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I recently started running a Pathfinder campaign with some friends. Two of the players are pretty experienced, two are brand new, and this is my first time DM'ing.

One of the new players is playing a monk. I warned her that monks are underpowered and that she end up feeling like she isn't contributing, but she isn't interested in any other class.

The other experienced players and I want her to have fun, especially since she is new to rpg's. They don't mind house ruling whatever to bring her more in line with the others in the party (which are, btw, a cleric, magus, and an investigator). They are somewhat optimized, but not to the degree of being fully min/maxed.

I've considered dropping more/better gear for her specifically (other players have already told me that they're cool with this). The problem with this approach is that it may get obvious to her that I'm showing favoritism and I don't necessarily want to do that. She is determined not to use any monk weapons, unarmed only.

It occurred to me that if I would just house-rule that monks get Dex to damage automatically and let her re-roll her stats, it may help her a lot.

I'm specifically wanting to address melee damage. The player is new and still learning how to contribute to the party in ways other than just hitting things, but for now I want to give her a boost in damage so that she's not discouraged while she is trying to figure out her role. Are there better ways to do this other than my suggested house rule?

Has anyone tried this, and would it potentially break anything? I want her to be comparable to the other players but not outshine them too much. Would it be better if I also made it cost her a feat? I'm asking because I don't have any experience with the monk class.

Also, the best solution is one that helps her damage without making her do something different or memorize new rules, this will likely turn her off. She's mostly interested in hanging out than in the game, and already has a hard time remembering the rules that already apply ("Perception check, that's a d20, right?")

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Edited and reopened. Answers should focus on the melee damage problem the OP is trying to solve. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Jul 21 '15 at 19:30
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I have played monks with Dex-to-damage as well as Wis-to-damage (and Wis-to-attack, for that matter). These things help, undoubtedly, but they are not really sufficient to solve the problems.

The big advantage here is that they allow a certain amount of reduced Multiple Ability Dependency. This helps some of the monk’s serious “number” problems – their HP, AC, attack bonus, and damage are all very low. This helps with those somewhat. But even a monk that gets to use Wisdom for everything still has relatively low numbers, particularly in the damage department. Consider: a chain shirt is +4 AC. To match that, a monk needs 18 Wisdom – about as good as you can hope for starting out. It applies to touch AC, which is (very) nice, but the monk is still ultimately behind here: a small amount of gold allows anyone else to do as well, if not better, than the monk in AC. And then the monk has ¾ BAB, and a relatively small d8 hit die. The rogue (another very weak class in Pathfinder) has the same, but at least gets relatively-substantial damage bonuses from Sneak Attack. So while this helps with the numbers problem, it by no means solves the numbers problem.

Finally, it is critical to recognize that numbers are not the monk’s only problem. The monk has weak numbers, it’s definitely true, but the really big problem of the monk is that it has few if any class features that are both unique and potent. It gets a random mish-mash of class features, most of which are either extremely weak, extremely limited in usage, or both.

And this is largely because the monk is not a clearly focused class: it is trying to emulate too many different fictional characters at the same time. The monk class doesn’t know what it is supposed to be, so it ends up doing a lot of mostly-nothing. The key to “fixing” the monk is to figure out what monk means to your player, and developing fixes that allow the monk to do the thing that the player actually wants when they write “monk” on their character sheet. There are a number of different directions to take it, but it’s key to choose one.

So my advice is to discuss with the new player what she thinks of when she thinks “monk.” There are a few existing archetypes for monk that are decent, including the qinggong monk and monk unchained. Alternatively, another class entirely may model what she thinks of when she thinks “monk,” or there may be more significant houserules you can implement to meet what she wants from the class.

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Have you looked into the Unchained Monk class update by chance? It's on the d20pfsrd site. The whole "unchained" book is about variant rules and classes to address issues with power levels and balance. The Monk, Summoner, Rogue and Barbarian all got the treatment. I've only really looked at the Monk and Rogue classes, and both looked like they got more interesting. Really simplified the whole Flurry of Blows Mechanic too.

Also, there exists a feat called Deadly Agility, the pre-requisite for it being Weapon Finesse and a BAB of +1. This does what you require, though it is a third party feat.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is helpful and probably pretty close to what I will suggest doing, however I'm choosing the above answer because it specifically says that dex to damage won't break the character. \$\endgroup\$ – wing-it Jul 21 '15 at 20:24
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First off, monks are not underpowered, just as rogues, they rely on skills and situational abilities, and those are underrated by the community.

Now, monks shine when you apply archetypes to it, the vanilla (core rulebook's) monk looks underpowered when compared to classes that came after the CRB and have more feats and new spells.

The Qinggong Monk Archetype can be applied on top of any other archetype for monks, as long as you dont replace the same class features. So you could replace all the abilities you dont want for things you do want. You could replace Slow Fall with Barkskin for extra AC during fights. Or Scorching Ray for ranged and/or magical damage when needed.

For example, a Master of Many Styles Monk Archetype replaces all monk’s standard bonus feats for Style Feats. But you also replace flurry of blows and perfect self. So the Qinggong can't replace perfect self, as you need it for another archetype.

Let me add that style feats are awesome for monks, you can ignore a bunch of requeriments simply by being a monk of a certain level. And feats like Crane Style (extra AC), Dragon Style (extra damage and charge through allies), and Tiger Style (slashing damage and bleed on criticals) will make a huge gameplay difference if you decide to play a monk with them. Boar Style could also help increasing damage output, causing an extra 2d6 damage when you hit with two or more attacks in a single round.

You mentioned Dex to Damage, but you could easily obtain a cooler result with Elemental Fist Feat or taking the Monk of Four Winds Archetype, making your fists encased in fire/ice/acid/electricity.

Instead of granting her house-ruled benefits, make her character find magic items suited towards her class sometimes, instead of magical armors and weapons, or wands, all the time (as seen on adventure paths). That should help her to keep balanced with the others. The Monk's Robes will consider her 5 levels higher to define her unarmed attack damage and AC bonus (effectively +1 to AC and one damage die higher). At 4th level, her base unarmed strike should be 1d10 (a bastard sword), at 7th it should be 2d6 already (greatswords).

The Amulet of Might Fists will let you add enhancement bonus to your unarmed strikes, just like magical weapons. You could add Flaming, Frost, Bane, or simply stack enhancement bonuses. The cheapest version costs 4.000 gp (2.000 to create) and adds +1 enhancement.

Surely, monks can't deal 3d6+12 damage like a barbarian, bloodrager or fighter could, but they have a ton of tricks and possibilities that make the class shine during tough situations, as opposed to spreadsheets of damage output. But expect something like 8 unarmed attacks on a full-round action at lv11 if you go after Medusa's Wrath feat chain, which costs 3 feats total and can be obtained as soon as 10th level (+11/+6/+1 base, plus two flurry of blows, two extra medusa's, and 1 point of ki). If all those attacks are done while enlarged, she should do something like base 3d8+bonuses per attack (only counting the monk's robes), all of which could be Stunning Fists aswell.

Additionally, if you are willing to use third party content, the Tome of Battle 3.5 had a feat called Superior Unarmed Strike, which made your monk levels count as four times higher to define the damage.

Superior Unarmed Strike
Your unarmed strikes have become increasingly deadly, enabling you to strike your foes in their vulnerable areas. Prerequisite: Improved Unarmed Strike, base attack bonus +3 Benefit: You deal more damage with your unarmed strikes, as shown on the table below:

3rd: 1d4 4th-7th: 1d6 8th-11th: 1d8 12th-15th: 1d10 16th-20th: 2d6

Special: If you are a monk, you instead deal unarmed damage as a monk four levels higher.

Make her suggestions about archetypes and feats, and ask her what magic items she would like to obtain. You will see that her gameplay will be a lot more enjoyable that way without favoritism.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Rogues are underrated, and do in fact have abilities that are unique and potent (ok, like two, but still!) but which get overlooked (generally because of a presumed focus on combat). The core monk is almost indisputably the weakest core class, and doesn't have the kind of hidden potential the rogue does. This also doesn't address the actual question. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Jul 21 '15 at 22:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ How are the barbarian, bloodrager, or fighter getting 3d6? \$\endgroup\$ – Fering Jul 21 '15 at 23:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Take the feat selections to be capable of wielding a large greatsword. The increased size category changes the damage to 3d6 \$\endgroup\$ – Zakier Jul 22 '15 at 9:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ The iconic bloodrager has an earthbreaker that does 2d6+9, add his power attack with furious focus for another +3, and his elemental strike power adds another 1d6 of eletric damage a few times per day. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Jul 22 '15 at 11:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer my apologies, it seems the author edited the question quite a few times, i will try to address it better. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Jul 22 '15 at 11:30

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