I'm pretty new to D&D, and I just started an Evil campaign. I am a wood elf, Chaotic Neutral aligned, 3rd level Monk(Open Hand).

Our party has a couple of barbarians, a few rogues, and a trickster.

I realize that fist fighting isn't going to get a 1d10 or even a 1d8, but 1d4 is pretty useless unless you're brawling in a bar. If there's a way I can use a feat or something to get a small bonus (I already have a Dex bonus of +4) I would appreciate it

I have noticed that my damage output is considerably lower than my friends' damage. We are trying to escape a mining complex. I didn't notice the damage difference until everyone got better weapons than rocks and pickaxes.

I can make a bonus attack but with only 1d4+4 damge per hit, I do nothing to the guards, who have an ac of 12 and 14 hp.


5 Answers 5


You need to read the book

Your original post shows that you're new to the game (which is fine), but your issues with your class are due mostly to you not understanding the class's purpose and progression. Reading the section about monks in the PHB (it's only a few pages), will answer many of your questions and should give you an idea of what to expect.


  • Your unarmed damage will not be a d4 forever (it goes up in single-die increments (d4->d6->d8->etc) depending on your monk level, and it eventually becomes magical damage).
  • You do much less damage per attack, but you do more attacks overall (look up your flurry of blows ability that you can spend your Ki points on)
  • Overall, Monks just don't do that much damage, but they aren't really supposed to.

I think the last point is the biggest thing you're missing here. A monk is never going to be a damage machine. They're just not designed to do it, and if you try to be a damage dealer you'll just be disappointed.

Monks are designed for mobility, and to charge in, attack, and then charge out. This can disrupt the enemy tactics, can allow you to go after the squishy casters, can allow you to complete objectives in combat (if you're fighting the bandit leader because you want to steal the Scepter of Plotitude, a monk could steal the scepter and then run away in the middle of combat), and can setup your teammmates to do fun and interesting things. One of the most powerful abilities you get is the Stunning Strike, which allows you to stun an enemy on a hit. A stunned enemy is basically a sitting duck for the rest of party, so you can swoop in, stun the big bad, and swoop out unharmed, while your other characters can then lay out massive amounts of damage.

Now, if you're reading the above paragraph and think 'so I do the work and everyone else gets all the fun of dealing damage? That sounds boring...' then I cannot stress enough that you should stop playing a monk immediately. A monk (especially an open-palm monk) is never going to be a hero compared to the rest of your party. You will very rarely get to do anything that will make you think 'I am a superhero' either in combat or out. The monk is all about helping other people do cool things, not doing cool things yourself. If that doesn't sound interesting to you, then you're in for a very unfun campaign if you stay a monk.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 13:41
  • 12
    \$\begingroup\$ Quarterstaffs and other monk weapons. Not mentioned in the answer. ??? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 1:35
  • 21
    \$\begingroup\$ "A monk... is never going to be a hero compared to the rest of your party" - we must have different understandings of "hero". I've always found the monk's crazy tricks to feel more [super-]heroic than a higher damage number. I suggest rewording the last paragragh to emphasize might/brutality/etc. rather than heroism. \$\endgroup\$
    – starchild
    Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 19:53

Monks can (and should) use weapons

On lower levels your unarmed attacks deal 1d4 damage, so 1d8 from a Quartersaff in two hand is a big improvement. Spear is also very good, does the same damage, and you can even throw it.
From level 17 your Unarmed Strikes deal more damage than any weapon you could wield, but you can use the same damage die for your Monk weapons, and your weapons can have magical bonuses, while your fists can't.
Stunning Strike only cares about hits, not damage, so any magical weapon is always better than Unarmed Strike. Basically you should only use Unarmed Strike when you are not allowed to use anything else, like your bonus action.

If you can Multiclass, you should

  • One level of Rogue would give you +1d6 on one of your weapon attacks if you use a Shortsword. And Expertise and one free skill.
  • One level of Warlock would give you the Hex spell, it can improve your damage output significantly.
  • Two levels of Ranger would give you the Hunter's Mark spell, it can improve your damage output significantly. Additionally it gives you +2 damage with melee weapons (Unarmed Strike is not a melee weapon any more). Also it is much easier to qualify for a Ranger than for a Warlock multiclass.

If you are not allowed to multiclass, you have to accept the fact that Monks are rather controllers than strikers.

A suggested build:

  • 2 levels of Monk for Ki Points (use a Quarterstaff)
  • 1 level of Rogue for Expertise and Sneak Attack (you have to change to Short Sword)
  • 3 levels of Monk, for Extra Attack and Stunning Strike
  • 1 level of Rogue, now you do not have to waste your precious Ki Points to use Disengage
  • After this you are free to go either way, just keep in mind that both classes get Evasion on level 7, so stop one of them on 6th
  • If you have a Charisma of 13, you can take a few Warlock levels for Hex and Invocations, if not, Ranger. 2 levels of it gives you Hunter's Mark, a skill and a Fighting Style, 3 levels Colossus Slayer for an extra 1d8, and 4 levels an ASI
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ A neutral question: given that the querent is new to 5e, do you think that multi classing is a good solution at this point? Also, regarding the recommendation of fighter, I think this answer would be improved if you spelled out which Medium Armor to use, since some of them give disadvantage on Stealth, which in some ways works against the monk's strengths. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 16:28
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ There are monk class features that are desirable when you level up to them, and multi-classing puts them farther out of reach. \$\endgroup\$
    – Escoce
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 16:34
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Wearing armor or using a shield disables Martial Arts also. So wearing armour is literally going to disable the main thing that makes a monk a monk. \$\endgroup\$
    – CrusaderJ
    Commented Dec 19, 2015 at 12:56
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ "...your weapon can be magical, while your fists can't". That's not quite right. First, the monk's unarmed strikes deal magical damage at level 6. Second, there is precedent for published magic items that enhance unarmed strikes like a magic weapon (not sure about the DMG, but there was definitely one in HotDQ). A DM could easily award a "Talisman of heart-snatching" that gives unarmed strikes the same benefits as a vorpal weapon, for example. \$\endgroup\$
    – starchild
    Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 20:03
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @András okay, sure. Sorry for the re-skinning tangent. There's still an official printed talisman that enhances unarmed attacks, functionally equivalent to a magic weapon. Fists can have magical bonuses. \$\endgroup\$
    – starchild
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 1:00

Unarmed damage for a monk is a bit different than for other classes. A monk that has armed a simple weapon can still gain the benefit of being "unarmed", but they are limited to rolling the monk's unarmed damage die when doing so. At low levels this is less, but at higher levels this is equal and eventually even more than the weapon's damage roll.

pg 78, PHB Monk, Martial Arts Section. - you can roll d4 in place of normal damage of your unarmed strike or monk weapon. This die changes as you gain monk levels. monk levels 1-4 1d4 5-12 1d6 12-16 1d8 17-20 1d10

This includes the quarter staff, which is both a simple weapon as well as versatile.

phb pg 147. Versatile - This weapon can be used with one or two hands. A damage value in parentheses appears with the property-the damage when the weapon is used with two hands to make a melee attack (That's 1d8 for quarter staff)

So the first attack can be done two handed for 1d8 base damage, but following monk bonus attacks must slide to one handed and you do damage with monk's unarmed damage roll (not the weapon's damage dice).

For the first attack, roll damage as a two handed weapon, the second and subsequent damage rolls, roll as a unarmed monk weapon. This gives you 1d8+DEX, 1d4+Dex, 1d4+Dex at low levels.

When you reach 5th level you can also attack or strike 4 times (that's right, check out the block quotes below)

phb pg 79 extra attack Begining at 5th level, you can attack twice, instead of once whenever you take the attack action on your turn.

Note this does not cost a bonus action.

phb ph 78 flurry of blows Immediately after you take the Attack action on your turn. You can spend 1 ki point to make two unarmed strikes as a bonus action.

That's right, so after level 5, your attack sequence is (not including str or dex bonuses) 1d8, 1d8, 1d6, 1d6...wow. If you added Fangs of the Fire Snake to that attack, you can add a 1d10 fire Damage to EACH strike if you spend the ki (need to spend 1/hit). That can one shot some boss monsters now and again.

Eventually as you gain levels you attacks will get stronger as well as gaining new effects. You unarmed damage is going to exceed many weapons damage, and you'll be able to stun or knock prone pretty early on compared to other classes. This is VERY useful.

My gaming group thinks monks are over powered, not underpowered. Our group has between 25 and 30 people spread across 4 tables so we have a good mix of and exposure to pretty much every class and archetype out there.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ "A monk that has armed a simple weapon can still gain the benefit of being "unarmed", but they are limited to rolling the monk's unarmed damage die when doing so." - wrong. You can roll d4 in place of normal damage of your unarmed strike or monk weapon. You don't have to. \$\endgroup\$
    – Adeptus
    Commented Feb 23, 2021 at 4:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Adeptus that’s true, but then it is no longer an unarmed attack and you lose the monk benefits of unarmed attacks. \$\endgroup\$
    – Escoce
    Commented May 1, 2021 at 17:06

In addition to the answer by Percival, there is one easy way to increase your damage. A monk can use a quarterstaff two handed for their attack action attack(s) and still make their bonus action attack with an unarmed strike. This would mean (providing that both hit) the monk does:

  • 1d8+dex wit the quarter staff attack


  • 1d4+dex for the bonus attack

in one round. (At first level).

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Since the querent is a new player, I think that spelling out the two attacks and their associated damage would make this answer better. its brevity in terms of concisely explaining how to increase damage per turn is a virtue as an answer, as that seems to be the core concern of the question. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 16:13

I have been struggling to understand whether monks would use a weapon vs fist. But here is the magic as has been mentioned:

pg 78, PHB Monk, Martial Arts Section. - you can roll d4 in place of normal damage of your unarmed strike or monk weapon. This die changes as you gain monk levels, as shown in the Martial Arts column of the Monk table.

Your question was about increasing unarmed damage, but this is actually the wrong question (and the question I had been asking). Unlike pathfinder, 3.5 etc, in 5e you increase your damage by using a magic monk weapon, which damage goes up as you level. If you really just want to do more damage:

Update: created google sheet with examples: here

Sadly, unless there are "magical fist wraps", your unarmed damage only goes up naturally, and in my opinion, very under the curve. See the spread sheet, along with commentary on how to choose between weapon types / unarmed:

Levels 1-5: use versatile weapon for highest damage, unless you find a magic weapon, in which case you need to consider the +hit and +damage and magic status vs the larger damage die.

Level 5: Magic d4 monk weapon becomes d6 monk weapon

Level 6: If you don't have a magic weapon, consider using unarmed if need "magic" weapon status.

Level 11: Magic d4 / d6 monk weapon becomes d8 monk weapon

Level 17: All magic monk weapons become d10 monk weapons

Eventually the monk weapon damage die catches up to unarmed, so you will want to choose the monk weapon with highest magic enchant bonus.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG SE! Please consider taking the tour and reading the articles in the help center to learn how our site operates. This answer isn't well focused on the question asked, and also suggests that unarmed damage doesn't increase without a magic weapon, which is untrue. Please consider cleaning your answer up to ensure that it has value for future visitors of the site! \$\endgroup\$
    – Conduit
    Commented Mar 19, 2017 at 15:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ there is a magic item called insignia of the claw what acts as a magic weapon; from one of the early published adventures \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 23, 2021 at 13:44

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