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


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Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
It's a classic joke about economics, about how economists specifically (but more broadly other people making similar evaluations) assume too easily that everyone behaves rationally and makes the most optimal decisions all the time.

To the point that we will too easily assume that people must have a good reason for a given decision, even if contrary evidence is staring us in the face.

Fair enough. Regardless, history tells us that WotC has no interest, and certainly no financial incentive, to address these issues, so my opinion stands.
It certainly make sense for that to be your opinion if you don't remember any counterexamples. :) Certainly that would inform your view of history.

They could take away one use of stoneskin anyway. :)

1e stoneskin was one use. :)
The original spell description in Unearthed Arcana doesn't seem to preclude stacking multiple castings. My recollection is that this was a commonly-discussed "exploit" in the 80s, given that the spell has an unlimited duration until used. That in downtime between adventures an M-U would cast it a bunch of times and stockpile layers of protection. This, in turn, led to discussions about the most efficient ways to take down a bunch of Stoneskins quickly. Like throwing a whole sack of pebbles at them, all released from the bag at once but hopefully interpreted by the DM as being separate "missiles". :LOL:
 
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Nikosandros

Golden Procrastinator
The original spell description in Unearthed Arcana doesn't seem to preclude "stacking" multiple castings. My recollection is that this was a commonly-discussed "exploit" in the 80s, given that the spell has an unlimited duration until used. That in downtime between adventures an M-U would cast it a bunch of times and stockpile layers of protection.
Interesting take. I've never read it as allowing mulltiple castings to stack, but the text is silent on the matter.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
The original spell description in Unearthed Arcana doesn't seem to preclude stacking multiple castings. My recollection is that this was a commonly-discussed "exploit" in the 80s, given that the spell has an unlimited duration until used. That in downtime between adventures an M-U would cast it a bunch of times and stockpile layers of protection. This, in turn, led to discussions about the most efficient ways to take down a bunch of Stoneskins quickly. Like throwing a whole sack of pebbles at them, all released from the bag at once but hopefully interpreted by the DM as being separate "missiles". :LOL:
I recall this coming up in the Sage Advice column for Dragon #201 (January, 1994):

Is there any limit to the number of stoneskin spells that can be cast on a single character? Our PC group was recently set upon by a horde of foes, each protected by more than 100 stoneskins. Will stoneskin protect a character from falling damage? How may "attacks" will a protected character lose if an opponent hurls a handful of small objects (rocks or gems) at her from close range?

The spell description doesn't give any limit to the number of stoneskin spells a creature can enjoy at once. This, however, can lead to tremendous abuse. (One hundred stoneskins each? Give me a break!) I strongly suggest that you roll only once for the number of attacks a stoneskin spell negates and that this number applies no matter how many spells subsequently are cast on the recipient. For example, if a 20th-level wizard casts three stoneskin spells on a fighter, roll 1d4 + 10 for the number of attacks negated. If the roll is a "2" the fighter is protected from 12 and only 12 attacks. Once 12 attacks negate the spell the fighter can receive a fourth spell and can make a new roll. I also recommend that you give stoneskin a maximum duration of one day. This prevents a wizard with time on her hands from casting stoneskin on every soldier in an army.

Stoneskin protects against physical attacks in which something is hurled or struck against the victim: cuts, slashes, blows, bites, claws, tail slaps, etc. Magical and energy attacks are not negated. One could make a case for treating a fall as a blow, but I recommend against it. The recipient becomes something like a big statue, which is generally immune to blows, but it still can shatter if it's pushed out a window and falls to the ground. Note that the character is protected from cave-ins and avalanches, as these are situations where objects are hitting the character. Note also that magical attacks work against the character no matter how the spell delivers damage; magic missiles, lightning bolts, ice storms, and the various Bigby’s hand spells go right through stoneskins.

Generally speaking, one of a stoneskin’s protections is negated for each attack roll made against the character. A reasonable DM is going to call for one roll if a handful of pebbles is thrown at a target because all the pebbles are released at about the same time and all hit at about the same time, so this kind of attack should count against a stoneskin spell only once. Otherwise, a character could blow down a stoneskin by hurling handfuls of sand or dust. Likewise, an avalanche or cave-in negates one attack. Arrows, on other hand, come at their targets one at a time.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
I recall this coming up in the Sage Advice column for Dragon #201 (January, 1994):
Yes, earlier today I was looking through Dragon issues in the first year or so after Unearthed Arcana was released precisely to find such a reference for 1E. I definitely read that 2E answer back in 1994. I think my subscription was still active. :)
 

Voadam

Legend
The original spell description in Unearthed Arcana doesn't seem to preclude stacking multiple castings. My recollection is that this was a commonly-discussed "exploit" in the 80s, given that the spell has an unlimited duration until used. That in downtime between adventures an M-U would cast it a bunch of times and stockpile layers of protection. This, in turn, led to discussions about the most efficient ways to take down a bunch of Stoneskins quickly. Like throwing a whole sack of pebbles at them, all released from the bag at once but hopefully interpreted by the DM as being separate "missiles". :LOL:

Stoneskin (Alteration)
Level: 4 Components: V, S, M
Range: Touch Casting Time: 1 segment
Duration: Special Saving Throw: None
Area of Effect: One creature
ExplanationlDescription: When this spell is cast, the affected creature gains a virtual immunity to any attack by cut, blow, projectile or the like. Thus, even a sword of sharpness would not affect a creature protected by stoneskin, nor would a rock hurled by a giant, a snake’s strike, etc. However, magic attacks from such spells as fireball, magic missile, lightning bolt, and so forth would have normal effect. Any attack or attack sequence from a single opponent dispels the dweomer, although it makes the creature immune to that single attack or attack sequence. Attacks with relatively soft weapons, such as a monk’s hands, an ogrillon’s fist, etc, will inflict 1-2 points of damage on the attacker for each such attack while the attacked creature is protected by the stoneskin spell, but will not dispel the dweomer. The material components of the spell are granite and diamond dust sprinkled on the recipient’s skin.

My RAW reading then and now was that while multiple castings are certainly possible, no matter how many castings on a single person they would each be set off by the same attack. :)

That might save one from a rolled dispel before an attack, but that would be about the extent of an extra benefit from multiple stacked castings.

For me the big difference between 1e and 2e was that 2e stoneskin was multiple attacks, while 1e was one but it had to be a hit. So 2e was like invisibility, attacking whether hit or miss triggered.
 

ECMO3

Hero
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."

Hamburgers don't have the nutritional profile of Brussel sprouts thpough and never will. Almost every table has a guy who put up great rolls. You are acting like that never happens. It happens all the time, and when it does you can play any class and be good at anything.

Keep in mind as you read this reply your statement is the Monk can "never" be good at the social pillar. That is just patently false .... even on point buy.


First, and most obviously, it would never happen in a point-buy campaign.

That is a minority of campaigns I think and again "never" is untrue.


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.

Agree on Dex and Wisdom but they do NOT "need" a high constitution and as a matter of fact I have never played one with higher than a 13 Constitution in a point-buy game. When I have played point buy, assuming standard +1/+2 it is typically 16 Dex, 16 or 17 Wisdom, 12 Con, and either a 12 or 14 in Strength or Charisma. But if you play a Half-Elf you can come in with two 16s and a 14 Charisma on 21 points and still have enough for a 10 con and a 12 Strength, and then you can get two different Charisma skils through your race in addition to one or two from class and background!

Usually on point buy I play with a 12 in CON, but I have played a Monk with a 10 Constitution and was fine. I have played every class except Barbarian and Druid with a 10 Con and they were fine.

Almost no one "needs" a high Constitution in 5E, because at the end of the day 5E is pretty darn EASY. Ironically, I have never had a character of any kind with a 9 or 10 Constitution die. I have lost PCs although that is rare, but I have never lost a character that would have survived with a higher 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.

Not constitution. You are just wrong. If you are on point buy you are going to need to make a choice between Strength or Charisma. You are right about that much.


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.

First off if a player has great rolls he is not going to have a low anything and that happens .... often. Second a Monk can take one or more face skills with almost every background.

You have to actually try hard to build a Monk that can't take proficiency in a Charisma skill. Folk Hero is the only background in the PHB that does not offer at least one Charisma skill for a Monk RAW. Pick any other background from the PHB or the vast majority from any other source and you can get at least one of Persuasion, Intimidation or Deception on your Monk ... and often both. That is before you design your own custom background!


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.

Rogues, Rangers, Bards, Warlocks, Paladins and Sorcerers are inherently better because they have expertise or their other abilities mesh, but nothing makes the other classes besides these 6 inherently better than a Monk at Face skills.

That's right, the Warlock, the Paladin, the Bard, and the Sorcerer

That is 4 of 12 classes and pushing Charisma will not keep them ahead of proficiency .... and that is if there is one in the party.

The best faces do not actually include Paladins, Warlocks or Sorcerers though. They are second tier (although ahead of the Monk). The best are Bards and Fey Wanderer Rangers, the latter because they can add both Wisdom and Charisma along with their expertise. These two are really in a class of their own when it comes to face skills (excuse the pun).

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.

The last Monk I played was not terrible. The Wizard I am playing right now is far worse than my last Monk was. The last Rogue I played was worse than my last Monk too.


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??????

They are good at running, and with athletics proficiency they are pretty good at most athletic and acrobatic things.

You are acting like the proficiency bonus does not count, it does.

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.

I do use acrobatics for Tumble quite a bit on both Wizards and Monks at low levels with low strength. Usually without any proficiency in it.

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.

You are usually pretty good at it, unless you for some reason did not take proficiency in Athletics. I would not say "particularly" good at every level, but OK at low levels even with an 8 strength, and really good at high levels. If you start with a 14 strength, which is easy to do on point buy, you should be really good at all levels.
 
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DammitVictor

Trust the Fungus
Supporter
How can you so blithely dismiss the ancient order of Wu Tang
Won't someone please think of the children?

My very first ever player character in AD&D was a 1e Monk. I love the idea of the Monk class, and it'd be fair to say that most of my 3.X player characters had some Monk levels, though I never again played a single-class character after that first AD&D Monk.

The Monk-- or equivalent-- has been my favorite character class in every edition of D&D.

I don't think the Monk should still be a character class in D&D, though, because I think that all of the things that the Monk-- and only the Monk-- class can do are things that every martial class should be able to do, and every other class should be able to do to a lesser extent. Being a high-level character should mean being a mid-level Monk, and then some.
 



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