Monks Suck

Continuing the idea of sucky character classes from C.D.'s last post, I humbly present the Monk.

Monks in D&D suck. They sucked bad in 1st Edition, they sucked bad in 3rd Edition, and even now they suck more than a little. The only edition they didn't suck in was 2nd Edition.

But that's because they weren't there.

I suppose my beef against the Monk class is not so much in its intended function but in the players who choose to try and play it. Never has a class been more rooted in a heightened form of reality than the Monk. Except maybe the Thief/Rogue, but I can't say anything bad about them or they'll steal my coinpurse.

Now see, I've always had this understanding that a monk was a fairly religious fellow who didn't care much for the company of those that didn't share his belief. Or, so I've gleamed from various PBS documentaries. I'm sure things are a little different in real life. But I've yet to encounter a player who understood how to A: Roleplay a monk character, or B: What it is the Monk class actually does.

And I guess can't really blame them. Hell, I just learned that the original Monk class (from the Blackmoor supplement, or so Wikipedia tells me) was based around the protagonist from the men's adventure series The Destroyer. Now, I frigging love those books, but I can't imagine a less monk-ish personality than either Remo or Chuin. In fact a Destroyer RPG would probably kick all kinds of ass, but that's a story for another day.

But those charmingly ultra-violent characters are a good example of how the Monk sucks. The Monk, at its very core, is a martial arts based religious figure who probably doesn't talk much and likely shaves his head and will never have sex, ever. But all anyone hears about that sentence is "martial arts", and immediately this image is conjured in most people's imagination.

And let's not forget that Bruce was able to beat down Chuck Norris. Who doesn't want to kick ass like him?

The problem, of course, is that the Monk class is not an unstoppable fighter. Oddly enough, that's why there is a Fighter class. The Monk, in 1st Edition, is a unique experience, a decent fighter, and still cooler than the Bard, but flawed. The flaw is that almost everyone assumes the Monk should be a solid solo fighter at level 1. This is true; the Monk kicks ass in solo combat.

When was the last time you had one-on-one battles in D&D anyway?

Almost never is an accurate answer. And in crowded situations, the Monk's abilities do not shine. And then the PCs die. All because someone wanted to play Bruce Lee at level 1.

3rd Edition corrected many of the flaws and made the Monk a much more viable player option. 4th Edition did its best to balance the class, or so I've heard (still don't have the doggone 3rd Player's Manual yet...). But in the end, I still feel the Monk has little place at the gaming table.

I've seen a Monk played well...once. But mostly, I'd rather they were shunted off to the side, or were a prestige class. Something earned, perhaps, instead of allowing a 1st level fool to march into a death squad with reckless abandon. Let the PC go off for a few years (or decades) for study, or not. After all, if you can multiclass to magic-user at the drop of a hat, why not bypass all the years of solitude that reality imposes in favor of something more enjoyable?

Of course, maybe I have this all wrong. Sound off in the comments. Do you think Monks suck? Have you seen similar methods of play at your table? Or have I just been spewing nonsense? And would you be willing to pay 29.95$ for a Destroyer RPG? I know I would...

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