5E (House Rule) Stalker0's Alternate Monk Class

My group really hates the 5e monk class. They feel its quite weak, and a lot of other classes have stolen some of their traditional flavor (fighters have some means of self healing, rogues getting extra speed on their round, etc). So they challenged me to update the class for our next campaign. I have created the normal Chassis and then the Open Hand Monk as an example. First the caveats:

Balance Assumptions
  • This is meant to be a stronger monk than base. If you think the core monk is just fine and dandy that is wonderful, but please leave the comments of "monk is fine, no change necessary" aside in this thread.
  • My group generally only has 1-2 encounters an adventuring day. As such, "sustainability" is less of a benefit, and novaing tends to be stronger in our games. So please keep that in mind when you consider the balance. The fact that the monk can do his abilities "all day" is just not that big a deal with my kind of campaigns, but being able to do things "all combat" is where the power comes in.
  • While I did put in some adjustments to high level abilities, that is mainly for fun and fluff. My focus is levels 1-10. I put the higher level abilities in spoilers for tighter reading.
  • I put general commentary for each ability in () below.

Class Goals
  1. Monk should have some nova potential but a lot more sustainability in its abilities than base class. The class should not be dead weight without constant short rests.
  2. Provide Monks better overall defense (especially saves) and some self healing, so they are not as bad a healing drain on the party.
  3. Remove some of the offensive reliance on Stunning Strike spam.
  4. Provide some old "anti-mage" flavor from previous editions.
  5. Allow Monk abilities to combo with each other, instead of each ability conflicting with the action economy of the others.
  6. Wisdom is meant to power special abilities, not for core character survivability. Monks have a little more freedom in their secondary stats.
So overall, the Ki change (see what I did there) is that KI is now infinitely recoverable. It is almost at-will, so a monk can use one ability every round. They have some ability to nova, but that is capped by their max KI amount.

Stalker0's Altered Monk Table
1st+21d4Unarmored Defense, Martial Arts
2nd+21d42+10 ft.Ki, Unarmored Movement
3rd+21d43+10 ft.Monastic Tradition, Second Wind
4th+21d44+10 ft.Ability Score Improvement, Transcendent Defense
5th+31d65+10 ft.Extra Attack, Stunning Blow
6th+31d66+15 ft.Ki-Empowered Strikes, Monastic Tradition Feature
7th+31d67+15 ft.Evasion, Instinctual Form
8th+31d68+15 ft.Ability Score Improvement
9th+41d69+15 ft.Unarmored Movement Improvement
10th+41d610+20 ft.Purity of Body
11th+41d811+20 ft.Monastic Tradition Feature
12th+41d812+20 ft.Ability Score Improvement
13th+51d813+20 ft.Tongue of the Sun and Moon
14th+51d814+25 ft.Adamantine Soul, Step of the Spirit
15th+51d815+25 ft.Timeless Body
16th+51d816+25 ft.Ability Score Improvement
17th+61d1017+25 ft.Monastic Tradition Feature
18th+61d1018+30 ft.Empty Body
19th+61d1019+30 ft.Ability Score Improvement
20th+61d1020+30 ft.Perfect Self
Unarmored Defense: AC = 11 + Dex + Prof Bonus

(I removed the secondary ability dependence to give Monk's more freedom in their stat choices. They now start with the same AC as light armor wielders, with some light scaling)

Martial Arts: Same

Ki – At the start of your turn, gain 1 Ki, to a maximum of your Ki points noted in the chart. You can spend that KI on the following abilities.
(So the core concept is that the Monk regenerates their KI, and has a standard list of abilities they can draw from. They can use 1 ability every round indefinitely, or can nova a bit and use multiple abilities that drains from their KI pool.)
  • Step of the Wind: When performing movement, spend 1 Ki and gain the effect of the Disengage or Dash actions (or spend 2 KI to gain both). Your jump speed is doubled for movement.
    • (No longer consumes your bonus action. You have option to nova and gain both disengage and dodge, creating the ultimate mobility)
  • Patient Defense: As a reaction when an attack roll is made against you, spend 1 Ki and gain the benefits of the dodge action until the start of your next turn.
    • (As a reaction, this stacks with other KI abilities, and now you can choose to use it when you need it, as opposed to having to spam it to get basic defense)
  • Flurry of Blows: When using the Martial Arts bonus action, spend 1 Ki and gain an additional unarmed attack
    • (this works the same as it did before; aka 1 extra with martial arts, 2 extra attacks with flurry; I just cleaned up the language as my players were always confused by the stacking)
  • Diamond Soul: When making a saving throw or death saving throw, spend 1 Ki to become proficient in that save.
    • (My 3.5 players really missed the general save durability of the old Monk, and the current ability at 14th is way to high to bring that back. So this is for that purpose. Further, by allowing it to apply to death saves it adds a little uniqueness)
Unarmored Movement – Same

Monastic Tradition – Same

Second Wind - As the fighter, but using the Monk's level.
(I played around with various self healing mechanics, but second wind is strong, to the point, gets the job done. 5e takes the approach of sharing common mechanics among classes, like fighting style, so it seemed reasonable to share this ability).

Transcendent Defense: You can spend 1 KI to reduce falling damage or the damage from a ranged attack by 5 times your monk level. This ability can be used once per round.
(This combines the main aspects of the old Slow Fall and Deflect Missiles abilities into 1 core mechanic. It removes the "throw back" ability of deflect missiles in favor of allowing this to work with spell attacks as well, giving the Monk back some of its anti-mage flavor. This gives the Monk a strong niche as an anti-ranged fighter)

Stunning Blow: When using Flurry of Blows, you can choose 1 hit against a target to be a stunning blow. The target must make a constitution saving throw or be stunned until of your next turn. You can use this ability once per round.
(Its both more powerful in that it seamlessly integrates with flurry of blows, but weaker in that its 1/round. I didn’t want the Monk’s offensive identify to revolve around this ability).

Ki-Powered Strikes: Your attacks count as magical weapons and can drain the KI from other living things. When you make a critical hit on an enemy that is not a construct or undead, you regain 1 Ki.
(Give the monk something cool to do with crits, which is a class identity space no one is using.)

Evasion: Same

Instinctual Form: When incapacitated or unconscious, you can still take reactions.
(I think Stillness of Mind is very lame, but I wanted a condition aversion mechanic, and so I came up with the concept of allowing some action even when action is denied, so this doesn't conflict with other classes that negate certain conditions).

Purity of Body: Same

High Level Abilities:
[sblock]Tongue of the Sun and Moon: Same

Adamantine Soul: When using Diamond Soul, you gain advantage on your roll.
(This is very similar to the Fighter's Indomitable, but advantage instead of a reroll to give it some class distinctiveness).

Step of the Spirit: When using Step of the Wind, you gain a fly speed equal to your speed. If you don’t maintain the ability each round, you fall.
(At high levels, mobility = fly. The most mobile class should feel that love).

Timeless Body: Your body does not age, and cannot be magically aged. You require no food, water, or air. You cannot suffer the effects of fatigue
(The ability now has a little mechanical weight to it).

Empty Body: Same
(Due to infinite Ki this ability becomes a lot cooler. You can stay permanently invisible, or astral walk for long long periods of time).

Perfect Self: You can use two bonus actions and two reactions each round.
(I personally feel 20th level should break the rules a bit. So a 20th level monk can perform all sorts of crazy action combos that wouldn't be possible before, because he's 20th level!)

Open Hand Monk Abilities

Open Hand Technique
(3rd Level): Same

Ki Combination (6th level): When you regain KI using KI Empowered Strikes, you can spend that KI to make an immediate unarmed strike.
(So this is a bit of nova added to the Monk's offense. So now a crit = one additional attack. And of course if you get a lot of crits, you could get a ton of attacks, to create that once in a while "wow factor". This does have some strong MC potential with Champion Fighter, so I will be curious what people's thoughts are on that).

Tranquility: Same

Quivering Palm: Same
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Keeper of the Seven Keys
I like a lot of this and I will suggest adapting some of it for our table. I don't think anything you have would be broken in any sense.

Things I like:
Tying Unarmored Defense to proficiency. In the sense of martial arts, as your skill improves (proficiency) you become harder to hit (AC). But we will probably keep it to AC = 10 + DEX + prof bonus.

We regenerate Ki as well, 1 per turn, to the maximum. It works well.

Something I would suggest:
Increase the martial arts die by step.
Doing a bump as I'm going to show this to my players soon, so would like to get any immediate gotchas before I give them the reveal.


Empty body being the same while you have unlimited ki means you'll basically have it on all day, meaning you'll have it on at the start of basically every fight, probably for the duration of the whole fight. Of course that's 18th level, so it's competing against 9th level spells like foresight, but still, that's quite potent.

Ki combination is not a good idea, simply because a hold monster (and thus advantage to hit, and crit on hit) could result in wildly increased damage that could break encounters.