View Full Version : D&D 5e/Next The Brawler, an unarmed Fighter subclass

2017-05-07, 11:18 PM
I know there are a number of brawler type fighter and barbarian homebrews out there, but here let me throw another one on the pile. :smallsmile:

The genesis of this class is pretty simple; I wanted a viable unarmed path for players that was more Strength-focused and mundane, compared to the dexterous, spiritual monk. Which is not honestly enough of a theme to build an entire subclass around, but then I realized that it actually synergized pretty well conceptually with something else I felt was missing - a class that celebrates randomness, like the Chaos Sorceror, but from a martial perspective. So I came up with this.

Brawler Martial Archetype
The archetypal brawler is perhaps the most unconventional of fighters, as comfortable throwing a wild haymaker or a quick headbutt as he is with a finely-honed sword. To most observers, the brawler seems undisciplined and raw, more of a lucky thug than a skilled soldier. And it is true that the brawler loves the chaos of a good fight, the unpredictable ebb and flow of violence, the deeply personal challenge of pitting the strength of a simple uppercut against the reach and speed of a spear or the deadly weight of an axe. But under the coarse exterior, a brawler is in fact a highly skilled combatant, capable of turning a momentary upper hand into a debilitating strike, exploiting even the smallest weakness in the same instant it appears. Resilient and relentless, those who emulate the archetypal brawler live by two simple rules: love to fight, and fight to win.

Iron Skin
When you choose this archetype at third level, you begin practicing special techniques to make your body into a sturdy living weapon, punching hard surfaces over and over to scar and strengthen your bones and toughen your muscle. Your natural slam attack deals a minimum of 1d6 damage, and when you are not wearing armor, your Armor Class equals 10 + your Dexterity modifier + your Constitution modifier.

We've used a really stupidly simple houserule to rationalize unarmed strike for three editions now: all humanoids have a natural weapon, a slam, that deals 1d3 damage. Nobody is proficient with it by default, but it's a martial weapon, so martial classes get automatic access to it. Go ahead and translate "natural slam" to "unarmed strike" in the bizarrely nonfunctional RAW nomenclature from here on out.

Also at third level, you begin to take unusually effective advantage of your weight and the normal flow of battle, translating the backswing of one attack into extra force on the next. If you have made a weapon attack against a creature since the beginning of your last turn, your slam deals 1d8 bonus damage to that creature.

Dirty Tricks
You can exploit a good hit, turning it into a crippling one. When you make a slam attack and roll maximum damage on a damage die, you may inflict a penalty on your target. Roll a d8 and consult the Dirty Tricks table to determine what effect you apply.

Bell-ringer. Target adds 1d6 penalty to its next attack roll.
Shoulder check. Target is knocked back 5 feet.

Guard-breaker. Next attack roll against the target adds +1d6 bonus.
Numbing blow. Target can't take reactions for 1 round.

Ankle hook. Target is knocked prone.
Hobble. Target's speed is reduced by 10 feet for one round.

Crush. You deal 1d6 bonus damage.
Dizzying blow. Target takes 1d6 penalty on its next saving throw.

Starting at 7th level, the joy you take in competition is not only obvious, but disarming and infectious. When you break even in or lose a contest - be it dice, a drinking game, a barfight, or karaoke - the attitude of your opponents toward you improves by one step, if you desire.

Shake it Off
At 10th level and above, your experience with inflicting crippling blows has also taught you to better recover from them. You can use your second wind even when you couldn't normally take actions, and using your second wind removes any status effect that slows you or prevents you from taking actions (such as stun, speed reduction, incapacitation, and the like).

Improved Momentum
Also at 10th level, the first attack you make during the extra turn granted by your Action Surge that would normally qualify for Momentum, even if the weapon is one other than your slam attack, automatically triggers Dirty Tricks.

Even Dirtier Tricks
Beginning at 15th level, whenever you roll on the Dirty Tricks table, you may roll twice, and select the result you prefer. Alternately, you may roll on the Dirtier Tricks table instead.

Cauliflower. Target is deafened until the beginning of your next turn.

Eye gouge. Target is blinded until the beginning of your next turn.

Plexus slam. Target is stunned until the beginning of your next turn.

Throat slam. Target cannot speak until it receives healing.

Rocket punch. Target is thrown up to 10 feet back, lands prone, and takes 2d10 bonus damage.

Nerve strike. Target deals half damage until it succeeds on a Con save (made at the end of each of its turns).

Critical Momentum
By 18th level, you have mastered the deadly flow of one strike into another, turning the most brutal strikes into the most brutal follow-up. When you score a critical hit against a foe that is a credible threat to you, or reduce a credible threat to 0 hit points, you regain 2d8 hit points and add 2d8 bonus damage to your next successful attack.

And there's the class. I tried to balance the Dirty Tricks against cantrip riders; a 1d6 bonus/malus feels like a good balance vs advantage/disadvantage (can't be cancelled out, but on average it's worth 3 compared to adv/disad's average 5), and the higher base damage makes the low chance to proc seem fair. I'm less confident about Dirtier Tricks; the obvious comparison is to at-will invocations of that level, but there are isn't really a wide spread of offensive invocations in this edition.

I also don't love how feature-loaded level 3 is, but I console myself that it's really only one and a half features, since Iron Skin and Momentum combined basically bring the brawler up to an archetype-less fighter with half-plate and a greatsword. (Things to remember about momentum: it maintains itself, because a natural slam is a weapon and therefore makes a weapon attack, unlike the weirdness of "unarmed strike"; on the other hand it doesn't target-switch for crap. A wise brawler will carry a versatile weapon for a stronger opener and to clear out crowds of puny kobolds.)

2017-05-08, 07:00 AM
Might want to see if you can change the tags. Let us know the system, and don't make people think it's a contest. I don't have a lot of time right now. I'll give you some more feedback later.

2017-05-08, 09:34 AM
... now how in the hell did that happen?

Thanks for the heads up, it's sorted now.

2017-05-08, 01:41 PM
With bell-ringer, guard-breaker, and dizzying blow, I'd recommend making it disadvantage. Just makes more sense with 5e's design philosophy.

2017-05-16, 05:30 PM
Eh, the +die is more common than advantage in class features, I think. Bardic inspiration, warlock luck, wild sorceror luck, battlemaster precision, even cleric cantrips.

Also, if guard-breaker imposed disadvantage it would be strictly inferior to ankle hook, which was something I didn't want; the balance on Dirtier Tricks is a little erratic, but at least baseline you should always be confident that proccing it is a Good Thing, regardless of the result.