Revisiting the monk: unarmed strikes, martial arts, and monk weapons

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Ashtagon
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Revisiting the monk: unarmed strikes, martial arts, and monk weapons

Post by Ashtagon » Tue Feb 12, 2019 7:33 pm

Monks in D&D gain advantages from certain weapons. in 3rd edition, these are conventionally tagged as "monk weapons". Seeing as how I don't plan on retaining the name "monk" for this class, the name is somewhat misleading (not to mention that western monks are very different from what is intended for the class).

Is there an alternate term for this general class of weapons?

1st Edition PHB: Monks add 1/2 character level to all melee weapons (except unarmed strikes). Unarmed strikes threaten a stun for 1d6 rounds if they beat the AC by 5 or more. Their unarmed strike damage rises from 1d3 at 1st level, 2d4 at 6th level, 3d4+1 at 11th level, 5d6 at 16th level. This applied to all weapons the monk was proficient with (bo stick, club, crossbow, dagger, hand axe, javelin, jo stick, pole arm, spear, and staff).

1st Edition OA: This is a revision of the core class, with some changes, most notably to integrate the martial arts subsystem into the class. As with the PHB version, they gain bonus damage with weapons. They also gain bonus damage with unarmed strikes: +1 at 5th level, rising to +2 dice at 12th level and +4 dice at 17th level. The size of the die used depends on the martial art style the character is fighting with.

2nd Edition PHBR15 Ninjas, Dragon Fist: Monks never appeared in 2e. The ninja is possibly the closest equivalent, although even this is a poor match. The martial arts system in this book is an edition-revised version of that found in Oriental Adventures. The concept of monks as martial artist was semi-revisited in Dragon Fist with some of the kits adapting base classes to what the 1e monk was. It's possible that kits in other sourcebooks did the same to a certain extent.

3rd Edition: Unarmed strike rises from 1d6 through to 2d6 at 12th level and 2d10 at 20th level. This is notably slower than in 1st edition. As with 1st edition, they have a small variety of weapon proficiencies. When using unarmed strikes or monk weapons, they can use their flurry of blows special ability, which effectively grants them one (or two at high level) extra attacks with a lowered hit chance. When contrasted with the 1st edition monk:

1e monk, unarmed strike: high bonus damage, multiple attacks
1e monk, weapons: small bonus damage, multiple attacks not available (for armed combat, this existed as an option only for warrior classes using weapon specialisation)

3e monk: unarmed strike: moderate bonus damage, flurry of blows
3e monk: weapons: no bonus damage, flurry of blows

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Putting this together...

The idea of assigning monks bonus damage for both unarmed strikes and "monk weapons" (as seen in OA 1e) is a good one. The simplest method of implementing this would be either to treat the monk character as X size classes larger when fighting this way (X rising with class level), or increasing the damage die in a number of steps.

The OA/PHBR15 martial arts system was actually rather cool. Rather than build styles using that system however, they could be built as "weapons" that a proficient character can "wield", and feats could then be acquired in the usual way that interact with these "weapons" to produce the fancier martial arts manoeuvres seen in those books (and perhaps those from Dragon Fist).

What to rename "monk weapons"? With "monk" not being a class name (I'm tentatively using "mystic" as a working title for class name), something else is needed. "Mystic weapons" is even worse than "monk weapons", for different reasons. "Wuxia weapons" might be appropriate, but carries cultural connotations (as does "kung fu" and "chambara"). Any others? One down side with calling them "martial arts" weapons is that it would create some potential names confusion with the martial arts styles (eg boxing, karate) that will replace the old "unarmed strike".

Flurry of Blows has a well-deserved reputation as "flurry of misses". Assuming level-appropriate opponents, it's not until about 8th level that it's even a tactically good choice, as it actually lowers your damage output, even before damage reduction is considered. I'd change this, and say monks can use a swift action to make a melee attack with a martial art or melee weapon. By making it a swift action for the bonus attack instead of a full-round action, it also avoids the problem of FoB making the monk's other core ability (fast movement) useless.
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Re: Revisiting the monk: unarmed strikes, martial arts, and monk weapons

Post by Big Mac » Wed Feb 13, 2019 12:51 pm

Ashtagon wrote:
Tue Feb 12, 2019 7:33 pm
Flurry of Blows has a well-deserved reputation as "flurry of misses". Assuming level-appropriate opponents, it's not until about 8th level that it's even a tactically good choice, as it actually lowers your damage output, even before damage reduction is considered. I'd change this, and say monks can use a swift action to make a melee attack with a martial art or melee weapon. By making it a swift action for the bonus attack instead of a full-round action, it also avoids the problem of FoB making the monk's other core ability (fast movement) useless.
I used to know someone who used Flurry of Blows to stop enemy spellcasters from being able to cast spells. They would slap the spellcaster around and wait for another PC to come up and do some major damage to them. It seemed to work OK, as a tactic.
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Re: Revisiting the monk: unarmed strikes, martial arts, and monk weapons

Post by Ashtagon » Wed Feb 13, 2019 1:21 pm

Big Mac wrote:
Wed Feb 13, 2019 12:51 pm
Ashtagon wrote:
Tue Feb 12, 2019 7:33 pm
Flurry of Blows has a well-deserved reputation as "flurry of misses". Assuming level-appropriate opponents, it's not until about 8th level that it's even a tactically good choice, as it actually lowers your damage output, even before damage reduction is considered. I'd change this, and say monks can use a swift action to make a melee attack with a martial art or melee weapon. By making it a swift action for the bonus attack instead of a full-round action, it also avoids the problem of FoB making the monk's other core ability (fast movement) useless.
I used to know someone who used Flurry of Blows to stop enemy spellcasters from being able to cast spells. They would slap the spellcaster around and wait for another PC to come up and do some major damage to them. It seemed to work OK, as a tactic.
Even there, unless his PC was high level or the wizard had a weak AC, it would have been statistically inferior to a normal full attack.
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Re: Revisiting the monk: unarmed strikes, martial arts, and monk weapons

Post by stebehil » Wed Feb 13, 2019 7:06 pm

For the sake of completeness, there was a monk class in the 2e book "THe Scarlet Brotherhood" TSR 11374, by Sean Reynolds from 1999. Basically, it seems to be a rehash of the AD&D1 monk, done in the typical 2e manner (straightened out, so to speak).

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Re: Revisiting the monk: unarmed strikes, martial arts, and monk weapons

Post by Cthulhudrew » Wed Feb 13, 2019 10:34 pm

Ashtagon wrote:
Tue Feb 12, 2019 7:33 pm
2nd Edition PHBR15 Ninjas, Dragon Fist: Monks never appeared in 2e. The ninja is possibly the closest equivalent, although even this is a poor match. The martial arts system in this book is an edition-revised version of that found in Oriental Adventures. The concept of monks as martial artist was semi-revisited in Dragon Fist with some of the kits adapting base classes to what the 1e monk was. It's possible that kits in other sourcebooks did the same to a certain extent.
As stebehil notes above, there is a 2E version of the monk in Sean K. Reynolds' Scarlet Brotherhood (along with an Assassin) that is not substantially different from the 1E version, albeit I think they both go to 20th level like other 2E classes, rather than 16 and 14 (I think those were the level limits of those classes in 1E; going from memory).

Also, there were some kind of "half-hearted" attempts to make Monk kits for the Cleric class in various handbooks; I think the first one is in the Complete Priest's Handbook (PHBR3). This worked somewhat with the martial arts rules from PHBR1: Complete Fighter's Handbook, albeit it was still a spellcasting class that was not terribly similar to the 1E monk.

There were some additional oriental kits in one of the issues of Dragon magazine; I don't think they had a monk one in there that was a better fit, but there might have been some for other classes that could give a 2E approximation.
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Re: Revisiting the monk: unarmed strikes, martial arts, and monk weapons

Post by Angel Tarragon » Sun Apr 21, 2019 10:46 am

I know of one proposition to fix the 3E/Pathfinder Monk by getting rid of the penalty and advancing the rate of bonus attacks by +3 instead of +6, and each additional attack deals the full BAB.
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