The Monk (and Martial Arts!)

Prime requisite: CON
Requirements: Dex 9
Hit Dice: d6, +2 hp/level after 9
Maximum level: 14
Save/attack/cleave progression: As fighter
XP to level 2: 2,450

The warrior monk is a combatant who specializes in unarmed or lightly armed combat. They train to fight with only a few weapons, learning to use the dagger, sword, spear, staff, and pole arm. Like fighters, they increase their damage rolls by +1 at 1st level and an additional +1 at 3rd, 6th, 9th, and 12th level. They may fight wielding a weapon two-handed or with a weapon in each hand, as desired. Monks can wear leather armor or lighter without affecting their abilities.

Unlike most other characters, the monk is trained to be lethal without weapons, and gains the Unarmed Fighting proficiency at first level. They also gain their first Martial Arts Maneuver. At each subsequent level, they gain an additional Martial Arts Maneuver. Each maneuver gained must be a level no higher than half the character’s level, rounded up. At first level, a monk must choose a focus (hard or soft martial arts) and a primary attack (arms, legs, or mind). This selection is their primary martial art, and no other martial art may have an ability selected if the same level ability of their primary martial art has not already been selected. In addition, they may take the Level 5 ability from their primary martial art only.

At ninth level, a monk can build a dojo, attracting 2d6 first level monks who wish to learn from the master. If desired, rolls 1d10 for each student. On a 1-5, they have the same primary focus as the master, while on a 6, 7, 8, 9, or 10, they have one of the five other styles as their primary focus.

At tenth level, a monk gains enlightenment on how to live in harmony with the energy of the universe, and gains the Divine Health ability.

Proficiency list: Acrobatics, Armor Training, Alertness, Beast Friendship, Climbing, Combat Reflexes, Command, Contortionism, Diplomacy, Divine Blessing, Eavesdropping, Endurance, Fighting Style, Healing, Intimidation, Language, Leadership, Loremastery, Manual of Arms, Martial Training, Military Strategy, Naturalism, Performance, Riding, Running, Skirmishing, Swashbuckling, Weapon Focus.

Martial Arts:
Martial Arts are an organized system of combat. While many focus on weapons (including most European styles of martial art), many include strikes without weapons or with improvised weapons. These are especially common among peasants who are not permitted to possess true weapons, and have to make do with farming implements.

A monk is the only character who can use these martial arts, as they take a lifetime of dedication to grasp. Some of them have names similar or identical to existing proficiencies, but are not the same as the proficiency (i.e. Blindfighting). A monk must have a primary martial art, selected from the six possibilities (a 2x3 matrix of hard/soft and arms/legs/mind). Their first martial art ability must be the level 1 ability from their primary martial art, their primary martial art must always be the highest level (or tied for highest level), and they can not take a level 5 ability from any martial art other than their primary martial art. Note that if the monk chooses to do so, they could spend their first six levels getting all six level 1 abilities; they do not HAVE to select the highest level ability possible, nor do they have to select all the abilities from an art in order. As long as none of their martial art abilities are from a level that exceeds half their character level (rounded up) and their highest level ability comes from their primary martial art, they may select freely from any list.

These are borrowed and adapted from Oriental Adventures, with adaptation to both the number of abilities and their rules of acquisition.

Hard Arms: Striking
Level 1: Iron Fist – through exercises, the character has toughened their hands and strengthened their arms to the point where a punch from this character inflicts 1d6 lethal damage and can cleave.

Level 2: Weapon Catch – the character gains the Disarm maneuver and reduces its attack roll penalty by 2 points.

Level 3: Crushing Blow – the character can inflict damage on stone or wood with their bare hands as if they were magical strikes.

Level 4: Weapon Breaker – the character gains the Sunder maneuver and reduces all attack throw penalties for Sunder by 2 points.

Level 5: Eagle Claw – once per minute, the character may replace their normal attack with an Eagle Claw attack that inflicts 3d10 damage but cannot cleave

Soft Arms: Push and Throw
Level 1: Push – the character gains the Force Back maneuver and reduces its attack roll penalty by 2 points.

Level 2: Instant Stand – the character does not have to sacrifice movement to stand up after being knocked prone by any effect (however, they still cannot stand up until their action).

Level 3: Hurl – the character may make an attack throw at a -2 penalty. If it succeeds, the character picks up an opponent and throws them in a direction of their choice 2d4 feet. This attack inflicts double normal damage (Brawling if the character does not have a means to inflict lethal unarmed damage), and the target is prone where they landed.

Level 4: Distant Push – the character may use Push on a target as a ranged attack, with a range in feet of character level/double character level/triple character level.

Level 5: Great Throw – the character may make an attack roll at a -4 penalty. If it succeeds, the character picks up and throws their target 1 foot per level, inflicting triple damage (as per Hurl) and knocking the opponent prone. If the attack roll fails, the character is knocked prone where they are standing.

Hard Legs: Kicks
Level 1: Roundhouse Kick – the character may reduce their initiative by 2 points to make a roundhouse kick attack, which uses a normal attack throw and deals 1d8 damage on a successful hit. The character cannot cleave in a round in which they use this attack.

Level 2: Flying Kick – the character must have 5’ of open space between them and the target to use this attack. They leap high in the air and strike in mid-air, causing 3d6 damage to the target. Regardless of the result of the attack, they land adjacent to the target. If the attack misses, the character is prone.

Level 3: Mule Kick – the character lashes out with a swift kick behind them. This attack is at a -2 penalty and only inflicts 1d6 damage, but the target does not get any Dex or shield AC against this attack.

Level 4: Circular Sweep – the character may make a Knock Down attack against all adjacent enemies, selecting one and then proceeding clockwise or counter-clockwise. If any target succeeds on their saving throw, the attack ends with that target (if a target is missed, proceed to the next target).

Level 5: Split Flying Kick – the character must have 5’ of open space between them and a target to use this attack. They leap high in the air and strike two targets adjacent to each other, rolling two attack throws and causing 3d6 to each on a hit. Regardless of the result of the attack, they land adjacent to both targets (if possible) or the closer target (if it is not possible to land adjacent to both). If both targets are missed, the character is prone.

Soft Legs: Movement
Level 1: Feint – the character sacrifices their attack this round to gain a +2 bonus to their next attack throw against a designated target.

Level 2: Prone Fighting – the character, if knocked prone, suffers no penalty to attack throws. Opponents do not gain a bonus to attack throws against this character while prone, and thieves cannot backstab this character unless they could if the character was not prone.

Level 3: Missile Deflection – the character can dodge non-magical missile attacks (including magic arrows or bolts) they are aware of with a successful saving throw against paralysis.

Level 4: Slowproof – this character cannot be affect by slow.

Level 5: Speed – once per day, the character can act as if under the effect of a haste spell for 5 rounds. Once this duration expires, they move as though carrying their maximum encumbrance for the next turn. There is no aging effect for using this power.

Hard Mind: Locks, Nerve Strikes, and Physical Training
Level 1: Choke Hold – when Wrestling, the character can automatically inflict 1d4 subdual damage per round while maintaining a hold.

Level 2: Pain Touch – when successfully striking an opponent with an unarmed strike, the character may choose to deal no damage. Instead, the target must make a saving throw against paralysis, and if they fail, suffer a -2 to attack rolls and AC for 2d3 rounds.

Level 3: Immobilizing Lock – the character can maintain a Wrestling hold on a target while fighting another target. However, Choke Hold cannot be used while Immobilizing Lock is in use.

Level 4: Ironskin – the character gains +2 AC. This is not cumulative with Flow Like Water, but is cumulative with Swashbuckling or Bladedancing.

Level 5: Distant Nerve Strike – The character can inflict one of three effects at a range in feet of character level/double character level/triple character level on a successful ranged attack throw:
Pain: as per Pain Touch, with no save
Daze: the target gets a save vs. paralysis at -2. If they fail, for 1d3 rounds, they act as though under the effect of a slow spell.
Paralyze: the target gets a save vs. paralysis. If they fail, they can take no action for 1d6 rounds.

Soft Mind: Awareness
Level 1: All Around Sight – the character is constantly aware of everything around them, and only suffers flanking penalties or backstab damage if the attacker is invisible.

Level 2: Sticky Touch – the character, upon making a successful attack throw with an unarmed attack, can choose to deal no damage and instead maintain contact with their target. So long as they maintain contact, the character gets +2 on attack throws and +2 AC against the target. They can still use their other hand or their feet to attack.

Level 3: Mental Resistance – the character gets +2 on all saving throws against mental effects (including illusions, fear effects, charm spells, and any other effect that targets the mind).

Level 4: Flow Like Water – the character gains +2 AC. This is not cumulative with Ironskin, but is cumulative with Swashbuckling or Bladedancing.

Level 5: Blind Fighting – the character suffers no penalty for fighting in darkness, when blinded, or against invisible opponents. If the character also has All Around Sight, they only suffer flanking penalties or backstab damage if the attacker is both invisible and silenced.

A very flavorful class!
I like it a lot. :slight_smile:

By the way, the mechanics behind the build:
Monk is built on HD 1, Fighter 2, Thief 1. Armor selection is stepped down twice, from Unrestricted to Narrow, and weapon selection is also stepped down twice. Weapon and shield style is not permitted, adding another skill.

Along with the three skills from Thief 1, this gives 9 skills at first level. One is traded for a skill at 2nd and 12th, one for a skill at 3rd and 11th, one for a skill at 4th and 10th, one for a skill at 5th and 9th, one for a skill at 6th and 8th, and one for 2 skills at 7th. Then, a skill at 7th is traded for a skill at 8th and 14th, and a skill at 8th is traded for a skill at 10th and 13th (DO NOT ASK how long it took me to figure that out). The end result is 2 skills at 1st and 10th and 1 skill at every other level. Unarmed Combat and Divine Health are the skills at the two-skill levels, with every other skill being a Martial Arts technique. Some of the other monk abilities can be simulated by proficiencies (such as Running and Swashbuckling).

I also wanted at least the possibility of a moderately armored Sohei, which is why Armor Training made the list. Picking weapons was difficult, since I could argue for sword (tachi), dagger (tanto), longbow (daikyu), staff (bo), spear (yari), flail (nunchaku), and club (tonfa). The most emblematic and the one that I felt I had to include, though, was pole arm for the naginata. A variant monk could sacrifice spear for longbow, since yari was relatively rare and daikyu fairly common for sohei. Flails and clubs were excluded because they seem to have been rare for sohei to use.

I love this class! Should be very fun to play!

This is very cool. Great work!

I just realized I made an error on weapons - I misread part of the description, and where I picked 3 weapons and swords/daggers (all), I accidentally recorded it as three weapons and sword and dagger (oops). What I’m going to propose is very slightly illegal, but seems fair to me: monks are proficient with pole arm (naginata), staff (bo), and longbow (daikyu) as their “three weapons” from Narrow vii. They are also proficient with swords and daggers (tanto, wakizashi, and tachi), EXCEPT for two-handed sword; instead of two-handed sword, they are proficient with morning star (tetsubo). Since magic morning stars don’t appear on random treasure tables, I’m OK with this adaptation.

House rule to the house rule: the required stats for monks vary based on their style. All monks have two required stats, one from the arms/legs/mind axis and one from the hard/soft axis.

To select hands as their primary attack, the monk must have Str 9
To select legs as their primary attack, the monk must have Dex 9
To select mind as their primary attack, the monk must have Int 9

To select a hard style of martial arts, the monk must have Con 9
To select a soft style of martial arts, the monk must have Wis 9

So, in order to take hard mind, the monk must have Con 9 and Int 9, while soft legs requires Dex 9 and Wis 9.

I like this, though have a couple of concerns (unless I missed something on the phone).

Hitting magic monsters. I don’t think you lose anything by allowing them to strike as magic at 5th level, like the natural weapon ability.

Also it seems like their AC is going to be quite low for a ‘fighter’ class. Their AC maneuvers don’t show up till level 7. What about a first level maneuver that works like Bladedancing?

I hadn’t thought a “strikes as magical weapon” ability would be that useful when I was first working on the class, particularly since monks can use magical weapons of the types they can fight with. Going through the ACKS book, it would affect combat against djinni, efreeti, gargoyles, mummies, shadows, and wights. Salamanders and spectres are debatable (they’re written as “no damage from non-magical weapons” instead of “damaged only by magical weapons,” and I could see a rules lawyer arguing that unarmed strikes are not weapons), and a similar argument would also apply to wraiths (which are immune specifically to non-magical wood, bronze, and iron). Since monks can use magic swords (21% of magical treasure), along with arrows (roughly 1%), spears (0.5%), and daggers, I’d imagine they’re fairly likely to end up with some sort of magical weapon relatively early on.

For AC, the Bladedancer was what I was looking at as a comparison, since they fall into the same sort of niche for me of “agile semi-fighter, with special abilities.” These monks can wear leather (unlike AD&D monks that were armorless), and have Swashbuckling and Armor Training on their proficiencies list, so they’re not horribly bad. Swashbuckling and Armor Training don’t work together, so it’s probably best to pick one or the other:
Level 1:
Bladedancer with Swashbuckling: AC 4
Monk with Armor Training: AC 4
Monk with Swashbuckling: AC 3

Level 7:
BD: AC 6
Monk with Armor Training and Iron Skin: AC 6
Monk with Swashbuckling and Flow Like Water: AC 6

Level 13:
BD: AC 8
Monk, AT & IS: AC 6
Monk, Swash & FLW: AC 7

Level 13 is where the Bladedancer finally has an AC advantage over the monk. However, the monk has ranged combat (unlike the BD), so I think it roughly balances out so that the monk is a secondary melee combatant with the ability to fight at range.

Also, one personal house rule I forgot to include is that monks can use their abilities with any armor they’re proficient with - the rules I wrote above say leather or lighter; that was written before I added Armor Training to the proficiency list, and I never went back to revise that.

House rule to the house rule to the house rule (it's house rules all the way down!):

If using the required stats for form, change the class as follows:

Prime Requisite: CON or WIS (CON for hard styles, WIS for soft styles)

Required attributes: None

very nice, thanks.... was just thinking of doing something like that :)

Well done. Now to persuade my GM to let me play this variant class.

A revision, based on Alex's clarification that fangs and claws can count as magical weapons:

A monk of level 5 or higher has their damaging techniques count as magical weapons for purposes of overcoming damage immunity. These techniques are Iron Fist, Eagle Claw, Hurl, Great Throw, Roundhouse Kick, Flying Kick, Mule Kick, Split Flying Kick, and Choke Hold.