Monks combine a balanced saving throw profile, quick and accurate unarmed strikes, a plethora of surprising special abilities, and extra martial arts feats into a tough, deadly, and rich character class that can play a number of roles in a Dungeons and Dragons Online: Unlimited party.
Because of its complexity, the monk is not a melee character class for beginners. A good monk requires a delicate balance of ability scores and actively participating in melee combat. If you like to hold the mouse button and watch the damage fly, choose the fighter or barbarian class. To play an effective monk, a player will need to utilize their hotbar for monk ki attacks and finishing moves, especially after level 9. At mid to high levels, the active player will be pressing hotbar buttons in precise succession nearly continuously in order to make the most of their character.
What race is best?
Dwarves are an interesting option, combining increased hardiness with an enhancement line to improve their tactics DCs. Dwarves are superb stunners with Stunning Fist and Stunning Blow due to Dwarven Tactics. Their racial bonus to Constitution along with the related enhancement line combine with the four tier Toughness enhancement line to provide Dwarven monks with a great deal of health points.
Halfings are a very popular choice for a Monk. Their Dexterity, AC, and save bonus combine with Weapon finesse and Stunning Fist for dramatic results. Halfing monks tend to split their ability points between Dexterity and Wisdom with Strength and Constitution as close seconds. The halfling suffers from a reduced Strength and therefore less base damage. Halfling monks tend to hit fast, stun often, and achieve impressive AC.
Half-Elves make an interesting choice due to their Dilettante. The Cleric and Favored Soul one allowing for the use of divine healing magic in form of wands and scrolls, which is especially useful to dark monks. The Paladin Dilettante for better saves, Rogue Dilettante for sneak attack and a boost to Evasion due to better saves versus traps. Even the Dragonmark of Storm may be an interesting add on for extra damage output and crowd controlling.
Half-Orcs may be some of the nastiest monks that an enemy will ever encounter. Their bonus to Strength, tactics enhancement line, power attack enhancement line, and strength enhancement line create one of the hardest hitters in the game. The base damage that Half-Orc monks achieve with their bonuses to Strength and Power attack can be impressive. There are really no drawbacks to the Half-Orc monk—aside from, perhaps, their appearance.
Humans make for good Monks because of an extra feat granted at the start. They also have Human Improved Recovery, allowing human monks additional healing from strikes against monsters with a bestowed Healing curse. Human and Monk Improved Recovery enhancements appear to stack with each other and other Healing Amplification abilities if the amp rules are followed.
Warforged are also formidable combatants, although their racial immunities overlap many of the Monk special abilities. Warforged gain similar bonuses to the Half-Orc Monk, except they gain Constitution where Half-Orcs gain Strength. Warforged monks are hardier than most gaining a wide swath of immunities and increased Constitution for a large number of health points. They also gain additional toughness enhancements, Constitution enhancements, power attack enhancements, and melee tactics DC enhancements.
When in doubt as you start a new Monk, choosing a Human is a safe option. (There is always Reincarnation, later.)
Finishing moves: A summary
A "finishing move" is a slight misnomer. It generally means the last of a series of three specific Monk special moves that, when activated in the proper sequence, will generate a spell-like ability. For instance, a Path of Harmonious Balance ("light") Monk could activate the Fists of Light special move three times in a row and then activate the Finishing Move feat to release the Healing Ki finishing move, a mass-heal spell-like effect. A Path of Inevitable Dominion ("dark") Monk may chain Fists of Darkness three times to curse a struck enemy, reducing their fortification and making them more vulnerable to negative energy.
The trick to using finishing moves is to remember that many have a small cool-down of 3 seconds. After you click one finisher, you may be able to click the second attack in that chain while the final finisher has cooled down to use again. If you click through too fast, the finisher will either not activate or may fail.
Using your toolbars (particularly toolbar 1, which is automatically mapped to keys 1 through 0 of a keyboard) can make it easy to chain and release finishing moves. Many players stack their favorite monk special moves in toolbar 1, then click through them with the 1-0 keyboard buttons while attacking.
For more detail on the attacks and effects, see Finishing moves.
Fighting Unarmed vs. Fighting with Centered Weapons
Generally, the best weapon option for Monks are handwraps due to their increased attack speed, relative to all other centered weapon options. That's not to say that you should always fight unarmed, but a Monk's attack speed, as they level, becomes generally 12% higher when unarmed than with other weapons. Good Monk players will still change weapons occasionally to fit certain circumstances. Until level 16, your fists will not likely affect Adamantine-made enemies such as Iron Golems without help. For that, you may need a quarterstaff or kamas with Adamantine to bypass the damage reduction of the golem. Vorpal kamas are another exception. There is no such thing as vorpal handwraps, but Smiting handwraps do exist, and are very effective against constructs, as are handwraps with Construct bane effects.
A key to fighting unarmed is to take the feats Two Weapon Fighting, Improved Two Weapon Fighting, and Greater Two Weapon Fighting. Taking all of these feats will increase the number of attacks a Monk makes with his off-hand fist from a 20% to an 80% chance for each of his primary fist attacks. Unlike weapons, a monk's fists do not suffer a to-hit penalty, so each strike is equally as effective as any other. You can nearly double your damage-per-second with these feats.
Weapon Finesse also affects both kamas and unarmed fighting. It's common for Monks specializing in WIS and DEX to use this feat. If your Dexterity is significantly higher than your Strength, consider taking this feat to improve your to-hit value. But don't ignore your STR ability—it determines how hard your attacks land. Go with STR as your high number and you'll have powerful hits, but don't neglect DEX, else your Reflex saves and AC may suffer. Monks must balance their physical ability scores precisely.
As you gain in levels, all Monks' unarmed attacks are treated eventually as Magic (level 4), Lawful (level 10) and Adamantine (level 16) weapons. Shintao Monk enhancements add greatly to this, where their fists are treated as they advance to bypass Byeshk (level 6), Cold Iron (level 12) and Silver (level 18). By level 18, a monk that's achieved Shintao Monk III has become practically a living metalline weapon when unarmed.
Dark Monks have a distinct disadvantage in damage reduction when fighting unarmed, as non-unique metalline handwraps exist but are very, very rare and, if found on the Auction House, extremely expensive. The Devout Handwraps (from the Necropolis) are the only unique Metalline of Pure Good wraps in the game, but enterprising Monks might find other Silver-laced/studded wraps and combine them with rings from the Tower of Despair quests to get the DR boosting they need.
Dark Monks can use kamas. For extra damage and versatility, the Ninja Spy enhancements give shortsword prowess, where metalline weaponry can compensate when unarmed attacks are less effective, at a slight decrease in attack speed and use of certain special Monk attacks.
Monks generally have bludgeoning attacks only, making fights against bludgeoning-resistant enemies such as zombies harder. Kamas may be needed for the most damage. The Whirling Steel Strike feat could be taken for any monk to use longswords. If one is fortunate to participate in the Treasure of Crystal Cove event, the Brawling Gloves add extra STR and piercing damage to unarmed attacks, increasing in power as these special items are upgraded.
No class should quest without some ranged options where melee is not possible, a quest requires a ranged item to activate a lever, or when a more effective ranged fighter is not available. The shuriken is the only naturally proficient option for Monks but has a low base damage. It's recommended to find and use returning shurikens, but only when necessary, such as in activating overhead levers.
The enhancement Ten Thousand Stars can temporarily increase throwing star speed, but the results may be less than is effective, and the action point might be better used elsewhere. The Shadow Star and Snowstar are named returning stars with suitable damage when melee targets can't be reached. Update 9 introduced Shuriken Expertise to add a little more damage per round to these attacks. Halfling, Elf and Drow Monks can use action points to increase thrown weapon damage further with enhancements.
Leveling and Strengthening your Monk
All Monks should pay close attention to their CON stat. Monks do not receive as many health points as other melee classes. A Monk with a low CON will not be able to survive well past level 12; some enemies will strike you down in a single swing. The Toughness feat can be taken many times as a martial arts feat. Additionally, all races have at least two Racial Toughness enhancements to add to your health points, but only if at least one Toughness feat has been chosen. Greater and Superior False Life items are also important.
Ki points are a kin to a spell caster's mana. All Monk special moves require some amount of ki. Ki generation is an important factor when creating a Monk. Monks that don't generate and use ki will be much less effective. Your Ki bar should rarely get very high during combat as you should be using ki about as fast as you can generate it. Many Monk players will use the Fire Stance to generate additional ki and then switch to another stance for more damage or protection.
The Concentration skill determines how much ki you can hold. Always add at least 1 point in Concentration as you level. The Balance skill is almost as important as enemies often try to trip you. Balance influences your ability to stand back up once you have been knocked down. The check is always the same no matter what monster knocked you over. The Balance skill helps against knockdown; a few extra points above 10 may be beneficial against canine and feline monsters that often trip, allowing you to get up faster. Jump, Hide and Move Silently are key skills to get from place to place.
As stated above, your fists are going to be more powerful vs most enemies based on the handwraps you are using.
However, until your fists can bypass certain damage reduction of many enemies (such as devils and iron golems), you'll need kamas or quarterstaffs as a fall-back. Remember that you do NOT generate ki if your attacks do zero damage due to damage reduction.
Pick your handwraps to fit the enemy. See Monk equipment for starter items that help through level 10.
Handwraps, unlike other weapons, do not suffer rust or acid damage, making the need for common melee weapons such as Muckbane less important to a Monk.
Meditation, Resting and Healing
A Monk's ki behaves like spell points, except ki drains slowly over time. Unlike a spell caster, however, a Monk can regenerate ki as he fights.
For this reason of ki drain, monks are opportunists, utilizing their ki while they still have it. Any ki in excess of your pool of static ki (based on your Concentration skill) will disappear on resting or leaving a quest.
Should a Monk need to recharge their HP without losing a substantial buildup of ki, use Wholeness of Body. For 10 ki, a Monk can nearly, if not fully restore their health. (Wearing items of devotion or potency can greatly improve the amount of healing.) The cool-down for this feat is about 2 minutes, and can be done anywhere, provided that the Monk is not disturbed and remains stationary during its use.
When a Monk is critically low or out of ki, they can use their Meditation feat, available at level 2. While seated and performing no other actions, the Monk can regenerate ki, refilling their pool at the least, creating substantial ki useful for Light buffs (such as Healing Ki or the raise dead Rise of the Phoenix ability).
Meditation can be used only twice per rest, so keep it handy for emergencies and use it only as needed.
The enhancements "Way of the Patient Tortoise", Way of the Tenacious Badger", and "Way of the Elegant Crane" may be useful in generating more Concentration or ki. Remember that some stances generate better ki than others.
Light monks should have the Healing Ki finisher as part of their standard attack to keep their HP up. Dark monks are more susceptible to dropping HP and should have potions (or, if Use Magic Device skills are available, wands) handy to heal up during battles.
Vampiric weapons will greatly help Dark Monks. At level 12, Dark Monks should seek out the Stonedust Handwraps and craft them into the Vampiric Stonedust Wraps for stealing 1 HP per hit against enemies, or find any handwraps or items with life-stealing ability.
Ninja Spy options include the Vampiric Fury Shortswords, builds adding to Use Magic Device skills or half-elves with Cleric Dilettante feats that grant the use of healing wands. Ninja Spies can regenerate ki, up to their pool level, when Sneaking ("One with Shadow")--a valuable talent to restore HP every two minutes, using ki, with Wholeness of Body. Ninja Spy regeneration is also a great advantage when in assassination mode. A stealthy Ninja Spy can pick off lone enemies with Touch of Death or Quivering Palm, then fade back into the shadows to regenerate ki again, healing as necessary, and then regroup for another attack.
Fighting, Strategy and Behavior Tips
- As you enter a quest, light monks with sufficient base ki should use Aligning the Heavens, an incredible skill that saves 25% to a spell caster's spell points. Do this before a party buff and, if possible, during battle.
- Between fights, use Walk of the Sun and Dance of Clouds buffs when fighting is imminent.
- Before or during a fight, monks should be either using Fists of Light or Fists of Darkness to heal themselves and the party, or curse and diminish a target's ability to fight.
- Always use the excess ki to benefit your party, especially if you are a light monk. You can regenerate ki for as long as you have enemies to strike, and you can get often much closer to heal fighters in your party than a cleric might dare. A dark monk can concentrate on harder-to-kill living attackers by first debuffing them using their ki attacks, and then destroying them through massive negative energy attacks.
- Switch out your handwraps, outfits, stances and accessories often to meet the party needs. Don't be in Air Stance all the time when you know that a tougher fight ahead may require more party heals, and therefore, extra ki that can be generated by Fire Stance for a time.
- Monks have great saves against traps and magic. Monks should almost always attack enemy mages first, before they can disable a party, or test out unknown hallways and floors when a rogue is not available.
- Monks are the best fighters against oozes, as their handwraps do not suffer damage from these enemies as party members without Everbright weaponry or sufficient spell power, nor are they are likely to cause oozes to split apart as badly. Further, you can generate tremendous ki reserves by ridding the dungeon of them.
- Avoid using a rest shrine unless your Meditation turns and ki are exhausted, and your health points are too low. This behavior will save parties in Hard and Elite quests, where shrines are useful only once and clerics are getting low on healing resources.
- Take advantage of your immunities to poison and disease when mummies and spiders appear, to save others from Mummy rot and other maladies.
- Abundant Step can ambush or reach a monster before they can react, reach recessed levers, or attackers on widely separated ledges.
- Obtaining the Rise of the Phoenix enhancement can make the difference between a failed or successful quest when a cleric is not present or too busy, and several party members have been killed.
- Stun anything and everything. WIS affects the success of Stunning Fist. Stunning Blow is not necessarily as effective and has a slower cooldown. Use items that improve stunning, and stun as a matter of course when fighting all enemies except undead and constructs.
- Remember that monks, over time, can run faster than many classes. Don't surge ahead and leave your party behind.
- Let a fighter "tank" for the group unless you are the only melee class available. Monks "take out the trash" faster than many other melee classes.