Ultimate Monk (3.5e Optimized Character Build)/Racial Options

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Humans are optimal, given this build's insatiable hunger for feats and the various skill requirements of the prestige classes. Another important advantage of the human race is the ability to designate any class as the character's favored class. If, for example, you want an Ultimate Monk with martial weapons proficiency, an additional psionic feat, and the ability to use psionic powers prior to taking levels in Psionic Fist, you might want to start with a level or two of psychic warrior before embarking on your career as a monk. Few races have either Psychic Warrior or Monk as their favored class. Advantage human.

Eberron Races[edit]

Among the Eberron races, the Kalashtar have access to the powerful (and inexpensive) Quori shards. They are a psionic race, with a racial mindlink ability, and receive +1 power points per character level. Their save bonus against mental effects, and skill bonuses to social skills, give perhaps the most classically "monkish" monks. For a sample progression using a Kalashtar, see here.

Changelings, who can also use Quori shards by taking the Racial Emulation Changeling racial feat, additionally bring the benefit of that race's natural disguise abilities. They also, by virtue of their shapechanger subtype, can benefit from the powerful Warshaper prestige class at an earlier level than other builds.

Shifters are also shapechangers, and the Longstride variant can, while shifting, significantly boost the monk's speed (+20 feet per round with the Longstrider Elite feat, untyped bonus.) Their preferred class is Ranger, an excellent choice for players who chose to take a level or two in a class with martial weapons proficiency before switching to monk levels. Their disadvantages include an intelligence penalty, and the limit on their shifting of once per day (plus an additional use per 2 shifter feats).

Warforged have some serious drawbacks. They have a Wisdom penalty. Their ability to ignore some critical hits becomes redundant when the monk acquires a level of warshaper, which allows him to ignore all critical hits while in altered form. The warforged monk must also think carefully about how the character will heal damage sustained in battle. Advantages to the warforged path include the ability to use unmodified Battlefists (though other characters can use them by means of a Mighty Arms Graft, or by making a Magical Device check, or with use of the Surpress Requirement infusion from Eberron) as well as the +2 armor bonus. The Psiforged option is also interesting, though by no means overpowered. Much more useful are the power crystal warforged components introduced in Magic of Eberron. These provide a low-level monk with the Wild Talent or Psiforged Body feat an inexpensive way to manifest psionic powers prior to attaining the Psionic Fist prestige class.

Warforged are a great advantage to players who wish to start with a level or two of fighter to avoid some of the vulnerabilities of the low-level monk; the warforged fighter racial substitution levels, found in Races of Eberron, grant a 1d12 hp die, a +3 initiative bonus, and +3 to fear saves in exchange for the fighter's bonus feat at 1st level.

Psionic Races[edit]

Note: Many psionic races have level adjustments. Complete Psionic offers a number of psionic racial classes covering excellent monk races including Thri-Kreen, Half-Giants, and Githzerai. These are similar to the monster classes introduced in Savage Species but allow simulatanous progression in a standard class (with delays) (similar to the Bloodline rules in Unearthed Arcana).

Among the psionic races, Elan make surprisingly good monks. They are LA +0, receive 2 extra power points at first level, and can spend their powers points to net big bonuses to saves and reduce damage dealt to them (these abilities can be further enhanced with Elan racial feats introduced in Complete Psionic). As their power point reserve increases, these abilities become more potent; a monk with levels in Psionic Fist could, in a true emergency, spend forty or fifty power points (reducing damage dealt by eighty or a hundred points) to neutralize an otherwise lethal attack. They also enjoy racial proficiency with the warhammer and the longbow, which boosts the combat ability of the monk at low levels. Overall, the elan benefit from a nice balance of early power-boosters with abilities which become extremely potent at higher levels.

Among the +1 LA psionic races,Half-Giants make excellent Ultimate Monks (although as I read the rules, they still have to take Wild Talent to qualify for the Psionic Fist prestige class. It hurts to waste a feat, but the advantages of this race greatly outweigh the inconvenience!)

Githzerai make fantastic monks (indeed, it is their favored class). +6 dex, giving +3 AC, +2 wis, giving 1 extra power point, another +1 to AC, +1 DC to stunning attacks, and so on. Githzerai have inertial armor as a 3/day racial ability, meaning that your character can easily role out of bed with the equivalent of plate armor (say, Wis 16 and Dex 16 before modifiers = +4 inertial armor, +6 Dodge bonus, +4 insight bonus = AC 24).

Synad, introduced in Complete Psionic, get a +2 bonus to Will saves, a once-daily +2 insight bonus that can be applied to any attack, save, or initiative check, and three bonus power points. The real attraction of this race, however, is the synad's Multitask (Su) ability, which allows you to take an additional (purely mental) swift action on your turn. This is one of the few ways to circumvent the one-swift-action-per-round rule and is highly useful for activating the Ultimate Monk's psionic buffs on short notice.

Standard Races[edit]

Orcs are hurt by their Wisdom penalty, but overall they excel as monks, as they do in any other fighting class. Their high strength makes them a natural fit with the Overwhelming Attack fighting style.

Wood Elves enjoy a Dexterity and a Strength bonus, but their Constitution penalty is a sore blow to a build which is already low on hit points, and the intelligence penalty means their skills take a hit as well. Their racial longbow and longsword proficiencies are helpful to the low-level monk, who lacks a good ranged combat option. Listen and Spot are extremely important skills for the monk, the the elves' +2 racial bonus to these is very helpful. Wood elves' favored class is Ranger, which is a excellent choice for a "starter" class to nab martial weapons proficiency, BAB+, and feats before embarking on a monkish career.

Mongrelfolk (Races of Destiny) have a number of advantages for the monkishly inclined. Their +4 Constitution bonus provides much-needed hit points, as well as a bonus to Concentration checks. Their Emulate Race (Ex) ability allows them to use any race-specific items as long as the race is humanoid -- so, like changlings (but without the need to take the Racial Emulation feat) Mongrelfolk can use Battlefists and Quori shards. They also enjoy a +1 racial bonus on Climb, Jump, Listen, Move Silently, Search, and Spot checks (as well as Appraise checks), and a +4 bonus to Hide (and Slight of Hand) checks.

Extraplanar Races[edit]

Bariaurs, introduced in the Planar Handbook, have significant advantages to compensate for their +1 LA. They have great spell resistance (11+level). They have a +2 Strength bonus and a +2 bonus to Will saves against spells or spell-like effects, and a +2 to Listen and Spot checks. They enjoy a base speed of 40 and quadruped load limits. A strong Bariaur monk might carry agile-riding member of the party on his or her back while jumping and tumbling or dancing up walls, creating unique options in combat.

Buommans (Planar Handbook) are one of the rare races with a bonus to their Wisdom score, a key attribute. Their favored class is monk, making multiclassing a breeze. Their vow of silence, however, could quickly become irritating.

Neraphim (Planar Handbook) are a Slaad-like race which enjoys a +5 to Jump checks, a +2 armor bonus, and "Neraph Camouļ¬‚age" which allows them (once per target per encounter) to ignore any Dexterity bonuses of a target they charge.

The Wild Side[edit]

The Dragonborn acquired template described in Races of the Dragon (pg 10) opens up some interesting possibilities to the monk. Chosing the "Wings" aspect grants a +10 racial bonus to jump checks and immunity to falling damage -- a great asset in using the Battle Jumper feat, as well as the other acrobatic maneuvers favored by the Ultimate Monk. You also qualify for feats and prestige classes which require the dragonblood subtype.

On the unusual side, Broodguards (from Savage Species, pg. 141) are an LA +0 modification to the human template. Broodguards have the following score modifiers: +2 Dex, +2 Con, -4 Int, -4 Cha. They are immune to hold and charm effects, and gain the monstrous subtype. They may be of any alignment -- and, once per day, they can Rage (as per the Barbarian class). This fulfills a long-standing dream of many monk-loving characters -- getting around the diametrically opposed alignments of the Barbarian and the Monk to achieve the Holy Grail -- a monk who can Rage. Broodguards are created by Yuan-Ti from prisoners, so it is reasonable for a monk (now, presumably, escaped from the Yuan-Ti's clutches) to be of this race. The chief disadvantage is a severe intelligence penalty; if skills are an important part of your game, the Broodguard's many advantages may not be worth the cost.

The Children of Tulkas (DnD Bloodline), designed by yours truly, is a great asset to monks (surprise, surprise). In exchange for three bloodline levels, the major bloodline gives eight combat feats over twenty levels, as well as useful skill and ability bonuses (reflecting the character's connection with Tulkas, the strongest and most potent warrior among the Valar, who fought without arms or armor). I humbly hope that players who have always wanted to play a Haruchi-type warrior will give it a look. It certainly allows a character to move at a good clip along the unarmed combat feat trees without too much multiclassing.

Among the UA bloodlines, Fire Elemental, Intermediate Bloodline deserves mention. For two bloodline levels, you get three feats (Dodge, Mobility, Spring Attack) as well as +2 effective levels in all other classes (highly useful for the Ultimate Monk, with the many level-dependent features of the monk and psionic fist.)

If you are willing to spend a few levels in a monster class, good choices abound. This is, perhaps, the easiest way to escort a monk through the early levels: start in a monster class, picking up great BAB, stat bonuses, natural armor, and other goodies, and then add monk levels when you finish. Monks are the perfect fit with monster levels: monsters typically lack armor proficiency, have great mobility, Large size (if you want), great abilities (and there is no class that can make good use of every single ability score as the monk can). Depending on your game, they can have on disadvantage: It used to be that if you chose a race with a claw attack, you had to waste an ability, since the monk's unarmed strike is basically a natural attack, and they don't stack. I should say they didn't stack, because with the Beast Strike feat (BAB+5 and, naturally, a claw or slam attack; but it's from Dragon, is it's not included in this build) your claw or slam attack damage stacks with your unarmed combat damage. The fit is perfect.

I should mention in the context of monster classes the Saint template (LA +2). This brings some nice ability bonuses and magical stuff with it, but the primary benefit from an optimizing perspective is that it converts your (usually) monstrous humanoid levels into levels of outsider. That brings with it great saves, a ton of skill points (monks need skills) and weapon proficiency (if your race didn't have it to begin with). If you are considering a build with more than a couple monster levels, it's an option well worth considering.

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