Exploring RPG Classes: The Monk
How Do You Want to Be the Coolest Member of Your Group?
Although there are more prolific classes regarding not only play styles but of typical examples that come to mind whenever thinking about a Monk, let’s establish right away that they’re more than “well, it’s basically Dragonball or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”. But also, kind of that. This post will expand further a bit on this RPG class, some of its main skills, basic archetypes, and play styles.
Monks are mainly physical fighters that are specialized into martial arts. In the original DnD, they were introduced as a disambiguation of clerics. Differently from the latter, their origins and abilities tend to rely on cultural references from the Eastern hemisphere, allowing for them to perform abilities beyond the usual limits of strength and dexterity of the human body. Therefore, that means a Slow Fall (jump out of tall buildings!!), knowing how to deal critical blows and speaking various languages, human or not, just by touching the ki of other minds.
While they’re a comparatively complicated combat class to play with, since the player needs to wisely allocate abilities, you can take full advantage of Bonus Actions and ki points to manage a relatively frail character that really likes to engage in close-by combat. Good old Glass Cannons.
But What Is Ki, Anyway?
Ki is a special kind of mystic energy that allows Monks to do their signature abilities. This in-game is translated as a series of points the character gets starting at level 2, and can be spent to fuel ki features. These start simple at first, such as a bonus attack with Flurry of Blows, but will get crucial to the survival of your character as you unlock more of them. On this topic, it’s important to discuss Monastic Traditions.
Upon reaching the 3rd level, you’ll choose a Monastic Tradition in order to gain more features for your Monk as they reach level 6, 11 and 17. These are basically disciplines to be followed by characters that hone their skills within a specific direction. While not exhaustive, I will list some of the main traditions – all of them official, although some others nowadays have also become increasingly popular.
The Way of the Astral Self
“A monk who follows the Way of the Astral Self believes their body is an illusion”, as goes Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. That allows them to see their ki as the true representation of their form, and manifest these physically with astral projection. As you progress in this skillset, more parts of the monk’s astral body can be manifested, for up to 10 minutes.
The Way of the Ascendant Dragon
Fizban’s Treasury of Dragon states that, by aligning their spirit with draconic might, a monk may unlock their abilities. This is the gist of the Way of the Ascendant Dragon, which in the late-game lets you fly with spectral wings and radiate your spirit in the form of a fiery breath. And these are only some of the powers you can unlock for your character.
The Way of the Drunken
Monks are there, even when you cannot see them. The Way of the Drunken Master teaches its students how to move with sudden, unpredictable, and seemingly harmless movements. These hide powerful attacks and can quickly incapacitate unsuspecting enemies. Bo’ Rai Cho from the Mortal Kombat series is a good reference on how this works.
The Way of the Four Elements
The Way of the Four Elements is basically Avatar: The Last Airbender. Although there are some changes on how you apply these spells, just by the first phrase you get the gist.
The Way of the Kensei
The Way of the Kensei is the most similar to a Fighter class, as it consists of the mastery of weapons and tools – mostly weapons, come on. As much as it helps, you won’t get into this to have the best brushstroke. As your character progresses, they’ll eventually augment the capabilities of weapons via the use of ki, making them able to hit and pierce magical opponents and armor. How cool is that?
The Way of the Long Death
The Way of the Long Death consists in getting deep knowledge in the mechanics of dying. With that, the Monk may extract vitality from its opponents, instill profound fear that only those in familiar terms with the other side are able to, or simply use the Touch of the Long Dead to channel the energy of death into a creature.
The Way of Mercy
Monks of the Way of Mercy are able to manipulate the life forces to help or harm. While they’re still able to channel necrotic energy as those from the Way of the Long Death, two important characteristics are the use of mystical powers for healing and the donning of a mask under a deep cloak, giving them their signature appearance.
The Way of the Open Hand
The Way of the Open Hand are masters of armed and unarmed combat, who are able to use ki to assist in attacks and also heal their own body. I’d say this is the most bread-and-butter of the traditions.
The Way of the Shadow
Although with some differences, I’ll once again simplify monks from the Way of Shadow as ninjas. This can get extremely useful for players more into stealthy missions, as Shadow Step essentially allows the character to teleport between dim or dark areas and Cloak of Shadows renders them invisible.
The Way of the Sun Soul
Way of the Sun Soul monks are able to channel their life energy into searing bolts of light, according to the Sword Coast’s Adventurer’s Guide. This is based on the idea that each living creature’s interior ki emits a light that…wait, come back here. You. Yes, you, keep your focus. Yes, it’s kind of like a Kamehameha. Oh, you don’t need to hear more. Okay.
You Certainly Got It: This Is the Way
I’m expectant that you found this class as particularly interesting as I do. Not many things are as much of a mystery in the modern cultural phenomena such as the socioeconomic forces explaining why Dragonball is undoubtedly loved by every man born in 80’s and 90’s Latin America. With that in mind, I may be a little biased. Now that you’ve chosen your class (wink, wink), why don’t you see some of our recommendations for RPG books?
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