Wednesday, January 18, 2012

B/X - A Monk that Doesn't Suck

I'll cut to the chase.  The AD&D monk sucks.  And there is no monk in the other early edition D&D games.  So I'm trying to bridge that gap by creating a monk for B/X that doesn't suck too bad.

My goals:
  • Make the monk more survivable at lower levels
  • Get rid of all the bullshit (like vow of poverty, or not getting to keep your magic items, or talking to animals, or needing to challenge the Grand Master Monk to a personal dual in order to level)
  • But still make it unique and cool
Please provide advice on things that need improvement or things you particularly like.  Here it is:

MONK
Monks are fanatically disciplined, spiritual warriors who are trained from childhood to achieve complete mastery over mind and body.  They are zealous adherents to their gods, whether it be for deities of light or darkness.  Despite common beliefs to the contrary, monks do not take vows of poverty or eschew material goods.  In fact, a monk can often do more to advance their religious cause by accumulating wealth, power and influence.  As monks gain in level, they typically will seek followers of both the human and animal kingdoms.  It is also typical for monks to build monasteries both far and wide.  However, this is purely up to the player and is in no way proscribed.
The prime requisites for a monk are Dexterity and Constitution.  If a monk has a score of 13 or greater in both Dexterity and Constitution, the character will gain a 5% bonus on earned experience points.  If both scores are 13 or higher and either one of them is 16 or higher, the character will gain a 10% bonus on earned experience points.  A character must have Strength, Wisdom, Dexterity and Constitution of 9 or greater to be a monk.  Monks, of course, can only be human.
Monks use d6 to determine their hit points.  They may advance to a maximum of 12th level.  Monks are best known for using their bodies as weapons and they have potent non-weapon attacks.  However, they can also use a very limited selection of weapons: spear, staff, club, sling, or cat o’ nine tails (small, thorned multi-pronged whip).  Monks attack using the Cleric/Thief chart.  Monks can wear only padded armor or leather armor and cannot use shields.  Besides weapons and armor, monks have no specific restrictions on magic item usage beyond that of any other class.
Monks have the following special abilities unique to their class:
·    Monks receive a level-based AC bonus in addition to any regular DEX bonus; see table.  (e.g., a 3rd level monk with DEX 13 receives an AC bonus of -3, comprised of -2 for his special modifier and -1 for his DEX bonus).
·    Monks receive non-weapon attacks starting at 1st level; see table.  Note: Monks do NOT receive strength bonuses on non-weapon attacks!  (but they do on weapon attacks).
·    Monks take 1/2 damage from falling; monks climb walls as a thief; monks receive other special abilities as outlined in the table below.
·    Monks improve their saving throws every two levels, a more rapid progression than other classes.

Level
XP
Hit Dice
AC Bonus
Non-Weapon
Attack(s)
Special Abilities
1
-
1d6
-1
1-4
Alertness 1
2
2,500
2d6

1-6
Discipline 1
3
5,000
3d6
-2
1-6
Nimble 1
4
10,000
4d6

1-8
Self-Healing 1; monk can strike creatures requiring +1 weapons to hit
5
20,000
5d6
-3
1-4, 1-6
Pain Tolerance 1
6
40,000
6d6

1-6, 1-6
Lethal Strike 1
7
80,000
7d6
-4
1-6, 1-8
Alertness 2; monk can strike creatures requiring +2 weapons to hit
8
150,000
8d6

1-8, 1-8
Discipline 2
9
300,000
9d6
-5
1-6, 1-6, 1-8
Nimble 2
10
450,000
9d6+1

1-6, 1-8, 1-8
Self-Healing 2; monk can strike creatures requiring +3 weapons to hit
11
600,000
9d6+2
-6
1-8, 1-8, 1-8
Pain Tolerance 2
12
750,000
9d6+3

1-8, 1-8, 1-10
Lethal Strike 2


Explanation of Special Abilities:
·         Alertness 1: grants monk +1 bonus on surprise and individual initiative
·         Alertness 2: grants monk +2 bonus on surprise and individual initiative
·         Discipline 1: grants +2 save vs. all forms of fear and mind-affecting magic
·         Discipline 2: grants +4 save vs. all forms of fear and mind-affecting magic
·         Nimble 1: all ranged attacks against Monk (including magic & breath weapons) are at -1 to hit and the Monk saves at +1 against such attacks
·         Nimble 2: same as Nimble 1, but with +2 modifiers
·         Self-Healing 1: once per day, the monk can heal 1d6+1 hit points of damage to his own body
·         Self-Healing 2: same as Self-Healing 1, but the monk can do this twice per day
·         Pain Tolerance 1: monks take -1 hit point of damage per hit die on all melee attacks
·         Pain Tolerance 2: monks take -1 hit point of damage per hit die on all forms of damage
·         Lethal Strike 1: for all attacks, weapon or non-weapon, monks score double damage on a natural 19 or 20
·         Lethal Strike 2: same as Lethal Strike 1, but triple damage

SAVING THROW CHART FOR MONKS:

Level
Death Ray or Poison
Magic Wands
Paralysis or Turn to Stone
Dragon Breath
Rods, Staves, or Spells
1-2
12
13
12
11
13
3-4
10
11
10
9
11
5-6
9
10
9
8
10
7-8
7
8
7
6
8
9-10
6
7
6
5
7
11-12
4
5
4
3
5

EDIT: Is this class balanced?  Let's analyze it:
  • Offensively, they're about equal to fighters over the long haul
  • Defensively, they can get pretty good A/C at mid to high levels.  Coupled with their Pain Tolerance, they are probably almost as good as fighers defensively.
  • Great saves overall
  • They can use a decent variety of magic
  • They get some cool skills
  • They level like MU's
I think they are fairly balanced, but let me know if I'm missing something.

8 comments:

  1. You might want to take a look at the replacement monk in Best of Dragon Volume III (also in Dragon #53). I used that in my high school AD&D game, my last AD&D game actually. It was neither underpowered not overpowered, IME.

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  2. Cool - I'll take a look if I can dig up Dragon #53! Thanks for the tip.

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  3. I'd be willing to give this a shot, if playing in a B/X game. I am curious as to your decision to exclude strength bonus from non-weapon damage?

    Also, what about things that need to be hit with silver or magic? Would there be gloves/rings/etc. that could be found/made or would they need to pick up a weapon?

    Speaking of weapons, what about clubs and spears?

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  4. A monk cannot be neutral, but may be Chaotic or Lawful depending on the deity he serves

    I usually associate monks with Buddhist-style beliefs. Zen no-self and all that. So a restriction against neutral seems slightly odd to me. What is your thought here? Is there a particular example in history or literature that is your inspiration?

    I like the good saves. I consider one of the primary characteristics of monks to be skill at avoidance.

    Have you read the original Blackmoor monk? They have a cool "save to knock arrows out of the air" ability which I think is really unique. I made a version of the monk a while back which was sort of built around that. I think NOD #1 also has a nice monk class which uses that same save mechanic.

    Have you thought about jumping and falling abilities?

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  5. Oh, and I really dig this post about designing classes by Talysman HERE.

    Here's the key quote:

    One thing I feel is important is to ask "what is character class really about?" I've said before, I don't think it should be about professions: I would cover that with backgrounds. I prefer to think of character classes as answers to the question "how do you solve problems?"

    So, how does your monk solve problems, and how is that different than how other classes solve problems?

    Just an idea to help organize thoughts.

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  6. David - I thought a STR bonus would make monks too tough in combat relative to fighters. Once they hit 4th level and get multiple attacks, they are already starting to equal fighters in offensive skills. If you add a STR bonus, they might be too lethal. Basically, the damage I listed was designed to cover the fact that they're total bad-asses (thus, they can do more damage with their fists at mid-levels than a fighter can with a sword).

    Great point about creatures that require magic to hit! I guess I would say this: at 4th level, they can hit creatures that need a +1 weapon to hit. At 7th level, they can hit creatures that require +2. At 10th level, +3.

    I agree about clubs & spears.

    I will edit the description.

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  7. Brendan - I'm not sure the alignment restriction was well thought out. I was thinking they were so fanatical to their deities that they would either be evil (chaotic) or good (lawful). Neutrality seemed too non-commital. But YMMV!

    Wow! I never knew Blackmoor had a monk. I should have looked more closely. It's a cool looking writeup indeed.

    Great idea about falling and jumping. I added language that monks take 1/2 damage from falling. I also allow them to climb like thieves now. I didn't add any "arrow catching" ability since I already gave them Nimble 1 and Nimble 2.

    I haven't read Talysman's post yet, but I like how you describe it. To me, the monk solves problems through tireless discipline, self-sacrifice, and a hardened, lethal body. I almost called this class the Flagellant but decided that sounded too extreme. But they solve problems through strength and toughness of mind and body.

    As for how that may change my class concept, I'll have to think it over.

    Thanks as always for the comments!

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  8. Brendan - I have had a change of heart on alignment! I perused B/X and realized that NO alignment restrictions are placed on any race or class. So as a player, you can pick whatever alignment you wish regardless of character type. Therefore, I have eliminated all discussion of alignment from the monk class. Thanks!

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