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Here Comes . . . the Monk!
Legends & Lore
Mike Mearls

I n the Legends & Lore column for November 12th, I wrote about how we handle playtest feedback and the important contribution made by everyone who has downloaded the packet and filled out a survey. As our way of saying thanks, we put in a few extra hours to pull the monk character class forward. We're releasing it today. As in, right now.

Go download it! We've just added it to the playtest packet.

As it happens, the monk shows off a few of the steps we're already taking based on feedback we've seen in forums, blogs, and elsewhere. We usually wait for survey results to give us a clear direction, so everything in the monk is subject to change. That said, I feel fairly confident that the forum feedback we're using has shown up in enough different places and on a consistent enough basis that it'll come through in the survey.

Expertise Dice: The monk uses expertise dice, but I'm going to admit that I have a misgiving about using expertise overall.

To start with, it's clear that we have to do more to make sure that any class using expertise for maneuvers has a unique, class-defining link to them. For instance, right now the implementation of sneak attack and rogue maneuvers overall isn't quite where we'd like them to be. The monk shows you the first step we hope to take along a path that gives each class distinct maneuvers.

You'll also see that the monk's maneuvers cover the core flurry of blows mechanic. A monk's multiple attacks have been a feature of the class since AD&D, and it was simple to tie it to expertise.

If you take a look at Step of the Wind, you can also see another mechanic that we can implement in maneuvers: Expending more dice activates magical abilities. This approach allows us to layer in benefits for leveling into maneuvers rather than making several maneuvers to cover a few related effects.

Just as the monk's maneuvers can tie into that class's character concept, we'd like to make sure that maneuvers that are exclusive to the rogue and fighter have elements that make them unique. In addition, we're looking at creating a set of general maneuvers for things like two-weapon fighting.

Ki: Now let's talk about ki. Abilities that use ki, such as stunning attacks or healing, are daily abilities in the current design. Rather than represent a class of maneuvers that can be used only a few times per day, the monk's ki abilities are expressed as a separate mechanic. This approach allows us to keep the basic mechanics for maneuvers consistent between classes.

Weapons and Armor: The monk's most obvious defining traits are the class's reliance on unarmed and unarmored fighting. I always liked 3E's use of Wisdom to improve a monk's AC, so we simply used that mechanic.

The monk's unarmed attack was fairly easy to design. Unlike earlier editions, we don't need to scale the monk's unarmed damage upward since expertise dice handle that for us. The Deadly Strike maneuver covers that for us.

Skills: Finally, the monk has traditionally shared improved expertise with skills similar to the rogue. The Monastic Training feature represents the mundane benefits of the monk's rigorous training and study.

Other Classes: As you can see, the monk follows a number of the basic principles of class design I talked about a few weeks ago. If we're doing our job right, you can recognize the monk's abilities and should have a fairly easy time converting a monk from prior editions. You don't need to make massive changes to your campaign, but at the same time we've created some additional space for you to create unique martial arts and monastic traditions for your campaign.

Mike Mearls
Mike Mearls is the senior manager for the D&D research and design team. He led the design for 5th Edition D&D. His other credits include the Castle Ravenloft board game, Monster Manual 3 for 4th Edition, and Player’s Handbook 2 for 3rd Edition.
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