The Monk Class of Dungeons and Dragons
A monk practicing with an ax.

Her fists a blur as they deflect an incoming hail of arrows, a half-elf springs over a barricade and throws herself into the massed ranks of hobgoblins on the other side. She whirls among them, knocking their blows aside and sending them reeling, until at last she stands alone.

Taking a deep breath, a human covered in tattoos settles into a battle stance. As the first charging orcs reach him, he exhales and a blast of fire roars from his mouth, engulfing his foes.

Moving with the silence of the night, a black-clad halfling steps into a shadow beneath an arch and emerges from another inky shadow on a balcony a stone’s throw away. She slides her blade free of its cloth-wrapped scabbard and peers through the open window at the tyrant prince, so vulnerable in the grip of sleep.

Whatever their discipline, monks are united in their ability to magically harness the energy that flows in their bodies. Whether channeled as a striking display of combat prowess or a subtler focus of defensive ability and speed, this energy infuses all that a monk does.

Monks make careful study of a magical energy that most monastic traditions call ki. This energy is an element of the magic that suffuses the multiverse—specifically, the element that flows through living bodies. Monks harness this power within themselves to create magical effects and exceed their bodies’ physical capabilities, and some of their special attacks can hinder the flow of ki in their opponents. Using this energy, monks channel uncanny speed and strength into their unarmed strikes. As they gain experience, their martial training and their mastery of ki gives them more power over their bodies and the bodies of their foes.

Small walled cloisters dot the landscapes of the worlds of D&D, tiny refuges from the flow of ordinary life, where time seems to stand still. The monks who live there seek personal perfection through contemplation and rigorous training. Many entered the monastery as children, sent to live there when their parents died, when food couldn’t be found to support them, or in return for some kindness that the monks had performed for their families.

Some monks live entirely apart from the surrounding population, secluded from anything that might impede their spiritual progress. Others are sworn to isolation, emerging only to serve as spies or assassins at the command of their leader, a noble patron, or some other mortal or divine power.

The majority of monks don’t shun their neighbors, making frequent visits to nearby towns or villages and exchanging their service for food and other goods. As versatile warriors, monks often end up protecting their neighbors from monsters or tyrants.

For a monk, becoming an adventurer means leaving a structured, communal lifestyle to become a wanderer. This can be a harsh transition, and monks don’t undertake it lightly. Those who leave their cloisters take their work seriously, approaching their adventures as personal tests of their physical and spiritual growth. As a rule, monks care little for material wealth and are driven by a desire to accomplish a greater mission than merely slaying monsters and plundering their treasure.

Monks walk a path of contradiction. They study their art as a wizard does, and like a wizard, they wear no armor and typically eschew weapons. Yet they are deadly combatants, their abilities on a par with those of a raging barbarian or a superbly trained fighter. Monks embrace this seeming contradiction, for it speaks to the core of all monastic study. By coming to know oneself completely, one learns much of the wider world.

A monk’s focus on inner mastery leads many such individuals to become detached from society, more concerned with their personal experience than with happenings elsewhere. Adventuring monks are a rare breed of an already rare type of character, taking their quest for perfection beyond the walls of the monastery into the world at large.

Do not mistake my silence for acceptance of your villainy. While you blustered and threatened, I’ve planned four different ways to snap your neck with my bare hands.

Ember, grand master of flowers
How to play Dungeons and Dragons.

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