A few weeks ago, I mentioned some of my dissatisfaction with the Monk class. In the meantime, I decided I'd do something about it. I've been working on splitting the monk class into two separate classes: one which focuses upon martial arts and one which focuses upon contemplation and mysticism. The two will be designed to multiclass well together. For now, I'll call them the Martial Artist and the Ascetic.
I'd like a straight-up martial artist to be comparable to a fighter in combat effectiveness. An ascetic, on the other hand, will focus on supernatural abilities, giving enemies status effects through attacks, and gaining outsider-like traits.
In the rest of this post, I'm going to focus on the Martial Artist - with the realization that I may need to adjust it some once I develop the Ascetic more.
I want the martial artist to have a good number of hit points and a good BAB.
For now, let's say he gets d10 and Fighter BAB. The ascetic will be inferior in both of these - and they should average out to be around Monk level.
Save-wise, it would be tempting to give him all good saves. I won't though. He gets good Fort and Reflex saves. He may end up with a class feature that can help him with Will saves. We'll see.
Improved Unarmed Strike is a first level bonus feat. That's a no-brainer.
The Monk's Wisdom bonus to unarmored AC? Yeah. Can I wait until second level for this? Probably not... maybe cap it at the character's class levels.
Heightened damage - I don't like the monk damage progression. I would rather see something more like sneak attack, where additional dice are rolled. Let's base this off of the Soulknife, though. A martial artist acheives a state of focus (martial focus) by making a concentration check - actually... let's just use the rules for psionic focus. No need to recreate them. Making a focused strike expends the focus.
I want the heightened damage to be, potentially, usable with weapons. Let's create a class ability called Martial Flexibility. At second level, a martial artist may spend a a standard action concentrating upon or otherwise practicing with any weapon. If she is already proficient with that weapon, she is treated as having weapon focus with it. If she is not proficient with that weapon, she gains proficiency with it. These benefits last as long as the martial artist makes at least one attack roll per round. Now - focused strike works with unarmed strikes or weapons with which you have weapon focus.
Those are the basic abilities. Too much for the first two levels? It is probably less than monks get.
Movement - let's give the martial artist occasional 5' speed bumps.
Focused Mind - How about when the martial artist is focused, he can expend that focus as an immediate action to replace a will save with a concentration check?
Improving Martial Focus - at higher levels, a martial artist can gain focus more quickly.
Improving Focused Strike - at higher levels, a martial artist can sacrifice damage for accuracy or the ability to ignore damage reduction and hardness.
Focused Flesh - at higher levels, a martial artist may gain a bonus to natural armor when martially focused.
Even more other stuff:
If I can fit Uncanny Dodge in there, it would be nice. Evasion? Maybe... but that might be better for the smaller-HD ascetic.
Bonus Feats - if possible, I might toss in a few bonus feats chosen from a mid-sized list (like the Scout or Warblade gets).
Now - how would this play?
An immediate concern is that the martial artist would be dependent on gaining focus in order to be effective. A secondary concern would be that the martial artist would be geared toward hitting one target a round.
Let's look at the second of these issues. We can add in a Focused Flurry ability that allows a martial artist making a full attack to expend his focus and split the focused strike dice between the attacks. That is pretty easy.
The other issue is trickier. The easy way would be to say that the martial artist has a limited number of times per day (Wis bonus + 1/4 class levels?) that he can regain focus as an immediate action. I generally dislike charges/day things, though. How about, instead:
Focused Fury - a martial artist reduced to one half of his total hit points may make a concentration check as an immediate action to regain martial focus. If the martial artist is reduced to one fourth or fewer of his total hit points he gains a +4 bonus on this roll.
It still isn't certain - it requires a roll... and it uses a resource (an immediate action counts as your swift action for the next round). It is also evocative - the martial artist who gets beat up a bit gets tougher. That's pretty cool, I think.
Soon, I'll write this up and post it level by level. In the meantime, comments are welcome.