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Defensive Duelist requires wielding a finesse weapon, yet one of Monks' abilities is to treat Monk weapons (including staves and unarmed strikes) as "having finesse" (in all but name: it allows monks to use Dex for attack and damage with all).

Can a monk use any monk weapon with DD? If the monk is skilled enough to wield a staff/unarmed as if it were a weapon with finesse, it seems flavour-busting to have to wield a dagger or what have you, just to be able to trigger DD... "I wield a dagger... which I only use 1/round, sometimes."

If not, would a house-rule allowing this be overly unbalanced (i.e., allow exploits or some possibly game-breaking scenario)?

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No.

The key here is that the Monk weapon ability doesn't actually add the keyword "finesse" to the weapon, it just lets you use Dex for attack and damage.

Defensive Duelist specifies that a weapon have that keyword, and thus, no, it can't be used.

Adding more fuel to this fire is Jeremy Crawford talking about natural weapons and coming down on the side that just because you are attacking with Dex does not mean you are adding finesse:

No. A weapon has the finesse property only if its description says so, and using Dex. to hit doesn't equal finesse.

Would this be a game breaking houserule? No, that's quite unlikely. The Staff does d6 or d8 damage, and there is already a finesse weapon that does d8 (Rapier). The monk isn't proficient in that, so it's not available, but it's not out of bounds for them to be able to use it.

Note: Brian points out that two monk weapons are finesse weapons, and as such would be usable with this combination (and get the Monk's proper monk weapon die). These are the dagger and the short sword.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, not to be a tough nut, but I did mention daggers in my question (and the reasons I didn't want to wield one--i.e., I'm forced to wield a dagger, instead of my unarmed strike/staff of defense, either of which is way cooler, just so I can use Defensive Duelist 1/round)... Oh well, free bounty for someone ;). \$\endgroup\$ – Khashir Oct 14 '14 at 20:45
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By RAW, as stated by other answers, No.

I would probably rule that it should.

Although the martial arts ability doesn't use the term finesse, a feat like DD certainly feels like it should apply to unarmed for a monk... Most would probably consider it a house rule, but it feels right. It gives the effect of finesse, so using an ability like that isn't out of place.

RAI is a tricky thing, since they could have simply stated that monk weapons and unarmed strikes function as if they had the 'finesse' trait, so even claiming RAI is basically impossible in this specific situation. It might be worth asking someone involved in design about this.

Interesting note, I asked Mike Mearls, and this is what I got:

@mikemearls Is the martial arts ability for the monk equivalent to finesse for the purposes of feats like Defensive Duelist?

— Robert Masengale (@MythicalAviose) September 15, 2014

@MythicalAviose I'd rule yes

— Mike Mearls (@mikemearls) September 16, 2014

This makes it look like it's a DM ruling, but clearly shows his preference for the ruling on it.

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Let's look at the book, shall we?

Martial Arts does not make a Monk weapon finessable. However, there are two Monk weapons that have finesse: dagger and short sword. Please note, according to the weapons table, unarmed strike does NOT have finesse.

So, RAW, you CAN use Defensive Duelist if you use a dagger or a short sword.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ In a way, this sets a precedence for it to be allowable and understandable for other monk weapons. \$\endgroup\$ – Aviose Oct 24 '14 at 15:43
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No. This is straight from Jeremy Crawford ‏on Twitter:

The Martial Arts feature doesn't give monk weapons and unarmed strikes the finesse property.

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While, no, you cannot use DD with, say, a quarterstaff, it is worth noting that from level 11 and onwards, you can roll a d8 and eventually a d10 for monk weapons, in place of their usual damage die. Meaning that, flavour aside, even if your DM is RAW, you're able to use a dagger or shortsword just as effectively as two-handing a quarterstaff, making the debate moot at that point.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to Role-playing Games! You might consider taking the tour and looking over the help center pages to acquaint yourself. Your answer might be improved by citing rules regarding finesse weapons and monks using them. \$\endgroup\$ – David Wilkins Jan 26 '15 at 15:42
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A Monk can hold a dagger in his hand it dose not mean he will hit you with it all his/her attacks could be made with the other hand or a foot (kick, circle kick, snap kick...ect) but he would have the dagger in his hand and giving him/her the finesse weapon so he/she could use the defense duelist or you could just say his/her hands/feet do count as finesse weapons which is just easier.

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