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D&D 5E Monks Suck


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It's been my experience that a lot of monk defenders way overestimate how many ki points will be available to them.

An hour is a very long amount of downtime, narratively speaking. If you're storming the castle or escaping from prison or defending the city from waves of bandits, you're not going to get an hour between the waves unless you feel like quitting or putting your mission in jeopardy. Always getting five minutes between encounters when you need to is a reasonable expectation when you're skulking about a drow's underground mansion, an hour is not. A lot of monks will make it sound like the DM is picking on them by not allowing regular short rests, but that's just the way action-adventure fiction is structured. You beat up the BBEG's lieutenants in the outer keep, you then confront the BBEG or their second-in-command immediately thereafter unless there's some other complication like one of your other attendants betraying you or an earthquake freeing the dungeon prisoners or whatever. Getting an hour in-universe between the action setpieces is not a reasonable expectation.

The thing is, though, monks fall off hard when they're not getting regular short rests. I remember when I was in a CR9 party that fought three waves of hill giants and ogres, it was not pretty for the monk. And while that's an extreme example, that's far from rare. For example, let's say you're a level 8 Shadow Monk -- how are you budgeting your ki points across two encounters?
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
The thing is, though, monks fall off hard when they're not getting regular short rests. I remember when I was in a CR9 party that fought three waves of hill giants and ogres, it was not pretty for the monk. And while that's an extreme example, that's far from rare. For example, let's say you're a level 8 Shadow Monk -- how are you budgeting your ki points across two encounters?

If that's the nature of the campaign, then the Monk isn't the only person suffering.

The Warlock, Fighter, and Rogue (with some subclass exceptions) all require short rests to be fully effective. While many Warlocks are built to EB spam, they (like Monks) are very much short-rest dependent.

If you are running your campaign such that there are no short rests but there are ample opportunities to long rest, then the problem isn't with the Monk.

(Finally, you should be able to budget ki points across two encounters. There should be 6-8 encounters per day per the guidelines, with 2 short rests and one long rest, which means that a "typical day" per the guidelines should be approximately 2-3 encounters, short rest, 2-3 encounters, short rest, 2-3 encounter, long rest.)
 

If I had to summarize this thread, I would identify two general groups (with exceptions in both cases, of course):

People with charts and graphs who say monks suck.

People with experience playing monks who say they are fine.
This is not an honest representation of the argument. Plenty of people with charts and graphs have in-game experience of monks sucking. It's just that we realize that without the numbers, it'll just devolve into a 'he said/she said' argument.

I can give you tons of anecdotal, non-numerical evidence of monks being bad, both from the DM side and player side. For example, a lot of monks emphasize their ability to be 'single-target spellcaster wreckers' -- do you want me to tell you how effective we found that niche in Storm King's Thunder and Curse of Strahd and Tomb of Annihilation? I currently play in a West Marches server on Discord, which involves a lot of exploration into unknown terrain. The monk is terrible there, because encounters often start way further than 60' away and if the monk uses their maneuverability to get in position they'll often overextend themselves and get ganked. Meanwhile the other party members (including the STR-based martials) can stand back and plink away with arrows or javelins and get free damage before the monsters approach. For times in which that's not a good strategy (such as against hill giants) it involves moving the group together as a blob and taking advantage of any natural cover or concealment.

Except, we in the 'charts and graphs' camp know that those kinds of stories are a waste of time, because people will just dismiss all of that with 'oh yeah, well, in MY campaign monks did this and this and made the DM mad by stunlocking the spellcaster BBEG'.
 

Dausuul

Legend
It's been my experience that a lot of monk defenders way overestimate how many ki points will be available to them.
There are two ways of framing this:

1. Monks are fine if the adventure allows the balance of short rests to long rests (roughly 2 to 1) suggested in the DMG.
2. Monks are underpowered because many DMs and adventures do not in fact allow that balance of short rests to long rests.

Both are valid ways of looking at it. I have generally been taking a pro-monk stance in this thread, but with caveats, and one of the big caveats is that they are a short-rest class and suffer badly when they don't get those rests.

I regard this as a problem with the short rest rules rather than the monk class, however. Warlocks have the same problem. (Fighters are also affected, but they are less reliant on their rechargeable resources and lean much more heavily on a strong at-will attack, so it doesn't hit them as hard.)
 
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That rogue is in serious trouble at my table, if that’s their strategy. They’re absolutely gonna need Uncanny Dodge.

Both of you, and some other folks, seem to value ranged combat much too highly, as well. Do your DMs not include spellcasters, archers, flyers, and slippery skirmishers, in your battles? I’d consider any fight where the ranged characters are safe to be either an intentionally easy fight, or a fight that I failed to design well.
And THAT is a major problem of encounter design I see in many D&D in my area. A lot of DM often forget the goblin's ability to disengage as a bonus action and many others. An encounter with 2 ogres is fine for 4th level characters. But an encounter with 1 ogre, 2 hobgoblins and 4 goblins archers is way more interesting (using XGtE).

And this is also the kind of fights where the monk will shine like a star. He will get past the ogre and the hobgolins to get to the archers. With his missile defense, the goblins will have a hard time getting the monk down and this will free up the caster(s) of the group to do their stuff relatively safe. The more varied your encounters are, the more a monk will be useful. The more you are making monotype encounters, then the more a rogue will shine. Variety of encounters will ensure that both will shine at their time.

Edit: Number of ogres and party level were wrong. Damn big fingers and phone digital keyboards...
 
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If that's the nature of the campaign, then the Monk isn't the only person suffering.

The Warlock, Fighter, and Rogue (with some subclass exceptions) all require short rests to be fully effective. While many Warlocks are built to EB spam, they (like Monks) are very much short-rest dependent.

If you are running your campaign such that there are no short rests but there are ample opportunities to long rest, then the problem isn't with the Monk.

(Finally, you should be able to budget ki points across two encounters. There should be 6-8 encounters per day per the guidelines, with 2 short rests and one long rest, which means that a "typical day" per the guidelines should be approximately 2-3 encounters, short rest, 2-3 encounters, short rest, 2-3 encounter, long rest.)
The thing is, the Warlock and Fighter don't drop off as hard in T1/T2 as the Monk does when they don't get a lot of short rests. The AB + Hex + EB spammer Warlock is boring, but it's still effective. Even single-classed BM fighters who used up their dice and action surge and second win are still high-AC/good-HP/good-damage dealers even if, again, the class is boring.

And if we have magical items in play, the Warlock can augment their endurance with stuff like wands and staves and even scrolls. Or even certain invocations in certain cases.

If a Monk is running on empty, they're completely screwed. They have mediocre defenses and poor damage and can't do anything else.
 

MwaO

Adventurer
Getting an hour in-universe between the action setpieces is not a reasonable expectation.

A DM should most certainly be designing their encounters such that not getting a short rest every 2-3 combats should be exceedingly rare. And to realize that if they don't do that, they are deliberately going against DMG guidance and a consequence of that is that it will punish primarily short rest classes.
 

OB1

Jedi Master
Rough analysis for Open Hand monk prone effect:

Party attack damage with flurry of blows and no prone = 67.67 = 40.6 DPR
Party attack damage with flurry of blows and 100% prone (no benefit to monk) = 43.9

Essentially +3.3 DPR due to the prone - when flurry of blows is used. Possibly more if the ranged allies target a different enemy, although then the benefits of focus fire are lost. By level 5 you can use it 5/8's of the time. That's an average of +2.1 DPR. By level 8 it's 100% of the time and so the average is +3.3 DPR then. Except those values need reduced by the chance you have of landing the prone. I'm using 60% for now. So +1.26 DPR at level 5 to +1.98 DPR at level 10.

Which is enough to for the monk to be ahead of the 2 swords rogue from level 5-10.
Great analysis @FrogReaver Was just thinking that rather than win % of a Champion Fighter vs an OH Monk, I'd love to see expected win percentages of a party against a 5th Level deadly encounter with a few permutations.

Fighter, Rogue, Cleric, Wizard
Monk, Rogue, Cleric, Wizard
Fighter, Monk, Cleric, Wizard
Fighter, Rogue, Monk, Wizard
Fighter, Rogue, Cleric, Monk

In my mind, that's the real metric for determining if a class is underpowered. Have no idea how to calculate this though.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
If a Monk is running on empty, they're completely screwed. They have mediocre defenses and poor damage and can't do anything else.

1. By what you wrote, you are inherently assuming certain builds; yes, some Warlocks do the EB/AB/Hex spamming, but, and this may shock you ... that is not a class requirement. There are plenty of interesting and fun Warlock characters that don't do that. Your insistence on certain models makes me think that you play a certain way, which is fine, but isn't a requirement.

2. If you aren't allowing short-rest character classes to get short rests, then ... you are deliberately disadvantaging those people who chose that class mechanic for their character. Which means that it is incumbent on you to allow a balance between the long rest and short rest classes; you can use the alternate "5 minute" short rests, or what have you. But simply throwing your arms up in the air (like you just don't care) and saying that the class is weak because you aren't allowing for short rests isn't a failure of the class.


TLDR; if the objection is, "The short rest class sucks, because we don't have short rests," then the problem isn't the class.
 
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2. If you aren't allowing short-rest character classes to get short rests, then ... you are deliberately disadvantaging over those people who chose that class mechanic for their character. Which means that it is incumbent on you to allow a balance between the long rest and short rest classes; you can use the alternate "5 minute" short rests, or what have you. But simply throwing your arms up in the air (like you just don't care) and saying that the class is weak because you aren't allowing for short rests isn't a failure of the class.
A DM should most certainly be designing their encounters such that not getting a short rest every 2-3 combats should be exceedingly rare. And to realize that if they don't do that, they are deliberately going against DMG guidance and a consequence of that is that it will punish primarily short rest classes.
The DMG guidance is wrong in this instance. It runs up against how stories are organically structured and tells the DM to damage internal consistency for game balance. And a lot of DMs, understandably, aren't going to design the adventure of 'escape from the zombie apocalypse before the city goes on lockdown' or 'storm the caves and stop the cultists from sacrificing the princess' to allow for convenient 1-hour rests. Which isn't that big of an issue even for classes that like frequent short rests like the BM Fighter and the Warlock. It's just that the monk drops off really hard if the DM decides not to damage the story for the sake of gameplay.
 

Dausuul

Legend
Except, we in the 'charts and graphs' camp know that those kinds of stories are a waste of time, because people will just dismiss all of that with 'oh yeah, well, in MY campaign monks did this and this and made the DM mad by stunlocking the spellcaster BBEG'.
Charts and graphs are equally, or even more, a waste of time if you don't account for all of the important elements of a class. And most of the chart-and-graphers aren't even trying to. They just do a DPR calculation, observe that the monk's direct personal DPR lags that of other classes, wave off all other factors as irrelevant, and call it a day. (The fact that Treantmonk of all people is leaning on DPR as the measure of a class's worth continues to boggle my mind.)

I think the anecdotes are far more illuminating than the numbers game. They at least reflect a scenario where all factors have been taken into account. If you really want to do a statistical analysis, build a D&D combat simulator, set up parties with different members, and run a few thousand combats. I have done this in other contexts, and it's remarkable what you can learn about class balance that you would never have gotten from simple DPR calculations.

(It's a whole hell of a lot of work, though. Many many hours. There's a lot that goes into D&D combat.)
 

Esker

Hero
Once every few rounds. Big deal.

It's likely to be about every other round or so, in my experience, assuming a competent party that focuses fire. But I do agree that it's a useful addition. Using the bonus action for that in round 1 means you fall behind flurry-of-blows damage for that round, which is a little rough because the first round is the most important. Relative to a non-flurry round, you're about even --- 2d6 at the cost of 1d6+4, say. But if you flurry the next round, you gain 4d6 * (to-hit) damage --- maybe 9-10 or so on average. So you've increased your damage-per-round in the first two rounds by 4.5-5 or so. It's nice, for sure! Of course, you need to maintain concentration.

Actual baseline damage is about 2d8+8 per round, corrected for d20 swing, which the monk does at-will just like anyone else. The rogue does more on a hit because a miss hurts their output more, and everyone else (Including the monk) spends something to go past that. Maybe not the fighter, but they don’t get the third attack action attack until 11.

I'm not sure 2d8+8 is a really relevant baseline for anybody. First of all that assumes a one-handed weapon, so martial characters either have dueling style, or reckless attack, or sneak attack... Dueling style becomes 2d8+12... reckless attack increases damage output by about 50%. And then we get into abilities that use resources but are close to being "at will", like Hex and Hunter's Mark --- they're a 1st level slot for an hour of use. By tier 2 that's pretty indistinguishable from an at-will ability. And then you get into subclass abilities, and feats...

The reason Treantmonk uses EB+AB+Hex as a baseline is that it's an extremely simple tactic that involves a relatively no-brainer investment (take agonizing blast), is essentially "at-will", and is on a class that has lots of other features that they can use alongside that baseline. It's a low bar for damage for a martial class, because they're not bringing the other features that a warlock brings, so they'd better be better at fighting than the warlock if we're going to consider them to be carrying their weight.

The problem with monks isn't that they have to spend resources, it's that the return on those resources is really low, and they don't have enough of them --- even assuming a standard number of short rests! --- to go toe-to-toe with anybody else in terms of their bottom line contribution.

Unless it’s a battle where there are only creatures that will go down in 1 round (a boring, unchallenging, fight) then there are good uses of it.

A battle with creatures that go down in one round is just fine if that's happening with the group focusing fire, and if there are enough creatures that the whole fight doesn't end in one round. If a typical combat is 4 rounds, say, then a combat with 4 enemies means that, on average, one of them is going down per round. With more than 4 enemies, on average more than one is going down per round. Unless the party is splitting up their efforts causing nobody to go down for the first three rounds and then all of the enemies to go down at once in the last round (which is just bad tactics), interesting fights (which means fights where there are at least as many enemies as PCs so that the party doesn't just curbstomp with their action economy advantage) you're typically going to have enemies going down every round.

That rogue is in serious trouble at my table, if that’s their strategy. They’re absolutely gonna need Uncanny Dodge.

The scenario we were discussing was one where the rogue takes their turn before the melee characters have closed into melee --- because otherwise they have sneak attack and don't need to ready. It's not a matter of readying an action every round; it's a first round tactic that allows the rogue (absent places to hide, or having a familiar in range, etc.) to get sneak attack off that round.

Both of you, and some other folks, seem to value ranged combat much too highly, as well. Do your DMs not include spellcasters, archers, flyers, and slippery skirmishers, in your battles? I’d consider any fight where the ranged characters are safe to be either an intentionally easy fight, or a fight that I failed to design well.

Who said anything about ranged characters being "safe"? They're saf_er_, because on balance monsters are stronger in melee, but I don't remember saying anything about ranged characters having no need for defense.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
The DMG guidance is wrong in this instance. It runs up against how stories are organically structured and tells the DM to damage internal consistency for game balance. And a lot of DMs, understandably, aren't going to design the adventure of 'escape from the zombie apocalypse before the city goes on lockdown' or 'storm the caves and stop the cultists from sacrificing the princess' to allow for convenient 1-hour rests. Which isn't that big of an issue even for classes that like frequent short rests like the BM Fighter and the Warlock. It's just that the monk drops off really hard if the DM decides not to damage the story for the sake of gameplay.

That's not a real excuse. You don't design the endless waves to just kill all the characters, do you? That's not part of the DM's story, is it?

No? Somehow, I am guess that this amazing storyteller of a DM manages to put in some time and thought into when the characters might be able to take a long rest ... heal up, get their spells back, and so on. He can plan for the needs of the cleric and the wizard.

But not the short rest characters. This DM can't even be bothered to use the variant "5 minute" short rest rules. It seems to me that "storytelling" is just an excuse to not bother using a core D&D mechanic that is incorporated into the game and is fundamental to a few classes.

But more importantly, if the issue is that the DM doesn't give short rests, you can't blame the class for the DM's inability to work within the ruleset.

It would like if I said Wizards are terrible, because my DM doesn't allow spellcasting, and without spells, they aren't that great. The problem isn't the class.
 

Esker

Hero
I think the discussion about "getting enough short rests" is a distraction. It's true that monks suck more if there aren't enough short rests, but I, and I think Treantmonk too, and most of the other monk critics, grant a standard number of rests when we do our analyses. You can even give the monk "at will flurry of blows" if you want --- it doesn't redeem them.

Put it this way: for an apples-to-apples comparison, you can compare a monk to a warlock, since both get all their core stuff back on a short rest, and so the frequency of short rests shouldn't in principle have a differential impact on the two. You show me a monk build designed to do X and Y, and unless X or Y is "run real fast" I'll show you a warlock build that does X and Y better.
 
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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I think the discussion about "getting enough short rests" is a distraction. It's true that monks suck more if there aren't enough short rests, but I, and I think Treantmonk too, and most of the other monk critics, grant a standard number of rests when we do our analyses. You can even give the monk "at will flurry of blows" if you want --- it doesn't redeem them.

Monks do not need either you or Treantmonk to redeem them. They are loved just as they are.

They aren't the scions of evil. They aren't Bards.
 

I guess you posted this one while I was writing up the other match, but sure, let's try this too. I'll go

Vuman (Dex/Con) Battlemaster, Crossbow Expert, Sharpshooter.

Fighting Style: Archery
Maneuvers: Precision Attack, Menacing Attack, Trip Attack
Equipment: Half Plate, Hand Crossbow (+8 to hit), Longbow (+8 to hit), Shortsword (+6 to hit)

S: 12, D: 16, C: 16, I: 8, W: 13, Ch: 8
Acrobatics +6, Athletics +4
AC: 17
Initiative: +3
HP: 49

How should we go about this? Want to actually play out a best of 3? I don't want to clog up this thread, but we could do a play-by-post thing in Discord, or in a DDB PM, or an asynchronous Roll20 thing, or...

Odds are I go first.

I advance and attack your Crossbow (attacking an object; as per the PHB) first and then your Longbow. I have 4 attacks to do so (both have an AC of 15 and 5 HP for the crossbow and 10 HP for the longbow). One of my attacks with the attack action is unarmed, the other with my sword, and both flurries are also unarmed strikes.

Needing 8's to hit, roughly 3 attacks should land.

Minimum unarmed damage destroys the crossbow (5 HP), and average sword damage destroys the Longbow (9.5 HP)

I probably dont get to destroy your Shortsword in time, but I'm 1 Ki point down (and my AC is now 19).

Your turn.
 
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Charts and graphs are equally, or even more, a waste of time if you don't account for all of the important elements of a class. And most of the chart-and-graphers aren't even trying to. They just do a DPR calculation, observe that the monk's direct personal DPR lags that of other classes, wave off all other factors as irrelevant, and call it a day. (The fact that Treantmonk of all people is leaning on DPR as the measure of a class's worth continues to boggle my mind.)
In the monk's instance, going by DPR is warranted. For a few reasons.

1) The monk doesn't bring much to the table besides DPR. The monk doesn't heal, it doesn't put additional tokens on the board, doesn't buff, doesn't unlock party transportation options, crush ability checks, interdict monsters, alter the terrain, any of that. It's not even particularly good at maneuvers like item use, grappling, or shoving -- which can be really powerful in the right hands, see the Pro-Wrestler Bard or any Necromancer Wizard.

2) For the non-DPR things it does do, it doesn't do them well. If Stunning Strike targeted INT instead of CON saves, that would be itself completely change the dynamics of the class even with its other weaknesses. But it doesn't. In the long run, it's not a particularly reliable form of control due to its limitations (requires a hit with a low-damage melee weapon and forces a failed CON save).

Even when the Monk can do non-DPR things, like the Shadow and 4E Monk, it often runs headlong into the ki point limitation. Yeah, as a 7th-level monk I could use Pass Without Trace before and between these two encounters... and then only have three freakin' ki points to spend over two combats.

3) Going with point 2, the monk runs into another problem: ki points and bonus action clog. Yeah, as a Shadow Monk I could do some cool teleportation tricks in the right environment... but then my damage for the round tanks and I can't even use Flurry of Blows. Or how about if I took Magical Initiate or a level of Ranger for some Hex/Hunter's Mark Action? No FoB for that round. If I'm a level 11 Kensei, no FoB for round 2, either.

The Open Palm Monk is the only monk I even consider in a non-DPR context before T3, just because it can do non-DPR things without draining a limited resource or being subject to bonus action clog.
 
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G

Guest 6801328

Guest
And if you run your campaign such that short rests are more common than usual, monks and warlocks rock.
 

MwaO

Adventurer
The DMG guidance is wrong in this instance. It runs up against how stories are structure and tells the DM to damage internal consistency for game balance. And a lot of DMs, understandably, aren't going to design the adventure of 'escape from the zombie apocalypse before the city goes on lockdown' or 'storm the caves and stop the cultists from sacrificing the princess' to allow for convenient 1-hour rests. Which isn't that big of an issue even for classes that like frequent short rests like the BM Fighter and the Warlock. It's just that the monk drops off really hard if the DM decides not to damage the story for the sake of gameplay.

No, the guidance is not wrong. If the DMG recommends doing something a particular way and the DM decides to ignore that guidance, they should know there's going to be a problem. Which stunningly enough, there is.

It is up to the DM to realize they're ignoring guidance and then realize they either have to warn the players that their campaign might not be suitable for short rest classes or come up with ideas to avoid it being a problem.
 

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