I tacked the question above at the end of this question, but realised that it's probably best to ask in a separate post altogether.

My current strategy for maxing Monk DPR is to take 3 levels of Ranger (grabbing Dueling, Hunter's Mark, and Horde Breaker), and wield a monk weapon (see details in the linked question). The other build I'm considering involves 3 levels of Fighter (Champion), for Dueling and Increased Crit Range (Action Surge is sweet, but only once per rest).

How do these compare, and are they the best options for increasing Monk DPR? If not, what's the best approach?

Two ideal, but not required, constraints:

  1. no more than 3 levels taken outside of Monk (due to 1d10 Martial Art die and Quivering Palm)
  2. increased DPR shouldn't be at the expense of AC/Wis (so, char should have 20 Wis/at least 18 AC by the end game, unless there's a reliable tactic to keep the character alive, given the decreased AC).

First level stats are 16 Dex/Wis (Wood Elf), 14 Con.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ It might be helpful if you would specify the intended level of play - an optimized L20 might look quite different than a monk optimized for L8-12... \$\endgroup\$
    – Mala
    Commented Dec 27, 2015 at 2:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ There is a lot more to a monk than damage per round, such as disabling you opponent temporarily which mean yes, less damage per round, but also means taking less damage as well. \$\endgroup\$
    – Escoce
    Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 15:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ But you don't give up much of that by taking 3 levels outside monk—except at L20, when you can recover Ki points. However, getting an extra chance to stun 3/day L1-L19 seems subpar to dealing extra damage all the time. I.e., only at L20 is a pure monk optimal, in the sense you're discussing. \$\endgroup\$
    – Khashir
    Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 3:33
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @daze413: I realised I never answered your question—yes, 1d10 Martial Art die. Minimum AC would be 18, before magic items. That leaves 2 feats free, which could end up going to Wis, or something that buffs damage further. \$\endgroup\$
    – Khashir
    Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 19:32
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Please edit your clarifications into your question for when these comments get deleted. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 22:07

3 Answers 3


I have few ideas based on your criteria but the best option really boils down to the situations the party finds themselves in and how the party functions in combat. Because of that, I'll list some options and give the pros and cons of each.

Idea 1: Monk 17/Ranger 3

(Take Hunter's Mark, Dueling, and either Colossus Slayer or Horde Breaker)

Possible Damage: 4d10+4d6+[1d8(CS)]+24 for 3 hours (Attack, Extra Attack, Hunters Mark x4 (each weapon attack) [, and Colossus Slayer])


  • Up to 3 hours of use split into up to 1 hour increments 3 times per long rest.
  • Even if you are out of ki and Hunter's Mark uses, you still get Dueling bonus to weapon damage.
  • Bonus 1d8 if target is under its max HP, even if you don't have ki or Hunter's Mark. (If you take Colossus Slayer)
  • You can hit 1 additional target for 1d10+7 each. (If you take Horde Breaker)
  • Ranger class features are nice to have for adventuring.
  • d10 hit die


  • Hunter's mark only recharges on Long Rests and might be ended earlier than intended if you fail a concentration check.
  • You don't get the full effect on the first round. You need to use your bonus action to cast Hunter's mark which means you don't get your bonus unarmed or Flurry because it requires a bonus action, only your 2 attacks +2d6 (+1d8 if you have CS and target is below max HP).
  • Every time your mark dies, you have to use your next bonus action to pick another mark.
  • Because Hunter's Mark is a concentration spell, you risk losing the effect if you take damage.

Idea 2: Monk 17/Fighter 3

(Take Dueling and Battle Master or Champion)

Possible Damage: 4d10+1d8+24 up to 4 times between rests or you run out of ki. (Attack,Extra Attack, Flurry of Blows, 1 damage dealing maneuver)


  • Superiority Die and Ki recharge on a short rest.
  • Maneuvers have utility effects (Battle Master)
  • Dueling
  • Action Surge gives high burst potential once per short rest. (6d10+1d8+38)
  • Second Wind (though 4-13 HP isn't that much at level 20)
  • Proficiency with 1 artisan's tools. (Battle Master)
  • d10 hit die
  • Increased Crit Range (Champion)


  • You only get 4 rounds of bonus 1d8 damage.

Idea 3: Monk 17/Rogue 3

(Take Assassin or Swashbuckler)

Damage Potential: 4d10+2d6+20 (Attack, Extra Attack, Flurry of Blows, Sneak Attack)


  • Bonus damage not reliant on recharge. Only have to worry about ki
  • If you don't have advantage, you can still sneak attack the target if one of your other party members is in melee range.
  • Expertise (double proficiency bonus in 2 skills)
  • (Swashbuckler) Sneak attack if no one else is within 5 ft of you.
  • (Swashbuckler) Add your Charisma to initiative (if you want)
  • (Swashbuckler) Your target can't make AoO against you.
  • (Assassin) Crit on surprised target for 8d10+4d6+20
  • (Assassin) Proficiency with Poisoner's Kit for potentially more damage or other utilities.


  • Smaller hit die (d8).
  • Smaller minimum damage potential.
  • Monk weapon must be finesse. (Not too bad, just limits weapon choice.)
  • Can't sneak attack with unarmed strike
  • Very reliant on party placement
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the thorough answer. I'll share some feedback in the interest of improving it: 1. Maintaining concentration doesn't require any actions. 2. Going the Swashbuckler route effectively would make the build more MAD-y, which is one of Monk's weaknesses. 3. Do you have any feat recommendations to boost either damage or survivability? \$\endgroup\$
    – Khashir
    Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 19:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Fixed the Concentration rule. As far as feats, I'll have to get back to you. I had a lot of this written out because I'm running the Monk/Fighter (more for a thematic thing) but the group I'm with doesn't allow feats. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 22:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ok, thanks, will wait for that. Also, I think I noticed 2 other inaccuracies: if you hit with an Unarmed Strike, you add Hunter's Mark damage (it's a weapon attack, even though it's not a weapon... The errata clears this up... or tries to). 2nd, I think there's a typo in the Hunter build, the damage says +14 at the end, I believe it should be +24. So, the Hunter build damage should be 4d10 + 4d6 + 1d8 + 24. \$\endgroup\$
    – Khashir
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 21:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, why would ki recharge on a short rest in the Fighter build? \$\endgroup\$
    – Khashir
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 21:13
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Khashir, Ki already recharges on a short rest (if it includes 30 minutes of meditation), GoodSirTheSir is pointing out the synergy with Superiority Dice. \$\endgroup\$
    – Josh Clark
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 3:49

The Ranger class has the best addition to damage with Colossus Slayer, Dueling, and Hunter's Mark added to your attacks:

  1. Monk weapon/Unarmed Strike (1d10) 5.5 damage
  2. Hunter's Mark (1d6) 3.5
  3. Dexterity 5
  4. Colossus Slayer (1d8) 4.5
  5. Dueling 2

On your first Monk Weapon attack (it should be a monk weapon or else it won't proc Dueling) you get 20.5 damage (Sum of List item 1 to 5).

On the Extra Attack, you get 16 damage (Sum of 1, 2, 3, and 5)

On your Flurry of Blows, you get 14 damage on both attacks (Sum of 1 to 3)

This all adds up to a grand total of 64.5 damage per round (or 64).

And these would be your total relevant stats:
Dex 20 (2 ASIs)
Wis 18 (1 ASI)
Con 14
HP 146 (10 + 16d8 + 3d10 + 40) all rounded up
AC 19 Feats: Warcaster (to help keep Hunter's Mark up)

There is a case to be presented for taking Horde Breaker:

Assuming it always triggers, it'll add 12.5 damage (Sum of 1, 3, and 5) bringing the grand total to: 76 damage. That's great and all but there are more synergies which can be done only with Colossus Slayer which I will explain below.

Colossus Slayer triggers once per turn

This means it can trigger off of Opportunity Attacks out of your turn even if it is within the same round.

There are a number of ways this can be done but the self-sustainable ways is by taking Feats that grant you attacks outside of your turn. Feats like Sentinel, Mage Slayer, and Polearm Master.

Personally, I'd say take Sentinel as it is the most consistent of the three and grants you OAs even if a creature uses Disengage.

One attack taken outside of your turn has the potential damage of 20.5 per turn, receiving the bonuses from Colossus Slayer (and possibly Hunter's Mark). Minor Note: it might have some synergy with the Tranquility feature, but that is merely a fringe case.

The problem with taking a feat is it lowers your AC, dangerously, to 18 as you would have to sacrifice increasing your Wisdom.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Actually, thinking more about this, I think Swashbuckler provides more reliable damage, AND more mobility/survivability ( Fancy Footwork/Cunning Action). Correct me if I'm wrong, but Hunter's Mark is only 1/day, and if you're in melee, concentration will likely be easily broken (even if you have Advantage on the ST). Dueling and Colossus Slayer add 8.5 if you hit with both weapon attacks, and 6.5 if you hit once. Sneak attack only requires hitting once, and instead of a 1d8 + 2/4, it gives you more dice to roll. \$\endgroup\$
    – Khashir
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 21:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ So, Hunter only beats SB when you hit with both weapon attacks, they are about the same otherwise (though if you miss with both weapon attacks but hit with the unarmed attacks, you still add Colossus Slayer). With Fancy Footwork, you don't have to worry about getting clobbered the turn after you attack (notice you don't have to hit). And, in case of emergency, Cunning Action is a free (no ki point cost) Step of the Wind. This more than makes up for the 3 kp lost. \$\endgroup\$
    – Khashir
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 21:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Finally, re; Monk 16/ Ranger 4, I think a fairer comparison with QP is to consider when you miss with your attack: 64.5 assumes you hit with everything and have Hunter's Mark active. Attack hit-rate is closer to 50%, which means T1 you deal about 32 dmg, T2 you deal about 32 dmg, whereas with QP you deal T1 = 32 (same), T2 = 55 (they save AND average scenario...). Though at that point (giving up 1d10 and QP), I wonder if Monk 15/Rogue 5 would be better (3d6 Sneak Attack, Uncanny Dodge). \$\endgroup\$
    – Khashir
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 22:30
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Khashir Hunter's Mark is 3x per day as a Ranger 3. I'm not familiar with the Swashbuckler but as a Rogue 3, it only adds 2d6 compared to the 1d8 + xd6 of the Ranger though it is more sturdy, that's out of the scope of the question ;) Regarding the QP, yes, it is better if you assume some attacks don't hit. I'll edit-in some qualifications later. \$\endgroup\$
    – daze413
    Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 4:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ The more I thought about it, the more Ranger 4 didn't make sense. Then it hit me, having only 16 levels in monk reduces the monk weapon damage to 1d8. So having 17 levels is Monk is actually the best. Just take the two feats and good luck! \$\endgroup\$
    – daze413
    Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 5:08

Monks get more damage by having more ki. More ki is obtained by getting more monk levels. Every level you take outside of monk means 1 (or more because of stunning strike) fewer hits landed per short rest.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ By L20, 3 ki points will give you max 3d10+15 over 3 rounds (or 1d10 + 5 per round). Duelling will provide +4 damage every round all the time vs 1 target, and +2 vs another (Horde Breaker). Hunter's Mark will provide 1d6 per hit over several rounds (so, 3d6 per round without FoB, 4d6 with). So, in one round that you hit with all 4 attacks, you get an extra 4d6 + 4, way more than the 1d10 + 5 provided by the ki point—and you can have another go next round (and the next). \$\endgroup\$
    – Khashir
    Commented Dec 25, 2015 at 12:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ You should mention that the capstone ability, Perfect Self, gives you even more ki points than just the ones gained by 3 monk levels. \$\endgroup\$
    – daze413
    Commented Dec 27, 2015 at 0:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Still, 1 ki point = 1d10 + 5 damage/round, whereas Hunter's Mark + Duelling = 3d6 + 4 damage/round. \$\endgroup\$
    – Khashir
    Commented Dec 27, 2015 at 5:12
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Then you you ought to just become a ranger and get even more damage. A monk is a tough nugget, but you need to know how to use, and they are honest most effective when they have as much leveling as possible, which means don't multi-class. Each level of multiclass means longer before you get the good monk stuff. \$\endgroup\$
    – Escoce
    Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 15:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Haven't done the math completely, but I think a Ranger won't out-damage the build above--the 3-level dip gives Monk the two main Ranger-damage features, and the monk already get 3 attack (4 with ki points). Unless you count spellcasting novas, but that's outside the concept of the build. \$\endgroup\$
    – Khashir
    Commented Jan 1, 2016 at 3:05

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .