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In my party we have a ranger, a sorcerer and a monk. We recently had a fight with a Balor and I had to keep introducing things in order for the monk to feel like he was contributing in any way.

For those who don't know, the Balor has a fire aura that deals 3d6 fire damage to any creature that starts its turn within 5ft of it, and it deals 3d6 fire damage to any creature that hits it with a melee attack while within 5ft. For my other two players this was fine, just stay away from the Balor and pelt it with ranged attacks, but my monk was dealing less damage on average than the Balor was doing to him so he just decided it was safer to stay away.

Obviously this is a feature of creatures like the Balor but I am looking for ways to ensure my monk feels like his is still contributing to the fight when they are fighting something that, essentially, kills him if he punches it.

I'm aware I could just give him an item that makes him immune to rebound damage (a term I just decided on) but I am hoping to find something official that could either negate or offset the damage he takes.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Has the monk attempted to stun the balor on any of the hits that they did make before they decided to stay clear? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 11 at 2:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ The monk in my old party was our best ranged combatant, being the Monk type that shoots holy fire from her fists... Perhaps the monk should consider carrying a reach weapon or some throwing weapons or something from now on? There's at least one monk reach weapon, right? \$\endgroup\$ – gatherer818 May 11 at 3:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you interested in tactics specific to the Monk class, or are you open to any tactics that might be useful for a character that has limited options for ranged attacks? \$\endgroup\$ – Upper_Case May 11 at 3:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RobertPainVanZant Please don't answer in comments. If you think that's a good solution to the problem please put it up as an answer along with the support to back it up. \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil May 11 at 14:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just because the Monk is receiving more damage than he is dealing, does not make the damage he is dealing worthless. It is definitely safer to stay away from the Balor, but fighting a Balor is not really that safe to begin with. One additional point, is what levels are the characters? Is this a level-appropriate encounter? \$\endgroup\$ – Michael Richardson May 11 at 16:45
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I wouldn't try to make his character more powerful, but give him alternative ways of helping.

There are some enemies that are inherently harder for some classes or characters to fight. That doesn't mean that they're weak, or can't assist during a fight; it just means they shouldn't be on the front lines(usually.)

A good example is creatures with magic resistance, which makes them very potent against spell casters. That doesn't mean you should make the spell casters stronger, or "more helpful," as it will end up making them even more powerful when this weakness isn't highlighted.

Perhaps the monk could body-block for one of his party members and take the Dodge action, preventing the Balor from advancing toward his allies. Effectively, he should be playing defensively, as the majority of damage is triggered by attacking the balor. This is more-or-less the intended line of play. It should be a challenge for a player to overcome.

An example.

Personally, if my player can sell me on something, I'll allow it. I actually had a fighter that doused himself with water before running into melee against a balor. I loved the idea, so I gave him resistance to fire damage for that turn, and he waylaid the balor and then fell back on his next turn.

In conclusion..

I think good ideas should be rewarded, as it encourages outside-the-box thinking and leads to more fun moments in combat, and usually, makes the player feel like they were contributing to the encounter. When fighting deadly enemies such as this, some strategy is expected and even require.

A monk charging headlong into combat against a balor and continually soaking up damage is less of a strategy, and more of an action. Rather than simply give the character an item to resist the damage or otherwise counter the "rebound damage", give them alternative ways of contributing to the encounter.

But, that's just my 2 cents.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You make a good point. I suppose my players haven't been very good at improvising their actions in combat but this could actually be a good way to encourage it. \$\endgroup\$ – Lord Flumph May 11 at 10:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Being submerged in water gives fire resistance by RAW, so your ruling that being doused in it also provides the resistance looks like the natural outcome. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot May 11 at 12:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Robert is spot on. I'd go so far to say that a character that is useless too often has been over-optimized or under-prepared. \$\endgroup\$ – Tony Ennis May 11 at 19:45
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Why?

So, in this one fight, the monk (or any normal melee PC) was sidelined. Doesn't seem like a problem that needs fixing.

One of the main reasons for (occasionally) introducing opponents that nerf a player's or party's usual tactics is to force them to respond and adapt. For example, just off the cuff, the monk could use an (improvised) ranged weapon or an (improvised) reach weapon or Help someone else. Or "just stay away".

Not every PC has to contribute in every fight.

However ...

The Absorb Elements spell will help Druids, Rangers, Sorcerers, Wizards and Artificers but not, unfortunately Monks.

Protection from Energy can be cast by a Cleric, Druid, Ranger, Sorcerer, or Wizard on the Monk.

A wizard can use a Fire Shield.

If your monk is a Tifling they can have Hellish Resistance. Or a Draconic monk with the right ancestry will have fire resistance.

If you can choose your circumstances you can fight fully underwater.

Or course, once your Monk reaches 18th level they can use Empty Body to have resistance to all damage except force.

And many more ...

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    \$\begingroup\$ I understand that, realistically, it would make sense for some fights to render a PC useless, but it just isn't fun and I don't want to remove a player's fun for a bit of realism. I do like the idea of having them contribute in a way that isn't just "Balor takes 1d10 damage" \$\endgroup\$ – Lord Flumph May 11 at 10:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ I never said “useless”. There are many ways for the monk to be useful. When the player finds one they will have way more fun than any “normal” fight. \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M May 11 at 10:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @LordFlumph Are you aware that the monk can use stunning strike? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 11 at 14:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, and he has tried several times and just has terrible luck. \$\endgroup\$ – Lord Flumph May 12 at 0:54

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