... now with 35% more arrogance!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Thinking About Monks

I keep wanting to fix monks.

There's a lot I think is wrong with the monk class, but it's a bit of a mess to fix. A huge, complicated power list, a mix of archetypes, and a theme that doesn't fit a broad range of campaigns like "fighter" or "magic-user".

I have some ideas, but first I wanted to open it up to everyone else: what do you hate about monks? What do you think can be fixed? What would you be willing to drop?


  1. What do I hate about Monks? Everything! I hate the whole pseudo-Oriental martial arts thing. If I were ever to allow the Monk class in my games, I would model it on the Tibetan Buddhist monk, mostly Cleric with a bit of mind stuff thrown in. Not full-blown psionics, just stuff like resistance vs. the elements, deep meditative trances, perhaps even feigning death.

  2. The Scarlett Brotherhood supplement had a nice revamping of them as a subclass of cleric. Very nice imho.

  3. I play RC D&D, so I'm not sure if the Monk has the same problems as his classic Mystic, but I have to say the Mystic is a mess.

    At low levels the mystic might as well be a normal man. It can't deal damage, it's AC is pathetic, and At higher levels however the AC shoots to ridicules levels, multiple attacks get out of hand, and not even the player can keep track of the multitude of abilities.

    Why do they get multiple attacks and increased damage?

    Why thief abilities? Why do the Mystic abilities work differently then thief abilities? The Acrobatic Mystic abilities are all kinds of odd. The Movement rate increase is ridicules (faster then a riding horse at 12th level? Really?)

    Honestly I wouldn't even know where to start to fix the class.
    Personally I'd scrap the whole thing and build an entirely new class based off the thief (percentile skills,) or magic user (prepare a number of stunts/ attacks per day through meditation.)

  4. I have grown quite comfortable with the unarmed marital artist aspect of the monk. Though the kung fu practicing shaolin monk is the dominant cultural image of the unarmed martial artist, there is a very strong and ancient Western martial arts pedigree. Pankration, a style used by ancient Greeks, was brought to India by Alexander the Great. The shaolin monks learned kung fu from an Indian monk.

    Just because the West abandoned its martial arts systems in favor of guns doesn't mean there never were Western martial artists. We just have to get re-acquainted with those Western traditions and then make them our own.

  5. I never cared for monks in D&D until I played a monk in the MMORPG Everquest (which is clearly based upon the AD&D monk).

    The main problem for the AD&D monk is that it is too weak and essentially worthless at lower levels.

    I like the idea of the monk as difficult to hit, but with few hps - making them viable in melee, doing superior damage to the fighter, but much more frail than a fighter.

    I think 1st level monks should begin with a good AC, say an AC of 3, and improve in a far slower, more gradual fashion.

  6. Mechanically the monk is a grab-bag of special cases, almost a new combat idiom, which I think might be fun to pursue as its own game, but...

    Flavour-wise, though, I came to the realisation last year that D&D actually fits wuxia better than any "European" setting I can think of. I'm never going back to Middle Earth Mitteleuropa.

  7. If I remember correctly, Gygax mentioned that monks were inspired by a book series called The Destoyer, which I believe was the inspiration for the Remo Williams' movie. Not having read the books or seen the movie (I know - I should turn in my "geek card"), I can't say how closely the D&D monk matches its literary inspiration.

    I actually like monks as an idea, but feel that somehow they aren't executed properly, rules-wise and flavor-wise. They've become a bad parody of Kung Fu movie guys stuck in what is usually a faux-Medieval European setting.

    I think the way too handle them properly is frankly to design a setting from scratch that is not based on a Medieval European theme and incorporate monks into them from the get-go.

  8. @Martin: you should *never* punish yourself for not having seen/read every single thing that has ever been seen/read by a geek.

    @Richard: Some D&D materials seem geared towards wuxia, and later editions are definitely leaning that way, but I don't see it in the original rules. Which is why I like them.

    @FrDave: Not to pick on you, but "unarmed marital artist" is pretty funny...

  9. I saw the Remo Williams movie. Man it was tacky.

    It is the martial artist fantasized into a low-powered super hero, similar to martial artists in those old Saturday morning Kung Fu Theatre shows. Definitely more powerful and less realistic than the Kung Fu TV series.

    I don't have a problem with the AD&D monk in a European setting, so long as he is a lone wanderer far from home, and rare/unique. Just like a shaolin monk in the wild west. =)

  10. You might be able to fix the Monk but why bother?

  11. @Hogscape: because I'd like to have an option should I ever run a game where someone insists on playing a monk, and because I might come up with something interesting.

  12. Quoth Bree: "I like the idea of the monk as difficult to hit". I feel similarly, and am working on reskinning the LotFP halfling class to build a B/X version of the monk.