Saturday, October 11, 2008

Grognard's Grimoire: S&W Monk

I've always had a fondness for the monk as a class, partially because, when I first encountered it -- in AD&D, not OD&D -- I didn't quite get it. At the time, I don't think I'd seen a single martial arts movie and I'd never watched Kung-Fu. To me, a "monk" was a Christian priest or brother living in a monastery or, if I stretched the term a bit, it could cover mendicants like the Dominicans and Franciscans. So, when I first saw this class in the Players Handbook, I imagined someone kind of like Friar Tuck. Given the monk's fondness for staves, this didn't seem entirely unreasonable to me. Consequently, my early D&D campaigns included tonsured, sandaled, quarter staff-wielding priests/brothers who, while largely pacific in their behavior, knew how to whoop ass when needed. Unsurprisingly, St. Cuthbert of the Cudgel served nicely as their patron deity in my early games.

Despite correct this misapprehension, I still like the monk. I think there's definitely a place in D&D for an unarmed combatant and he need not be of obviously Asian origin, though he certainly can be. Below is my first stab at a monk usable with Swords & Wizardry. I'm not 100% happy with it, even if I like much of it. It's largely inspired by the Blackmoor version of the class, but it's largely recognizable to those who know the class from later sources.

The material in the quote box below is hereby designated Open Game Content via the Open Game License.

The Monk

Hit Dice Type: 1d6 per level. After reaching 9 hit dice, the monk gains only 2 hit points per level.
Armor/Shield Permitted: None
Weapons Permitted: Any
Prime Attribute (5% XP bonus): Wisdom 13+, Dexterity 13+
Alignment: Any
Race: Human

Monk Class Abilities and Restrictions
Armor Class: The monk gains an unarmored AC bonus that increases with experience, as indicated on the Monk Advancement Table below.

Deflect Missiles: The monk may deflect non-magical missile attacks with a successful saving throw.

Fast Movement: Beginning at 3rd level, the monk moves faster than normal when unencumbered.

Quivering Palm: At 12th level, the monk gains a fearsome attack, usable once per week. If the monk successfully deals damage with an unarmed attack against a creature with fewer hit dice than himself or herself, the monk may then choose to slay the creature automatically at any time thereafter, up to one day per level of the monk.

Slow Fall: At 4th level, the monk takes damage from a fall as if the fall were 20 feet shorter than it actually is. The monk must be within 10 feet of a vertical surface to use this ability. At 8th level, any fall is treated as if it were 40 feet shorter and the monk must be within 20 feet of a vertical surface. At 11th level, the monk may fall any distance if he or she is within 30 feet of a vertical surface.

Still Body: At 6th level, the monk can slow his or her bodily functions to appear dead for a number of turns equal to his or her level.

Still Mind: At 3rd level, the monk gains a +2 bonus to saving throws against spells that affect the mind.

Unarmed Attack: The monk specializes in unarmed, hand-to-hand combat. Such attacks deal 1D6 points of damage, but the monk may choose whether they inflict normal damage or subdual damage. At 6th level, the monk rolls 2D6 for unarmed attack damage and takes the higher result of the two dice. At 11th level, the monk rols 3D6 and take the highest result of the three dice for unarmed combat damage.

Wealth: A monk may never possess more than five magical items, including weapons. In addition, a monk must donate all treasure they acquire to their monastic order, except that needed for personal upkeep.

Wholeness of Body:
Beginning at 7th level, the monk can heal a number of hit points of damage equal to his or her level per day.

Monk Advancement Table

Level

Experience Points Required

Hit Dice (d6)

Saving Throw

AC

Fast Movement

1

0

1

14

9 [10]

2

2,000

2

13

8 [11]

3

4,000

3

12

7 [12]

13

4

8,000

4

11

7 [12]

14

5

16,000

5

10

6 [13]

15

6

32,000

6

9

6 [13]

16

7

64,000

7

8

6 [13]

17

8

128,000

8

7

5 [14]

18

9

256,000

9

6

5 [14]

19

10

350,000

9+2 hp

5

5 [14]

20

11

450,000

9+2 hp

4

5 [14]

21

12

550,000

9+2 hp

4

4 [15]

22

13

650,000

9+2 hp

4

4 [15]

23

14

750,000

9+2 hp

4

4 [15]

24

15

850,000

9+2 hp

4

4 [15]

25

16

950,000

9+2 hp

4

4 [15]

26

6 comments:

  1. Somwhere, Mornard said that monk class was inspired by "Kung Fu Fighting" song. I don't use any supplements for my OD&D, but thought about Christian monk - as you said: "Friar Tuck".

    It's obvious to me that 3LBB religion model was Christianity (you know - crosses as holy symbols, holy water makes much more sense that in later editions/versions). But still - better AC with each level and so on... nah.

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  2. I always preferred the original Blackmoor clerics and monks, as detailed in Judges Guild First Fantasy Campaign.

    Such as with the off-hand comment about how much safer caravans were if they hired monks as guards (especially in the vicinity of the monasteries...).

    And then there was the Doctrines of Wishy-Washiness. The violation of which could earn you a mighty Tsk-Tsking.

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  3. If I recall, there are multiple stories of the origin of the monk. Someone, perhaps it was Tim Kask, claimed that the class was based on The Destroyer novels by Murphy and Sapir.

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  4. I think it's the name that was chosen for the class: Monk. I too shared this view when I first picked up the Player's Handbook, also envisioning a 'walk lightly and carry a big stick' type of holy-man. I was familiar with the TV show Kung-Fu, but I was so steeped in Medieval history that I never made the connection that David Carradine's role was an Eastern Monk.

    Perhaps Martial Artist would've clued me in. I think I liked the archetype much, much more the way I originally envisioned it, as you said a Friar Tuck sort.

    Nice version there, though, James.

    ReplyDelete
  5. If I might make so bold, I'd heartily recommend sticking to your original vision of a Friar Tuck class, and call him the Friar to remove any doubt (or Toblerone, if your group would tolerate it and you have a fondness for Brian Blessed). Small wording changes might suffice:

    The Friar (changes only)

    Armor/Shield Permitted: Shield only; such a shield may be improvised (from bits of wood, rolled cloak etc), in which case it's subject to the shield shattering rules.
    Prime Attribute (5% XP bonus): Wisdom 13+, Constitution 13+

    Deflect Missiles: The monk may dodge non-magical missile attacks with a successful saving throw, including artillery (reflecting a kind of blessed luck).

    Fast Movement: doesn't seem quite right, somehow, and I cant think of an equivalent in-combat advantage to replace it with. Tireless fortitude could work, including uncanny alertness while dozing at the camp fire.

    Quivering Palm Smack: Beginning 3rd level, Friar may elect - after rolling damage - whether the damage is intended to be lethal or non-lethal "knock-out" damage.

    Slow Fall Roll and Bounce: At 4th level, the Friar takes damage from a fall as if the fall were 20 feet shorter than it actually is. ...unchanged... but may be stunned for 1d6 rounds after falls greater than 20 feet.

    Wholeness of Body Rude Health: Beginning at 7th level, the monk can heal a number of hit points of damage equal to his or her level per day. May require ritual cleansing: bathing in a stream, some other act of natural f/mortification.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Richard,

    That's brilliant. Very well done.

    ReplyDelete

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