A Revision of the Monk Class

Initial Abilities and Restrictions:

If such requirements are being used, in order to qualify for the class monks must have a score of 15 in each of strength, wisdom and dexterity, and a score of 11 in constitution.

Monks save as thieves and use the attack matrix for clerics [see the DMG to-hit table, the PH reference was always in error.]

The monk has the ability to dodge or knock aside thrown or projectile missiles which would otherwise normally hit by making a successful save against petrification. If the missile has a magical bonus the save roll is penalized by 1 for each magical plus the missile itself has. If the monk succeeds in making a saving throw against other damaging effects which allow a save for half-damage he instead takes no damage.

Even if physically prone monks may continue to fight without penalty to their own AC or attacks; opponents are not allowed the otherwise standard +4 bonus to-hit vs. prone against the monk provided he is not otherwise inhibited in movement. Monks may freely stand up from prone at the start of their turn without penalty or other limitations. Usually a monk must be stunned or under some such effect for prone penalties to apply.

Monks may not wear armor but do have an inherent AC that increases with level. The monk's AC is adjusted by his dex modifier as any other class. The monk adds an additional AC bonus according to his wisdom on the table below.

When using weapons the monk adjusts his to-hit and damage rolls normally with strength and dexterity modifiers. When using his open hand attacks his bonuses are determined by other means. For open hand attacks he uses the listed damage (Table #3 below) and adjusts his/her to-hit roll according to his wisdom from this table:

Table # 1

3 -3 -4
4 -2 -3
5 -2 -2
6 -1 -1
7 -1 -
8-13 - -
14 - +1
15 +1 +1
16 +2 +2
17 +3 +2
18 +4 +3

Penalties are shown in this table in order to account for scores that might be reduced by some effect. Monks with wisdom ability scores that would bring penalties here should not qualify for the class.

When making open-hand attacks the monk has an ability to stun or on occasion throw an opponent. If the monk's unmodified “to-hit” score exceeds what would be required to hit by 5 points or more, then Man/Medium-sized opponents will be stunned for 1-4 rounds. If his opponent is stunned and the monk is 4th level or higher then there is a small chance to additionally throw or otherwise push the opponent 5'-10' in the direction of the monk's choice which is equal to the opponents AC plus the number of experience levels the monk has. A level 4 monk fighting a AC 5 opponent would have a 9% chance to throw the opponent if stunned by the monks attack. The stunned opponent will then be prone and has a 50% chance to drop anything he is holding. Undead, golems and dopplegangers cannot actually be stunned but can still be thrown with the same chances of success.  At 7th level - if the DM allows it - a monk can attempt to kill the opponent outright instead of throwing them.

Monks must be Lawful in alignment but may be Evil, Neutral, or Good.

Monks have the ability to Move Silently, Hide in Shadows, Hear Noise, and Climb Walls as a thief of equal level [they cannot Open Locks, nor Find/Remove Traps as a thief].

Monks may save up to 250,000 gp for the eventual construction and ongoing operation of a monastery. They may keep 2 magic weapons, up to 3 other miscellaneous magic items, and a modest number of potions (perhaps 5 at most, but certainly only an amount befitting the nature of the campaign). They may retain money as needed to pay their henchmen and hirelings. Their modest habits and personal expenses should not require them to need more than 20gp per level per month of additional money, and all excess money and magic should be donated to NPC religious or lawful institutions (typically the monastery of their original training).[1]

Monks may use magical sorts of weapons which are on their class list of allowed weapons (obviously...); they may use rings, any rods useable by fighters or thieves (since they are equivalent to a jo stick), staves which might be useable by thieves (since quarter staff is also an allowed weapon), and any other items which might be useable thieves. Some additional items useable by clerics might also be useable by monks at the DM's discretion.

[A brief note about weapons: The weight and damage stats for bo and jo were quite obviously switched in error in the PH. So for "stick fighting" we get quarter staff as the longest and heaviest doing 1-6/1-6, bo staff as a bit shorter and lighter doing 1-6/1-4, and the jo stick as about yardstick length and lighter still doing 1-6/1-3. Unless specified a magical Rod should be useable as a jo stick, a magical Staff would be considered a quarter staff. Use of a rod or staff as a melee weapon would of course still require proficiency in jo stick or quarter staff.]

Monks gain an improved ability to avoid being surprised. This is shown in Table #3 for the class.

Until the monk reaches 6th level (Master) he may not have henchmen or hirelings. At 6th level hirelings can be secured for a short duration (a single adventure) only, and they may permanently secure up to two henchmen, plus one additional henchmen per level after that, with a maximum limit of henchmen still set by their charisma.

When a monk reaches 8th level (Master of Winds) he may construct (or otherwise obtain[2]) a monastery and will then attract 2-5 first level monk followers, and an additional 1-2 monks of 1st level for each additional level he attains thereafter. Followers will depart if they reach 7th level (Master Superior) but may otherwise be worked up in level. Monk followers require no support, upkeep, or pay of any sort.

Table # 2

Lvl XP Title Special

Hit Dice

1 0 Novice -


2 2,250 Initiate AA


3 4,500 Brother A


4 9,000 Disciple B


5 18,000 Immaculate C


6 36,000 Master D


7 72,000 Master Superior E


8 140,000 Master of Winds F


9 275,000 Master of Elements G


10 550,000 Master of Truths H


11 825,000 Master of Seasons I


12 1,100,000 Master of Spirit J


13 1,375,000 Master of Ki K


14 1,650,000 High Master  


15 1,925,000 Illustrious Master  


16 2,200,000 Premier Master  


17 2,475,000 Grand Master of Dragons  


Table # 3

Lvl AC Move # Atks Damage


1 10 12" 1 1d4


2 9 12" 1 1d6


3 8 15" 1 1d6


4 7 15" 1 1d8


5 7 18" 5/4 1d8

1 in 6

6 6 18" 5/4 1d10

1 in 6

7 5 18" 3/2 1d10

1 in 6

8 4 21" 3/2 2d6

1 in 6

9 3 21" 2 2d6

1 in 8

10 3 24" 2 2d6

1 in 8

11 2 24" 5/2 2d6

1 in 8

12 1 27" 5/2 2d6

1 in 8

13 0 27" 5/2 2d6

1 in 10

14 -1 27" 3 2d6

1 in 10

15 -1 30" 3 2d6

1 in 10

16 -2 30" 4 2d6

1 in 10

17 -3 33" 4 2d6

1 in 10

AA Breathing

Once per hour the monk can hold his breath for 3 minutes + 1 minute per level if he remains still. If the monk moves normally the time is halved. If he fights or runs, the time is ¼ that duration.

A Faster, Higher, Stronger

The monk can now move 25% faster than normal (15”), and this speed will increase with level as shown on Table #3 above. He can also run without accumulating fatigue for up to 1 hour per level (but must then rest for an equal period before he can do so again), and can jump twice as high and far as normal. [Yes, I know AD&D doesn't have a dedicated system for running leaps and high jumps, but when the situation arises the DM should be willing and able to apply this class ability nonetheless.)

B Mental Defense

25%, and increasing +5% per level hereafter. This is a spell/effect resistance roll and if it succeeds it protects against ESP, beguiling, charm, hypnosis, suggestion, and telepathic attacks (including psionics and possibly additional forms of mental attack).

A monk who falls from a height can negate the first 20’ of his fall if he is in a square adjacent to a wall (4' or closer) or vertical surface.

The monk is resistant to fear such that normal fear effects are saved against with a +4 bonus and even fear effects which would normally have no save can be saved against with normal chances of success.

The monk also gains the ability to throw an M-sized opponent if the opponent is stunned (q.v.).

C Lesser Immunity

The monk is immune to all "natural" diseases and disease effects. Diseases which are supernatural or magical in origin such as mummy rot or lycanthropy are not prevented - the monk is still affected by them although individual DM's may see fit to give them greater resistance or lessened effects.

Haste and Slow spells have no effect upon the monk and other similar effects adjusting movement speed or rate of actions (positive or negative) may also cease to affect him.

The monk gains the ability to Feign Death for 20 min/lvl as per the 3rd level magic-user spell.

The monks chance to be surprised begins to be reduced at this level, again noted in Table #3.

D Recovery

The monk has the ability to recover d4+1 hp of damage, once/day, with the total increasing by +1 point per level thereafter (d4+2 at 7th, d4+3 at 8th, etc…). This ability requires 1 round of uninterrupted concentration per point to be recovered.

The ability to avoid damage from falling improves to negating the first 30’ of a fall if he is 1 square (5') away from a wall.

E Breaking

Once per day, with preparation and effort of 1 round per 2 levels (round down) the monk can attempt to break objects in a concentrated effort. This includes normal ropes he may be tied with, and eventually can be wood planks up to 1' thick, and unreinforced brick or soft stone blocks up to 6" thick. As he gains levels the thickness and type of material he can affect increases:

Table # 4


Materials Affected


Normal rope, thin leather strap, 1" wood board


Silk rope, heavy rope, thick leather, 2" board or 1" stone block


4" board, 2" block, light iron chain


6" board, 3" block, heavy iron chain


8" board, 4" block, light steel chain


10" board, 5" stone block, heavy steel chain


1' board, 6" stone block, 1" iron bar

Circumstances may reduce those limits, require continued effort over time, etc.

At this level the monks open hand attack is equivalent to +1 magic for purposes of determining what the monk can damage with it, though it does not actually gain any additional plusses. I.e., with his open hand the monk can now hit creatures that would otherwise require a +1 magical weapon to hit them. This improves by another +1 for each 3 additional levels the monk acquires: +2 at 10th, +3 at 13th, +4 at 16th.

Per the DM's discretion, instead of throwing an opponent, the monk may now opt instead to simply try to kill the opponent outright when stunned. The chance to succeed at this remains the same. The choice of whether to kill will have alignment implications – so good aligned monks shouldn't choose to kill just anybody.

F Mind over body

The monk can go two days without food, water, even normal rest or sleep (not including running ability A, continue to use that instead) before beginning to suffer ill effects. For each level thereafter this time period can be extended by another day (3 days at 9th, 4 days at 10th, etc.) However, once begun for any length of time, before he can resume it or repeat it the monk must spend a continuous period of rest with double the normal amount of sleep and consuming twice the normal amount of food and water.

The monk also becomes resistant to actual paralysis effects such that he gains a +4 bonus to his saves. Against any paralysis which normally would not permit a save the monk may save normally.  [Note: just because you use the save category for paralysis doesn't make something an actual paralysis effect.]

G Dodging

The monks saving throw ability improves such that even if he fails his save against damage effects which normally allow a save, he takes only half damage. He still takes no damage from such attacks if he succeeds (that being their default ability). Non-damage effects are not altered, only damage-inflicting ones.

H Sensing

Detect Invisibility as the 2nd level magic-user spell once per day. Detect Lie as the 4th level cleric spell once per day (self only, meaning that the described effect cannot be extended to others).

I Greater Immunity

The monk is immune to natural poisons including those from monsters. Poisons which have a supernatural or magical origin (including cursed magical potions, spells with poison effects) are not affected. Poisons from truly extraordinary sources like Demon Princes may also be exempted.

J Self-Awareness

The monk is hereby unaffected by Geas, Quest and other, similar spells. The monk otherwise becomes very secure in his sense of self. He is immune to any deletion or alteration of memories (though they might still be “copied” or otherwise used) or the reduction, loss, or inhibition of the monks sense of identity and personality (Polymorph Other, Cloning, insanity, etc.). Even possession and domination attacks automatically fail. The monk can voluntarily forgo this immunity if he takes a round to mentally prepare himself, but then is affected normally.

K Quivering Palm

The monks most renowned power can be attempted once per week and can cause death to occur within a certain time limit. The monk must touch the intended victim, succeeding in a single open-hand attack (no other attacks possible in the round), within 3 rounds of beginning the attempt or the power is lost for the next seven days. It has no effect upon undead, or creatures that require magical weapons to hit them regardless of the monks other abilities. The victim also cannot have more hit dice than the monk and their normal total of hit points cannot be more than 150% of the monks normal hit points. If the hit is successful the monk can, by will alone, cause the victim to die at any time from instantaneously to up to one day per level of experience the monk has. Special limitations may be taught by certain monasteries – such as the Five-Point-Palm Exploding Heart technique, which always causes the victim to die after 5 steps with a successful attack. This is never a silent, undetectable assassination – it's an overt and violent attack.

The monk can also now fall any distance as long as he is no more than 2 squares (10') away from a wall.

Advancement into Higher Ranks:

When a monk reaches 7th level (Master Superior) in order to advance to the next higher level he must defeat a monk of any higher level. Typically this is a combat test. The monk chooses a higher ranked monk and issues a challenge. It is generally considered shameful and extraordinarily insulting to decline such a challenge, especially since the challenger generally selects a monk who he knows personally and who has probably guided the monk in the past.

The actual protocol and degree of difficulty of this contest varies from one monastery to another. It can be violent, even lethal, or it can be a casual demonstration match. It can be sudden and unexpected, or it can be a long-anticipated and planned ritual. It can be formal and serious, or a comedic hazing. It can be an empty ceremony, or a strictly observed method of keeping the upper ranks of a given monastery exclusive. It can be open to public viewing or a profoundly secret event. Each monastery is likely to be a little different and a lot depends on the alignment(s) which the monks of a given monastery adhere to.

If the monk is leading his own monastery then he no longer needs to fight to advance, howver he must establish and freely participate in this process for any monks who were once under his authority who qualify for this test.  [That is, when the monk runs his own monastery the trainees will leave the monastery upon reaching 7th level, but thereafter they still need to advance by this process and the monk is obligated in that way.] There is no direct cost to the character or specific time requirement for the advancement test, but obviously it likely will involve travel to a monastery which would entail incidental time and costs.  If the DM desires, he can require the standard time and money be spent that other characters must spend for level training, and if so the monk PC must be allowed to retain money sufficient for this before donating excess funds.

Passing the test, generally by winning the combat, means the monk advances in level. It does not mean the defeated monk loses a level nor is he removed from the hierarchy. Failure of this test always has the same results: the monk remains at his present level for at least another game year before he is allowed to challenge again. HOWEVER, what qualifies as failure will vary by monastery as indicated. Just because a PC is the first to go down in a fight doesn't mean he's lost the TEST. The test is typically judged by the one whom the monk challenges and he may feel that the PC has demonstrated sufficient skills or appropriate attitudes to have passed. Again, the monastery in question may have different qualifications to meet.

Novices continue to spread rumors that there are ways to actually circumvent the test entirely, but it would be up to individual characters to determine if that is even correct, much less how it might be done.[3] After reaching 14th level (High Master) the monk no longer advances by combat in any case, nor is he even required to participate directly in the process for his own monastery (largely because underlings would by then have long been tasked to handle it, but it's also a matter of respect of your now highly advanced position). However, there is still likely time and expense involved for the character to advance (lots of meditation and whatnot).

For purposes of running a campaign a DM should have advancement details already set down for any monastery the player character can or must be a member of before play begins so the player has a proper appreciation of the potential limitations of his character. Of course, the DM may also choose to just not bother with advancement by contest, in which case it should simply be handled as it is for other classes. The "challenge" would then be assumed by the normal process of advancement.

The idea of fighting to advance is intended to add interest and events to a campaign. It is NOT intended as a means to put the screws to hapless PC's by forcing them to face overpowered NPC's whom they cannot hope to defeat.

Again, this method of advancement need not be used, and in that case monk PC's should follow advancement rules that other classes follow. If this method IS used then these rules replace normal advancement rules for monks when advancing to 8th level or higher, but they should follow normal advancement until that time.


[1] There is some room to fudge the amount of money a monk can retain. It's being left this way for a reason – not all campaigns are alike. Monks as a class should never be especially interested in material wealth but practical considerations must be made. For example, if a monk keeps no money in reserve to pay hirelings and followers and then goes off on some adventure for several months the rules would otherwise have those NPC's angry and disloyal for having not been paid. The monk is thus stated to be permitted to retain funds as necessary to continue to faithfully meet such obligations. Similarly the vague reference to the number of potions he can possess. Campaigns will differ and where in one game adventurers might not need more than one or two potions, in another they might need a large sack full of just healing potions much less other types. PC's should work in good faith with the DM in order NOT to retain more than minimal resources – as the class is attempting to portray the stereotype, and as befits the campaign.

[2] This can be property donated by the monastery that originally trained the monk, in order for the PC to expand the reach of the monastic order.  It should not, however, be a freebie where the PC is given the monastery and then is never given any obligations toward the original monastery.

[3] Let's just say that DM's can use this as a means of framing an excuse for why PC monks do not have to actually advance by contest. They can simply allow the character to learn the “secret handshake” or force concessions by whomever he challenges.

Design Notes:

Changes were made to xp progression for the class. It starts out the same as it originally did because I feel that all the abilities a monk gains are quite useful, and with the redsigned improvements to hit dice and combat bonuses they add up to being a bit more attractive than a mundane 1st level fighter. However, their upper level xp requirements are not so severe and loss of xp for failure to advance by combat has been eliminated, so they end up with an identical xp progression as rangers (in my campaigns anyway).

Monks as a class are meant to be in combat, and front line combat at that, since they have no combat support ability as a spellcaster might have, nor a thief's backstab sort of attack which would prompt certain tactical maneuvering around the battlefield while actually getting few attacks and avoiding standing toe-to-toe with anybody or anything particularly strong. Combat is not all they do and many monasteries at least philosophically encourage the avoidance of combat where possible.  However, they need to be effective in combat from the start should events come to that.  Yet they should still not overshadow fighters who should always be the real combat specialists. Monks get a lot of initial special abilities but also face many restrictions and limitations - fewer weapons useable (weapons which don't do a lot of damage anyway), lower AC than typical fighters (albeit some adjustment), fewer hit points, later advancement restrictions, alignment restriction, etc.

That requirement of survival and usefulness in combat dictates notably larger hit dice than the class originally had. They need more hit points at low levels, to gain at least as many hit dice/hit points as clerics, but still end up with fewer average hit points than fighters. Decent chance to-hit was given for their open hand attack, damage for it however was significantly reduced at upper levels. These changes were deliberately meant to balance the number of open hand attacks, the damage for those attacks, and the monks anticipated chances to-hit so as to again not overshadow the fighter.

A few special abilities were dropped and a few others added to better unify the "theme" or stereotype suggested by, and befitting the original class.  That also reduced intrusion into the abilities reserved for other classes. E.g., no speaking with plants and animals as druids (and in fact earlier than druids could!), nor opening locks and find/remove traps as thieves, but some examples of superior physical feats (run, jump, endurance, awareness) are given.

For my own campaign I converted all surprise rolls (PC's, monsters, everything) to a d12.  Here, to fit better with a more typical 1E campaign their surprise advantage is upgraded to d8 and d10 as is seen with some monsters.  This should reduce compatibility issues with surprise benefits.  It would still be an issue if you don't get how to coordinate different dice types, but this works better than trying to figure out how to convert percentages too.

Advancement by combat is given additional rules, and is left up to the DM as to whether to make it lethal.  In short it is made a matter of campaign setting design, rather than class design - as it should have been in the first place.

They are no longer denied strength and dexterity modifiers when using weapons - only their open-hand attacks function differently. The damage for that is dicated by their abilities table and its to-hit modifiers are a function of wisdom.

Armor Class is (hopefully) now balanced to allow them good combat survivability at low level, but not "invincibility" at higher levels. Though their base AC starts at 10, it is now modified by dex and then gets an additional bonus (!) from wisdom. At mid- to higher levels it should be adequate defense - but still inferior to that which a fighter in magical plate, shield, rings, cloak, etc. should be able to manage.

Of course the level titles were redone. No Lawful Evil 17th level monk wants to be titled the "Grand Master of Flowers". Even the neutral and good monks were often mocked by players because of that. The changes should provide a more interesting variety and are somewhat suggestive of the abilities the monk is actually gaining at a given level.

I saw no reason not to just end advancement at 17th level as originally was done. However, I have added the same kind of HP bonus that all other classes get when their HD cease to increase. After 8th level monks continue to gain 3 HP per level compared to a cleric's 2 HP. So monks may edge slightly above a cleric in HP but remain below the average fighter.

Monks retain the same ability to stun opponents with their open hand attacks but it seemed a bit odd and inconsistent (with a LG alignment especially) to allow an outright kill even as an unlikely chance, not to mention that it subverts the reason to grant them a kill ability later with the Quivering Palm. Throwing the opponent seemed a better fit and in the right circumstances may actually be more likely to be lethal (throwing an opponent into a spiked pit, at a monster, or off a cliff.) The ability to kill outright is still acquired later at 7th level but as noted it is left to the DM's discretion as to when it can be used or even if it will be allowed at all. Changes to stun/kill need a bit of testing but there would be no disruption in simply going back to the original ability as written if needed/desired. These are mostly cosmetic changes and not being implemented for “balance” reasons.

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