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


The origin of the skills is not really important to the point. The point is that if fighting bare handed really is as effective as fighting with weapons, then Heironeous and Hextor have taught their followers and inherently inferior form of warfare.
That would be a stronger point if D&D --any edition-- was meant to be a realistic combat (and world!) simulator.

Even the so-called more simulationist editions aren't proper combat simulators, they're heavily gamist affairs designed to place interesting mechanical options in the hands of people playing martial PCs, hence the number of kooky, effective combat builds that have nothing to do with creating the sense realism, verisimilitude, or whatever.

D&D has always prioritized emulation ("How can I play my favorite fictional archetypes & do cool things?") over simulation, hasn't it?

You can vary the degree of simulation present in an individual campaign. But trying to extrapolate a world from mechanics that were never, by design, never meant to be "physics" is going to end in tears -- or a least in an arbitrary mishmash that's no more logical, coherent, or real-y than the game's starting point.
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With the HP system in general, I have trouble viewing combat any other way. Zoomed-in combat looks like Soul Calibur, and zoomed-out combat looks like Final Fantasy Tactics.
That reminds me, my favorite martial PC in 3.5e, ie the most "simulationst" version of D&D, was a dead-ringer, combat style-wise, for Kilik/Seong Mi-na, from Soul Calibur. So as a partial simulation of Soul Calibur, it acquitted itself quite well!


With the HP system in general, I have trouble viewing combat any other way. Zoomed-in combat looks like Soul Calibur, and zoomed-out combat looks like Final Fantasy Tactics.

Zoomed-in combat in my mind looks like the fight between Robin Hood and Sir Guy of Gisborne, or any of the fights in the Princess Bride (but from the hit point perspective, especially the one between Count Rugan and Inigo), or the fight between Rob Roy and Archibald, or the fight between Maximus and the Praetorian guards in Gladiator, or even if you would the fight between Rocky and Apollo Creed. Or for that matter, any of the fights between Darth Vader and Luke. Any iconic cinematic fight where both sides pummel the other one with greater or lesser wounds before ultimately obtaining sufficient advantage to finish the fight will do. From Literature, the described action of the fights in Burrough's Barsoom are of big influence, where John is described as being red with gore from many wounds at the end of them but still fighting on. Of course, the big difference is that there are generally 4-6 of these duels happening at the same time in a grand melee.


First Post
I think what needs to happen in the context of D&D is a splitting of the monk classes into pieces.

For unarmed fighting, I think there simply needs to be an option for a guy (or girl) who is skilled at fighting unarmed.

For the mystic chi warrior archetype, there needs to be something which explains why everyone doesn't just train to be a monk.

I also believe monk needs to be some sort of background/fluff as well.

It's certainly possible for one character to have all of these.
I completely agree. I think just like many of the other concepts that have been moved into backgrounds or subclasses or even feats the monk could move there too.

Unarmed fighting could be done very well with one of 5e's triple sized feats.

The mystical abilities could be completely subsumed into the spell system. Rather than D-door 1/day make the monk character multi-classes into a caster type of some ilk and gets the abilities. To this end I think there could be a casting method that venerates the monk better than vancian magic. Allow them to select that.

The ascetic foreigner trope needs to be for any class not just a monk. I can see an ascetic wizard from a foreign land being a very good concept or an ascetic fighter, rogue... you name it. So pull this trope out of the monk and turn it into a background that can be selected. Also this makes sense because in greyhawk the monk runs around in the setting and are not foreigners, they are just a mystic set of guys with a certain unique and rare power, they are jedi in the setting, and the scarlet brotherhood are the sith. They are not foreign, this needs to be pulled out of the class and made a background.

Minigiant said:
Personally, I think the monk needs more weapons based support. The low level monk's unarmed attack should be good but no anywhere close to the blade of a fighter/barbarian/ranger/paladin. At low levels, staves, daggers, clubs, sickles, handaxes, and spears would be the monk's weapon of choice. Staff and kick over punch punch punch. The monk could still punch punch punch at low levels but it would not be ideal.

It works with the fluff more since a level 1-3 monks would not have the mastery of body to phase out physical weaponry. Many RPG, table and video, use this model. Previous edition monks did too.

And the walking stick butt-whooper is an iconic "monk" trope too. Spin staff to deflect arrows.
I agree stepping back from the I punch you as the default for the class and everything else for them is sub-par is the wrong approach. If you want to make them only use "peasant" weapons in a world where swords and spears are the norm, I suppose. But if they are a martial class then would they not typically use the best weapons available to them?

Which brings me to I dont want to see a whole asian list of weapons. Sickle can be kama etc. There really is no need for a long list of different weapon rules. I would not object to adding an equivalency chart, tetsubo is great club, Ono is great axe, No-dachi is great sword, longsword is katana etc. These are flavor differences not mechanical differences that need to be teased out of the rules. I think the scimitar and rapier could be incorporated into the other swords as just other versions of longswords and shortswords...
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To me this is kind of like the Justice League; if you think about it real hard, it kind of stops making sense to believe that Batman can contribute to the same extent Superman can. What normally happens is Batman gets a Justice League powerup that doesn't effect his normal books-because we really like to read stories where Batman and Superman hang out and do stuff (at least I do).
Oh I like Justice League/Avengers-style comics, too (in fact I'm really enjoying Jonathan Hickman's current Avengers titles). At some point you simply have to accept the premise(s), or move on.

The monk bugs me in the same way that including Buck Rogers into the party would bug me (okay that's actually pretty fun as an occasional diversion--but I don't really want the core game of D&D to be "Elves, Dwarves, Dragons, Barbarians, and Spacemen").
Back when I was first introduced to AD&D, as a kid who devoured fantasy fiction but was new to gaming, and didn't really read comic books (yet), the WTF??!!? nature of D&D-style fantasy bugged me a little. It was so... impure. My expectations were geared toward emulating the works of Tolkien and Moorcock --or at the very least David Eddings!-- and instead I got... a hot mess of fantasy elements, some SF, and even the guy from Kung Fu. I suppose I wanted a more coherent approach to the fantastic.

I've mellowed over the years. I've learned to stop worrying about and love the hot mess.

D&D has always had the monk as inferior to the fighter at fighting, but with more breadth. So if you wanted to be really, really good at fighting, you used a sword, but if you wanted a lot of wild-ass abilities and the ability to fight a little bit, you had the monk.
That's an accurate appraisal. My friend's 11 year-old son's PC just picked up a monk henchman in our AD&D game. Not much of a combatant, but fun nonetheless thanks to wild-ass abilities. I'd forgotten that AD&D monk's get the equivalent of Improved Evasion at 1st level. He shrugged off the 51 damage fireball that obliterated half the party with no more than a "Gee, it's getting a trifle hot around here".

And as I keep saying, if you're trying to created a coherent world, and included in that fiction is the idea that if you train hard enough, you are as hard to damage as someone in plate armor and as deadly with your hands as a sword, spear, or mace, then inherent in that fiction is the idea that the guy who uses plate armor and swords is not that highly trained.
But that's just it, baseline D&D isn't trying to create a coherent world. Emulation, not simulation.


First Post
The monk has never been a caster, and has always exemplified "the mysterious wisdom of the east" (which is Celebrim's Orientalism point).

Changing those things would seem to be a mistake. Make a new class like that, sure (wouldn't that be a Pscyhic Warrior in 3E terms?) but you're no longer talking about the traditional D&D monk.

I agree, it has never been a caster class, though it has spells... It also has rogue abilities though it is not a rogue... It also has some fighter ability though it is not a fighter... And as evident many people believe based on this thread it is divine in nature, though it is not a cleric. So what the hell is it? You can settle on a miss mash of stuff, throw all the strange tropes you can and create a Frankenstein's monster of a class or you can break down the individual components of what it is and tease those out and allow player buy in for each of those tropes. This really goes to the heart of class design. Do you want the game designer to say here is a class that I made and what I think it should look like, deal with it or do you want the game designer to say look here is the broad brush stroke and the tools to make it your own. Based on how I phrased that you can guess what my thoughts are on that. Do you want a chipotle burrito or a taco bell burrito? You get consistency with the taco bell burrito and it is good enough to handle your hunger, but with the chipotle burrito you get select the ingredients and depending on your tastes come up with very different burritos from someone else, though they are still burritos.

So yeah I can see a "psychic warrior" in 3e parlance being an option for a monk.


Relaxed Intensity
I start with a couple critical assumption:
  • Different people have aptitudes for different activities. Anyone can learn to program, but not equally well - some are better suited to financial analysis or marketing. Trying to train someone with an aptitude in database management as a programmer will not yield the best possible results for that person. The same goes for mystical fighting with your bare hands and fighting with weapons and armor.
  • Cultural factors play a big part in what we are capable of doing and cultures are complex and not easily changed. For instance in the United States we have difficulties getting people to train in STEM disciplines, despite the fact that those skills are in high demand. In many cases people will choose careers that are just as demanding, require just as much dedication, and are less in demand. The cultural mindset to produce monks is just different than the cultural mindset necessary to produce fighters.
  • Not every knight is a fighter. Most are just people with some weapons and armor training. Not every mystic is a monk. Most are contemplatives with some self defense training. Character classes are used for the more bad-ass members of a profession. Those who would be willing to strike out on their own, seek out monsters, and take their stuff.

Basically if you stop and think about how people really make decisions and develop skills it works for the most part.



Exactly. This is why I see the monk is best as a trickster (focusing on Athletics or Acrobatics, Insight, Perception, and any one of the Interaction skills) with a "Perfect Self" theme to his class features.

For example, in my campaign their are elven monks who wish to perfect themselves. They want to be pure fey again. They are skilled at acrobatics and diplomacy like old fey. The elves wear no armor and attack with daggers and staves like old fey. A bunch of wise, crazy, and dangerous tricksters they be. None of that asian flair. Just a bunch of wise elves who kick butt while hooting like monkeys.


"Diegetics", by L. Ron Gygax
That reminds me, my favorite martial PC in 3.5e, ie the most "simulationst" version of D&D, was a dead-ringer, combat style-wise, for Kilik/Seong Mi-na, from Soul Calibur. So as a partial simulation of Soul Calibur, it acquitted itself quite well!
I'm impressed you managed to build a decent staff fighter in 3.5!


"Diegetics", by L. Ron Gygax
The origin of the skills is not really important to the point. The point is that if fighting bare handed really is as effective as fighting with weapons, then Heironeous and Hextor have taught their followers and inherently inferior form of warfare. The armies that oppose their followers can be more cheaply equipped, more easily maintained, move more rapidly in the field, will suffer less from the effects of climate, and can never be disarmed. You would expect over time the practitioners of the weapon techniques to lose to the practitioners of the unarmed techniques.
I think the major point is "There are no armies of monks." In my own estimation, I doubt that more than 1 PC in a hundred has an actual PC class. And unless you're playing ACKS, who cares about how many NPCs can be PC classes?

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