A monk with mastery of the element of water, with stat block for use in D&D 5E.
Soaked steps descend through a bamboo forest and to an opening of pristine serenity. There waits Kawaryu, Master of Water. Few ever challenge him, and those that do must not underestimate his ability to adapt to an opponent and erode whatever advantage they might hold. Can they weather the current or will it sweep them away, like so many others?
The four masters are expertly-trained monks with mastery over their chosen element. They may serve as a trial for others of their order, guardians of openings to elemental planes, or the keepers of a set of ancient relics that must never be reunited. Whatever their purpose, the masters stand waiting for challengers who might face them.
Kawaryu is the second of the Four Masters. We have also covered Zephas, Master of Air, and the Masters of Fire and Earth are yet to come…
The Bamboo Glade
The stone path descends gently through a bamboo forest. The air is cool and damp, adding a glistening vibrance to the pathway and the bright green that surrounds you on both sides. Leaves rustle overhead from the soft swaying of the trees. This sound grows gradually as you walk, the ambient dampness turning to a mild rainfall and mist.
The comfortable peace of the forest, rain, and the meandering path is contrasted by the appearance of a soft glow and vibrant red in the distance ahead. Drawing closer, you can see where the steps curve to their end beneath a red-painted torii gate. It stands tall and strong, shining against the forest green. Beyond the gate, the mist parts to an opening in the bamboo; a circular plane of water, reflecting the sky above like a mirror that ripples with every raindrop. Paper lanterns float on the water’s surface and seem to repel the fog with their warming light.
The bamboo glade is hidden within a lush, forested basin. The thick foliage prevents most would-be explorers from traversing the forest, made worse by frequent rain that collects and fills the forest floor. One of the few safe pathways through the forest is a winding set of steps that connects the glade to a small temple overlooking the basin. This temple acts as the home and training ground for a sect of monks. Its inhabitants assist in maintaining the forest while studying under the tutelage of the basin and glade’s permanent caretaker: Kawaryu, Master of Water.
In addition to being his private meditation space, Kawaryu uses his bamboo glade as the arena for his ‘Trial of Water’. The water that fills the area is a perfect conduit for his abilities and a test for challengers seeking to face him. Those that do are beholden to two simple rules: the fight is until either side yields or is unconscious, and fighters must not leave the bounds of the arena, marked by the bamboo trees.
Flooded basin. Consistent rainfall leaves much of the basin, including the bamboo glade, flooded. The glade’s ground is covered in 3-feet-deep water that is difficult terrain for Medium creatures and may require Small and Tiny creatures to swim.
Nourishing waters. The waters of the basin have faint healing properties thanks to the care of Kawaryu and his acolytes. If a creature is reduced to 0 hit points but not outright killed and is immersed in the waters, it is immediately stabilized and floats safely on the surface.
Kawaryu, Master of Water
(N male elf)
Winding tattoos coat the exposed torso of an elven man, resembling aquamarine scales but curving and flowing like waves. He pushes back soaked black hair as he stands. His garments are natural blues and greens, the upper half removed and tied around his waist to reveal expertly trained muscle. The robes end in bindings around his ankles, above bare feet that stand on the water’s surface without so much as a ripple.
Kawaryu awaits his challengers in the bamboo glade, where he meditates atop the water’s surface. He is a monk who has mastered the element of water, as his title would suggest, and has held his position for longer than anyone else can remember, owing to his elven lifespan and the glade’s rejuvenating waters. When not facing challengers or engaging in lengthy bouts of meditation, Kawaryu often returns to the nearby temple to instruct the students living there. He is also prone to wandering the forest, disappearing for days or weeks at a time but always making a timely reappearance when his duties call.
Like his contemporaries, Kawaryu embodies his mastered element in both skill and personality. He is a wise, versatile, and patient conversationalist who excels in directing the flow of a discussion. By allowing others to speak as he subtly nudges the topic, Kawaryu can extract information by leading them to reveal it themselves. His teaching methods are similar. Kawaryu employs more permissive leadership, preferring to guide his pupils in understanding and realizing their own potential, by their own methods. As he is fond of saying, “Water takes whatever form it must to move forward. Some need a current to guide them; some, rainfall to nurture them; others need a glacier to break them.”
Keeper of the Bamboo Glade
Kawaryu’s position as Master of Water and his familiarity with the forest and glade allows him to use its waters as an extension of his own abilities. This gives Kawaryu an edge over his challengers, as they must adapt to a constantly changing environment that impedes them but not Kawaryu.
On initiative count 20 (losing initiative ties), Kawaryu takes a lair action to use his Form Shift. He can shift between water, ice, and mist form, creating a unique effect based on the form he shifts to:
Form Shift (Water). A whirlpool encircles Kawaryu in a 20-foot radius. Creatures in this area must make a DC 15 Strength saving throw or be pulled 10 feet straight towards Kawaryu.
Form Shift (Ice). An icy blast radiates from Kawaryu, freezing any water within a 20-foot radius for 1 minute or until Kawaryu shifts to a different form. Creatures within this area must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or have their speed halved until the end of their next turn.
Creatures that are swimming or at least half-submerged in water when it freezes have disadvantage on their saving throw. On a failed save, the creature is trapped in the ice, and its speed is reduced to 0. A trapped creature can use its action to make a DC 15 Strength check, freeing itself on a success.
Form Shift (Mist). Water rises from the surface in a cloud of mist that covers a 20-foot-radius sphere centered on Kawaryu. The sphere spreads around corners, and its area is heavily obscured. It remains in place and does not move with Kawaryu. The mist lasts for 1 minute, until Kawaryu shifts to a different form, or until a wind of moderate or greater speed (at least 10 miles per hour) disperses it.
Kawaryu’s Form Shift is usually his bonus action but can be used as a lair action when in his bamboo glade. The additional effects listed above only apply when the ability is used as a lair action. They also end when Kawaryu shifts to another form. This helps avoid overloading the fight and overwhelming the characters with overlapping effects while still allowing Kawaryu to shift form often. Doing so on his turn still costs his bonus action, which comes at the cost of additional attacks and other abilities.
Like Zephas, Kawaryu’s stat block is built from a 12th-level monk and designed to fight a single player-character of a comparable level. Balancing him to face multiple characters, even if they are weaker, is likely to require adjustments to him and his encounter.
Kawaryu commands the element of water in its three states, wielding it in battle as a means to control, redirect, and defeat his opponents. His standard monk skills are further enhanced by a shifting set of abilities that change depending on Kawaryu’s current form. This allows him to adapt to the attacks and tactics of his opponent, though he must remain conscious of his ki expenditure, as it can drain quickly from overuse of his many actions.
At the core of his fighting is Kawaryu’s Form Shift. As a bonus action, or as a lair action in the bamboo glade, Kawaryu shifts his fighting style between water, ice, and mist forms. Each form grants him unique abilities that he can string together in combination. He begins the fight in his water form.
Water form. Kawaryu’s water form resembles a monk of the Open Hand and focuses on the redirection of motion and forcing his opponent to expend their own combat resources. Both the shift into water form and his Surging Flurry can keep opponents in melee range, where the latter and Kawaryu’s Redirect Flow can help to trap them by rendering them prone and using up their movement speed. The pushing effect of his Flurry allows Kawaryu to reposition, particularly if he then shifts into mist form.
Ice form. In ice form, Kawaryu has the ability to drain a target’s body of its warmth and leave them more susceptible to his other attacks. His Flashfreeze Fist, an upgrade to other monks’ Stunning Strike, instantly freezes Kawaryu’s opponent, hindering their movement. This effect is powerful on its own but also makes an enemy vulnerable to the abilities of Kawaryu’s other forms, such as Redirect Flow. Kawaryu can also follow up with Diamond Dust, shattering the ice to inflict damage at the cost of unfreezing the target.
Mist form. Mist form allows Kawaryu to move evasively and make even greater use of his Ripple Sense and Vision in the Mist. By limiting his opponent’s vision without restricting his own, Kawaryu can reposition, recover from a disadvantage, or strike from where his target cannot defend. It is particularly effective against ranged attackers with no way to see into the fog cloud.
In mist form, Kawaryu can also execute Diamond Dust as a sort of ‘combo finisher’. By shattering and sublimating the ice of a target affected by his Flashfreeze Fist, he deals greater damage to them and anyone behind them, with the tradeoff of freeing them from Flashfreeze’s debilitating effects.
Kawaryu has many abilities to understand. His stat block may seem understandably daunting at first, but much of his stat block is a conversion of the monk class and its many passive and ki-fueled abilities.
To help simplify running Kawaryu, any monk abilities that have been altered by his forms have also been renamed to highlight their differences, and additional abilities are based on existing monk actions. Surging Flurry borrows effects from Open Hand Technique and Redirect Flow is largely the same as Deflect Missiles. His strategy can also be broken down to using Flashfreeze Fist and following with either Diamond Dust or his water form abilities, cycling forms as he learns about and adapts to his opponent.
Describing Kawaryu in Combat
Kawaryu’s focus on his three fighting forms makes it important to highlight his Form Shift and new form in your descriptions of turns. This demonstrates his mastery of water while allowing the characters to learn and begin to anticipate his changing abilities. Instead of giving a simple, “Kawaryu shifts to water form,” consider the following details and examples…
In water form, Kawaryu uses smooth, constantly flowing movements to redirect attacks and take advantage of his opponent’s momentum. His motions are sweeping and fluid, yet seemingly effortless.
Your attack manages to reach past Kawaryu’s flowing movement. As the strike nears, you feel his hand reach your arm and his foot against your ankle, forcing your momentum forward but carrying it and your attack away from his body.
Kawaryu’s ice form forgoes maneuverability in favor of reinforcing his strength and preparing for an assault. He lowers and braces his center of gravity and uses a stronger, less mobile stance. Ice form also signals the use of Kawaryu’s Flashfreeze Fist and the attacks that will follow.
Flashfreeze Fist (from the perspective of the target):
Kawaryu’s blow connects with the expected shock of pain. But the impact carries a wave of energy that you feel radiate through your muscles, tensing and locking them in place. As your senses recover, you feel cold; like your blood has frozen in your veins and any warmth has been forced from your body.
Kawaryu’s mist form lightens his body to allow for easier repositioning and recovery. His movements becoming subtle and elusive, though his speed is not sacrificed, ensuring that he can execute Diamond Dust.
Diamond Dust (from the perspective of the frozen target):
Gliding past your slowed defense, his fist easily finds your center, carrying another discharge of energy. This time, it racks your body with freezing pain. You feel it like an internal explosion of pure cold as the ice crystals shatter outwards from Kawaryu’s punch and erupt out the opposite side.
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