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Way of the Kensai

“Monks of the Way of the Kensei train relentlessly with their weapons, to the point where the weapon becomes an extension of the body. Founded on a mastery of sword fighting, the tradition has expanded to include many different weapons. A kensei sees a weapon in much the same way a calligrapher or painter regards a pen or brush. Whatever the weapon, the kensei views it as a tool used to express the beauty and precision of the martial arts. That such mastery makes a kensei a peerless warrior is but a side effect of intense devotion, practice, and study.” - Xanathar

Monks from this tradition receive hemalurgic limb replacements (the replacement or advancement of body parts with weapons or tools) called Guerdons. They are almost like practical trophies and are earned by accomplishing great achievements. The monks present their achievement to a council who decide if a guerdon was earned, and if so, what it should be. To outsiders, it may appear alien and horrific. These monks believe that the body can be improved, and there is honor in receiving these violent gifts.

Monks are assigned “years of construction” where they leave the temple to accomplish feats and improve themselves. The number of years they are assigned is decided by a council, though the monk is able to petition for less or more time. Most guerdons are earned in years of construction, but they can be earned in the temple too. Since these gifts enhance abilities a monk has shown prowess in, monks of this order can become hyper-specialized. (This is DM discretion)

Examples of potential Guerdons: Navigating a ship full of refugees through a violent storm, and in return the monk received a magical compass set into their arm. The Monk “saw through” political intrigue and foiled an assassination attempt, so they earned a magical eye to replace their own. A Monk becomes renowned for their prowess at transcribing old works, so their finger is replaced by a calligraphy pen.

Way of the Sun Soul

“Monks of the Way of the Sun Soul learn to channel their life energy into searing bolts of light. They teach that meditation can unlock the ability to unleash the indomitable light shed by the soul of every living creature.” - From Xanathar

Beach dwelling tiny-home hippies. They are headed by an enigmatic central figure named Euphoric who they unequivocally adore (read, cult leader). Their leader is famously silent. They (he) will occasionally hold “gazing sessions” where they make meaningful eye contact with the worshippers that attend. Other than that, they haven’t made a public appearance in years, and in this void their followers are free to project whatever ideology they want to on their leader.

Monks of this tradition are focused on their connection to the universe and to each other. They regularly meditate (solo and group meditations) on the cosmos and the way that, they feel, all living things are connected. Through this regular, focused meditation they unlock a power within themselves, unleashed as beams of sunlight.

Way of the Drunken Master

Long ago, a lone adventurer set out on the back of his young dragon turtle, seeking fulfillment in life through the creation of beer. Every year he would return to his home with his discoveries, convincing more and more people to come with him in his search. As the years passed, his dragon turtle became larger. Eventually she was so big that an island monastery was built atop her. Here, you can find the advancement and creation of the many different beers discovered throughout the years. Using the traveling island as a way to simulate drunkenness, young monks practice their skills stumbling around the island as it moves through storms and harsh waves, eventually learning to fight while consuming their prized beer. Through this training the Way of the Drunken Master pursues a form of tranquility with the perfect beer.

A rift exists between the Way of the Drunken Master and the Way of the Open Hand. In the continuous search for the best way to brew beer, the Drunken Masters perfected their techniques again and again. Each brew they create is better than the one before. This intrigues the Way of the Open Hand, as they always seek the best. This is where the problem occurs: the Way of the Drunken Master does not wish to share in the creation of the best beer. They have devoted their very existence to the cause of creating something perfect. The Way of the Open Hand simply wishes it to be given to them as if they deserve it or are entitled to it. The Drunken Masters believe in earning the hard way. More so, they believe that struggle creates beauty. There are skirmishes between these two factions often. The Drunken Masters have also been infiltrated by members of the Open Hand on occasion who pretend to stumble in a stupor, hoping to find their way to the brewery so that they can pilfer a recipe.

Way of the Shadow

The way of the shadow is heavily tied to the Umbral Winds. They dance on the knife edge between light and darkness, wielding shadows while never embracing (or even taunting) the evil that lies within. Their power over this natural energy allows them to step through the darkness of the world. Manipulating the dormant energy within all things, the way of the shadow is able to step into and out of one shadow into another. They have a strong dislike for the hundred oaths, they find them restrictive and unnecessary. To the Way of the Shadow, the hundred oaths limit the potential of growth. With the power gained through the Umbral Winds, the Shadow Dancer can push the limits of the 100 Oaths. The Umbral Winds whisper to these monks, directing and teaching them how to manipulate this energy. The Umbral Wind flows through the monks, teaching them to fight and control their Ki using the dark energy of the world. The world is chaos, but Law came from all winds knowing their course.. Through the Umbral Wind the Way of the Shadow finds balance in all things.

Monks that hear the whispers of the Umbral wind are reclusive. There isn’t a concrete order or a figurehead. They are almost like feral cats, comfortable with detachment and confident in darkness. When monks of this tradition meet, sometimes they will group. Sometimes they will clash instinctively. Encountering a shadow monk is often unremarkable: a glint in the darkness or a feeling of unease at a shadowed alleyway before it passes.

Way of the Elements

Monks of the Elements have the power to terraform. They wish to make a utopian planet someday. For now, they study our planet in order to learn the best possible ways of improvement. They are at odds with druid circles because of the the difference in how they view the natural world. In the eyes of the Monk of the Elements, nature is imperfect, and so it must be remade through the teachings and alterations from the Way of the Elements. Monks of the Elements have a tediously democratic system. A building can’t be built without extensive debates and multiple rounds of voting about the color the building will be painted. They view it as perfect society, but outsiders largely see it as needless. It also slows down their planet-building dreams substantially. There are so many things to vote on, so many factors that have to be decided upon, that it is difficult to imagine them ever finishing their plans.

The Way of the Elements is taught within a small extremely well-planned city called Relojera. The growth of Relojera has been slow, but each addition has been exactly placed after long thorough arguments and discussions. Advancement within the Way of the Elements is difficult, as only members who have made contributions to the world which are accepted by a majority of the Way are promoted. After extensive reviews of their profiles and qualifications, once a month a handful of new trainees are accept to join the Way of the Elements

Way of the Open Hand

Travelling boat caravans, the Way of the Open Hand move from place to place seeking to consume/experience the best things in life as a way of reaching self actualization. Monks of the Open Hand (who refer to themselves as “curators”) will hear of interesting islands in the middle of nowhere. These locales have unique foods or clothing that the entire caravan will flock to and ultimately assimilate into their fleet. Caring for and maintaining the fleet is vital. It’s a living metaphor for the importance of maintaining your body and mind.

Their “temples” or Reliquaries are massive, exquisite central ships that are expertly maintained. The Reliquary ships are roughly between 440 and 538 feet long by 210 feet wide. Each has nine masts on its deck, rigged with square sails that could be adjusted in series to maximize efficiency in different wind conditions. Along with these colossal ships, they have smaller faster ones used for quick travel and the movement of curators. The eight-masted ships, called Repositories, are about 2/3 the size of the Reliquaries, measuring approximately 340 feet by 138 feet. As indicated by the name, the Repositories carry sought after belongings and tribute goods. Seven-masted Sepulcher or tomb ships carry the fallen of the Open Hand. Sepulcher are about 257 feet by 115 feet in size. Finally, the small, five-masted warships or Feretory, each about 165 feet long, are designed to be maneuverable in battle.

The ships are loosely connected by long strips of brilliant cloth that act as highways or zip lines so that monks of this order can travel from boat to boat. They have to navigate expertly, keeping the ships in tow to avoid damaging or tangling. Their fleets move in tandem, nodding with the waves like an intricately woven blanket on top of the water. During combat, the Feretory ships (which are always kept on the perimeter of the fleet) are cut loose and are allowed to engage in direct combat while the rest of the fleet remains close to their Repository ships, keeping them safe. If a ship that is tied to the fleet begins to go down, it will literally drag the rest of the ships down with it. Because of this, a damaged ship has to be detached and left to sink. This mindset is echoed throughout the Open Hand tradition: if part of a whole is imperfect, it degrades the whole. Weak links are not accepted.

Needless to say, when they arrive at an island, seeking out the best music or woodwork or wine, they are incredibly intimidating and awe-inspiring. It’s no wonder many people are easily manipulated into supplying their most perfect, most treasured items to the curators of the Open Hand.