View Full Version : [3.5] Rewriting and Westernizing the Monk

Platypus Fries
2013-11-11, 07:02 PM
I'm in the process of developing a new setting that I hope to eventually DM a campaign in. Basic premise of the setting is that the world is covered in Darkness, which takes the form of permanent mist and overcast everywhere, etc. Going off into the Darkness can result in corruption, insanity, or both (I'm creating modified versions of these variant mechanics) but monasteries are a safe-point, where the monks manage to keep the Darkness at bay much the same way priests of holy [read: "good" or "light"] gods. Most monasteries are peaceful, but some train warrior monks. These monasteries can range from clerical to secular to the rare case of atheistic.

The setting will not use an alignment system, and in fact I've nixed the paladin. The world is pretty grim, with the morality pretty grey. Plus without alignment I'm nixing lawful and chaotic typing and replacing good and evil with "holy" and "unholy".

The known world within the scope of what I'm making also has no East Asia analog (though there is an area with partial Tibetan influence in the far west, which allows the kukri to remain), and this mix means monks seem to be headed the way of the paladin. The reason I don't want them to is this: more than any other class their saves and possibly even their class features will allow the monk to resist insanity and corruption. The second best of course being druids.

Anyway, my idea is to westernize them. On top of that most seem to be of the opinion that the monk is underpowered (I wouldn't know, the only time I've played a non-multiclass monk he got turned into a fire lizard at level two). So I've decided I might as well give them a facelift, but I've never done such extensive messing around with a class. I'm hoping to bounce around some ideas and maybe get some pointers.


First thing, many people seem to think that the monk is best turned into a balanced class by changing it to a full BAB class. I'm not so sure about this, particularly considering I don't see them as a full-combat class like fighters and barbarians. Then again they should be better in a fight than most rogues. I kind of see Flurry of Blows making it so, but it has its drawbacks.

If given full BAB monks of course get +20/+15/+10/+5 at lvl 20. Add Flurry of Blows for +20/+20/+20/+15/+10/+5. To make it even better give them Greater Two-Weapon Fighting and their full round looks something like +18/+18/+18/+18/+13/+13/+8/+8/+3. Nine attacks in a row seems a little excessive, and at 20th level unarmed damage that's a potential 18d10 damage per turn without equipment or buffs.

An alternative could be to let the monk move while doing flurry of blows but I'm not sure how I'd handle that. Only move half speed? Max move 10 ft between attacks? 5 feet?

Beyond the issue of BAB and Flurry of Blows the most glaring new issue is that in this setting Ki Strike (lawful) is suddenly useless. I don't really have much issue with that.

I'm thinking that rather than handing the monk class features to instead give it choice, much like the choice between Stunning Fist and Improved Grapple, etc. For instance one feature if chosen may allow the monk to turn Wholeness of Body into a Lay on Hands-style heal that works for others, allowing a monk to assist their allies more. Another option might be to allow the monk to select a weapon they are proficient with and treat it as a special monk weapon - not that much really matches their unarmed at high levels if they get natural attack improving items.

Here's a quick summary of what I have so far:

Monk Proficiencies: Probably no armour, as usual, but weapons change to club, dagger (including punching daggers), dart, handaxe, javelin, kukri, quarterstaff, short sword, and sling.
Special monk weapons would be the same list, minus dart, javelin, and sling.
Allow more variety of class features. Offer choices for instance of: using Wholeness of Body to heal others, doing holy ("good" aligned) or possibly unholy ("evil" aligned) typed unarmed attacks, picking other options for things like Abundant Step, Quivering Palm, Tongue of the Sun and the Moon, and Empty Body. Perhaps offer the ability to use Slow Fall without the need of a nearby wall or structure. Maybe this can be used to separate out different types of monk: battle/utility/support for instance.
Figure out a way to balance the class as far as BAB/Flurry of Blows.

Yeah I don't have much for actual mechanics, it's something I keep working on and then scrapping and restarting, so I figure outside opinion would be useful. If anybody has opinions, pointers, or ideas, or just wants to tell me it's a garbage idea, please do share! :smallbiggrin:

In the mean time I'm either gonna try to beat this issue into submission or work on some other part of this project.

2013-11-11, 08:26 PM
The first thing I'd do is look at a few of the existant 'fixes' and such for monk which have already been made, read the comments and development a bit and you'll soon get a grasp of what are considered the real in-game and basic mathematic issues for the class as it stands right now.

Secondly, I'd like to chime in on the BAB issue. Give them full BAB if you're even considering keeping flurry in any format or alternate form, monks have always needed the full progression.

If you are wanting to make them customisable and easily differentiated there are a few things to consider. First and most obvious of which being different 'schools' of abilities depending on the monastery you come from. Beyond that you can then have some modular abilities which you.can choose from at various levels. Also, Ki Strike should change from lawful to holy (or unholy) surely..?

2013-11-11, 08:36 PM
Honestly, I would just nix the monk. Western monks weren't martial. That's not to say that you can't make a western feeling monk variant, but I think you could probably ditch it unless one of your players is desperate to play it.
I'd be more interested in tweaking paladins into a playable class. Make them crusaders and go from there.

2013-11-11, 08:45 PM
Indeed, i have to agree with forgetting about making the monk 'western' I tired with the Grappler (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=247200) and before I knew it POW it was a completely different class. Orignally i wanted to go with a greek/roman style Pankratiasts (i.e the orignally MMA)

you could do what I did with the monk (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=266100) and make a build a class around the its concept (semi religous quasi mystical fighter)

What i mean by this is figure out what a monk is in concpet to you and try to build your monk around that.

if you are worried about the BaB and flurry cornudrum.. just make teh monks BaB= level while using flurry of blows.

2013-11-11, 08:57 PM
On BAB-- the breakdown usually is:

Low BAB: those who fight entirely through magic.
Medium BAB: those who fight while magically-augmented-- gish, shapeshifters, totemists, and so on.
Full BAB: those who fight almost entirely without magical help-- barbarians, paladins, warblades, and the like.

Which of those sounds like the monk?

Giving them full BAB is neat. For Flurry... it adds extra attacks. Let it work on standard attacks too, so the monk can skirmish like it looks like it's supposed to. You're adding two extra attacks, which is nice but not game-breaking. If you're worried, don't remove the attack penalty for flurrying.

Also, don't forget how MAD the class is. Options to use Dex or Wisdom in place of Strength for melee attacks would be very attractive.

Finally, if you want to remove the eastern flavor, change the "special monk weapons" to non-eastern weapons.

Platypus Fries
2013-11-11, 09:10 PM
Yeah, the BAB issue makes sense. Besides which after thinking about it my problem with the extraordinary amount of attacks a monk can push is an issue of optimization. They still don't have the battlefield versatility of a fighter, they're likely to have less AC, and they can't make up for it like a barbarian does with his hit dice. The only other battle-oriented class that's as squishy as the monk is the ranger, and at least he gets spellcasting and a companion. When I think of it mechanics-wise I start to see why monks are considered underpowered. Full BAB does bring it closer to par.

As far as removing the monks entirely, it's something I've considered, but the martial monk tradition is really the only thing the Tibetan influenced area really has going for it. Besides the fact that they sailed in and settled down one day and nobody's quite sure where they came from. The way I'm seeing it the tradition was petty localized until the Darkness began to appear and then as it was realized that these magical monks were pretty much unaffected the idea of becoming one became rather attractive. If I can't get it right I will just get rid of them, but for now I'm gonna try to make them work.

I've come up with some features to replace standard monk ones:

Ki Strike (magic) renamed to Magic Strike. Ki's not really a western thing.

Ki Strike (lawful) changed to a choice of the following:

Holy Strike: Attack is holy aligned.
Unholy Strike: Attack is unholy aligned.
Healing Touch: Use Wholeness of Body to heal others.
Harmful Touch: Use Wholeness of Body to harm others.
Adamantine Strike
Silver Strike

[I'm considering combining Holy Strike and Healing Touch, and Unholy Strike and Harmful Touch.]

Abundant Step changed to allow a choice of:

Abundant Step
Weightless Descent: Use Slow Fall without a wall or support.

Quivering Strike changed to allow a choice of:

Quivering Strike
Other stuff. I'm having a hard time with this one.

Ki Strike (Adamantine) changed to allow a choice of:

Holy Strike: Attack is holy aligned.
Unholy Strike: Attack is unholy aligned.
Healing Touch: Use Wholeness of Body to heal others.
Harmful Touch: Use Wholeness of Body to harm others.
Adamantine Strike
Silver Strike

[This stuff again]

Tongue of the sun and the moon can likely be given options. Perhaps one such being the ability to commune with the dead.

Empty body needs options, but I can't figure out what.

Of course this all needs balancing, and to be more fully fleshed out. At least one of the Quivering Strike alternatives needs to be a buff of some sort, and then for Tongue and Empty Body I'm at a bit of a loss for alternatives. In addition I'm not sure of some of the combinations I have, such as Weightless Descent being an alternative for Abundant Step.

I'll look at some monk reworks and check books for variants to take inspiration from.


After rereading the comments here and reading some reworks (particularly Grod_The_Giant's quick fix) I agree that there needs to be an option to get Wis on to-hit. Zen Archery for melee, essentially. I can fit this and Zen Archery in as class features somewhere.

First and most obvious of which being different 'schools' of abilities depending on the monastery you come from.

I was already playing with a culture/homeland system that in the case of monks (and to a lesser degree clerics) could be replaced with a monastery. Perhaps adding monastery as a bonus on top of culture/homeland would make more sense, with other options for those trained outside of a monastery (something that might make a good start to a Fist of the Forest prestige for instance).

In addition I'm loosening the restriction on monk as far as multiclassing. Out of the core classes monk/barbarian are the only classes that won't jive.

2013-11-12, 12:15 AM
After rereading the comments here and reading some reworks (particularly Grod_The_Giant's quick fix) I agree that there needs to be an option to get Wis on to-hit. Zen Archery for melee, essentially. I can fit this and Zen Archery in as class features somewhere.
You can nab/grant Intuitive Attack (BoED; Wis to attack with a simple or natural weapon), but your damage still suffers a bit that way. You want to replace Strength completely if you want to reduce MAD-- that means attack, damage, and grapple/trip/disarm/etc.

2013-11-12, 01:06 PM
Since you're ditching Paladin, ccannibalizing it is and option. Giving the monk a Wisdom based "Smite" and a lay on hands style ability could be fun. A Wisdom- "Divine Grace" may be okay if it's given at a high enough level...

2013-11-12, 01:33 PM
Why not Give full BAB and an ability that replaces flurry of blows with an extra attack or two at certain levels? seems like taking a two-weapon full bab and adding a few extra attacks makes for a not overpowered choice, and avoids the confusion of working out flurry BAB.

As for as concept, I would think of a westernized unarmed fighter as a wrestler/pugilist, and maybe add some anachronism from modern pro wrestling. You could incorporate some damage boosting special attacks and signature moves to add some damage choices and replace abilities like quivering palm and ki strikes. Design some magic items specific to those abilities like a champion belt that improves unarmed strikes or ac or whatever.

Of course if you still want to keep the concept of holy unarmed warrior, you may want to go more paladin style. But the concept seems to be fairly eastern in itself.

2013-11-12, 04:03 PM
Yeah, the BAB issue makes sense. Besides which after thinking about it my problem with the extraordinary amount of attacks a monk can push is an issue of optimization.

Bear in mind unless you make unarmed strikes from monks count as 2-handed weapons the degree of optimisation available is pretty pitiful. Uberchargers are the main reason Flurry is so pitiful, put a monk in a campaign where the DM has barred Stormtrooper, Leap Attack, and limited or barred weapon damage multipliers other than critical's and their melee damage becomes quite respectable next to other martial classes.

The problem of course is that 1 handed light weapons don't benefit anywhere near as much from that kind of optimisation and as a result even if you pull it off their damage lags badly behind the uberchargers.

Basically even with full BaB and free TWF feats a monk with Flurry is at best going to hold par with an ubercharer with some additional class design and character building optimisation.

2013-11-12, 05:55 PM
This is (sadly) rather true, I find myself agreeing with Carl entirely. My own Open Palm visited the monk, entirely re-wrote it to do away with monk weapons completely, kept a medium BAB and manged to keep up (just about) with standard melee chargers, but it's......a little complex shall we say...?

A valid option is to do away with flurry ENTIRELY and replace it with a monastery-specific ability, for instance allowing free movement between iterative attacks at a reducing penalty and increasing distance, allowing a rend effect which goes off whenever 2 or more strikes hit the same opponent, scaling for damage and possible physical rider effects (reduced str/dex, etc), allowing you (and your unarmed attacks) to count as larger sizes for grappling, bullrushing, tripping, etc with a scaling bonus to the rolls.....I actually have a fair few ideas for such....

Any way you go, merging the monk and paladin in a westernised battle-friar type class seems a good direction for your campaign's oddities so go with it....I'm beginning to get intrigued by this...

Platypus Fries
2013-11-13, 10:17 PM
I've already been trying to figure out how to cannibalize paladin into monk and a "slayer" class or prestige class, but I hadn't really thought to give monks a wisdom-based Divine Grace. I think because their saves are already so great, and considering my level 5 Aasimar Ascetic Knight (Monk/Paladin multiclass) who has +15/+12/+14 for his saves already, the monk saves + Divine Grace rout can really jump your saves. If I put it in I'll likely have to throttle it somehow, such as maxing the bonus to half your monk levels. This would still allow almost any monk to use his full wisdom modifier somewhere mid-level.

As far as monasteries I think it would be best to just treat those like homelands: providing your automatic languages, bonus languages, starting bonus wealth and equipment, and, if I can figure out how to do it properly, regional traits.

Here's the ideas so far:

Full Base Attack Bonus
Allow Flurry of Blows on a standard action attack.
Aligning their unarmed attacks as either holy or unholy at level 10.
The choice between using the Wholeness of Body point-pool for either healing or harming others. I'm not sure if this should be directly related to the choice between holy and unholy damage, as I see no reason a good monk can't go for extra damage or an evil monk can't heal his allies.
A way to use wisdom in place of strength on attack rolls. Essentially a Wisdom-based weapon finesse but applying only to special monk weapons, with no restriction on weapon size.

I don't agree that wisdom should be able to outright replace strength. Weapon Finesse for instance doesn't allow you to apply Dex to damage (no matter what my misinformed friends like to think). Besides which it would completely invalidate Strength and make it a dump stat - for a melee class.

Other things to consider:

Applying Wisdom as a bonus to all saves (which would include essentially doubling the Wis bonus to will) through a Divine Grace-style class feature.
A way to use slow fall without a supporting wall.

Another thing I'm considering is allowing the damage of punching daggers (and other attached blades, even such things as knee blades from Complete Scoundrel which normally count as short swords) to scale with unarmed damage. This would essentially just give monks some piercing (though I would also rule you can do slashing damage with them by moving your arm sideways instead of forward, because that's how blades work) damage. This may at first seem to invalidate their unarmed due to the way you can actually enchant and change the material of punching daggers, but the drawbacks would include:

These aren't unarmed attacks, so monks can't use them with hands otherwise unavailable.
The Improved Natural Attack feat wouldn't apply to these attacks.
These attacks can't be aligned or used to inflict extra damage through monk class feats.

Besides all of this monks can already just get a Necklace of Natural Attacks or something similar to treat their fists as enchanted, or get Magic Fang and Permanency cast on them and improve from there.

It does pose a couple problems though:

Crit Damage: x3. Outclasses the x2 of fists at the same amount of base damage. To overcome this it could be made so that punching daggers would do the damage of an unarmed monk one size smaller.
It's easier to enchant these than get enchantments on your normal unarmed strike. At high levels this can easily boost you to the level of Attack Bonus that other full melee classes get while doing more base damage than their weapons and also getting enchantment bonuses. My previous idea of keeping the punching dagger damage down by a size could apply here as well.

I'm still bouncing ideas here of course. I'll probably try to make a sort of "alpha" class table soon, and try to figure out if this is actually balanced.

2013-11-13, 10:33 PM
to make unarmded strike be capable of doing different types just make a feat that allows for slashing and/or peircing damage as well. but let it be included in teh list of feats availabel for bonus feats.

I like wisdom in addition to strength that way ifyou get a decent roll for a couple of your stats you are not penalized. plus yous till add wisdom to things.

i dislike the wisdom based divien grace.. justs eems liek the monk will beocme too good and never failing.

2013-11-13, 11:15 PM
I'd propose that you ditch the D&D monk almost-entirely; without Eastern influence, there's no real reason to link "monk" to combat.

Instead, make the monk a more skill-based class, with emphasis on knowledge (via access to all knowledge skills, of course, but also class features), but also diplomacy and a strong assortment of INT- and WIS-based skills. Give them a few cleric-like abilities (but with a different usage mechanic), but otherwise ditch everything magical. Keep their good saves, and give them additional resistance abilities (to everything, but especially illusions and mind-affecting effects.) Then give them a choice of further features, ranging from the combat monk (3/4 BAB instead of the standard 1/2, FoB, etc.) to an inspiring guide sort (gives allies defensive and offensive boosts) to fully specializing in knowledge (this one would be found more in NPCs), to a more mystical build who gets a larger and better selection of magical abilities, some self-focused, some ally-focused, and some environment-focused (e.g. force away the Darkness.)

Part of the monk's problem is that it's trying to fit a not-really-combat concept into a combat role. By ditching the Eastern influence, you're making the concept even more not-combat, so you might as well accept that and make the monk be more noncombat-focused. Knowledge is a thematically appropriate way to do it.

2013-11-13, 11:19 PM
I don't agree that wisdom should be able to outright replace strength. Weapon Finesse for instance doesn't allow you to apply Dex to damage (no matter what my misinformed friends like to think). Besides which it would completely invalidate Strength and make it a dump stat - for a melee class.

Which i think means you really have no handle on the Monks problems.

It's a basic fact of nearly every non-T5 class. They have one main stat and their entire effectiveness is built off that. Classes that don't do this are typically relegated to T5 unless they have blatantly overpowered class features or the like.

It all comes back to multiple attribute dependency, (incidentally that's a good reason why almost no optimised builds use weapons finesse. Without the dex to damage it's a junk feat. Those builds that do use it typically involve classes with a huge Dex focus to begin with), otherwise known as MAD.

Also one of the more interesting unarmed fighter attempts i've seen around here gave the class scaling threat range and crit multipliers as well as scaling damage dice. Made them a good deal nastier.

Useful link (http://brilliantgameologists.com/boards/index.php?topic=4869.0) detailing the monk's issues.