Sep 09 2022

The MAD Monk

Posted by

It’s hardly a secret that I love martial arts action. I’ve practiced (on a dabbler level) Shaolin style, wing chun, tai chi, and judo at varying times in my life, and famously hold Big Trouble In Little China as my favorite movie. So, it should hardly be a surprise that I frequently want to play a monk in D&D.

(Which is weird, because historically D&D has hated monks, and I don’t understand why. But that’s for another post.*)

So when my buddy InkBlitz announced his much-hinted at Spelljammer** campaign, telling us to create a character at 5th level with a single common or uncommon magic item, after mucking around with a handful of different ideas, I finally settled on Aurora: an aasimar monk of the ascended dragon who, ain’t gonna lie to ya folks, is pretty much Yang from RWBY. Her fists are on fire and she punches stuff until it explodes—or shoots fire bolts at it if she can’t reach it to taunt it into coming close enough for her to punch it with fire until it explodes. Ascendant dragon monks can do a breath weapon a few times, but to get the real ranged boom I went with a wand of magic missiles reskinned as gauntlets. They do force instead of radiant or fire (which would be more thematically on point), but force is resisted by fewer things anyway so I’ll say its channelled ki bursts and call it a day.

But of course me being me, I wanted her to have interesting RP opportunities out of combat, and as I’m one of the most natural faces in the player group*** I figured I’d make her a facey monk. Ascended dragon does have a free reroll of a Persuasion check built in, so of all the monk subclasses, it’s the only one that supports a face roll face role at all. Buuuuut monks got no ability scores to spare on Charisma: they need to pour everything they’ve got into Dexterity, Wisdom, and Constitution, in that order. I managed to eke out a 12 and give her proficiency in Persuasion and Intimidation at least, giving her +4 in both of those, which is competent, but she’s not gonna be going Full Clooney on anyone any time soon.

Also, monks punch a lot, but they don’t punch very hard, something I’m keenly aware of after DMing two campaigns back to back where the barbarian does All The Damage In the Universe each turn, and everybody else is like “Oh, and I attack too.” As an experiment I made a build that was a zealot path barbarian, with an eye towards reskinning a flametongue sword as her burning gauntlets, and that was some sweet damage but… flametongue is a rare weapon, she can’t have it. Oops. XD Since “her hands are on fire” is a central conceit of the character idea, it’s back to monk.

So once again I’m fighting the system. I swear I don’t do this on purpose!

But! Blitzy told us to use the character building variations from the new One D&D playtest, which means she gets a free “first level” feat! There’s only a tiny number of them actually in the playtest document, but in the accompanying vids Jeremy Crawford basically implied that the main thing that makes a feat “first level” is that it doesn’t have any stat bumps. I started with Tough, since monks are often on the squishy side for front-line (or even behind-the-lines) combatants, but I was still shopping around for something to boost her faceyness. Wait! Skill Expert gives you expertise with a single skill! She could take that for Persuasion! Except no! She can’t! That has a stat bump and so can’t be a 1st level feat! *facepalm*

Back to Tough? Fighting Initiate to get a d8 with Unarmed Fighting? I’m still waffling and the game is tomorrow night! Skip both and go with Mobile? She already has 40′ of movement and can fly for a minute three times per day. Ask Blitzy to let me homebrew a feat that would take two half-feat parts of Skill Expert and Athlete to give her the ability to kip-up? Haven’t I tortured Blitzy enough??? XD (And in case you’re reading this Blitzy, no, I don’t actually want to do that. XD )

It wouldn’t be so much of a conundrum if feats weren’t so rare. As a monk, Aurora absolutely needs to channel her ASIs into Dexterity and Wisdom in order to scale with the rest of the party (or at least as much as monks do), and so she can’t afford to spend them on feats. In the final analysis, I think I’m going to end up going back to Tough. There’s no feat she’s able to take to buff her faceyness, and starting next level she’ll be taking either fighter or ranger to boost her damage output, so I can wait for that.

FWIW, I attempted a version of this character in PF2E just for comparison, assuming 3rd level PF2E was roughly equivalent to 5th level 5E. I think I succeeded? With my limited system mastery, I’m not sure if an ifrit monk with the Rain of Embers and Stoked Flame stances is what I’m going for or not. >.> But at least her feat selection was more granular! XD

-TG

*Seriously, WotC? d4 base damage? d8 hit die? Step of the Wind costs ki? Rogues get it better for no cost and don’t have to trade their extra damage to do it.
**Homebrewed extensively, but still recognizable.
***Not exclusively so, but noticeably so.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.