I'm here again to look for opinions on a subclass that I have made and one of my players wants to use it. It's a fun and versatile subclass, but I want to check if it's not too overpowered, in order to balance the encounters in the game. I will probably playtest it first, but if you have the time, I would like some feedback.

I am mainly worried about the level 3 feature. I want to create an arsenal of options the player can choose from and have different stances.
My main issue is, is this too good at level 3? Im more concerned with Stone Stance and Water Stance here, is the damage increase at this level too good? I had originally thought that it would be fine since you can only have the effect of one stance only.
If you believe I should make a stance available at a later level, which level should I make that be? At level 15, all the stances are slightly buffed and more options are available.

Stance Change

At level 3, you begin to gain access to the stances that you have honed your training on for so many years. You can use a bonus action to change your stance, and it permanently stays in that same stance until you change to a different one.

Neutral: In neutral stance, you are calmer and more observant. You can roll a 1d4 and add that to your Wisdom (Insight) checks.
Stone Stance: Your skill in your weapon is enhanced with this stance, taking a position that grants you strength and deal more damage. You deal +2 extra melee damage on your hits.
Water Stance: You are able to determine how your enemy fights and be able to strike with a readied stance that blows through their defence. You gain a +2 extra on melee attack rolls.
Wind Stance: Once per turn, when you make an attack roll, you can attempt to knock the creature (that is Large or Smaller) back after your attack. The creature is forced to make a strength saving throw, and if they fail, they are pushed back 5 feet. Your DC is 8+proficiency+Strength or Dexterity.
Counter-Stance: A stance to strengthen your retaliation. You can use an action to hold a counter. After a creature attacks you, you can use your reaction to attack them as well. If you hit the creature, you deal an extra 1d8 force damage.
Eagle Stance: A stance specifically learnt to wield bows with great accuracy. You gain a +2 to attack when using your bow
Blind Stance: You have blindsight of 5ft around you.
Mountain Stance: You gain a +1 Armour class while you are using this stance. You gain advantage on strength checks to prevent being knocked prone

For the rest of the features, I am confident that the class is balanced and is appropriate for each level, however I will share them and feedback on these would also be welcomed

Without A Trace

At level 7, you gain proficiency in stealth. Additionally, you are able to cast Invisibility on yourself that lasts for only 1 minute, three times per long rest. When you roll initiative while being invisible from this feature, you can add a 1d4 to your initiative

Because this subclass is inspired by Ghost of Tsushima, I wanted the subclass to have a better stealth option, with the option of being able to turn invisible, and to be able to ambush better with that 1d4 bonus. My only question is, is proficiency in Stealth + Invisibility over the top or is it fine? And should i make the stealth be double proficiency is someone is already proficient in stealth?

Calm Thoughts

At level 10, you gain proficiency in Wisdom Saving throws. If you already have proficiency, you instead gain proficiency in Intelligence. You also have advantage against effects of being charmed or frightened.

It is very similar to the Samurai's level 7 feature, Elegant Courtier to which they gain proficiency in Wisdom saving throws. I have also added advantage against charmed and frightened conditions. Not sure if this is too good, and if i need to scale it down a bit.

Improved Stance Change

At level 15, you have honed your skills in your stances to improve them even further, while learning more stances. Your spiritual powers from meditation and training now enhances your stances.
Neutral: In neutral stance, you can roll also 1d4 and add that to your Investigation checks
Stone Stance: You can now choose to deal force damage when you use a melee attack.
Water Stance: Target creatures do not benefit AC bonus from spells or shields when targeted by a melee attack
Wind Stance: This feature can now affect a creature with any size. The knockback is increased to 10ft
Counter-Stance: Creatures attacking you with a melee weapon attack dont have advantage on you
Eagle Stance: You gain +2 on ranged attacks and gain a +2 extra damage.
Blind Stance: You have blindsight of 15ft around you.
Mountain Stance: You gain a +2 Armour class while you are using this stance. You gain advantage on strength checks to prevent you from being knocked prone. As a reaction, you can take 1d4 less damage from one melee weapon attack
Moon Stance: Once per round, you can attack two different creatures with one melee attack action
Arcane Stance: You have advantage on saving throws from spells. As a reaction, you can attack a creature within 5 feet of you if it casts a spell.

I don't have too much of a concern with this, since it is now at level 15, and you can only have one stance active at a time, so you'll benefit from only one of these features.

Ghost Stance

At level 18, you gain the spiritual power to utilise the ghost stance.
Once per long rest, you can use the Ghost Stance. Your Ghost Stance will end if you switch Stances during the Stance.

Ghost Stance: You can activate it using a bonus action. This counts as a Stance, thus will remove your current stance. When you do so, creatures within 10 feet of you must make a wisdom saving throw. On fail, they are frightened until Ghost Stance ends. Ghost Stance lasts until you have successfully made 3 attacks. Your next 3 attacks will deal an additional 2d8 force damage. This effect only works with martial melee weapons.
This can only be used once per long rest.
The DC for the Ghost Stance is 8 + Proficiency + Wisdom

Another obvious inspiration from Ghost of Tsushima, the final ability is a powerful stance that frightens the enemies for the duration and allows you to deal extra damage. Originally, it was an extra 3d8 damage, but I nerfed it down to 2d8. It's only once per long rest, and it is restricted by the fact that it is a stance, and that you can only have this for three attacks. I don't see a problem with this, but if you do, just let me know and i can fix it up

So my main question for this homebrewed subclass is the balance for the level 3 feature. I would like insight and thoughts on the level 7 feature as well. Initially, i was going to have another level 3 feature, which was adding the 1d4 to initiative, but i saw this as too much and combined this with the level 7 feature.
Is it overpowered or underwhelming?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Separately from the over-powered lvl3 abilities, is the intended use for Ghost Stance to activate it after you finish your attacks that turn? A lvl18 fighter has Extra Attack (2), so if they hit all 3 times, could end Ghost Stance in the same turn they activated it. Also, is it intentional that Your next 3 attacks will deal an additional 2d8 that these are used up on attacks that don't hit? The "successful" qualifier is missing. (Normal rules phrasing is "hit with an attack", BTW.) Anyway, I'm wondering if that phrasing is intentional or not. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 27, 2021 at 20:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes Oh, ok that was unintentional on my part then. Yea, it would be "hit with an attack" then. And yea, in hindsight, I realise now that Ghost Stance could just end during the same turn, making the frightened condition useless from the feature. I'll reword it so that the creatures are frightened until the end of their next turn, and you have Ghost Stance for either 1 minute or until you have successfully landed 3 attacks. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dylwolf
    Commented Sep 28, 2021 at 4:03

2 Answers 2


@Dale M already gave the punch line, however I believe it is worth going into more details so as to give you material to review the class.

In spirit, your Martial Archetype is close to the Battle Master: the character gains options that they may use at will. This is lucky, because the Battle Master is generally considered to be a good sub-class -- unlike the Champion -- so you should aim to be at about the same power level.

The Battle Master gains 2 class features at level 3, Student of War is a ribbon, leaving the defining feature Combat Superiority:

  • You gain your pick of 3 Maneuvers.
  • You gain 4d8 Superiority Dice, you regain all Superiority Dice upon completing a Short or Long Rest.

And reading the Maneuvers, you'll see that all (?) require expending a Superiority Dice to use them.

You can see how Stance Change is way better right off the bat:

  • 8 different stances.
  • Unlimited switches.
  • Unlimited use of the bonuses.

And this gives you a hint on how to balance things a bit:

  1. Limit the number of stances. Should the player take the situational Blind Stance right off the bat, or first pick more generally useful stances? Do they want to be better at fighting, sneaking around, in social situations, etc... they need to make a choice based on their characters' personality, and goals.
  2. Limit the number of switches/uses, for some at least.
    • Small static bonuses such as +2 Damage, +1 (not +2) Attack Rolls, +1 Armor Class, are probably fine, and very range limited Blind Sight is probably fine too (very situational to start with).
    • The Neutral Stance is a bit much. Either it should be a small bonus, or limited uses.
    • The Counter Stance grants a good damage bonus, but Readying is rarely used since it requires giving up initiative, so that may balance it. I'd still feel more comfortable if it had limited uses.
    • The Eagle Stance is too much because it comes on top of the Archery Fighting Style, granting +4 to Attack Rolls when combined. Limited uses would solve the issue.
    • The Wind Stance is overpowered. Push back is very powerful, even limited to 5 ft., one push back a turn, at no cost, using the best DC the character can put forward for their level, will allow them to bull their way through anything. All Day Long. Limited uses is definitely warranted.
  3. Allow scaling. Just like the Battle Master, you can allow the player to pick more stances as they gain levels, and gain more uses of their limited use abilities.

I would also note how the Battle Master bonuses scale with levels, because +2 Damage at level 3 is fairly impressive, but at level 20 it's quite underwhelming.

Then, with regard to other levels, the Battle Master is entirely built around Combat Superiority.

The only features they gain beyond that are:

  • At level 3, a ribbon: Proficiency in one Artisan's Tools of their choice.
  • At level 7, another ribbon: 1 minute of observation to learn the relative ranking of enemy compared to themselves.

That's it.

By comparison, the 7th level and 10th level abilities of your Ronin are much more powerful:

  • Without A Trace: you could make it a ribbon, downgrading it to just gaining Proficiency in Stealth. Remember the Ronin would gain some more stances/more uses of stances at level 7 on top of that.
  • Calm Thoughts: much better than Know Your Enemy.
    • Saving Throws are divided in 2 groups, the High-Frequency Saving Throws are Dexterity, Constitution, and Wisdom, the Low-Frequency Saving Throws are Strength, Intelligence, and Charisma. You'll note that by default each class grants 1 High and 1 Low, and this is not a coincidence. As a result, you should never give a character another High-Frequency; if they pick the feat Resilient (Dexterity), they'd cover all of the most frequent saves, and you'll find yourself in trouble when it comes to challenging them.
    • And on top you give them Advantage on 2 frequent uses of the Wisdom Saving Throws.
    • All of that on a Fighter which has Indomitable allowing them to reroll a Saving Throw thrice a day.
    • Advantage + Proficiency + Reroll: they're unstoppable, or really unlucky.
    • "Advantage vs Frightened" alone would be better than Know Your Enemy. I'd advise downgrading to at least that.

I would also note that instead of venturing in the dark -- it's really hard to write a balanced sub-class from scratch -- you could stick much closer to the Battle Master:

  1. Replace Student of War with Without A Trace, only granting Proficiency to Stealth.
  2. Replace Know Your Enemy with Calm Thoughts, giving Advantage vs Charmed.
  3. Cherry-pick some of the Maneuvers, and replace the others.
    • Don't forget to check Tasha's Cauldron of Everything, p. 42 for more Maneuvers.

It's much easier to write a Maneuver. Most of them are:

  • Either "Expend 1 Superiority Die, add result to X"
  • Or "Expend 1 Superiority Die, gain Advantage on next X"

Follow that template, and X can be pretty much anything without causing balance issues.

And of course, you may want to double check the Samurai archetype from Xanathos' Guide to Everything, p. 31. They are one of the few sub-classes getting an extra High-Frequency Saving Throw; at the cost of getting less of everything else.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Awesome, thank you so much for the in-depth insight, it was very helpful to have alternatives and comparisons. I was very unsure of the unlimited stances, so I'll rework that so that there's a limit to uses and availability, and add scaling \$\endgroup\$
    – Dylwolf
    Commented Sep 26, 2021 at 10:35
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ What is a "ribbon" in this context? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 27, 2021 at 2:23
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ @KarlKnechtel: It's jargon to mean "cute/thematic but barely noticeable power-wise", by analogy to the magnitude of effect of a ribbon on a dress or other piece of clothing. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 27, 2021 at 7:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't agree on wind stance being too powerful. Warlocks get a similar evocation options, but a bigger push, and at range. Open palm monks get a similar thing too (at the cost of a ki admittedly). If the stance was limited I wouldn't also nerf the push - martial characters need MORE control options, not less. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Commented Sep 27, 2021 at 18:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri: As you mentioned, the monk's Ki puts a limit on usage. As for Warlocks, I assume you mean Repelling Blast? It is indeed very powerful -- especially when the Warlock gets multiple beams per casting of Eldritch Blast. It's not by default however. Selecting an invocation has an opportunity cost: you don't get one of the other myriad invocations, such as Darkvision 120 ft., or a 2nd attack for Pact of Blade Warlocks. If the Ronin could only get 1 Stance out of 8, then Stance of Wind would be okay. But if it gets 8 out of 8, or even 4 out of 8, there's little cost... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 28, 2021 at 7:44


It’s clearly overpowered.

You need to compare the Stance Change to those of the PHB archetype’s abilities: Improved Critical for Champion, 4 Superiority Dice for Battle Master and 2 spells and 2 cantrips for Eldridge Knight. When you put them side-by-side if you would always (never) choose your archetype it’s overpowered (underpowered).

Even without the ability to switch stances almost at will (because bonus actions are cheap) some of the individual stances are clearly better than the base archetypes.

Is this too good at level 3? #$*& yes! It’s almost too powerful as a capstone feature.

I could go through the rest but there’s really no need. This guy is going to outperform any other archetype at every level - that’s not “balanced”.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Does your last line imply that the rest of the abilities are also overtuned? Or that they look mostly fine, but Lvl3 does it all. \$\endgroup\$
    – 3C273
    Commented Sep 25, 2021 at 13:21
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Ok, apologies that I unintentionally made it unbalanced. I would've liked if you gave some alternatives, but a different person had already done that. Didn't think it'd be as strong as a capstone, but I will definitely limit the level 3 feature and tone down the other features \$\endgroup\$
    – Dylwolf
    Commented Sep 26, 2021 at 10:28

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