The Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide has really neat, interesting options for a wide spread of classes. For example… the Monk now has the option to become a Warlock. The Way of the Sun Soul are a group of monks who channel the energy of all living creatures into each of their attacks. Fans of anime might recognize some of the abilities offered by this subclass; we’re throwing ki blasts now, boys and girls! But, is this just awesome flavor? Or is there a treasure under all of that shine? Let’s read closely and find out with our Sun Soul Monk 5E Guide.
Channel the Cosmos: Sun Soul Monk 5E
The Sun Soul changes the abilities of the monk and makes them more useful at long range. In addition, they get useful options to more easily affect multiple creatures at the same time. Unfortunately, the Warlock connection made above was rather optimistic; The Sun Soul doesn’t exactly thrive at range, and their Area of Effect options are rather insubstantial compared to magic users. However, if you spin the martial flavor onto it (that of decent resourceless damage), it becomes a relatively unique pseudo-caster.
Radiant Sun Bolt
The first ability allows you to shoot finger guns, starting at level 3. These are little bolts of sunlight.
You gain a new attack option that you can use with the Attack action. This special attack is a ranged spell attack with a range of 30 feet. You are proficient with it, and you add your Dexterity modifier to its attack and damage rolls. Its damage is radiant, and its damage die is a d4. This die changes as you gain monk levels, as shown in the Martial Arts column of the Monk table.
When you take the Attack action on your turn and use this special attack as part of it, you can spend 1 ki point to make the special attack twice as a bonus action.
You can use this in place of any attack that the Attack action allows you to do.
So, a 30 ft ranged attack is pitiful. Especially for a monk. If you start your turn within 30 ft of an enemy, you could easily move that distance; you still have Fast Movement, and most races have 30 ft movement speed. However, if an enemy is 60-90 ft away from you, then at least you don’t waste your Attack action. That’s nice, especially for a class that tends to have trouble in ranged scenarios. You won’t need to awkwardly carry a shortbow around as you punch enemies in the teeth.
The damage scaling on this shot is quite sound. Eventually, you’ll get to the d10 of Warlock’s Eldritch Blast, and you’ll actually pump out decent numbers. Even early on, d4+3-4 isn’t anything to sneeze at… Though you should still try to use unarmed attacks and weapons whenever you can.
One of the biggest problems with a ranged monk is that you don’t have much to spend your Bonus Action on. This gives you something really substantial; Flurry of Blows, but 30 ft away. That’s shockingly great! Even though it costs a ki point, it’s still really useful for blowing up enemies.
Do remember that this does not count as a Monk weapon. No Martial Arts bonus actions for you!
Searing Arc Strike
At last, the Monk gets some area-of-effect abilities to help them deal with mobs!
At 6th level, you gain the ability to channel your ki into searing waves of energy. Immediately after you take the Attack action on your turn, you can spend 2 ki points to cast the Burning Hands spell as a bonus action.
You can spend additional ki points to cast Burning Hands as a higher level spell.
The scaling is 1 ki per level, up to a maximum of 10.
As a reminder, burning hands deals 3d6 at level 1, up to 12d6 at level 10. For an area of effect, on a martial class? That’s not bad. In addition, the Burning Hands is cast as a bonus action, meaning you actually get it out as fast as a Sorcerer spending points. That’s insane!
The question is, when do you use this? It costs Ki points, so it’d probably be most useful where you can hit somewhere around 3 enemies with the cone. You’re spending the equivalent of 2 Flurry of Blows on this, so you really want to make it count!
This has an awkward amount of anti-synergy with Radiant Sun Bolt. Your Searing Arc Strike originates from you, instead of the target of your attack, so you’d be 30 ft away from the targets you’d want to Burning Hands. In some cases, perhaps you’d want to shoot the Necromancer and then flambé the zombies, but those will be few and far between.
Either way, as long as you hit more than one enemy with this, it might be worth the ki points. Try not to heighten this, though; 1 ki point tends to not be worth 1d6 damage.
The Monk’s action being spent on Attack is a sacred ritual beholden to every tradition; Every dojo leaves the Action slot for Attack. But this… This might be worthwhile.
At 11th level, you gain the ability to create an orb of light that erupts into a devastating explosion. As an action, you magically create an orb and hurl it at a point you choose within 150 feet, where it erupts into a sphere of radiant light for a brief but deadly instant.
Each creature in that 20-foot-radius sphere must succeed on a Constitution saving throw or take 2d6 radiant damage. A creature doesn’t need to make the save if the creature is behind total cover that is opaque.
This ability also scales; every 1 ki point is an extra 2d6. Up to 3, for 8d6 total damage.
They gave Monk a fireball?! Admittedly, it’s a pretty awful one… But it’s somewhat close to what a Warlock would get.
My intro to this section was a joke, but admittedly, losing the Attack action on a turn is rarely worthwhile. The Attack action unlocks the Martial Arts bonus action, Flurry of Blows, and Extra Attack. That’s a lot. Instead of that, you toss a Fireball… That deals 2d6.
Okay, so let’s talk about upsides. 2d6 damage in a 20 ft radius could theoretically hit 64 targets. If it did hit that many? Sure, 2d6 damage would be worth much more than the attack action. Spending ki points for 2d6 damage is worth a little more than 1d6, so it scales better than your Burning Hands. 150 ft range is also so much better than the 30 ft blasts of the Sun Bolt.
And hey! This isn’t even a spell! That means you can’t be counterspelled. That’s cool, right?
In all seriousness, the concept of an infinitely reusable Area of Effect is one seldom attempted by any edition of Dungeons & Dragons... Especially on a non-caster class. Even if it’s weak, or if it doesn’t scale great with resources, it’s still novel to have a Fireball in a monk’s pocket for any occasion. And it lets the monk break into encounters where they would normally be completely worthless. For that reason alone, Searing Sunburst is a worthwhile ability.
The final ability of the Sun Soul is… There.
At 17th level, you become wreathed in a luminous, magical aura. You shed bright light in a 30-foot radius and dim light for an additional 30 feet. You can extinguish or restore the light as a bonus action.
If a creature hits you with a melee attack while this light shines, you can use your reaction to deal radiant damage to the creature. The radiant damage equals 5 + your Wisdom modifier.
Admittedly, this might be the weakest subclass capstone that the monk has to offer. That’s not to say that it’s useless, but… There’s just not much here.
The first ability… You’re a torch. You’re a 50% stronger torch. You shed bright light and a bit of dim light, and any Shadow Monks nearby you shake their fists. There’s no real reason to turn this off, and you’ll probably be nearby any enemies, so that your allies without darkvision know where to throw their spells. It’s not much, but it’s there.
The reaction deals 10 damage. 10. The good news is that it’s completely guaranteed, so you don’t need to make an attack roll, and they don’t need to make a save. At level 17, attack rolls are pretty high, so you’ll probably eat a melee attack on most turns. If you’re fairly sure that you won’t get to make an opportunity attack, or Deflect Missiles, or Slow Fall, then there’s worse ways to spend your Reaction.
In most cases, this ability will be a fancy torch; Deflect Missiles is really good if there’s even one bow in the fight. However, in melee fights – or just before your turn – dealing 10 damage is not insubstantial.
Best Races for Sun Soul Monks
The Sun Soul is pretty similar to a Monk of the Four Elements; Wisdom is extremely important. You’ve got quite a few abilities based on Wisdom, so make sure that’s at least acceptable. Because your unarmed attacks rely on Dexterity, as does your Sun Bolts, you’ll still want Dexterity the most. Get a little bit of Constitution, like any class. You’ve got the opportunity to stay at range and deal with things from afar, so health is less important.
If your GM allows you to use the Explorer’s Guide to Wildemont, then you’ve got yourself a neat new Halfling to choose from. Lotusden have the two ability score increases we’ve talked about; High Dexterity, Good Wisdom. Unlike other halfling subraces, they gain two abilities – scaling innate magic, and some anti-tracking tech. Also, they have a lot of plant themes, so you can totally shout “Photosynthesis!” as you throw your sun orbs. Just a thought.
This small race from Volo’s Guide to Monsters might not seem like the best option; they gain Dexterity and Constitution, and one of their racial abilities is a bonus action. However, Nimble Escape means that you no longer need to spend ki on Step of the Wind (other than for jumping or dashing). And besides; because you might wanna throw Searing Sunburst out every now and then, you might want the bonus action! You get the large increase to Dexterity that is needed for Monks to be useful, and Fury of the Small tends to be an effective boss killer. You’re not really wasting your Darkvision, since Goblin Darkvision is weaker than normal. Not a bad idea at all!
This race is also within the pages of the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, so your GM will probably let you use it. The Dexterity increase is awesome, and it wouldn’t be hard to reflavor this class as throwing balls of Hellfire… The radiant damage would be questionable, though. If your GM lets you use this Variant with the other options in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes to switch up some ability scores, you could get some great Ability Score boosts. In addition, Fire Resistance and the bonus spells will come in handy much more often than other race’s abilities. If your GM allows Feral Tieflings to combo with other bloodlines, try Fierna.
Conclusion – Our Take on the Way of the Sun Soul
The Way of the Sun Soul is an incredibly unique archetype for a Martial class. Rather than becoming a semi-caster like the Way of the Four Elements, Sun Souls get much more manageable ki expenditure, but much less powerful area of effects. They are a bridge between the martial and caster classes, but sadly, lack the damage output of both. You’ll be able to attack in most situations, but will your attacks do as much as you’d want them to?
Actually, kind of.
Give this monk archetype a try, and you might be surprised how often Searing Sunburst comes in handy. Or how often shotgunning a Burning Hands after your attack action comes up. You might be surprised.