New: D&D Way of the Seven Fonts Monk
Welcome back to the Zurn blog! Today we're looking at a new monk subclass, the Way of the Seven Fonts. A subclass that is heavily themed but powerful in helping monks do what they do best, the Way of the Seven Fonts is the result of a research project into the Eastern concept of the chakras, and draws heavily from that source material.
We will start by looking at the thematic roots of the subclass, and then move into the mechanical advantages of it.
I. Way of the Seven Fonts: Theme and Inspiration
The Way of the Seven Fonts is based on the concept of chakras: fonts of power within a person that, when unlocked, unleash the full potential of the person. And this is both a cool concept for a person, but also a challenge for how to recreate it in a D&D subclass for a few reasons.
First, no subclass has seven levels in which they gain a benefit, so there's that to consider. Second, most subclasses select one aspect of a character and double down on it, resulting in a person that dominates an aspect of the game. But chakras touch on many aspects of a person, so you get a wide range of benefits that don't push you to the top in anything.
So how do we overcome these? A few things.
First, we chose seven levels for you to gain bonuses from this subclass. The class has a few levels where what you gain is...situational, to put it lightly. In most campaigns your bonuses at specific levels will not come up in any meaningful way, and for this reason I don't think it's overpowered if you get a "ribbon feature" and a useful feature at the same time.
Second, I looked at it and realized that a well-rounded monk is not only unique but useful for a party. Most monk subclasses double down on your mobility, incentivize you to use a specific weapon over another (without heavily impacting your damage output), or increasing your resilience. And while mobility is nice, there are a lot of situations were it's not advantageous to the party if you have an extra +20 (or more) feet of movement. Your damage is probably still lower than other martial characters, and your resilience is probably still lower than about half the classes in the game.
But since each party is made up of different characters with different strengths and you can't always predict what benefit you will receive, a versatile monk that can do a wide range of things well is actually more useful than someone who does one aspect of the game well.
So let's look at that versatility.
II. Way of the Seven Fonts: Mechanics
You can find the details of the subclass here, easily printable for your game master to consider if desired thanks to the team at Homebrewery. Starting at 3rd level when you take this path you unlock your base font, adding greater mobility to your legs. You can now use Patient Defense and Step of the Wind abilities without expending a ki point, which fixes an issue I have with the monk overall which is how many of the special abilities of the monk use a very limited resource: your ki. This ability makes it so that you are making a choice between spending ki for extra attacks with your bonus action, or passing up on damage for defense or movement while conserving your ki, which I think is a better choice.
At 6th level you unlock your sacral font, unlocking the power of your abdomen to add greater strength to your attacks. When you hit with an attack you can spend a hit die (1d8 if you don't multiclass) and add the total to the damage of your attack. This is a limited resource that replenishes slowly, but since you have a martial arts die that trails behind martial weapons, don't get a fighting style, and have a lower hit die that almost every other martial character, having a bit more damage helps you to compensate for the deficiencies you have.
At 9th level you unlock your breath font, allowing you to heal from minor wounds. As an action (so it's not a bonus action limited resource like Second Wind) you can recover 1d8 + your monk level in hit points. It means that if you are willing to give up your attacks for the turn (though you get back the ability to deal damage on a few turns when you do this at a higher level - more on that later) you can recover some hit points. It's not a huge boon, but it's always an option if you are in a tight spot.
In addition, you also can use your Stillness of Mind feature as a reaction right after you are affected by a condition instead of having to wait until the next turn. It's a niche ability, but a useful ability.
At 11th level you unlock your heart font, allowing you to rejuvenate your life force for a time. When you deal damage with an unarmed strike you can regain 1d4 hit die that were previously expended. You can do this up to your Wisdom modifier each day, so it provides a way to recover a lost resource, though with limited healing and the use of them to boost your damage it will still be quickly consumed.
At 13th level you unlock your throat font, adding a psychic damage breath attack as a bonus action. You can use it up to your Wisdom modifier each day, giving you an ability that is less common for monks. And if you are a dragonborn or another race that gets a breath attack, hurray: you have two now! So if you need some area damage (which monks generally don't have), you now have a breath weapon.
At 17th level you unlock your eye font, giving you useful (albeit slightly niche) benefits at the same level as a ribbon ability for your class. As you learn to access your inner eye, you gain a blindsight and truesight out to 60ft, and you become immune to the Blinded condition. There is a decent number of fights at this level where none of these abilities will come up, but they will appear, so being able to know someone is hiding behind a rock, a creature is masquerading as a damsel in distress, etc. is very nice.
And finally at 19th level you unlock your crown font, empowering you to strike with the full power of your ki. Opponents gain disadvantage on their Constitution save to resist Stunning Strike (which, as a Constitution saving throw, they were probably passing, so disadvantage gives you a chance to actually use Stunning Strike at this level), and you gain immunity to hindering conditions like Grappled, Restrained, etc. This plays into the whole maneuvering aspect of the subclass, and allows you to do the Monk-style stuff without fear of a high level creature tying you up.
I like how this subclass is both flavorful and useful, fixing some of the "bonuses" at higher levels that you get with the base class by giving you ancillary useful benefits from the subclass. I also enjoy how versatile it is without stepping on the toes of the other subclasses, allowing them to do their thing while instead "returning to the basics" of what it means to be a monk. If you enjoy this, consider running a Seven Fonts Monk.
Until next time,