The Workshop – Element Benders for DND 5E (Part 1)

Aang from Nickolodeon's Avatar: The Last Airbender. Art by Dynamo1212

These next two articles are going to be a bit longer than normal, so please bear with me, but it segue’s nicely from my last piece about mechanics not defining your character. When Xanathar’s Guide to Everything came out, I noticed that four new cantrips were introduced that gave the caster minor control over one of the four classical elements and that the druid had access to all four of them. That coupled with the Way of the Four Elements monk archetype from the Player’s Handbook gave me all of the inspiration I needed to create the four major elemental benders from Nickolodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender as character archetypes for 5th Edition DNDI sat down with the goal to make four characters with the same level spread that felt different from each other. It was surprisingly easy when I started to think about the characters, and I hope it comes through in the builds without too much explanation. It was the next day that I ran across the user’s post and was able to point to this experience as concrete proof that characters of the same level don’t have to be the same despite having the same mechanics – never did I feel like I was simply making four copies of the same character. 

Air Bender

Aang from Nickolodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender. Art by Dynamo1212

Human (Variant) Druid 1/Way of Four Elements Monk 3

Armor Class 15
Hit Points 23 (4d8)
Proficiency Bonus +2
Speed 50 ft
Alignment lawful good
Languages Common, Elven

Ability Scores
Strength              12 (+1)
Dexterity             16 (+3)
Constitution       10 (+0)
Intelligence        11 (+0)
Wisdom              15 (+2)
Charisma             10 (+0)

Attacks
Melee Attack: Unarmed Strike +5 1d4+3 bludgeoning damage.
Melee Attack: Quarterstaff +5 1d6+3 bludgeoning damage, versatile (1d8)
Melee Attack: Club +5 1d4+3 bludgeoning damage, light

Skills Acrobatics +5, Animal Handling +2, Arcana +0, Athletics +1, Deception +0, History +0, Insight +4, Intimidation +0, Investigation +0, Medicine +4, Nature +0, Perception +4, Performance +0, Persuasion +0, Religion +2, Sleight of Hand +3, Stealth +3, Survival +2

Equipment quarterstaff, club, explorer’s pack, druidic focus, scrollcase stuffed with your notes, winter blanket, set of common clothes, herbalism kit, 5 gp.

Feats

Mobile. You are exceptionally speedy and agile. You gain the following benefits:

  • Your speed increases by 10 feet.
  • When you use the Dash action, difficult terrain doesn’t cost you extra movement on that turn.
  • When you make a melee attack against a creature, you don’t provoke opportunity attacks from that creature for the rest of the turn, whether you hit or not.

Class Features

Proficiencies
Armor Proficiencies: Light armor, medium armor, shields (druids will not wear armor or use shields made of metal)
Weapon Proficiencies: Simple weapons, shortswords, and scimitars
Tool Proficiencies: Herbalism kit
Saving Throws: Intelligence and Wisdom
Skill Proficiencies: Acrobatics, Insight, Medicine, Perception, Religion

Druidic: You know Druidic, the secret language of druids. You can speak the language and use it to leave hidden messages. You and others who know this language automatically spot such a message. Others spot the message’s presence with a successful DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check but can’t decipher it without magic.

Spellcasting: Your spellcasting ability is Wisdom. Your spell save DC is 12 and your spell attack modifier is +4. You can cast a spell with the ritual tag as a ritual if you have it prepared. You typically have the following spells prepared.

Cantrips: gust, thunderclap
1st level: fog cloud, jump, thunderwave

Unarmored Defense: While you are wearing no armor and not wielding a shield, your AC equals 10 + your Dexterity modifier + your Wisdom modifier.

Martial Arts: Your practice of martial arts gives you mastery of combat styles that use unarmed strikes and monk weapons, which are shortswords and any simple melee weapons that don’t have the two-handed or heavy properties. You can use Dexterity instead of Strength for the attack and damage rolls of your unarmed strikes and monk weapons. You can roll a d4 in place of the normal damage of your unarmed strike or monk weapon. This die changes as you gain monk levels. When you use the Attack action with an unarmed strike or a monk weapon on your turn, you can make one unarmed strike as a bonus action. For example, if you take the Attack action and attack with a quarterstaff, you can also make an unarmed strike as a bonus action, assuming you haven’t already taken a bonus action this turn.

Ki: You have a reserve of Ki points equal to your Monk level. You can spend these points to fuel various ki features. When you spend a ki point, it is unavailable until you finish a short or long rest, at the end of which you draw all of your expended ki back into yourself. You must spend at least 30 minutes of the rest meditating to regain your ki points. If the ki feature requires the target to make a saving throw, the DC is 12.

  • Flurry of Blows: Immediately after you take the Attack action on your turn, you can spend 1 ki point to make two unarmed strikes as a bonus action.
  • Patient Defense: You can spend 1 ki point to take the Dodge action as a bonus action on your turn.
  • Step of the Wind: You can spend 1 ki point to take the Disengage or Dash action as a bonus action on your turn, and you jump distance is doubled for the turn.

Unarmored Movement: Your speed increases by 10 feet while you are not wearing armor or wielding a shield. This bonus increases when you reach certain monk levels.

Deflect Missiles: You can use your reaction to deflect or catch the missile when you are hit by a ranged weapon attack. When you do so, the damage you take from the attack is reduced by 1d10 + your Dexterity modifier + your monk level. If you reduce the damage to 0, you can catch the missile if it is small enough for you to hold in one hand and you have at least one hand free. If you catch a missile in this way, you can spend 1 ki point to make a ranged attack with the weapon or piece of ammunition you just caught, as part of the same reaction. You make this attack with proficiency, regardless of your weapon proficiencies, and the missile counts as a monk weapon for the attack.

Disciple of the Elements: You have learned magical disciplines that harness the power of the four elements. A discipline requires you to spend ki points each time you use it. If an elemental discipline allows you to cast a spell, you use its casting time and other rules, but you don’t need to provide material components for it.

  • Elemental Attunement: You can use your action to briefly control elemental forces nearby, causing one of the following effects of your choice: Create a harmless, instantaneous sensory effect related to air, earth, fire, or water, such as a shower of sparks, a puff of wind, a spray of light mist, or a gentle rumbling of stone. Instantaneously light or snuff out a candle, torch, or small campfire. Chill or warm up to 1 pound of nonliving material for up to 1 hour. Cause earth, fire, water, or mist that can fit within a 1-foot cube to shape itself into a crude form you designate for 1 minute.
  • Fist of Unbroken Air: You can create a blast of compressed air that strikes like a mighty fist. As an action, you can spend 2 ki points and choose a creature within 30 feet of you. That creature must make a Strength saving throw. On a failed save, the creature takes 3d10 bludgeoning damage, plus an extra 1d10 bludgeoning damage for each additional ki point you spend, and you can push the creature up to 20 feet away from you and knock it prone. On a successful save, the creature takes half as much damage, and you don’t push it or knock it prone.

Background: Hermit

Discovery. The quiet seclusion of your extended hermitage gave you access to a unique and powerful discovery. The exact nature of this revelation depends on the nature of your seclusion. It might be a great truth about the cosmos, the deities, the powerful beings of the outer planes, or the forces of nature. It could be a site that no one else has ever seen. You might have uncovered a fact that has long been forgotten, or unearthed some relic of the past that could rewrite history. It might be information that would be damaging to the people who consigned you to exile, and hence the reason for your return to society. Work with your DM to determine the details of your discovery and its impact on the campaign.

Personality Traits: I feel tremendous empathy for all who suffer.
Ideals: Self-Knowledge. If you know yourself, there’s nothing left to know.
Bonds: I entered seclusion to hide from the ones who might still be hunting me. I must someday confront them.
Flaws: I’d risk too much to uncover a lost bit of knowledge.

Water Bender

Katara from Nickolodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender. Artist unknown.

Human Druid 1/Way of Four Elements Monk 3

Armor Class 15
Hit Points 23 (4d8)
Proficiency Bonus +2
Speed 40 ft
Alignment neutral good
Languages Common, Elven

Ability Scores
Strength              9 (-1)
Dexterity             15 (+2)
Constitution       11 (+0)
Intelligence        13 (+1)
Wisdom              16 (+3)
Charisma             14 (+2)

Attacks
Melee Attack: Unarmed Strike +4 1d4+2 bludgeoning damage.
Melee Attack: Mace +4 1d6+2 bludgeoning damage
Melee Attack: Scimitar +4 1d6+2 slashing damage, finesse, light

Skills Acrobatics +2, Animal Handling +5, Arcana +1, Athletics -1, Deception +2, History +1, Insight +5, Intimidation +2, Investigation +1, Medicine +5, Nature +1, Perception +3, Performance +2, Persuasion +2, Religion +1, Sleight of Hand +2, Stealth +2, Survival +5

Equipment mace, scimitar, explorer’s pack, druidic focus, weaver’s tools, shovel, iron pot, set of common clothes, belt pouch with 10 gp.

Class Features

Proficiencies
Armor Proficiencies: Light armor, medium armor, shields (druids will not wear armor or use shields made of metal)
Weapon Proficiencies: Simple weapons, shortswords, and scimitars
Tool Proficiencies: Herbalism kit
Saving Throws: Intelligence and Wisdom
Skill Proficiencies: Animal Handling, Insight, Medicine, Survival

Druidic: You know Druidic, the secret language of druids. You can speak the language and use it to leave hidden messages. You and others who know this language automatically spot such a message. Others spot the message’s presence with a successful DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check but can’t decipher it without magic.

Spellcasting: Your spellcasting ability is Wisdom. Your spell save DC is 13 and your spell attack modifier is +5. You can cast a spell with the ritual tag as a ritual if you have it prepared. You typically have the following spells prepared.

Cantrips: resistance, shape water
1st level: create or destroy water, cure wounds, healing word, ice knife

Unarmored Defense: While you are wearing no armor and not wielding a shield, your AC equals 10 + your Dexterity modifier + your Wisdom modifier.

Martial Arts: Your practice of martial arts gives you mastery of combat styles that use unarmed strikes and monk weapons, which are shortswords and any simple melee weapons that don’t have the two-handed or heavy properties. You can use Dexterity instead of Strength for the attack and damage rolls of your unarmed strikes and monk weapons. You can roll a d4 in place of the normal damage of your unarmed strike or monk weapon. This die changes as you gain monk levels. When you use the Attack action with an unarmed strike or a monk weapon on your turn, you can make one unarmed strike as a bonus action. For example, if you take the Attack action and attack with a quarterstaff, you can also make an unarmed strike as a bonus action, assuming you haven’t already taken a bonus action this turn.

Ki: You have a reserve of Ki points equal to your Monk level. You can spend these points to fuel various ki features. When you spend a ki point, it is unavailable until you finish a short or long rest, at the end of which you draw all of your expended ki back into yourself. You must spend at least 30 minutes of the rest meditating to regain your ki points. If the ki feature requires the target to make a saving throw, the DC is 13.

  • Flurry of Blows: Immediately after you take the Attack action on your turn, you can spend 1 ki point to make two unarmed strikes as a bonus action.
  • Patient Defense: You can spend 1 ki point to take the Dodge action as a bonus action on your turn.
  • Step of the Wind: You can spend 1 ki point to take the Disengage or Dash action as a bonus action on your turn, and you jump distance is doubled for the turn.

Unarmored Movement: Your speed increases by 10 feet while you are not wearing armor or wielding a shield. This bonus increases when you reach certain monk levels.

Deflect Missiles: You can use your reaction to deflect or catch the missile when you are hit by a ranged weapon attack. When you do so, the damage you take from the attack is reduced by 1d10 + your Dexterity modifier + your monk level. If you reduce the damage to 0, you can catch the missile if it is small enough for you to hold in one hand and you have at least one hand free. If you catch a missile in this way, you can spend 1 ki point to make a ranged attack with the weapon or piece of ammunition you just caught, as part of the same reaction. You make this attack with proficiency, regardless of your weapon proficiencies, and the missile counts as a monk weapon for the attack.

Disciple of the Elements: You have learned magical disciplines that harness the power of the four elements. A discipline requires you to spend ki points each time you use it. If an elemental discipline allows you to cast a spell, you use its casting time and other rules, but you don’t need to provide material components for it.

  • Elemental Attunement: You can use your action to briefly control elemental forces nearby, causing one of the following effects of your choice: Create a harmless, instantaneous sensory effect related to air, earth, fire, or water, such as a shower of sparks, a puff of wind, a spray of light mist, or a gentle rumbling of stone. Instantaneously light or snuff out a candle, torch, or small campfire. Chill or warm up to 1 pound of nonliving material for up to 1 hour. Cause earth, fire, water, or mist that can fit within a 1-foot cube to shape itself into a crude form you designate for 1 minute.
  • Water Whip: You can spend 2 ki points as a bonus action to create a whip of water that shoves and pulls a creature to unbalance it. A creature that you can see that is within 30 feet of you must make a Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, the creature takes 3d10 bludgeoning damage, plus an extra 1d10 bludgeoning damage for each additional ki point you spend, and you can either knock it prone or pull it up to 25 feet closer to you. On a successful save, the creature takes half as much damage, and you don’t pull it or knock it prone.

Background: Folk Hero

Rustic Hospitality. Since you come from the ranks of the common folk, you fit in among them with ease. You can find a place to hide, rest, or recuperate among other commoners, unless you have shown yourself to be a danger to them. They will shield you from the law or anyone else searching for you, though they will not risk their lives for you.

Personality Traits: If someone is in trouble, I’m always ready to lend help.
Ideals: Freedom. Tyrants must not be allowed to oppress the people.
Bonds: I protect those who cannot protect themselves.
Flaws: I have trouble trusting in my allies.

As you can see, both of these characters were built as 1st level druids and then multiclassed into Monk, which is a slight difference from the other two you will see next week, but it felt like a more natural fit for these two archetypes. The Water Bender was the only build that didn’t use the Human Variant features, and that was pretty much because I couldn’t find a feat that I really liked that seemed to fit the build concept.

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Ben Erickson

Ben Erickson

Contributing Writer for d20 Radio
Mild mannered fraud analyst by day, incorrigible system tinker monkey by night, Ben has taken a strong interest in roleplaying games since grade school, especially when it comes to creation and world building. After being introduced to the idea through the Final Fantasy series and kit-bashing together several games with younger brother and friends in his earliest years to help tell their stories, he was introduced to the official world of tabletop roleplaying games through the boxed introductory set of West End Games Star Wars Roleplaying Game before moving into Dungeons and Dragons.
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2 Comments

  1. It’s too bad Step of the Wind is requisite. It’d be nice if that was specifically Aang’s schtick.

    • I don’t think it’s an issue — each element has its own ways of using their element to get around, whether it’s Toph launching herself through the air with a stone pillar or Zuko flying on hand-rockets. Being highly mobile is just part of kung-fu, regardless of your elemental specialty.

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