Ultimate Monk (3.5e Optimized Character Build)
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Properly optimized, an unarmed monk can overpower a barbarian, out-maneuver a rogue, provide his own buffs, and do more than hundred points of damage four to five times a round. We don't need no stinkn' magic swords.
There are several variants of the Ultimate Monk presented here. The universal thread running through all of them is a Monk/Psionic Fist combination that leads to extremely high unarmed damage, great speed, and feats and class abilities (most crucially, the Psionic Fist's psionic abilities) that give the monk great flexibility in combat.
While all variations are optimized in the sense that class levels, feat and other characteristics have been carefully selected to maximize power, survivability, and player options, roleplaying notes (including guidelines for emulating legendary martial arts feats) and an optional campaign "backstory" (the Monks of the Fivefold Path) are also included.
Player's Handbook (3.5e), Player's Handbook II, Oriental Adventures (3.0E progression only*), Unearthed Arcana (fractional BAB advancement, Bloodlines, Monk fighting styles, traits and flaws), Expanded Psionics Handbook (Psychic Warrior, Elocater, feats and powers), Dragon magazine (Beast Strike feat, other feats) (cited only as alternative selections in game where Dragon Magazine rules are used) and Savage Species (monster class rules, anthropomorphic animals). Magic of Eberron (Power Link Quori Shards), Races of Eberron (changeling 41, Racial Emulation 110), Eberron Campaign Setting (Shifter, Changeling, and Kalashtar races; Quori Shards (Ectoplasmic Fist, Ectoplasmic Armor)), Draconomicon (initiate of the draconic mysteries 131), Dragon Magic (fanged ring 101), Faiths of Eberron Races of Eberron (changeling 41, Racial Emulation 110), Races of the Dragon (greater mighty wallop 115, mighty wallop 114), Tome of Battle (Superior Unarmed Strike 33, Snap Kick 51), Races of Destiny (Mongrelfolk), Complete Psionic (Practiced Manifester feat), Secrets of Sarlona.
- Note that the 3.0E progression given below uses many rules and prestige classes from Oriental Adventures, which is considered a 3.0E sourcebook. It is an excellent resource for monk characters, and a fine book in general. This page has now been updated with a 3.5E-kosher Ultimate Monk. The old progression will be remain as a variant for those who continue to use Oriental Adventures in their games.
Game Rule Components
This build requires Lawful alignment. The 3.0E progression, which takes levels of the Shintao Monk prestige class, requires Lawful Good alignment.
Race and Templates
Racial options are many, but humans, perhaps surprisingly, hold their own. The sample build uses a human. See here for a discussion of the pros and cons of the various racial options.
This build uses the Monk (SRD), the Psionic Fist (SRD) and the Psychic Warrior (SRD), as well as the Fighter, Ranger and Psion classes (SRD), as well as the Drunken Master, Dervish and Warshaper prestige classes from Complete Warrior. The Initiate of the Draconic Mysteries prestige class, from the Draconomicon, is used.
From OA (considered 3.0E,) the Weapon Master and Blade Dancer classes, as well as the Shintao Monk prestige class.
Several unique monster classes are also provided: the pixie monster class is quoted directly from Savage Species, while the other were designed using the creatures and the rules for monster classes provided therein.
For the rationale in selecting the classes and the levels taken of each (for the 3.5E progressions), see Multiclassing the Ultimate Monk.
Feats depend on the variant chosen: see Ultimate Monk (DnD Optimized Character Build)/Feats. Optimal choices also depend upon what magic items and spells are available in your campaign, what sort of foes the monk can expect to encounter, and so forth.
Spells, Powers, Items
|Item, Spell, or Power||Version||Cost||Result/Notes|
|Monk's Belt||—||13,000 gp||+5 effective monk level for AC and movement bonuses, and unarmed strike damage.|
|Skin of the Hero||—||77,500||This psychoactive skin continually grants the wearer a +3 deflection bonus to Armor Class, a +3 resistance bonus on all saving throws, and a +3 enhancement bonus on attack rolls.|
|Boots of Temporal Acceleration||—||43,200 gp||Stop time as a free action for 2 rounds. 1/day.|
|Bracers of Armor||Any||1,000 gp — 64,000 gp||Armor bonus.|
|Amulet of Mighty Fists||Any||6,000 gp — 150,000 gp||Greater Magic Fang with Permanency is far cheaper. However, It's Excellent for Weapon Enchantments, such as Fire damage, etc.|
|Gloves of Titan's Grip||Any||14,000 gp||+8 to grapple checks (7 rounds, 3/day)|
|Ring of Divine Power (continuous effect, CL 7)||—||408,000 gp||BAB=character level, +7 temporary hp, +6 Strength|
|Belt of Giant Strength||Any||16,000 gp — 36,000 gp||Str bonus. Same slot as a monk's belt.|
|Ioun Stone||Orange||8,000 gp||+1 caster (or manifester) level.|
|Ioun Stone||Pale green||30,000 gp||+1 competence bonus on attack rolls, saves, skill checks, and ability checks (including rolls for initiative).|
|Boots of Speed||12,000 gp||As a free action, the wearer can click her boot heels together, enabling her to act as though affected by a haste spell for up to 10 rounds each day. The duration of the haste effect need not be consecutive rounds.|
|Third Eye Conceal||120,000 gp||Same as Mind Blank. Learning Mind Blank via Psionic Fist levels or Psychic Chirurgery is a better option at higher levels.|
|Ring of Godly Vigor (Vigor power, continuous, ML 88)||3,480,000 gp||+440 hp|
|Power Link (Quori shard)||3,000 gp||2 free power points to augment a power. Stacks with other power link shards. Total points spent can exceed your manifester level. Ten of these is not too many.|
|Ectoplasic Armor (Quori shard)||8,000 gp||+2 armor bonus; up to five shards stack with each other.|
|Ectoplasmic Fist (Quori shard)||3,000 gp||+1 die size (unarmed strike).|
|Ring of the Mighty Wallop (CL 1)||4,000 gp||+1 effective size of wearer's bludgeoning weapons (Max C).|
|Ring of the Mighty Wallop, Greater (CL 17, persisted spell)||1,088,000 gp||+4 effective size of wearer's bludgeoning weapons (Max C).|
|Cloak of Shapechange (1/day, CL 20)||108,000 gp||???|
|Manual of Quickness in Action||varies||Inherent bonus to Dexterity.|
|Any item with Natural Weapon Augmentation, Personal (Ghost Touch, continuous effect)||varies||4,000gp|
|Periapt of Wisdom||Any||4,000 gp — 36,000||adds a +2, +4, or +6 enhancement bonus to wisdom|
|Greater Magic Fang + Permanency||Any||??? — 9,100 gp||???|
|Psychic Chirurgery + any Power of a level the monk can use||Any||??? —||???|
|Incarnate + Danger Sense and/or Ubiquitous Vision||Any||??? —||???|
Notes: The Greater Mighty Wallop spell (from Dragon Magic) increases the wearer's effective size when striking with a bludgeoning weapon by (CL/4, max +5), to a maximum of Size C. So while the monk wears the ring, any form he has of size M or larger is treated as size C or its actual size, whatever is larger, for the purpose of determining bludgeoning damage (such as the monk's unarmed strike).
Exceptionally useful powers to acquire via Psychic Chirurgery include Steadfast Perception, which provides immunity to illusions, and Personal Mind Blank, which protects the character from all mind-altering effects and most efforts to divine information about them. Hypercognition and Metafaculty are excellent information-gathering tools for the monk. True Mind Switch can allow the monk to permanently acquire a more robust and agile physical form.
Ectoplasmic Form can be a handy tool for escaping from areas protected by Dimensional Lock. Psionic Contingency is another power that can potentially rescue a disastrous situation by activating a power to transport the monk to safety or to shift the odds in the monk's favor.
Quori shards may only be used by Kalashtar PCs or those with a special ability to emulate them (such as a Changeling with the Racial Emulation feat) can use Quori shards (however, you might design a custom item using a Quori shard as the base and enhancing it with the 3rd-level Artificer spell Suppress Requirement (duration 10 min/lvl). When active, this additional power would allow the character to suppress either the racial requirement (Kalashtar) or the requirement of a manifester level. This custom item would be significantly more expensive than the original item (a modified Fist would cost (3rd * 5th CL * 2,000gp *2 (10 min/level to continuous power) = 45,000 + (3,000 (base Fist cost) * 1.5 (combined power on an item) = 4,500gp = 49,500gp), but either the Power Link or Ectoplasmic Fists will still be a bargain.) The maximum number of shards a character may have implanted is equal to their manifester level (again, the Suppress Requirement spell offers a possible work-around.) The implanting process permanently reduces the character's hit points by one (per shard). Up to five Ectoplasmic Armor shards and an unlimited number of Power Link shards stack. The benefits of Ectoplasmic Fists do not stack.
Power Link Quori shards allow the character to augment a power by 2 points (3/day). Multiple shards can be used as a single action, and the points provided by shards are not limited by the character's manifester level.
Ectoplasmic Fist Quori shards increase the damage of the monk's unarmed strike as if he or she were one size category larger.
Ectoplasmic Armor Quori shards give a +2 armor bonus. Up to five armor shards stack, for a bonus of +10.
- Suggested Psychic Warrior Powers
Further Discussion of Useful Spells, Powers, and Items
The Ultimate Monk can travel light, relative to most other characters. He (or she) does not require weapons, armor, or spellbooks. Nevertheless, there are a number of items which are particularly useful to the monk, especially once he or she has attained the Drunken Master prestige class.
1. A reach weapon. Reach weapons have no downside for the monk, as his or her unarmed strike does not require empty hands and always threatens the adjacent squares. If monk is the character's first class, they may suffer a nonproficiency penalty, unless the monk reach weapons from Oriental Adventures are available. Still, a free attack (of opportunity) is a free attack, regardless of the penalties.
2. Deep crystal weapons. These can be infused with psionic energy as a free action, costing two power points and adding +2d6 to weapon damage. An expensive option (+1,000gp) but it gives you something to do with your power points from Wild Talent prior to acquiring levels in Psionic Fist.
3. A flask of liquor. The drunken master can convert drinks, up to his or her class level, to +2 Str/Con at the cost of -2 Wis/Int. This is a costly trade-off, given that the Ultimate Monk lives by his or her wits, but may be useful in some situations; it is a nonmagical ability, and hence is one of the few buffs that can be used in an antimagic field or the like. 1.5 oz. of hard liquor is one drink; a 12 oz. container thus holds eight drinks.
4. Chopsticks, meat cleavers, playing cards. A drunken master can use improvised weapons at no penalty, doing unarmed strike +1d4 damage with them. Keeping a few on your person will be helpful in many situations: striking opponents vulnerable to a given type of damage; striking at a distance (improvised weapons have a range increment of 10 feet); striking through otherwise disabling barriers (such as hurling a chopstick through the half-inch gaps in the bars of a Forcecage).
Movement and Combat
This build specializes in unarmed strikes, and hardly needs ranged attacks, given speeds that range from 100ft. per round and upward, the ability to run across walls, and virtual immunity to movement-related attacks of opportunity.
Some speed bonuses include:
- Speedy trait: +10 ft. base speed increase
- Blade Dancer class ability: double base speed (+40ft. if human, +50ft. if Nezumi) untyped (3.0e progression only)
- Monk speed: +60ft. enhancement
- The monk Psychic Warrior power of Burst: +10 ft. enhancement (overlaps with monk speed bonus)
- Speed of Thought feat (when focused): +10 ft. insight
- Via the use of the Hustle power, the character can an extra move action in the course of a round, potentially doubling his or her speed.
Overall (3.0E): 150ft. if human, 170ft if nezumi or other base 40ft. (50ft. with quick trait) races. To put this in perspective, a nezumi has a running speed of 680ft. per round, which is 113ft per second, which is 77.3 mph.
Overall (3.5E): 110-120 feet per round.
Also of note is that the build's leaps are not limited by the character's height (which is a 3.0 limitation only), and in the 3.0E progression can always take 10 on Balance, Tumble, and Jump checks, even in combat (both thanks to the Blade Dancer class abilities).
- Skill ranks: 12
- Base speed: +4 over 30ft (+48 for a human, +56 nezumi) (Jump only)
- Blade dancer: +10 competence
- Synergy: +2
- Ability Scores:
- Normal: Jump +74/+82, Tumble +19, Balance +19
- Augmented expanded bear form totals: Jump +86/+94, Tumble +18, Balance +18
This build makes use of several optional rules from Unearthed Arcana including the use of traits, the use of flaws, and fractional BAB advancement.
Empty-hand Strike Damage
The calculation of the monk's unarmed combat damage in any given set of circumstances is a little complex, due to altered forms of different sizes, feats, and psionic enhancements. The basic table is given below.
See also the description on the highlights page.
|# of bonuses||+0||+1||+2||+3||+4||+5||+6||+7||+8|
Special bonuses include:
1. Improved Natural Attack (unarmed strike) (via the feat or an item such as a Fanged Ring).
2. Shape Soulmeld (Totem soulmeld) and Open Lesser Chakra (Shoulders) (Magic of Incarnum).
3. Shifter Savagery feat (stacks with nothing; requires one to be both shifting and raging; rarely worthwhile).
1. Warshaper 1.
2. Initiate of the Dranconic Mysteries (IoDM) 4, IoDM 8.
3. Shifter Druid 8, Shifter Druid 15.
1. Enlarge Weapon.
3. Earth Hammer.
1. Battlefist (Eberron).
2. Ectoplasmic Fist Quori Shard (Eberron).
1. Using Oriental Adventures (a 3.0E sourcebook) the monk can obtain Empty Hand Mastery (requires Power Attack, Improved Sunder, Improved Unarmed Strike, Eagle Claw Attack and Fists of Iron feats).
Sample unarmed strike damage calculation
Minagon is a Kalashtar Monk 11/Psionic Fist 5 whose feats include Overchannel, Quicken Power and Improved Natural Attack and whose magic items include a Monk's Belt, a Ring of the Mighty Wallop, Lesser, a Torc of Power Preservation and an Ectoplasmic Fist. He is suddenly confronted by a War Troll and, after winning the initiative, has to manifest Expansion as a Quickened Power. (This costs him 6 power points and 1d8 damage from use of Overchannel; his manifester level is not high enough to pay both the extra cost of a Quickened power and a +2 size enhancement.) At this point the DM's head is beginning to swim, but Minagon's player begins by calculating his base monk damage: 11 (monk levels) + 5 (Psionic Fist Levels) + 5 (Monk's Belt) = Level 21. His base damage is therefore the maximum, 2d10. He then calculates effective size; size M Kalashtar --> +1 via Expansion --> +1 via Ring of the Mighty Wallop, Lesser --> size H. Finally he adds special modifers: his Improved Natural Attack feat and his Ectoplasmic Fist. His base damage, using the table above, is 12d8. The War Troll is in trouble.
This may appear to be a lot of calculation, but a given character will tend to have only a few combinations of modifiers which recur in combat and which change only gradually as the Ultimate Monk gains levels or acquires magical or psionic items.
Other damage bonuses
Eventually, the monk's base damage die will dwarf any bonuses to damage he or she might enjoy. At ECL 1, however, this situation is reversed, and it is the monk's base 1d6 damage which is overshadowed by the bonuses available. Useful bonuses to damage include:
Psionic Fist: +2d6 unarmed strike damage with expenditure of your psionic focus. This can be further enhanced with Psionic Meditation, allowing the character to regain focus as a move action (or even Psionic Meditation plus Heroic Focus (Eberron), allowing the character to regain his psionic focus as a swift action by spending an action point.)
Iron Fist (Complete Warrior) Expend a use of Stunning Fist to gain +1d6 to damage.
Flying Kick (Complete Warrior): +1d12 to charge damage. Requires Power Attack.
Powerful Charge: +1d8 to charge damage if size M; damage die increases with size, like your unarmed strike base damage.
Deep crystal weapons: +2d6 damage (via a modified gauntlet, for example) after charging up the weapon with the expenditure of a power point. At 2,000gp, these weapons are expensive, but at ECL 1-3, they triple your unarmed damage.
Weapon qualities: For a +1 bonus price, or via a 1st- or 2nd-level infusion, the monk's unarmed strike damage can be improved with 1d6 of energy damage (flaming, shocking, icy, or whatever). Again, perhaps not worth it at the higher levels, but very helpful early on.
Example: An ECL 2 character with no magical items or buff spells, whose feats include Flying Kick and Psionic Fist, and who has acquired deep crystal gauntlets, charges an ogre; a successful hit will do 1d6 (base) + 1d12 (Flying Kick) + 2d6 (Psionic Fist) + 2d6 (deep crystal): 5d6 + 1d12 + Str, average 24 points damage + Str. Even at the lowest levels, the Ultimate Monk packs a punch.
Optimization Note: The damage-boosting feats cited are classic examples of feats that can be lifesavers at lower levels, and dead weight later on. The optimal approach for power at all levels is to pick the feats that are most useful for the short term, and when you are ready to upgrade to the feats useful at higher ECL (to qualify for prestige classes, or other feats, or to optimize or because you made a mistake), use Psychic Reformation to reselect your feats (and/or your skills, powers, class options and spells).
Emulating Legendary Martial Arts Techniques
This build is designed so as to be able to emulate your favorite cinematic martial arts techniques, including running up walls, making superhuman leaps, and frying enemies with your ki.
See Emulating Legendary Martial Arts Techniques for guidelines.
Abilities (28 point buy): Str 14, Int 14, Wis 14, Dex 14, Con 12, Cha 8.
Traits: Quick, Aggressive.
Flaws: Murky-eyed, Shaky.
Region: Taer (or equivalent).
Variant Class Feature: Wall Walker (instead of Slow Fall) -- you can walk or run over vertical surfaces as easily as horizontal ones, to the limit of what would be your "slow fall" capacity (20ft at 4th level, 30ft at 6th) (see Dungeonscape, pg 12).
Rule Variants: fractional BAB (Unearthed Arcana), flaws and traits (Unearthed Arcana).
|Saving Throws||Special||Flurry of Blows
|1st (Monk 1)||+0||+2||+2||+2||Improved Grapple (Monk Bonus Feat), Battle Jumper (Human bonus feat), Improved InitiativeECL, DodgeF, Wild TalentF,Flurry of Blows, Unarmed Strike||–2/–2||1d6||+0||+0 ft.||0|
|2nd (Monk 2)||+1||+3||+3||+3||Combat Reflexes (Monk Bonus Feat), Evasion||–1/–1||1d6||+0||+0 ft.||2|
|3th (Monk 3)||+2||+3||+3||+3||Great FortitudeECL, Still Mind||+0/+0||1d6||+0||+10 ft.||2|
|4th (Monk 4)||+3||+4||+4||+4||Ki Strike (Magic), Slow Fall 20 ft.||+2/+2||1d8||+0||+10 ft.||2|
|5th (Monk 5)||+3||+4||+4||+4||+2/+2||1d8||+1||+10 ft.||7|
|6th (Monk 6)||+4||+5||+5||+5||Improved Trip (Monk Bonus Feat), Improved Natural Attack (unarmed strike)ECL, Slow Fall 30 ft.||+3/+3||1d8||+1||+20 ft.||2|
|7th (Monk 6/Drunken Master 1)||+5||+7||+7||+5||Drink like a demon, improvised weapons.||+3/+3||1d8||+1||+20 ft.||2|
|8th (Monk 6/Drunken Master 2)||+6/+1||+8||+8||+5||Stagger||+4/+4/||1d8||+1||+20 ft.||2|
|9th (Monk 6/Drunken Master 2/Psionic Fist 1)||+6/+1||+8||+10||+7||Practiced Manifester (Complete Psionic)ECL||+4/+4||1d8||+1||+20 ft.||3|
|10th (Monk 6/ Drunken Master 2/Psionic Fist 2)||+7/+2||+8||+11||+8||+5/+5/+0||1d10||+1||+20 ft.||5|
|11th (Monk 6/ Drunken Master 2/Psionic Fist 3)||+8/+3||+9||+11||+8||+6/+6/+1||1d10||+1||+30 ft.||8|
|12th (Monk 6/ Drunken Master 2/Psionic Fist 4)||+9/+4||+9||+12||+9||Quicken PowerECL||+6/+6/+1||1d10||+2||+30 ft.||12|
|13th (Monk 6/ Drunken Master 2/Psionic Fist 5)||+9/+4||+9||+12||+9||OverchannelB||+7/+7/+2||1d10||+2||+30 ft.||17|
|14th (Monk 6/ Drunken Master 2/Psionic Fist 5/Warshaper 1)||+10/+5||+11||+12||+9||Morphic immunities, Morphic weapons||+7/+7/+2||1d10||+2||+30 ft.||17|
|15th (Monk 6/ Drunken Master 2/Psionic Fist 5/Warshaper 2)||+11/+6/+1||+12||+12||+9||Superior Unarmed StrikeECL, Morphic body||+8/+8/+3||1d10||+2||+30 ft.||17|
|16th (Monk 6/ Drunken Master 2/Psionic Fist 6/Warshaper 2)||+12/+7/+2||+13||+13||+10||+9/+9/+4||2d6||+2||+40 ft.||25|
|17th (Monk 6/ Drunken Master 2/Psionic Fist 7/Warshaper 2)||+12/+7/+2||+13||+13||+10||+10/+10/+5/+0||2d6||+2||+40 ft.||33|
|18th (Monk 6/ Drunken Master 2/Psionic Fist 8/Warshaper 2)||+13/+8/+3||+13||+14||+11||Snap Kick (Tome of Battle)ECL||+10/+10/+5/+1||2d6||+2||+40 ft.||45|
|19th (Monk 6/ Drunken Master 2/Psionic Fist 9/Warshaper 2)||+14/+9/+4||+14||+14||+11||+11/+11/+6/+1||2d6||+3||+50 ft.||57|
|20th (Monk 6/ Drunken Master 2/Psionic Fist 10/Warshaper 2)||+15/+10/+5||+14||+15||+12||Mental LeapB||+12/+12/+7/+2||2d10||+3||+50 ft.||73|
Bonus Feat: At 1st level, a monk may select either Improved Grapple or Stunning Fist as a bonus feat. At 2nd level, she may select either Combat Reflexes or Deflect Arrows as a bonus feat. At 6th level, she may select either Improved Disarm or Improved Trip as a bonus feat. A monk need not have any of the prerequisites normally required for these feats to select them.
Evasion (Ex): At 2nd level or higher if a monk makes a successful Reflex saving throw against an attack that normally deals half damage on a successful save, she instead takes no damage. Evasion can be used only if a monk is wearing light armor or no armor. A helpless monk does not gain the benefit of evasion.
Ki Strike (Su): At 4th level, a monk’s unarmed attacks are empowered with ki. Her unarmed attacks are treated as magic weapons for the purpose of dealing damage to creatures with damage reduction. Ki strike improves with the character’s monk level. At 10th level, her unarmed attacks are also treated as lawful weapons for the purpose of dealing damage to creatures with damage reduction. At 16th level, her unarmed attacks are treated as adamantine weapons for the purpose of dealing damage to creatures with damage reduction and bypassing hardness.
Slow Fall (Ex): At 4th level or higher, a monk within arm’s reach of a wall can use it to slow her descent. When first using this ability, she takes damage as if the fall were 20 feet shorter than it actually is. The monk’s ability to slow her fall (that is, to reduce the effective distance of the fall when next to a wall) improves with her monk level until at 20th level she can use a nearby wall to slow her descent and fall any distance without harm.
Purity of Body (Ex): At 5th level, a monk gains immunity to all diseases except for supernatural and magical diseases.
Improvised weapons (Ex): At 1st level, any object used as an improvised weapon by the monk does his or her unarmed strike damage +1d4. Additionally, the monk is exempt for the normal -4 penalty to hit when using improvised weapons.
Drink like a demon (Ex): Beginning at 1st level, the Drunken Master gains combat bonuses after drinking a number of alcoholic drinks (the maximum number benefited from being equal to his or her class level, and each portion being equivalent in alcohol content to a bottle of wine). Each drink takes one move action and grants +2 to Strength or Constitution but -2 to Intelligence and Charisma.
Stagger (Ex): At 2nd level, the Drunken Master gains the ability to charge in any pattern (i.e., not just in a striaght line) and, with a successful DC 15 Tumble check, is immune from attacks of opportunity whilst doing so.
Morphic weapons: At 1st level, a Warshaper is able to reshape an shapeshifting form's natural weapons (including the monk's unarmed strike), increasing the damage dealt as if the character were one size larger.
Morphic immunities: At 1st level, a Warshaper is immune to critical hits and stunning while in altered form.
Morphic body: At 2nd level, a Warshaper enjoys +4 to Str and +4 Con while in altered form.
Gameplay notes: Many other progressions are possible. Feat choice, especially, is very campaign-dependent. Superior Unarmed Strike, which increases the monk's effective level in determining unarmed strike damage, is unnecessary for characters with a functioning Monk's Belt. High-level characters, though, may be subject to antimagical and antipsionic effects. If these are less of a concern in your campaign, you may not need Superior Unarmed Strike. Contrawise, the progression assumes the monk will acquire Metamorphosis at the appropriate level via Psychic Chirurgery. If this is not available in your monk's campaign world, he or she will need the Expanded Knowledge feat, to acquire Metamorphosis, which is a Egoist power.
An alternative to the classical Flurry of Blows attack may increase the monk's striking power still further:
Variant Class Feature: Decisive Strike (instead of Flurry of Blows). As a full-round action, make an unarmed/special monk weapon attack at -2 which deals double damage. This penalty is reduced as is the flurry penalty (-1 at 5th) (see PHB II, pg 52 for further details).
However, under RAW, substituting Decisive Strike for flurry might make the build ineligible for the Drunken Master prestige class. Check with your DM both using this option.
Without magical or psionic buffs, the progression does 4d8 base damage with an unarmed strike, or 4d8 + 1d4 with an improvised weapon. This is increased to 8d8 if using the Battle Jumper feat or the Decisive Strike class feature, or 12d8 if using both. In brown bear form (for example), the Large monk (+1), with Morphic Weapons (+1), and augmented Expansion (+2) would deal 16d8 base damage (or 48d8 using Battle Jumper and Decisive Strike).
Decisive Strike doubles the base damage, and also doubles the damage of any other unarmed strike made before the beginning the the next turn -- the Snap Kick feat adds one such attack, so at the cost of a -4 (or -3 after 5th level) penalty on all attacks, the monk can strike twice per round for double damage on each strike (extra attacks can also be added via buffs; a Hustle or Haste effect, for example). Although superficially Decisive Strike trades equivalent abilities -- a double attack for a single attack doing double damage -- this effect is more advantageous than the conventional Flurry of Blows effect for a number of reasons: one-shot bonuses (via a True Strike spell, smiting attack, luck bonus, or whatever) to attack and damage are more useful, extra attacks are more potent, and effects in which the character expends their psionic focus can be put to better use (Psionic Fist's +2d6 becomes +4d6, for example.)
The speed of the build is 30 (or the base speed of the altered form) + 50 (or +70 with a Monk's Belt) + 10 (Quick trait) = 90 (110) feat per round.
See also: Other progressions.
OA progression (some 3.0E rules)
WARNING: This progression is not viable due to issues in base attack bonus. 3 levels of monk does not qualify you for Psionic Fist.
Initial scores (28 point buy):
Human Str: 14 Int: 10 Wis: 14 Dex: 14 Con: 12 Cha: 12
Nezumi Str: 14 Int: 10 Wis: 14 Dex: 14 Con: 14 Cha: 10
30th level Str: 14 Int: 10 Wis: 20 Dex: 14 Con: 12 Cha: 13
Dire Bear form Str: 34 Int: 10 Wis: 20 Dex: 16 Con: 20 Cha: 13
Dire Bear combat statistics:
AC: 32 (10 + 7 natural + 4 monk + 5 Wis + 3 Dex + 4 Inertial Armor + 1 Dodge - 1 aggressive - 1 Large)
Hit points: 275 (average)
Damage -- Unarmed Strikes
- 2d10—Medium, monk 8, Psionic Fist 10, Shintao Monk 9
- 4d8—Large, Metamorphosis form or Expansion power
- 6d8—Huge, Metamorphosis form or Expansion power
- 8d8—Gargantuan, Metamorphosis form and Expansion power
- 12d8—Colossal, Huge Metamorphosis form and enhanced Expansion power
- 16d8—Above, plus Improved Natural Attack
- 24d8—Above, plus Improved Natural Attack and Empty-hand mastery
|1st||Monk 1||Improved Unarmed Combat, Fist of Iron, Improved Initiative, Power Attack, Wild Talent, Flying Kick||Monk abilities, Traits (aggressive, speedy), Flaws (Murky-eyed, shaky)|
|2nd||Monk 2||Combat Reflexes||Evasion|
|3rd||Monk 3||Ki Shout (requires Cha 13)||Still Mind|
|4th||Monk 3/Psionic Fist 1||expansion|
|5th||Monk 3/Psionic Fist 2||Claws of the Beast|
|6th||Monk 3/Psionic Fist 3||Expeditious Dodge||Psi abilities|
|7th||Monk 3/Psionic Fist 4|
|8th||Monk 3/Psionic Fist 5||Quicken Power|
|9th||Monk 3/Psionic Fist 6||feat (ECL)|
|10th||Monk 3/Psionic Fist 7|
|11th||Monk 3/Psionic Fist 8|
|12th||Monk 3/Psionic Fist 9||Expanded Knowledge||Metamorphosis power available|
|13th||Monk 3/Psionic Fist 9/Blade Dancer 1||Leap of the clouds, +10 on Balance, Tumble, Jump checks, double basic move|
|14th||Monk 3/Psionic Fist 9/Blade Dancer 1/Shintao Monk 1||Improved Sunder||touch the Void dragon (raise one attribute 1d4 +1 for 1 hour/level)|
|15th||Monk 3/Psionic Fist 9/Blade Dancer 1/Shintao Monk 2||Improved Natural Attack (Unarmed Strike)||Detect Evil, Smite Evil, speak to soul (detect magic 1/day)|
|16th||Monk 3/Psionic Fist 9/Blade Dancer 1/Shintao Monk 3||Eagle Claw Attack||Empty Hand Mastery -- use next larger size type for unarmed combat damage, Grasp the Earth Dragon (immune to all stunning, sleep, and slow effects and spells)|
|17th||Monk 3/Psionic Fist 9/Blade Dancer 1/Shintao Monk 4||Purity of Shinsei (light spell (level)/day)|
|18th||Monk 3/Psionic Fist 9/Blade Dancer 1/Shintao Monk 5||Combat Expertise, Mobility||Channel the fire dragon (protection from elements (heat/cold only) 1/day)|
|19th||Monk 3/Psionic Fist 9/Blade Dancer 1/Shintao Monk 6||Great silence (gaze attack; one foe w/in 30 feet mute for 1 min/level; Will vs (DC 10+monk class level+Cha bonus) negates|
|20th||Monk 3/Psionic Fist 9/Blade Dancer 1/Shintao Monk 7||Whirlwind Attack||Steal the air dragon (improved invisibility 1/day)|
|21st||Monk 3/Psionic Fist 9/Blade Dancer 1/Shintao Monk 7/Weapon Master 1||Overchannel|
|22nd||Monk 3/Psionic Fist 10/Blade Dancer 1/Shintao Monk 7/Weapon Master 1||Ki damage 1/day (Max base unarmed strike damage)|
|23rd||Monk 4/Psionic Fist 10/Blade Dancer 1/Shintao Monk 7/Weapon Master 1||Ki Strike (Magic), Slow Fall 20 ft.|
|24th||Monk 5/Psionic Fist 10/Blade Dancer 1/Shintao Monk 7/Weapon Master 1||Improved Combat Reflexes [Epic]||Purity of Body|
|25th||Monk 6/Psionic Fist 10/Blade Dancer 1/Shintao Monk 7/Weapon Master 1||Deflect Arrows||Slow Fall 30 ft.|
|26th||Monk 7/Psionic Fist 10/Blade Dancer 1/Shintao Monk 7/Weapon Master 1||Wholeness of Body|
|27th||Monk 8/Psionic Fist 10/Blade Dancer 1/Shintao Monk 7/Weapon Master 1||Infinite Deflection [Epic]||Slow Fall 40 ft.|
|28th||Monk 9/Psionic Fist 10/Blade Dancer 1/Shintao Monk 7/Weapon Master 1||Improved Evasion|
|29th||Monk 9/Psionic Fist 10/Blade Dancer 1/Shintao Monk 8/Weapon Master 1||Ancestral guidance (Commune with greater spirit 1/week, no xp cost)|
|30th||Monk 9/Psionic Fist 10/Blade Dancer 1/Shintao Monk 9/Weapon Master 1||Improved Grapple, Legendary Wrestler [Epic]||Ride the water dragon (heal 1hp/hour)|
SRD-only Ultimate Monk
The highlights of the Ultimate monk are his unarmed strike damage, multiple attacks, his psionic abilities, mobility, and Colossal-sized form. For complete discussions of each feature and examples of their use by Ultimate Monk in combat, see the Highlights page.
Adventurer 1: Oh, God.
Adventurer 2: What have you found?
Adventurer 1: It doesn't matter, it doesn't matter any more. [Hysterically] Nothing matters, when you're already dead.
Adventurer 2 [slaps him]: Pull yourself together man! Whatever it is, we'll pull through.
Adventurer 1 [Gibbering]: Pull through? Pull through? Fight? You can't. Run. You don't run.
Adventurer 2: For God's sake.
Adventurer 1: You don't run [displays ornately carved 3-inch sword] -- from the pixie ninja.
Since the Nezumi resembling nothing so much as the old ½ HD giant rats, the possibilities for humor in the situation are endless. A DM might treat an epic-level party to an encounter beginning like this: "You see a three- or four-foot ratlike creature hurrying away with something shiny in its mouth. What do you do?"
The monk's hit points and armor class, prior to psionic buffing, are (in most variants) only so-so. This makes him vulnerable at all levels to surprise attacks. Additionally, Metaphorphosis is spell-like ability, so it provokes attacks of opportunity before it can take advantage of the increased Con/Dex/natural armor bonuses (unless Quickened, which pushes the cost to 13PP).
The monk can use his psionic powers quite often, but not endlessly. A prudent foe would ensure his power point reserves are exhausted before joining battle.
Many of the monk's abilities require him to either have his psionic focus, or expend it. His Quicken Power feat is one example. Greater Psionic Fist which adds an extra 4d6 to your unarmed or natural attack damage, is another. Regaining your psionic focus requires a full-round action (unless you expend a feat slot on Psionic Mediatation, which allows you to regain your focus as a move action), and provokes attacks of opportunity. Without being psionically focused, the build also loses the benefit of the following feats: Speed of Thought, Up the Walls, Psionic Charge.
For an extensive discussion of the limitations of the monk class in general, real and imagined, see the FAQ.
Antimagic field, and dispel magic/greater dispel magic and their psionic equivalents. Many of the abilities that power this build are magic/psionic in nature. For the 3.0e progression, an antimagic field nullifies bear form, all the blade dancer class features, and any magic items being worn. In the 3.5e progressions, the monk is less dependent on magic, but if using the magic-psionic transparency rule, an antimagic field also nullifies psionic powers (specifically expansion and psionic lion's charge), and all the psionic feats. At epic level, presenting a colossus should be a sufficient challenge (although, given that a colossus' maximum speed is the equivalent of a leisurely stroll around the garden for the Ultimate Monk, the encounter would also have to provide a compelling reason the monk could not simply retreat outside the colossus' 100-foot antimagic field and deal with the problem from there).
Much of the Ultimate Monk's combat prowess is based upon speed and mobility. So one simple DM counter for the Ultimate Monk would be to build into the adventure something slow and vulnerable that the Ultimate Monk is bound to protect -- a civilian, an important object or location, a wounded companion. The Ultimate Monk forced to stand and fight is still a force to be reckoned with, but not quite the superhuman villain lawnmower he is when fully mobile.
Also bear in mind that the Ultimate Monk's power point reserve is generous (especially at the higher levels) but not infinite. The combat examples given on the highlights page reflect the generous use of power points appropriate to a climatic battle or a critical encounter in which the monk feels seriously threatened. In adventures involving repeated combat encounters at short intervals, the monk will have to invoke his ki-fueled psionic enhancements sparingly, or he will quickly find his power point reserve exhausted.
Putting the above elements together, the ultimate challenge for the Ultimate Monk would be a series of lower-level encounters without the opportunity to regain power points in the interim, involving defense of a vulnerable and not-very-mobile character or object, building to a confrontation with foes with antipsionic abilities and the potential to surprise.
Or you could always deploy a weapon that has brought many a mighty army of warriors to woe: mud. Remember, the monk cannot charge, and may find has mobility restricted, in uneven, boggy, or otherwise hampering terrain. But be warned; a monk who takes a level of the elocater prestige class can ignore such effects (the elocater's abilities mesh well with the Ultimate Monk's, and might well be an appropriate multiclass option for epic-level Cobra Strike specialists and Drunken Master characters.)
It's very important for the DM to distinguish between free actions and swift actions and observe the limit of one swift action per round. Even some powers with long durations (like Claws of the Beast) may need to be activated as a swift action (unless the monk wants to walk around with foot-long razor-sharp claws).
Remember to apply the size-dependent penalties on the Metamorphosized and Expanded forms of the monk. Apply the rules on spaces occupied for larger forms: a Colossal creature takes up a square 30 feet on a side (900 square feet) and is typically over 50 feet tall. You can avoid the Colossal Ultimate Monk's blowing through your encounters via the simple expedient of placing an important objective indoors.
Some DMs impose an effective size limit of Colossal with respects to damage by size, or effects that increase damage "as if" one were larger (like Improved Natural Attack). Under such a restriction a monk's unarmed strike base damage with in bear form with expansion would max out be 12d8 instead of 16d8 or 24d8.
On the subject of high-damage strikes, the DM may disallow the Beast Strike feat, or rule that claws or slams are "used up" when stacked with unarmed strikes, and cannot in the same round be used as secondary weapon.
With respect to the 3.0e build, disallowing the martial arts style bonus of OA reduces the build's mobility bonuses and, more importantly, base damage (although as the 3.5e variants show, it is quite possible to reach 150+hp strikes without any of the rules from Oriental Adventures). Or the DM could reasonably rule that the Fists of Zuoken would not accept a Shintao monk or vice versa.
The various prestige classes used in the 3.0e build all have their own feat requirements and their own skill requirements. If he or she can stand the boredom, the DM should ensure that all the skill requirements are met before prestige class levels are taken.
Beyond the options in this build, there are quite a number of ways to increase unarmed damage as though by a size increase. The DM can always rule that multiple effects of that type don't stack. So Empty Hand Mastery and Improved Natural Attack would overlap.
The 3.0E progression uses a number of rules from Oriental Adventures the DM may not wish to allow. Primarily: free multiclassing for monks, stacking of monk and monk prestige-class levels for purposes of determining unarmed attacks per round, and the prestige classes themselves. (Flying Kick, which in OA doubled damage dice, has been replaced by the feat of the same name in Complete Warrior) doesn't double the charge damage, but instead adds +1d12 to the charge damage.
See also: Rebalancing the Ultimate Monk.
Add the Running feat, and the build's land speed exceeds 100mph; his marathon time would be 15 minutes, 30 seconds. With Spring Attack, or by use of the Hustle power, the build could run up a 60 ft. wall, attack a guard, then run down the other side and run another 60 ft. [Sample dialogue: "Was that a bear? Oh God, where's Algeroun's head?"]
With the dire bear's +20 Str., ladders are a thing of the past; a Str. 34 character can carry 932 pounds as a light load. Grab a couple of colleagues in each paw, and up the wall you go!
When an 8,000 pound, 12-ft-high dire bear just isn't getting it done, the build's Expansion power with a six-point augment gives you a Gargantuan size, 48 feet high and weighting in at 256 tons. Take the Swim skill, use Up the Walls to run at 100mph up a 45-degree hill, and jump in a lake for an epic-level cannonball.
Rules Variants and their Impact on the Ultimate Monk
The massive damage rules from pg. 145 of the PHB impose a DC 15 Fortitude save to survival 50 points of damage or more. If your campaign uses the UA massive damage variant Scaling the Saving Throw a run-of-the-mill 130hp hit by the Ultimate Monk requires a hefty DC 31 Fortitude save to survive.
Action points from UA are extremely helpful to the Ultimate Monk. His best buys will be the +8 initiative bonus and the emulation of a feat for one round.
The Combat Facing rules, also from UA, are advantageous to the monk, as he will usually be the most mobile person on the battlefield.