Ultimate Monk (3.5e Optimized Character Build)/Buffing the Ultimate Monk
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The Ultimate Monks (and their creator) have a love/hate relationship with magic items and spells. On the one hand, they are an accepted part of the D&D game and hugely augment what a given character can accomplish. Without them, a character is at a serious competitive disadvantage. This is especially true as a result of the awesome power of certain spells in the D&D game. If non-spellcasters are not to be totally left in the shade by high-level magic users, they have to have a way to access those spells of greatest usefulness to them -- and that means magic items.
But the power of magic items does, to some extent, overshadow the character beneath. Anything you want you can get, blurring the difference between classes and the meaningfulness of a player's choices. Your wizard has low hit points? Snag a ring (or whatever) of Vigor (ML 20th, continuous). One hundred extra hit points. Bad BAB? Divine Power and there's no daylight between you and a straight fighter. Do you envy the monk's three- and four-figure damage rolls? Graft your weapon to your arm. It is now a natural as well as a manufactured weapon (just like the monk's unarmed strike) and most of the buffs the monk uses (like Improved Natural Attack and the warshaper class ability) work for you too. And so on.
This effect is greatly exacerbated by the now all-but-universally accepted practice of being able to buy or build the magic or psionic item that you want. This undoubtedly brings a level of richness to play that would not be there otherwise. But it has the effect of bringing the mysterious and the mystical into the market.
What we are left with is an alternate reality in which the most important determinate of your power and success is the amount of money that you have. The scope of your adventures and the freedom you have is largely determined by the things that you own. You can be talented, hard-working, and clever, but you are still going to be set in the shade by people blessed with more resources or more powerful friends than you. And some point one begins to wonder where the "fantasy" element of our alternate reality went.
Using Spells and Powers
Spells and powers can obviously be cast or manifested by the monk, or upon the monk by an ally. Or they can be bound up in an item according to the magic item design rules in the SRD. Here we will simply cite the spell or power and any relevant finesses in how the monk makes use of them. How the character acquires the use of the effect may vary.
This provides a boost, not to the attack roll, but to BAB itself; this can grant additional attacks per round.
Earth Hammer (Cleric 5, Paladin 3, Races of Stone, page 162)
Base damage of a weapon increases by one step, and it overcomes damage resistance as if it were made of adamantine.
Enlarge Weapon (Sor/Wrd 2, Complete Scoundrel, page 97)
This increases weapon size by one category without increasing the effort to wield the weapon. Usable on the monk's unarmed strike under the rule that such strikes are considered both natural and manufactured weapons for purposes of magic which improves either.
Girallon's Blessing (Clr 3, Sor/Wiz 3, Savage Species, pg 66)
The extra arms granted by this spell are of limited usefulness, as they cannot make attacks. But combined with a Fuse Arms spell, also from Savage Species (Clr 3, Sor/Wiz 3, pg 66) the extra arms can be merged back into the original pair, granting a +4 untyped Str bonus to the the primary arms for every four caster levels (so, a 16th-level caster would create four extra pairs of arms, which would fuse and vanish, granting a +16 untyped Str bonus).
Both Fuse Arms and Girallon's Blessing can be made permanent by means of Permanency (min CL 13th, XP cost 1,500). Using a 16th-level caster for all spells, the total cost for a permanent untyped +16 Str bonus would be (480gp (Girallon's Blessing) + 480gp (Fuse Arms) + 1,280gp (Permanency) + 1,280gp (Permanency) + 7,500gp (NPC XP cost) + 7,500gp (NPC XP cost) = 18,250gp.
Fuse Arms can also be used in conjunction with the monk's Metamorphosis power or other shapechanging ability; a giant squid form (if you don't care about the water breathing or the lack of land mobility) has five sets of tentacles (which are also mergable with a Fuse Arms spell) which could be merged into one set for a +16 Str bonus.
This is a so-so spell for a caster but a fantastic spell to bind into an item for use by a manifester (such as a Psionic Fist). It becomes an uber-cheap source of bonus power points, as well as five extra powers. If you can afford a high manifester level, and then enhance the powers with your feats and power link Quori shards, Ego Whip in particular can be a nasty surprise for anyone not immune to mental effects (Ego Whip does Charisma damage -- save for half; you may not know (I didn't) that if your Charisma drops to 0, you go into a coma; a heavily augmented Ego Whip can put even a high-Charisma foe who makes their save into such a coma.)
Mighty Wallop and Greater Mighty Wallop (Sor/Wiz 1 and 3, Races of the Dragon)
These potent spells increase the damage die of a bludgeoning weapon by one and one per four (caster) levels, respectively (maximum Colossal). The 1st-level version makes for a simple, inexpensive +1 effective size buff for a low-level monk. A Greater Mighty Wallop magic item allows a Medium- or even Small-sized monk to strike as if he or she were Colossal. For a high-level monk who already has 8d8 or 12d8 base damage, the effect is almost absurd; going from size (M) to size (C) quadruples the base damage of the monk's unarmed strike.
For example, you could use one of the above spells to transform another creature into a werebear, and then (cautiously) allow the creature to bite you (if using a straight Polymorph spell, this requires the cooperation of someone with the Assume Supernatural Ability feat (Savage Species, page 30.) Forgo your save against the curse of lycanthropy, and at a very reasonable cost (1,630 gp in the worst case, for Shapechange; note that you could divide the cost between several party members be asking the spellcaster in question to bite multiple PCs during the spell's duration), you are now an afflicted lycanthrope. The monk does not have to worry about an alignment change, since he or she is already, in most cases, lawful good. Six extra hit dice, numerous bonus feats, armor and ability score bonuses, and skill points (which can be used to qualify early for prestige classes requiring a certain number of ranks in skills -- such as Psionic Fist. The other popular requirement for prestige classes, of course, is BAB -- you gain +4 to your BAB as well.)
DM Counter: Whatever level the characters are when they give themselves lycanthropy, their ECL is eight levels higher afterwards (6 levels of monstrous humanoid and a +2 level adjustment). The XP required to advance in level should be adjusted upwards accordingly.
A monk with a more cerebral focus might instead use Polymorph Any Object to transform him or herself into an Inspired human (see the Eberron campaign setting, page 290). The Inspired's "Dual Mind" ability is Ex, not Su or Sp, and so is available to a polymorphed character without the use of Assume Supernatural Ability. This transformation brings major bonuses to Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma, as well as psionic powers and other goodies. (The DM may disallow the Inspired PC as dodgy for any number of reasons, including the involvement of an outsider in the altered form. By RAW, however, a character should be able to assume the form of the blended creature (whose type is "Human, Psionic") using any shapechanging effect.)
DM Counter: A dispelling effect, an antimagic field, or an effect that excludes possession may deprive the PC of his or her advantages at the most inopportune of times. Or, very reasonably, the DM could rule that the Quori spirit is never under the PC's control, and the transformation would automatically make the character an NPC.
Righteous Fury (Paladin 2, Miniatures Handbook, pg 38)
This spell allows any character with any weapon to do double damage on a charge attack. In effect, for those who remember Oriental Adventures, this allows for the return of the 3.0E "Flying Kick" -- a double-damage unarmed strike. Using the "Decisive Strike" class feature variant (double damage on a full attack, instead of flurry of blows) from the Players Handbook II (pg 53), and the ultimate monk can do triple unarmed damage on a charge attack.
Valiant Fury (Courage 5, Complete Warrior, pg 118)
This spell grants a +4 morale bonus to Str and Con -- useful for stacking with the more-common bonus types. It also grants an extra attack with each weapon per round (not cumulative with Haste or similar effects).
Sharptooth (Sor/Wiz 4, Draconomicon, pg 80)
One of your natural weapons deals damage as if you were one size larger.
At the ground floor, this power grants an unexciting DR 2/-. But it can be augmented, granting an extra point of untyped damage resistance for every three extra power points invested. By paying for a high-ML item, or using power link Quori shards, you can achieve extremely high effective ML: A 17th-level manifester using the Overchannel feat and 16 power link quori shards can nab DR 20/-.
This potent healing power gives the often hp-poor Ultimate Monk a path to a rapid and complete recovery. With enough power points, and Empathic Transfer to take others' injuries on him or herself, the monk can even become the party's primary healer.
Some people argue that a monk can boost his or her damage size by wielding an oversized gauntlet, in the same way other combatants use oversized weapons (via the Monkey Grip feat, the Powerful Build racial attribute, the Titan bloodline's Wield Oversized Weapon ability, or whatever). These arguments are not fully persuasive; a gauntlet is a covering over the monk's unarmed strike, not the unarmed strike itself. But there is a way for the monk to make use of the ability to wield oversized weapons according to the letter of the rules. First, you use Call Weaponry to summon an oversized natural weapon (which you can do, because the monk's description states: "A monk’s unarmed strike is treated both as a manufactured weapon and a natural weapon for the purpose of spells and effects that enhance or improve either manufactured weapons or natural weapons." Call Weaponry is such an effect. It grants bonuses to hit and damage.) To avoid any semantic question of how one can arm oneself with an unarmed strike, we will then use Graft Weapon to make the oversized unarmed strike part of the monk's body. The character should now be able to use an oversized unarmed strike by means of the Monkey Grip feat or some other ability.
Danger Sense grants bonuses against traps but also, more usefully, can be augmented to grant uncanny dodge and improved uncanny dodge. These effects can be rendered permanent by means of the Incarnate power (as can several other very useful powers; see the description).
This amazing ability grants 1d6 damage per power point invested (more generally, it is notable that the monk has three game-changing powers from the 1st-level psychic warrior list and, proceeding alphabetically, we haven't got past "D." This bounty, which continues through the levels of the psychic warrior list, is the reason the Ultimate Monk typically takes maximal or near-maximal levels in Psionic Fist). Using one of the methods suggested for augmenting powers in the Biofeedback entry, the monk can add 30d6 to 60d6 points of damage -- no save -- to his or her unarmed attacks. Or add Maximize Power and avoid the die rolls: just add an extra 180 to 360 points of damage to the monk's unarmed strike.
Ectoplasmic Form is a nice power to have when your foe has blocked your retreat (or entry) using a power like Dimensional Lock. Depending on the level of cunning of your campaign's typical NPC villian, the ability to squeeze through the smallest cracks when one would usually Dimension Door or Teleport may or may not be lifesaving.
This size-boosting power is far superior to the arcane Enlarge Person. It can be augmented to boost the monk by two categories instead of one, and to manifest as a swift rather than a standard action.
With this 3rd-level power the monk can inflict 50-90 hp of damage on top of unarmed strike damage (save half) and heal the same amount. Bypasses immunities to damage type.
References to Hustle are all over the Ultimate Monk pages. With good reason: grabbing an extra move action (as a swift action) enables the character drastically increase his or her speed, make an extra attack, or, perhaps most usefully, to make a full round of attacks and move out of range.
Allows a full attack at the end of a charge action. Along with Hustle, Expansion, and Metamorphosis, Psionic Lion's Charge is one of the basic psionic powers which make the Ultimate Monk an all but unstoppable force in melee combat.
This is a good power to have active all the time, when practical. Alternatively, the monk can rely on their Listen check to detect invisible creatures and then be ready to manifest this power to pinpoint their location. It allows you to see perceive invisible creatures and negates miss chances for concealment. This is especially useful if you have taken the Murky-Eyed flaw, as suggested, to secure an extra feat slot at first level; a zero persent miss chance rolled twice is still zero. It is also useful that unlike spells like Eradicate Invisibility, the use of this power does not necessarily reveal to the target that their cover in blown. It also has an augmentable range: if you need to locate an invisible creature 500 feet away, you may have to use your power link Quori shards, but you can do it.
D&D is a game of scarce resources, and perhaps no asset in the game is more scarce or more coveted than feat slots. This power duplicates, and modestly improves upon, the Up the Walls feat. As with the Elocater's Scorn the Earth ability and the Body Equilibrium power, the player should weigh the pros and cons of having an ability via a power, spell, or item versus having it "built in" via class features and feats.
Hands of Flame (Elemental Graft, Magic of Eberron, pg 132, cost 13,000 gp) The +1d6 boost this gives the monk's unarmed strike may seem a minor boon at higher levels, but elemental grafts cannot be dispelled and continue to operate within antimagic fields, meaning that it can buff your damage at a time when most of the monk's other buffs are not available.
Spare Hand (Artificer Item, Magic of Eberron, pg 110, cost (single) 12,000gp, cost (double) 22,00gp) With the addition of any third level infusion (sacrificed to the Hand each day to empower it) the monk can use these magic extra limbs to make additional off-hand attacks (since his unarmed strike is a light weapon, as the item description requires). A character with the full (sub-epic) TWF tree would gain three or six extra attacks with the monk's unarmed strike per round. Since these attacks can end up inflicting hundreds of points of damage apiece, the monk is likely to rapidly run short of foes within reach, but an Ultimate Monk with two levels in drunken master can do unarmed strike damage plus 1d4 with improvised weapons, which can be thrown.
The Hand(s) usually take up the belt item slot; for an even more insane number of attacks per round, buy a second unslotted pair at double the price (a still-economical 44,000gp) and get two sets for a total of 4 extra arms granting a maximum of 12 extra attacks per round.