Persuasion Check: Unearthed Arcana – Barbarian and Monk

We haven’t seen an Unearthed Arcana in about three months, but finally our friends at Wizards of the Coast have shown up with some awesome new class options for the Barbarian and Monk classes!

The Barbarian is getting the Path of the Wild Soul while the Monk gets the Way of the Astral Path. The Wild Soul Barbarian is a take similar in feel and flavor to the Wild Soul Sorcerer; random surges of magic that can be honed over time to go from chaotic to constructive! And the Astral Path Monk has a cool theme, effectively summoning an astral embodiment of the monk themselves that they can project onto their own body. Let’s take a quick look at their new abilities and I’ll share my thoughts as we go.

Barbarian: Path of the Wild Soul
We start off with the new Barbarian Primal Path: Path of the Wild Soul. I already love the flavor of this class option; a feywild barbarian who expresses their rage emotions so much that magic manifests all about them.

Lingering Magic & Wild Surge
The first abilities that a Wild Soul Barbarian gets at third level are Lingering Magic and Wild Surge. Lingering Magic simply is the ability to use detect magic using your Constitution equal to a number of time equal to your Constitution modifier each long rest. Oh, and you glow a corresponding color based on the presence and school of magic, which is a neat little tidbit.

Wild Surge though is where the fun is. Whenever a Barbarian enters their rage, they roll on a d8 Wild Surge table with the effect happening immediately, and any saving throws being equal to 8+proficiency+Constitution modifier. Some of the effects are wordy so I’ll spare you rewriting them, but some are a one time effect (creatures around you take necrotic damage and you gain temporary hit points equal to total damage done) while others last longer (Being able to teleport 20 feet as a bonus action until your rage ends). Just about all of them have some use so it’s not like your skin is going to turn blue or you turn into a potted plant.

I wish the table was more than a d8, and perhaps if and when the Wild Soul Barbarian is published the table will be expanded. I’d love for it to be a d20 table, as I feel like that’s enough randomness without going over the top. Some of these effects are also particularly strong at lower levels, but nothing pops out to me as game-breaking especially when you consider the effects and duration of raging.

Magic Reserves
And we’ve already broken this class. If you’ve read up on reactions to this edition of Unearthed Arcana, you’ve seen plenty of people pointing out that in conjunction with the druid spell healing spirit that you reliably fully restore the entire party’s healing slots (up to 4th/6th level depending on your level) as well as give them 20/30 temporary hit points.

But let’s dive into how the ability works. Essentially, as an action you can touch a creature and roll a d4 (increased to d6 at level 14). They get back a spell slot of that level, of if they can’t recover one (either not a magic-user or already full up) they get five times the number rolled as temporary hit points. In exchange, the Barbarian takes five times the number rolled as force damage. Keep in mind that healing spirit can heal 1d6 (+1d6 for each slot above second) hit points per round and lasts for a minute, and you can see how the Barbarian can just keep going until everyone is full up and ready to go.

It’s a shame; initially I liked the idea of this mechanic but having something else in the game break it is unfortunate. Of course, many say the problem lies with healing spirit more than Magic Reserves, but even any other form of healing spell, if rolled well (such as from a Life Cleric) could allow the Barbarian similar, if less reliable results.

Chaotic Fury
Lastly, at level 14 the Wild Soul Barbarian gets Chaotic Fury, which plays back into the Wild Surge table. This allows them to, as a bonus action, reroll on the Wild Surge table to replace their current effect with a new one. This means getting a one-time effect isn’t the end of the fun and you can keep on surging while raging! This is great; imagine a Barbarian just continuously exploding with magic. I love it! And I can see an argument for a smaller table here to keep the results consistent, but to me the idea of the surge is randomness, so I’m still for an expanded table.

It should be obvious that, despite the glaring issue with Magic Reserves, I’m all for what the Wild Soul Barbarian is about. I hope they find a way to fix it, whether that’s replacing it with a limited use version (once per rest) or scrapping it altogether in favor of something else.

Monk: Way of the Astral Self
The Astral Self Monk is an interesting bit of flavor; they go about summoning parts of a mystical, astral form that is supposed to represent their psyche and soul. They can call forth the arms, the visage, and the complete self, each of which covers more and more of their body like a magical outer garment.

Arms of the Astral Self
First up at level 3, the monk learns to summon forth the Arms of the Astral Self for 10 minutes at the cost of 2 ki points. The shortlist of benefits is that while you can these arms, you can use Wisdom in place of Strength for checks and saving throws, the arms acts as reach weapons (10 feet) and deal either radiant or necrotic damage with your choice of Wisdom, Strength, or Dexterity modifiers for attack and damage roles, and that they can make an extra attack as a bonus action immediately after attacking (going up to 2 and three bonus attacks at levels 11 and 17 respectively).

All in all, not bad. Perhaps not the strongest class option at level 3 for the monk, but there’s a ton of flavor and possibilities here. First off, choosing a damage type and dealing magic damage is always helpful for overcoming resistances and immunities, and the 10 foot reach keeps the monk potentially out of harms way. Where the real benefit is, is in that Wisdom modifier. Monks notoriously want a lot of high scores to be optimal, so being able to reliably put points into Wisdom, which also increases the Monk’s Unarmored Defense), and then use that for attacking as well as things such as grappling is a big boon.

Visage of the Astral Self
The Visage of the Astral Self comes in at level 6, costing a single ki point, and can either be summoned on its own or in tandem with the Arms of the Astral Self. While active, it covers the monk’s face like a helmet or mask and gives advantage on Insight and Intimidation checks, as well as being able to see in magical and non-magical darkness out to 120 feet.

Not as cool as the arms, but definitely still useful, particularly the being able to see in magical darkness out to 120 feet. Even characters with darkvision can benefit from this, so while it doesn’t blow me away, it doesn’t do much to deter me either. Not much else to say about it, other than it’s required to make use of the Awakening of the Astral Self abilities gained at level 11.

Awakening of the Astral Self
So long as you have both your Arms and Visage of the Astral Self out, you gain some cool benefits once you hit level 11! First, you can deflect energy as a reaction the same way the Monk can deflect missiles so long as it’s acid, cold, fire, lightning, or force damage and using the Wisdom modifier rather than Dexterity. Important to note: these do not need to be a ranged attack, and there is no way to throw it back like with deflect missiles.

Second, once per turn you can add your Martial Arts die to the damage when hitting with your Astral Arms.

And lastly, when you speak through the Astral Visage, you can make it so only a single creature of your choice within 30 feet can hear your words, or amplify it so you can be heard out to 600 feet.

So, while the thaumaturgistic whispering or booming voice is cool, the real stars here is the adding extra damage as well as the deflect energy. Being able to reduce damage is a good way to stay alive, especially when you’re expecting to be hit by those damage types, and getting to add your martial arts die every turn adds up, especially once that die hits d10.

Complete Astral Self
Finally, at level 17 you can spend a whopping 10 ki points to call the Complete Astral Self over you, which includes the Arms, Visage, and Body of the Astral self, completely enveloping you. In addition to everything already mentioned, you get +2 to your AC while you aren’t incapacitated, you can attack 3 times with the Extra Attack feature instead of twice with your Astral Arms, and when a creature near you is knocked down to 0 hit points you can use a reaction to gain ki points back equal to your Wisdom modifier.

That’s a lot of good stuff; for instance a Monk with 20 Wisdom and 20 Dexterity now has a 22 armor class before any magic items are jumping in. Attacking a total of 6 times between the Extra Attack action and increased Astral Arms bonus action, adding an additional d10 of damage, is brutal. And being able to regain ki points in the middle of combat is also especially useful for taking advantage of your other monk abilities repeatedly and having some to spare post-combat.

I’m hard of seeing any issues with this; it doesn’t have the highest damage output at top levels so it’s not a balance issue, but it still feels strong enough at the end to do some real damage and shine on its own. Overall, I like the Astral Self Monk and look forward to seeing it get some slight touch-ups before being published.

So here we are, two new class options. One is broken despite being awesome in terms of flavor, and the other is pretty good. I would definitely allow both as is in my game now with the caveat that there needs to be some control discussed between myself and the player regarding the Magic Reserves ability, even if it’s a quick change to once per long rest or something of that nature. I may even work with the player to come up with that expanded list of Wild Surge options if they were so inclined to give it a spin! As I said, I love the flavor of it, just needs to get some of the loose faeries knocked out of it.

Be sure to give these class options a try and give Wizards of the Coast your feedback with their usual post-Unearthed Arcana surveys so that these options can get refined and added to the game!

What did you think about this Unearthed Arcana? Be sure to join in the discussion over on our Discord channel where we talk tabletop!

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One Comment on “Persuasion Check: Unearthed Arcana – Barbarian and Monk

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