With Pathfinder Unchained on the way, I’m looking forward to seeing the new rules options and the improvements to some of the classes that are commonly considered problematic (particularly the rogue, monk and summoner). My only dilemma with regards to the new book is whether to go PDF or hardcover!
In the meantime, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on the ‘normal’ monk. I’ve been running Rise of the Runelords at home for a couple of years now. The player characters are now 15th level and about to start the final chapter. The original party consisted of a sorcerer, a ranger, and a monk. The party currently also includes a ninja.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might also know that this campaign is my first as a game master. No doubt I’ve made some mistakes along the way, but I’ve learnt a great deal about what works and what doesn’t in terms of running a Pathfinder game.
When we started the campaign, we built the player characters with ‘heroic’ ability scores – even the sorcerer had a base strength of 14. This made it quite easy for players to build very strong characters, which I felt was a good thing since there were only three players and they lacked a healer of any sort. As we played through the adventure path, the combination of only 3 PCs with item creation feats led to a high wealth, high magic party.
While this was not really a problem for the players since all three of them were equally powerful, it started to become problematic for me as GM because the encounters in the AP were too easy, despite the fact that they were written for a part of four. Around that time I started reading up about building challenging encounters and discovered that I wasn’t alone, and so I started modifying encounters so they would last more than one or two rounds.
What I found interesting in my reading was seeing all the complaints about the monk, when the main reason I had to modify encounters was because of the monk in the party. He had focused on Strength as his primary stat, meaning he rarely missed enemies, and as such, did a large amount of damage in any round that he was able to flurry. He did less damage per hit than the ranger with his greatsword, but generally their damage per round was comparable.
Then there is the monk’s armour. Even though he doesn’t actually wear armour, his high Wisdom score and decent Dexterity meant that he was all but unhittable, except by bosses and very lucky minions. At higher levels, the Scorpion Style feats allowed him to counterattack every time an attack missed him. Which, as I’ve mentioned, was often. Add in the monk’s insane speed and I had a monk closing the distance to enemies in a round or two and dispatching them in the following round when he could unleash a flurry.
I do think some of the monk’s abilities are kind of weird, like the ability to speak to animals, and I know the monk in my game has very good stats, allowing him to be really good at what he does – that is, pummelling things to death. It’s a running joke at our table that the monk is the master of overkill, as often he’ll only be able to unleash a flurry on an enemy who has already been beaten down by other party members, resulting in impressive negative hit point scores.
My point here is simply that with the right build and some good stats, the normal monk is not that bad. It may not suit everyone as is, but it suits what this player wants to do perfectly. I don’t like to ban options outright – the gunslinger is the only thing specifically banned at my table (love the idea, hate the gun mechanics). Instead I have used this as an opportunity to create all sorts of crazy and potentially deadly encounters.
If you have had positive experiences with often complained about classes like the monk, feel free to share in the comments!
Featured image: Pathfinder monk by TimKings-Lynne on DeviantArt