... now with 35% more arrogance!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Four Monks

Yesterday, Stuart Robertson followed up on my thoughts about what's wrong with the monk class (and the follow-up thoughts and further musings) by offering a streamlined fighting-monk class. Pretty good! However, as you can probably guess, I've been developing my own ideas of a possible replacement monk class along the same lines as the paladin.

The Monk is an archetypal character who, because of extreme faith or philosophical bent, is devoted to improvement through extreme discipline. They can be a sub-class of any of the four main classes, using the progression of the base class; in addition to the prime ability score of their base class, they must also have Dexterity and Constitution of at least 13+, both of which are treated as additional prime abilities (earned experience is adjusted based on the lowest score.)

All monks, because of their self-discipline and life spent in quiet contemplation, have the stealth and listening/attention abilities of a thief of the same level; they are also more difficult to surprise (add 1/3rd of their hit dice, round up, to an opponent's surprise roll.) They can't use their stealth ability while in armor, but otherwise have armor or weapon restrictions based on their main class. Their basic vows require them to give all their wealth to their monastic order; failure to do so doesn't remove their abilities, but it prevents them from learning new abilities or otherwise receiving help from their brethren.

Each monastic version of a base class represents its own order, with an additional set of abilities paired with an additional vow. It's possible for a monk to be trained by more than one monastic order, but all vows must be kept. The orders are:
  • Order of the Empty Bowl (Thief): Also called Beggars. Must vow to never eat meat. Adds 1/3rd hit dice to any rolls related to physical deprivation (save vs. starvation, exhaustion, falling damage.) Loses this ability after breaking vow; regains after one week of returning to vow.
  • Order of the Candle (Cleric): Must vow to never strike the first blow; breaking the vow requires religious absolution (possibly a quest) and negates the ability of this order. Turn/Command Undead ability is expanded to calming intelligent living worldly beings; also includes a bonus on ordinary reactions equal to 1/3rd hit dice. Expands to animals at 5th level and plants at 10th level; includes an ability to communicate without knowing the language.
  • Order of the Fist (Fighter): Also called Warrior-Monks. Must vow to never attack with a longer weapon than an opponent, which includes not attacking an opponent who surrenders; breaking the vow invokes the vengeance of the order unless the monk seeks absolution. Adds 1/3rd hit dice to damage and grants an AC of 3 when unarmored.
  • Order of the Mandala (Magic-User): Also called Hermits. Must vow to spend one day out of every week alone and half of every sleep period chanting and meditating; breaking the vow negates the ability as for Order of the Empty Bowl. Adds resistance to mind-affecting spells and powers: 1/3rd hit dice bonus to saves (round up) and immunity to spells/powers of level = 1/3rd hit dice (round down.)
Additional abilities may be available from additional monks or smaller monastic orders, but the requirements to gain those abilities depend on the master teaching the ability.


  1. I actually like some of these behavior restrictions for plain ol' clerics. I've been looking for a bit more flavor/crunch to distinguish clerics from magic-users in Homebrew '82, and something like this may really fit the bill. (The GM will have to assign specific restrictions to specific orders or religions, and PCs can choose which to join...?)

  2. These are very nice. I may very well swipe some of these ideas for use in my own campaign.

  3. I like these! And this in particular:

    grants an AC of 3 when unarmored

    Is even more straightforward than keeping track of an increasing AC bonus. :)

  4. @Stuart: yeah, I figured "why not just say monks have an AC 3 or whatever armor they're wearing, whichever is lower?" It's easy!

    @James: swipe away!

    @Cygnus: Are you thinking of vows as linked to additional cleric powers, or replacements for the standard "don't draw blood" rule? (which is quite weak, I'll admit.)

  5. I love what you're doing here, and with multi-classing generally, but I really, really love the cleric-monk. Never strike the first blow is an excellent vow. The weapon length one... I see it mechanically, but I'm not convinced thematically. I could see never be first to use deadly force, so you have to strike to subdue, or never use arms against an unarmed foe. Either way, missile weapons are out.

    Beautiful work. Thank you.

  6. @richard: it's a way to represent mechanically a point of honor you see in (frex) the John Carter stories: when you fight an opponent, always use a weapon of the same type or lower; no pulling out a pistol when someone comes at you with a knife. I use 1d6 for all weapon damage, so I have to distinguish weapons based on length; if you have different damage ranges for different weapons, you can go by max damage instead, although in my way of thinking, the damage bonus sort of negates that.

    I did think of a vow somewhat along the lines you list. But I wanted something I could sum up simply, whereas the other vow I was considering would have three or four parts.

  7. Are you thinking of vows as linked to additional cleric powers, or replacements for the standard "don't draw blood" rule? (which is quite weak, I'll admit.)

    I've already tweaked that for clerics in my formulation of the grand old game... :-) I've got 5 discrete weapons classes (extra light, light, medium, heavy, extra heavy, discussed as Joesky tax in this post) that go progressively up in damage. To replace the "no edged weapons" thing (which can be very wishy washy), I have clerics being restricted to the first three only. I see that as universal to all cults/religions, since in general a cleric receives a more limited amount of training in fighting than say, a fighter. Your other kinds of flavorful restrictions seem nicely suited to being customized to individual sects.