Continuing on with this series, we’re looking at the Monk. The Monk is the martial arts expert. They are focused on hand-to-hand combat, and on manipulating people and objects to deal maximum damage. However, they don’t look to bring in bigger or stronger weapons but instead strive to be faster and more nimble, and to avoid punches instead of absorbing them with armor. A Monk is the kung-fu master of the D&D world.
Mechanically, it comes down to their ability to deal extra damage by using punches as extra attacks or being able to jump in and out of combat quickly using their ki abilities. Monks can often do minor magic with their ki points, but they aren’t generally considered a magic-focused class, and they are going to be spending most of their time in the fray. People often play them as ninja characters, like Nimrose was in Dungeons & Flagons. Her main weapons were shuriken and nunchaku. However, there are plenty more ways to play a monk, and with the different class paths a monk can choose from, they can look very different depending on how you want to play them. How a monk uses and manipulates ki is really how you determine what type of monk you are and where you fit into a monastic tradition. While a monk following the Way of the Shadow is a ninja-/assassin-style character, a monk following the Way of Tranquility gets features that allow them to use ki, but not for violence.
The monk is also interesting because so many backgrounds can work with it. We’ll look at some possibilities in my backstory ideas:
From a young age, you’ve been trained to be an assassin. You don’t know who your parents were, though you assume they are dead because you ended up living with a relative who hated you. Eventually, you ran away and decided that you could make it on your own on the streets. Things weren’t as easy as you hoped on the street, and one cold night, you found your way to a monastery. They let you in and gave you a place to live. They saw in you the potential of someone who had learned to sneak around on the streets, and they started training you and brought you into the shadow organization that the monastery housed. The code of your monastery now leads you still as you take jobs and are asked to kill. The master of your monastery was killed recently, and you’ve taken it upon yourself to right the wrong and find out who killed him.
Tradition: Way of the Shadow
As a scout for the army, you’ve seen killing for years. You’ve tried to avoid as much battle as you can, but that wasn’t possible. You don’t want to see death anymore, and you’ve taken it upon yourself to find a peaceful way of life. On the higher reaches of a mountain, you found a place where you could spend time with others who were like-minded, where you could try to find inner peace. A dragon has also found this mountain, and as one of the few of the monastery who has spent time in the world before, you feel it is your duty to help find those who can rid the world of the dragon. Maybe if you can help others, they will in turn help you. Hopefully they understand that you just want to help without hurting anyone.
Tradition: Way of Tranquility
As a youth, you joined a monastic order and loved your life in solitude. Training and self-discipline are things that meant the most to you. You hadn’t realized that there were those leading your order who sought to bring back an ancient deity. This deity had been locked away for a reason, and when you found out what was going on, you didn’t know what to do. You ran away, going to a city on the far side of the continent. You started drinking, and you weren’t sure what meaning you had in your life anymore. Now you believe that you were sent here to find those who can help stop your order from bringing back the deity — after you have another drink.
Tradition: Way of the Drunken Master
Your parents sent you away at a young age to learn the arts of a monastic order. This is normal for your family; your father before you had gone here, and that is where he met your mother. That was how it had been for the generation before, as well. The grace and fluidity of the order helps train your mind and body for the life you were supposed to have ahead of you. Then you got the news that your parents had been arrested, accused falsely of having stolen the treasures from a town where their troupe was performing. You left, your training nearly complete, and are headed there to free them and prove their innocence.
Have you had a chance to play a monk before? Did you lean into the Eastern traditions that are inherent in the class, or did you seek to play something different?
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