D&D 5E The Monk - What is the monk to you and why?

Sadrik

First Post
The Monk was in the 1e PHB and the 3e PHB, it was also in splat books in differing formats in 2e and 4e.

In 1e I heard it was sort of a hey wouldn't it be neat if we had a kung fu master type character in there. So it was included.
In 2e it was initially made a kit that could be attached to a cleric.
In 3e we had an improved 1e class, but not hanged that much
In 4e I believe it was a psychic character

What is the Monk to you? This recently came up in a discussion with Mearls in class groupings. He was not sure what the monk was and thought that it should default to warrior who punches, as opposed to warrior who swings a sword.

How supernatural or not supernatural should the monk be? Should they jump 50' in the air, run along walls, speak every language, or ascend to some other worldly plane? Do they simply fight really good with unarmed combat?

Ok now my opinion, I think they are like jedi. Why because I want to open up the class to include more than just eastern mysticism. I think they should use weapons, perhaps a special weapon like a jedi, but weapons. Kung fu masters use weapons too. We dont need a punching guy. I run up and punch the dragon for me is a real bummer for me. It does not fit into my idea of the world for me. That said, I think the monk can be expansive enough to include the oriental mysticism character too. Just like a warrior can be a samurai, or a knight, a monk could be a hermit or a duelist.

So what is the monk to you and where does it fit?
 

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Remathilis

Legend
To be fair, 2e had a couple monks:

1.) The First was a kit in the Complete Priest's Handbook. You gained a +1 to hit/damage when using the unarmed combat table, and in return you could not wear armor and lost access to some priest spheres. You couldn't gimp your PC worse if you tried. (Actually, you could, the pacifist priest was in the same book)

2.) Faiths & Avatar (and later PO: Spells & Magic) created a Monk class similar to the kit, but done right. It got benefits when fighting unarmed (using either martial arts system in 2e, PHBR or Combat & Tactics) but it also got a bonus to AC when unarmored, a unique combination of spells, and a few special abilities (free movement, mind blank, and all proficiencies).

3.) Scarlet Brotherhood (the Greyhawk supplement) brought back the 1e/3e style monk for 2e. It literally reads like a 2e version of those classes, including unarmed damage (not tied to a martial arts system), improved movement, unarmored AC, and a special ability nearly every level.

So 2e ran the gamut from unarmed spellcaster-priest to full-on chop-socky martial artist. Interestingly, each was a priest subclass (even the third one), using the priest Thac0, d8 HD, and cleric saves and XP chart.
 

JeffB

Legend
A monk to me is an eastern bare hands fighter that seems out of place in D&D as has so since they were introduced in Blackmoor. Back then in my after school groups, library games, and home games,.there was always some powergamer kid (munchkin was the term we used bitd) who wanted to be a monk/ninja/samurai, and try to bend the power level to the ultimate of awesome and be better than everyone else. Ithink it was the proliferation of Saturday/Sunday martial arts movies that were so common in the 1970s.

Anyhoo, I have never allowed them in my own games, as the culture clash and those memories are personal hangups for me. That said , no one has asked to be one in my games either (as an adult).

FWIW, I LOVE Ruins & Ronin,.Bushido and other fantasy versions of Japanese culture RPGs.
 

Rune

Once A Fool
You should probably also consider the Mystic from the D&D Master rules and the Rules Cyclopedia. It had a simple martial arts mechanic, AC that improved by level, attacks per round and damage with hands as weapons that both increased by level, acrobatics that worked similarly to Thief skills, a movement rate that improved by level, and the special abilities Awareness, Heal self, Speak with animals, Resistance, Speak with anyone, Mind block, Blankout, and, finally, Gentle touch (which duplicates a spell effect--either charm, cureall, death, quest, or paralysis).
 

Pseudopsyche

First Post
For me, the monk is a rendering of heroes from wuxia, such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. They can use weapons, but don't use armor or shields. It's hard to jump over a building or skip across water in chain mail. At higher levels, their powers are clearly supernatural, although usually just an exaggeration of what is humanly possible. Closer to "tall tales" level of disbelief than overt magic.

Jedi have overt magic. The 4E battlemind is the best rendition of jedi I've seen in D&D, ability-wise.
 

Celebrim

Legend
The Monk was in the 1e PHB and the 3e PHB, it was also in splat books in differing formats in 2e and 4e.

In 1e I heard it was sort of a hey wouldn't it be neat if we had a kung fu master type character in there. So it was included.
In 2e it was initially made a kit that could be attached to a cleric.
In 3e we had an improved 1e class, but not hanged that much
In 4e I believe it was a psychic character

What is the Monk to you?

Very little. I've never liked the class and it's not available under my house rules.

So, originally, the Monk is the Kwai Chang Caine from the TV series Kung Fu. Don't ask me why anyone thought this was a good idea, but you know everyone was 'kung fu fighting' back then. It might make some very superficial sense in the context of an exclusively Eastern inspired setting, but even this actually falls down hard on inspection. First, in an Eastern inspired setting, there wouldn't be a 'martial artist class' because everyone knows 'martial arts'. In an Eastern inspired setting 'martial arts' are simply 'knowing how to fight'. The very notion of a martial artist class is an Orientalism. Further, the notion that martial arts are exclusively Eastern and that there is some fundamental difference in fighting between the East and the West beyond style and flavor is itself an unsupportable bit of Orientalism. If martial arts are to be part of your setting, then it should apply to pretty much everything. Mixed martial arts have I think finally just about done away with the crappy mysticism that surrounded eastern martial arts, but unless you can remember the wierd way people imagined karate when I was a kid, you just don't get it. People thought say Wrestling and Boxing operated under a wholly different set of mechanics than Kung Fu or Karate. Kung Fu and karate suspended the laws of physics.

And lets not even get into the whole 'more dangerous with your fists than with weapons' schtick. Again, Kung Fu the TV series. Not one eastern martial arts tradition ever advocated that. Shoalin monks didn't preferentially fight with bare hands if the contest was mortal.

Anyway, so I loathe the monk, not the least of which because it - especially in 3e and on - doesn't seem to have the least to do with monasticism. Monasticism as a general cultural institution - east or west - isn't normally associated with combat arts, and if it is, then east or west it is associated with warrior priesthoods. To the extent that we can identify normal monks with experts of some sort, and only warrior monks are 'monk' classed it's not at all clear that the monk class is a particularly good fit or interesting. It's terribly inflexible as written and seems to give the same range of powers to the monk regardless of his outlook on life, martial arts tradition, or monastic tradition.

As for the Monk mystic tradition, I believe that magic is magic. Pyschic powers or 'psionics' (a misnomer, since the psion of D&D or the psionic power of D&D doesn't seem to be actually tied to psionics in any way) are just magic dressed up in a psuedo-science costume. In 3e in particular, there is no obvious in game way psionics differ than magic. At least in 1e, psionics had some justification for existance as innate magical ability not tied directly to character level or training. As such, if you really really had your heart set on making an unarmed mystical combatant I'd advice you to make a multi-classed Fighter/Socerer or maybe a pure Sorcerer with the 'Body Sorcery' feat, and then take appropriate spells and feats to make this sorta practical - keeping in mind that it is going to be a given that Sword > Fist in 90% of the ways that count. Or maybe you could go fighter + cleric and an unusual background trait to play up the religious role of the monk, or maybe a Champion with appropriate portfolio.

There is very little that the Monk does that is even needed under how I've reorganized things. Flurry of blows can be done better with the Fighter feat Improved Flurry. Improved unarmed combat damage progression can be done by about a dozen different feats. Martial arts manuevers are likewise available as combat feats. Still Mind is inferior to Iron Will most of the time. Fast movement is unnecessary as a class ability, since under my rules it is a skill. The Monk AC bonus is available as a Feat. Slowing a fall is basically just being really good at tumble. There are a few very specific mystic powers (immunity to poison) that might be hard to come by and the Monk all around good saves would be difficult to get, but strictly in terms of combat prowess my unarmed fighters with higher BAB, higher hit points, and better and more diverse options probably out does a stock monk anyway. And they'd still be inferior to the same level fighter with a sword.
 

Celebrim

Legend
For me, the monk is a rendering of heroes from wuxia, such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Heroes from Wuxia is exactly the same as a high level fighter.

It's hard to jump over a building or skip across water in chain mail.

True of any high level fighter.

At higher levels, their powers are clearly supernatural, although usually just an exaggeration of what is humanly possible. Closer to "tall tales" level of disbelief than overt magic.

True of any high level fighter. They can fall off cliffs and yet survive. They can smash through stone walls or slice stone pillars. A high level fighter might have jump and climb at +30 without being a 'martial artist'. Under my rules, since 'run' is also a skill like jump or climb, they can also potentially run as fast as a horse. A high level fighter can do pretty much anything 'The Batman' or other supposedly basically human superhero can do. In short, high level fighters would appear as Wuxia characters as well, just not all of them would be unarmored.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
To me, a monk is more a master of body, mind, and soul than a warrior. They are when the Wiseman bulks up, runs superfast, and becomes an example of human/elf/dwarf/goblin/kobold perfection. They don't have to punch and kick but their path to perfect mind lead them into having a body which makes devastating punches and kicks. They fall into combat skill, perfection of body and mind just makes them good at fighting. They are more super rogues to me.
 


The Monk was in the 1e PHB and the 3e PHB, it was also in splat books in differing formats in 2e and 4e.

In 1e I heard it was sort of a hey wouldn't it be neat if we had a kung fu master type character in there. So it was included.
In 2e it was initially made a kit that could be attached to a cleric.
In 3e we had an improved 1e class, but not hanged that much
In 4e I believe it was a psychic character

What is the Monk to you? This recently came up in a discussion with Mearls in class groupings. He was not sure what the monk was and thought that it should default to warrior who punches, as opposed to warrior who swings a sword.

How supernatural or not supernatural should the monk be? Should they jump 50' in the air, run along walls, speak every language, or ascend to some other worldly plane? Do they simply fight really good with unarmed combat?

Ok now my opinion, I think they are like jedi. Why because I want to open up the class to include more than just eastern mysticism. I think they should use weapons, perhaps a special weapon like a jedi, but weapons. Kung fu masters use weapons too. We dont need a punching guy. I run up and punch the dragon for me is a real bummer for me. It does not fit into my idea of the world for me. That said, I think the monk can be expansive enough to include the oriental mysticism character too. Just like a warrior can be a samurai, or a knight, a monk could be a hermit or a duelist.

So what is the monk to you and where does it fit?

I much like 4e's interpretation. There's some holes (bad at charging, and implements are weird but necessary if you're not using inherent bonuses), but the flavor matches their abilities.

There's two builds in the PH3 (haven't checked the Psionic Power stuff). One is basically a Strength/Dex kung-fu fighter, and one is more of a Wis/Dex "mystic" monk. A high-level Wisdom monk is pretty close to Wuxia. They're a little different compared to other strikers in terms of their exact striker role: lots of Close Blast powers, plus a little bit of control (sliding and knocking opponents prone, so it's a lot like being trip-tastic).

The player chooses what powers they want. If you don't want to play a mystic monk, I would recommend not taking the power that lets you do poison damage. Take something that's a bit of a flying kick instead. The "Purity of Body"-style power is a mystical-flavored utility power that you can take if you want it but you can take less mystical jumping powers if you don't want to.

The movement powers are reasonable. Many let you move at your speed +2, the equivalent of 40 feet. D20 Modern's martial artist could move at 45 feet if you took five Fast levels and put all their talents into speed. (My d20 Modern martial artist PC had taken three Fast levels and could reach a speed of 40 feet.) What you can't do is move three times faster than anyone else.

The damage is reasonable. No DM is going to get scared at the monk doing 1d20 damage, and your damage goes up at the same rate, and for the same reason, as other strikers. You can hit pretty actively, and your AC is built like other Dex-using PCs, so there's no stat-splitting beyond what other 4e classes have to deal with and there's no desperate scrambles for AC-boosting/stat-boosting magic items like the 3e monk had to deal with. There's also no incredibly frustrating super-grapplers (the general nerfs to grappling in 4e took care of this).

I think it supported two of the three pillars of gaming. They had a combat role (which worked) and were good at exploration too (especially anything that required jumping). Not so good at the social role though :(

Whether monks even fit D&D is another story. In 4e they're not in the core books though. You can easily let them in if you want, or easily keep them out if you don't think they fit your campaign.
 

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