The Debuff Monk (5e Optimized Character Build)

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This build is focused on weakening enemies into mere husks of their former selves.

I’d like to note that this build does require some amount of DM interpretation to work at its best, but it doesn’t matter because this build is just meant to be stupid and cool.


Wisdom will be our highest stat. Constitution will be our second highest. Dexterity will be our third highest.


Grung: +2 dex, +1 con, and the ability to poison creatures who touch us.

class levels[edit]

For levels we’re going 3 levels in rogue, and 17 levels in monk.

  • For our rogue expertise, we need to choose athletics for grappling and shoving (which knocks targets prone)
  • For our rogue subclass, we will choose the thief, letting us use items as a bonus action. (which we will use on several debuffing items)
  • For our monk subclass, we will choose the unearthed arcana, way of the astral self, which lets us have a variety of bonuses, besides many attacks per turn and descent defensive abilities, the main reason we have it is because it lets us use wisdom for our strength checks.


Because we are a thief, you probably guessed that we’d focus a lot on items.

Manacles: the description of the manacles in game is quite vague letting us “bind” a creature by handcuffing them, you’d assume it would have some clearly defined effect (such as giving the creature disadvantage on attack rolls) so technically it doesn’t do much, but the DM is likely to give it some use. At later levels, when you start getting enough gold to buy expensive magic items, I suggest you get at least one pair of Dimensional Shackles, which are harder to break, and prevent the creature from teleportation and travel to other planes of existence.

Hunting traps: you can set these as a bonus action due to being a thief, a creature caught in these must make a check to escape, being unable to leave a certain distance of the trap, as well as dealing 1d4 piercing damage when activated, and 1 piercing damage each time they fail escaping.

Poison (optional): lets you add many fun effects such as paralysis, blindness, or just extra damage, and because of our thief feature, we can coat items as a bonus action and (if the DM allows) coat our astral form with it, I suggest Crawler Mucous as it can be coated on your shackles and only needs contact to work, and if the creature fails the save against it, they become paralyzed


In one turn we can (assuming we are already in our astral form and that your constitution and wisdom are both 20)

  • use a bonus action to manacle a creature, lay a hunting trap in front of the creature, or poison your astral arms (if you have poison and the DM allows it to be used that way)
  • use our action to make 4 astral arm attacks against the creature, replacing one with a shove, you replace another with a grapple, all of which use your wisdom due to your astral form, giving you a +17 to any checks, or +11 to attack rolls, they may have disadvantage on checks to avoid being shoved or grappled if they were poisoned.
  • expend a ki point to make a stunning strike, forcing them to make a DC 19 constitution save
  • subject them to a DC 19 con save against being poisoned

This can leave a creature with the following effects

  • prone
  • manacled or caught in a trap
  • grappled
  • poisoned until the beginning of its next turn, though they will have to repeat the save if they are still grappled
  • stunned until the end of your next turn
  • an average hit point loss of 37 (4 attacks) plus a possible 1d4 if they trigger the trap that you might’ve set.

And if a creature is already trapped by you, you can instead do the following

  • as a bonus action you can apply poison (if you have any) to your astral arms (if the DM allows), make 3 astral arm attacks, add another manacle or trap to the target (though the DM will likely decide that you’ll have to shove them, since the trap requires them to move over it)
  • as an action we can make 4 astral arm attacks
  • make another stunning strike

This leaves them

  • prone
  • grappled
  • stunned
  • poisoned
  • possibly manacled and or caught in a trap
  • and an average hit point loss of 52.5 (4 attacks) or 79 (7 attacks)

And if you add (admittedly expensive) poisons, you could also make them paralyzed.

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