The shark is often seen as a monster in Western pop culture, but in other parts of the world it is viewed as a symbol of strength and tenacity, and well respected as the king of predators. Shark skin and teeth are used symbolically and made into jewelry and often weapons wherever they coexist with humans. The idea of fantasy cultures showing similar reverance for sharks inspired today’s class path – a Monk who emulates the ferocity of the shark with their powerful fighting style.
The Pacific ocean and its many peoples, cultures and martial arts (particularly the Hawaiian art Lua) served as inspiration for this path, but it is a fantasy construct and in no way meant to accurately represent any specific beliefs or practices. However, the culture and mythology of the Hawaiians, Maori, and other Polynesian people is fascinating reading and can be very inspiring in the same way Norse or Celtic myths and religion can be. I recommend checking it out.
Way of the Shark
While some monks train in the science of the human body, and others channel the elements or lurk in the shadows, some monks come from traditions that require mastery of specific terrains, such as the ocean. The Way of the Shark is commonly found among inhabitants of islands or largely seafaring cultures. These warriors channel the ferocity of the shark, latching on to their prey and crippling them with joint locks, elbow strikes, and even actual bites in some styles. They learn to be as at home in the water as on land, and to fight with a diverse array of weapons as well as their body. Additionally, they use intimidating war dances to imitate the shark and other fierce creatures, and can be terrifying foes.
One with the Sea
You have been trained in the traditional styles and weapons of island people, and you fight equally well from a paddleboard in the surf, the rigging of a ship, or fully underwater. You also wrestle with a skill far above that of most land-bound fighters.
Starting at level 3, as long as you are not wearing armor or using a shield, you have a swimming speed equal to your normal speed; your unarmored movement feature applies to this speed as well. You may add your Dexterity modifier to all Strength (Athletics) checks, including opposed rolls while grappling. You also gain proficiency with the shark-tooth club and the garotte (see the end of this article), and they count as monk weapons for you.
Teeth of the Shark
When you reach 6th level, your grappling attacks rend flesh and break bone with brutal efficiency. While you are grappling a creature, your attacks with unarmed strikes or monk weapons against that creature ignore any damage resistance it may have.
You have trained your body to be more like the shark’s, hardening your flesh and learning to use your ki to breathe water. At 6th level, you gain the ability to breathe underwater indefinitely, and you gain +1 to your AC.
You bare your teeth, loose a fearsome war cry, and perform powerful movements, and your enemies cannot conceal their terror at your visage. Beginning at 11th level, you may add your Wisdom modifier to Charisma (Intimidate) checks. Additionally, you can use your action and spend 2 ki points to cast fear, save DC 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Wisdom modifier.
Shark Jaw Grip
When you reach 17th level, once a foe is in your clutches, it is only a matter of time before they are drowned, broken, or bleeding to death. If a creature attempts to escape your grapple using freedom of movement, teleport or similar abilities or spells, you may spend a ki point to force the creature to win an opposed grapple check first or the ability is negated. As long as you have ki points remaining, you have advantage on all checks made to initiate, maintain, or escape a grapple, and you may grapple creatures up to two sizes larger than you (up to Huge if you are Medium). While you have a creature grappled, you add your Wisdom modifier to any damage you deal to it with unarmed strikes or monk weapons.
Shark-tooth club (leiomano): This paddle-shaped wooden club has shark’s teeth set and tightly laced into the edge. It is used a bit like a cross between a morningstar and a short sword. Deals 1d6 piercing damage. Weight 3 lb, 1-handed.
Garrote: A length of rope used to strangle; can be used alone, or be tied to the handle of a one handed weapon (islanders often attach them to clubs). The garotte can only be used against a creature you have grappled and uses both of your hands (your grapple is still maintained). The attack deals 1d4 slashing damage and the creature must make a Con save vs. 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Strength modifier (or your Dexterity modifier if using as monk weapon) or gain a level of exhaustion. Creatures that do not need to breath or that do not have a discernible neck/throat are immune.
Edit 7/12 – Made a few small adjustments. The level 6 ability has been clarified, and the capstone slightly enhanced to make the character more balanced against higher level threats.
Some have pointed out that multi-classing with Rogue for Expertise and maxing both Strength and Dexterity let this path have a nearly unbeatable Athletics check when grappling. If you feel this is too powerful, you can replace the ability to *add* Dexterity to Strength (Athletics) checks to use Dexterity *in place of* Strength for Athletics checks (including for grappling). This means the character no longer needs a high Strength score, but reduces the maximum possible check if the character also gains Expertise.