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As a somewhat follow up to this question re. unarmed strike, I'm wondering:

  1. Does Pathfinder significantly fix the monk class (this, and other potential well known class issues)? Specifically *:
    • Multiple Attribute Dependency/lack of synergy between class skills
    • Difficulty in scaling combat effectiveness in magic heavy campaigns
    • Heavy dependence on a relatively limited range of very specific magic items
    • What seem like outright bugs - the lack of proficiency in unarmed strike, the Other transformation at level 20 coming with immunity to some useful spells, and not immunity to things like mind affecting, damage reduction from falling is worse than feather-fall, etc...
    • Generally making it feasible to either fill one of the standard group roles (ie, better compete to be a damage dealer or tank), or be a realiable generalist (ie, make it easier to buff or crowd control or heal).
  2. If it does, is there an online source I can read which will most quickly bring me up to date with what Pathfinder changes/fixes with the monk class, specifically?

. * this list is not exhaustive - I can't find a good online resource so wrote it from memory. I'd appreciate suggestions to improve it (or a link to a good run down of major monk problems)

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You're going to need to be a bit more specific about what these known issues are to get any reasonable response. – Emrakul Jul 8 '13 at 19:19
Presumably it's the ones listed in the question about what is or isn't good about the Monk. – KRyan Jul 8 '13 at 19:43
I'd like to see this question expanded to specifically note what it's asking. What do you consider the problems you want to see fixed? – mxyzplk Jul 8 '13 at 21:59
Thanks for the edit but it's still a bit much "Did everything anyone anywhere on the Internet thinks is wrong with the monk get fixed" which will just result in the same arguments you can read in the existing threads. What specific problem are you looking to solve? What problems do YOU have with the 3.5e monk? – mxyzplk Jul 9 '13 at 14:02
What are you after? What interests you about the monk that you're concerned about what has/hasn't been changed? In terms of that link, I'd guess the changes are only a step in learning something else - what do you really want to know? If you're interested in playing a monk, consider asking something like "I want to do X as a monk; how can I do that well?", and be open to (or prepared for) answers which say "this other class does that thing better; play as that class and reskin your character as a monk if you really like being a monk." – doppelgreener Jul 9 '13 at 22:36

The Real Problems Did Not Get Fixed

But let's talk about these individually:

Multiple Attribute Dependancy

Also known as MAD, this has plagued the poor Monk for ages. Monks need Strength for accuracy and damage, Dexterity and Wisdom for their armor class and two saving throws, Constitution for hit points (to be fair, all characters want this) and their last saving throw, Intelligence for skill points and Charisma to make use of their short list of social skills. This is not a good thing, because there's only so many high or even mid ability score numbers to go around. Pathfinder seemed like it was going to help this when it improved the skill system, consolidating many skills and relieving the reliance on Intelligence, but then it turned right back around and made boosting your ability scores with items more expensive, actually worsening this particular issue.

Anti-Synergistic Class Features

This just straight-up didn't change. Many of the Monk's class features are mutually exclusive with other features, with the use of feats, with the use of skills, or some delightfully awful combination of all three. Additionally, Monk still has problems making use of combat maneuvers (due both to low numbers and the increasing Size rating of stock enemies) and the feats relating to those maneuvers got weaker, cutting off a theoretical avenue of contribution.

Mo' Melee, Mo' Problems

Traditional problems with 'mundane' or 'melee' classes like Monk, but also like Fighter or Barbarian, were not solved by Pathfinder. They still have problems with enemies of all kinds that fly, burrow, teleport, cast spells, use 'lockdown' effects (like paralysis, poison) and utilize battlefield control (spiderwebs, choking fogs, etc) among other things. Like all melee classes, the Monk is forced to funnel enormous amounts of cash into meeting the increasing demand for complexity as levels and challenge ratings climb ever-higher. Unlike other melee classes, Monks cannot shore up their 'primary' role, because...

Monks have no specialization

And unlike rogues or bards cannot be made into competent generalists because of the aforementioned anti-synergy and low numbers, forcing them to pour resource after resource into badly mimicking another class's role.


Pathfinder did introduce the Archetype system, a refinement on the idea of Alternate Class Features from 3.5. Some Monk archetypes, such as Zen Archer and Hungry Ghost, work to alleviate some of these issues. Combinations of archetypes, done intelligently, may make for a playable character whose class still reads 'Monk'. Whether or not such a thing is worth the effort is not easily decided, but the options are available.

With that in mind, a word to the wise - Pathfinder gets errata often, and Monk has been the subject of many heated debates and quick rules changes - such as the brief-lived errata to Flurry of Blows. This does not have to affect your table, but if you're participating in a sanctioned table (like in Pathfinder Society) or if your group cares about such things your Monk may find the rules shifting out rapidly from underneath him. Caveat emptor.

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Worth adding to Anti-Synergistic Class Features: It actually got worse, because they get only full BAB when they flurry, which makes moving and attacking even worse than it used to be. – Bobson Aug 15 '14 at 13:31
The upcoming Brawler is also a surprisingly good candidate. It is the first time I played an unarmed character that actually felt dangerous - I even used one as a single Boss NPC and almost caused a TPK – Cristol.GdM Aug 15 '14 at 13:48
Im curious about the brief-lived errata to the flurry, I had not heard of it – Fering Jun 1 '15 at 23:37

Not only does it not, it doesn’t even try

The Pathfinder Monk does not see any significant improvements. It’s still lacking full BAB (though it does get full BAB for Flurry and combat maneuvers), the combat maneuver feats that it gets as bonus feats are weaker than they used to be, and absolutely nothing was done about the lack of meaningful, useful, and consistent class features.

The Pathfinder Monk still exhibits a serious case of Multiple Ability Dependency, which is even worse in Pathfinder than it is in 3.5 due to the fact that all physical-ability-enhancing items are now stuck on the same item-slot and you cannot get more than one without paying extra. The Monk still has a smorgasbord of random, limited niche features which not only fail to synergize, but in fact frequently are mutually exclusive (e.g. Fast Movement and Flurry).

Finally, it’s worth noting that spellcasters are arguably even stronger, relatively speaking, than they were in 3.5. While Pathfinder nerfed a handful of spells, there are still plenty of overly-powerful ones at every spell level, and all spellcasters received new class features – some of which are quite potent. Meanwhile, the few good melee options have largely been nerfed hard, or simply not replicated if from a supplement. Paizo’s claims to have improved the balance of the system are untrue.

The best “fix” of the Monk remains the Swordsage from Tome of Battle.

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-1 it may not fix it "as much as you want" but the monk does have significant improvements from 3.5. – mxyzplk Jul 8 '13 at 20:32
I'd love to see an actual answer to that effect, @mxyzplk, because as far as I know the Monk was not fixed or even improved unless the Archetypes I alluded to are in play. – Lord_Gareth Jul 8 '13 at 20:34
@mxyzplk Full BAB some of the time is not a significant improvement. If you can name others, feel free to add your own answer. To the best of my knowledge that's the only improvement even worth mentioning. – KRyan Jul 8 '13 at 20:42
-1 for tired Pathfinder balance rant, playtest whine, and overall soapboxing in the second half of your answer. Poor quality and bad form. – Steve G Jul 8 '13 at 21:28
-1 There's a lot of non-relevant information here, mainly your third paragraph. The question is about if the monk is better in PF than in 3.5, not if PF is balanced. – DuckTapeAl Jul 9 '13 at 1:41


Zen Archery (Wisdom to hit) fixes the MAD attribute significantly. Wisdom to-hit rocks. Wisdom in the Flesh for a skill (Stealth off of Wisdom is nice).

Reliance on the Composite Longbow fixes all magic and ranged issues (just get a Magic Composite Longbow, like everyone else). The Zen Archer flurry of blows with a longbow, making the most ranged attacks in the game. Effectively, the Zen Archer has rapid shot and many shot for free, with similar boosts to Ki. With snap-shot and free point-blank master, the Zen Archer does not provoke attacks of opportunity... and instead threatens them even as a ranged-player. Clustered Shot feat solves the damage-reduction problem.

Abundant Step gives you mobility that no one else has. Even if your mobility were cut off somehow, Trick Shot (lvl 11) gives you the ability to shoot around corners and other areas which have total concealment or total cover.

Ki Focus Bow at lvl 17 gives you the ability to stunning-fist enemies at range, possibly making that scary dragon fall from the sky paralyzed.

Here's an optimized Zen Archer:

Bow ki deadly flurry haste +34/+34/+34/+29/+29/+24/+24/+19 (2d10+28, and as 1)

Cluster-shotted, so no DR issues to be had here. With the first strike being a stunning arrow at DC 34 vs Fort. With 21 Stunning fists / day, this is basically a "use all the time" ability at lvl 20.

Without expending any resources at all, you have:

Bow deadly flurry +33/+33/+28/+28/+23/+23/+18 (1d8+28, and as 1)

The damage dice drops to 1d8, but you're still dealing a good bit of damage. "Perfect Shot" can allow three rerolls to ensure the first hit does in fact hit, so that Stunning Fist (or the Quivering Palm-injected Arrow) is going to go off.

I don't think any other class can do so much damage from 100+ feet away with so little resource expenditures.

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