Monks are boring
I think I've played most of the "base" classes in NWN/NWN2 and its various modules by now, when I finally got around to playing with monks in NWN/SoU and HotU.
God, they're boring.
Fighters and other warriors get exciting feats to choose from, and they get to use the shiniest shinies.
Wizards, bards, and sorcerers get exciting spells to choose from, and they have quite a lot of shinies to play with too.
Clerics get the best of both worlds — lots of shinies, and exciting spells.
Rogues get massive skills to pick from, and they're exciting to use tactically in combat.
But monks? Jeez, folks — they have minimal skills, minimal feats, immunities and resistances for free with no player choice, no use for weapons or armor, and they have exactly one tactic to use in combat — hit it until it stops moving. And they're damn effective about it too; Shu-Wei the Heavenly Wave zipped through and beat up everything from top to bottom so fast that all my simpering sidekicks manage to do is repeatedly die. Not counting a single point where I had to choose my path a bit and return after a couple of level-ups.
Am I missing something, or are monks really designed for the ADHD'ed among us?
Darn… I thought this was a post in the "Politics & Religion" forum, and with a topic like that from PJ it could have been really entertaining… Instead it's just NWN monks. :(
Monks are difficult to make due to their unique use of abilities, beyond that they are rather simple to play. They can carry out their task (supreme tanks) quite well, but they are not a class for a person who enjoy experimenting with his character.
Clerics happens to be my favorite class, since they are the most extreme when it comes to management and experimentation, both in equipment and in spellcasting (which I dare to say is far more diverse than any other class). Correctly played, a Cleric can fill any missing role in a party, from fighter to tank to damagedealer to leader.
Asceticism was never meant to be fun.
I never play them myself.
I figure monks are second only to casters in progression from worthless to uber. A 1st level monk makes for a pretty soft tank. If they survive to the upper-teens, they're nearly indestructible. I tend to think of them as the best class for lazy gaming. Equipment is largely pointless, they can be developed to be largely independent (unlike say a caster, which will need the occasional meat shield), and they take fear-of-dying right out of the equation.
You should try a monk powerbuild - quite possible the most insane builds in the game have a monk foundation.
A very good example (one I recommend everyone to try out if they're doing a new run through the game) is the Kaze no Kama build. Here's the basics:
Race: Air Genasi (to get the extra stats, you'll need it)
Classes: 12 Fighter (to get specialization in Kamas), 11 Monk (to get Greater Flurry), 5 Invisible Blade (for the extra armor class due to Intelligence). The rest is up to the player (depends on taste).
Basically, you do every other level monk, and every other level fighter. Use Kamas as your only weapons, and together with Perfect Two Weapon Fighting, Greater Flurry and Haste you'll be hitting a whooping 18 times per round!
The only weakness of the build is the fact that you need elemental damage on your weapons to do any real damage (low strength), but that goes for all dual wield builds. Other than that it will have very good saves, extreme armor class, and exceptional damage output. By the end of the game you are never hit, and you kill pretty much any enemy on any difficulty setting in a single round. How long a fight lasts is basically a simple matter of how many enemies you have to kill.
For more information, check out:
As for clerics, I suggest trying Favored Soul combined with a few Paladin levels instead of Clerics. They get weapon specialization and use charisma for spellcasting (wisdom for offensive DC checks, but that's rarely used), meaning you can get Epic Divine Might through the Paladin levels, and also incredible saving throws through the Paladin 2nd level feat (can't recall name at the moment, saving grace or some such thing). Not sure if that qualifies as a "power build", but it will be more than powerful enough - level 9 divine spells combined with decent BAB, very high saving throws and EDM is rather extreme.
Basically, 26 Favored Soul and 4 Paladin levels is enough to make this a smashing hit. For a little spice you can go 4P, 16FS and 10 Warpriest, or 1 monk, 1 cleric, 26 FS and 2P.
Basically, every class has interesting builds, but a lot of theorycrafting is often needed to see their full potential.
AFAIK monks have always been a gimpy class to play or at least when I first saw them in 3.0. Their spellresistance, hiding class skill and stunning attacks might make them decent anticasters, but then that's what for there are rogues with their sneak attacks. And rogues, as skill jockeys, can do several others things like disable device, search, use magic device etc.
Monk class strikes odd in a game where loot hunting plays so huge role. Monks have some special gear, but those are rare and few between all the weapons and spellscrolls fighters and wizards are hunting for.
As for powerbuilds, the game is just too easy to demand those. But character optimization can be fun in itself.
Barbarians and Fighters have high strength and constitution (more damage, more hitpoints). Barbarians benefit from some dexterity but both Barbarians and Fighters are limited by their armor. Armor means a maximum of +8-9 AC plus enhancement, monks can go beyond that.
Monk is supposed to have high dexterity and high willpower and they also benefit from constitution. This means that they have the highest resistances (reflex/fortitude/willpower) of any class. This means that they are almost immune against most threats that eventually wears down a barbarian or fighter. On top of that, their reflexbonus along with evasion allows them to take almost no damage from areaattacks compared to barbarians or fighters who take almost full damage.
Another thing to consider. In a regular campaign adventurers will hoard money. There's no actual rule against monks having expensive stuff, they just do not benefit from armor and weapons. What does this mean? It means that a monk can pile up on magic boosters to abilities (belts, rings etc) when other characters have to waste their cash on armor/weapons that monks get for free. And if all else fails, the extras can be wasted on healingpotions.
Worth keeping in mind is that monks are surprisingly gear dependant. With the right gear, a good monk is almost immune to damage. Crafted gear (pendant of wisdom +8 etc) will go a long way to make a monk immortal.
Out of interest I did some research and I can as well post my comparision:
Regular armor give between 5-9 AC.
Type Armor/Dex (Max)
Padded +1/+8 (9)
Leather +2/+6 (8)
Studded +3/+5 (8)
Chainshirt +4/+4 (8)
Hide +3/+4 (7)
Scale +4/+3 (7)
Chainmail +5/+2 (6)
Breastplate +5/+3 (8)
Splint +6/+0 (6)
Banded +6/+1 (7)
Half-Plate +7/+0 (7)
Full Plate +8/+1 (9)
Regular shields give a max of +2 with the exception of Tower Shield.
Tower Shield give +4 with max dex +2.
For comparision: As a general DM rule, enhancements are /4 of the characters level rounded down (meaning +1 at level 5 and +5 at level 20). A character who uses shield have the potential to gain double the amount of AC.
As a general rule, a character who reach level 20 will most likely have 20 in their primary ability, meaning 20 dex as a dex-based class (Rogue).
There are four "builds" among regular classes:
1. Armor based with shield
Armor 8 Shield 4 Dex 1 + double enhancement = 11 + Enhancement x2
2. Armor based
Armor 8 Dex 1 + enhancement = 9 + Enhancement
3. Dex based
Armor 3 Dex 5 + enhancement = 8 + Enhancement
4. Dex based with shield
Armor 3 Shield 2 Dex 5 + double enhancement = 10 + Enhancement x2
Monks have no cap, but we can assume that their willpower scale up along with dexterity and that their dexterity begins high. They probably begin at 14 or 16 at level 1, meaning that they begin with +4-6 AC. They receive no enhancement but they get +1 AC bonus each 5 levels (compare with the /4 enhancement) above). If we assume that a monk pumps abilitypoints in wisdom and dexterity and reach 18-20 in each, they will have a total bonus of +11-13 at level 20. In addition to this a monk can use bracers of armor, so their only missing AC bonus really is the shield enhancement.
Now if we assume that they use the pile of money that a fighter would use on a big sword and armor, and instead waste that on an amulet of wisdom +8 and an equally good bonus to dexterity, then that bonus would be equal to what can be assumed by the armor+shield enhancement that a regular tank would get.
So in short, their AC will be better than a fighter carrying shield+armor. Their disadvantage is hitpoints. Their advantage is a great resistance against attacks that will deal full damage on a fighter. They will also deal more damage than a fighter using shield.
As a final note: Tower Shield generally needs the character to buy the proficiency. Fighters do get alot of feats but it might be painful for a paladin or barbarian to do so.
It should also be noted that a Barbarian do not get Heavy Armor proficiency either, meaning it's unlikely they will ever get an armor with +9 ac. In fact, they are more likely to have +6-7. While they will probably have a high dex, it will probably be less than a Rogue of the same level. And when they rage they drop AC anyway. All in all; a Barbarian is meant to take damage, which will ultimately wear them down unless they are healed and with the now nerfed "Heal" spell, healing 3-400 hitpoints during combat is unlikely.
They tend to have good saving throws as well.
Personally, I feel the weakness of the monk is his damage, unless it's somehow combined with other builds that will offer more damage.
Already at level four their hands deal 2d6 which is equal to the strongest unenhanced two-handed weapon (Greatsword), their attacks are treated as magic, every strike is boosted with strength (meaning x2 strength damage rather than x1,5 as with a 2h weapon). At level 5 their penalty drops, meaning that they deal up to 4d6 damage per round at a -1 penalty.
At level 12 their hands deal 3d6 and have two optional bonus strikes without penalty. At that stage they deal up to 4x3d6 damage in a single round without penalty.
The only problem really, is that they still need a weapon for special damage (keen, poisoned, elemental damage bonus etc), their hands cannot be enhanced and they cannot make a build focused on criticals. Monk weapons deal crap damage.
Elemental damage rules in NWN2 (esp. MotB), so monks will always end up being on the low end of damage when they're unarmed. However, monks are quite capable of using kamas, and with a few fighter levels (high BAB) and high dex (perfect two weapon fighting), they can dualwield them and suddenly become invinsible (as mentioned in the power build above, kaze no kama). They're no longer just good at avoiding damage - they dish out roughly 50% more than a barbarian/frenzied berserker in rage/frenzy (no, I'm not joking).
Monk was dam great in NWN1, they generate interesting fight action, different than other classes. That was also a great class to use to raise a little the difficulty. And power build for later levels was also an interesting option. I didn't tried them in NWN2.
I don't see anyone mentioning the extra movement rate monks get, which imho is almost the most important factor for their 'anti-mage' role. Fight starts, monk moves anywhere in the battlefield, neutralizes mage, group easily finishes the less damaging non-squishes with no casualties.
Edit: I'm talking about PnP monks, this probably doesn't apply in computer games.
One of my favorite fights was with a high-level monk with my high-level rogue. Round after round after round of battle with neither of us scoring many hits. I finally got tired of the fight and read an improved invisibilty scroll. I was able to backstab the dude and the battle was won, finally! Hard to beat a monk in one on one combat without some type of help. They're so stinking fast.
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