Monday, March 9, 2015

Archetypes, part II: Going through the original class

In the second part of this series of articles, I'll have a look at the class whose abilities I'm going to replace with new ones.

Once you've got an outline, it may be a good idea to copy-paste the whole text of the original class features from the class description into a Word file an analyze the abilities. I'll use the wayfarer concept from part I: "Wayfarer - a nature-themed monk archetype, zen with nature; loses some of the more monastic monk abilities but gains animal companion that can also use ki."

The outline is sparse on details, but it's enough to work with. I'll view the monk's abilities and discuss which of them are already support the concept of the archetype, which of them are ok, and which are opposed to it.


Class Skills: What skills are you going to need in nature? I'd say that this character needs Handle Animal, Knowledge (geography), Knowledge (nature), and Survival. Heal might also be useful when you're a traveler and survivalist.

What skills are you unlikely to need? Of the monk's list of class skills, I'd say Knowledge (history) and Perform are less likely to be useful in a natural environment.

Of the skills marked with purple, I'd say Sense Motive is less likely to be useful since you won't meet quite so many people. I'd gladly get rid of Profession, but I'm slightly hesitant since nearly all classes have it, the barbarian being a rare exception. Still, I'd say it's going to be the fourth skill to replace. After careful consideration, I've decided to drop Knowledge (religion) instead.

Acrobatics (Dex), Climb (Str), Craft (Int), Escape Artist (Dex), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (history) (Int), Knowledge (religion) (Int), Perception (Wis), Perform (Cha), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex), Sense Motive (Wis), Stealth (Dex), Swim (Str).

Weapon Proficiency: I'd say these monks probably use weapons they can fashion from natural materials rather than exotic tools turned into weapons. Of ranged weapons, I think wayfarers are more likely to use bows than crossbows, considering that the bow and arrow was one of the first weapons people invented.

Brass knuckles, cestus, club, club, crossbow (light or heavy), dagger, handaxe, javelin, kama, nunchaku, quarterstaff, sai, shortspear, short sword, shuriken, siangham, sling, spear, temple sword.

Armor and Shield Proficiency, and AC Bonus: I think a wayfarer monk is even less likely to wear armor than his monastic brethren. I'd also say that the animal companion shouldn't wear armor, either, or it'll lose its ki powers.

Flurry of Blows: Flurry of blows is one of the things that makes a regular monk interesting to play: you can use your full bab, full Str bonus, and you get more attacks than most characters at the same level. However, having an animal companion is going to improve the wayfarer's action economy considerably, especially if he can use ki to give both him and his animal extra attacks. So, flurry of blows is quite possibly going to be the ability the wayfarer has to lose to get the animal companion.

I'll consider adding an ability that allows the wayfarer to use his full bab under specific circumstances.

Unarmed Strike: The most natural weapons a monk has are his fists, so I think unarmed strike is very appropriate.

Bonus Feat: Most of the feats seem appropriate for this concept. I'll consider replacing a few of the feats with more thematically appropriate feats. Style feats that emulate animals would also seem very appropriate, I'll consider adding them.

Stunning Fist: Stunning fist is also a likely candidate for replacement. I think it's a bit too closely linked to pressure points, which makes it more scientific as an attack than a wayfarer probably should have.

Evasion and Improved Evasion: Rangers also get evasion and improved evasion, and so do animal companions, so I think a nature-themed monk should keep them.

Fast Movement (Ex): I think fast movement is very appropriate for a roaming monk whose animal companion is also likely to be very fast.

Maneuver Training: I'd say wayfarers are less likely to practice all types of combat maneuvers. Though, on the other hand, maybe they train a lot with their animal companions? Maybe the wayfarer gains a bonus when attacking the same creature?

Still Mind: Wayfarers are "zen with nature" so still mind seems reasonably appropriate. However, something similar to resist nature's lure (druid ability) might also be appropriate.

Ki Pool: Having a ki pool and being able to boost your animal companion with ki is one of the defining characteristics of the wayfarer. So I'm definitely keeping the ki pool and will add a few new abilities that make it possible for the animal companion to also benefit from it.

Slow Fall: The ability to avoid falling damage would be very useful in the mountains or in a forest. However, the ability specifies that the monk has to be within arm's reach of a wall, so I'm going to change it a bit or even replace it.

High Jump (Ex): While high jump is definitely a useful ability in any natural environment, I think having a Climb or Stealth bonus would make more sense for the wayfarer.

Purity of Body and Diamond Body: Immunity to poison and disease is useful also for the wayfarer monks; they probably encounter many venomous creatures and have to eat what they can find.

Wholeness of Body: Yet another "ok" ability. Being able to heal oneself is useful for any character, and a survivalist is even more likely to need it.

Abundant Step (Su): Again, an ability that is useful for the wayfarer but doesn't scream "nature" to me.

Diamond Soul: Spell resistance is useful, but I think urban monks are more likely to face spellcasters than the wayfarers. I'll consider changing it to something that's more likely to be useful in a natural environment.

Quivering Palm: The quivering palm is similar to the stunning fist in flavor. If I'm going to replace stunning fist, I'll probably also replace this one and very possibly keep the new abilities linked thematically.

Timeless Body: Druids also have this ability, so it seems ok for the slightly druid-like wayfarer to also have it.

Tongue of the Sun and Moon: The ability to speak with any creature doesn't seem inappropriate for the wayfarer to have, but I think something similar speak with animals and speak with plants would be more appropriate.

Empty Body: I think the wayfarer is more deeply rooted in the natural world than regular monks are. A mist form or something like that would be a better fit. However, I'm generally hesitant to change higher-level abilities because they're less likely to affect characters choosing the archetype.

Perfect Self: This ability, too, could be slightly more appropriate for the wayfarer concept if the monk transformed into some kind of a nature spirit.


To summarize, the monk has many abilities that are kind of appropriate for the wayfarer, but very few monk abilities are very appropriate. Choosing the abilities to swap out is therefore going to be a bit of a challenge! I won't swap out everything that isn't 100% appropriate for the archetype, but more about that later.

Next week, I'll be looking at existing monk archetypes and nature-themed archetypes. I'll also discuss word count in archetype design. I personally like minimalism, and would recommend changing only as much as is absolutely necessary. That way you also get more "modular" archetypes.

Discuss: Which abilities would you replace?


  1. IMO, replacing Profession doesn't work super well. As you note, almost every other class has it, but also it tends to be (at least in my experience) one of the lesser-used skills. I rarely invest significant ranks in it, though you might want it more for PFS purposes.

    I think Know (Religion) or Intimidate would be better -- or rather, more meaningful -- choices.

    (That said, monk with an animal companion's intriguing. Looking forward to seeing where you go with this.)

  2. Thanks for the comment, Jacob! After I posted the article, I also started thinking about the overall value of the skills lost and gained. I agree that losing Knowledge (religion) would be a more balanced choice. It also makes sense in that these monks find their zen in nature rather than religion. Much like druids, in other words.

  3. I'd suggest keeping club in their weapon proficiencies. It certainly fits the criteria you state for their weapon selection (natural materials, also one of the first weapons ever used). I could go either way on short sword, but you might also utilize some other weapons from other sources in place of the eliminated ones (such as the weapons from Ultimate Combat).

    1. Thanks for the comment! You're absolutely right about the club; I must have accidentally painted it red when changing the color of the cestus and crossbow around it. I'll go change it to green! As for the short sword, I disagree -- it's neither a tool useful in the wilderness or a primitive weapon. I do intend to add weapons on the list to replace the eliminated ones, and if I can't find suitable primitive weapons to add, I'll probably add weapons that double as wilderness tools, such as the kukri.


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