A woman’s hands begin to glow as strikes the nautical themed zombies that crept onboard their ship in the night.  “Pop pop,” she shouts as her hands become fast as lightning and begin to pummel the mysterious foe in it’s crustacean face.  After her attack, she flips backwards and crotches low in a defensive stance, her mind and body in sync awaiting an attack to be easily dodge.

Are you a fan of films like Fists of Fury, Enter the Dragon, or my personal favorite Kung Fu Hustle?  Then playing a monk in Dungeons & Dragons fifth edition may just scratch that side kicking, open palm smacking itch you may have!

Monk Features

Unarmored Defense – Naked Defense?

Again.  No.

Monks and barbarians share the unarmored defense feature.  For monks, this feature is when your character is not wearing armor, the armor class will be 10+DEX mod + Wis mod.  With solid stat rolls, your monk could possible have an 18 AC at level one which is bonkers.

Martial Arts – Hi Yah! Everybody is Kung Fu Fighting!

Time to karate chop, backwards heel kick, and open palm strike your enemies into oblivion.  While carrying only your fists or monk weapons as well as not wearing any armor, your monk’s unarmed strikes are much more deadly than your average D&D character’s.

A monk can use their dexterity modifier rather than strength when making unarmed attacks or attacks with their monk weapons.  Unarmed strikes begin with 1d4 damage but at later levels they are 1d10.  These front flipping balls of fury can also attack with their monk weapon has an action and make an unarmed attack as a bonus action.

Unarmored Movement – Speed, I am Speed

Another feature that requires your monk to not wear armor or carry a shield, unarmored movement adds additional speed to your monk’s base speed.  Your monk adds 10 feet of movement at level two and up to 30 additional feet at level 18.  Monks also can run along vertical surfaces like walls and across water without falling into the liquid.

Ki – The Mystical Power to Kick Butt

At level 2, monks can access to the power of their chi, or their mystic energy, or whatever you decide is what fills your monk’s magical meters.

With their newly enhanced abilities, monks can make two additional unarmed strikes for their bonus action if they attack with their standard action.  Flurry of Blows creates a Dragonball Z type blurs of fast paced attacks.  Monks can also take the dodge action as a bonus action giving their opponents disadvantage on their attacks.  Monks can also take the disengage or dash choice for their bonus action to boost their speed in combat.

Monastic Traditions

Way of the Open Hand

The masters of kung fu the monks who follow the way of the open hand tradition are skilled in fast paced fighting with unarmed attacks.  When a monk of the open hand uses the flurry of blows attack, the force behind those attacks can implement one of the following effects on their target:

  • Target is knocked prone
  • Be pushed 15 feet away
  • Cannot take reactions until their next turn

Monks who follow this tradition can also help themselves, cast a spell to protect themselves from harm, as well as being able to punch an enemy and create small vibrations in that enemy’s body that can either bring their hit points to zero or deal 10d10 necrotic damage.

Way of the Shadow

Way of the shadow monks are stealth incarnate.  Disappearing and reappearing in the corners of the dungeon’s room, shadow monks are as deadly as they are sneaky.  These D&D ninjas can cast different spells spending their ki points that can make the battle field darker or make themselves more stealthy.

They can also become invisible.  Yeah.  Invisible ninjas that can sink a short sword in an enemy’s back.  Food for thought dungeon masters..

Way of the Four Elements

Water. Earth. Fire. Air. Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony.

– Introduction in Avatar the Last Airbender

You wanna be the avatar and master all four elements?  Well the monk tradition way of the four elements is your ticket to that fantasy train.

With this tradition, monks will learn new elemental techniques at different levels, each with cool as hell names such as:

  • Clench of the North Wind
  • Gong of the Summit
  • River of Hungry Flame

These attacks are just spells but without any of the spell components.

Racial Choices

So for this series of class articles I have been basing all information from the Player’s Handbook in hopes to be more accessible for new players. For this particular article, I will add an additional race in addition to the standard races found in the PHB.

When creating a monk, dexterity is key.  Dexterity keeps your ninja flipping in the air, disappearing in the shadows and punch the crap out of the baddies.   So, make dexterity your top priority.  Secondary is wisdom which ties into the ki saving throws equation.

Stout Halfling

A chubby, nearly hobbit body type, monk is just a funny concept to me.  Think Beard Hunter from DC Universe Now/HBO Max’s series Doom Patrol (its weird and I recommend it) who is a chubby guy who has crazy fighting skills and it is hilarious. Halflings naturally have a +2 to their dexterity ability scores where stout halflings add a +1 to constitution which adds to health points.  So looking at the stat boosts, stout halflings could make solid monks as well as making it a fun role-play opportunity.

Wood Elf

A +2 to dexterity and a +1 to wisdom, wood elves’ statistics make them optimal monks in all the races in the Player’s Handbook.  Elves cannot be put to sleep magically, have a keen eye when scanning spaces, and don’t need to sleep at night but rather just meditate which could tie into well with the monk class.  Wood elves have a 35 feet base speed which gives them an edge compared to other races as well as the ability to hide in nature with ease.


Any TMNT fans out their?  Well the guy who’s writing this article is!  I am a man of simple needs and wants and when I get the opportunity to create one a hero in a half-shell, I.  Will.  Do.  It.

Tortles can be found in the special supplement that ties into the Wizard’s of the Coast module, Tomb of Annilahation, tortles are essentially turtle people.  They have natural +2 to strength and a +1 to wisdom, not exactly perfect stats for a monk but are doable.  Tortles also have an additional boost to their armor class due to their shell which could tie into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles themed character.

Role-play Tips

  • See Tortle rant above
  • Shadow ninja who loves to use their shadow teleportation power to scare their friends
  • A small boy who is slowly learning how to master the different elements as he learns more about himself – did I steal from Avatar, yeah I did
  • An abandoned monk who’s goal it is to find their master to kill them