5E Mediation, Meditation, Devastation: A Monk's Guide
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  1. #1

    Grandfather of Assassins (Lvl 19)

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    Sep 2014
    Peasedown St John

    Mediation, Meditation, Devastation: A Monk's Guide

    Meditation, Mediation, Devastation: A Monk's Guide

    How does one Monk? A Monk is a fast, hit and run style character. They get in, they trash the place, they get out. They are, without exception, the fastest class, and the only thing that could improve that is dipping two levels into Rogue for Cunning Action.


    Strength: Thanks to your Martial Arts, you can completely ignore Strength in most cases. If, however, you want to make a Grappling Monk, this will be your main stat.

    Dexterity: AC, Intitaitive, Attacking and Damage, all of it can be done with Dexterity for you. Even if this isn't you're main stat, you're going to want it quite high for the first two reasons.

    Constitution: You don't want to get hit. Both your playstyle and your Hit Dice suggest you really don't want to get hit. But more likely than not, you will get hit at some point. And have HP when you do is good.

    Intelligence: Monks are wise, not book smart. But really, intelligence does nothing for you.

    Wisdom: Your ability to spot the hidden, the saving throws you inflict, and a large portion of your AC will all come from your Wisdom. That said, it's not as essential as Dexterity, so if you're stuck between which to boost, Dex first.

    Charisma: All that time meditating hasn't really helped your social skills much.

    Class Features:

    Unarmored Defense: Your stuck with it and it scales slowly. Good news is the only class that can out-AC you by level 20 is the Barbarian. Well, assuming you maxed Wisdom and Dexterity. Unfortunately it doesn't work with a shield, unlike the Barbarian's.

    Martial Arts: Now you're talking. This is, without a doubt, the easiest way to get a bonus action attack with full modifiers, ever. Also all your Monk weapons (including your Unarmed Strikes) can run off of Dexterity.
    Two very important things to note here: Both the damage die and the using of Dexterity are optional. You'll want your Unarmed Strikes to use the Monk's damage die for sure, but stick with a weapon until 5th level at the earliest (11th if you're using a Versatile weapon two-handed).

    Ki: Ki, all your really good stuff revolves around Ki. You have to pace yourself, as it only regenerates when you rest (short or long), but when you do use it, it can be brutal. You also get your Ki Save DC defined here, it's exactly what you'd expect it to be.

    • Flurry of Blows: In most cases, if you're going to spend Ki, it's going to be here. Especially if you're an Open Hand Monk.
    • Patient Defense: It can be useful, namely because it lasts longer than Disengaging.
    • Step of the Wind: Outclassed If you pick up Cunning Action, but otherwise being able to not provoke when you retreat is good.

    Unarmored Movement: You're a squishy striker, having enough speed to get in, do your job and get out is essential. Being able to water walk and go Matrix style is also cool.

    Deflect Missiles: Reducing the ways you can effectively be attacked is good. Being able to redirect attacks is just icing on the cake.

    Slow Fall: Or as I call it "Why Not Jump". The amount of times you'll be falling will vary quite massively, but it's handy to have when you do.

    Extra Attack: More attacks is good. Plain and simple.

    Stunning Strike: But when combined with this, well. Stun on your first strike and your second (and possibly your Flurry) has advantage. It can't attack you, can't move and can't make Strength or Dexterity saving throws.

    Ki-Empowered Strikes: Not that you have a choice about it, but this is needed for keeping up late-game.

    Evasion: This lets you make a Badass Dexterity Saving Throw to allow you to stare down avoid area attack's damage. Combined with your speed and Deflect Missiles there's no easy way to hit you if you're not in melee range.

    Stillness of Mind: Yet more ways to stop you being locked down. Charmed and Frightened are bad when you want to take someone out, spending an action to avoid that, while painful, is your best course of action while under either.

    Purity of Body: Flat out immunity to Poison and Disease is nothing to sneeze at.

    Tongue of the Sun and Moon: It's use depends entirely on how much your DM uses other languages. That and in general most things speak Common.

    Diamond Soul: Look closer. Do you see it? All saving throws. So that includes Death Saving Throws. Not that great since you want to avoid being in that situation in the first place, but helpful when you've no choice.

    Timeless Body: Unless your campaigns last for a century or more, this is basically useless.

    Empty Body: Ignoring the second part, unless your opponents have True Sight you are going to want this in every combat. Even if they have True Sight you might still want it for the damage resistance. And it's all concentrationless. Even better (somehow) if you've Cunning Action (Rogue 2), as you can sit next to the enemy completely hidden and Stun them if they move away.

    Perfect Self: Varies by how much you spend your Ki points. If you manage to burn through all 20 before a short rest, this can tide you over. Just be sure to spend them all, as you don't get any if you've 1-3 Ki Points remaining.
    XP Redthistle, FormerlyHemlock, Awesome Adam gave XP for this post

  2. #2

    Grandfather of Assassins (Lvl 19)

    Join Date
    Sep 2014
    Peasedown St John

    Way of the Open Hand:
    In my opinion, the strongest of the sub-classes. It contains the only save-or-die in the game and consumes the least Ki. It also only has one less-than-black feature.

    Open Hand Technique: So that 1 Ki, 2 attack Flurry of Blows? Just got even better. You can tag any one of these three on the end of each attack Flurry gives you at no cost.

    Wholeness of Body: For when you are hit, having healing in your pocket never hurt.

    Tranquility: Sanctuary just isn't that good. Can have situational uses though.

    Quivering Palm: Meet the only Save-or-Die left. It costs you your action to invoke (but not to set up), and lasts at least 17 days so you can use it for RP purposes too. Only works on one creature at a time, but it doesn't say it doesn't work multiple times on one creature. Although the action cost of invoking all those would make it situation that you'd have more than one in effect.

    Way of Shadow:
    As you might expect, the Way of Shadow focuses on stealth, making them more the assassination type. I rate them less favourably than Open Hand because the advantages Open Hand gives you are unique, where as Shadow merely enchances stuff they could already do. The best Way of Shadow Monks will want to multiclass Rogue at some point past 6.

    Shadow Arts: Most of these are situationally useful, but the Ki cost is kind of a buzzkill. You're better with the Warlock's Devil's Sight + Darkness combo.

    Shadow Step: The best manueverability you can get. There are very few ways to teleport, let alone at-will, so to be able to get it at-will with the cost of only a bonus action? Even better if you dip two levels into Warlock for the Devil's Sight + Darkness combo.

    Cloak of Shadows: A lesser Empty Body, but seven levels earlier and doesn't require Ki. Breaks too easy for my taste, especially given the action cost. Better if you have a way of making a bonus action attack that doesn't require your main action to be used to attack, as then you can bonus action attack while invisible and re-invis with your action.

    Oppertunist: Stand next to a creature, if it's hit, you can hit it with your reaction. Better if you've Sneak Attack.

    Way of the Four Elements:
    They're . Water Whip is the only redeeming feature. Why? Because everything else uses your main Action which is better spent punching stuff. That said, Jordan175 made a guide on it. EDIT: As of Eratta, they're fully .
    Last edited by Yunru; Thursday, 24th September, 2015 at 12:10 AM.

  3. #3

    Grandfather of Assassins (Lvl 19)

    Join Date
    Sep 2014
    Peasedown St John

    Dexterity and Wisdom are your two most important stats, normally in that order. That said, thanks to bounded accuracy it is possible to do well with any of the races. Hyperlink races are homebrew that probably will be close to the offical material when released.

    Aarakocra: I rated a race gold. Yup. Aarakocra make such good Monks it feels dirty. Fly speed is just perfect for a Monk's hit 'n' run playstyle and the stats are in all the right places.

    Human: +1 All is surprising quite good here. Normally half of the +1s have very little effect, but with the Monk you could go 8/15/15/8/8/15 to get 16s in your Dex, Con and Wis.
    Variant Human: As a Monk you'll want stats more than you want feats. That said, having a feat can help. Variant Humans are awesome in that they're the only race that can get a feat from the start. You have to default 30 feet speed and +1 to two stats (Dex and Wis, or Str and Wis). Currently you're also the only race to be able to get +2 Wisdom out of the gate.

    Half-Elf: You get an extra skill if you need it, Darkvision and Fey Ancestry. +2 Cha isn't anything special, but at least you get two +1s to other stats.
    SCAG: All the advantages of the Drow, none of the drawbacks.

    Tiefling: Hellish Resistance might be useful and you might be able to do something with the acquired Hellish Rebuke. Other than that it lacks synergy.
    SCAG: It's no Aarakocra, but it's close.

    Hill Dwarf: Doesn't boost your attack stat, but it's a hefty bonus to Con (and thus your HP). Plus it boosts your Save DC stat and your AC. 25 speed isn't really a problem, thanks to Unarmored Movement. Darkvision is always nice to have. Toughness is great.
    Mountain Dwarf: You're locked into making a strength build with this race. You get two +2s so you can spread the love stat wise if you so wish. 25 speed doesn't hurt for the above reason and Darkvision is as nice as always.

    High Elf: +2 Dex. Darkvision. Keen Senses. Fey Ancestry. That is what makes you good. Everything else can be disgarded.
    Eldarin: As above, but Misty Step is awesome so a higher rating.
    Wood Elf: Good stats, good speed. Darkvision is good. Keen Senses is good. Fey Ancestry is really good. Superior Hiding, not so much - generally you want to use your action for other stuff.
    Drow: Buffs a useful stat (Dex) and a useless stat (Cha), but that's not why you're here. Average speed, but that's not why you're here. Superior Darkvision, which will be made redundant for why you're here. Proficiency in Perception is never bad, as is being immune or resistant to stuff. Sunlight Sensitivity can be bad but ties into why you're here: Drow Magic. Combined with two levels of Warlock and you can run the Darkness + Devil's Sight combo. Yes yes, some will argue it's ally unfriendly (it's not), but even if your DM is "one of those", you're here because you're a Shadow Monk - You can just teleport to the enemy, attack and then run out of the way. You could simply take another level in Warlock, or use some Ki (but a level in Warlock is more Ki friendly), and not need to rely on Drow Magic though, which is why it's not Light Blue.

    Lightfoot Halfling: Don't. You're not bad per say, but you'd be better as a Stout Halfing. Cha does nothing for you, Naturally Stealth does little for you.
    Stout Halfling: +2 Dex is good, +1 Con not so much. Unarmed Movement counters your lower speed so it's not as much of an issue as with other classes. Lucky lets you reroll a fumble, which is rare but useful. Better chances at not being Frightened (Brave) is good. Moving through opponent's spaces could be useful, if you want to eat an OA. Personally I'd just go around them.

    Half-Orc: Your stats and Relentless make you out to be a good grappler monk, allowing a 14/14/13/8/14/8 pre-racial. Just don't try going Dex/Wis.

    Forest Gnome: You can't be controlled easily by magic, and you've Darkvision. unfortunately you've only got a +1 to a primary stat and 25 feet speed.
    Deep Gnome: See above.
    Rock Gnome: See above, only worse because you don't even get the +1 Dex.

    DMG Aasimar: Wis good, Cha bad. More situational than Tiefling due to more situation spell selection.

    Dragonborn: Stats do nothing for you, and neither does your breath.

    Goliath: Barbarians, not Monks.

    Blue: Thri-Kreen: Your stats line up, and Chameleon Carapace can be useful for Way of the Shadow Monks.
    Last edited by Yunru; Thursday, 19th January, 2017 at 04:58 PM.

  4. #4

    Grandfather of Assassins (Lvl 19)

    Join Date
    Sep 2014
    Peasedown St John

    Bounded Accuracy lessens the blow a lot, but in the end you're still a dual-prime class. And with only 5 stat bumps/feats (less if you MC), feats are going to be very rare if you want to max both stats. That said, I'm only going to list feats worth taking.

    Mobile: If you're looking to fill that last ABI, or just aren't as worried about maxing both stats, Mobile is a great choice. Each enemy you target in melee can't attack you once you retreat. Better than Disengage in that things that can counter Disengage can't counter this, and it's more action economy efficient.

    Alert: With your ability at crowd control, going first is good. Even better considering if your party is Surprised you can still probably outspeed and stun the enemy. Doesn't come with a stat boost though.

    Lucky: Another one for the "spare space" pile, this lets you add a d20 to the dice your rolling for attack rolls, ability checks or saving throws (so everything), 3/long rest. The really cool bit? You pick which of the dice you use. This is more specific than (Dis)Advantage rules, so if you've either it's a case of "Roll 3, take highest." Your DM might rule you can pick either the Lucky die, or the result of your roll with (Dis)Advantage, in which case it's not as powerful, but still powerful.

    Magic Initiate: This is an interesting one. It lets you pick up Shillelagh, allowing you to use Wisdom for your main attacks, basically replacing Dexterity with Wisdom for the position of "Main Stat". Dex is still important though because your bonus action attacks all use Unarmed Strike.

    Observant: +5 to Passive Perception and Lip Reading isn't normally worth all that much, but if you've an odd score in one of Wisdom or Dex, patch it up with this.

    Resilient (Wisdom): Alternatively patch it up with this. Wisdom Saving Throws are normally for controller effects too. Redudant once you reach level 14 though (although the +1 doesn't hurt).

    Skulker: Lets you hide easier and misses don't break Hidden. Can be important for stealth Monks.

  5. #5

    Grandfather of Assassins (Lvl 19)

    Join Date
    Sep 2014
    Peasedown St John

    Before immediately jumping on these: Multiclassing more than 1 level will cost you an ABI unless you go for a full four levels, in which case you lose Monk features. That said, the ratings do take that into account.

    Wizard 2: Divination Portent. Yes. Just, yes. Twice a day you can make an enemy suck, or ensure succes for yourself, depending on what you roll. Now pair that with Quivering Palm and if you've a low roll you've an insta-kill, Legendary Saves asides.

    Ranger Hunter 3: Hunter's Mark adds a d6 to your weapon attacks vs one target. Hex is better but I digress, that's not the main draw, just a tasty morsel. The Hunter Archtype is why you're here. More specifically Hunter's Prey. Colossus Slayer adds 1d8 to one of your attacks, Giant Killer can be a very useful out-of-turn Stunning Strike, and Horde Breaker means even more damage (and crowd control when combined with Stunning Strike).

    Rogue 2: Sure if you're maxing both stats this costs you your free ABI, but it's worth it. At level 1 you get Expertise and Sneak Attack, which is nice. What you're here for though is Cunning Action, which is a Ki-free Unarmored Movement, sans-speed increase. Or maybe your more into using Empty Body to sneak around, in which case you're here for bonus action hiding. Either way it's good stuff.

    Rogue 3+: Really this is if you want to play a Rogue that's fast, can stun with their hands and can teleport in shadows. Only recommended for Shadow Monks. You pick up more Sneak Attack dice, Assassinate, Uncanny Dodge, and Reliable Talent. Not bad compared to what your path would get you. Remember: Sneak Attack only works on finesse weapons, which your Unarmed Strike isn't.

    Warlock 2: If you go Warlock, go for the Fiend Patron for TempHP on a kill. You're here for the Devil's Sight Invocation, which combos nicely with Darkness. If your not a Shadow Monk don't do this.

    Warlock 3: Still here? Very well, but this is as far as you should go. Devil's Sight + Darkness as above, but you don't gain the extra mobility if you're not a Shadow Monk. Shadow Monks who take this do so to reduce their dependence on Ki for Darkness.

    Warlock 7: This is a stretch, but if you take the Archfey as your patron you can cast Greater Invisibility (presumably on yourself) twice per rest. Given that the DMG recommends six encounters and two short rests, that should be enough.

    Fighter X: If you're going more than 5 levels into a class, Fighter is worth it just for the bonus ABIs. Then again, if you're going that far, you're probably another class MCing Monk. (Fighter 11/Monk 6/Warlock 3 comes to mind: Darkness+Devil's Sight+3 Attacks+Shadow Teleportation)

  6. #6

    Novice (Lvl 1)

    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Boston, MA
    What about druid multi-classing? Seems like with the wis score & the martial arts you'd be able to do decent Druid spellcasting + go nutso with unarmed attacks? (Can still use dex for unarmed attacks in shapeshifted form & use martial arts type stuff?)

  7. #7

    Gallant (Lvl 3)

    Join Date
    Sep 2015
    San Francisco
    Quote Originally Posted by Yunru View Post

    Way of the Four Elements:
    They're . Water Whip is the only redeeming feature. Why? Because everything else uses your main Action which is better spent punching stuff. That said, Jordan175 made a guide on it. EDIT: As of Eratta, they're fully .
    Jordan175 here. Moved my 4-elements review to the lifeboat section, so update the link when you get a chance.

    Update: moded again to the charop forum. New link: http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthr...uide&p=6767321
    Last edited by ClockworkNinja; Friday, 27th November, 2015 at 01:26 AM.

  8. #8
    Great to see you keeping this up here Yunru! Thanks for the guide.

  9. #9
    Yunru, do you plan on adding options for Way of the Sun Soul and the Way of Long Death? I'm a fairly big fan of the Sun Soul and was curious about your thoughts on it.

  10. #10

    Novice (Lvl 1)

    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Dallas, TX
    Sun Soul looks really fun to me. Further encourages the hit and run playstyle (you only have to get within 30, no spending ki for disengage!) and you deal radiant damage. I'm definitely interested to see what the resident expert has to say.

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