D&D Monsters Inspired by the Monk Class

By RJ on 22 November 2022. 

Masters of the martial arts, separation of the body and the mind, impossible feats of dexterity, and channeling the raw energy of the mortal form, monks make excellent candidates to create compelling D&D monsters with. Although the books and online resources we use contain endless amounts of beasties to populate our games, if we're eager to craft our own using just the Player's Handbook, the Monster Manual, and our minds, this strategy of crossing monsters and player character classes works wonders, easily.

Just off the top of my head, here are a few instant monk cross monster combos.

A storm giant Way of the Four Elements monk who masters her craft atop a floating mountain, eager for challengers to dissuade her pure concentration.

A kobold Way of the Open Hand monk who wanders a vast desert endlessly, assisting those in need and battering those who refuse to show compassion to the weak...this includes the player characters.

A vampire Way of Shadow monk who mastered the martial arts in life but took to the shadowy side of the profession in death. He secretly runs a monastery that harbors his deadly secret...and grooms more sharp-toothed spawn.

A copper dragon Way of the Drunken Master monk who hoards not gold or secrets or magic items, but the greatest brew around, some of which corrupts and causes her to commit drunken rampages. Much of this alcohol enhances her powers and would help the heartiest of adventurers...as long as they can stomach it.

Do they excite you?

If the answer is yes, the rest of this articles explains easy ways to make a massive difference in the monsters you create for your D&D games. Read on, fellow Dungeon Master, to be amazed and enlightened.

Take a Monster

What you'll need first is a monster base.

Gaze into your world: think about what monsters would make sense as monks. Then, create a brief list of twelve.

For my own world of Eldar, here are twelve creatures who would make sense as monks.

  1. Kobold
  2. Gnoll
  3. Drow/dark elf
  4. Urson/bearfolk
  5. Girallon
  6. Efreeti
  7. Stone giant
  8. Vampire
  9. Storm giant
  10. Gold dragon
  11. Solar
  12. Empyrean

As great as curating a list that makes sense for your world, sometimes it's great to subvert expectations. Not always, such as in formerly excellent television shows, but in the right cases, such as your D&D table, it's a fun concept.

Think: what creatures WOULD NOT make great monks? Generally:

  • Ogre
  • Zombie
  • Dire wolf
  • Xorn

Any of these four monsters would make terrible monks, conceptually. If you think a kobold, gnoll, or efreeti monk is too generic, try to make something work with one of the four above beasts!

Choose a Subclass

The next step requires you to form a set of subclasses you can affix to your particular monster base. These can be canon subclasses or ones you've made up for your monsters! After all, you'll be using preexisting mechanics as a simple starting point or piece of inspiration.

For monks, specifically:

  1. Way of the Open Palm
  2. Way of the Four Elements
  3. Way of Shadow
  4. Way of the Drunken Master
  5. Way of Mercy
  6. Way of the Ascendant Dragon
  7. Way of the Astral Self
  8. Way of the Kensei
  9. Way of the Sun Soul
  10. Way of the Long Death
  11. Way of the Twilight Sky
  12. Way of the Infernal Ascendant

That's a solid set of homebrew and base game subclasses. With a subclass in hand, it's time to move on.

Meld the Monster and Subclass Together

With our two lists built out, it's time to insert one of creativity's best friends: randomness.

Take two d12's and roll them. The first result determines the monster, the second picks out the subclass. Once you have both together, inspect the monster and the theme, abilities, and cool skills provided by the subclass. Ponder how they could meld together as one to create a compelling combat, social, or exploration encounter.

For example, say I roll two d12's and receive a seven and a four. The result is a stone giant Way of the Drunken Master.

Instantly, I'm rocked with inspiration: typical stone giants are contemplative and solitary, masters of crafting the natural earth and stone around them. Perhaps this stone giant is an outcast, a loner who turned to drinking to cope with some extreme lost. However, instead of annihilating his ability to carve, it enhanced it. This enhancement caused other stone giants, meditative and sober, to cast out the drunken stone giant. Yet, in his banishment, he found comfort with other kinds, trading masterful carvings and craftings for more and more powerful drink.

And that's just basic story/social possibilities!

Taking a look at the Way of the Drunken Master's initial edit to the Monk's Flurry of Blows ability, it completely revamps the monster's combat style. Drunkenly, the stone giant can weave in and out of combat every time he uses Flurry of Blows, gaining the benefits of the Disengage action with the use of this bonus action. Imagine the stone giant plowing through an enemy combatant then rushing up a nearby rock, not provoking any attacks of opportunity!

Exploration additions thanks to this melding are fun and simple. Carved creations inspired by an enlightening drunken stupor, elevating alcohol to almost religious levels of importance. Earth-inspired drinks brewed by the stone giant, using all natural ingredients found in the adventure area. Nine Hells, perhaps the stone giant even runs an entire brewery, now that's a unique locale for a quest!

Easy to Make, Exciting to Run

That wasn't too bad, right?

When you're lacking inspiration, take a monster, take a class, and mash them together. The results might surprise you and are easy to make but exciting to run.

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