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Many people believe that the monk has balance issues (and is underpowered) in 3.5e and Pathfinder. The goal of this question is not to debate that point but to see what changes the Monk has undergone relative to other classes in 5e.

Has 5th edition fixed the major perceived problems of the Monk to the point of being on an even keel with other fighter-type classes?

For example, the ability to add Dex to damage would slightly reduce the MAD issues the Monk previously suffered.

(In case context is required: One of my players wants to play a Monk, but the PHB doesn't release (as far as I'm concerned) till the 19th. So I can't tell if it's a good idea or not.)

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Proactively protected. No "monk sucks/doesn't suck" warring or handwringing over newness of 5e will be tolerated. Answer using normal site Good Subjective, Bad Subjective rules. If that means an answer isn't possible yet because no one has had real play-time with the 5e monk, fine, if it is, fine. – mxyzplk Aug 15 '14 at 0:59
Miniman, why specifically in comparison with other fighter-type classes? Ideally, classes should all be balanced one another. – KRyan Aug 15 '14 at 17:30
@KRyan Balance relative to its "neighbours" is plenty to know—if casters are also neighbours then the difference is not special to casters vs monks, and if casters are in the next city over then that difference swallows balance issues local to the monk and isn't helpful to understand those local issues. – SevenSidedDie Aug 15 '14 at 17:38
up vote 24 down vote accepted

In short, yes.

There are a few things that make monk on par with the other melee fighting classes. I'll list a few of them here:

Dex to attack and damage

Monks can apply dex to attacks and damage automatically at level one.

Extra attacks

Monks are the only class that gets 2 attacks per round at level 1, and they keep up with Fighter attacks per round all the way to 20.

Class features apply to monk weapons

What counts as a monk weapon has been expanded a lot, and most of the monk class features (including increased damage) apply to monk weapons and unarmed strikes equally. In addition, the slew of exotic weapons that monks used to get have been condensed into reflavours of simple weapons. For example, nunchaku are now mechanically clubs, rather than a separate weapon type.

Less MAD

Monks in 5e have much less of a Multiple Attribute Dependancy problem. Since monks get Dex to attack and damage for free, Strength is largely unnecessary. Int and Cha are as useful as they were in 3e. There are a few things that Int and Cha are useful for in both systems, but they're hardly essential.

Wisdom affects the same sort of stuff in 5e as it did in 3e, but it's less important due to other mechanical changes. Since "flat-footed" doesn't cause you to lose Dex Ac anymore, using Dex to increase AC is just as good as increasing Wis. You can probably end up with similar AC as a fighter by then end game.

Monks need to care about 3 stats, but they have basically the same number of dependencies as a fighter or barbarian. The fighter and barb both need Str and Con, with a secondary focus on Dex, and a monk needs Dex and Wis, with a secondary focus on Con. Since the stat cap is 20, it's actually not difficult to have a 20 and a couple 16-18s, as well as a 12 or two.

Better class features

The monk class features in 5e are similar to the ones in 3e, but they're a bit better, and a bit more reliable than they were before. I haven't done any real analysis on this, this is really just based on a first glance.

Interesting paths

There are three monk paths in the PHB, all of which do cool things. There's one for a classic monk that's similar to the one in 3e, but the other two add some really interesting things to the class that broaden the kind of situations that the monk can handle, which is a problem that mundane classes have had since the dawn of time. :)


Broadly speaking, the monk does less damage than the Barbarian, and has less tanking ability than the Fighter, but is a very strong and versatile mobile melee fighter. A better character optimizer might have a different opinion, but as a player who doesn't make broken characters, the monk looks like it's on par with the Barbarian and Fighter.

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There are problems with your analysis. Monks gets two attacks + a dual wielding strike, and can spend ki to get 2 dual wielding attacks. This don't compare to a fighters free 4 regular attacks, a barbarians rage empowered strikes or a paladins smite empowered strikes. Monks strengths are that they are more or less immune to everything that allows saving throws and they are extremely mobile. If you aren't going to abuse those then you are better off playing a paladin. – Johan Sep 11 '14 at 17:43
I disagree that the way monks get 4 attacks per round is worse than the way fighters get them, especially with how cool the Way of the Open Hand stuff is. I'll go into more detail with why I think that's still good later on, once I have time to edit my post more. If you disagree with me that much, however, then post your own answer from a more optimization-focused perspective. Admittedly, I'm not terribly great at that part of the game, so my analyses are a bit lacking when it comes to high-optimization games. – DuckTapeAl Sep 11 '14 at 23:21
On the tanking aspect, the monk is much inferior than the barbarian. Damage wise, both the barbarian and the fighter has higher potential. The monk cannot use any non-simple weapon, meaning that +1 axes and longswords are useless to him, his damage is capped at the number of attacks, his maximum possible dex of 20 and his monk damage. While both the fighter and barbarian can get str higher than 20 with magical belts (giant's) and have a potentially larger damage dice with two-handed weapons. Also, let's not get started on paladins and their insane smite damage and self-healing abilities. – ShadowKras Jun 16 '15 at 12:02
That said, monks are versatile, insanely mobile, and have a lot of special effects on their attacks that the other melee classes don't, but those effects will either shine or suck depending on the enemy fought. Thus, depending on your playstyle, they may be a lot more interesting to play. But if you prefer a strong and reliable melee combatant, the fighter/paladin/barbarian might be a better choice. – ShadowKras Jun 16 '15 at 12:04

The monk do in general have the same advantages and drawbacks as in the old editions

We can see that monks still can't fill in for a rogue, cleric or wizard, so it is a fighter class. Rangers strongest point is their strong ranged options so they are not comparable to monks. So we are left with Paladins, Fighters and Barbarians.

Now, what do the monk get? Well, he get 2 attacks per level at level 5 and as a bonus action he can use an extra unarmed attack. For 1 ki point he can use a bonus action for two unarmed attacks, totaling 4 attacks. This is the peak of monk performance in terms of damage, from level 5 to 20 all the monk gets is more ki points and 2 damage per strike. But they get the best mobility, can catch ranged weapon attacks and can ignore almost everything allowing saving throws.

Battle master fighters have a similar amount of attacks at level 5, but gets two more attacks on the way to level 20. Battle masters superiority dice have similar uses to monks ki points and can even grant extra attacks similar to flurry of blows. On top of that second wind is just imbalanced, and they even recharge on short rests. They are worse in general at tanking though.

Spirit barbarians are very similar to monks on mobility and damage, but they take half damage from weapon attacks and have 2 more hp per level making them a ton tougher.

Paladins have a lot more damage and combat options as long as they can smite and they have as many smites as the monk have ki points, but smites only recharge on long rests. But at level 11 paladins gets free d8 radiant damage on every strike, from there on even resource less paladins outclass resource less monks. On top of that paladins have good saves and provide a lot of support to teammates through auras and healing, which is better than what the monk has in every situation where you don't solo.

The design problems of the monk

We know the strengths and weaknesses of monks. They are weak to melee attacks and strong against ranged attacks and spells. However, their only viable attack options are melee attacks! So the only way for a monk to do any good in combat is to run straight into the fray while being as squishy as a sorcerer and in general having less damage than the other fighter classes. A monk can run from every fight and is more or less impossible to catch, but that don't help your teammates at all. Their only saving grace is in situations where you for some reason don't have your normal gear.

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There are 3 monk archetypes which all include options for the monk in combat other than just melee attacks. – Miniman Sep 12 '14 at 13:06
An elemental monk can shoot 2-3 half leveled spell attacks per short rest and in the process use up all of their ki points. It has its uses but it is not enough to make them viable ranged attackers. – Johan Sep 12 '14 at 14:47
I get in enough trouble about arguing in comments, so I'm just going to say that you seem to take an extremely limited view and leave it at that. – Miniman Sep 12 '14 at 14:55
You can't compare the updates to the monk class in a vacuum. All classes got a lot more options in 5e, not just the monk. The core of the monk is mostly the same as before with the same strengths and weaknesses. So now instead of choosing between a fighter and a monk you choose between a fighter who can shoot fireballs and a monk who can shoot fireballs. If the monks core adds less value than the fighters core you would still choose the fighter. – Johan Sep 13 '14 at 17:00

protected by mxyzplk Aug 15 '14 at 0:58

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