Everyone knows the monk class, but how many people have actually played it? Lots of parties have a wizard, a barbarian, and even a bard. Not many have a Monk punching enemies left and right. I think it is one of the most underappreciated classes – and fun ones – to play, even if you are completely new to Dungeons and Dragons. That is why I am making this Monks 5e Guide to show you or at least give you some tips on how to play as a Monk in 5th edition D&D.
The coolest thing about the Monk is that it is all about unarmed combat, using just your fists for the most part. No crazy swords or magical spears, no huge all scorching fireballs. Just you and your hands against the world. I love to write D&D articles from the perspective of a dungeon master.
I love telling stories and throwing challenges at my players that are just hard enough to not make them rage quit. Being a DM most of the time also gives me a lot of experience of getting a wrench thrown straight into my 30 pages story from the beginning. I kind of know what works and what doesn’t and what you need to tell – and not tell – your dungeon master before starting an adventure.
The monk is definitely a D&D class that most beginning dungeon masters aren’t counting on. The good thing for DMs, however, is, a whole lot of players just have no idea how to build a good or even decent Monk in 5e D&D.
How Do You Play as a Monk?
I would not recommend playing as a Monk if I thought it was going to be dull and boring. Playing as a Monk is a great experience and a whole lot of fun. Yes, they can be a little underpowered, but there is nothing wrong with making life a bit harder for yourself.
Unlike what some of my players seem to think, the Monk is a support class and not a full-on front fighter like the barbarian. Monks are the class that needs to fill the gaps where your party is getting overpowered and try to turn the tide. If you don’t have a rogue in your party, some Monk builds make a pretty good alternative to being a stealth user that infiltrates enemy camps.
Before you start your new adventure, remember that the monk has some flaws that can make it pretty hard for you if you don’t have a well-adjusted party with some experience under their belt. The class can definitely make themselves very useful and, in some cases, irreplaceable.
What Are the Strengths of a Monk in DnD?
Despite punching things too much with their fists, they aren’t a Strength-based class, but a DEX-based one. Getting this skill higher is going to be essential to make sure your Monk survives harder battles and is going to be useful. If you invest enough points into Dexterity, you will see that your Monk hits some decent damage, can doge dangerous attacks (which is pretty useful as your hit points are pretty low). The added bonus again is, when there is no rogue, the monk can fill in the scout role pretty decently.
The Monk uses KI features. These make playing as a Monk really fun, in my opinion. The ace up your sleeve is going to be a stunning strike if you use it well. The Monk – if you haven’t guessed it yet – is a martial art class. This also gives you some abilities that deal some extra damage to enemies, catching left and right hooks.
What Should You Be Careful of When Playing as a Monk?
If you were planning on storming straight into groups of enemies and unleashing your inner Mike Tyson, I have some bad news for you. You will likely die pretty fast. The Monk really isn´t a stand-alone front fighter. They do not have high enough hitpoints, and their AC is also barely average. They are close combat fighters, so they are going to get hit pretty often, which makes running into your enemies without a tank pretty dangerous.
The damage output also is not enough to make them the only front fighter of a party. Pretty much every melee-based build is going to be more powerful. Paladins and Barbarians are going to be a very important part of your party.
I know a lot of people are going to be very turned off by the Monk right now. The Monk is very good as they can catch projectiles hurled at your party and are great at doing the DEX saves. Still, to be very useful, they will need to get into close combat. I know some people have made builds where Monks are usable at long range, but at that point, just pick a ranger and save yourself the headache.
What Are the Best and Worst Races for Monks?
The worst races
- Half-Orc – While the Half-orc looks pretty strong, and a fistfight probably won’t end well for you, they are a horrible Monk. They just don´t have the DEX to be viable; they are for STR builds.
- Tieflings – Everything you don’t want in a Monk is what the Tieflings. Their ability scores are a horrible match-up for Monks. Avoid this class, as it will end up horrible for your Monk Build.
- Gnome – Gnomes are great if you want to cast spells, but they aren’t going to throw any decent punches. The Rock Gnome is even worse than the forest Gnome. Don’t pick any of the Gnome subraces.
The best races
- Halfling – I am going to call this the best race to be a Monk. The DEX bonus a halfling gets is amazing. They also have a decent class feature (Lucky) that helps you being a Monk and survive. The best thing, however, is if you have a good imagination. Having a halfling KO, a large demon with his fists, is amazing.
- Human – The all-rounder. If you are using a Vanilla human, you will definitely have a great Monk in the end. The Variant is also really strong since you can increase your DEX and CON (and WIS) as you wish. The best thing is having a feat straight off from the first level. This one is probably a bit stronger than the Halfling, but not as funny, so it’s a very close second.
- Elf – There is only one Elf subrace you should consider for this. The Wood Elf. The WIS score is very helpful, and you move very quickly. They also become pretty good at stealth due to the Mask of the wild. Pick this one if you want a strong Monk that can also be a very decent scout.
What the Different Ability Score Priorities Are For Monks – Worse to Best
- CHA – If you are going to play as a Monk, you will not need to use Charisma for anything worthwhile. You can skip investing in it completely.
- INT – Same as Charisma, you are not going to use intelligence for anything as a Monk, so you can ignore it completely.
- STR – Despite what most complete beginners think, Strength is almost useless if you are going to play as a Monk. You can use it to shove or grapple with an enemy, which is decent in some niches.
- CON – You will need to spend some points on CON. It is not going to be your main focus, but it is pretty important to make sure you will survive the mid to end game, even more so if you are going to take big hits because your party doesn’t have a dedicated damage sponge tank.
- WIS – The WIS makes you get some vital unarmed defense, so your AC and survivability get a bit better. Another important aspect of WIS is that a couple of your Ki abilities are going to rely on the ability.
- DEX – Your Monk will rise or fall depending on the DEX it has. It is the single most vital skill a good Monk has. Every single thing you are going to do will roll off the DEX. If you attack, you will use DEX, and your damage is also dependent on DEX. If you want to protect your party from long-range attacks, you will need DEX.
The Best Feats for Monks
Monks and Feats don’t really go together all that well. In my opinion, it is a much better idea to focus on your DEX and WIS in 5e if you are going to build a monk. Your ASI is crucial, so you don’t really have some that can burn. At the very most, pick one feat. Here are the options you can pick if you are going to pick one. Which one is the best will depend on what enemies are going to come throughout the campaign.
- Mage Slayer – I would only pick this feat if your DM is a big fan of magic users, and you will fight them consistently throughout your adventure.
- Lucky – It is a great feat no matter your build. I do prefer a bit more niche feats that come in handy sometimes and turn the battle, not those that are useful all the time and make small impacts.
- Mobile – If you have no idea what your Dungeon Master is going to do, then you should probably pick this feat. It is the best one to have. It helps you save your Ki, so you can use it at the crucial moments.
- Defensive duelist – If you are going to take a lot of hits throughout your campaign, this is a good feat to have. You are a bit harder to hit, something that really adds up if you are going to fight at the front.
- Though – If you aren’t sure that your CON is going to be enough, then this feat is going to help you increase it a bit, so you are more survivable in dangerous situations.
Frequently Asked Questions About Monks in 5e DnD
Question: Why are monks so bad in DnD?
Answer: The simple reason for this is, people just don’t know how to build and play with the Monk race. For some reason, people have a hard time realizing that despite being a close combat fist-fighter, the monk is actually a support class. They also forget to make sure they have a plan B for their low CON. Lacking those two insights, make some very costly mistakes by the time you get to the mid-game.
Question: What are some fun types of monks I can play?
Answer: There are a lot of fun subclasses to play as a monk. These often have – at least according to the lore – different motivations, training methods, monk weapons, and unarmed strike techniques that make them dangerous foes.
There are a couple of monks that stick out for me in terms of getting a fun campaign:
• Kensei Monk – These monks are the epitome of training with weapons. So much so that they are almost never seen without, and it feels as if their weapon of choice is just another part of their body. The Monks that follow the way of the Kensei have the power to wield a Kensei weapon. You can choose 2 weapons to become your Kensei weapon. This has to be one melee weapon and one raging one.
• Shadow Monk – Another option you have is to follow the way of the Shadow. These monks put major importance on the power of stealth. These are also called ninja monks by a lot of players. They have a whole lot of interesting abilities. They have the Shadow Arts, the Shadow Step, the Cloak of Shadows and finally they get Opportunist.
• Windwalker Monk – These monks follow the Way of the Windwalker, and I consider this a true example of saving the best for last! In my opinion these are the most fun kind of subclass you can pick for your monk. They are known for their powerful unarmed strike that can deal a lot of damage to creators and NPC´s. They also have some of the coolest names for their features. How can you not love a Monk that has features named Fists of Fury, Stance of the Ferocious Tiger and Rising Sun Strike. If you want to feel the essence of being a monk in DnD, then playing as a Winkwalker Monk is going to be a great time for you.
Question: Can you rage as a monk?
Answer: If you are playing as a Barbarian Monk, you will be able to get to use the benefits of rage. This means you get damage resistance, extra weapon damage, and an advantage on the strength checks you have to do.
The real question is, is it worth it to be able to rage as a monk. No, because STR is horrible for a Monk build, and it is going to cost you in the mid-game. While it is a fun thing to think about, a raging monk destroying everything in its path, they just aren’t really viable.
Question: Do Monks need strength?
Answer: No, they do not. I would even go as far as saying that it is completely useless to have strength as a monk. Use the ability points you have to get your Dexterity higher, your Wisdom also needs to be high, and you will need some Constitution too.
If you are going to invest your points into strength, you will definitely regret it later, as that means you haven’t put them into dexterity. This is the ability that actually determines your damage output when you are fighting.
My Conclusion on Monks in 5e DnD
The monk is an amazing class to play with in any Dungeons and Dragons campaign. You are going to need some DnD knowledge and experience to make sure you do not die in the mid-game. It is pretty hard to make a monk that stays relevant and is able to go to the frontlines without being in mortal danger all the time.
If you aren’t sure how to make a decent monk, I can’t blame you, as they are one of the hardest classes to figure out and make powerful enough to keep being a relevant asset in the party. The most important tip I can give you is to make sure you are not losing sight of the fact that you are a support class and you are not the main fighter. If you remember that, and if your party members realize this, I am sure you are going to be fine for the most part.