Posted by : David Guyll November 13, 2012

The class and maneuver pdf got updated to include the monk class and maneuvers. Yes, maneuvers, because the monk gains Expertise Dice, you see. I will address that in a bit, but first, retrospective!

I do not recall how 2nd Edition's monk operated, but 3rd Edition's was very disappointing; at 1st-level you could move a bit faster and punch things. You could try to punch things twice, though you took a penalty. If you toured about sans armor you got to add your Wisdom modifier to your Armor Class, too. As you leveled up, your unarmored damage, speed, and out-of-armor AC scaled, and you got various other features like immunity to poison and disease, reduced falling damage, jumping without a height-cap, and so on.

The problem was that it encouraged multiple ability dependency, as you wanted a good Strength for unarmed damage, Dexterity for AC (and perhaps unarmed attack if you took Weapon Finesse, which you probably did), and Wisdom to further boost your AC. Of course, Constitution was also good to be able to take hits, which was probably going to happen unless you had a really good Dexterity and Wisdom. What I liked even less was that as your unarmed attack damage increased, there was no point to continue wielding weapons (despite there being a good number of "monk" weapons).

As with many other classes, it took 4th Edition to make an actually competent, engaging monk. Monk Traditions made other ability scores besides just Wisdom useful, and one even made weapons feasible. Monk powers were combination attacks and movement bonuses, making it easy to envision the monk performing crazy stunts instead of just standing in one place and punching a monster over and over. My personal favorite was drunken monkey, which let you hit a monster and cause it to wallop an ally. Utility powers removed the need for variant classes or alternate class features, and feat trees helped realize other concepts such as greatsword-wielding githzerai.

As expected the 5th Edition monk has bits of editions past, mixing static class features with meaningful decision points. Oddly the biggest thing people seem to be getting hung up on is the Lawful-only alignment restriction. I will go on record saying that I too think it makes no sense, especially considering the "drunken boxer" archetype, and really just seems like pointless tradition carried over from yester-Edition. Also, why are wizards not required to be Lawful, what with a life of study and practice?

You get to add your Wisdom modifier to your Armor Class, and despite the fact that it does not scale by level the underwhelming armors and lack of assumed/necessary magic items means that monks will likely have a really good Armor Class (at least on part with the fighter). Monastic Training lets you pick two skills from a short list, making it kind of like a Rogue Scheme-lite. Unarmed damage is a set 1d6, but given the whole Expertise Dice thing I do not see a problem with it. Also it is a finesse weapon by default, so there is no need to burn a feat on it to avoid stretching your stats too thin.

The major addition is Ki, which is a scaling daily resource that you can spend to activate Stunning Fist (creature must make a Wisdom save or be stunned for a turn), and later on Wholeness of Body (regain hit points). I get that this is a playtest, but I hope that this gets expanded so that players can actually make choices, here.

Finally, maneuvers. You start with two--Flurry of Blows and Step of the Wind--but every three levels you get to pick up another. Some are fairly straightforward and mundane, like Deadly Strike and Deflect Missiles. Others start out "mundane", but can scale to magical if you spend enough dice. For example at one die Step of the Wind lets you boost your speed, two dice lets you run up vertical surfaces, and three dice lets you run on liquids. I like this, as it avoids the need for lots of similar powers with slightly different effects.

My final opinion is that it looks more interesting than 3rd Edition's monk, though the Lawful alignment and preset Ki features are major turnoffs for me. I could see Monk Traditions providing maneuvers much in the way that the fighter's Fighting Styles do, but mainly I would like to see them provide more interesting benefits (such as being able to use Flurry of Blows with a weapon).

{ 3 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. I agree with all of your points here, and would only note that the level of responsiveness to feedback we've gotten so far suggests to me that anything that faces a broadly negative reception is quite likely gone in the next draft.

    The possibility of starting with a 20 AC as a human monk (admittedly, it requires two natural 18s, but it can be done) does seem like a legitimate problem to me, though I realize that obnoxiously high AC has been a hallmark of the monk since time immemorial. ;)

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  2. At first look it seems like an improved version of the 3e monk. The monk has been my favorite class (in concept) since i started playing D&D back when 3e came out, i hope it gets the versatility of the 4e monk via traditions and maneuvers without overshadowing/overlapping with other classes such as the rogue.

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  3. I think thing such as alignment restrictions are so easily ignored that I shouldn't even bother complaining about them. Grognards are happy with them, and unhappy people can ignore them and be happy, so I have no problem with them.
    Anyway, I think the Rogue could be a lot more Rogue-y if it followed the Monk's class template. Just substitute Ki with at-will feat-like features tied to Rogue Scheme and that's it, finally a great Rogue.

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