Sunday, May 29, 2011

Of Monks and Martial Arts

Talysman has been talking about the Monk class this week.  His most recent post gives four options for the "classic 4" to gain some monk-like powers if they accept certain vows restricting their behavior.  I like what he (and Stuart over at Strange Magic too) is doing with this.

I remember the first time I read the Monk class description in the AD&D PHB.  In my mind, it was a Franciscan Friar turned adventurer (I'd been exposed to a bit of martial arts movies on my grandma's cable TV on Sunday afternoons, but not enough to really get it...I was too young to have watched Kung Fu on TV).

Once I finally had an idea of what the Monk was supposed to be, I really liked it, even if it didn't fit well with the standard Tolkien/Howard/Leiber/Anderson European medieval fantasy that is vanilla D&D.  There's always been a little part of me that rejects the monk (and samurai, ninja, xia, and the like) in my medieval fantasy.  There's also another part that says why not?

It's not like there aren't plenty of other non-European stuff in D&D, especially with regards to monsters.

The bigger problem than thematics, however, are the mechanics of the Monk as presented (including the Mystic in BECMI/RC).  They start out extremely weak, then become pretty darn potent because of mystical powers, extra attacks, and speed bonuses.

That's one reason I'm working on Flying Swordsmen.  The base game of my clone, Dragon Fist, takes D&D and makes everyone into a martial artist.  Because it's built on a D&D base, it could play with other D&D games.  Yes, a Flying Swordsman character is more powerful than a similar level standard D&D character (lots of cool martial arts powers, greater hit points), but they've got a few drawbacks as well (the stunt system, which relegates them to only one 'ability score bonus' at a time, lower AC because of armor restrictions, a hard level cap of 10 for all classes, and no increase in Thac0).  Generally, I think they could work in a D&D/AD&D game.  It might not be totally balanced, but it sure could be fun!

I'm slowly getting around to working on FS again (thanks in a large part to Talysman).  Did a bit of editing last week, and a bit of prep for working up the campaign setting.  And I'll likely start posting some bits and pieces of it here on the blog.  I plan on watching a few wuxia flicks, I've been reading up on things on Wuxiapedia and other places on the web, and my grad school courses finish next week so I'll have more time to work on this stuff.


  1. I really like the wider range of ideas about what's part of D&D style fantasy we're seeing lately. There's more flavors than just vanilla. :)

  2. I never felt the monk class fit the western-style D&D setting or feel. However, when I encountered R. Scott Bakker's Dûnyain characters in his PRINCE OF NOTHING series, I changed my mind. What the Dûnyain are NOT are esoteric Zen-style Oriental monks. What they ARE is something that seeks to control all causality and contemplate more Greek-style philosophical ideas like the logos.

    The monk also can have a special place as master athlete. He can be a great wrestler, bare-knuckle boxer, with a kind of philosophical approach to his athleticism. There's ways to get the monk into your game WITHOUT it having to be anachronistic and strange.

  3. My Unchained Monk on pathfinder (lvl 10 Lawful Evil Tiefling) feels really out of place in an western world with castles and villages and stuff.. at first our party were a chaotic use for good helping whether people asked for help or not like heroes.. but we turned carrion crown on it's head after killing the lodge full of heroes and forced the gm to write off the beaten path and design content to veer us back to the main story we killed the werewolf "leader" with our house rule "the triple nat 20, When rolled three times in a row on attack eitherside is instantly killed".. from there a 2 month break and he has made us the campaign we are playing now serving a demon lord by slaying a phoenix.. we're searching for some more azmodian artifacts as we go inside this temple he set aside for us.