This is a homebrew variant of the 3.5 monk I've been working at in my spare time over the past year or so, but only just recently got refined to the point where I figure it's ready to put up for public evaluation. I know I'm hardly the first to try to fix the monk, but I came up with a way of approaching it that I thought captured the flavor of the class quite nicely and decided to try to flesh it out into something playable.
Primarily, I was looking for a way to fix the monk's class features while more or less preserving their core identity. I really want to like the RAW monk's class features -- they're very interesting and flavorful, but the fact is that they're pretty lackluster. There's essentially no synergy between them, and most of them are pretty lackluster. A lot of the ones that could be useful (like the adamantine ki strike or tongue of the sun and moon) come way too late to really be noteworthy.
The core of my idea is a system of modular class features, choosing from a list of "secret arts" and "sublime arts" (preserving the mystical kung-fu master flavor). Many of these are based on the monk's existing class features, but I've also added several of my own devising that seemed interesting, useful, and/or thematically appropriate. Secret arts are gained early on, and start out simple and modest but are improved with level. Sublime arts are essentially all of the class features the regular monk would gain after level 10, with a few modifications and additional options; these do not improve. The modular nature of the system should allow players to select a set of class features that synergize well to fit any of several different concepts, and also help to support the notion of a variety of different martial arts traditions a monk might choose from. Several of the secret arts are intended to help mitigate MAD by boosting areas that tend to fall behind -- for example, the first rank of the wholeness of body secret art helps make up for a mediocre Con score by adding additional bonus HP from Wis.
I also tweaked several other areas: The BAB and hit die for the class are now more appropriate for a mainline combatant class. The AC bonus is slightly accelerated. I've cribbed heavily from Pathfinder's ki pool system for the monk, which I feel is a good way of handling the monk's supernatural abilities. I also took inspiration from Pathfinder in expanding the flexibility in bonus feats and giving Stunning Fist as a default bonus feat right off the bat -- because let's be honest, who doesn't take Stunning Fist as their first-level bonus feat? And there are a few other smaller tweaks that you'll find in the descriptions below.
I'm shooting for a power level roughly on par with the ToB classes, mainly so that this variant monk can be a competitive alternative to the unarmed swordsage for someone who wants to play a kung-fu style character and doesn't find the swordsage quite to their liking. Let me know if I've succeeded -- and if not, where I went wrong!
Monk: Secret Arts Version
Alignment: Any. While a monk's training requires intense personal discipline and dedication, which are often seen as lawful traits, there are many different paths and traditions to choose from. Any individual of any alignment can find a school of thought to suit their own personal inclinations. The one trait that all monks truly share is that they are philosophical -- not mere thugs skilled in brawling, but rather seekers of enlightenment who refine themselves, mind, body, and soul, in search of sublime transcendence. A lawful monk may seek enlightenment by following strict teachings handed down through the generations in an established temple, whereas a chaotic monk may puruse an esoteric path of individual self-discovery. A good monk may see compassion and self-sacrifice as crucial steps on the path to enlightenment, whereas an evil monk may see them as weaknesses to be overcome. A neutral monk may seek to strike a balance between dangerous extremes. Whatever your alignment, try to come up with a general philosophy of enlightenment to go with it, and use that to color your roleplaying.
Hit die: d10
Full BAB, all strong saves
Class skills: Balance, Climb, Concentration, Craft, Diplomacy, Escape Artist, Hide, Jump, Knowledge (arcana), Knowledge (history), Knowledge (nature), Knowledge (religion), Listen, Move Silently, Perform, Profession, Sense Motive, Spot, Survival, Swim, and Tumble.
Skill Points per Level: 4 + Int modifier (x4 at first level)
Weapon and Armor Proficiency
Monks are proficient with club, crossbow (light or heavy), dagger, handaxe, javelin, kama, longspear, nunchaku, quarterstaff, sai, shortspear, shuriken, siangham, sling, spear, and unarmed strike.
- Kama, nunchaku, quarterstaff, sai, shuriken, and siangham are considered special monk weapons, and can be used in a flurry of blows and for certain other class features.
Monks are not proficient with any armor or shields
- When wearing armor, using a shield, or carrying a medium or heavy load, a monk loses her AC bonus, as well as her fast movement and flurry of blows abilities.
Same as the regular 3.5 monk.
AC bonus (Ex)
When unarmored and unencumbered, the monk adds her Wisdom bonus (if any) to her AC. In addition, a monk gains a +1 bonus to AC at 1st level. This bonus increases by 1 at 4th level and every four monk levels thereafter (+2 at 4th, +3 at 8th, +4 at 12th, +5 at 15th, and +6 at 20th).
These bonuses to AC apply even against touch attacks or when the monk is flat-footed. She loses these bonuses when she is immobilized or helpless, when she wears any armor, when she carries a shield, or when she carries more than a light load.
Flurry of blows (Ex)
Same as the regular 3.5 monk.
- When a monk reaches 5th level, the penalty to attack rolls when using a flurry of blows is reduced by 1, to -1 on all attacks. At 9th level, the penalty disappears entirely.
- When a monk reaches 11th level, her flurry of blows ability improves. In addition to the standard single extra attack she gets from flurry of blows, she gets a second extra attack at her full base attack bonus.
At 1st level, the monk gains Stunning Fist as a bonus feat, and may select an additional bonus feat from the following list. The monk gains an additional bonus feat from this list at 2nd level and again at 6th level. A monk need not have any of the prerequisites normally required for these feats to select them.
Monk bonus feats: Combat Expertise, Combat Reflexes, Deflect Arrows, Improved Disarm, Improved Grapple, Improved Trip, Weapon Finesse.At the DM's option, this list may be expanded with additional appropriate feats from other sourcebooks that will be permitted for use in the campaign.
Same as the regular 3.5 monk, and likewise with improved evasion.
Fast movement (Ex)
Beginning at 3rd level, a monk gains an enhancement bonus to speed as long as she wears no armor and carries no more than a light load. This bonus starts at +10 ft at 3rd level, and improves by 10 ft at 6th level and every three levels thereafter, as shown on the table.
At 3rd, 4th, and 7th level, a monk learns a secret art -- a special technique discovered on his path to enlightenment. Each secret art provides a special ability that can be improved through further training. Each secret art has five ranks (Initiate, Disciple, Master, Grandmaster, and Perfected), with each rank providing a greater benefit. A secret art is learned at Initiate rank, and a monk can improve her rank in a secret art at 6th level and at each even-numbered level thereafter. A monk cannot advance past the rank of Grandmaster in any art except at 20th level or above.
At 20th level, a monk can choose to Perfect a single secret art in which she has already attained the rank of Grandmaster. This is the only time that a monk can advance beyond Grandmaster rank in an art. If the monk does not wish to Perfect an art, or has not attained Grandmaster rank in any art (and thus cannot Perfect the art), she instead may simply improve an art as normal.
Ki pool (Su)
Beginning at 4th level, a monk gains access to a store of inner power called ki, which can be used to enable extraordinary feats. The monk gains a number of ki points per day equal to 1/2 her monk level + her Wis modifier, and can spend a ki point as a swift action to gain one of the following benefits until the beginning of her next turn:
- Enhancement bonus to attack and damage with unarmed strikes equal to +1 per 4 monk levels, to a maximum of +5 at level 20
- +4 dodge bonus to AC
- +20 ft bonus to movement speed
- Make an additional stunning fist attempt in a round, which doesn't count against your usual uses per day of that ability.
Many secret arts and sublime arts offer additional uses for ki points.
Ki Strike (Su)
Beginning at 4th level, as long as the monk has at least 1 point remaining in her ki pool, her unarmed strikes are infused with ki. This causes the monk's unarmed strikes to be considered magic for the purposes of overcoming damage reduction and being able to hit incorporeal creatures.
Improved ki strike
At 10th level and again at 16th level, the monk gains an improvement to her ki strike, gaining an additional benefit from the following list as long as at least 1 ki point remains in her ki pool.
- Adamantine strike: The monk's unarmed strike is considered adamantine for the purposes of overcoming DR and hardness.
- Exorcist's strike: The monk's unarmed strike gains the ghost touch property.
- Uncanny strike: Any time the monk would suffer a miss chance on attacks against an opponent due to concealment or a similar effect (such as the Blur or Displacement spells), the miss chance is reduced by half.
- Axiomatic strike: The monk's unarmed strike becomes lawful-aligned for overcoming DR. Only a lawful monk may select this option.
- Chaotic strike: The monk's unarmed strike becomes chaotic-aligned for overcoming DR. Only a chaotic monk may selectthis option.
- Holy strike: The monk's unarmed strike becomes good-aligned for overcoming DR. Only a good monk may select this option.
- Unholy strike: The monk's unarmed strike becomes evil-aligned for overcoming DR. Only an evil monk may select this option.
- Balancing strike: The monk gains a +5 bonus on damage rolls when making an unarmed strike against a lawful good, chaotic good, lawful evil, or chaotic evil opponent whose damage reduction is effective against her unarmed strikes. This benefit does not apply against a target if its alignment is not among those listed, it does not have damage reduction, or its damage reduction does not apply to your attacks. For example, a monk with adamantine strike as well as this benefit would not gain a bonus to damage rolls against creatures with DR overcome by adamantine weapons. Only a true neutral monk may select this option.
Purity of Body (Su)
At 5th level, a monk gains immunity to all diseases, including supernatural and magical diseases.
Diamond Body (Su)
Same as the regular 3.5 monk.
At 12th level, and again at 13th level and every odd-numbered level thereafter, a monk learns a sublime art. Like secret arts, sublime arts are special abilities a monk learns as part of her training; however, unlike secret arts, sublime arts cannot be improved by further training. A monk chooses her sublime arts from the following options:
- Abundant Step (Su): As a move action, the monk may spend 2 ki to slip between spaces as though using the Dimension Door spell with a caster level equal to her monk level. The monk can only transport herself and carried objects up to her heavy load in this way.
- Diamond Soul (Ex): The monk gains spell resistance equal to her monk level + 10.
- Quivering Palm (Su): The monk can set up vibrations within the body of another creature that can thereafter be fatal if the monk so desires. The monk must declare she is using this ability before making an unarmed attack. If the attack misses, the attempt is wasted; if it hits, the monk can then will that creature to die as a free action at any time within the next week. At this time, the target must make a Fort save (DC 10 + 1/2 monk level + Wis bonus) or die immediately. On a successful save, the target instead takes 1d6 damage per point of Wis bonus the monk has (minimum 1d6). This ability does not affect creatures that are immune to critical hits, and a monk can only have one quivering palm effect active at once. If the monk uses this ability while another is in effect, the previous effect is negated. This ability can be used a number of times per day equal to the monk's Wis bonus (minimum once per day). Only a monk of 15th level or higher can learn this sublime art.
- Tongue of the Sun and Moon (Ex): The monk can speak with any living creature.
- Empty Body (Su): As a move action, the monk can spend 3 ki to become ethereal for 1 minute, as though using the spell Etherealness. This ability cannot be used to make any other creature ethereal. Only a monk of 15th level or higher can learn this sublime art.
- Summer's Burning Fury (Su): The monk gains resistance 20 to fire, and can spend 2 ki as a standard action to shroud herself in an aura of fire for 1 round per monk level or until the aura is discharged. This aura deals fire damage equal to the monk's level + her Wis bonus to any creature that attacks the monk with a natural or non-reach manufactured melee weapon, and causes her unarmed strikes and special monk weapon attacks to deal bonus fire damage equal to her Wis bonus. The monk can discharge this aura as a swift action to produce a 60-ft cone-shaped burst of flame, dealing 10d6 fire damage and dazing all affected creatures for 1 round. A successful Ref save (DC 10 + 1/2 level + Wis bonus) halves the damage and negates the dazing effect.
- Winter's Frigid Scorn (Su): This sublime art functions as Summer's Burning Fury, except that the resistance and damage type is changed to cold and the discharge entangles instead of dazes.
- Spring's Stormy Passion (Su): This sublime art functions as Summer's Burning Fury, except that the resistance and damage type is changed to electricity and the discharge blinds instead of dazes.
- Autumn's Bitter Disdain (Su): This sublime art functions as Summer's Burning Fury, except that the resistance and damage type is changed to acid and the discharge sickens instead of dazes.
- Shadow of the Moon (Su): As long as the monk has at least 1 point of ki available, she can fade into shadows as a standard action, gaining total concealment as long as she remains within an area of less than bright illumination. This effect lasts until the monk dismisses it (a free action), enters a brightly illuminated area, or runs out of ki.
- Light of the Sun (Su): As long as the monk has at least 1 point of ki available, she can produce light as a free action. This ability can produce bright light to a maximum radius of 10 ft x the monk's Wis bonus, but the monk can freely control the brightness and radius. Additionally, the monk can spend 2 ki as a standard action to intensify this light to blinding brightness in a radius of 10 ft x her Wis bonus for 1 round per level. Each sighted creature within range must make a Fort save (DC 10 + 1/2 level + Wis bonus) or be blinded for the duration of the effect. A creature that makes its save is instead dazzled, but is otherwise not further affected unless it attacks the monk. A creature that attacks the monk or targets her with an effect requiring line of sight while within the radius of this effect must make another Fort save of be blinded for the remainder of the effect's duration. A creature can attempt to avert its eyes (a free action) to gain a 50% chance to avoid needing to attempt a save, but doing so imparts a 20% miss chance to its attacks against the monk and a 20% failure chance for its spells and effects targeting the monk that require line of sight. This effect suppresses all darkness spells and effects within its radius with a level less than or equal to 1/2 the monk's level.
- Secret Art: In place of learning a sublime art, the monk can learn a new secret art at initiate rank.
- Improved Art: In place of learning a sublime art, the monk can improve her rank in a secret art she knows.
As the regular 3.5 monk, except the DR is overcome by a single alignment opposite that of the monk's own alignment on one axis. For example, a lawful good monk can gain DR 10/evil or DR 10/chaotic. A true neutral monk may choose any single alignment to overcome her DR. This choice cannot be changed once made.
Still Mind (Ex)
The monk focuses her thoughts to resist outside influence, improve her perception, and enhance her use of ki.
- Initiate: The monk gains a +2 bonus to saves against mind-affecting effects and the size of her ki pool is increased by two.
- Disciple: the monk's bonus to saves improves to +3, and she adds her Wis bonus to initiative checks. Furthermore, the save DCs of all Wis-based extraordinary and supernatural abilities she has are increased by 2.
- Master: The monk's bonus to saves improves to +4, and she gains the uncanny dodge and improved uncanny dodge class features. Additionally, the monk can meditate for a half hour once per day to recover ki points and remove fatigue and exhaustion as though she had rested for 8 hours. This meditation also satiates the monk's stomach, allowing her to go without food as long as she meditates daily. However, this meditation cannot duplicate the other benefits of rest, such as natural healing and the ability to prepare new spells or recover spell slots.
- Grandmaster: The monk gains blindsense to a range of 10 ft x her Wis bonus. This ability is not dependent on any single sense, and functions even when the monk is deaf or in an area of magical silence. Additionally, as a standard action, the monk can spend 2 ki to gain the benefits of the True Seeing spell for 1 minute per level.
- Perfected: The monk's blindsense improves to blindsight, and she gains immunity to all mind-affecting effects. Furthermore, she can now activate the True Seeing ability granted by this secret art as a swift action.
Petals of Wind (Su)
The monk uses her ki to control air currents to her advantage.
- Initiate: The monk gains a +10 bonus to Jump checks. She also can cause a cushion of air to slow falls, reducing the effective distance fallen when determining falling damage by 5 ft per monk level.
- Disciple: The monk's bonus to Jump checks improves to +20. Additionally, as long as she has at least one point of ki in her ki pool, she can shroud herself in a mantle of winds, causing all normal ranged weapons to gain a 30% miss chance against her. This ability can be turned on or off as a swift action, and can be used for a total number of minutes per day equal to her monk level. She can divide this duration however she likes, as long as the total duration does not exceed her monk level in minutes per day.
- Master: The monk's bonus to Jump checks improves to +30. Additionally, she may spend 1 ki point as a swift action to attack with blasts of air, treating her unarmed strikes as thrown weapons with a maximum range of her natural reach + 25 ft for 1 round.
- Grandmaster: The monk gains the ability to fly at her land speed (including fast movement bonus) with good maneuverability for a number of rounds per day equal to twice her monk level + her Wis bonus. She may activate or deactivate this ability as a free action and divide the duration as she chooses throughout the day, but cannot use it unless she has at least one point of ki in her ki pool.
- Perfected: The monk no longer has any limitations on the duration of her flight and mantle of winds ability. She can keep them on permanently if she so desires.
Wholeness of Body (Su)
The monk uses her ki to heal wounds and resist injury.
- Initiate: The monk adds her Wis bonus to the HP gained for each monk level in addition to her Con bonus. This applies retroactively to monk levels taken before learning this secret art, but the monk does not gain additional HP for levels taken in other classes.
- Disciple: The monk can spend 2 ki as a move action to heal an amount of HP equal to twice her monk level + her Wis bonus.
- Master: The monk adds her Wis bonus to Fort saves. Additionally, she can spend 2 ki as a standard action to cure an amount of ability damage to each of her physical ability scores equal to her Wis bonus (minimum 1), or cure that much permanent ability drain to a single one of her physical ability scores.
- Grandmaster: The monk may restore HP using this ability as a swift action, and gains a 50% chance to ignore extra damage from critical hits, sneak attacks, and similar effects, as though wearing armor with the fortification property.
- Perfected: The monk gains fast healing equal to her Wis bonus (minimum 1) and immunity to critical hits, energy drain, and physical ability damage.
Flow of the River (Ex)
The monk learns to move like flowing water.
- Initiate: The monk gains Dodge as a bonus feat, even if she doesn't meet the prerequisites. She also gains a +1 dodge bonus to AC and Ref saves during any round in which she moves at least 10 ft, and adds her Wis bonus to Tumble and Escape Artist checks.
- Disciple: The monk gains Mobility as a bonus feat, even if she doesn't meet the prerequisites, and her dodge bonus during rounds in which she moves at least 10 ft improves to +2. Additionally, she may ignore a number of squares of difficult terrain each round equal to her Wis bonus (minimum 1). This allows her to take a 5-ft step into difficult terrain.
- Master: The monk gains Spring Attack as a bonus feat, even if she doesn't meet the prerequisites, and her dodge bonus during rounds in which she moves at least 10 ft improves to +3. Additionally, when making a run or charge, she can make one turn of up to 90 degrees for each point of Wis bonus she has (minimum 1).
- Grandmaster: The monk's dodge bonus during rounds in which she moves at least 10 ft improves to +4. Additionally, when she uses her flurry of blows ability, she may take a 5-ft step after each attack.
- Perfected: The monk permanently gains the benefits of the Freedom of Movement spell and can take 10 on Tumble checks even in situations that would normally prohibit taking 10 on a skill check. Additionally, she may spend 2 ki as an immediate action to move up to 10 ft per point of Wis bonus (minimum 10 ft). This movement provokes attacks of opportunity as normal, but the monk can Tumble as normal (including halving halving her speed) to avoid provoking AoO.
Fury of the Storm (Ex)
The monk strikes with the ferocity of a raging typhoon.
- Initiate: The monk adds her Wis bonus to attack and damage rolls with special monk weapons and unarmed strikes.
- Disciple: The monk may use her flurry of blows ability to gain additional attacks on any attack action, not just full attacks. Additionally, she may spend 1 point of ki as a swift action to gain an addtional attack at her highest BAB in a flurry of blows.
- Master: The monk may spend a point of ki as a swift action to make a full attack (including flurry of blows, if so desired) as part of a charge.
- Grandmaster: The monk can now make full attacks as part of a charge without spending ki or a swift action. Furthermore, she may spend a point of ki as a standard action to make a number of attacks at her full BAB equal to the number of bonus attacks afforded by her flurry of blows ability against each creature within reach. These attacks must be made with unarmed strikes or special monk weapons, and are treated in all respects as a use of the monk's flurry of blows ability. However, the Disciple-rank ability of this secret art cannot be used to gain additional attacks as part of this ability.
- Perfected: The monk may spend 3 ki to make a full attack (including flurry of blows, if so desired) as a swift action.
Roots of the Mountain (Su)
The monk becomes an impassable barrier, unyielding as the mountain. She can use her ki to manipulate gravity, earth, and stone to impede her foes and draw on the power of the earth to strengthen herself.
- Initiate: The monk gains a +5 bonus to Balance checks and opposed checks to resist trip, bull rush, and overrun attempts. Additionally, as long as she is touching the ground and hasn't moved more than 5 ft this round, she can enter a rooted stance as a swift action. While in this stance, enemies treat the area in a radius around the monk equal to her fast movement bonus as difficult terrain, provoking attacks of opportunity for entering these squares as well as leaving them. Allies are not affected by this ability. This stance ends when the monk loses contact with the ground or moves more than 5 ft in a single round, whether voluntarily or by force (as from a bull rush attack or the Telekinesis spell).
- Disciple: The monk's bonus to checks improves to +10, and she gains DR 5/adamantine when rooted.
- Master: The monk's bonus to checks improves to +15, and her rooted DR improves to 10/adamantine. Additionally, when rooted she gains a bonus to Str equal to 1/5 her fast movement bonus.
- Grandmaster: The monk's bonus to checks improves to +20 and her rooted DR improves to 15/adamantine. Additionally, when rooted she can spend 2 ki as a standard action to force all creatures within a radius equal to her fast movement bonus to the ground. Each affected creature must make a Fort save (DC 10 + 1/2 HD + Wis), falling to the ground prone if they fail their save. Flying creatures are also affected by this ability, and also lose their ability to fly for a number of rounds equal to the monk's Wis bonus (minimum 1 rd) if they fail the save.
- Perfected: The monk's bonus to checks improves to +30, and her rooted DR to 30/adamantine. Additionally, when entering a rooted stance, she can spend 1 ki as a free action to increase in size. She can grow up to two size categories, to a maximum size of Colossal. Her height doubles (if growing by one size category) or quadruples (if growing two categories), and her weight increases by a factor of 8 (if growing one size category) or 16 (if growing two size categories). For each size category grown, she gains a +2 size bonus to Str, a -2 size penalty to Dex (to a minimum effective Dex score of 1), and a -1 size penalty to attack rolls and AC. Her space and reach change to suit that of a creature of her new stature (10 ft space and reach for a Large humanoid, 15 ft space and reach for a Huge humanoid; see the DMG for other sizes). Her worn and carried items grow with her, and her wielded weapons (including unarmed strikes) deal more damage appropriate to their new size (see DMG p. 28); however, any enlarged item that leaves her possession (including thrown weapons) return to their original size immediately. If insufficient room is available for the desired growth, the monk attains the maximum possible size and may make a Str check to burst any enclosures in the process. If she fails, she is constrained without harm by the materials enclosing her. This effect does not stack with other size-increasing effects, such as the Enlarge Person spell. It ends when the monk dismisses it (a free action) or leaves the rooted stance.