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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    \$\begingroup\$ 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. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Aug 15, 2014 at 0:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Miniman, why specifically in comparison with other fighter-type classes? Ideally, classes should all be balanced one another. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Aug 15, 2014 at 17:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @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. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 15, 2014 at 17:38

4 Answers 4


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 Dependency 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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    \$\begingroup\$ 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. \$\endgroup\$
    – Johan
    Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 17:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ 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. \$\endgroup\$
    – DuckTapeAl
    Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 23:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ 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. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 12:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ 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. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 12:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ Fighters dont really need Dex, and their damage output is far superior with GWM \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Commented Dec 29, 2018 at 20:29

Mostly yes

Monks are still among the weakest classes, but the difference between the strongest and the weakest is much smaller than in 3.5.

Most of the problems are dealt with

You can dump your Str now, focusing only on Dex, Wis and Con.

You can use quite common weapons, so finding a magical one is about as difficult for you as for a Rogue.

You can use Stunning Strike more often. In 3.5 it was once per level per long rest, in 5e it is once per level per short rest. Even more important, now you spend it after the attack, when you know you hit.

From level 6 you can damage any creature now.

Remaining issues

If for roleplay reasons you want to use only your fists your DPR still suffers. On the low levels you deal d4 instead of d8, on the high levels it is hard to use magic items to improve your attack and damage.
This is especially a problem for your bonus action attacks (Flurry of Blows or Martial Arts), because you cannot use a weapon with those. This is one of the reasons Monks are behind Fighters on DPR.

Feat support is bad, the best DPR increasing feats in 5e are Polearm Master, Great Weapon Master, Sharpshooter and Crossbow expert. None of these really help a Monk.

Your AC is still ability dependent, so on level 16 you will finally achieve the AC of a 7th level Fighter who uses a shield.1

Despite your low AC and HP, you are still limited to melee attacks if you want to be effective2.

You are either mobile, or have a decent damage output. You can use Flurry of Blows as a bonus action, or Disengage, but not both.

Monks are great fifth character

To mix in one more edition (4th), Monks are not tanky enough to be a viable main Defender, or have a high enough damage output to be a main Striker. For Leaders and Controllers, they are even worse, but they quite viable:

  • All the resistances and defenses make for a decent secondary Defender
  • The DPR is good enough for a secondary Striker
  • Stunning Strike targets a save that is very rarely weak, but very few monsters are immune to it, so it does some Controlling and Buffing

Of course Paladins do the first two so much better that few care about the third. And they can heal.
Monks still really only shine in Antimagic Fields.

1) Assuming point-buy
2) Some subclasses mitigate this, like Way of the Sun or Kensei

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    \$\begingroup\$ You mention it with the subclasses, but the Kensei monk can get a pretty darn good AC. HP is still a factor for damage, but they can have high ACs. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 18:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch so one subclass can have a decent AC if it does not use an weapon attack. It just trades DPR for AC. This does not even make the subclass good, just different. \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 20:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @András It's a very small reduction in DPR that minimizes further as you level up. I'm currently playing one and I'm pretty happy with it. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 20:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch there were people who were happy with Monks even in 3.5. \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 20:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Doc, a 7th level Fighter can be expected to have an AC of 20, 21 with the right fighting style. Without any magic items, with a rare item they can get 23. If the Monk does not take any feats, and they get the right magic item, they are still behind this, even on 20th level. What is not to understand? Much less HP (lower base, cannot affor to raise Con) + worse AC + still expected to be in melee = higher chance of dying. \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Commented Mar 12, 2020 at 21:24

The important thing to remember about a monk is that while some classes go for Massive damage, a monk is primarily a controller. They are a mobile plink cannon. I used mine a few (5e) campaigns ago to great effect in 2 major ways that I think a lot of people don't think about.

First, they are great herders. You can block out, interrupt, and slow baddies that are coming to help or you can pick off baddies that try to run.

Second, if you have one round left to get to the baddie that is 90 feet away protected by a couple of tanks and summoning "The horrible fallen god", or trying to activate "The Device", or realizing that he is lost, and is going to try and take everyone with him to protect "The Cause", a Monk is great at ruining the DM's plans with a Step of the Wind (which I never see anyone talk about in Monk discussions), Punch, Punch, Stunning Strike. Not a lot of damage, but very effective at disrupting.

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    – V2Blast
    Commented Nov 27, 2019 at 1:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Or a Ranger could do the same damage, without any rist to himself, with a bow. Or a Wizard more damage, to more opponents, with a Fireball. \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Commented Mar 12, 2020 at 21:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @András, a ranger cannot use stunning strike and run 120 foot in a round. Using a bow is a choice to make, but then why would anyone make any melee classes, e.g. fighter, and wild a sword - a bow is better. ANd comparing a wizard to a monk is not a viable thing - it is a spellcaster, so completely different, and therefore although there are differences look at this question they arent important, in this discussion. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 23, 2021 at 12:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ArtickokeAndAnchovyPizzaMonica how often do you need to run 120 feet in a round? \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Commented Feb 23, 2021 at 22:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @András, this might be my playstyle, but I find it very useful in boss fights to be able to be out o the reach of the boss, and all minions whilst the boss is stunned so the fighter can do huge damage. I don't think that the monk is the most powerful choice of the game, but it has a use especially as a secondary striker, and defender and battlefield controller - the monk may not be the best at these but it can help them all \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 24, 2021 at 9:11

The monk does, 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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    \$\begingroup\$ There are 3 monk archetypes which all include options for the monk in combat other than just melee attacks. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 13:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ 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. \$\endgroup\$
    – Johan
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 14:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ 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. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 14:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ 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. \$\endgroup\$
    – Johan
    Commented Sep 13, 2014 at 17:00

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