Creating Character: Eias the Penniliess

In this series, I’m talking character idea’s, some that I came up with ages ago, and some that I’ve found through poking at the D&D 5e books looking for cool combos and abilities. I lay them out in fair detail in the hopes that someone else can take up the reigns of these characters. While I would love to, it is highly unlikely that I can play all of them, or even many, before my days expire. 

Today, we have Eias the Penniless, a Human Fighter Monk with but a stick to his name but who is also as deadly as any other warrior wandering the kingdoms. 

Concept Origins

Ages ago, I started thinking about characters I wanted to play that were a little off the beaten path. I’ve had more than a few that have hit the table, and a few more that have hit concepts, but one that eluded me for a long, long time was the Staff Fighter. Depicted in many movies and stories, this type of fighter is a force to be reckoned with even though he is armed with the most basic of weapons, a simple length of wood. Characters like Tam of the Two Rivers, Morgan from the Walking dead and others have inspired me for years to try and figure out a good way of making this archetype come alive in an RPG.   

It has not been easy for the majority of editions that I contemplated the type of character. Most often it was both more expedient and stronger to simply use better weapons, either two-handed maulers or one-handed shield types. Neither of these really epitomize the methodology of the staff fighter, who is often doing powerful and versatile moves that work beyond simply damage. Thankfully, in 5e, we have the battlemaster, who is amazing in this exact skillset. Able to choose from a variety of abilities and maneuvers, they are able to shape the combat through more than just thrashing the opponent, though it does still maintain the form. 

However, the Battlemaster needs more than simply a stick. They need armor and would love a magic weapon. They are clearly still a fighter, and their abilities suffer just a little when they are using all their capacities. As I was perusing the classes one day, I started re-reading the monk when it started to come together. A monk-battlemaster would be really strong. He’d have more than a few synergistic abilities, would wear no armor, and could still use the staff. I liked where this was going. 

Battlemaster fighter is one of my favorite Archetypes, and I yearn for the day I can put one of them on the board. So many of the builds that I have will feature a few levels in them. This one splits the build pretty evenly, gaining access to combat abilities across the two classes to synergize pretty strongly into a single concept. 

The first choice for fighter is their Fighting Style, even before they choose an Archetype. Here, depending on a few choices, later on, I can see going with either Dueling or Great Weapon Fighting. For the first couple levels of fighter, it is likely that you’ll be using the staff two-handed, and great weapon fighter is the better choice. Later on, you can also continue to use the weapon two-handed while also making unarmed strikes from Monk, so it continues to be a solid choice. Dueling gives a flat bonus to damage, which is one of my favorites, but it limits you to not using the weapon two-handed, which can cause a problem from time to time. Still, it is what I am going to go for, as we have a simple stick, and are going to need every advantage we have. 

Action Surge and Second Wind are great abilies, and action surge is going to come in handy fairly often to pummel people with the staff, but there are no choices here that help out the character. Instead they are just bonuses we get along the way.

The Extra Attack at 5th level seems like its going to be beneficial, but that depends on when you’re going to level the Monk in respect to the Fighter. The high likelyhood is that you gain your fifth level in monk prior to gaining this in Fighter, making the level superflous. One of the problems with leveling dual combat classes.   

At the third level of fighter is where we start to shine, adding battlemaster to the build. We get superiority dice, which are excellent for adding a touch of damage as well as great abilities to our turn. We also get proficiency with some artisans tools, and I recommend Sculptors Tools, because who doesn’t like to sculpt? 

The three Maneuvers I want for the build are fairly characterful. Nearly all of the choices are good, but there are some that are better for the Penniless monk than others. The three I would grab are Disarming Attack, Trip Attack, and Pushing Attack. Often, characters with staffs are shown with the ability to smack weapons out of the hands of their opponents, knock them off their feet, and shove them around the combat until they have an advantage over their opponents. Other maneuvers of note to either take early or pick up at 7th level are Sweeping Attack, Lunging Attack and Distracting Attack. I would normally suggest riposte, but we’ll be picking up Polearm Master – likely at first level with Variant Human – so we’ll get an attack when they enter our threat, likely due to us pushing them back. 

The 7th level ability, Know Your Enemy, is one that I don’t but a lot of credence in, and expect to be pretty useless. I will, however, say that I can see the possibilities. 

Turning now to Monk, this is where the concept starts to cement itself. we’re likely only taking 8 levels of Fighter, to get the second ASI as well as making sure we can pick up two additional maneuvers, giving us 12 levels of Monk to work with. We only really need 11, but who’s going to give up another ASI? 

Monk is just littered with abilities that don’t rely on their tradition, and many of them create for a fantastic staff fighter. First, we have Unarmored Defense, which is critical. If the character is going to be penniless and destitute, they need a method of defending themselves. Getting AC based on Wisdom as well as their standard dexterity makes it extremely appealing. Next, Martial Arts gives the ability, among other things, to use dexterity for monk weapon – which includes the Staff – instead of strength, which condenses the abilities needed to make the build work. Adding an unarmed strike in there as a bonus action is also extremely handy, though often given over to Flurry of Blows.  Ki makes the monk class work, so it’s not really worth expounding on here as it is a basic function. It Grants Patient Defense, Step of the Wind and of course, Flurry of Blows, which is the cherry on top. 2 strikes with the stick, and then 2 more unarmed attacks are perfect.

Unarmored Movement, the next ability in monk, simply allows Eias to move quicker, which is always a nice bonus. 

Now, we come to the big portion of the build, the one that makes it all feel great. The Monk Tradition. Here, I chose Kensei from Xanathars because it focuses on the tradition of using a single weapon to become an extension of your self. This resonates with the fairly pauper like character I’ve built, with only clothes and a stick. 

Kensai, as soon as you start out, allows four abilities. In this instance, we’re only going to really use one of them to the fullest extent. the Kensai Weapons ability allows you to introduce new weapons into the monk set, but Staff already is there, as well as making that weapon the focus of you’re class. Agile Parry is interesting. You’ll be giving up an attack with the staff, but you’ll be gaining +2 to AC until you’re next initiative, which is fairly important in many situations. In others, it will simply never come to pass. 

Kensai’s Shot and Way of the Brush are both interesting and neat, but the chances of using either of them are rare, as this destitute characters is unlikely to have ranged weapons or tools to create art with. 

At 6th level, you get to the combination, through One with the Blade, of Magic Weapons and Deft Strike. Magic weapons is great and goes along well with Ki-Empowered Strikes. Deft Strike is extremely fun, but at this level is unlikely to be used all too often. Having only 6 ki points, that you also have to use for Flurry of blows is fairly tight. However, make sure to watch for those Critical Hits! a single ki point can add two extra monk damage dice!

Lastly, Kensai Grants Sharpen the blade, an important ability that allows you to dump up to 3 Ki Points into your Kensai weapon – you’re staff, and get an equal bonus to hit and damage. This is extremely powerful for someone who has just a stick. A magical, +3 Staff is pretty solid for dealing damage, especially when you can punish opponents every time you crit with it. This is the main reason we can’t do Fighter 11, honestly. Missing out on this seems like a huge deal to me, though getting 3 attacks with the Kensai weapon every round would be great, the chances of getting a +3 staff is just not really likely. 

Now, we go back to Monk, and we get just a plethora of powers, 8.5 more, to be specific. 3rd level, in addition to providing the Monastic Tradition, also provides Deflect Missiles, which makes sense for the staff master being able to bat away projectiles. Slow Fall at 4th is fine as its great all the time but means nothing for the build. The Extra Attack, as we said earlier, will either be useless or excellent. Stunning Strike is great with any build, but it also allows us to use the Battlemaster plans a little bit better. If you can Stun a creature on the first attack, you can follow up with a Disarm, Trip or Push, and the saving throw will automatically fail. I don’t exactly know how it works using a stunning strike at the same time, but it seems like there should be an answer somewhere. Ki-Empowered Strikes making it so that your unarmed blows are magical to go along with your weapon is great. Evasion is one of my favorite abilities, so I’m not gonna be sad that it’s in the build. Stillness of Mind being immune to charm and fear is fine again, but I’ve not encountered a ton of either. Finally, Purity of Body making you immune to Poisons and Disease is icing. Everything in this build looks fun, and either is strong bous abilities, or synergies well with the main concept.

The Character

The warrior who had taken a vow of poverty or who has simply chosen to rise above worldly things is often ridiculed and derided. How can someone, without the assistance of the most modern arms and equipment be a foe of evil in all its myriad forms? Eias the Penniless defies this stereotype, having sworn off expensive weapons and armor long ago, forsaking wealth as evil and materialism as weakness, he has learned how to imbue his inner spirit into his walking stick and how to defeat even the most powerful of monsters, evade their blows and avoid their monstrous powers with nothing more than the clothes on his back. He is a legend in his own age and a force to be reckoned with as he wanders the earth, searching for wrongs to right.  

The Build

Eias is a fast and nimble character, using his dexterity, wisdom, and strength. He needs all dexterity and wisdom to be fairly high in order to get the most out of the build, and if you take Polearm Master, he’ll also need strength. His armor and weapons are already prechosen in order to make the build viable, and he needs little in terms of skills and powers that aren’t provided by the classes he takes. Almost everything here comes from the choices made prior to character creation. 

Eias the Penniless

Eias the Penniless
Race: Human – I think this concept, in my head, connects most with the Human aesthetic, wandering the world without any gear, items or more than just a stick to protect himself. 
Highest Stat: Dexterity – Dexterity is going to provide you the most bang for your buck in this, and many other builds. It grants a bonus to Hit, Damage, Armor Class, and multiple skills. It’s your primary attack vector and is useful all the time. Additionally, its used for the Saving Throw of your Battlemaster abilities. 
Second Highest Stat: Wisdom – Monk Saving throws are based on Wisdom, as well as allowing a higher AC.  
Background: Folk Hero – Come on, I can’t resist. Without money or wealth of any type, it is much more likely that you’ll need to take up residence with the common blood. Additionally, it ‘s good to be a legend, right?
Armor: None –  Self-explanatory
Weapons: Quarterstaff – This is why we are here, right? 
Skills: Animal Handling, Survival, Acrobatics, Stealth  These are just the ones that make the most sense. Sometimes you’re going to need to hide, and a master of the Quarterstaff probably needs to dodge and flex a bit. 
Class 1: Monk – Kensei
Class 2: Fighter – Battlemaster
Variant Human Feat: Polearm Master. Getting an attack when an opponent approaches you can make you feel like you get an extra attack a round. 
Almost every other ASI is going to want to be taken as exactly that. Getting Your Str, Dex and Wis high is parmount, and its going to take some time to build them up. 

At this point, you should be able to build a pretty solid character from here, and you understand where I am going with it. I hope you enjoyed this look into how I made this character, and what I do in order to cement the concept. 

Let me know what you think, and if you ever play a character like this, keep me in the loop, I’d love to hear it. 
Until next time!