Find your center and strike out against your enemies. After a flurry of well-struck fists, anything you’re fighting will be a problem of the past. The Way Of The Open Hand Monk is a powerful class that uses its unique Ki resource to master itself and decimate its enemies.
If you’re interested in playing the Way Of the Open Hand and don’t know where to start then have no fear. In this guide, we’ll be going over how to find your zen and take the Sword Coast by storm.
Before getting started we need to make sure our character has the best possible start. This means picking the best race, stats, skills, and background for our monk.
Before anything, we need to choose which race we’re going to play to maximize the monk’s abilities. While the race you choose doesn’t have that much impact on what character you want to play, some races come with bonuses that can be useful for the monk.
- Superior Darkvision (24 meters)
- Duergar Resilience
- Dwarven Combat Training
- Dwarven Resilience
- Enlarge (once per Long Rest at level 3)
- Invisibility (once per battle at level 5)
The Duergar comes with a surprising amount of useful features that can help a more stealth-focused monk. Superior Darkvision is always useful no matter what character you’re making. Duergar Resilience is nice when facing enemies that like to charm, but their spell-likes are what’s interesting. If you plan to use a weapon, Enlarge will increase your weapon damage by 1d4. Invisibility is exactly what it sounds like. The ability to use it once per combat means it can be used to get in close without being attacked or get out of sticky situations.
2. Deep Gnome
- Superior Darkvision
- Stone Camouflage
- Gnome Cunning
Despite their small stature, Deep Gnomes come with some great features for a monk. Much like the Duergar, Superior Darkvision is great on everybody. Stone Camouflage gives our character Advantage on stealth checks which is great when our Dexterity is going to be so high.
3. Wood Elf
- Fleet of Foot
- Stealth Proficiency
- Elven Weapon Training
- Dark Vision (12 meters)
- Fey Ancestry
- Perception Proficiency
Monks get pretty fast as they level. So why not make them even faster? Wood Elves start with Fleet of Foot which increases their base movement speed. By level 12 you’ll be able to chase any enemy you want around the battlefield. The stealth proficiency is also nice because of our high Dexterity.
4. Wood Half-Elf
- Fleet of Foot
- Stealth Proficiency
- Civil Militia
- Dark Vision (12 meters)
- Fey Ancestry
Wood Half-Elf is going to give you most of the same features as Wood Elf. The main difference is Civil Militia. Civil Militia gives our character access to a lot of great weapons for the monk. Instead of just shortswords and Simple Weapons, we get access to Pikes, Halberds, and Glaives.
Once we choose a race, we want a good background to pair with it. You want to stick with backgrounds that will have skills that align with our Ability Score spread. So basically anything that uses Dex or Wisdom will do. The monk doesn’t get a lot of skills to work with so these backgrounds can provide some nice skills you would be otherwise locked out of without a feat.
- Sleight of Hand Proficiency
- Stealth Proficiency
With how much focus we’re going to be putting on our Dexterity, proficiencies in Sleight of Hand and Stealth are no-brainers. It would also get rid of the need to have a rogue with you as you’re traveling since you can open locks and sneak all by yourself.
2. Folk Hero
- Animal Handling
With Wisdom being another Ability Score we’ll be focusing on, taking Wisdom-based skills is a good idea. And having someone that can interact with animals if you don’t have Speak With Animals is helpful for getting out of sticky situations.
Having at least one face skill is useful. While not as prevalent as Persuasion and Intimidation, Performance is still useful in certain situations. Acrobatics is incredibly useful to make sure you don’t get pushed off any cliffs and have your adventure cut short.
As I said earlier, the monk does not have a lot of skills to play with. From the monk skill list of Acrobatics, Athletics, History, Insight, Religion, and Stealth, you can only choose two. Your choice will be slightly determined by your race and background, but there are some skills you should focus on.
Acrobatics is important so you don’t get pushed around. As a frontline fighter, you’ll be in the thick of it and you don’t want to get pushed into the odd chasm or bottomless pit. Stealth is always a great skill and your monk will be excellent at it. Finally, Insight can help you in conversations and is the closest thing to a face skill you’ll have the stats to make amazing.
Choose any of these, mixed with the skills from your background and you should be in a good spot. Cover whatever skills you don’t have with companions and you’ll be ready for your adventure.
Lastly, we have the Ability Scores. As a monk, we’re going to focus on Dexterity, Wisdom, and Constitution. Dexterity will help our defenses and striking power. High Dex means high AC and Dexterous Attacks means our attacks scale with Dex instead of Strength. After that, we want to get our Constitution up as high as possible. Despite being a close-ranged combatant the monk does not get a lot of health. We don’t want to make that any worse by having low Con.
Once Dex, Wis, and Con are taken care of the rest is up to you. If you have any points left, put them wherever you think you need them.
The Way Of The Open Hand monk gets some fun features and abilities that help them control the flow of combat. In this part of the guide, I’ll go over what our monk will be getting at each level as well as what feats to choose when appropriate.
- Unarmoured Movement: Increases your movement speed by 3m while not wearing armor or using a shield
- Patient Defense: By spending a Ki point and using a Bonus Action Attacks Rolls against you have Disadvantage and you have Advantage on Dexterity Saving Throws.
- Step of the Wind: Dash: By spending a Ki point and using a Bonus Action you can double your movement speed, and jump no longer requires a Bonus Action.
- Step of the Wind: Disengage: By spending a Ki point and using a Bonus Action you can use Disengage and jump no longer requires a Bonus Action.
The Monk gets a lot of its best features early in the game. Unarmoured Movement means as long as we’re not wearing armor we can keep our speed. An incentive to keep our unarmoured defense. We also get a bunch of moves to spend our Ki points on. Patient Defense makes us harder, which is nice given our low health. Step of the Wind Dash and Disengage allows us to use abilities that would normally take a full Action as a Bonus Action. Great for action economy and making decisions in combat.
- Deflect Missiles: Use your reaction to reduce the damage from ranged weapon attacks by 1d10 + your Dexterity Modifier + your monk level.
- Martial Arts: Deft Strikes (1d6): Attacks with Monk Weapons and unarmed attacks deal 1~6 damage unless their normal damage is higher.
- Flurry of Blows: Topple: Spending a Ki point and using a Bonus Action, punch twice, and possibly knock the target Prone.
- Flurry of Blows: Push: Spending a Ki point and using a Bonus Action, punch twice and possibly push the target 5 meters away.
- Flurry of Blows: Stagger: Spending a Ki point and using a Bonus Action, punch twice and Stagger the target making it unable to take Reactions
This is a big level because this is when we can choose Way Of The Open Hand as our subclass. In addition to Deflect Missiles, which help us defend against ranged attacks, and Deft Strikes, which increase our damage, we can have some great abilities to spend Ki on. Every Flurry of Blows ability given to us by our subclass helps us control our enemies in battle by applying different statuses or moving them around.
The monk has a lot of choices when it comes to using their Bonus Action, but this turns the monk into a Swiss army knife of tools to use.
- Slow Fall: When you fall, you can use your reaction to gain Resistance to Falling damage.
- Choose a Feat
This level is the first level we can pick up a feat. Because of the monks’ role in combat, there are a lot of good options to choose from to enhance what they’re already good at. While taking the Ability Score Improvement is always a safe option, don’t be afraid to take a feat instead. There are several opportunities throughout the game to increase your Ability Score and taking a feat might be the better choice in the long run.
Regardless, I’d look at feats like Sentinel, Alert, and Mobile. Sentinel will open opportunities to deal extra damage when engaged in melee. Since your monk will most likely be standing near tankier melee characters in your party, this is an excellent choice. Alert will ensure you go first in combat which is always a boon. That combined with your high Dexterity will mean you can control the battlefield early. Mobile will add to your already impressive speed. If you want to triple down on one of the monk’s best features then grab this feat.
- Extra Attack
- Stunning Strike (Melee/Unarmed): Possibly Stuns the target
Another good level for the monk, this level gives us an extra attack. And the best thing? This extra attack stacks with all the other multiple attacks we could do before this level. There’s a reason why the monk is synonymous with a flurry of attacks.
We also get Stunning Strike at this level which gives us another way to stun enemies using Ki points.
- Improved Unarmoured Movement: Your movement speed increases by 4.5 meters while not wearing armor or using a shield.
- Ki-Empowered Strikes: Your unarmed attacks count as magical for the purpose of overcoming enemies’ Resistance and Immunity to non-magical damage.
- Manifestation of Body: Your unarmed attacks deal an additional 3~6 Necrotic damage.
- Manifestation of Mind: Your unarmed attacks deal an additional 3~6 Psychic damage.
- Manifestation of Soul: Your unarmed attacks deal an additional 3~6 Radiant damage.
- Wholeness of Body: Regain half your Ki points and enter a temporary state of Wholeness where you can regain ki points and have an extra Bonus Action.
Another level where we get more class features. Not only does our movement speed increase again, but our unarmed attacks count as magical for getting through resistances and immunities. A nice little buff if you aren’t using weapons.
Another nice buff are the manifestations we get that allow us to add some bonus damage of different types. This is great for fighting enemies that might be resistant or vulnerable to things like radiant or necrotic damage. And psychic is the least resisted damage in the game.
We also get Wholeness of Body which is great for giving us our Ki points back if we run out. It also provides us with an extra Bonus Action which means even more opportunities to punch our enemies.
- Evasion: When a spell or effect would deal half damage on a successful Dexterity Saving Throw, it deals no damage if you succeed and only half damage if you fail.
- Stillness of Mind: If you are Charmed or Frightened, you automatically cast Stillness of Mind to remove the condition.
While not as impressive as level six, this level adds some nice features to keep our monk alive. Evasion is a great tool for keeping damage off of our monk and everyone who’s dealt with effects like Charmed and Frightened will know how annoying they are. Being able to dispel them for free is amazing.
- Choose a Feat
Another level where we choose a feat, there are still a lot of good options to choose from. In addition to the ones mentioned earlier, look at feats like Tough or Durable if you find yourself getting downed or killed a lot. A feat like Lucky is also useful in just about every class and is always worth considering.
- Advanced Unarmoured Movement: Difficult Terrain doesn’t slow you down and you can jump an additional 6 meters while not wearing armor or using a shield.
- Martial Arts: Deft Strikes (1d8): Attacks with Monk Weapons and unarmed attacks deal 1~8 damage unless their normal damage is higher
This level comes with features that are just nice to have. Our damage goes up once again. Combine this with the myriad of attacks we can do per round and we can dish out some serious hurt. We also get Advanced Unarmoured Movement. The ability to walk through difficult terrain and jump farther is always nice and comes in handy when in a sticky situation.
- Improved Unarmoured Movement: Your movement speed increases by 4.5 meters while not wearing armor or using a shield
- Purity of Body: You are immune to Poison damage and can’t be Poisoned or affected by disease.
Another level where our movement speed is increased. By this point, you should be seeing the difference between a monk and other classes when it comes to moving around the battlefield. Especially if you grabbed the Mobile feat. Purity of Body is also, like a lot of features the monk gets, really nice to have and helpful.
- Tranquility: Long Rests surround you with an aura of peace granting you Sanctuary
This level isn’t super amazing for the monk, but helpful nonetheless. Starting every morning with Sanctuary active means at the start of your next combat you at least know you can’t be targeted.
- Choose a Feat
Reaching our last level, we are faced with our last feat choice. At this point, you should know what you need so choose whatever you think is right here. But keep the previous feats mentioned in mind as they pair well with the monk’s way of play.