are mostly like that.

Other subclasses get features they can use without resources; currently, this subclass only has Life Sense for that.

I am not so sure about that. Drunken Master gets Leap to your feat. Not amazing. And some bonus proficiencies, which are okay. And yet it is considered one of the strongest monk subclasses. Open Hand also gets a heal that costs an action and can be used once per long rest, and a permanent Sanctuary that goes away the first time he attacks, so... also not amazing. I would say having only the Life Sense is completely fine, but if you want to give something extra that does not require any Ki being spent, give it a bonus proficiency in Persuasion or Insight or something that you feel flavorful enough, or a minor feature that can be used once per long rest.

Independent of the subclass, a Monk without Ki is a bad monk. So, the problem here seems to be the previous comment: your features are too much of a save-or-suck, and on save, it feels like you wasted resources for nothing.

The use of Strength saving throws instead of Dexterity saving throws is also a tad worrying; I'm not sure how unbalanced that is, though.

Incredibly, monsters are usually worse at Dexterity saving throws than at Strength, as I found out when writing this answer, at least at higher levels. Not sure at lower levels, as there are many monsters around to check. But I doubt this will be a factor that changes balance heavily.

So, going for the final two.

11th level

Again, you are making it a more expensive save-or-suck. I really, strongly dislike this feature (the restraining one, I mean). It is not that it is weak, the other options (Drunken or Open Hand) are not amazing either. But this is going too deep in the Save-or-suck mindset. Now you can spend lots of resources for a save-or-stronger-suck. This mindset is okay if you are playing a Wizard and this is one out of 20 spells you have so far. This is not okay when you are playing a Monk and all your other options are already too similar to this.

My recommendation for this one is (and please don't take this in an offensive way): go back to the drawing board. Here you have the opportunity to give the subclass something that is not another save-or-suck feature. If you want, you can even make it a little weaker (make it cost even more Ki points), and then add something else to this level, again, that is not a save-or-suck-based feature.

17th level

My experience on tier 4 is mostly theorycrafting and playing Wizards, and unfortunately you have not been able to playtest it either. My overall philosophy for this feature is that we first make a good balanced base subclass (i.e., levels 3, 6 and 11), and afterwards we worry about this one.

But 10d6 per turn as a bonus action seems quite strong, but it is hard to say without playtesting, since spells at this level are usually more about utility than pure damage. The only spell similar I could find is Incendiary Cloud, but it only deals damage if the enemy finishes its turn in the cloud, so hardly it will be consistently proc'ing every turn, unless someone grapples them inside.

But from theorycrafting, overall I think these are fine, plus or minus minor adjustments like 8d6 instead of 10d6 or something like that. Do note that Force Choke is yet another Save-or-suck feature.

Final Comments

The frustration you felt seems to be based on the overall subclass concept of save-or-suck, and the fact that essentially all features go into that direction, none of them being just "extras" to the base monk class, which is something the good Monk subclasses have and yours is missing.

As a suggestion of another concept that may be applied in your subclass, Jedi are known for their awareness and defensive capabilities through sensing the Force. You could include features that synergize well with Patient Defense, rather than only offensive skills (the later, as you noticed, harder to make something different than save-or-suck).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for the extensive write up! Your insights are very useful. What I'm reading from this, though, is that both the 3rd and 11th features (and therefore half the 6th) will need a redo - the save-or-suck is really caked into the subclass as it stands. (Strictly off the StackExchange record, do you have any specific recommendations for features?) And again, thank you for your insights! \$\endgroup\$ – L0neGamer Jul 2 '20 at 21:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @L0neGamer I am not sure this works but join this chat room. That way it can be "off the SE record" and also we won't flood the comments. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jul 2 '20 at 22:07

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