Starting a Monk
Starting a Monk is more akin to building a spellcaster than a melee character, as many stats and enhancements determine the course of the character, not the equipment they find over time.
While experienced players could build an effective 28 point monk build as long as you know what stats affect your play, in general, is not advised to create a monk without having access to 32 point builds first. A monk's STR, DEX, CON and WIS determine their ultimate effectiveness.
- 1 How Statistics affect the Monk
- 2 Monk Weapons and Attack Types
- 3 Common Feats
- 4 Stances and Finishing Moves
- 5 Philosophy and Class Trees
How Statistics affect the Monk
STR: This stat affects your +damage and +hit chance if you do not take Weapon Finesse or use the first two core abilities from Ninja Spy. It also is required for the regularly-taken feat Power Attack (requires 13 base Strength). Strength is also very useful to staff based monks as Weapon Finesse does not affect staves. Typically if a monk specializes in staves they pick up the Two-Handed Fighting feat line. Don't confuse Two-Handed Fighting with Two-Weapon Fighting.
DEX: This stat affects your armor bonus from dexterity (known as DEX bonus), governs Reflex saves and is the key stat which is a prerequisite for a few common monk feats including: Two Weapon Fighting (which affects unarmed fighting for monks), Weapon Finesse (if their dexterity is higher than their strength), Dodge, and some of the lesser used but still useful feats such as Mobility and Spring Attack. Two Weapon Fighting and its later upgrades greatly increase the off-hand hit chance, effectively scoring more attacks per round. A Monk may spend at least 6 Action Points in the Ninja Spy enhancements for using his dexterity modifier to hit and damage (which makes the Weapon Finesse feat useless).
CON: This stat affects your overall health in addition to Fortitude saves. It also is your primary stat for maintaining your lifeblood for fighting, your Ki through the skill Concentration. A monk without a decent constitution score and decent Concentration will find it difficult to fight effectively and use monk abilities.
As a melee character, it is inadvisable to start with lower than 14 CON. Even if you think/are sure you won't get hit, any slight Cleave-style effect from enemies (such as Orcs) will most likely be deadly (especially at high levels/difficulty) Also, while monks do have Evasion, everyone eventually rolls a 1 sometime. It is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED to pick up the Toughness Feat at least once on a monk. Humans and Half-Elves can add the Human Recovery enhancement in addition to the Monk Recovery enhancement to greatly aid in healing.
WIS: Wisdom governs a couple of secondary but critical abilities. WIS provides a bonus to armor (WIS bonus) when the monk is not higher than light encumbrance, wearing only a robe/outfit or docent and wielding only Monk weapons (discussed later). Wisdom also is used in calculating how much health is recovered per tick of Wholeness of Body, how high the various DC's are for some monk moves and finishers, and (with Concentration) a monk's maximum stored ki. Monks who want to specialize in Stunning Fist are advised to mind their WIS score. The higher the WIS, the more likely that Stunning Fist will succeed. (Handwraps with the Stunning suffix stack with this ability.) It should be noted that in Epic difficulty, stunning is one of the few effects that remain useful against enemies that are no longer affected by paralyzing, banishing, crippling or similar weapons.
INT: Intelligence is generally a lower priority stat for monks as it only provides more skill points per level-up, as well as access to the feat Combat Expertise. While Combat Expertise helps Armor Class, most players new to monks won't build a character that can stand up alone against most bosses and mass foes for very long ("tank") as monks gain fewer HP than other melee classes. Players new to the class may find it advisable to skip Combat Expertise and place the stat points into WIS or DEX to gain better saves, AC, stuns and the like. You can also use the granted feat, Defensive Fighting, which adds a smaller AC boost as does Combat Expertise, without using INT. You can also simply adjust your Monk stance to Earth stance for a more defensive posture.
Ninja Spies, especially those planning on using the Shadowdancer Epic Destiny may warrant a bit higher Intelligence to allow skill points for Move Silently and Hide as well as the usual Concentration, Jump, and the others.
Intelligence also governs Repair and Search for monks. These skills are not particularly useful to most monks (especially when Detect Secret Doors items are available at very low levels and True Seeing is available later on several unique items.)
CHA: Charisma is another a low priority stat for monks. Only two moves in a monk's entire arsenal uses CHA in the slightest. One of these is Shining Star, a finishing move which mimics the effects of Otto's Irresistible Dance), at level 20.
Charisma also governs Intimidate, Bluff, Haggle, Diplomacy, and Use Magic Device. Of these generally, only Haggle and Use Magic Device are useful to a monk, as they are to most classes. Dominion-philosophy Monks may find UMD as a suitable direction in order to use less-expensive wands for healing.
Monk Weapons and Attack Types
Monks are one of a handful of classes where multiclassing is a bad idea. Monks gain a lot more feats than other classes that help them survive. Bored players might create characters with a "splash" of two monk levels for some unarmed fighting and/or evasion, but they may miss out on improved evasion and saves from later levels. Further, multiclassing with monk levels without precise planning often "gimp" the abilities of the second class, rendering the fusion as an ultimately unplayable character.
For instance, say you take two monk levels, then try to continue as a wizard. A monk's offensive and defensive skills come primarily from STR, DEX and WIS—stats that a wizard rarely needs. Adding the necessary INT points for spellcasting means that any unarmed fighting will be very dangerous.
If you would really want to multiclass, consider other divine-based classes, such as Clerics or Rangers. But, even then, the overall strength of your character may be diminished. The monk is the ONLY class in DDO that, if built and used properly, can literally fight without any items on, whatsoever—and do so longer than other classes.
Another exception—with enough planning—is a Kensei-specialized fighter. With 8 levels of fighter and the Tier 5 Kensei enhancement One With the Blade, a character with monk levels or the Grandmaster of Flowers Epic Destiny can remain centered with the selected specialty class of weapons allowing the use of most monk abilities—including bonuses to AC—while using non-ki weapons. While leveling can be challenging with such a build, an initial monk/fighter split and the use of Whirling Steel Strike allows a future heavy blade Kensei to make use of the required fighter feats while leveling. Incorporating Ninja Spy cores allows the use of Dexterity-to-hit and Dexterity-to-damage with long swords and—later—heavy blades.
Monks initially rely on four types of simple or special weaponry.
- Handwraps (unarmed fighting)
- Kama (small bladed weapons)
- Shuriken for the occasional ranged attack
All monks can take feats that allow longswords or longbows/shortbows as centered weapons or the first core enhancement of Ninja spy which allows them to use shortswords as centered weapons.
Staff users generally use Strength as their primary attack stat and grab the Two-Handed Fighting line of feats. They are typically found in a Fire stance, building and using ki like there is no tomorrow. DEX-based monks should take the first two core enhancments of Ninja spy to be able to use their DEX modifier for attack and damage.
Handwraps and kamas can be used with Weapon Finesse to make DEX their primary attack stat. Any centered weapon can have DEX to damage and attack through Ninja spy. These weapons gain additional attacks from the Two Weapon Fighting chain. All Monks (except quarterstaff users) should aim for enough DEX to grab the Greater Two Weapon Fighting feat.
A monk's Constitution should be a minimum of 14. While it is possible to go with a CON of 12, it is ill-advised to drop any lower than that. Monks are on the front lines and do not receive as many baseline hitpoints on level-up as Fighters, Paladins and Barbarians do, making them a touch more "squishy". In addition, take at least one Toughness feat, add in Racial Toughness enhancements if available, and use Tomes to improve HP. Be aware that the popular Wind Stance (see below) will reduce your CON.
Intelligence is based purely on the build. Tanks will want to find a way to reach 13 INT to pick up Combat Expertise (Tomes count toward this number). For most other builds, 10 Intelligence is sufficient. Experienced players will often warn you that AC is far less important once a character attains Level 20 and plays Epic quests. For that reason, placing irretrievable points in INT just for Combat Expertise may be unwise. However, monks are among the only builds that can actually achieve a reasonable AC in epic. If you wish to create an AC build that can stand in epic, it can be done -but at the cost of almost everything else.
Wisdom, as stated before, governs a variety of things for a monk. It is never wise to neglect WIS. Saves, AC, DCs for many abilities are controlled with this stat. Experimentation is good, but the consensus is to boost this stat well if you want to make the most of the Monk's strongest abilities, especially Stunning Fist, which can work even in Epic play.
Charisma is purely based on the build of monk desired and specific choice of skills to be used with it. (such as a UMD based monk). In general, don't add any points to CHA until needed near level 20 for Shining Star, should you care to use it.
The first feats in each category are recommended to take so that a monk can improve their chances to damage more effectively and survive longer, especially while they are at lower levels.
- Power Attack (requires 13 Strength)
- Improved Critical for Bludgeoning: Needed attack improvement for unarmed and staff fighters.
- Stunning Fist (you can only use this feat when fighting unarmed)
- Toughness Adds +3 hit points at first level and +1 per level beyond the first, for a total of 32 hit points at level 30. Only take it if you feel really shy on hp.
- Deflect Arrows
For Handwrap and Kama users
- Weapon Finesse (Only use if you make DEX your main to-hit stat) (Note: a few ranks (at least 6) in ninja spy do better, allowing you to use DEX as your to-hit and damaging stat)
- Two Weapon Fighting
- Improved Two Weapon Fighting
- Greater Two Weapon Fighting
Avoid using Two Weapon Blocking, which does not work with handwraps. For unarmed attacks, don't confuse Two Weapon Fighting with Two Handed Fighting feats, which is used for fighters and their Greatswords, as well as Henshin Mystics with quarterstaves.
For Quarterstaff users
- Two-Handed Fighting
- Improved Two-Handed Fighting
- Greater Two Handed Fighting
- Stunning Blow (Stunning Fist cannot be used while wielding a weapon)
Stances and Finishing Moves
Monks are a class with both support and front-line roles, using ki to enable their special abilities (pronounced "kee").
A stance is a posture that your monk uses that gives advantages to one statistic or skill at the expense of another. There are general stances available to all classes, such as Power Attack and Defensive Fighting. The Monk receives special stances of its own. How much ki you require, or how much damage you want to deal, often determines what stance you need. As of Update 19, a monk receives all elemental forms as feats, not enhancements. These feats are automatically granted at Monk levels 1, 6, 12 and 18 and can be taken as feats if you meet the requirements, this means a build with less than 18 monk levels can still get the grandmaster stances.
In quests where dispensing of the trash mobs is easy and ki is in ample supply with little use to consume it, the Way of Air (Wind Stance) allows faster kills, but at the cost of lower CON.
When a monk needs to provide better support, anticipating a heavy use of ki for buffs, healing or destruction, switching to the Way of Fire (Sun Stance) will rapidly generate ki. The STR boost this stance provides also means that attacks may have more damage per hit.
When on the defensive, the Way of Earth (Mountain Stance) provides a slower movement speed (although attack speed is not affected) but generates ki as mobs strike you. Also, in Earth stance, your defenses are more effective (with DR and extra blocking DR) and you are able to make much more effective critical hits at 19-20, rather than at 20, when in upgraded Master and Grandmaster of Mountain stances. The Shintao Monk specializes in Mountain stance defenses.
The Way of Water (Ocean Stance) offers increased saves when you're dealing with pesky casters or traps. At higher levels, your ki regeneration is increased by 1, allowing ki restoration to at least your stable pool. This stacks with other ki regeneration abilities found in other class trees and some gear.
Be mindful that Monk stances move your stats around, increasing one stat at the expense of another. This is advantageous when you find STR, WIS or DEX runes or levers that need opening or for extra defense or damage.
Some Monks use Wind stance for the faster attack speed and doublestrike opportunity; STR based Monks will switch to Fire stance for more ki and for greater damage. Dark Monks may also require the higher ki generation in Fire stance once they acquire Touch of Death.
A summary on the elemental forms can be found on the Stances article.
Finishing moves are special attacks that a monk creates using three ki strikes of a specific type and in a specific order. Often, the finishing move consists of a series of ki strikes from an elemental stance, or combining two elemental strikes with a special move dependent on the Monk attack philosophy chosen at level 3 (see below). Finishing moves end with the selection of the Finishing move button to activate that move's ability—a buffing effect, a heal, or a debilitating attack or effect for enemies for example.
See the Monk tactics article for greater detail on finishing moves.
Philosophy and Class Trees
Monks can choose one of two philosophy paths at level 3: the Path of Harmonious Balance or the Path of Inevitable Dominion.
Most players simply refer to each as a "light monk" or a "dark monk," respectively.
The most significant differences between these two philosophies is the manner in which ki is used, particularly once an enhancement class decision is made.
Light monks can specialize in party support or assist on the front lines, have great self-sufficiency by healing using ki during battle, and are superior in fighting against the undead and aberrations such as Mindflayers. Dark monks specialize in using ki most effectively to debuff and damage living creatures and providing supplementary healing energies to themselves and a party.
Neither philosophy path is necessarily "better" than the other. It's all a matter of play style, good builds and personal taste.
- Shintao Monk: This class tree is aligned to the Path of Harmonious Balance. It provides unarmed damage reductions to the point where a character becomes living metalline. Shintao monks receive additional healing amplification, greater physical resistances, ki-based spell-like abilities to aid a party, and greater defenses and attacks against non-planar and undead creatures and aberrations.
- Ninja Spy: This class tree, aligned to the Path of Inevitable Dominion, specializes in stealth and subterfuge to become invisible and incorporeal as they take down targets. Using poisons and negative energy, the Ninja Spy deals incredible damage with as much immediacy as they desire.
- Henshin Mystic: This class tree can freely choose either philosophy. Specializing in exceptional damage with a quarterstaff, the Mystic trains their ki similarly to traditional spellcasters, using spell-like abilities that dish out punishing Fire and Force damage. At higher training levels, a Mystic can learn a ki attack of the opposite chosen philosophy, enabling the Mystic to be the only class tree able to use every Monk finishing move available for both party support and powerful negative energy attacks.
The Path of Harmonious Balance: the Light Monk
Light monks can choose spell-like enhancements as they level, using Elemental Curatives as a Shintao Monk. They can use their ki to remove curses, provide lesser restorations, perform mass healing, remove blindness and curses. While you can also cure those status effects by using potions on other players, ki has one singular advantage over potions: As long as you can fight and generate ki, you have an inexhaustible resource to perform these abilities.
A light monk can recharge their ki indefinitely and keep themselves healed and healthy when their defenses (AC) are very strong against the foes they are fighting. Monk are often standing quietly in a rest shrine while clerics and spell casters have to recharge their spell points. A light monk can perform some minor mass healing with the Healing Ki finisher.
A light monk's buffs do not last nearly as long as a healer's buffs do. Nor does the Healing Ki perform as strongly as a cleric's healing spells. Further. unlike spell points, ki slowly drains from monks, limiting the time to use ki to help a party. Therefore, a light monk is an opportunist. A coordinated player fights, hitting enemies to charge his ki while setting up mass heals through his Healing Ki strikes. A quick, coordinated monk can repeat this attack/heal cycle for as long as there are enemies to strike and ki to generate.
Light monks used to make create slightly less damage than their counterpart, the dark monk. That was before Update 9, when Mountain Stance critical modifiers improved the overall damage for all monks. The dark monk (as a Ninja Spy, still has a few tricks up their sleeve in special attacks that light monks do not possess (specifically, the Touch of Death).
Your allies greatly benefit from a light monk's buffs for saves, spell point conservation, blurring, immunity from stunning, and the like. Although a light monk's buffs last for only one minute, your buffs can NOT be dispelled by a beholder's anti-magic cone effect or other debuffing effects.
- Always be sure to use the finisher Aligning the Heavens when it is buff time for a group, to minimize healer and caster spell point usage by 25% for 1 minute. When possible, use Aligning the Heavens while fighting to save spell points.
- While your Dance of Clouds can be overwritten by Blur and Displacement, it has the distinct advantage of being able to affect friendly but un-targetable combat capable NPCs ("The Captives", "Ruins of Threnal" and "The Waterworks" quests, for example, have rescues that benefit from this, for instance).
- Walk of the Sun is useful overall as it helps with skills (finding and disabling traps, UMD), saves (useful against hostile casters and traps) and to-hit chances. Walk of the Sun stacks with all other bonuses since it is an untyped ability.
- Grasp the Earth Dragon makes you and your party immune from stunning attacks that will leave you most vulnerable to critical hits. Light monks are favorite party members in the Tower of Despair raid for this buff alone.
- Your Healing Ki finisher is also quite useful as it can save the healer some spell points to go further on in the mission and it can revive a player who is incapacitated but not yet dead. It functions as a level one spell and as such is affected by any effects on equipment you would expect--except feats. That means multiclassed Cleric-Monks cannot use Empowered Healing feats to improve Healing Ki, to give an example.
You can fight and heal others and yourself by chaining Fist of Light attacks at an enemy. This has a triple-benefit: Hits with Fists of Light create the Healing shield on a foe on a successful hit: your allies heal themselves a little as they strike the affected enemy. Lastly, a Healing shield flag above an enemy's head flags allows melees to direct their attacks on a single enemy. Release your Healing Ki after the third strike, and repeat until all foes are dead and/or all members nearby are healed. At the same time, any Elemental Curative from the Shintao enhancements that are toggled as active will give a mass-cure of curses, diseases, a lesser restoration or removal of blindness to all nearby in a party.
A light monk's attacks, such as Fists of Light, are strong against undead. However, the light monk's Healing Ki finishers do not afflict damage on undead as would a cleric's healing abilities.
When not wearing items to aid your STR, DEX, CON or WIS, you should wear items with Devotion spell power to maximize your overall Healing Ki mass heal numbers (the "Devoted Set" items Devoted Necklace and Devoted Goggles from the early Korthos starter quests give you this early on).
Humans and Half-Elves can gain racial Improved Recovery enhancements to stack your own improved healing spell numbers. Use this to your advantage and you may not require a healer for certain quests (provided everyone is self-sufficient and knows what they are doing). Training in Shintao core enhancements will also gain 10% healing amplification with each trained core ability.
Harmonious Monks who choose the Shintao Monk enhancements can greatly increase their ability to generate damage, especially against undead and outsiders. With each core ability, the Shintao monk gains unarmed proficiency to bypass Byeshk, Cold Iron and Silver damage reductions while unarmed.
The Path of Inevitable Dominion: the Dark Monk
A dark monk is one of DDO's best DPS engines of destruction. They aren't buffing a party; their ki is geared towards debuffing the enemy, spewing curses that inhibit healing or attacks, or even attacks that paralyze enemies. When trained as a Ninja Spy, over time, a dark monk's skills include deception and improved stealth, vorpal attacks, mass-negative level attacks, and Ninja Poison, which gives damage-over-time using piercing and slashing weapons.
While they can be more dependent on having a healer nearby to keep their hit points from dropping in early levels, a dark monk's speed of destruction (especially while in Air stance) allow them to be "first strike" combatants, often able to critically hit, paralyze or even kill some enemies with a single blow. When in quest with few to no party members, a Ninja Spy-trained dark monk can move as a shadow, invoking invisibility at will to approach their targets.
Dark monks should aid your fellow caster party members by using the Touch of Despair debuffer, especially if there is a Pale Master in party.
While a dark monk can be a suitable tank on many quests, it's better for the dark monk to be the master of annihilating the "trash mobs" or minions of a red-named boss that stymie the attacks of others.
Dark monks must pay specific attention to their targets. Dark monks are generally more damage oriented than their light counterpart. Don't waste ki on certain damaging moves unnecessarily when you know another is about to finish a monster off. Better to have a store of ki on the side for when you need it than to play "who can race to kill mob X first."
Don't neglect basic moves like triple elemental strikes (i.e. earth-earth-earth-finisher against casters that inhibit enemy spells.) You have a plethora of different moves: the catch is to learn when each is appropriate. Pay special appreciation to Curse of the Void. This attack can charm a foe for 2 minutes, and you can charm as many enemies as you'd like in a fight.
Train your enhancements so that you receive what many players consider the trademark attack of the dark monk, the Touch of Death—a single 500-point death-blow that could spell the difference between victory or death. Because the Touch of Death is a negative energy strike, it will have an opposite effect on the undead. The dark monk's repertoire of attacks are generally geared to destroy living targets, not the undead. To gain this ability, you'll need the highest training from the Ninja Spy tree, to the exclusion of any other class tree's tier 5 opportunities.
Halfling monks with Healing Dragonmarks may find healing less of a chore. Dark monks at Level 12 should seek out the Stonedust Handwraps and use the Sora Katra crafting process to augment them to the Vampiric Stonedust Wraps, allowing 1 HP recharges per hit. Becoming a Half-Elf with a Cleric dilettante gives excellent options for using wands and scrolls to heal or buff without UMD or multiclass training.
Unlike a light monk, a dark monk's unarmed attacks will not innately bypass Silver damage reduction. Many of the bosses at endgame require Silver and Good to bypass their damage reduction (some require Cold Iron and Good or Adamantine and Good instead). The Good portion can be bypassed by crafting Holy Burst onto a ring from the Tower of Despair. There are a number of options to acquire handwraps that bypass metal-based damage reduction: the Devout Handwraps include the Metalline property, handwraps with metal studs or threads drop from Devil Assault and can be Cannith Crafted, Metal-studded handwraps regularly appear as randomly generated loot and are posted in the Auction House or sold to vendors, and Alchemical Handwraps can be crafted with Silver. Until a dark monk can acquire suitable handwraps, they may need to resort to using Silver kamas or shortswords for bosses with metal-based damage resistance. An Artificer's weapon buffs can also provide temporary Silver or alignment abilities to your unarmed combat.
Update 17's addition of augment slots led to the revision of many common handwraps (specifically, Eternal Rest and Devotion) with Red slots that only require a Red DR gem to give you easy Silver+Good DR bypassing (note that using such gems will change its minimum level).
The Henshin Mystic: Quarterstaff-wielder and More
The Henshin Mystic may choose either the Light or Dark path. Mystics can specialize in quarterstaff fighting, with greatly improved damage, doublestriking and critical hits than other classes.
What really sets the Mystic apart is their use of ki as traditional spellcasters would use spell points to perform a handful of potent attacks based on Fire and Force damage. Unlike spell points, ki is renewed through combat and Meditation, a type of rest for Monks. Only Mystics can acquire more than 2 Meditations per rest, to a maximum of 5. While meditating, the Mystic can generate energies to buff a party while also placing a protective aura about themselves that regenerates to full strength every three seconds.
At the highest level of Mystic training, a student learns Void Strike, a potent Force attack that can disintegrate an enemy on what would be a vorpal hit.
A unique skill of the fully-trained Mystic is the Balance in Dawn ability, where the character can choose a ki attack that is opposite of their originally chosen philosophy: A Light adherent can choose "Every Light Casts a Shadow," which works as a Dark move that not only will unlock all dark monk finishing moves but inflict negative levels on one or more enemies at a time. A dark Mystic that chooses "Shadows Cannot Exist without Light" gains a Light ki attack that can perform the Healing Ki finisher and unlock light monk finishers but also inflict additional massive light damage to enemies and mass healing to allies.
As with traditional spellcasters, Henshin Mystics need to increase their spell power as much as possible to increase their Fire and Force damage. Unlike spellcasters, the Mystic possesses no inherent metamagic skills to augment or amplify their spell power. With this, the Mystic should ensure that their martial arts skills and defenses are equally strong to regenerate ki, perform typical monastic skills such as jumping, and deliver potent damage with or without a quarterstaff.
Two Handed Fighting feats will aid in glancing blows with quarterstaves, as well as using Wind Stance for extra attack speed and doublestrike. The Quick Strikes doublestrike burst ability (up to 25%) is a Morale bonus that stacks with Wind Stance's maximum 10% enhancement bonus to doublestrike.
Quarterstaff melee damage is STR-based, not DEX (with a few named item exceptions). More STR means more damage and likelihood to-hit. Remember that many quarterstaves are Thaumaturgy items that also can boost your categories of Fire and Force spell power.