Unearthed Arcana: Barbarian and Monk Analysis

Hey, Unearthed Arcana. Long time no see.

This month, Unearthed Arcana is back with one subclass for the Barbarian and one for the Monk. Let’s go!

Path of the Wild Soul

Never leave your Barbarian unsupervised in the Feywild for too long. Otherwise they get charged with magic.

Lingering Magic

At 3rd level, you can cast Detect Magic for free a number of times equal to your Constitution modifier. This is a pretty simple utility feature. However, I like it a lot for two reasons. It uses Constitution as the the spellcasting ability. Constitution isn’t used much. I was having a conversation about it the other day. I’m happy to see it getting more use, even if it’s just a minor thing.

Also, your body glows a color depending on the school of magic you detect. What’s even better is that you get to choose the colors. Quick question. Which color would you give to each school of magic?

Wild Surge

Starting at 3rd level, when you enter your rage you roll on the Wild Surge table. This is a d10 table and all the entries provide positive effects for you, though some can damage your allies. All of them look pretty good to me. There’s a good variety of effects, ranging from damage and status effects, to buffs and teleportation.

Magic Reserves

At 6th level you get a very interesting support ability. As an action(keep in mind that’s the only limitation) you can touch a creature and roll a d4. That creature regains a spell slot of a level equal to the number rolled. There are two downsides. First, if the creature can’t recover a spell slot of that level, it instead gets temporary hit points equal to five times the damage roll. Secondly, you take force damage equal to 5 times the number rolled. So, is a 4th level spell slot worth 20 force damage dealt to the class with the biggest damage die?

I called the temporary hit points a downside but it could be a tactical play to actually try and give a spell slot to someone who doesn’t have just to heal them a bit. At level 14, the d4 gets upgraded to a d6 for extra fun.

Arcane Rebuke

At 10th level, whenever a creature forces you to make a saving throw, you can use your reaction to deal 3d6 force damage to them. That’s not bad at all, in my opinion. I would say it’s a nice option for the barbarian to deal non-weapon damage, aka slashing, bludgeoning, and piercing. Also, there’s no restriction to range, which is really good for the class. Finally, did I mention the damage is guaranteed?

Chaotic Fury

At 14th level, you can use your bonus action to reroll your result of the Wild Surge. This can be really awesome, in my opinion. It is not stated anywhere that the effects that last until your rage ends disappear when you reroll. So you can probably keep rolling and have fun! Now, if only there was something similar for the Sorcerer, that would be great.

Overall, I find the Path of the Wild Soul quite interesting and fun. Things can get chaotic pretty fast, though, and some effects could use some more work. For example, Magic Reserves could be used a limited number of times per long rest and Chaotic Fury could state that effects from the previous roll disappear.

Way of the Astral Self

The Monks of the Way of the Astral Self have an astral form, which is the embodiment of their psyche and soul. Then, ki comes into play and they can do cool tricks with their astral form. That’s the general gist of it but I highly recommend reading the note about Astral Forms.

Arms of the Astral Self

At 3rd level, you can spend 2 ki and get a ton of cool stuff. Astral arms sprout behind you for ten minutes. While they’re there, you can use your Wisdom instead of Strength in Strength checks and Saving Throws. Moreover, the hands are considered Monk weapons and you can use them with your Wisdom instead of your Strength or Dexterity, when making attack and damage rolls. Did I mention they deal radiant or necrotic damage? Finally, after using your Attack action, you can spend your bonus action to make an extra attack with the hands. The number of extra attacks is increased by one at levels 11 and 17.

That’s a big feature and offers a lot of good options. It makes Wisdom a bit more helpful as a stat for the Monk and also gives the ability to deal different types of damage, which at low levels can be really important.

Visage of the Astral Self

At 6th level we get a utility feature. Either when activating your Arms of the Astral Self or separately, you can spend 1 ki and summon an astral mask or helmet that gives you two benefits. The first one grants you advantage on Wisdom (Insight) and Charisma (Intimidation) checks. You can also see in darkness, magical or not, for up to 120 feet.

I like utility features. This one gives two interesting options. I don’t know how often they will be useful but it’s nice to have them available.

Awakening of the Astral Self

At level 11, we get even more options. In order to use them, however, you need to have both the Arms and the Visage activated so the cost is now 3 ki points.

Deflect Energy allows you to deflect acid, cold, fire, lightning, or force damage. It works like the Deflect Missiles feature but you use Wisdom instead of Dexterity. Empowered Arms allows you to add your Martial Arts die to one of your attacks with your astral arms. Word of the Spirit lets you communicate with one person or be very very loud.

I like Deflect Energy a lot. Empowered Arms also a nice little bonus. I wouldn’t say they cost 3 ki points because Arms of the Astral Self are very good on their own. So if you want to use these, I’d say it costs 1 ki, given that you have already activated the astral arms in the encounter.

Complete Astral Self

At level 17, you can spend 10 ki points to summon your whole astral self as a suit of armor.

Armor of the Spirit increases your AC by 2 as long as you’re not incapacitated. It says armor, doesn’t it? Astral Barrage bumps your attacks to three, as long as you’re willing to make them with your astral arms. I believe this takes your number of possible attacks to 6 per turn. Not bad.

Ki Consumption gives you a way to regain ki points, which is really good, since you have spent 10 ki do activate this feature. Whenever a creature 10 feet of you is reduced to 0 hit points, you can use your reaction to gain a number of ki points equal to your Wisdom modifier. You don’t need to beat the creature yourself and it doesn’t have to be an enemy. However, you can use it only once per turn. You don’t need to be strategic on when to use it because you regain the same amount of ki, just make sure your reaction won’t be missed that round.

Overall, I’m very pleased with the Way of the Astral Self. It gives off a vibe of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures (I haven’t watched it but the number of memes about it made it too hard to not notice it). I really want to see how the final version of this will look, because I believe it could pass another round of design. Six attacks per turn sound cool, though.

And that’s all for this Unearthed Arcana installment. Even though it was a short one, both the subclasses we got look really promising so consider me satiated. I’m happy to see the Barbarian and Monk get some love. They definitely need it.

But what do you think? Do you like the new subclasses? Do you believe they need a lot of work or are they close to a final version?

You can read the full article here and download the PDF here.

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