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August 24, 2018

Character Build: Kung Fu Panda Druid/Monk Multiclass

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The Kung Fu Panda Druid/Monk Multiclass

An Unfortunate Introduction

This is typically the section of my character builds where I describe the goals of the build. There are no goals. There is only chaos.

This was originally spurned from a civilized discussion in a discord chat between two of my buddies in which we found that druids in wild shape “…retain the benefit of any features from your class, race, or other source and can use them if the new form is physically capable of doing so“.

We began “theorycrafting” what awesome multiclass characters could be made because of this small portion of the wild shape rules. Naturally, we realized that you could use wild shape to transform into every character in Kung Fu Panda.

Unfortunately we went on to build the character out for a future game. Sadly all of our characters lived through that game so no one could bring it to life. Until now.

I have gone through the deepest recesses of our “theorycrafting” notes and after quite a bit of editing have come up with a build. It’s by no means “optimal” or objectively “good”.

In fact, the concept was brought up in a reddit thread a bit after we’d discussed it. In it user Ionlygoonrrt says “It’s a pretty pointless build.”

With high praise like that the bar has been set very high. Strap in for a wild ride!

Level 1

Class: Druid
Note: Po in Kung Fu Panda begins his journey as a simple panda. We must do the same.

Background: Folk Hero
Note: The artisan’s tools must be Cook’s Utensils. This build will not work if you cannot make noodles.

Race: Bearkin (Panda)*, Tortle
Note: Ideally your DM will allow you to play the homebrew race I’ve linked. If not, pivot and make Master Oogway as a Tortle.

Stats: This was done using point buy. Check out this post for more info on point buy!

STR: 10 (+0)
DEX: 13 (+1)
CON: 14 (+2)
INT: 10 (+0)
WIS: 16 (+3)
CHA: 12 (+1)
Note: High Wisdom is great because we’re going to be spending the vast majority of our time in different wild shape forms. We then focus more on Constitution to help with concentration checks for spells and Dexterity for allowing us to fight well outside of our forms.

Skills: Insight, Perception

Post Level 1

Kung Fu Panda Monk Druid

I should’ve asked myself if I “should” not if I “could” build this. Art by Dreamworks Animation.

Druid 15/Monk 5

This is 100% a multiclass build. You could build a pure monk and play a Panda Bearkin and call it a day. That’s a quitter’s build. Don’t do that*. This build focuses on the entire cast of Kung Fu Panda.

Let me lay it out for you, you could role-play as the entire cast with this build. You cannot get that kind of value out of any other build.

That being said, if multiclassing seems a bit tricky to you check out my post on multiclassing if you want a more in-depth look at multiclassing.

The druid/monk multiclass honestly has a fair amount of synergy. Besides, we only take a small dip into monk to grab stunning strike and some of the more iconic monk features.

*You can do that if you want I’m not the boss of you.

Leveling Path

1-2nd Level: Druid
3rd – 7th Level: Monk
8th – 20th Level: Druid

We grab our first 2 levels in druid to gain access to wild shape and our druid class archetype, Circle of the Moon. This gives us immediate access to most of the cast due to level 2 Circle of the Moon Druids being able to wild shape into CR 1 creatures.

From there we’ll study the art of Kung Fu and quickly become a Kung Fu master. We’ll pick up the Way of the Open Hand class archetype as it is thematically the closest to a martial arts archetype for monks.

The Way of the Drunken Master archetype is a close second in terms of flavor so I would not fault you for choosing that one either. However, for the purposes of this post we’ll focus on Way of the Open Hand as it has the added benefit of the build staying entirely within the Player’s Handbook (Amazon Affiliate link; this gives me a small kickback to help pay for the site should you choose to purchase one using that link) alongside the Circle of the Moon archetype (except for the race).

Ability Score Increases (ASIs)

This build is going to give you a total of 4 ASIs to choose from.

Stat Priorities

Wisdom > Constitution ≥ Dexterity > Intelligence = Strength = Charisma

Wisdom is going to be the only stat that has a huge weight in this build. This is because your Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma skills are all carried over to your Wild Shape forms. It is also factored into your monk Unarmored Defense AC even in Wild Shape which makes it extremely valuable.

Constitution and Dexterity are practically equal and can be left up to your discretion. Constitution will be useful for hp and saving throws while you are out of your Wild Shape form. Dexterity is nice for fighting while you are out of Wild Shape. This becomes less of a problem in the higher levels as you are able to stay in each form for longer and get more uses of Wild Shape.

Intelligence and Charisma don’t have a huge impact on this build outside of flavor and skills.

Feats

Athlete – While Athlete is a pretty niche feat it carries a lot of flavor with it for this build. You’re playing as physically hardened Kung Fu Masters. Being better at jumping, more quick to get up from prone, and being adept at climbing are all spot-on lore-wise.

Lucky – Lucky is always an excellent feat. That being said, Po is luck incarnate so it works extremely well in terms of flavor.

Mobile – Just like the Athlete feat Mobile is an excellent choice in terms of both the build and the overall flavor of the character. +10 movement speed is of course a big bonus for any character. You’re playing as multiple Kung Fu Masters so being able to rush around difficult terrain practically comes with the territory!

Class Features – Druid

Druidic – Level 1

Knowing the secret language of the druids is pretty cool. Druidic can be used to leave secret messages to other druids which can lead to some fun role-playing hooks.

Wild Shape – Level 2

This is what we came here for! Wild Shape is a complicated ability and it almost an entire page dedicated to the rules and restrictions of the ability. I’ll try to summarize them quickly for you, but be sure to check out pg 67 of the PHB regardless.

  • This feature can be used twice per short rest
  • You can stay in a form for 1/2 your druid level number of hours
  • Take all of the beast’s statistics except Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma
  • If the creature’s proficiency is higher than yours use the creature’s
  • You revert to the same HP you had when you went into Wild Shape
  • Excess damage that is taken past 0 in Wild Shape is carried over to your normal form
  • You can’t cast spells or speak, but you can concentrate on spells that have been cast already
  • Retain any benefits or features from your class, race, or other source so long as your form can use them
  • Choose if your equipment falls to the ground or if it merges into your new form

For regular druids you’ll only be able to ever Wild Shape into a creature of 1 CR at level 8. That’s as high as you can get. It also costs an Action to Wild Shape.

While this could cover a large chunk of the cast of Kung Fu Panda it won’t include everyone. That’s why we’re going to take the Circle of the Moon archetype and be able to Wild Shape into much more powerful creatures.

Druid Circle – Circle of the Moon

kung fu panda druid monk dnd 5e

Druid magic can be reflavored to be more like the Dragon Warrior abilities. Art by Dreamworks Animation.

Combat Wild Shape – Level 2

This ability is awesome through and through.

The first part of the ability is that  your WIld Shape can be used now as a Bonus Action. This frees up your action economy considerably and could allow you to cast a concentration spell then shift, or shift and follow-up with an attack.

The second part is that while you are transformed you can use a Bonus Action to use a spell slot to regain 1d8 hp per spell slot level. Again, another addition to your action economy as most beasts don’t have bonus actions, but also a use for all those spell slots!

Circle Forms – Level 2

You can now transform into beasts that are more powerful. At 2nd level you can transform into a beast of CR 1 or lower. You are still tied by the restrictions of no flying or swimming speed until level 4 and no flying speed until level 8.

At 6th level you can now transform into a beast with a CR of your druid level divided by 3 (rounded down). This means that by the end of this build at druid level 15 you can transform into CR 5 creatures.

Primal Strike – Level 6

Your attacks while in Wild Shape now count as magical attacks. While it doesn’t look like much on paper this is a significant ability. Foregoing resistance and immunity allows you to easily dismantle a difficult creature.

This is the primary reason that we didn’t take level 6 in monk for its magical attacks. We’re going to spend the vast majority of our time in Wild Shape so it would be a waste to take a 6th level in monk just for magical fist attacks.

Elemental Wild Shape – Level 10

You can use both of your Wild Shape uses to transform into an air, earth, fire, or water elemental. This is a pretty awesome perk for Circle of the Moon druids in general. They’re all much more powerful forms than the average beast.

You’re probably thinking that while this is a fun feature for the average druid, this build won’t use them at all. There aren’t elementals in Kung Fu Panda. I too once thought this.

Thankfully the Kung Fu Panda wiki came in clutch and has an entire write-up about the Five Elements which were a part of the Kung Fu Panda comic book. Unfortunately we are not able to transform into a wood elemental, but I’m sure if you beg your DM enough they’ll whip something up for you (assuming this build hasn’t broken their spirit already).

Thousand Forms – Level 14

You can now cast alter self at-will. This is a neat perk that will help you with altering your appearance for stealth missions or intel gathering.

You can also use it to sprout gills and traverse aquatic environments without issue. This saves you a Wild Shape use which are always valuable to us.

It’s also an easy way to gain a +1 magical weapon while you are outside of your Wild Shape form. Since we opted not to take level 6 monk and gain magical hands this is going to be very useful for the few times we aren’t able to Wild Shape.

Spellcasting

Your spellcasting ability is Wisdom which is another reason why we focus on our Wisdom score in this build. Your modifiers are the same as the Wild Magic Support Sorcerer except you use Wisdom instead of Charisma.

Spell Save DC = 8 + proficiency bonus + Wisdom modifier
Spell Attack Modifier = proficiency bonus + Wisdom modifier

Honestly I wouldn’t deviate much from Terminally Nerdy’s comprehensive guide to Circle of the Moon Druids in terms of your spell list. Any spell that is able to be concentrated on while you are in your Wild Shape form is going to be useful to some degree.

A sizable chunk of your spell slots will probably be used as healing while you are in your Wild Shape as well. Focus on utility and flavor when preparing your spells during each long rest.

The cool thing about druids is that you have the option to prepare any spell in the list. Use your best discretion for what spells will best serve you and your group in today’s adventure!

Class Features – Monk

kung fu panda druid monk dnd 5e

Actual pic of me trying to create this build. Art by Dreamworks Animation.

Unarmored Defense – Level 1

Because Wisdom is our top priority we’re going to get a decent spike in our AC once we hit level 3 and take our first level in monk. We’ll have to ditch our armor to use this, but it will still be a net-increase.

The best part about Unarmored Defense is that it can be used while you are in Wild Shape. You’ll have to use the creature’s Dexterity, but for many creatures this will be higher than their Natural Armor that is their statblock’s AC.

Martial Arts – Level 1

Like Wild ShapeMartial Arts has quite a few parts to it. I’ll summarize the basics of it using bullet points again, but check out page 78 in the PHB for more details!

  • You can use Dexterity instead of Strength for your unarmed strikes’ attacks and damage
  • Roll 1d4 for damage for your unarmed strikes
  • When you use an Attack action with an unarmed strike or monk weapon you can make one unarmed strike as a bonus action

This is an excellent ability as it gives you some more action economy and further bonus action options.

Your unarmed strike damage also increases as you gain more monk levels. Since we’re only taking 5 levels we’ll have 1d6 damage instead of 1d4 at the end of our build.

Ki – Level 2

Now things start to get interesting. From here on out you get 1 ki point per level up to a maximum of 5 with this build. Ki can be expended to do crazy feats of athleticism, boost your defenses, and give you some more offensive options.

Some ki abilities require a saving throw. This is simply 8 + proficiency bonus + Wisdom modifier. Again that great Wisdom synergy shows up!

At level 2 you have 3 options to use your ki on. From here on out you’ll continue to gain some more options to spend ki.

Flurry of Blows: Spend 1 ki point to make 2 unarmed strikes as a bonus action after you take the Attack action on your turn. Notice that it doesn’t specify that you have to use a monk weapon or an unarmed strike for the Attack action.

Patient Defense: Spend 1 ki point to take the Dodge action as a bonus action. You can now attack and dodge while you’re in Wild Shape!

Step of the Wind: Spend 1 ki point to take the Disengage or Dash action as a bonus action. Your jump distance is doubled for the turn. This can be used while you are Wild Shaped into a monkey for those sweet parkour skills.

Ki recharges on a short rest so don’t be afraid to use it liberally. You’ll want to short rest often to regain your Wild Shape uses anyways!

Unarmored Movement – Level 2

Your movement increases by 10 feet while not wearing armor or wielding a shield. This bonus continues to increase theoretically, but since we’re only taking up to level 5 we won’t see any further increases.

However, this +10 ft. of movement also carries over into our Wild Shape forms. Extra maneuverability for forms that already have a ton of maneuverability is always fun. Giving you some more leeway to pounce while in tiger form is always welcomed!

Deflect Missiles – Level 3

You can use a reaction to deflect or catch a missile when you are hit by a ranged weapon attack. The damage is reduced by 1d10 + Dexterity modifier + monk level.

If the damage is reduced to 0 and you can catch it in 1 hand you can spend a ki point to make a ranged attack with the weapon as part of the reaction.

This whole ability is fantastic. “Deflect” means that it’s able to be used by practically any animal form.

That being said, very few animal forms are going to be able to spend the ki point to throw the weapon back. Your monkey forms will be able to for sure. Everything else will most-likely have a difficult time.

Slow Fall – Level 4

You can now use your reaction to reduce falling damage by 5x your monk level. This will be a maximum of 25 damage at our maximum monk level.

It’s a nice, niche ability that allows you to be a bit more risky when climbing things or fighting on top of buildings or mountains. It can also be used in our Wild Shape.

Extra Attack – Level 5

You now get the ability to attack twice whenever you take the Attack action on your turn. This can be used while in Wild Shape but there are some limitations to it.

Essentially, the only thing you can’t  do is make an extra multiattack while you are in a form that has it. You’d have to choose an extra specific attack that the form has. Still, depending on the beast this could mean a second potential crowd control ability.

For example if you’re in a form that has a multiattack, bite, and claw attacks you can take the multiattack for the bite + claw then take an additional bite attack with your extra attack.

Stunning Strike – Level 5

I’d be lying to you if I said this wasn’t the primary reason I went this far into monk. Stunning strike is phenomenal.

First of all, it works off of any melee weapon attack so your Wild Shape forms can still use it. You can use it multiple times per turn if needed as well as long as you have ki points to do so.

You can take an enemy out of the battle for an entire round while giving yourself and your allies advantage to hit them while they are stunned. There’s no size limit or anything making this ability consistently useful.

Monastic Traditions – Way of the Open Hand

Unfortunately we’re only dipping into monk long enough to gain the initial features for Way of the Open Hand. Still though it absolutely fits the theme we’re going for as it improves upon our Kung Fu abilities.

Open Hand Technique

Basically you can choose 1 of 3 things that can happen when you hit a creature with one of the attacks granted by Flurry of Blows.

  1. They must pass a Dexterity saving throw or be knocked prone.
  2. They’ll be pushed up to 15 feet away if they fail a Strength saving throw.
  3. The enemy can’t use its reaction until the end of your next turn.

You’re either forcing them to waste their movement, doing this and giving melee attacks advantage on the prone target, or taking away their reaction and allowing your party to reposition while not worrying about attacks of opportunity.

There’s a lot of great utility that goes into this feature that gives your punches some extra kick.

Beast Forms

Kung Fu Panda Monk Druid dnd 5e

That’s everyone (I hope)! Art by Dreamworks Animation

Now onto the most important part of this build. What forms will closely resemble some of the iconic animals in Kung Fu Panda? Thankfully I’ve scoured the Monster Manual just for you.

Some of these may require a bit of reskinning but if your DM is already fine with you using this build then that isn’t too much more to ask from them.

Po (if not allowed to go Bearkin): Reskinned Brown Bear (CR 1), Reskinned Black Bear (CR 1/2), or Reskinned Polar Bear (CR 2)
Tigress/Tai Lung: Tiger (CR 1), Reskinned Saber Tooth Tiger (CR 2)
Shifu: Ape? (CR 1/2) – Honestly couldn’t find a good one for him in the MM.
Oogway (if not playing Tortle): Reskinned Giant Toad (CR 1)
Mantis: Reskinned Flying Snake (CR 1/8)
Crane: Reskinned Giant Eagle (CR 1)
Viper: Giant Constrictor Snake (CR 2)
Monkey: Ape (CR 1/2)
Commander Vachir/Rhino Guards: Rhinocerous (CR 2)
Mr. Ping: Reskinned Blood Hawk (CR 1/8)
Elementals: Air/Earth/Water/Fire (CR 5)

As you can see your different forms are going to be considerably different in terms of power. Personally I’d see if your DM is up for homebrewing or finding some more beasts for you to choose from for this build.

Conclusions

I congratulate you on making it this far. There were many times I wanted to stop writing this post, and I know a lot more about Kung Fu Panda than I think I ever expected to.

This build is by no means optimal, and probably could use a bit more work if I’m being honest. However, I think it would be a very fun character and would induce many eye-rolls and sighs of pain from your friends.

Personally I’d bust this one out in a one-shot when people least expect it. My only advice is that you should watch all of the movies at least twice to really nail down the role-playing.

If you enjoyed what you read be sure to check out my ongoing review for all of the official D&D 5e books!

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