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The monk in D&D 3.5 (and, to a lesser extent, in Pathfinder) is generally considered underpowered.

Would adding magic 'weapons' that could add enhancement bonuses and magic weapon effects to a monk's unarmed strikes be sufficient to re-balance them? Would they then be over-balanced?

To be specific I'm thinking of something like hand wraps that are a zero-cost weapon having no mundane effect on combat (the wielder counts as unarmed) but that can be enchanted in the same way and at the same cost as a normal magic weapon.


Thanks to @mxyzplk, I see that Gauntlets would effectively fulfill this effect. Odd that I haven't seen this in any of the discussions on monk optimisation!

Regarding assessing balance, I'll judge this based on how well it addresses the issues in @KRyan's answer in the above-linked question. Obviously if anyone doesn't agree with his analysis then this question is moot, although I would like to see those competing opinions.

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This is a pretty delicate topic. If you could lay down some specific guidelines about how you evaluate balance, that would go a long way toward getting constructive answers and avoiding Comment Wars. –  BESW Feb 26 '13 at 0:38

2 Answers 2

up vote 18 down vote accepted

Necessary but insufficient

It would help. It would more than help; I have a hard time imagining them being functional without it. The necklace of natural attacks or scorpion kama are generally necessary for Monks. That said, the necklace of natural attacks does exist (as do similar items in Pathfinder), and it’s not nearly enough to make the Monks good.

The Monk’s problems are problems of design: the people who wrote it evidently had no clear idea of what a Monk was or should do. Thus it receives a mish-mash of random abilities that do not synergize (and frequently contradict one another, see Flurry of Blows and Fast Movement).

To “fix” the Monk, one must first come up with a clear vision of what the Monk is supposed to be and do, and then most likely rebuild it from the ground up focused on that vision.

Or simply use one of the many classes that can effectively model one or more possible visions of what a “monk” should do, without any levels in the “Monk” class. The Cleric and Psychic Warrior are both Open Game Content and quite capable of fulfilling most roles you could imagine for the Monk, for instance. I’d argue that it’s entirely reasonable to treat a Barbarian’s Rage as “Zen Focus” and waive the non-lawful requirement (which I’d further argue is dumb to begin with). Such a “Barbarian” multiclassed with Fighter for combat maneuver mastery and perhaps taking Improved Unarmed Strike would make a decent monk. And if you have Tome of Battle, the Swordsage also does an excellent job.

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Sure they help.

First of all, the monk isn't designed to be better at a single thing than other classes, so expecting its DPR to match a fighter's is a false expectation and in my opinion the monk being "underpowered" is a problem that exists only in highly optimized games, which is not the sum total of all the game types out there. The linked question is about optimizing and making the monk "brokenly good," which I can't speak to. However, in the various campaigns I've played in since 2000 with various groups in various cities under 3e, 3.5, and Pathfinder, monks have been popular classes at the table and have been considered a fun option not terribly overshadowed by others.

However, it's certainly not the strongest class, and so Paizo's put out some gear and changes to help the monk get better! The amulet of mighty fists is the usual core item to magically buff the monk. They just revised it and lowered its price, as well as gave the monk's ki strike some DR-overcoming power - see "Monkeying Around" on the Paizo blog.

The new body wrap of mighty strikes also directly augments unarmed strikes.

There's been back and forth debate and conflicting rulings (to the point of conflicting verbiage in successive printings of the same weapon in different books) on whether weapons like cesti, gauntlets, rope gauntlets, emei piercers, and/or brass knuckles use a monk's unarmed damage or not. Many are monk weapons and thus by definition may be flurried, ki striked, etc. with, but the damage has been debated. I just say "yes, use your unarmed damage" to all of them. In my pirate campaign the captain is a monk; he has magical gauntlets and also some cold iron brass knuckles he bought that have the knuckles inscribed with "ELFPU" and "NCHER". By letting these weapons leverage unarmed damage, the monk avoids some of his traditional problems with DR and cheaper enhancement means less "flurry of misses."

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