In all the years I’ve played or run D&D campaigns, one of the most griped-about character classes continues to be the monk. Gaining mystical powers out of seemingly nowhere, a favorite for old-edition rules lawyers and other arguers of mechanics, I want to propose a Monk concept that breaks the mold, and a group’s expectations.
Rather than focus on ki or oneness with the universe through martial prowess, imagine a carnival strongman, whiplash moustache twirling in the breeze, dark singlet and heavy boots his only adornment. Everything he says is uttered sagagiously, deliberately, with a great, bassy voice that resonates the very air around him.
He isn’t magical, he’s stronger than mortals. He isn’t an amazing fighter, he’s stronger than his foes. He doesn’t have perfect health, he’s stronger than disease. He doesn’t cast Slow Fall, he’s strong enough to punch the air into submission. He doesn’t have perfect language skills, he’s strong enough that his message is conveyed through flexing.
Perhaps a silly concept, but think more deeply on it – let’s take a look at what makes a monk a monk, per D&D 3.5:
- Neutral alignment
Yep, that’s it! The monk gains special abilities like the ability to ignore damage, stun enemies with blows, and pluck arrows out of the air. Sounds like the kinds of feats a carnival strongman would perform, right?
Now take the attitude. In D&D many monks are introspective, calm, and focused on perfection. To me that sounds like it could be a great description of a strongman who desires purity of body and mind, sufficient to become the strongest person in Earth. Or even just as strong as possible, if one goes a more selfless route.
I don’t think there are any classes in D&D that are objectively better or worse than others; every ranking is situational and depends on a healthy dose of caveats. What I do want to do is take those classes and characters that are rarely played and make them interesting, put a new twist on them.
If you end up making and enjoying a carnival strongman monk, please let me know!