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The monk of the empty hand is all about using improvised weapons. However, it can receive the feat "Improvised Weapon Mastery" as a bonus feat only at lvl6.

The thing I'm not sure about is: is he considered proficient with improvised weapons before that? Else it means either he gets the -4 penalty on all attacks until lvl6, or he doesn't use any improvised weapon until lvl6, both of which seems to go against the purpose of the archetype.

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No, they're not considered proficient before level 6. (But see the note at the end.)

Monks of the empty hand are proficient with the shuriken only. (Pathfinder Reference Document)

Though such a monk gets class abilities before 6th level that affect improvised weapons, they're all only situationally useful: Versatile Improvisation is only useful when you need to deal a particular type of damage (or impress a yokel), such as using a ribbon to do slashing damage or bludgeon a skeleton with a handful of broken glass; a 4th-level pool ki power allows the monk to increase the range of improvised weapons, which is again only useful when you really need to hit something farther away than usual; the 5th-level weapon ki power is again only useful when you, for some reason, need to use a particular improvised weapon but want to do more damage. None of these abilities are really core to the functioning of the class – they're cute abilities or really niche abilities.

In the end analysis, a low-level Monk of the Empty Hand is not all about improvised weapons, they are about fighting with empty hands. They have a few neat tricks before then, but they're still not "black belts" at this stuff. At 6th level a Monk of the Empty Hand becomes a master of using improvised weapons and becomes much more capable of using them to good effect, and only then are they "all about" improvised weapons. Until then, they're merely a taste of what is to come.


However, there is one way to make your particular Monk of the Empty Hand all about improvised weapons right from the get-go:

Catch Off-Guard

Benefit: You do not suffer any penalties for using an improvised melee weapon. Unarmed opponents are flat-footed against any attacks you make with an improvised melee weapon.

By investing a feat at 1st level, you can start taking advantage of your Empty Hand special abilities without the –4 penalty. Of course, it means one less feat for other uses and a wasted class feature at level 6, but when what you want is an improvised-weapons prodigal monk, that may be an acceptable trade-off to you.

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It's not an entirely wasted feat. You still get the flat-footed bonus. –  Bobson Aug 15 at 15:29

A Monk of Empty Hands does not take the -4 nonproficiency penalty for improvised weapons.

James Jacobs, Paizo creative director, clarifies this on the Pathfinder RPG forums:

The monk of the empty hand treats improvised weapons as if she were proficient in them, and can wield normal weapons as improvised weapons. This effectively has the same end effect as the Catch Off-Guard feat, but isn't a feat and thus doesn't use up a feat slot since it's a variant class ability. Thus, they do not take a nonproficient penalty when using improvised weapons. The text is not as clear as it could have been, I guess, but hopefully common sense can step in to bolster that if someone doesn't read this post?

(We COULD have simply said, "The monk of the empty hand gains "Catch Off-Guard" as a bonus feat, I guess, but that would have lost the flavor bit about how they often wield normal weapons as improvised weapons.)

Thus, you don't need to take Catch Off-Guard at all, not even for Improvised Weapon Mastery since you don't need to meet requirements for Monk bonus feats.

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It seems like that is the case. There's nothing in the proficiency section that mentions proficiency with improvised weapons, and none of their other class features give proficiency with improvised weapons. This seems incredibly odd, given that they get a bunch of improvised weapon specific stuff before level 6, and they'll have a pretty tough time hitting anything with that -4 to attacks. Personally, I think it would make much more sense to just give the proficiency at level 1, but you'd have to talk to your DM about that.

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