D&D General Monk: The Past, Present, and Questionable Future of an Iconic Class

Azzy

ᚳᚣᚾᛖᚹᚢᛚᚠ
so there is this netflix series that season 2 just dropped a little while ago called "Warrior Nun" and the main character gets super powers but her sisters are all just what we would call monks in D&D.
Useless Trivia: That show is (loosely) based on the comic book series Warrior Nun Areala by Ben Dunn. I've never read it, though.
 

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ECMO3

Hero
How can I miss you if I don't know you're gone?
After a lengthy trek through the various municipalities, localities, and jurisdictions of these United States I find myself back at home with a question on my mind... what are The Powers That Be doing to the Monk? But after looking at the various threads, and reflecting on the issue for a while, I realized that the Monk, much like the Ranger, might simply be struggling with issues of class identity that trace back to the origin of the class. It is remarkable, isn't it, that of the twelve core classes in 5e, ten of them (10/12) existed in OD&D, and are largely unchanged since then. That's right, I'm calling out the young 'uns like the Warlock and the Sorcerer, who are still far away from ordering from the Denny's Senior Menu.

Anyway, the issues with the Monk, and the proposed changes, bother me. The Monk and the Warlock are my two favorite 5e classes. The main reason I find them interesting is because they are mechanically differentiated from the the other classes and thematically differentiated from the other classes; in other words, both of them have both "lore" and "crunch" hooks that I always return to. In particular, the Monk can be rewarding to play as a martial character both because it uses limited resources and because it has both advantages and limitations that make for tactically interesting choices. That said, while I have repeatedly defended the monk class (at least, the past implementation of it), I would never say that it was "OP" or "needed a nerf," only that it was a rewarding choice to play for some people who weren't overly concerned with the power treadmill.

With the preamble out of the way, in order to identify the issues with the class today- and the issues with the proposed implementations for the class- I think it's important to first understand the history of the class. History doesn't repeat, but it usually rhymes. Like blistery. Or wistery.


A. Remo Williams- The First Monk
It's Mercy, Compassion, And Forgiveness I Lack. Not Rationality!
I get a lot of questions. Questions like, "Are you sure you want another double of whiskey?" And, "I can't remember if you told me to cook it with baking powder or baking soda?" Not to mention, "What's the deal with the Monk?" Well, the Monk first appeared in the Blackmoor Supplement of D&D (OD&D) published in 1975. Blackmoor is credited to Dave Arneson, although it is questionable as to how much of the material is truly original or written by him (as opposed to being heavily "edited" by Tim Kask). Among other things, it included two new PC classes- the Assassin and the Monk. This makes the Monk the sixth (or seventh, depending on how you count the Assassin) class in D&D! Yep, the class order in terms of publication is Fighting-Man, Magic-User, Cleric (LBBs), Thief, Paladin (Greyhawk), Monk, Assassin (Blackmoor). That's right, despite the vagaries of the Monk class in the future, it truly is one of the earliest core classes in the entire game.

As for where the Monk came from? Well, if you've read the excellent history of this time by Jon Peterson, Game Wizards, you know that the Blume family doesn't come out of it looking that great. But if you can credit them with one good thing, it might be this- that's right, the Monk class is because Brian Blume wanted to play Remo Williams. For those of you who aren't familiar with the time, there was a dramatic upsurge in interest in America in martial arts in the late 60s into the 70s. In retrospect, a lot of this was pretty cringe- it usually involved someone from the West traveling to the "orient" (usually some unspecified of made-up country) in order to learn from a stereotypical wizened old master, and emerge with all sorts of mystical abilities to kick posterior. Actual martial artists were often reduced to an inferior position (infamously, Bruce Lee in The Green Hornet). Anyway, this was a fairly common trope in all sorts of media- Iron Fist first debuted in comics 1974, Caine was on TV in 1972, and Remo Williams (The Destroyer) had his first novel in 1971. And this overall gestalt, and more specifically Remo Williams, is what Brian Blume wanted to play. And from Blume's desire came the original Monk. Let's have a look at it!


B. The Blackmoor Monk
I Can Tell You With No Ego, This Is My Finest Sword. If On Your Journey, You Should Encounter God, God Will Be Cut.
The first thing to note about the Blackmoor Monk is that it is a subclass of cleric. That's right- while the later AD&D monk is shunted to it's own area, the BM (Blackmoor Monk, not, um, bowel movement) is considered a subclass of the cleric. Now, let's look at what the BM's features are in OD&D as originally written:
1. Armor and Weapons: No armor, but can use any weapon. When using weapons, they add half their level as a bonus (up to eight points).
2. When fighting unarmed, any score 25% or higher (it says 5 or higher, but this is a confusing rule) than the minimum needed to hit the opponent will either stun the opponent for 3-12 turns (30-120 rounds) or kill the opponent. No save. (75% stun, 25% kill). In addition, monks will get multiple attacks and increased damage from unarmed attacks as they increase in levels. See below!
3. Hard to surprise.
4. Can use thief abilities of open locks, remove traps, listening, moving silently, hide in shadows, and climbing sheer surfaces.
5. Can fall distances (depending on level) without taking any damage.
6. Can speak with animals (4th level) and plants (8th).
7. Can feign death (5th level).
8. Can block ESP (6th level).
9. Can heal themselves (7th level).
10. Suggestion and hypnosis have no effect (8th level).
11. Quests and geases have no effect; heightened defense against telepathy (10th level).
12. Quivering Palm at 13th level; effectively, you can kill anything (with delayed effect if you want) of your level or lower. Once a week.
13. Can dodge missiles of any kind, including magic missiles, on a save.
14. Anytime a monk saves, he takes no damage (even if it is a half-damage effect). At eight level, even failed saves are half damage.
15. Increased movement speed, increasing with level.
So imagine an OD&D monk that has maxed out at 16th level- the highest you could go. Not only do you gain all of those abilities above (including the ability to kill anything will less than 16 hit dice, automatically, once a week), you also get the following- an unarmored armor class of -3. A movement speed of 34" (standard is 12") - which is 340 ft or 340 yds, depending on whether you're in a dungeon or outdoors, per round (I know you have questions .... just don't). And ... wait for it .... FOUR ATTACKS per round, with each attack doing 4-40. Think about that last one for a second. The ability to inflict 16-160 hit points each round, with every hit having a chance of stunning or killing the opponent if you roll high. So you might look at all of this and think to yourself, "Self, given this grabbag of insanely overpowered abilities, why didn't every single person play Monks? Why weren't there just swarms of Monks destroying every single dungeon? ALL UR DUNGEONS R BELONG TO MONKS!"

Well, the answer to that (other than the usual, "People have always chosen to play because of lore and their own desires, not just because of grabbags of abilities") is pretty simple- Gygaxian Gatekeeping. Gygaxian Gatekeeping was the old concept that if you gave out a bunch of cool abilities, you had to do two things- either "gate" them behind absurd ability score requirements so that they were hard to roll up (see, e.g., the Paladin's 17 charisma requirement) or pair them with something that made it nearly impossible to play (you wanna play a Drow? awesome .... hope your campaign never goes outside during the day!). See, I've listed all the cool things about the monk ... and there are a LOT of cool things about the Monk. Let's talk about some of the not-so-cool things.

First, you couldn't wear armor. That meant that at level 6, which was pretty high for OD&D, you had an AC of ... 5. That's chainmail.
There were minimum requirements- 12 in strength, and 15 in wisdom and dexterity.
Oh, and hit points? You use a d4. You get mage-level hit points.
You want treasure? Well, you can only every have FOUR magic items. And you have to give away all gold other than what you need for yourself.
And those four magic items? Well, you can use magic weapons, and those rings and miscellaneous items used by thieves. Nothing else. No scrolls. No potions. No nothing.
And followers (NPC henchmen) - they have severe restrictions on those, as well. Which doesn't seem like a big deal to players today, but was considered much more of a restriction in play back then.
To quote Steve Jobs .... And one more thing. You like going past level 6? Well, every time you want to advance. Every. Single. Time. You have to go out and find the single Monk that is higher level and beat him in a fair fight. Fail, and you drop down to the XP below the level you were just at. And does that mean that, from time to time, you will have to defend your level? What do you think?

And that Monk, and those abilities, remained largely unchanged when it was published in the AD&D PHB. Sure, it added new and bizarre restrictions (weapon restrictions, can't use oil). It stretched the class out to level 17. It added some new ribbons at different levels (can't be affected by slow/haste, can't be affected by disease, can't be affected by poison). It clarified a few things to avoid power creep (Monks can't use strength bonuses, Monks can't use dexterity bonuses for AC, explaining and complicating the auto-kill on hits to reduce the possibility, quivering palm also couldn't affect creatures with more than 2x monk hit points). It added even more onerous requirements for the class (15 in strength, wisdom, and dexterity, and 11 in constitution). But in essence, it was a character that was rarely played for a simple reason. As attractive and overpowered as the Monk was at higher levels, there simply wasn't a great demand for a class that was both melee-focused and so incredibly squishy for so long. If you had a character that actually met the minimum requirements to be a monk, why would you want to play a character that would likely die if you ever entered into combat? Sure, once you got to mid- and high-levels, the Monk could be tons of fun, but the chances of surviving to that level were low, you probably weren't going to have a lot of fun playing until that point, and if you happened to meet the requirements to be a monk, you were much more likely to use them on a character that could take advantage of the strength and dexterity bonuses! So instead of hordes of Monks, it was an occasionally seen "luxury" addition most adventuring parties. Nevertheless, this gives us an idea of what the essence of the Monk is, or at least, should be, in terms of class identity.


C. What is the Essence of a Monk?
Those Of You Lucky Enough To Still Have Their Lives, Take Them With You! However, Leave The Limbs You’ve Lost! They Belong To Me, Now!
From the beginning, we can see that the Monk has several salient features that carry through, and that define the identity of the Monk.

First, they are, and have always been, a martial class that eschews magic. Not only does the Monk not use magic, the Monk will usually have several ribbon abilities devoted to various types of defense against magical attacks- both mental and improvements to saving throws (or the ability to "dodge" magic attacks that other character might not be able to, such as fireball).

Second, the Monk is unarmed and unarmored. The Monk traditionally has had the ability to use weapons (and even advantages when using weapons!), but their prowess with unarmed combat is usually so overwhelming that, especially as the Monk increases in level, unarmed combat must be considered a defining feature of the Monk.

Third, the Monk has always had some ribbon added to their unarmed strikes. This has traditionally been the ability to stun (and even kill) with each hit.

Fourth, the Monk is fast. Wicked fast. No other character class can approach the mobility of a Monk.

Fifth, the Monk has defensive abilities that make up for their squishiness. This includes advantages to magic effects, poison, diseases, controlling effects, falling, and missile weapons.

Sixth, the Monk has ribbon abilities and skills. These fall into two types- first are the "thief abilities" that Monks use that give them utility out of combat, especially as scouts. Second are the cool ribbon abilities that players like, but aren't about the combat- these are the things like "talk to plants and animals" or "slightly heal yourself."

Seventh, and finally, the Monk is squishy. If you look at everything I wrote above, you can basically say ... It's a fighter, but with all of this stuff tacked on to make it better because I wanna win everything all the time! But the essence of a Monk is that it is not, and should not be, a front-line fighter trading blows like a drunk playing “Quien Es Mas Macho?" by trading blows. Because the Monk doesn't wear armor (and can't use magic armor) the Monk will always have an inferior AC. Because the Monk won't be using the Holy Sword of Awesomeness and Rectitude, the Monk has to be more judicious in its attacks. Because the Monk has lower hit points than Olaf the Slightly Stout and Very Dumb, the Monk can't tank. Whether you call the Monk a "skirmisher," or "tactical," or "like a fighter, but really annoying to play," the whole point of the Monk is that the Monk isn't a front-line fighter- it's a different type of martial character. You have to accept the bad with the good. Maybe not quite as bad as the OG Monk, but still.

And it's with those seven attributes in mind that we should evaluate the proposed changes in the Monk in UA.


D. A Brief Interlude- Discussing the Problematic Issues of the Monk
Our reputations precede us.
It's impossible to discuss the Monk without addressing the elephant in the room. Early D&D drew from influences that spanned the globe and put them all into a blender that we now recognize as D&D. With that said, the predominant influence on early D&D was Western European fantasy. From that perspective, the Monk qua Monk certainly stood out. It was not uncommon for new players to believe that the Monk was supposed to be some type of "Friar Tuck" character, because many players had a different conception of what a Monk actually was. As AD&D matured in the 80s, this schism reached the point that when Oriental Adventures was published, it was assume that the Monk would follow and become an archetype only in those OA types of campaigns (and OA had a modified version of the PHB Monk within it). The author of OA, Zeb Cook, later on went on to write 2e, and the Monk was dropped as a core class for that exact reason- later appearing in various supplements (although the true Monk archetype arguable did not re-appear until 1999, with the publication of the Scarlet Brotherhood).

All that said, it is inarguable that the original Monk was based on Remo Williams which was ... well, if you are familiar with the issues with the Iron Fist television show, you can understand why this wasn't a great trope. So when it comes to designing a better Monk, you are left with a few different issues-

On the one hand, you have the origins of the class which are .... Not great, Bob. However, the archetype of a Monk has been adopted beyond D&D into other areas, including CRPGs (like Diablo) which means that there is a strong desire to play as a class. In addition, you have a player base that has grown up and is familiar with manga, anime, and concepts like martial arts and wuxia that wants to play these characters. Not to mention everyone, in their heart, wants to be John Dalton (you're too stupid to have a good time....). So while there are certainly issues worthy of discussion, I also think that the Monk as a class and a concept has continuing viability and validity in the game. .... well, if done correctly.


E. What the UA Changes Gets Wrong About the Monk
It was not my intention to do this in front of you. For that, I’m sorry. But you can take my word for it. Your mother had it comin’.
Let's start with the basics- I've seen a few of the threads discussing the Monk changes, and I've seen people commenting on various things, saying anything from "Just let them use crossbows," to "They are perfect if the enemy spellcaster is exactly at this range and has no allies," to "Eh, they do sufficient damage if you take this special case at this level and don't think about stuff like AC and the like." Look, I get it. This is a forum. We argue. There will be people that argue to the cows come home that True Strike and Witch Bolt are actually the greatest spells ever if you just have this one specific use-case that they came across in their campaigns. With all that said, the changes to the Monk concern me because they don't really add anything to the Monk chassis that makes it more compelling to play as a class for a few different reasons. Don't get me wrong- I'm not against all of the changes; it's more that I think that the changes evidence a profound misunderstanding of what the class should be.

Let's start with the basics. Monks are unarmed and unarmored. Sure, they can use weapons (and if you want to have a Kensei subclass, that works too), but that's not the core identity of the Monk. Here's the issue- it appears that The Powers That Be ("TPTB") think that this is some kind of super-duper ability. It's nice! Really, it is. There are times in any campaign when being able to fight without weapons and armor is a good thing! But ... no armor and no weapons means no magic weapons and no magic armor. I know the refrain from TPTB is that the game runs fine without magic items, and I think that this is a true statement; but in the vast majority of campaigns (certainly all that I've seen) magic items exist. And magic weapons and magic armor are among the most common items. Do you know what is almost non-existent? Magic items that improve unarmed combat. So all that white-room theorycrafting about DPR not only undervalues how much damage the other martials will be doing (with their magic weapons) but it also overvalues the Monk's damage, because it doesn't count on the fact that Monks will almost always have a much worse AC and worse hit points than the other martials. I could comment on the "nerf" to stunning strike ... but while I generally approve of the limit to 1/round, I have to seriously question why they have it end at the start of the Monk's next action; what, have they never seen a Monk engage in solo combat??? Doesn't it make sense that the Monk should gain some benefit from their own attack?

Next, Monks are mobile. This is a great ability ... really! If you're in a campaign using a grid for combat ... those minute difference really add up. If, however, you are playing ToTM, this ability is nearly useless.

But this gets to the salient issue- fundamentally, the UA has moved Monks explicitly to a "martial class" section. Which, okay, Monks are, and have always been, a martial class. Next, the main design buff for martial classes overall is that they are adding Weapon Properties. Again, not a problem. But now ... what did TPTB do with the Monk? First, the did give the Monk a slight bump in damage for unarmed attacks. But then TPTB chose to remove the ability of Monks to use their martial arts die for damage. Which .... means that unless you're playing a subclass, like some revamped Kensei, means that the primary buff that martials get is simply not helpful to you.

More importantly, they are just removing ribbons left and right. Speaking all languages? Gone. Don't age? Gone. No disease? Gone. I know what you're probably saying- WHO CARES. The Monk finally gets to recharge their "Di" Points automatically! Well, this gets to the fundamental issue with the Monk, and why the new changes aren't really helping.

The changes have been made to further orient the class along the combat line. But in doing so, they are seriously misunderstanding the class. The Monk is notoriously MAD, and for that reason will almost never be good at the social pillar. In addition, Monks rarely have great strength, so will often suffer at the things they are supposed to be great at because of the confusion between athletics and acrobatics (if you've ever played a monk, you know what I mean!). More importantly, they will never be "straight-up" as good at combat as Fighters and Barbarians, and lack spellcasting and smites that Paladins, Rangers, and Bladelocks have. Heck, they have high dexterities but aren't even going to be attacking at range!

But what about, say, scouting... with that high mobility, that seems like a no-brainer. Well... about that. Unfortunately, Monks also can't be skill-monkeys at all. Unlike Rogues (who are also squishy damage dealers with better ACs and the same hit points) they can't get insanely high skill levels to skulk around with. They can't acquire extra feats because they don't extra feats (like the fighter) and usually have to upgrade their scores (because they're MAD). So what do they get instead? Ribbon abilities, right? Stuff that is, at a minimum, cool.

Instead, we see the Monk being further pushed into the role of "combat-only skirmisher." Which, okay. Except for the fact that they are buffing all the other Martial Classes with Weapon Properties ... which is something that the Monk (as a class) is not going to be that into.

With all of that, what is my solution? How would I re-design the Monk? Well, I think that most of the combat changes are fine (including the level 13 deflect missiles upgrade). I understand the change to Discipline points, I just hate having to type out the longer name. I think that the 7th level change to allow a short rest in one minute is going to be great for most campaigns, and borderline OP for campaigns that already allow the standard amount of short rests per long rest (if you do the standard 2 SRs per LR, plus this ability, you are going to get four times the discipline points per day).

What I think is missing is more of a conception for the Monk out of combat. The Monk needs more ribbon abilities- more "cool things" (from talk to plants to talk to peoples, ahem) that don't necessarily make the Monk OP, but are fun. In addition, the Monk should have a limited expertise- you don't want to step on the Rogue's toes (step on Bards all you want, especially their FACE!), but allowing them to choose expertise from a limited set of skills at a higher level seems appropriate. Oh, and allow the Monk to choose to use dex for athletics checks. Because c'mon, already.

Those are my brief thoughts. I'm sure others have better ideas. But fundamentally, the Monk is, and should remain, a kinda squishy and fast martial character with great defensive abilities and some cool ribbon abilities.

I am ok with most of the changes to the Monk. One thing I want to see most of all but don't are Kantanas (Longsowrd), Nunchaku (Flail), Nagintas (Glaive) and Blowguns as Monk weapons. I don't know how you can be serious about having an eastern-themed martial artist without these. That is the one change I really want to the current Monk class. The rest is mostly "meh"

I am fine with weapon mastery on the Monk, I think I like martial arts damage with Monk weapons better though.

As far as changes the 1-minute long rest at 7th level will be way OP for the players who actually play smart don't waste Ki spamming FOB. The irony is this is completely upside down. Where the class needs more ki is level 2-5. By level 6 they have enough to use it quite often in combat and by level 8 they can pretty much use it every turn (assuming reasonable number of combats and short rests).

I think the stunning strike changes are fine, although it should last until the ned of their next turn.

I disagree with a couple of your statements. First about Monks "never" being good at the social pillar. That depends entirely on their ability rolls. With average or below average rolls (or point buy) you are right they will never be good, but with great rolls and the right background they can be quite good. Not as good as a Rogue or Bard obviously, but pretty effective. They can be great even if they have great rolls and end up with an odd dex or wisdom and can take skill expert. They do need very good rolls to pull that off though and they need to be committed to it with their background.

I've also never really seen the problem with Acrobatics and Athletics either. Athletics is on the Monks list and more often than not I take it along with Stealth. This means they will never be bad at it and will be good at high levels even with a very low strength. Acrobatics is not used that often and when it is their Dexterity is often enough to carry them.
 

Ive had quite a lot of fun doing the research to try and reinvent the Monk without latching onto any of the traps of Kung Fu.

This lead to my take being called the "Disciple", with a clear psionic baseline to its core ability, but differentiated from other psionics (in my game) by having their abilities key off of a "growth" system, meaning the longer the fight, the better (and/or more numerous) abilities they can bring to bear.

Each Disciple is a Martial psionic, meaning of course no spellcasting, and their core abilities mostly focus on this, honing in a character molded by (obviously) discipline, in its many forms.

The subclasses though are what really push the aesthetics away from the Kung fu trappings. The Palam, a Wrestling type that pulls from Greco-Roman and Senegalese wrestling tropes, and pushes the class towards position controll in combat. The Sage, a Middle Eastern inspired anti-magic and healing type. The Natara, inspired by Hindu mythology and ideas from the wider pool of Indian martial arts, going for a "reflection tank" sort of role, turning the opponents attacks against them through powerful Debuffs. And the Apostate, a sort of "oathbreaker" of sorts, a religious warrior who turns away from their faith and their weapons. This one is steeped pretty heavily in ideas from Christian faiths, but also allows itself to borrow a little from Tai Chi, as a treat, as the Apostate, being the only explicitly "weaponless" Disciple, pushes towards a "deflection tank" role, wielding their opponents as a weapon and shield.

The latter two get pretty close to peering back into the Kung Fu territory (especially with how adjacent Indian martial arts are to it and the deliberate allowance of some small influence on the Apostate), but overall you get pretty much what you'd expect out of a "Monk" but with a more global influence.

And I say all of this to note that I obviously disagree on the topic premise; the Monk as a tank is a good direction to take it in, especially with the near total practical non-existence of "tanking" in 5e as it is. But even with other Tank characters to pursue, its still worthwhile and distinctive direction that doesn't take away from the fantasy of the class, kung fu based or otherwise.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
Didn't someone already try that in Picard?
Indeed. I created the character before seeing the show :)

I used the tolkien tradition of elves "not understanding" what mortals meant by magic - wondrous things elves do just by "skill" - run incredibly fast, fall gracefully, stun with but a touch...
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I disagree with a couple of your statements. First about Monks "never" being good at the social pillar. That depends entirely on their ability rolls. With average or below average rolls (or point buy) you are right they will never be good, but with great rolls and the right background they can be quite good. Not as good as a Rogue or Bard obviously, but pretty effective. They can be great even if they have great rolls and end up with an odd dex or wisdom and can take skill expert. They do need very good rolls to pull that off though and they need to be committed to it with their background.

I've also never really seen the problem with Acrobatics and Athletics either. Athletics is on the Monks list and more often than not I take it along with Stealth. This means they will never be bad at it and will be good at high levels even with a very low strength. Acrobatics is not used that often and when it is their Dexterity is often enough to carry them.

I have to wonder how much you have played monks, based on these comments.

Let's start with the social pillar. That's just ... the most bizarre pushback I've ever seen. With great rolls and the right background a Monk can be good??? Well, sure. If hamburgers had the nutritional profile of Brussels sprouts, then maybe we would all be healthier. As I wrote in the OP: "This is a forum. We argue. There will be people that argue to the cows come home that True Strike and Witch Bolt are actually the greatest spells ever if you just have this one specific use-case that they came across in their campaigns."

That said, if you ever played monks on any regular basis, you'd understand that this is a laughable comment for a few reasons. First, and most obviously, it would never happen in a point-buy campaign. Second, the right rolls and background they'll be pretty good? You know that Monks need a high dexterity, right? Not want, need. And a high wisdom. Not want, need. And a high constitution. Not want, need. That's three scores. And finally, because of saves, builds, physical attacks, and (ahem) athletics you want strength. That's FOUR ability scores.

Which means that every single monk I've ever seen has relatively low charisma and and intelligence. Maybe they don't "dump" it. But they aren't high. Not to mention the monk has no class access to face skills. None. And no class, or even subclass, synergies with charisma.

But sure, let's take your Witchbolt scenario. Let's say we are building the Face Monk because we can, and we like to argue on forums despite not really playing monks. Well, then we run into the next issue. See, D&D is a party-based game. And approximately ALL THE OTHER CLASSES are better at this than Monks. I exaggerate for humor, but only slightly. Ever since WoTC decided to elevate Charisma to the mental God Stat (basically, Mental Dexterity), class access to it has exploded. Which means that a ton of people in your party will likely have high charismas, and/or social skills, already. And they will dwarf yours. And they will continue to dwarf the Monks, because they will continue to increase it! That's right, the Warlock, the Paladin, the Bard, and the Sorcerer are all going to be raising their charisma and already have class access to face skills. Do you have one of those in the party? The Rogue has face skills and expertise. Do you have one of those in the party? The Cleric has access to persuasion and proficiency in charisma. Do you have one of those in the party? Even the Fighter and Barbarian have access to intimidation and are less than the Monk.

So if you've ever played a Monk, in an actual game, with actual people, you know exactly what I'm talking about. The Monk will always be terrible at the social pillar. Is it possible to build a Monk that is merely "not-terrible" at the social pillar but sacrificing a lot of stuff? Sure. Just like it's possible for True Strike to be an awesome spell.

As for the second- again, as you correctly note, acrobatics "is not used that often" ... which is the problem. All of the things that Monks are supposed to be good at are lazily subsumed in Athletics- what, Monks aren't good at running and jumping?????? But because athletics are tied into strength, most monks are not particularly good at it; instead, they are good at an ability that is almost never called for (acrobatics)- and completely forgotten about in the written materials that WoTC makes. Which means that in play, you will continually run into the situation of having an athletics check for your monk (whether it's holding onto a rope, or some other physical feat) that you won't be particularly good at .... because your character is MAD, despite the fact that these checks are almost invariably used in situations that the Monk, of all classes, should excel in. It is simply bizarre that this single ability is bifurcated in such a way, and to the disadvantage of the class that arguably uses it the most. Having a class ability that would allow the Monk to use Rex for athletics checks (or, better, use a single skill slot for both predicated on Dex, but that might cause other people to dip) would fix a lot of the issues with the class and the fiction.
 

OB1

Jedi Master
@Snarf Zagyg I'm really liking the +1 ASI at all feat levels (I wouldn't put in any restrictions on it) which amounts to +5 over the course of a campaign and ultimately mimics getting a couple of Rare+ magical weapons/armor. Add that on to @Clint_L 's improvements and the Monk becomes great.

And part of the reason for this is that I think the 5e Monk (and also Ranger) are kind of stealth 'Prestige' classes, that sort of assume a higher than Standard Array/Point Buy starting point on Ability Scores. They didn't require higher than normal stats in the rule set (like Paladin back in the day), but if you do roll up a character with high stats, both of those classes play way better than with standard (note that I still love the monk with Standard in 5e).

Giving that +1 puts SA/PB monk players on an even playing field with the other classes and leans into the monk identity of someone who does it themselves without equipment. Taking this one step further, how about a 'Perfect Self' capstone that puts 22s in every ability score. Going two steps further, how about a monk specific feat that's just "Chose an ability score, that score is now 20, you can take this feat more than once and choose a different ability score each time". Dipping for this ability is near non existent, since you have to spend 4 levels to get the first one.
 

And part of the reason for this is that I think the 5e Monk (and also Ranger) are kind of stealth 'Prestige' classes, that sort of assume a higher than Standard Array/Point Buy starting point on Ability Scores. They didn't require higher than normal stats in the rule set (like Paladin back in the day), but if you do roll up a character with high stats, both of those classes play way better than with standard (note that I still love the monk with Standard in 5e).
I think there's some truth in this, and it probably was part of the original "apology edition" design, intended to evoke earlier editions without falling into their worst traps.

The problem is, the vast bulk of people who have joined D&D in 5E, with it as their first TT RPG, or first D&D, do not roll stats.

This is easy to see in places where younger people discuss the game (including the Dndnext subreddit). Polls about whether people use fixed array, point buy, or rolling, go very hard against rolling. Extremely lengthy threads occur where the vast majority of people are anti-rolling, and it even gets a bit crazy as people exaggerate how bad rolling is in various ways (I prefer non-rolling myself, but some of the crazy stuff I've seen people come up with, making it almost a political thing to like rolling, is wild).

I suspect that there are newer players who like rolling, but they end up gravitating towards OSR games anyway.

So this leaves a situation, where, if you're correct (and I think you are), the design of those two classes is out-of-whack with the vast majority of people playing the game. Thus they should probably adjust them further than they yet have in the playtest.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
There will be people that argue to the cows come home that True Strike and Witch Bolt are actually the greatest spells ever if you just have this one specific use-case that they came across in their campaigns."
True Strike is an absolutely amazing spell. If you cast it as soon as the fight begins, the monsters can't accomplish anything until they give in to your demands and put up 50% more gold. And if you have multiple PCs that can cast it(collective bargaining), the monsters really get the short end of the stick.
 

Azzy

ᚳᚣᚾᛖᚹᚢᛚᚠ
True Strike is an absolutely amazing spell. If you cast it as soon as the fight begins, the monsters can't accomplish anything until they give in to your demands and put up 50% more gold. And if you have multiple PCs that can cast it(collective bargaining), the monsters really get the short end of the stick.
Just watch out for Power Word: Scab.
 

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