The Ultimate Guide to the Monk 5E Class In D&D
What's the best build for a monk in 5e? What are the best monk feats?
If you’re going to play a monk in Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition, you probably want to know how to use a monk’s abilities to effectively help your friends and vanquish your foes.That’s what we’re going to discuss in this complete guide to playing a monk in D&D 5E.
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Monk ability scores
To maximize the advantages of being a monk, put your highest ability roll into Dexterity. Most of the weapons you use as a monk will rely on Dex for attack rolls. So Dex will be your most important ability.
Monk’s use ki, the mystical energy that flows through living bodies, to enhance their physical power. But the use of ki often requires Wisdom. So put your second-highest roll into Wis.
Con is also an important stat for any D&D 5E character. It will allow you to gain more hit points as you level, giving you more survivability in combat. And it will help in many situations that require saving throws. Put your third-highest roll into Con.
Charisma, intelligence, and strength are generally not useful to monks. So put your low rolls into these.
Best races for a monk
Some races possess natural tendencies that make them better at being monks, while others are at a disadvantage. Here are the best races to choose for a monk character.
Elves get +2 Dex, making them ideally suited to be monks. They also get Darkvision, Keen Senses, and Fey Ancestry, all of which are handy features for any character to have. Wood Elves make especially good monks thanks to their +1 Wis and automatic proficiency with shortswords, shortbows, and longbows.
Like elves, halflings get +2 Dex. As long as they have proficiency, they are great at fighting with Sai swords, nunchaku, and other monk weapons. Halflings are also Lucky and Brave, which are useful traits for any class. Stout halflings make especially good monks, since they have +1 Con and resistance to poison.
Dwarves get +2 Con. This is not as good for a monk as +2 Dex. But if you already rolled a high Dex, the extra Con may be just what you need. Hill dwarves get an additional + 1 Wis, making them especially suited to be monks.
Humans get +1 to all ability scores. This may allow you to balance your monk’s stats between Dex, Con, and Wis, producing a stronger character overall.
Best monk class features
Monks have many class features that distinguish them from others. But not all of them are really useful. Here are eight monk features that you’ll want to use often.
Martial arts - This gives you a variety of benefits when using monk weapons or your bare hands, including better damage and bonus unarmed strikes
Unarmored Defense - Makes your AC 10 + Dex modifier + Wis modifier if you are not wearing armor. This often completely eliminates the need for armor
Unarmored Movement - Increases your speed by 10 ft. at level 2, and continues to increase it as you gain levels. This is useful in a variety of combat and non-combat situations
Ki - At level 2, this gives you access to Flurry of Blows, Patient Defense and Step of The Wind, along with 2 ki points to power them. As you gain levels, you get more ki points. You can spend 1 ki point to make 2 bonus unarmed strikes, 1 bonus dodge, or 1 bonus disengage or dash. If you choose the disengage or dash option, you can also double your jump distance for the turn
Stunning strike - At level 5, spend 1 ki point to stun an opponent unless he can make a Con saving throw
Extra Attack - Available at level 5. Allows you to...well, the name says it all
Ki-Empowered Strikes - At level 6, makes your unarmed strikes count as magical. If a creature has resistance or immunity to non-magical attacks or damage, you can hit them anyway
Evasion - This is identical to the Rogue skill with this name. If an effect would let you perform a saving throw to take half damage, you instead take half damage automatically. If you make the saving throw, you take no damage. Monks get this at level 7
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As a monk, you’ll be able to choose which monastic tradition you follow. Each of these traditions has unique features. Here are the best ones from each.
Way of the Open Hand
This is a strong choice for a tradition, and many players believe it is the best. At level 3, Open Hand Technique enhances Flurry of Blows, allowing you to knock a foe prone or move him 15 ft. away from you whenever you use this feature. The victim gets a saving throw against Dex or Str to avoid these effects. You can instead prevent him from taking a reaction until the end of your next turn. In this case, he gets no saving throw against it
Way of The Shadow
This is another strong option for a monastic tradition. At level 3, Shadow Arts gives you a handful of spells to cast using ki, including Pass Without Trace and Minor Illusion. At level 6, Shadow Step allows you to teleport from one dim-light area to another and gain advantage on your next attack roll.
Way of the Four Elements
This tradition is considered to be underpowered because it uses up ki to cast spells from a limited spell list. But if you want to play a character with this tradition, here are the best features to use:
Fangs of The Fire Snake - Spend 1 ki point to make tendrils of fire come from your hands or feet, increasing your unarmed reach by 10 ft. Spend another ki point to do an extra 1d10 fire damage
Mist Stance - At level 11, you can turn yourself or another person into a gaseous form. This can be used on a foe during combat to render him harmless. Or it can be used on allies in non-combat situations so they can travel through cracks in the walls, keyholes, etc.
Ride The Wind - At level 11, you can use this feature to fly
Best monk feats
No monk guide would be complete without a list of feats to pick. So here they are:
Lucky - Gives you luck points that allow you to sometimes roll an extra d20 and choose which one counts or to cancel the luck of others. This feat is frequently used to get adventurers out of dangerous situations
Mobile - +10 ft. speed. Allows you to Dash through difficult terrain without it costing you extra movement. Prevents you from getting hit with opportunity attacks in response to your melee attacks. A nice feat for any class, but especially for nimble monks
Alert - +5 to initiative, prevents you from being surprised if conscious, negates the advantage hidden opponents have on attack rolls when hiding from you. What’s not to love?
Mage Slayer - Monks are great against melee and even ranged attackers, but spellcasters may give them a problem. This feat gives you bonus attacks against persons attempting to cast spells and advantage on saving throws vs spells. It also gives disadvantage to a victim whose concentration you are trying to break. If you face a lot of spellcasters in your campaign, this a great feat for a monk to have
Resilient - Gives you + 1 to an ability score of your choosing and advantage on saving throws using that ability
**Xanathar's Class Updates**
Way of the Drunken Master (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything)
Sway your tipsy self-right in and out of combat. You get to make your attacks and disengage every turn (well every turn you use flurry of blows). It’s a strong choice for any aspiring monk that wants to practically dance their way through the melee.
Way of the Kensei (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything)
This is the weapon monk, and it’s mainly about DPS and making the enemy dead fast. You pick a couple weapon types and you get to do a whole bunch of cool monk abilities with them. It’s also a great option for an archer monk, as you can pick longbows or other ranged weapons as your kensei weapons.
Way of the Sun Soul (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything)
Laser monk! You might have heard of this one as the method for playing Ryu in 5e, and it is. You basically get to do all your monk attacks at range as your punches turn into beams of searing light. It’s not actually all that strong, but it sure is awesome and the range does make some combats easier to navigate.
We’ve gone over the best ability score builds for a monk, best races, class features, traditions, and feats. Monks are not as popular as many other classes. But with their unique background and unarmed combat prowess, they can be a lot of fun to play. And they are definitely useful members of any adventuring party.
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Last updated: January 27, 2019
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