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If the way we roll characters means that we can roll the six numbers and assign them to whatever attribute we want then there is usually a preferred attribute for the highest value:

  • a Magic User would usually put the highest value in Intelligence
  • a Cleric would usually put the highest value in Wisdom
  • A Fighter would put usually the highest value in Strength

But what about the monk?

A monk needs 15 is each of Strength, Dexterity and Wisdom. There is no AC bonus for dexterity and no to-hit/damage bonus for strength. It reads as if you do still get the reaction bonus for dexterity and the saving throw bonus for wisdom and the weight bonus for strength so there is some value in having a value higher than 15 in those attributes but it isn't clear to me if there would be a clearly superior order for assigning the three highest values rolled.

Is there a clearly superior order for assigning those highest three values when playing a monk?

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Of the three, Strength is the least needed.

My recommendation is, based on the one monk that I played in AD&D that wasn't in a module, Dex > Wis > Str and the reason for that is as follows:

  1. You can be proficient with a crossbow. I chose crossbow as my first weapon, since with an AC of 10 I had no desire to be anywhere near the front line at first level. I was the second string lock picking/trap disabling character. My occasional use of open hand in combat was, let's say, underwhelming. (I was OK in a bar fight when nobody had a weapon) The occasional stun was kind of nice, I admit. But as easy as I was to hit, staying out of melee is a thing I often did.

    If your Dexterity is 16 or greater, then you do accrue the attack bonus of +1 with a cross bow. Also, the reaction adjustment (depending on how your DM runs combat and turns and segments) can be of benefit.

  2. Wisdom saving throw bonus: any bonus to a saving throw against things like mind control was, in my experience, handy and not just for the Monk class. You really don't want to be charmed or feared if you can help it; the aid against illusion was in our case handy, since on a few occasions only my Monk seeing through one allowed our party to not be fooled.

  3. There was usually at least one Fighting Man, and often more, in a given group who had big strength. Leave that Strength stuff to the Fighting Man, and help out when you can.

    I suppose that you can make the argument that Wisdom is better - Wis > Dex > Str - based on the saving throw benefit, but that really depends on how much in the way of clerics, magic users and illusionists your campaign world has. And how often mind altering spells are employed or even known.

Unfortunately, my experience with that class in AD&D ended early in level 5 to a trap + poison; we had detected a trap. When I tried to disarm it I failed to. The ensuing fall onto the poisoned, sharpened stakes ended Brother Flember's career. (Our DM had learned about punji sticks when he had served in Viet Nam; we ran into traps like that on several occasions).

I only had 11 Constitution; no bonus to my HP, nor to my saving throw. Oh well, the fighters used to laugh at my attacks with the bill-guisarme anyway. (That is the pole arm that I chose when I got my second weapons proficiency). The party didn't feel that resurrecting a monk was worth the time, treasure and trouble, so I ended up creating another character.

I was a decent scout, but our thief ended up being a lot better.

FWIW, most of the AD&D 1e games that I played in, and the ones that I DM'd, had between 6 and 10 PCs in the party. We generally viewed a Monk as nice to have, in a party, not must have since we always felt that we needed a thief and plenty of Fighter/Ranger sorts, and a cleric or druid, and a magic user.

At higher levels, monks bring some neat features to a party. But they have to survive ...

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the answer. I like that a monk would be able to either catch an arrow or knock it out of the way (it just seems like something you would expect a monk to be able to do) so I think I will put the highest number in dexterity and the next highest in wisdom. \$\endgroup\$ – Jerry Jeremiah Jan 26 at 7:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ I did get the impression from the book that the monk was pretty useless for the first couple levels so I see what you are saying. I have the same problem with first level magicians (one spell per day? Really?) \$\endgroup\$ – Jerry Jeremiah Jan 26 at 7:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JerryJeremiah hold torches, throw oil flasks/darts, save the one spell for when the party needs it... yeah, first level magic users rely on the rest of the party ... unless you cast charm person and get a bandit or a fighter or an orc to serve you, charmed. ;-) \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jan 26 at 13:20
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If you can meet the class minimums without using your best score, then put it in Constitution. Low-level monks tend to die like flies, and a Constitution bonus to hit points improves your chances dramatically.

Also, use daggers, and throw them at enemy spell-casters. Getting to throw two per round gives you better odds of hitting, and the monk's damage bonus means the low basic damage is less of a problem.

Back in the day, we tended to regard monks as exotic things that showed up occasionally, but weren't often effective, and were never regarded as a vital element of a party. Unless you're really into the imagery of monks as martial artists, you'll get more out of the stats in AD&D1e by playing a bard, or a character with two classes.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Monks cannot be proficient in darts in PHB or UA Table II. So there is a -3 non-proficiency penalty. But a monk can throw 2 daggers per hand per round, with tohit penalties adjusted by dex reaction adjustment (DMB pg 70) . Monks can also hurl hand axe, club, javelin, spear. \$\endgroup\$ – ExcessOperatorHeadspace May 24 at 16:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ExcessOperatorHeadspace: So they can't! The monk I was playing with a while back clearly had it wrong. \$\endgroup\$ – John Dallman May 24 at 16:39

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