At last, after a month of covering a few other topics, we come to the conclusion of the History of the Monk, with its 5th Edition iteration. (Assuming someone doesn’t suggest another version that I really want to cover. My readers are a crafty lot.) Up to this point, edition over edition, we’ve seen a few substantial outliers like 2e and 4e, and some structural variants like 13th Age, but few classes stay as true to both a central concept and implementation as the monk has.

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven | Part Eight | Part Nine

 

5e

In this edition, the monk has been restored to its place as a core class in the (first) Player’s Handbook, as in 1e and 3e. The flavor text suggests that monasteries are a common, if secluded, feature of just about any D&D setting, so monks aren’t really all that exotic. At the same time, ki is still an essential part of the class, representing a magical force that flows through all living things. The change, then, is to assert that monks aren’t exotic.

  • d8 Hit Dice, which in 5e means they’re on par with bards, clerics, rogues, and warlocks – all characters that may see front-line duty but still prefer to have some cover from sturdier characters.
  • No armor proficiency. Shock of shocks.
  • Proficiency in all simple weapons, and in shortswords.
    • 5e doesn’t have a boatload of Asian weaponry – no nunchucks, kama, sai, or siangham here. I am a huge fan of this change, for some sort of obscure reasons. In 3.x, random magic weapon generation – or magic items directed by a published adventure – could result in a bunch of monk weapons that would be of no interest to non-monk characters. Oh, sure, you could just change them to something else, but you could instead just set monks up to use the same spread of weapons as most everyone else. In general, it’s better to have more party members at least potentially interested in any given piece of loot. There aren’t many items everyone is interested in, of course, but try to avoid items no one is interested in, especially if they’re disinterested before you even get to the identify step.
  • Proficiency in one type of artisan’s tools or one musical instrument. This is a nice note for presenting monastic labor.
  • Proficiency in Strength and Dexterity saves, strongly emphasizing their athletic side.
    • At 14th level, Diamond Soul kind of renders this moot, but that’s all right. They also rack up an array of other defenses to mitigate the saving throw proficiencies they don’t have before that point. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
  • Two skill proficiencies from a short list; I would argue that a lot more skills belong on this list, and a third proficiency wouldn’t be out of line.
  • Unarmored Defense lets them set their AC to (10 + Dex mod + Wis mod) as long as they are doing the no-armor, no-shield thing that you’d expect.
  • Martial Arts is the definitive monk feature, and the exact wording of its multiple moving parts is a huge deal. I talked about this in the UA breakdowns of the kensei drafts (part one, part two), but let’s dive into this again.
    • First off, you can replace Strength modifiers with Dex modifiers for everything that qualifies as an unarmed strike and everything that qualifies as a monk weapon. Those two categories sometimes get expanded with various features. The monk’s multiple attribute dependency is bad enough – letting them not worry to much about Strength, other than Athletics checks and Str saves, makes a difference.
    • You can replace the damage die of your unarmed strike or monk weapon with a scaling die value (starts at d4, and rises to a d10 by 17th level).
    • When you use the Attack action (not “make an attack” – again, precise wording and case is everything here), you can make one unarmed strike as a bonus action. Though it’s similar to two-weapon fighting, it automatically includes the ability score adjustment to damage. Also, the bonus action economy means that Flurry of Blows is a direct upgrade of this feature.
    • The flavor text of the feature suggests how to model nunchaku, kamas, and so on in 5e.
  • As with a lot of 5e classes, you don’t get all of the monk’s essential function at 1st level – you wait until 2nd to get ki points. These are a per-short-rest currency, and you start with three ways to spend them:
    • Flurry of Blows turns your one unarmed strike as a bonus action into two unarmed strikes, for 1 ki point. This is absolutely huge.
    • Patient Defense lets you spend 1 ki point to Dodge as a bonus action. It also potentially lets you try your hand at evade tanking – but at 1 ki per round, this is more of a way to survive bad positioning than a way of life. (Since you’re doing this instead of other bonus action options.)
    • Step of the Wind lets you Disengage or Dash as a bonus action, and doubles your jump distance, for 1 ki.
    • Striker/defender/skirmisher? Yeah, these three features are a manifesto on the class’s gameplay. They also mean that the monk has a super-tight action economy, much like the rogue. I have a hard time believing Mearls’s claim that he could cover all of these bases gracefully without resorting to bonus actions. What he’s suggested about the phrasing of such features seems like it would necessarily be kludgier and more limiting. Save the bonus action, y’all.
    • ETA: As everyone and their brother now knows, I got this wrong in my first draft – ki points are a per-short-rest currency. Mea culpa! It makes the high costs of Four Elements disciplines less of a problem, but it does even better things for Open Hand and Shadows, for obvious reasons. It waters down the importance of Perfect Self somewhat. Also, Open Hand’s Quivering Palm miiiight be a staple of your diet rather than a sometimes food.
  • Unarmored Movement grants speed bonuses while you’re not armored, starting at +10 ft and scaling to +30 ft. Thanks to Step of the Wind, though, the numbers don’t need to scale as high as they did in 3.x. At 9th level, this feature improves further, allowing you to run on liquids and vertical surfaces, as long as you end your turn on something solid.
    • Movement options that only operate on your turn are sort of a mixed bag to me. On one hand, hey, cool new movement options that have some kind of limiter, that’s basically good. On the other, it really hangs a lampshade on the fact that there’s no such thing as continuous action – every action is interrupted by your turn ending.
  • At 3rd level, you choose your Monastic Tradition. I’ll cover these in detail below, as usual.
  • Deflect Missiles is a reaction that reduces the damage of ranged weapon attacks, and lets you catch the missile if you reduce damage to 0. Further, if you spend 1 ki, you can hurl the projectile back. No bow? No problem.
  • Ability Score Improvements at 4, 8, 12, 16, and 19.
  • Slow Fall reduces the falling damage you take by 5 points per monk level, as a reaction.
  • Extra Attack at 5th level. You might reasonably make 2, 3, or 4 attacks in a round, depending on your ki availability and what you need to do with your bonus action.
  • Stunning Strike lets you add a one-round stun to an attack that has already hit for 1 ki point. The target gets a Con save, of course.
  • Ki-Empowered Strikes lets your unarmed strikes count as magic. No surprise here.
  • Evasion does what Evasion does. It is exactly like the rogue feature.
  • Stillness of Mind declines to grant monks immunity to charmed or frightened per se, but you can use your action to center your thoughts and end one such effect. Obviously, if the effect is getting spammed, you’re not making any headway in the fight unless you can start passing saving throws. I’m kinda surprised there’s not a ki spend option here, but whatevah, this implementation is fine. It still won’t save you from a dominate, since your New Friend gets to choose your action for you.
  • Purity of Body grants immunity to disease and poison at 10th level. Feh.
  • Tongue of the Sun and Moon lets you speak to anyone and understand them in return. It doesn’t do anything with written communication, but it amuses me to wonder what this would do for someone sounding out writing in a language they don’t really know (e.g., me reading Spanish aloud).
  • Diamond Soul, as mentioned grants proficiency in all six saving throws. Further, when you do fail a save, you can spend 1 ki point to reroll and take the new result. This adds up to a ton of resistance to any kind of save-based effect.
  • Timeless Body solves for aging, eating, and drinking, though you can still die of old age despite having no senescence.
  • Empty Body at 18th level gives you two new ways to spend buckets of ki. 5e doesn’t really want monks passing through walls as etherealness granted (I’m guessing), so for 4 ki you become invisible and resistant to all damage except force damage. Also, you can spend 8 ki to astrally project yourself without material components. I’m not sure how often a self-only astral projection is useful even in very high-level play, but the option doesn’t cost anything.
  • Perfect Self is the monk’s currency replenisher – if you’re out of ki when you roll initiative, you regain 4. Not enough to dominate a fight, but enough to get by for a short time.

Just about all of the feature names and all of the feature themes are familiar from earlier iterations, but the majority of the mechanical implementations have been tweaked. I like the great majority of what I see here. I like what I’ve seen so far out of the class in actual play. They get to a large number of attacks faster than any other class, though the fighter’s Action Surge passes them by at 11th level. It’s a worthy striker and off-tank, just based on the core of the class. Let’s see what goes on in the subclasses.

 

Way of the Open Hand

This is the traditional monk, picking back up most of the features that are missing compared to 3.x.

  • Open Hand Technique attaches one of three effects as a rider to your Flurry of Blows strikes, so this feature does nothing if you’re not spending ki and your bonus actions on Flurry of Blows. On the other hand, it’s crazy good.
    • Knock an opponent prone if it fails a Dex save.
    • Push an opponent 15 feet if it fails a Str save. (Unlike a lot of push effects, this has no size limit. “Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not.
    • Deny your target its reaction until the end of your next turn. If no one else is around, this and the push option are as good as or better than Disengaging as a bonus action, for the same ki cost, and you deal damage. You’ve just got to be sure you can land that hit.
  • Wholeness of Body is the traditional monk self-heal, this time pegged at 3 hit points per monk level per long rest.
  • Tranquility gives you a free sanctuary at the end of a long rest. I’m not sure if monks are getting a ton of use out of this, but in principle, letting monks pass alone and peacefully through the valley of the shadow of death is a great image. It just might not be terribly practical.
  • Quivering Palm is their top-end feature. For 3 ki, declared after a successful unarmed strike, you can seriously injure or kill them at any later time, up to a number of days equal to your monk level. It costs another action to end the vibrations. On a failed Con save, boom, they’re at 0 hit points. On a success, a mere 10d10 necrotic damage. You can only have one creature on the hook at a time, but anything that can force top-end bosses to burn legendary resistance is a pretty good idea. Save-or-die is vanishingly rare in 5e, and this is a key example.

So like I said, ultra-orthodox, but eminently respectable. The worst I can say is that Open Hand Technique and Quivering Palm might be too good, but if so, it’s not a big problem.

 

Way of Shadow

Want to play a ninja? Want to see the other piece of my argument that 3.x shadowdancers were supposed to be monk-friendly? This is the place to be. (The flavor text calls out that “shadowdancer” is an in-world name for monks of this subclass.)

  • Shadow Arts lets you burn ki for thematically relevant spell effects. Each casting of darkness, pass without trace, or silence is 2 ki. It also teaches you the minor illusion cantrip. This feature adds a lot of combat and non-combat options, and I think this list of options tells the story of slightly-magical ninjas quite well.
  • Shadow Step is your short-range shadow-to-shadow teleport, and it further grants advantage on the first melee attack you make after the teleport (before the end of your turn). This is the definitive Shadowdancer feature, and I am a fan.
  • Cloak of Shadows lets you spend your action, in any area of dim or no light, to become invisible. In theory, you can stay in position and invisible for ages – until you attack, cast a spell, or find yourself in an area of bright light. Because it costs an action, this is much more an exploration and spying feature than a combat option. As with the first two features of this subclass, it’s a stylish and worthwhile option. The worst I can say of it is that by the time you get it, enemies able to perceive invisible creatures are getting more common, and if you’re using this as it seems to be intended, you’re likely to be alone and super screwed. You’re relying on the DM not to go out of their way to screw you over here.
  • Opportunist lets you make an attack as a reaction whenever an adjacent enemy gets hit by someone other than you. It’s the only damage-increasing option in the whole subclass, but it’s solid. The monk doesn’t rely super heavily on reactions, so one extra option doesn’t lock out too many others.

So yeah, I really like what goes on here. They trade the combat-heavy options of Open Hand for some great combat-avoidance and espionage features. If you finagle your way into thieves’ tools proficiency (maybe with a Background, feat, or the Training downtime activity), this is a great alternative to having a rogue – or a great partner-in-crime.

 

Way of the Four Elements

This subclass combines the various elemental benders from Avatar with tattooed monks. In principle, this is cool stuff, but the broad consensus is that it’s woefully underperforming because it just costs too much ki to use their cool powers. There are fan rebuilds of this subclass online that may be worth tracking down if you like the concept but find that it doesn’t stick the landing.

  • Disciple of the Elements sets you up to burn ki for limited spellcasting. You start with Elemental Attunement and one additional discipline, and over the course of the class you gain three more disciplines. You can also spend additional ki to cast spells as if with higher-level slots. You have a ki point cap per spell that scales somewhat with level.
  • Elemental Disciplines don’t necessarily need detailed breakdown, except to say again that most options are a little over-costed. Just reading them on the page, this is not immediately obvious. The thing is, you get to use your defining features (edited) a lot less in each short rest cycle than other monk subclasses, and then you have nothing left for Flurry of Blows or the rest of your core features. Some of the disciplines are features not otherwise attested as spells, and one is an add-on to your Attack action.

Since I’m not offering deeper numerical analysis here, you’ll kind of have to take my word for it (or the word of the rest of the internet in aggregate) that the Way of the Four Elements is flashy, but not up to snuff. Probably the easiest fix is to work out some form of ki regen outside of long rests. Even 1-2 points of ki regen when you roll initiative for the first time in an encounter might do the trick, but I haven’t studied deeply enough to find the issues with that.

 

Way of the Long Death

If you want to be a morbid death monk, if you just can’t get your gother-than-thou fix any other way, the Long Death is here for you. Don’t worry, your monk features still work in fishnets.

  • Touch of Death is a last-hit effect, granting a pile of temporary hit points when you reduce an adjacent creature to 0 hit points. I’ve recently become skeptical of last-hit effects on principle, because there’s so much room for teammates to accidentally deny you use of your powers, and this is no exception. Fix this by making it cost a reaction when a creature within 5 feet of you that you have injured is reduced to 0 hit points, no matter who deals the last hit.
  • Hour of Reaping imposes the frightened condition in a 30-ft radius until the end of your next turn, if creatures fail a Wis save. This costs your action, but otherwise you can use it as often as you like. This affects allies. Fix this by changing it to “creatures of your choice,” or at least granting allies advantage on their saves. If you’re actually isolated enough in a fight that a 30-ft radius doesn’t include any allies… then you’re probably still getting swarmed to death by the enemies that pass their saves.
  • Mastery of Death lets you burn 1 ki whenever you would be reduced to 0 hit points to have 1 hit point instead. You could stay at 1 hit point for a long time this way, but it’ll get expensive in a hurry. I mean, if someone otherwise pitched an unlimited “spend 1 ki to reduce an attack’s damage to 0, does not cost any kind of action,” then I’d probably say they were crazy, but when you don’t use it until you’re obliged to keep using it… well… it looks a little different.
  • Touch of the Long Death lets you turn ki into necrotic damage, at 1 point per 2d10, up to 20d10; the creature takes half damage on a successful Con save. This sounds okay if you’re looking at it out of context, but compare it to Quivering Palm, and it looks like a bad joke. QP takes one more action, which is not insignificant, but 3 ki for 100% of their hp or 10d10 versus 10 ki for 20d10/10d10 should be sufficient argument.

I think that death monks are a perfectly fine theme, but this implementation is just not good. There’s a lot of theorycraft that goes on with this subclass, but once you get to realistic use in the course of play, it doesn’t stand up. Do yourself a solid and play an Open Hand monk who wears a lot of eyeliner.

 

Way of the Sun Soul

This subclass gets some flak for being the Dragon Ball Z monk, but I’ve come around to being a big fan of subclasses that make D&D more appealing to people who started their geekdom in another IP. (As you know if you read my Tidal or Winter Kin sorcerous origins, which are Disney as all hell and proud of it.) Anyway, this is the radiant energy answer to Long Death’s necro-monk and Four Elements’, er, four elements.

  • Radiant Sun Bolt lets you make ranged radiant attacks using your unarmed strike damage, as part of an Attack action. You can spend ki to “flurry” with this. Sage Advice confirms that Extra Attack applies to this feature.
  • Searing Arc Strike lets you spend 2 ki to cast burning hands, or more ki to cast as a higher-level spell, exactly like Sweeping Cinder Strike… but as a bonus action following up an Attack action. Wow, does that sound a lot better. Also your ki spend cap to boost the spell level for this is a lot more generous than the Four Elements monk, for some reason. Better. In. Every. Way.
  • Searing Sunburst lets you cast a 2d6 ball of radiant damage, 20-ft radius, for free, or you can boost it by 2d6 per point of ki you spend, up to 3. Also, it’s a Con save rather than a Dex save. This is exactly like Flames of the Phoenix, but 1 ki cheaper and with diminished versions. Oh, and radiant resistance or immunity are a damn sight rarer than fire resistance or immunity. Better. In. Every. Way.
  • Sun Shield gives you an always-on (well, you can turn it off) light source and damage shield. Whenever anyone hits you with a melee attack, you can spend your reaction to deal 5 damage + your Wisdom modifier to them, which is thoroughly competitive with fire shield’s 2d8. (Doesn’t grant fire/cold resistance, of course.) This would be solid, but… reaction.

It’s hard not to read the Way of the Sun Soul as course-correction for regrets related to the Four Elements monk. The central question is whether it goes far enough. The other unusual thing here is that it’s a monk that wants to change it up between ranged and melee, since Searing Arc Strike is only really worth doing if you’re within melee range or one square further of a bunch of dudes. I haven’t seen it in use, but I think there’s a fair argument that it still falls short.

 

Conclusion

Overall, I would say that the monk has finally gotten somewhere in shedding its exoticism, finding itself as something more purely fantastical. The very existence of subclasses carries a lot of water there, emphasizing various possible faces of the monk in a setting. I also think this is the most successful mechanical interpretation, though 13th Age still gets top marks for being a totally different approach.

I’ll also take this opportunity to plug two of my own creations, the Way of the Silver Chain and the Way of Lost Souls. The first takes the monk’s astral projection and moves it to the center of the class (and supports the hell out of githzerai in the meantime), while the second puts another spin on the ki that flows through all living… and previously-living… things.

Thank you for your patience with my corrections.

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  • Also, let me know what you want to see next from the History of the Classes.

    * Barbarian
    * Cleric
    * Fighter (includes the Book of Nine Swords)
    * Sorcerer/Wizard
    * Mass Combat Rules
    * Multiclassing
    * Something Not Listed Here

    • Fighter!

    • Dave(s) 4 Goombella

      I’d like to see Cleric.

    • Episteme

      Likewise. Theres a lot of interesting changes — the growth from 0e initially-spellless vampire hunter to 1e major caster, the development of all sorts of specialty priests in 2e, the evolution of the 3e CoDzilla — there’s a lot of range in that class’s history (even beyond the “we need a healer” question that’s always hung onto the class). It strikes me as a set of shifts that Brandes is the man to tell.

    • Dave(s) 4 Goombella

      It’s interesting how D&D seems to have preemptively recognized that playing a dedicated healer is boring, and avoided that problem by giving their healer class some martial prowess. The cleric is better at hand-to-hand combat than the thief.

      I’m not sure if this was always the case, but I’m sure that Brandes will tell me.

    • Episteme and Dave(s) 4 Goombella, I am flattered. You raise key points about the class, for sure. I expect that 2e and 5e in particular might have to get broken into two or more articles, because there are so many specialty priests and domains, respectively. =)

    • Tim Baker

      Let’s not forget the introduction of the Warpriest subclass in 4e Essentials. With the domains introduced in Dragon articles and subsequent sourcebooks for the Warpriest, there may be enough there to warrant a separate article.

    • crimfan

      My guess is that healer is more interesting in online play but it’s not fantastic in tabletop to just be the medic. in 4E they really had that issue. The super healers were really only good at healing.

    • Dave(s) 4 Goombella

      In real-time combat, playing a dedicated healer is fun and dynamic. You have to make split-second decisions, and you’re never just sitting around. In turned-based combat, it’s a tougher sell. It’s easy to feel like you have no agency when you can only respond to circumstances created by NPCs and the other PCs (unless you’re playing a character who uses their healing magic to manipulate people). In some systems, it’s downright boring. In almost every system, it’s thankless.

    • crimfan

      I’ve never played one online so I can’t say but it’s often really boring and thankless in tabletop, although the druid using a healing the other day in a combat I ran turned out to be decisive. Still, most of the time it’s not interesting.

      4E was hinting in the direction of making things more interesting for the healer and buffer, but they didn’t really do a great job with it. They really backed away for the most part but having ways of activating hit dice in combat would help a ton. Here’s a simple example of a very easy redesign that would have been more along the lines of the 4E model, where the limitation of healing came about from the target, not the caster.

      Healing Touch: Cantrip, Range Touch, Component VS, Bonus Action:

      As a bonus action you utter a word of power and touch a target. It activates the target’s inner reserves. The target feel refreshed from battle wounds. The target spends a hit die and in addition, gains your casting modifier at temporary hit points. At level 5, up to two two hit dice can be spent. at level 11, up to three hit dice can be spent, and at level 17, up to four hit dice can be spent. The spell has no effect if the target has no hit dice left.

      While it’s just a cantrip and only uses a bonus action, the limited resource is your companions’ hit dice, not your spell slots. It’s also a touch spell, which is a useful limitation (and a reason to get your familiar working for you). It also means that some of the healer bonus action abilities compete with it, like Spiritual Weapon, meaning that when the cleric is using the hammer of the gods, she’s not using Healing Touch.

      A Healing Staff might extend the reach of touch spell range healing, which is also nifty tactical.

    • Tim Baker

      4E was the only edition of D&D where I enjoyed being a cleric. I could heal as a bonus action and many of my damage-dealing abilities did some minor healing/buffs as an add-on effect. It felt satisfying to do a reasonable amount of damage, have fairly high survivability, and still be able to help the party (which could always turn to Second Wind or other leader-y abilities, if needed, too).

    • Shane

      Definitely multiclassing!

    • Charles Geringer

      I would like to see fighter next, because he is the class most directly related to combat, and has always had a lot of flavour-flexibility.

      I also really want to see multi classing, but think it would be best as an an end to the series, since in a final position it would be easier to add references to discus how class combinations interact.

    • Valid points, to be sure. =)

    • Dave(s) 4 Goombella

      One of may favourite things about playing a fighter in 2e was the flavour-flexibility. Mechanically, they are very simple. A 2e fighter doesn’t have any special powers, per se. There are no actions that a 2e fighter can take that aren’t available to every other class. So it’s almost entirely up to the player to turn their blank-slate fighter into a fully breathing character. I always relished that opportunity.

    • It’s interesting that you regard that as a selling point. I… don’t really see it that way. =) Of course, the one thing they do get is Weapon Specialization and the better attacks-per-round progression that comes from it – but fractional attacks per round were not such a hot idea in actual use.

    • Dave(s) 4 Goombella

      Now, as a weary adult, I appreciate that sub-classes and feats exist to give my fighter’s character and play-style a little mechanical oomph. But back in the day, when I was a dumb teenager, most of the other classes felt very restrictive. And the idea of playing a class or race against type (e.g. a boisterous wizard who loves singing in taverns, or a shy dwarf who folds paper cranes as a hobby) seemed like it was against the rules.

      And when I say that a 2e fighter has no “special powers, per se”, I meant that the fighter has no no unique actions they can take. Weapon specialization makes them hit harder and faster, but it doesn’t give them any special attacks like 5e’s battlemaster techniques. Any class can try a grapple, a called shot, or to improvise an action under 2e’s vague “more than just hack and slash” directions; a fighter just has a better chance of success.

    • That’s a perspective I never really considered. Thank you for unpacking it. 🙂

    • Syd Andrews

      I cannot count the number of times back in pre-3.x editions where the Fighter would say, “Wait, is this my two-for round?” because they didn’t keep track of their fractional attack advancement…

    • Drow

      I vote fighter, though I’d be happy with anything.

    • Tim Baker

      My vote is for the cleric.

    • John Nunn

      Could go Fighter, with a side run into Iron Heroes as well as the Book of Nine Swords. (With a nice Mearls theme tying back to 5e.)

      Then again, it might be tricky to decide which classes in IH count for “fighter,” really….

    • Good point! I’ll see what I can do, when that rolls around. It would be nice to get some direct use out of my copy of IH, since I never came within strong consideration of running or playing it.

    • MaxXimenez

      I think a shorter run on a class or concept that’s very quirky or flavorful but doesn’t have many examples in various editions, so you can knock out a few 2-3 entry articles in that time.

      I’d like to see an article on “gish-in-a-can” classes ranging from 1e’s elf class to 4e’s swordmage, for instance.

    • Tim Baker

      I like that idea.

    • I forgot to list it among the options of this ultra-informal poll, but I’ve always assumed the fighter-mage would get its own series. That’s at least a six-article series, though, and a lot more once I go deeper. =)

    • Manos Ti

      I’d second about Fighter.

    • Syd Andrews

      Well, as you said, all will be covered at some point. That being said…

      Warlord is one that piques my interest right now.
      The “gish-in-a-can” that was commented on already is something that I’d definitely like to read (as they are some of my favourite classes).

      I would add that though Sorcerer/Wizard have a common origin (more or less), by the time you get to 3.x, they are definitely two separate classes in a big way. I’d even say that with the Player’s Options: Spells and Magic rules in 2e, you could build a Wizard as a Sorcerer-styled class that was almost completely unrecognizable as a wizard.

      The 3.5 Tome of Magic classes could each be a one-off. Or mostly. The Binder in that book was revisited in 4E as a subclass of Warlock.

      The Runepriest from 4E I think is significantly different enough from the Cleric to warrant a one-off.

      The incarnum classes from 3.5 were very interesting and might work as a short series. Or did you do something on this one already? Perhaps we just discussed it briefly in the comments of another article. My memory fails me on this.

      Cleric and Fighter both are going to be LONG, but not boring at all! There is a LOT of ground to cover on each of these very, very core classes! I think a shorter run might be nice now.

    • Tim Baker

      The (under-supported) Runepriest is a good idea for a one-off. Perhaps it could be part of the Cleric series.

    • Syd Andrews

      It absolutely would fit there. I was just thinking about the fact that the Cleric series is going to be very long as there is so very, very much material on that class. And if we are going to do related classes, I think we’d have to also consider the Favoured Soul from 3.5 as well.

      All of these are great ideas, of course. I enjoy talking D&D of any edition. Even 5e (which I know little about have have not played at all).

    • I am indeed looking forward to the Runepriest digression in the Cleric series. =)

    • Shawn E.

      I vote for Artificer. But anything in this list would be a solid series.

  • Colin McLaughlin

    Sun Soul monk is a better nuker version of Four Elements but uh…Four Elements monk can hold person and fly. Not to mention, you know, water whip.

    I guess my point here is focused, not better. I also don’t think Sun Soul plays well – having seen it in action extensively.

  • Lee Hachadoorian

    Major rule error: Ki points recharge on short or long rest, not just long rest.

    • Right you are; I knew that but apparently forgot while writing this. I’ll fix the text when I can.

  • Charles Geringer

    “I’ve recently become skeptical of last-hit effects on principle, because
    there’s so much room for teammates to accidentally deny you use of your
    powers”

    This is actually something I like about last hit effects, a sit adds a risk-reward and teamwork element

    • Colin McLaughlin

      This is very much burden of knowledge design.

      You require your group to all know each other powers. You require the players to know how many hit points monsters have or you have to rely on the DM to provide that information readily enough to make decision-making count. Players are put in a situation where the fun and tactics are often at a cross-roads until really tactical and strategic play is put into action.

    • crimfan

      And some groups just suck at group tactics. This was really apparent in 4E with things like defender marks, where some players would bust other defender’s marks with wild abandon.

  • Out of curiosity, have you thought about looking at a Monk build from something like Fate, GURPS or BESM. They don’t have classes per se, but the idea(s) could readily be built into them.

    • I haven’t, for essentially the reason that they don’t approach characters in the format of classes, so I can’t readily make positive statements about the story and theme of the monk in them.

  • Mikey Kromhout

    One minor thing to bring up that is neat but many forget about.

    As I recal diamond soul says you get proficiency with all saving throws and we al think the big 6 but there is a seventh saving throw and that is the death saving throw. Diamond soul is one of the few ways to improve that saving throw outside of items. Getting an eventual +6 to that save is huge I would say. You hope you do not have to use it but when you do you will be glad to have it.

    • yep. this came up tonight with our level 17 monk (actually monk 14, cleric 3).

  • crimfan

    I totally agree about Mearls being wrong about bonus actions with the monk and rogue, but in general I’m not actually all that impressed with the design team’s rules comprehension for reasons we’ve already hashed over plenty here.

  • My big issue with the 5e Monk as a DM is that it can ruin an encounter. If you have the players facing off against a solo monster, the monk can just stun and stun and stun.

    For example:
    My archwizard with over half his hit points and some nasty spells ready to go misses 3 turns in a row, ending the encounter for everyone. The other players are bored and getting hit by the lair casting reverse gravity 1/3 of the time, with everyone falling 60′ but the monk. Some even making death saves, while I the wizard just stands there.

    Myself and the players were not happy with the monk’s abilities. It took a solid encounter away from us. As a DM, I try not to have monster that just continuously deny the players their turn. A monk takes the turn away from the DM.

    Yes, the fix is to use multiple opponents. But the idea behind legendary monsters, is that they can survive solo… unless a monk decides to bore everyone to death.

    • Yeah, action denial is serious, and even legendary actions don’t make legendary creatures sufficient for true solo use. The issue, as I see it, is that stunning locks out legendary actions as well as normal, so against the toughest opponents it becomes roughly 4x as effective. No thanks.

    • yep. say goodbye to the epic showdown.

    • Or, you know, develop a new trait that acts like Diminishing Returns, just like every MMO that has ever had to worry about stunlocking, particularly in PvP. D&D needs to be doing this already, and it’s functionally what you’ve done with your Stunning Fist houserule.

    • Shawn E.

      We’ve really had no issues since the rule went into place. That being said, the Monk is my least favorite 5e class for this reason.

    • Syd Andrews

      Action Denial (e.g. Stun) has been an issue across editions. And is problematic. I think it is an issue of game mechanic, however, not necessarily class design. It just shows up is some classes more than others.

    • Shawn E.

      I can handle it when it is a spell denies action. You just have to save once or burn a precious legendary resistance. The issue with the monk is they can burn a ton of ki and you have to save multiple times or basically the boss monster is out of the game with possibly hundreds of hit points remaining.

      Action denial is ok in general, just need to avoid chaining it.

    • A 17th-level cleric could cast 15 hold person spells, and the higher-level slots even solve for your humanoid boss’s allies.

    • Shawn E.

      I hear ya. Still only one save per Cleric turn. Unless we are doing it wrong, I have to save for every flurry of blows strike that hits.

    • The monk has to spend 1 ki per successful hit, which can be any of their melee weapon attacks (that is, weapon or unarmed) in a round, if we’re talking about Stunning Strike.

      If we’re talking about the push or the knockdown of Open Hand Technique, then yeah, they have to save for every Flurry of Blows strike that lands (which can be up to two per round).

  • Manos Ti

    So, the 5e Monk.

    I haven’t played the class (I haven’t ever played a Monk in any edition), but I’ve DMed for a Monk PC for Levels 1 to 4, the PC’s adventuring career was ended by a group of angry Bugbears in Wave Echo Cave.

    The PC did not have awful AC (16 if I remember correctly), but still it gave you the impression that the class lacks the ability to survive.

    Also, in the first tier the damage output was not that high for a front-line PC, unless you burn down Ki and this is still a problem with many encounters in a row.

    I guess at bigger levels the Monk rises to shine, but in the first tier (1-4 lvls) it is a pretty weak class. Finally, I’d give at least one more proficiency at a skill or tool.

    • Dave(s) 4 Goombella

      When I played a Monk in 5e (About 5-6 levels in an aborted Out of the Abyss campaign) I found survivability to be a huge issue at low levels. I took Long Death Monk at Level 3 to get those temporary HP, which ended up helping a lot.

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