Unchained Monk Archetypes
This pdf clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 22.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Pathfinder Unchained has provided an intriguing array of options regarding variants of base classes, but, as often in a system this inter-dependent and connected, it should come as no surprise that the massive toolkit/modifications that are archetypes would result in some hiccups with these new options – so here we are: Archetypes, made available and functional with the Unchained Monk, so let’s take a look at how Carl Cramér’s take works!
The Drunken Master moves Drunken Ki up to 4th level, while drunken strength remains at 5th level -alas, like Everyman Gaming’s take on the unchained archetype, this take also inherits the base archetype’s sloppy nomenclature regarding the differentiation between the temporary drunken ki and the regular ki in the drunken strength ability. Note that this is not a strike against the archetype as presented herein, but rather against the base archetype – though personally, I would have loved to see this fix it. However, the Drunken Master trumps Everyman gaming’s take on the archetype in one crucial way – Drunken Courage, Resilience and Firewater Breath have ALL been made archetype-exclusive ki-powers that you can take or leave. Drunken Courage now is available at 8th level, the DR gained by Drunken Resilience has been carefully increased in its potency and scaling and best of all, firewater breath is available starting 16th level, with damage-dice and save scaling accordingly with class levels, rendering the archetype more customizable than both Everyman Gaming’s rendition of it AND the base archetype – KUDOS!!
The Far Strike Monk retains obviously the ranged flurrying capacity, bonus feat-array and first level fast throwing options, with the Shot on the Run modifications scaling at the levels we know from the base archetype. Invisible blade is a bit odd in that it becomes available at 3rd level, but substitutes the still mind gained at 4th level. Ki Missile replaces the style strike gained at 5th level. In a nice adaption, Trick Throw got moved down to 9th level, but at the same time, it does replace 9th, 13th, 15th and 17th level style strikes.
The Flowing Monk, as presented herein, maintains the core redirection ability and bonus feat selection. However, in an interesting minor modification, unbalancing counter’s flat-footed exploit can now be mitigated via uncanny dodge, an ability that has seen a continuous devaluation since its inception – thus increasing its value once again. While I like this, I do think that a caveat for higher level monks in relation to lower level opponents being able to bypass this, would have been prudent -as provided, this is a rather situational nerf. Flowing dodge has been changed from being attribute-based in its scaling cap to being capped by level, which imho is more elegant. At the same time, flowing dodge’s relatively small benefits could have used a subsequent upgrade in this iteration, with a minimum of +2 per adversary seeming prudent -after all, the draw at low levels is that Wis-mod tends to result in a relatively lenient cap. Elusive Target does sport a very intriguing mechanic here – replacing 3 style strike abilities – the ability’s damage-negation and strike-redirection has been codified anew in a rather intriguing manner, with the scaling feeling right in ways the base archetype’s did not. The Volley Spell base ability’s issue with identifying the spell cast to be volleyed has been inherited from the base archetype, but the exchange for the 15th level style strike means that it enter play slightly sooner and has a higher chance of being relevant – nice one!
Hamatulatsu Masters are represented herein as well – and might offer an issue. I’m not sure whether Hamatulatsu as a term is a closed IP-name or not, so I’d advise the Purple Duck Crew to double-check that. The ki-pool abilities of the Hamatulatsu Master are now gained earlier alongside the ki-pool, though they still replace Still Mind -not sure whether this is thus intended for 3rd level or whether it should be fourth – the ability does not specify Infernal Resiliency is gained at 5th level.
Next up would be the Harrow Warden, whose idiot strike remains in effect and Mute Hag Stance gained at 9th as established in the base archetype. However, thereafter, with both Big Sky Stance and Eclipse Strike being redesigned as ki powers – surprisingly, with the former potentially being available as soon as 8th level as opposed to 11th level in the base archetype – interesting choice, though one I can still kind of get behind, in spite of my dislike for the immunities the ability grants in the first place. Once again, I’m not sure whether “Harrow” is closed IP, so rebranding this as “tarot” or something like that may be required.
The Hungry Ghost Monk, as envisioned here, retains Punishing Kick as a basic 1st level attack-option, but modifies Steal Ki (gained at 5th level in lieu of purity of body)- the ability now allows for the shaking off of diseases the monk suffers from. Alas, much like Everyman Gaming’s take on the archetype, this one does not deal with the base ability’s failed kitten-test for replenishing a limited resource. The further abilities of the archetype have been redesigned as ki powers, an approach I enjoy, though, alas, much to my chagrin, the base archetype’s kitten-issues haven’t been fixed here either.
The Kata Master-archetype has been wholly redesigned – the archetype now has a linear progression of deeds far beyond what the non-unchained variant offered and, indeed, Cha now becomes the governing attribute for AC-bonuses. This decreased MAD over the base archetype does mean that (improved) evasion is replaced with (improved) uncanny dodge and instead of getting a ki-point, the panache-pool can be used to act as ki starting 4th level, in an interesting take also expanding the critical threat range of ki strikes. Furthermore interesting – a total of 6 different deeds are codified as optional ki powers for the kata master to take (or leave) and at 5th level, an Improved Critical applying to every weapon and unarmed strike emphasizes the focus on precise strikes implied by katas. The original kata master is a plug – it can be used to craft some nasty synergy-tricks…which is not bad, but it doesn’t do a good job at representing the concept. This radical redesign is just what the doctor ordered – while a bit crit-centric for my tastes, this redesign actually FEELS like a monk focusing on kata – kudos and two thumbs up for going the extra mile!
The Ki Mystic for the Unchained Monk as envisioned here gains the base archetype’s earlier ki-access and mystic insight at 5th level is retained. The latter abilities provided by the base-archetype all have been rewired as archetype-exclusive ki-powers with sensible minimum level requirements – kudos for allowing this flexibility.
The Maneuver Master monk’s flurry of maneuvers, as imagined here, still retains a cap on maneuvers to be executed per flurry (unlike Everyman Gaming’s take on the concept), but the cap scales with levels, allowing for up to 3 maneuvers per flurry and thankfully ignoring the base archetype’s penalty to CMB. Maneuver Defense and Meditative Maneuvers can be found at 3rd and 5th level, while the three high-level options once again have been redesigned as archetype-exclusive ki powers – and odd decision in the latter two cases since the abilities have no connection to ki or ki-expenditure.
The Martial Artist as envisioned here, retains Pain Points at 3rd level and 4th level nets the usual fighter prereq-trickery and exploit weakness. Obviously, the other abilities, from extreme endurance to the physical resistance-tricks, replace the follow-up ki-powers gained over the levels – a solid take on the concept, though personally, I prefer Everyman gaming’s switch of Exploit Weakness as an active ability to 3rd level. Also odd – the archetype retains Ki Strike, which it can’t use.
Monks of the Empty Hand herein are covered in a bit more detail than I would have expected – Catch Off-Guard-interaction is actually explicitly pointed out, while the ki-pool’s bonus abilities are relegated to 4th level and ki weapons being moved to 4th level as well, scaling akin to the base archetype’s ability, replacing a total of 3 ki powers. Solid!
Monks of the Four Winds move slow time to 13th level, while Aspect Master and Immortality retain their places at 17th and 20th level, replacing a style strike and the capstone perfect self. While I don’t really like the base archetype, the unchained version still is solid.
Monks of the Healing Hand codify all of their healing abilities as ki powers, with level-scaling and availability adhering to sensible principles and the capstone retaining its AoE true resurrection.
The Monk of the Lotus as presented here goes beyond the usual -while Touch of Serenity is retained at 1st level, 5th level sees a replacement for the style strike deals nonlethal damage with touch of serenity, rendering the archetype infinitely more feasible – kudos! Level 9 may be a bit beyond – creatures targeted by touch of serenity may only move or talk – yes, this actually allows you to lock down foes and come to nonlethal resolutions. Touch of Surrender and Touch of Peace replace the respective style strikes at 13th and 15th level, with learned master retaining its position at 17th level – I wholeheartedly enjoy the expansion of this archetype – it renders it more worthwhile and versatile. Kudos!
Monks of the Sacred Mountain, as presented here have Bastion Stance, gained at 3rd level, codified anew as a more flexible scaling that improves at 9th and 15th level – this minor modification is nice, though I’m still not sold on the base archetype’s sacrifice of evasion and its improved brother for the relative paltry benefits it nets, but that’s not something I should fault the unchained-conversion here, for – the scaling in the otherwise very strong bastion stance already is a step in the right direction in my book.
The Monk of the Seven Winds retains Lightning Finish and replaces the 5th level style strike with Endurance – bland. 9th level locks you in Defensive Spin as style strike choice and 17th level locks you into Flying Kick and Sirocco Fury is gained at 13th level, replacing the 13th and 15th style strikes – though I wished this got the italicization of duplicated SPs right.
Carl Cramér’s interpretation of the Unchained Sohei allows for flurry of blow with non-monk weapons and retains the stunted cap of unarmed strike damage. Monastic Mount’s benefits are gained at 3rd level and eliminated fast movement, with Ki Weapon being paid for by the stunted unarmed damage growth and gained at 4th level. Weapon Training is gained at 5th level. I like the expanded benefits the new scaling offers and the slight change of focus here.
Spirit Master monks move Spirit Combat to 2nd level (GOOD decision – sooner, active signature ability!) replacing evasion instead of the base archetype’s maneuver training, while resilient soul remains at 3rd level, though it still replaces still mind, which is situated at 4th level. Diamond Strike is kept at 5th level and replaces the style strike there instead of the base archetype’s purity of body. To offset this slight power-gain, the archetype moves Spirit Burst to two levels later, to 9th level, where it consumes the style strike gained there. At 11th level, Carl Cramér introduces a new ability – Stalwart. This is mettle (i.e. evasion for Fort- and Will-saves) by another name and constitutes one of my pet-peeves. I always hated this ability in all of its guises, but I have to grudgingly admit to being somewhat okay with it at this high a level…and it replaces improved evasion, so at least the archetype does not become an omni-saving monster. So yeah, a grudging “kudos” from yours truly. Spirit Flow is moved down to 13th level, which, in spite of the massive 6-level-jump, makes sense to me, as the original archetype’s level 19 is too late for the ability to do much. Purifying palm remains at 15th level and the original archetype’s capstone now is moved to 17th level – in case you’ve been watching carefully – yes, these replace the style strikes.
The Tetori, as one archetype that does not translate easily to the Unchained monk, receives a massive overhaul that completely rewires the archetype – essentially, we have a replacement of all ki-powers with tetori grappling techniques. I generally like the notion here, though I do consider Alexander Augunas’ move of graceful grappling to 1st level more than the delay of tetori tricks featured here. On the plus-side, high-level constrict is a cool idea, though a glitch calls Iron Body constrict as well. All in all, a solid take on a difficult conversion.
Next would be Carl Cramér’s Terra-cotta Monk – whose Trap Intuition receives an upgrade – it now only eats the second level bonus feat instead of evasion. Stone Grip paid for at 5th level with the style strike and trap dodge replaces the style strike at 9th level. Conversely, Sudden Adit replaces the one at 13th level, Petrifying Strike replaces the style strike at 15th level and rainmaker eats the style strike at 17th level. This one changes the base archetype in quite interesting ways – it gets rid of the non-sense loss of evasion of the base archetype, which I never got in the first place, so kudos there -I think this iteration does the concept better justice than the base archetype.
This pdf’s take on the unchained Wildcat gets Improvised Weapon Mastery at first level, once again with Catch-off Guard caveat. The ability-distribution and payout of gained abilities versus ki-powers substituted make this a generally interesting one, though the ability-replacement forgot the 4th level ki power, which is obviously useless sans the ki-pool that is eaten by Brawler Maneuver Training. On a nitpicky tangent, one could also complain about the absence of ki strike being replaced, but that depends ultimately on whether you consider that a part of ki-pool or not.
Okay, so here we go – the Zen-Archer: The ranged Flurry of Blows gets the very first much needed caveat – a prohibition on combination with Manyshot and Rapid Shot -KUDOS!! In case you’re not guessing this by now – the archetype spans almost two pages in its iteration herein – and has been massively redesigned. Let’s e.g. take a look at Perfect Strike- still gained at first level, obviously, but at higher levels, the Zen Archer may expend ki to use the unarmed damage dice-size for her arrows – yes, that’s up to 2d10. Furthermore, 12th level allows for Perfect Strike arrows to be rolled THRICE and take the highest result – yup, moved up two levels. 16th level lets them act as ki-focus….It#s the evil damage-output… The base archetype features for a reason in A LOT of evil builds and while the prohibition on multi-arrow-firing does take a bit of oomph away, this still is nasty. That being said, the dispersal of abilities and scaling at least means that the character has a good reason to keep leveling in the class. And 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter nets my favorite component of this archetype – so-called Style Shots. Completely new, these allow you to temporarily stagger foes, cover allies etc. – with higher levels allowing you to execute more Style Shots per round, with this ability replacing style strikes. Trick shot is moved to 13th level and, in an interesting decision, some monk class features lost can be taken as ki-powers. I do not think this archetype fits into all groups – it can be pretty nasty regarding its output – but at the same time, it is an infinitely better take on the concept than the base archetype, being more distinct and, with the focus on Perfect Strike, closer to the serenity implied by Zen Archery.
The pdf also covers some racial archetypes, the first of which would be the contemplative, whose awaken divinity ability remains at 1st level and spurn tradition can still be found here. Know the Unseen Disciples has been moved to 9th level, where it replaces improved evasion.
The Gray Disciple’s fade from sight remains situated at 4th level, but all other spell-like abilities, including the earth gliding, entombing, etc., all have been redesigned as ki-powers, with earthen thrall being reduced minimum-level wise to 16th level to act as a potential alternate cap-stoney-high-level option that renders the archetype pretty flexible – I really like this modularity that allows you to customize the archetype beyond the non-unchained version’s linearity.
The Ironskin Monk Hobgoblin archetype has some odd hiccups – the flurry of blows ability, for example, explicitly states that the archetype can execute it in light armor, when no line of the regular flurry of blows of the unchained monk prevents flurrying in ANY armor. Iron Skin and the bonus feat-list are retained, as is resilience. Ki-pool remains at 4th level and staggering blow at 5th – as a nice note: The DR the archetype can get explicitly stacks with diamond resilience as presented here. Like in Everyman Gaming’s take on the archetype, surefooted is moved down a whole 4 levels to 13th – which may be a bit much for some groups.
Catfolk Nimble Guardians are subject to quite a modification in comparison to the base archetype, gaining Cha to AC and CMD and later increasing this bonus, making the archetype more Cha-focused, while also allowing them to substitute Cha for Wis for the purpose of Style-feat prereqs. Defensive Aid is gained at 3rd level and replaces, slightly odd, the 4th level ability still mind, with 5th level netting Defensive Mastery. Now here, thing become interesting – at 10th level, feline guardians do not lose their Dex-bonus to AC versus invisible attackers, nor are they caught flat-footed, as long as they have at least 1 ki point – this is actually great as it a) capitalizes on the trope of superb feline senses and intuition and b) emphasizes the guardian aspect further – a valid trade for the 10th level ki strike. Guardian Feline is gained at 13th level and replaces tongue of sun and the moon. Kudos and two thumbs up!
Oread Students of Stone are modified in that they no longer gain a bonus versus crit confirmation, but instead light fortification – interesting! Strength of Stone has also been significantly rewired, allowing for the gaining of scaling, ki-powered DR – kudos for rewiring Strength of the Stone thus! With Bones of Stone obviously thus rewired in the previous ability, the further upgrades replace improved evasion with better fortification, while 13th level nets soul of stone and 20th level keeping the capstone. The rewired DR makes the archetype more feasible – nice one!
The Vanara Treetop Monk has, oddly, Branch Runner mixed into Wood Affinity, though this part of the scaling ability is moved down to 3rd level, while freedom of movement replaces tongue of the sun and the moon at 13th level. A solid take on the archetype.
The Underfoot Adept’s Underfoot Grace here has been redesigned…alas, here applies “If it ain’t broken…” – the ability as presented scales your effective size, which is a good idea, but getting rid of the scaling of the base ability and granting level 1 full speed Acrobatics through threatened areas is pretty nasty and means that dipping into this archetype is MUCH too tempting. I really don’t understand why the base archetype’s sensible anti-dip scaling was done away here.
The Human Wanderer retains Far Traveler and long Walk, but oddly, the latter replaces still mind as gained at 4th level, not 3rd. 5th level nets Inscrutable, which oddly has been mixed with Light Step – an odd decision here – doubly so, since the ability is (EX/SP), when both base abilities are SU and obviously, the benefits are more mystical than mundane and the ki-powered SPs are obviously just that, something I never got in the original abilities. Still, a tad bit odd. Finally, the Disappear Unnoticed and Free Step abilities have been moved to 17th and 19th levels, delaying their acquisition significantly. Over all, a nerf I’m not sure the archetype required.
Editing and formatting are very good -while I noticed some very minor hiccups, the Purple Duck crew did a good job here. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no art but the cover, but needs none – I’d always take content over bling. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
When I saw this pdf, I wasn’t particularly excited – checking unchained archetypes for consistency is a horrible pain in the behind and takes FOREVER. Furthermore, Alexander Augunas, one of the most reliably good designers of complex crunch out there has already taken the concepts and covered the archetypes. So no, I did not look forward to Carl Cramér’s archetype-conversions herein. Well, I should have. While I won’t lie – this review was grueling to write and research – the content here is very, very interesting.
What do I mean by that? The design-philosophy utilized herein differed from Alexander’s in some key aspects. Everyman Gaming’s Unchained Archetypes have opted for a very conservative paradigm, to which the individual archetypes are subjected. Subsequently, though, Alex genius as a designer did not have its usual space to shine, only breaking through when abilities required a radical rewiring.
This pdf, in comparison, did not establish a paradigm – instead, one can see how each archetype was hand-crafted and, when required, significantly modified to fit with Pathfinder Unchained. The intriguing part here is quite frankly this courage to play with the archetypes – to move abilities around -and to make some boring, linear archetypes more modular by codifying their class features as ki-powers, thus allowing players to select or ignore them. This level of choice, which the original archetypes did not provide, does result in overall more valid, more fluid designs and potential character concepts.
At the same time, a greater willingness to take risks obviously also translated into some minor hiccups I’m not 100% sold on and a less streamlined experience. If a 3rd level ability replacing a 4th level one via the application of an archetype annoys you on a design-aesthetic level, this pdf does sport cases like them. Personally, I don’t mind much and instead enjoy the fact that the lack of a paradigm was translated into a higher playfulness with style strike-replacements and similar modifications of the base archetypes.
In fact, several of base monk archetypes I have always loathed, have simply a BETTER feel in Carl Cramér’s Unchained take on them – most of the time, the archetypes now better represent the intent of their concept – and that is something that’s worth a lot to me, something that does mitigate some of my more nitpicky complaints.
To cut a long ramble short – this pdf is MUCH better than anticipated, and personally, I actually even prefer it over the more streamlined approach of Everyman Gaming. If you’re an experienced GM, you’ll probably enjoy this pdf a tad bit more due to the ability to iron out decisions you don’t like and the more variable frame-work. If you prefer a holistic, unified feel, Everyman Gaming’s two pdfs may be more to your liking. But I’m rambling. My final verdict for this pdf will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 by a margin – kudos for a job done beyond what’s expected and going the extra design-mile!