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Fresh Homebrew Ideas: Monk Fixes in D&D

Updated: 4 days ago

Homebrew monk fixes D&D, Zuko Monk Avatar

Have you ever felt like your Monk character in Dungeons & Dragons wasn't living up to its full potential?

You're certainly not alone!

Imagine embodying the agility and combat prowess of characters from Avatar: The Last Airbender or The Legend of Korra. These iconic anime series have inspired countless fans (including me) to explore the Monk class and unlock its true power.

Yet, Monks often fall short in the world of D&D. They're often labelled as "underpowered" or mere unarmed imitations of Fighters.

Let's explore simple Homebrew Monk fixes D&D. I've outlined ways to revitalize the Monk's gameplay experience and reclaim its rightful place on the battlefield.

Identifying the Main Problems with Monks

Monks Feel Weak in Combat

When you play a Monk in D&D, you might notice that your damage output falls short compared to Fighters, Barbarians, Paladins, and even Rogues. Monks are a martial class, designed for hand-to-hand combat, but they often hit with less impact than their counterparts. This discrepancy can make the Monk feel less rewarding in combat scenarios.

Low Stamina & Armour Class (AC)

Monks share similar hit points (D8 hit die) and armour class with Rogues, but they lag behind the sturdier Fighters, Paladins, Barbarians, and Rangers.

This lack of durability can make your Monk more vulnerable in prolonged battles. While the Monk's agility is a thematic strength, it doesn't always translate well in-game, leaving them more exposed than other martial classes.

The Saving Grace: Stunning Strike

Stunning Strike is a standout feature of the Monk class. This ability can turn the tide of battle by incapacitating enemies, giving your party a significant advantage. However, relying heavily on this one ability highlights the Monk’s limited toolkit in other areas of combat.

Multi-Ability Score Dependency (MAD)

Monks are reliant on multiple ability scores: Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, and sometimes Strength.

This dependency makes it challenging to create a Monk without sacrificing proficiency in crucial areas. It also discourages roleplay opportunities and experimentation.

Imagine creating an extremely intimidating and deceptive Monk or even an astute scholar who with a deep understanding of history and religion.

Unlike classes that focus on one or two key stats, Monks must balance at least three, making character optimization more complex.

The Draining Pool of Ki

Monks use Ki points to perform special abilities like Flurry of Blows, Patient Defense, Deflect Missiles, Stunning Strike, and Step of the Wind.

Unlike other classes that can perform similar actions for free (such as Rogues with Cunning Action), Monks have a limited pool of Ki points that depletes quickly. This is especially problematic in parties that rarely short rest.

Monks only have 1 Ki point per level. Managing this scarce resource can be frustrating and limit the Monk's effectiveness in prolonged encounters.

It might sound harsh, but understanding these challenges is the first step towards enhancing the Monk's performance in D&D. Next, I'll share some practical revisions to address these issues and help you make your Monk a formidable force on the battlefield!


Joey’s Homebrew Monk Fixes D&D

Big Revision 1: Make them Stronger in Combat (Offensively and Defensively)

First thing's first: Let's allow the Monk to hold the front line like other martial classes!

Defensive Boosts:

  • Increase Hit Dice to D10s: Monks are designed to be a mostly melee-based martial class. Let’s put their hit dice up to d10s rather than flimsy D8s which Druids, Bards and Rogues have. 

  • Unarmoured Defense Based on Constitution: Allowing them to use Con instead of Wis for their AC would make them less dependent on multiple ability scores right away (Dex and Con). Their Wisdom can still be used for special abilities, however (like Stunning Strike). 

  • Light & Medium Armour Proficiency: Medium armour proficiency is fairly balanced for martial classes (like the Barbarian and Ranger). Monks should be able to wear light armour without penalty - at a minimum. These proficiencies would open the door for more player options - like a strength-based Monk.

Offensive Boosts:

  • 1-Step Increase to Martial Arts Die: Let all of their unarmed strikes up one dice level. From 1-4th level, all martial arts die increase to 1d6 rather than 1d4. Levels 5-10 would deal a d8 rather than a d6 and so on. This way players can build a Monk with a staff (if they desire) or purely unarmed without being penalized. The increased martial arts dice also help HP restore with the optional Quickened Healing feature at level 4. 

  • Extra Attack Feature: Give them a second Extra Attack Feature at level 11. This would allow 3 attacks per attack action, all at 1d10 damage and helps them keep up with the Fighter. 

  • Use Superiority DiceStunning strike is an excellent ability. Then why can’t a Monk be more like a battle master Fighter? This makes sense from a thematic standpoint! At level 4, the Monk should at least gain the Martial Adept feat for free. Plus, the Martial Adept feat recharges on a short rest, which complements the Monk’s Ki.

Optional Rule: In the Combat Superiority feature, the Battle master can disarm, trip, distract opponents and more. The way of the Open Palm (Monk Subclass) could gain the entire Combat Superiority feature to make them better than the base class.


Let's Rewrite the Martial Adept feat for the Monk Class as such: 

You have martial training that allows you to perform special combat maneuvers. You gain the following benefits.

  • You learn two maneuvers of your choice from among those available to the Battle Master archetype in the fighter class. If a maneuver you use requires your target to make a saving throw to resist the DC equals 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Strength or Dexterity modifier (your choice).

  • You gain Superiority dice equal to your half your Proficiency Score (rounded down).

  • Use your Martial Arts Die to determine damage for your maneuvers. A superiority die is expended when you use it. You regain your expended superiority dice when you finish a short or long rest.


Big Revision 2: Make Certain Monk Abilities Free or Increase their Ki Points

To combat their ever-draining pool of Ki, it's best to free up the Monk's core abilities (or at least make them cost less).

Freeing Up Abilities: 

  • Step of The Wind: This can be like “Cunning Action” for the Rogue. The Monk may dash or disengage as a bonus action without costing a Ki point. 

  • Revising Patient Defense: A good rule is to use it as a reaction (like the Shield Spell) and have it cost a Ki if an attack hits the Monk. That way, the Monk does feel like they’ve “wasted” a bonus action and a Ki point on their turn if nothing attacks them. 

Options for Increasing Ki Points

Option 1: Use Wisdom Modifier to Increase Ki:

A balanced option is to add their Wisdom modifier to their key points (minimum +1, which would be excellent for lower levels). This would be great when paired with ideas to free up Monk's abilities. 

This way, there’s little work to homebrew ideas or change rulings in the books.

Option 2: 1.5x or Double Total Ki Points

Simply leaving the Monk’s abilities as is and doubling their Ki points is a simple solution.

However, if you’re only increasing Ki and not fixing other Base Class issues, this will ignore the root problem for the Monk class (not enough “free” abilities to use). 

If you do make the other previous revisions to their attack, defence and Ki point spend, the Monk could become overpowered. Using their Wisdom modifier to increase Ki may be better when first making changes.


Big Revision 3: Make the Strength-based Monk a Reality

A Missed Opportunity in 5e

Currently, there’s no strength-based Monk in D&D 5e. Think about the contrast between Aang and Korra from Avatar. While Aang relies on dexterity and evasiveness, Korra embodies a more strength-based Monk with her athleticism and power.

Introducing a strength-based Monk opens up exciting possibilities for character concept and roleplay. Imagine your Monk performing Athletics checks, powerful shoves, and devastating grapples.

These actions would make your character stand out both in and out of combat.

Balancing Agility and Strength

While many Monks in media are agile, they are often portrayed as strong and athletic as well. The Monk's existing Strength save bonus highlights their potential in physical confrontations, making them hard to topple.

However, introducing a strength-based Monk could exacerbate their multi-ability score dependency (MAD).

To balance this, adjustments could be made to reduce reliance on Dexterity or Wisdom, ensuring your Monk remains effective without spreading ability scores too thin.


Final Thoughts

Revamping the Monk class in D&D can transform it from an underpowered option into a dynamic, powerful choice that truly shines in combat.

By addressing their combat weaknesses, reducing their reliance on multiple abilities, and even exploring strength-based variations, Monks can achieve their full potential.

What changes would you make to fix the Monk class? Share your ideas and join the conversation.

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