Pathfinder - The Monk Handbook
Last Updated: November 8, 2018
I support a limited subset of Pathfinder's rules content. If you would like help with Pathfinder player options not covered here, please email me and I am happy to provide additional assistance.
I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks. Also note that many colored items are also links to the Paizo SRD.
- Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
- Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances
- Green: Good options.
- Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.
Since the days of 3.0, the Monk has been somewhat of an enigma. An almost strictly combat character with medium Base Attack Bonus progression, d8 hit points, and no armor. Monks in Pathfinder still have the same features, but many of their most glaring issues have been heavily improved upon.
Due to their unique abilities, it can be difficult to identify the monk's role in the party. With their skill list, they can function as a scout, but their combat skills make them a passable defender or striker (See my article on Party Composition).
This guide is for the vanilla Monk. For the Unchained Monk, see my Unchained Monk Handbook.
Monk Class Features
Hit Points: d8 hit points is hard for a strictly melee class.
Base Attack Bonus: The Monk's primary offensive option, Flurry of Blows, pretends that the Monk has full BAB, which is usually enough in combat but can be frustrating when qualifying for feats.
Saves: All good saves.
Proficiencies: The Monk is proficient with Monk weapons (which make up a collection of strange, exotic, and often foreign weapons) and a couple of other odds and ends like hand axes, crossbows, and spears. Strangely, the Monk weapons tend to be the best options since they can benefit from Flurry of blows. Monks gain no armor or shield proficiencies, and generally rely on their Monk AC bonus instead.
Skills: The Monk skill list has several excellent options, several of which are difficult for the monk to capitalize on. By splashing a few skills and focusing on the best ones, the Monk can make excellent use of their 4+ skill points.
AC Bonus (Ex): The Monk AC bonus helps to offset the monk's lack of armor. The scaling is fairly negligible, but it still feels good to have. However, your AC will still be awful without additional items and AC improvements.
Flurry of Blows (Ex): This is the Monk's iconic attack. It follows the same progression as a fighter maximizing the two-weapon fighting feats, but you have no "off-hand" attacks. You don't even need free hands. You can use your feet if your hands are full. You can also alternate freely between weapons and unarmed strikes, and you can substitute disarm, sunder, and trip combat maneuvers for unarmed attacks.
Unarmed Strike: This is why you generally play a monk: because you want to hit things with your bare hands/feet/etc. The damage dice starts off fairly small, but when you hit d8 at level 4, it begins to outpace whatever weapons you might be two-weapon fighting with. At level 12, your fists are greatswords. You can also deal nonlethal damage without penalty, which is situationally useful. It's important to note that your unarmed strike damage is heavily size-based, so you want to do everything you can to increase your effective size. Get enlarged and throw Impact on an Amulet of Mighty Fists. It's also interesting to note that the damage progression stops at 20th-level, so items like a Monks Belt stop being useful at high levels unless you multiclass.
|This table is taken from the 3.5 rules. They should be the same in Pathfinder, but Pathfinder doesn't provide official rules for monks smaller than small or larger than large. Check with your GM before using this table.|
Bonus Feats: With the addition of the Advanced Player's Guide and Ultimate Combat, the Monk has a lot of great bonus feat options. And the best part: "A monk need not have any of the prerequisites normally required for these feats to select them." This is especially great for the high level style feats, since many of the prerequisites are fairly awful.
- 1st Level
- Catch Off-Guard: There isn't a single time when an improvised weapon will deal more damage than a Monk's Unarmed Strike.
- Combat Reflexes: Attacks of Opportunity let you control the battlefiend, and this combines well with Greater Trip.
- Deflect Arrows: Very situational.
- Dodge: The Monk generally has low AC, and an extra point is a big help.
- Improved Grapple: Essential for any grappler..
- Scorpion Style: You give up your full attack for a slightly annoying debuff. Oh, and if you miss or they save you're totally hosed.
- Throw Anything: Monks are not usually ranged characters, and those who are use bows or thrown weapons.
- 6th Level
- Gorgon's Fist: Getting this without prerequisites makes it non-functional because Gorgon's Fist only works on enemies already affected by Scorpion Style.
- Improved Bull Rush: Too situational.
- Improved Disarm: You can bypass Combat Expertise, but this is still situational.
- Improved Feint: You are not a Rogue.
- Improved Trip: Getting this without Combat Expertise is fantastic.
- Mobility: If you are within reach of something, you should be punching it.
- 10th Level
- Improved Critical: Going from 20 to 19-20 isn't a big enough leap to justify a feat.
- Ki Throw: Very situational.
- Medusa's Wrath: Skipping Scorpion Style and Gorgon's Fist makes this extremely potent. Lead off a combo with Stunning Fist, and get two free attacks! At level 12 you can make foes staggered for 1d6+1 rounds, allowing you to continue to use this feat without spending additional Ki.
- Snatch Arrows: Situational and inneffective.
- Spring Attack: You need to full attack to do damage as monk.
- 14th Level
- Binding Throw: This is a hard feat to make work. You need Ki Throw, but if you have both you can easily start a grapple with an opponent you just tripped.
- Improved Ki Throw: Still very situational, and skipping the prereq doesn't get you anything.
Stunning First (Ex): Another iconic Monk ability, stunning fist gets better as you advance. A stunned creature drops everything held (free disarm!), can't take actions, takes a -2 penalty to AC, and loses its Dexterity bonus to AC (if any). This makes the rest of your iterative attacks much better, and prevents the target from taking attacks of opportunity when you make Combat Maneuver attempts in place of your iterative attacks. At higher levels you can instead make the target fatigued (-2 to CMD due to reduced str and dex), sickened (-2 to saves so you can more reliably apply other affects), staggered (only one action per turn), permanently blinded or deafened (permanently flat-footed or permanently bad at casting spells), and finally paralyzed (lol). The only issue is that it's a fortitude save, which is typically high for monsters.
Evasion (Ex): Always fantastic, Evasion works well with your reasoanbly high dexterity and strong saves.
Fast Movement (Ex): Extra speed lets you get into position to stop moving sooner. Past round 1, hope that you won't need this much speed.
Maneuver Training (Ex): Using your class level in place of BAB makes you actually viable for Combat Maneuvers. Combined with good strength and a plethora of weapons which give you bonuses to Combat Maneuvers, you can actually do pretty well.
Still Mind (Ex): Your saves are already great, but a bonus against enchantments and compulsions can save you from some really awful effects.
Ki Pool (Su): Damage reduction is the biggest problem for builds which rely on large numbers of attacks with relatively low damage. Ki Pool lets you treat your attacks as magic, silver, cold iron, lawful, and finally adamantine. While very few things have DR/lawful, the others are excellent and cover a broad spectrum of enemies. At low levels, you may need to carry weapons to handle DR silver and DR cold iron, but Ki Pool will handle things at higher levels so long as you have a point in your Ki Pool. You can spend points from your ki pool as a swift to get an extra attack, boost your speed, or boost your AC. When things get serious, these boosts can make or break your monk.
Slow Fall (Ex): Patently worse than Feather Fall, which is a first level spell, is more effective, and can affect multiple targets.
High Jump (Ex): The bonus is cute, but almost never useful. By spending Ki, you can jump an extra 5 feet in the air. At 5th level Wizards can Fly.
Purity of Body (Ex): Immunity to diseases is nice, but rarely useful. With the exception of Contagion spell, you typically have enough time to have someone cast Remove Disease before disease becomes a problem.
Wholeness of Body (Ex): At the end of the day when you're about to rest, this is a good way to empty your Ki Pool, but I don't think it will see a lot of use if you still have things to fight today.
Improved Evasion (Ex): Always amazing and reliable.
Diamond Body (Su): Lots of high level monsters have poison effects, and it's nice to not worry about them.
Abundant Step (Su): Sometimes your speed can't get you where you need to go, and you can use this a move action. However, keep in mind that you can't take additional actions after using it. Make sure to do something with your other actions before teleporting, even if it's just to Fight Defensively for the AC bonus.
Diamond Soul (Ex): Spell resistance which effectively makes 50% of spells and spell-like abilities not affect you, assuming the caster is the same level as you.
Quivering Palm (Su): This is notably worse than most wizard save-or-die spells, but it's still a once per day death effect with a reasonable DC.
Timeless Body (Ex): Stay young and pretty until you die of old age. Leave a pretty corpse.
Tongue of the Sun and Moon (Ex): You can talk to anything, but you're not particularly good at it with no Diplomacy and lousy charisma.
Empty Body (Su): Punch ghosts and walk through walls.
Perfect Self: Suddenly you can't use Enlarge Person. The DR is cute, and you become immune to things like Dominate Person, but things which require you to be a humanoid have generally been abandoned for several levels. I would argue that this ability actually makes you worse since you can't benefit from Enlarge Person.
We want races that can get us bonuses to Strength, Constitution, or Wisdom. Extra vision abilities are always nice. Because the Monk's damage output depends so heavily on their damage die size, being small is a serious problem.
- Dwarf: While they don't get a bonus to Strength, a +2 to both Constitution and Wisdom goes a long way. Their penalty is to the Monk's dump stat, and their low speed is offset by the monk speed bonus. Darkvision is great, and they get a +2 to saves against spells on top of the Monk's already impressive saves. Unfortunately, the favored class bonus is worthless.
- Elf: -2 to con is brutal, and their only helpful bonus is a +2 to dexterity. Many of the Elf's bonuses relate to spellcasting, which monks can't do, and the alternate racial traits are not specifically helpful to the Monk. The favored class bonus provides a wholly unnecessary bonus to the Monk's speed.
- Gnome: Small monks? A -2 to strength is crippling, especially since your damage dice will be smaller, and Enlarge Person won't give you reach.
- Half-Elf: +2 to strength and low-light vision, but that's really all we get here. The Half-Elf's alternate racial traits don't offer anything helpful, and the Half-Elf's alternate racial traits don't help much. The Half-Elf can take the Human favored class bonus for additional Ki, but that doesn't help much.
- Half-Orc: +2 to strength, and Ferocity can be helpful if you want to use Intimidate. Darkvision is fantastic, too. The Half-Orc favored class bonus is garbage, so take the Human favored class bonus for extra Ki.
- Halfling: Small monks are typically terrible, but Halflings might be viable thanks to their racial feats. Emphasizing Fight Defensively (see my Practical Guide to Fighting Defensively) and taking Risky Striker can provide a significant damage boost, though the total number of feats you'll need to succeed may be prohibitive.
- Human: +2 strength and a feat is pretty nice, but most decent Monk feats aren't available at first level. The skill points don't hurt, but they're not doing us any big favors. The Human favored class bonus provides a bonus to the Monk's Ki pool, which is especially helpful if you don't take an archetype which allows you to recharge your Ki.
- Anatomist (combat): Critical hits are not for monks.
- Axe to Grind (combat): You may spend a great deal of time going one-on-one against enemies, and with your multiple attacks this +1 bonus will add up to a lot of points.
- Bloodthirsty (combat): This is just a bad trait.
- Bullied (combat): If you are building your Monk as an area control defender, this may be useful. You'll likely still depend more on reach weapons, but you can threaten the area inside your weapon's reach with unarmed strikes, allowing this to provide a nice attack bonus from time to time.
- Courageous (combat): Fear saving throws are generally pretty gentle.
- Dedicated Defender (combat): Small and situational.
- Deft Dodger (combat): Your saves are fantastic, but more never hurts.
- Dirty Fighter (combat): If you spend a lot of time flanking, this helps a lot.
- Indelible Ire (combat): This is bad.
- Killer (combat): Critical hits are not for monks.
- Martial Performer (combat): This only matters for the Sensei archetype.
- Nature's Mimic (combat): Monks don't make good librarians.
- Reactionary (combat): Initiative bonuses are always good.
- Reckless (combat): You already get Acrobatics.
- Resilient (combat): Your saves are fantastic, but more never hurts.
- Surprise Weapon (combat): Only useful for the Drunken Master archetype.
- Tactician (combat): Reactionary is probably going to get you better results.
- Vigilant Battler (combat): How many things feint?
- Birthmark (Faith): Charm and compulsion effects are powerful, but you would be better served with a general bonus to Will saves.
- Blessed (Faith): This is bad and hard to use.
- Caretaker (Faith): Heal is a decent option for Monks. You have a respectable Wisdom bonus, and most of your skills are unimportant.
- Child of the Temple (Faith): Monks do not make good librarians.
- Devotee of the Green (Faith): Monks do not make good librarians.
- Disdainful Defender (Faith): About half of all spells are divine, so this is a +2 versus half of all spells. Try not to get into fights with other members of your won faith.
- Ease of Faith (Faith): Monks generally do not make a good face.
- Fate's Favored (Faith): Luck bonuses are rare, and you don't have a way to create them.
- Focused Disciple (Faith): Identical to Birthmark.
- History of Heresy (Faith): Disdainful defender gives twice the bonus.
- Indomitable Faith (Faith): Your saves are fantastic, but more never hurts.
- Inspired (Faith): Skills aren't particularly important for Monks, but this is still a fantastic trait.
- Martial Manuscript (Faith): Critical hits aren't a big part of what Monks do, but this applies to nearly every attack you will ever make.
- Oathbound (Faith): Because your saves are fantastic, this is very effective.
- Omen (Faith): Monks generally do not make a good face, but there are a few monk abilities/feats which depend on Intimidate.
- Principled (Faith): Emotion effects are incredibly rare, so Birthmark is probably better.
- Prophesied (Faith): Monks generally do not make a good face.
- Reincarnated (Faith): Fear effects are generally gentle, but Death effects will really ruin your day.
- Sacred Touch (Faith): You don't have any healing abilities, so this may be a good way to rescue the healer. Hopefully you won't need it.
- Scholar of the Great Beyond (Faith): Monks do not make good librarians.
- Spirit Sense (Faith): A trait which grants Perception as a class skill will serve you much better.
- Air-Touched (magic): bad, and very situational.
- Classically Schooled (magic): Spellcraft is not a good option for Monks.
- Dangerously Curious (magic): Powerful, but not UMD isn't a good option for Monks due to typically low charisma.
- Earth-Touched (magic): bad, and very situational.
- Eldritch Delver (magic): Monks do not make good librarians.
- Flame-Touched (magic): bad, and very situational.
- Greater Purpose (magic): Reincarnated will be better unless you spend a huge amount of time bleeding to death.
- Magical Talent (magic): There really aren't any options which will give you anything meaningful.
- Mathematical Prodigy (magic): Monks do not make good librarians.
- Reluctant Apprentice (magic): Monks do not make good librarians.
- Skeptic (magic): Very situational.
- Storm-Touched (magic): bad, and very situational.
- Unscathed (magic): Monks have several ways to get energy resistance, and more never hurts.
- Water-Touched (magic): bad, and very situational.
- Acrobat (social): Extremely situational.
- Adopted (social): Opens up a lot of options, and don't actually consume a trait slot.
- Ambitious (social): Monks generally do not make a good face.
- Beast Bond (social): Aimals are generally not in the Monk's repertoir.
- Bully (social): Monks generally do not make a good face.
- Charming (social): Monks generally do not make a good face.
- Child of the Streets (social): You could be decent at Sleight of Hand, but Sleight of Hand is a very situational skill.
- Civilized (social): Monks do not make good librarians.
- Criminal (social): Replace the rogue!
- Fast Talker (social): Monks generally do not make a good face.
- Friend in Every Town (social): Monks are neither librarians nor faces.
- Grief-Filled (social): Awful.
- Influence (social): Monks generally do not make a good face.
- Life of Toil (social): Your saves are fantastic, but more never hurts.
- Mercenary (social): Monks generally do not make a good face.
- Orphaned (social): Survival is situational, but with Monk wisdom you could be good at it.
- Poverty-Stricken (social): Identical to orphaned.
- Savage (social): Monks do not make good librarians.
- Seeker (social): Perception is the most rolled skill in the game, and with a high wisdom you can be very good at it.
- Style Sage (social): Monks do not make good librarians.
- Trustworthy (social): Monks generally do not make a good face.
- Truth's Agent (social): Monks do not make good librarians.
- Unintentional Linguist (social): Monks generally do not make a good face, but knowing extra languages is nice.
- Unnatural Revenge (social): Monks generally do not make a good face, and the list of potential targets is very small.
- Unpredictable (social): Monks generally do not make a good face.
- Veiled Disciple (social): Birthmark is better.
- Weathered Emissary (social): Linguistics as a class skill gets you almost nothing.
- Worldly (social): Excellent, but you don't have a lot of skills which will cause you problems if you fail.
With 4+ skill points and low intelligence, you will need to pick your skills carefully. Fortuantely, many Monk skills can function with only one rank.
- Acrobatics (Dex): Mobility is important for any melee fighter, and Acrobatics can help you get into position to do work. You may not have the feats to devote to Dodge and Mobility, so Acrobatics can help you move through combat easily.
- Climb (Str): While not particularly useful, putting one rank into Climb could save your life. Combined with the class bonus and your high strength, you can rely on a +8 bonus for much of your career.
- Escape Artist (Dex): I'm not trapped in here with you. You're trapped in here with me. Escape Artist is highly situational, and most of those situations involve getting away from a monk. Add one rank if you can spare on, but certainly don't focus on Escape Artist too much.
- Intimidate (Cha): Intimidate is you're only interesting charisma-based skill, and Charisma is your dump stat. Unless you have very specific ideas how to use it, such as the Enforcer feat, Intimidate is a waste.
- Knowledge (history) (Int): One of the less important knowledge skills, and your intelligence is garbage.
- Knowledge (religion) (Int): One of the best knowledge skills. If no one in the party has it, maximize it. Otherwise, take one rank and hope for lucky rolls.
- Perception (Wis): Your wisdom is great, and this is the most used skill in the game.
- Perform (Cha): Do you look like a bard? Maybe cute in an RP heavy campaign, but otherwise useless.
- Ride (Dex): You can run faster than a horse by level 6 (9 for dwarves), and don't get a mount. I'm not sure why this is even here.
- Sense Motive (Wis): You have good wisdom, and this may be your only way to really contribute to social situations.
- Stealth (Dex): You're not rogue, but your dexterity is decent and you don't have to worry about armor check penalties. If your party needs a scout, you can certainly step up.
- Swim (Str): Basically underwater climb. One rank, then forget about it.
- Adder Strike: Poison is not good for Monks.
- Agile Maneuvers: If your Dexterity is higher than your Strength, you aren't doing enough damage.
- Combat Expertise: You generally shouldn't have
enough intelligence to take this feat, and taking it won't help you deal damage.
You have better ways to handle the combat maneuvers which Combat Expertise lets
you focus on, and your Monk bonus feats grant you access to many combat maneuver
- Improved Disarm: Disarming enemies can put
them at a major disadvantage. Because you probably have a free hand, you
can also take the enemies weapon to keep them from recovering it. However,
most monsters don't use weapons.
- Greater Disarm: The bonus to disarm is nice, but knocking the enemies weapon in a random direction is probably a worse option than simply taking it.
- Improved Feint: You are not a rogue.
- Improved Trip: It doesn't work against
creatures much larger than you, but the +4 bonus to attacks against the
target is absolutely crippling.
- Greater Trip: The bonus is nice, but the real draw is the attack of opportunity. Note that your adjacent allies will also get free attacks, which makes this very deadly.
- Whirlwind Attack: This is a bad feat with too many prerequisites.
- Improved Disarm: Disarming enemies can put them at a major disadvantage. Because you probably have a free hand, you can also take the enemies weapon to keep them from recovering it. However, most monsters don't use weapons.
- Combat Reflexes: Attacks of Opportunity let you
control the battlefield, and this combines well with Greater Trip.
- Stand Still: This is a good option if you aren't good at tripping, but make sure that you are enlarged to extend your reach.
- Combat Patrol: Fantastic way to control the battlefield.
- Critical Focus: Critical hits aren't a good mechanic for Monks. Despite their high number of attacks, critical hits are uncommon, even if you add Improved Critical.
- Combat Style Master: allows you to spend your turn in an offensive style, then switch to a defensive style when you are done attacking. Essential if you want to use more than one combat style.
- Crushing Fist: The penalty can be nice if you have high Wisdom, but this should never be better than hitting the target a bunch of times or tripping them.
- Deny Death: You should not be spending enough time dieing to need this feat.
- Dimensional Agility: Situational, and you get a
very limited number of uses of Abundant Step.
- Dimensional Assault: This makes Abundant
Step a good option early in fights.
- Dimensional Dervish: The two feats
required for this hurt, but teleporting during your full attack
really helps with your mobility.
- Dimensional Maneuvers: The bonus is really big.
- Dimensional Savant: Situational. If you can teleport, just teleport to where you can flank.
- Dimensional Dervish: The two feats required for this hurt, but teleporting during your full attack really helps with your mobility.
- Dimensional Assault: This makes Abundant Step a good option early in fights.
- Elemental Fist: The damage is pitiful compared to stunning something.
- Defensive Combat Training: Most enemies don't use combat maneuvers, but this can really help your CMD for the ones that do. Save for fairly hight level when the bonus is bigger.
- Dodge: The Monk generally has low AC, and an
extra point is a big help.
- Mobility: If you are in reach of something,
you should be punching it.
- Spring Attack: You need to full attack to do damage as monk.
- Mobility: If you are in reach of something, you should be punching it.
- Enforcer: Despite the ability to deal subdual damage without penalty, you suck at intimidating people, so this won't do you any favors.
- Extra Ki: 2 points of Ki isn't very much for a feat. Look at Monk Vows instead.
- Great Fortitude: Your saves should all be fantastic already.
- Hammer the Gap: Monks are all about multiple attacks, and this can provide some excellent additional damage if you're able to hit reliably. Consider looking for additional attacks: haste, natural weapons either from spells or from items, basically anything that lets you make another attack roll. Each one is an opportunity to capitalize on Hammer the Gap.
- Improved Unarmed Strike: You get it free, which gives
you access to some other cool stuff.
- Deflect Arrows: Very situational.
- Snatch Arrows: Situational and dumb.
- Improved Grapple: Essential for any grappler.
- Body Shield: Hillarious, but situational.
- Chokehold: Essential for grapplers, especially at high levels.
- Greater Grapple: Makes grappling
more than twice as effective.
- Rapid Grappler: Get a third grapple check in a round. This means that you can deal grapple damage three times in a round.
- Scorpion Style: You give up your full attack
for a slightly annoying debuff. Oh, and if you miss or they save you're
- Gorgon's Fist: You need to waste a
turn hitting an enemy with Scoprion Style first, which is made
even worse by the fact that you eventually gain the ability to
make enemies Staggered using Stunning Fist.
- Medusa's Wrath: Two extra
attacks is huge, and since the target needs to be hindered
for this to work, you're likely to hit them. If you can stun
your targets with one of your first few attacks, this will
get you a lot of free attacks. You can take this as your
10th level Monk bonus feat to avoid the lousy prerequisites.
- Cockatrice Strike: You should not depend on critical hits to be effective.
- Medusa's Wrath: Two extra attacks is huge, and since the target needs to be hindered for this to work, you're likely to hit them. If you can stun your targets with one of your first few attacks, this will get you a lot of free attacks. You can take this as your 10th level Monk bonus feat to avoid the lousy prerequisites.
- Gorgon's Fist: You need to waste a turn hitting an enemy with Scoprion Style first, which is made even worse by the fact that you eventually gain the ability to make enemies Staggered using Stunning Fist.
- Stunning Fist: You already get this for free.
- Deflect Arrows: Very situational.
- Jawbreaker: Bleed damage, and the target can't
cast spells with verbal components because it can't speak. The damage isn't
huge, but ongoing damage racks up quickly.
- Bonebreaker: You have to stun an already
stunned target, and ability damage to Strength and Dexterity isn;'t
- Neckbreaker: This requires a huge pile of feats, and if you have a target pinned they are probably already going to die.
- Bonebreaker: You have to stun an already stunned target, and ability damage to Strength and Dexterity isn;'t particularly lethal.
- Iron Will: Your saves should all be fantastic already.
- Ki Stand: You should not be spending enough time prone to justify this feat. If you are, Monkey Style is better.
- Ki Throw: I have no idea why Ki is in the name.
You can combine this with Greater Trip to throw the enemy toward your allies
in order to get more attacks of opportunity against the target.
- Improved Ki Throw: Use your Ki throw to trip another target. However, you hit the second target as Bull Rush with a -4 penalty, which means that you will fail a lot unless you also put a lot of feats into Bull Rush. The feat is situational already, so making it situational and unreliable makes this feat unappealing.
- Lunge: Reach can be very helpful, but this only applies to your attacks, so you can't use it to get extra attacks of opportunity.
- Nightmare Fist: Highly situational, and Monks generally can't make magical darkness.
- Perfect Strike: The ability is cool, but the weapon list is needlessly limited, and you get very few uses per day. You will probably find yourself saving the uses for important fights, then forgetting to use them.
- Pinning Knockout: Subdual damage doesn't work on everything, but when it does you can deal double damage and finish them off later.
- Pinning Rend: If you're grappling, this can add quite a bit of extra damage. Monk's weapon dice also get bigger as you level, which can make this particularly effective.
- Punishing Kick: You need to hit to use the effect, and the target still gets a saving throw. The effects can be replicated with the Bull Rush and Trip maneuvers, which monks should generally be decent at without taking any feats, but this does allow you to do both without an attack of opportunity and without spending additional feats.
- Power Attack: Unlike many melee characters, Power
Attack is not a given for Monks. Your attack bonus matches a two-weapon fighter,
and your damage comes primarily from multiple attacks. If you find that you hit
frequently, power attack can be an excellent way to boost your damage. Don't be
afraid to turn it off against armored foes.
- Furious Focus: Because you depend on a large number of attacks, this won't help you very much.
- Spider Step: Cool, but very situational.
- Cloud Step: Cool, but very situational, and by this level there should be other flight options.
- Step Up: Extremely helpful for any melee character,
but especially against spellcasters.
- Following Step: An excellent improvement
on Step Up; you could theoretically chase several enemies around the field
if you position yourself properly with the 10 foot move.
- Step Up And Strike: Combat Reflexes isn't required, but you really want it. This can let you get a huge number of free attacks as enemies run around within your reach.
- Following Step: An excellent improvement on Step Up; you could theoretically chase several enemies around the field if you position yourself properly with the 10 foot move.
- Touch of Serenity: Off-switch for mages. The DC will be respectable if you have the 18 wisdom for the feat. One use per monk level should be plenty; if you're preventing spellcasters from casting spells, they should fall apart quickly.
- Toughness: With only d8 hit points, Monk need all of the help they can get.
- Vicious Stomp: Combined with Improved Trip, this is a free attack. Combined with Greater Trip, you get two attacks.
- Vital Strike: Monks depend on Full Attack.
- Weapon Finesse: If your Dexterity is higher than your Strength, you aren't doing enough damage.
- Weapon Focus: Like two-weapon weilders, weapon focus gets you a lot of mileage due to your high number of attacks.
Your best bet will often be to pick one or two styles and stick to it. If you take Combat Style Master, you can switch styles as a free action, which allows you to spend your turn in an offensive style, then switch to a defensive style when you are done attacking.
- Boar Style: One of the few monk styles which adds
damage with the first feat, Boar Style lets you inflict 2d6 extra damage if you
hit the same target more than once in a turn. If you have a spare
feat and don't want to deal with style feats, this is a good dip into monk styles,
but if you want to invest in style feats look elsewhere.
- Boar Ferocity: Now you can deal
piercing damage. Demoralizing target for free when you rend flesh is nice,
but intimidate generally isn't in the Monk's wheelhouse.
- Boar Shred: This adds ongoing bleed damage. The ability to demoralize as a move action is redundant with Boar Ferocity, and is actually worse because it prevents you from making a Full Attack. The ongoing damage is fairly small for style capstone feat, making this one of the very few styles without a decent capstone.
- Boar Ferocity: Now you can deal piercing damage. Demoralizing target for free when you rend flesh is nice, but intimidate generally isn't in the Monk's wheelhouse.
- Crane Style: The Crane style is very defensive, and
works well right away. Crane Style makes the Fight Defensively option -2 to
attacks and +3 to AC. Couple with a few ranks in Acrobatics, that becomes -2/+4,
which exceeds the bonus provided by Combat Expertise until level 16, and at a
reduced penalty. Coupled with Dodge, this makes your AC fairly impressive,
but you are very vulnerable when caught flat-footed. Check out my
Practical Guide to Fighting Defensively.
- Crane Wing: An extra +4 AC is pretty
great, even though it only applies to melee attacks. You'll need to track
how close enemies get to hitting you because you lose the AC bonus
on a near-miss.
- Crane Riposte: If you are using Crane Style, you are likely always fighting defensively, which means this is effectively a +1 to your attacks. The second benefit is a free attack when you use Crane Wing when you lose the Crane Wing bonus to AC. This isn't essential to enjoy Crane Style.
- Crane Wing: An extra +4 AC is pretty great, even though it only applies to melee attacks. You'll need to track how close enemies get to hitting you because you lose the AC bonus on a near-miss.
- Djinni Style:Elemental fist isn't spectacular, and
the bonus damage won't help much. The bonus to AC against attacks of opportunity
is situational at best.
- Djinni Spirit: The deafening effect is
nice, but being deafened generally isn't very problematic. The resistance
to electricity is also nice, but can be replaced by a cheap spell.
- Djinni Spin: Far better than Whirlwind Attack, Djinni Spin deals automatic damage. Combined with Djinni Spirit, Djinni Spin also deafens targets.
- Djinni Spirit: The deafening effect is nice, but being deafened generally isn't very problematic. The resistance to electricity is also nice, but can be replaced by a cheap spell.
- Dragon Style: A grab bag of bonuses and buffs,
Dragon Style is decent, but not spectacular. The bonus damage only applies to
your first attack per round (not even your first hit), so it's not especially
- Dragon Ferocity: Doubling your strength bonus to unarmed strike damage is tempting, but it's still only your first attack per round and you need two feats to do it.
- Dragon Roar: The cone's small size means that you can affect at most 6 targets, but automatic damage is still pretty good. Adding the Shaken condition is also nice, as Shaken can really make an enemy vulnerable. Don't plan to spam this, but it's a cool option on turns when you need to move or when multiple enemies are grouped together. Also note that the extra damage from Dragon Style and Dragon Ferocity don't apply because this isn't an attack.
- Earth Child Style: Unless you fight a huge number of
giants, this is useless.
- Earth Child Topple: Unless you fight a huge
number of giants, this is useless.
- Earth Child Binder: Situational, even if you're fighting giants exclusively.
- Earth Child Topple: Unless you fight a huge number of giants, this is useless.
- Efreeti Style: Similar to Djinni style, this adds a
small amount of damage to your Elemental Fist, which is a fairly limited resource
due to the limited uses per day.
- Efreeti Stance: The resistance is nice, and
setting things on fire is awesome. Short of an appropriate source of water,
the only way to overcome the "on fire" condition is to waste a round in hopes
that you will pass the reflex save. Then when they finally do, you can just
set them on fire again.
- Efreeti Touch: The cone is small, but setting a bunch of enemies on fire is undeniably effective. The ongoing damage is fairly small, but it is costly to overcome, and racks up faster than you might expect.
- Efreeti Stance: The resistance is nice, and setting things on fire is awesome. Short of an appropriate source of water, the only way to overcome the "on fire" condition is to waste a round in hopes that you will pass the reflex save. Then when they finally do, you can just set them on fire again.
- Grabbing Style: Essential for any grappler. This
makes it much easier to grapple two targets at the same time.
- Grabbing Drag: With Swift Grapple, you can
make three grapple checks in a turn and damage or move two opponents.
- Grabbing Master: The biggest appeal of Grabbing Style is that you can affect two targets at once without penalty. This provides a tiny bit of extra mobility, but it doesn't function under Grabbing Style's primary use case.
- Grabbing Drag: With Swift Grapple, you can make three grapple checks in a turn and damage or move two opponents.
- Jabbing Style: +1d6 damage on each successful attack
after the first against a single target. There does not appear to be a cap on how
many times this damage can apply in a single turn.
- Jabbing Dancer: Fantastic for moving into
flanking or getting out of a bad position in combat.
- Jabbing Master: The damage here is nuts. Your second successful attack adds +2d6 damage, and every further successful attack adds +4d6 damage.
- Jabbing Dancer: Fantastic for moving into flanking or getting out of a bad position in combat.
- Janni Style: Dodge is strictly better.
- Janni Tempest:The +4 bonus is nice, but
Bull Rush is situational, and you should generally be tripping as your
first attack in a round to capitalize on the attack bonus against
- Janni Rush: Charging isn't really a big part of being a monk, but doubling the damage dice is nice once your unarmed strike damage gets suitably big.
- Janni Tempest:The +4 bonus is nice, but Bull Rush is situational, and you should generally be tripping as your first attack in a round to capitalize on the attack bonus against prone targets.
- Kirin Style: A bonus to saving throws against attacks.
Not special attacks. Not spells. Not special abilities. Attacks. There's some room
to argue that "Attack" in this case constitutes any hostile action (similar to how
the spell Invisibility breaks when you "attack"), but it's not clear, so check with
your GM. Oh, and a bonus against attacks of opportunity for some reason. On top of
how weird the bonuses are, monks are typically terrible at Knowledge skills, so I
don't know how you would reliably benefit from the feat.
- Kirin Strike: Oh good, now you're dependent
on Intelligence for damage on top of the other 4 abilities you need just
to remain upright. Making this a swift action is just cruel considering
how much you need to invest to do more than the minimum damage with it.
- Kirin Path: Taking 10 on knowledge checks to identify creatures is nice, and you can do it "even when using Kirin Style", which is great because that's the only time that you would want to do it. You can dance around your enemies a bit when they move up to you, but to get any real use out of this you need a particularly high intelligence.
- Kirin Strike: Oh good, now you're dependent on Intelligence for damage on top of the other 4 abilities you need just to remain upright. Making this a swift action is just cruel considering how much you need to invest to do more than the minimum damage with it.
- Mantis Style: Stunning fist is very effective, but
its biggest problem is the DC. This helps quite a bit.
- Mantis Wisdom: The first half of the benefits
of this feat is very odd. It encourages multiclassing as a Monk, and allows
you to remove Stunning Fist effects. I'm not sure why you would do either of
those things. The only real draw is the +2 to stunning fist attacks, which is
nice because missing wastes the attempt.
- Mantis Torment: So instead of becoming Stunned, which robs them of their entire turn, forces them to drop their weapons, and makes them flat-footed with an extra -2 to AC, the enemy is dazzled (-1 to attacks), staggered (one action), and then fatigued a turn later. This actually makes Stunning Fist worse. You could arguably hit them again to make them Exhausted, but at that point you've spent four Stunning Fist attempts to apply a status condition that's less harmful than Stunned.
- Mantis Wisdom: The first half of the benefits of this feat is very odd. It encourages multiclassing as a Monk, and allows you to remove Stunning Fist effects. I'm not sure why you would do either of those things. The only real draw is the +2 to stunning fist attacks, which is nice because missing wastes the attempt.
- Marid Style: Similar to Djinni style, this adds a
small amount of damage to your Elemental Fist, which is a fairly limited resource
due to the limited uses per day.
- Marid Spirit: The ice resistance is nice, but the
Entangle effect is the real draw. Entangled lowers AC and CMD, and keeps
people in place for additional punching.
- Marid Coldsnap: Lines are one of the least useful AOEs, but the effect and automatic damage is nice.
- Marid Spirit: The ice resistance is nice, but the Entangle effect is the real draw. Entangled lowers AC and CMD, and keeps people in place for additional punching.
- Monkey Style: If you spend a lot of time prone, you
are a very bad monk.
- Monkey Moves: This allows you to move in a
lot of ways that you generally won't want to move, and makes you slightly
better at climbing.
- Monkey Shine: +4 to attacks and AC against a target is fantastic. Stun them, move into their space, trip them while they can't make attacks of opportunity (keep in mind that losing dexterity to AC also affects CMD, as do other typeless AC penalties like the -2 from the Stunned condition), and revel in your net +8 bonus to attack your victim.
- Monkey Moves: This allows you to move in a lot of ways that you generally won't want to move, and makes you slightly better at climbing.
- Panther Style: This would be a cool ability if Monks
spent a lot of time moving around in combat. Unfortunately, they generally don't.
Panther Style seems to fly in the face of this stereotype by allowing you to
attack in response to attacks of opportunity. This is an excellent counter to
Area Control Defenders, assuming that you can reach them from the wrong end of
- Panther Claw: Run through mobs of enemies
at full Run speed, and punch the snot out of everything dumb enough to
try to stop you. You probably want Mobility, or you're going to eat a
lot of damage trying to draw these attacks.
- Panther Parry: This really improves the reliability of Panther Claw. You have the potential to kill, stun, trip, or otherwise disable the target before they attack you, and you apply a -2 penalty to their attack if they're still able to attack you.
- Panther Claw: Run through mobs of enemies at full Run speed, and punch the snot out of everything dumb enough to try to stop you. You probably want Mobility, or you're going to eat a lot of damage trying to draw these attacks.
- Pummelling Style: This fixes Flurry of Blows' problem
with DR, and greatly increases the probability of scoring a critical hit. If you
hit with several of the attack rolls and score a critical hit, you may end up
duplicating a fairly absurd amount of damage. If you don't know what style to pick
up, make it this one.
- Pummelling Bully: If you are built for it, tripping your target can be a great option.
- Pummelling Charge: You should start every combat with a Pummeling Strike.
- Shaitan Style: Similar to Djinni style, this adds a
small amount of damage to your Elemental Fist, which is a fairly limited resource
due to the limited uses per day. If you miss you still deal the acid damage, which
is pretty nice for your iterative attacks.
- Shaitan Skin: The acid resistance is decent,
and Staggerred is a pretty good status condition.
- Shaitan Earthblast: Columns are a great AOE shape, and this has the best range of the djinni-like styles. Automatic unarmed strike damage is great, and staggering groups of enemies can really turn a battle in your favor.
- Shaitan Skin: The acid resistance is decent, and Staggerred is a pretty good status condition.
- Snake Style: And suddenly Sense Motive is your AC. At first
level, with one rank, 14 wisdom, and Snake Style, you can have a +8 to Sense Motive,
which likely beats your AC bonus. This is an immediate action, so you can only do it
once per round, which means you still want to invest in your AC for iterative attacks
and multiple enemies. As you grow in level, your Sense Motive bonus will likely
outpace your AC if only because you get guaranteed skill ranks every level.
- Snake Sidewind: Critical hits aren't something
that monks can rely on, and your Sense Motive bonus probably shouldn't outpace
your attack bonus, except with your iterative attacks. Spending your immediate
action to take a free 5 foot step is an interesting option, but you can't do it
if you used Snake Style in the previous round.
- Snake Fang: free attack when your enemy misses is good enough to justify taking Combat Reflexes and standing in crowds of enemies to draw fire. Because you also use your immediate action to use Snake Style to replace your AC, you may need to decide between defending yourself or relying on your AC and potentially hitting your opponent an extra time.
- Snake Sidewind: Critical hits aren't something that monks can rely on, and your Sense Motive bonus probably shouldn't outpace your attack bonus, except with your iterative attacks. Spending your immediate action to take a free 5 foot step is an interesting option, but you can't do it if you used Snake Style in the previous round.
- Snapping Turtle Style: Dodge is strictly better,
but this contributes to the Monk's flat-footed AC, which is generally terrible.
- Snapping Turtle Clutch: Literally the only
reason to take this is for the free grapple attempts.
- Snapping Turtle Shell: An extra +1 to AC still isn't much, but it applies to your AC/touch AC/flat-footed AC, which is nice. -4 to critical hit confirmations against you won't matter much, but it certainly feels comforting.
- Snapping Turtle Clutch: Literally the only reason to take this is for the free grapple attempts.
- Tiger Style: Slashing damage is only occasionally
helpful, the CMD bonus is situational, critical hits aren't something that
Monks can really rely on, and even in the case of a critical hit the bleed damage
doesn't last long enough to be meaningful.
- Tiger Claws: Your Base Attack Bonus will be
lower than your best attacks with Flurry of Blows because flurry pretends
that you have 1/1 BAB, but Monks actually have 2/3 BAB. Bull rushing an enemy
and not being able to follow them actively hurts you because you can't full
attack next round, which Tiger Pounce conveniently addresses. You can choose
to immediately close the distance by moving as a swift action, or you can
wait until your next turn to chase your enemy if they've moved around.
- Tiger Pounce: You get to move as a swift action, which is great, but it can only be toward an enemy you hit on this turn or your previous turn. The most likely scenario is that you're chasing a fleeing foe or that you're closing with an enemy which you pushed away with Tiger Claws.
- Tiger Claws: Your Base Attack Bonus will be lower than your best attacks with Flurry of Blows because flurry pretends that you have 1/1 BAB, but Monks actually have 2/3 BAB. Bull rushing an enemy and not being able to follow them actively hurts you because you can't full attack next round, which Tiger Pounce conveniently addresses. You can choose to immediately close the distance by moving as a swift action, or you can wait until your next turn to chase your enemy if they've moved around.
While you will most likely be fighting unarmed, monk weapons offer you a lot of really fantastic options, including bonuses to combat maneuvers. Monks who aren't specialized with weapons should still carry a couple to bypass DR until Ki Pool covers the bases, and for bonuses on CMB checks.
Monks can use a single weapon for flurry of blows, which removes the need for double weapons or two-weapon fighting. This also increases the importance of damage enhancements on your weapon because you get a large number of low-damage attacks. If you plan to use weapons, be sure to pick up some damage enhancements.
- bo staff: Basically a quarterstaff with the blocking property. d6 damage, 20x2 crit.
- brass knuckles: Just like unarmed strike, but less damage and enchantable.
- butterfly sword: Basically a fancy version of a dagger that you can't throw. d4 damage, 19-20x2 crit.
- cestus: Allows bludgeoning or piercing damage, which adds some nice versatility. d4 damage, 19-20x2 crit.
- dan bong: Despite doing 1d3 bludgeoning damage, the Dan Bong is fantastic. It adds an incredibly rare +2 bonus to grapple checks, has the blocking property, and can be thrown. Also it has 19-20x2 crit for some reason. It doesn't actually have the Grapple property, so you can't apply other weapon bonuses (masterwork/enhancement) to your grapple checks by using a dan bong. However, since you're not using it to grapple, you can use your unarmed strike damage when grappling.
- double chained kama: The double property doesn't really matter, but reach does. The double-chained kama also has the Trip property, which means you can use it to trip, drop one end to prevent yourself from being tripped back, then pick up the dropped end as a free action by pulling the chain. The description mentions using it to disarm, but the table doesn't list the disarm property, and normal Kamas don't have disarm. Keep in mind that because this is a double weapon, each end of the weapon can be a different material and can be enchanted seperately.
- double chicken saber: A short sword with Disarm. 1d6 slashing damage and 19-20 crit. A solid choice, though not very exciting.
- emei piercer: The wording is confusing. Despite the d3 damage, the description says that emei piercers turn unarmed strikes into piercing damage. General consensus in rules discussions seems to be that the weapon overrides unarmed strike damage, but is otherwise treated as an unarmed strike. If you just need a source of piercing damage, there are better options.
- fighting fan: Leave these for ninjas. Poison is not your thing, and neither is feinting.
- jutte: 1d6 bludgeoning damage and disarm. Not awful, but you will be better served getting a weapon with a different damage type so that you don't have to carry a pile of weapons.
- kama: 1d6 slashing damage and trip. One of the best options in the core rulebook. It's light, which doesn't do much for monks.
- kusarigama: Similar to the double-chained kama, but the kusarigama trades some of the off-hand weapon damage for the grapple property. The Grapple property gives you a +2 to grapple, and you can add weapon enhancement bonuses to your grapple checks, but you use the weapon's damage when grappling in place of your unarmed strike damage.
- kyoketsu shoge: The description doesn't appear to match the stats: it says that you can swing the ring around, but the stats don't say that you can deal bludgeoning damage. For what it does, the Kusarigama and double-chained kama are better options, but the sword can do slashing or piercing damage, which covers both of your missing damage types.
- lungchuan tamo: 1d4 damage, piercing or slashing damage, and throwable. This is a very versatile option if you don't plan to use combat maneuvers.
- monk's spade: 1d6 damage of any type. The table is a bit misleading, though; the two ends do different types of damage. This seems like a solid option, but it's two-handed, which limits your options in a fight, and it doesn't give you bonuses to combat maneuvers.
- nine-ring broadsword: The monk's battleaxe. Solid 1d8 slashing damage, and x3 crit, but nothing for combat maneuvers.
- nine-section whip: 1d8 bludgeoning damage, 19-20x2 crit, blocking, distracting, and trip. Blocking and trip on one item is great, but the damage isn't spectacular because it's bludgeoning. Still, this would be a great item at low levels before your unarmed strike damage exceeds 1d8. You can hold it in one hand to take advantage of the blocking property while still fighting unarmed, which is great for Crane Style monks.
- nunchaku: 1d6 bludgeoning damage and disarm. Not awful, but there are better options.
- quarterstaff: Bo Staff is strictly better.
- rope dart: 1d4 piercing damage, blocking, distracting, and throwable.
- sai: Less damage than the nunchaku, but also provides a +2 bonus when sundering weapons. Sundering isn't a particularly popular option, so the nunchaku is probably a better weapon.
- sansetsukon: 1d10 bludgeoning damage is pretty great, and meets your unarmed strike damage until level 12. 19-20x2 crit is great, and blocking and disarm are great on one weapon. The damage is good enough that, even at high levels where your unarmed strikes exceed 1d10 damage, the Sansetsukon may be a viable option. The ability to attack with a two-handed weapon with as many attacks as two-weapon fighting builds means that the additional damage from Strength (not to mention Power Attack if you take it) could easily close the gap in damage output. However, you still need to overcome the RAW numerical advantage provided by permanent +5 unarmed strikes, which will be difficult to do.
- seven-branched sword: 1d10 slashing damage with x3 crit is pretty good, and it has disarm. You can also do an almost-trip to make targets flat-footed for a round, which is a weird situationally useful trick.
- shang gou: 1d4 slashing damage, but it can be used for disarm or trip, which adds some excellent versatility.
- shuriken: Because they are drawn as a free action like ammunition, shuriken can be used with Flurry of Blows. However, they are destroyed when used, which makes it difficult to justify enchanting them. Carry a few mundane shuriken for the rare case where you can't just run up and punch things.
- siangham: 1d6 piercing damage. There are options which deal the same damage and have special properties.
- tiger fork: 1d8 piercing damage, and it can be set against charges. Basically a bad trident.
- tonfa: 1d6 bludgeoning damage and blocking. Nine-section whip is strictly better unless you need a light weapon for some weird reason.
- tri-point double-edged sword: "sword" is somewhat of a minsomer; this thing is more of a polearm. 1d10 slashing damage, x3 crit, and reach. Despite being in the "monk" weapon group, but lacks the Monk property, so you can't use it with Flurry of Blows.
- unarmed strike: Tried and true. Your damage scales with level, you can't be disarmed, and you technically don't need your hands free to fight unarmed.
- urumi: 1d8 slashing damage an impressive 18-20x2 critical. Distracting won't get you much because Monks generally don't feint. Despite being in the "monk" weapon group, but lacks the Monk property, so you can't use it with Flurry of Blows.
- wushu dart: 1d3 piercing damage and throwable. There are many more interesting options.
I recommend carrying a sansetsukon as your primary weapon due to the high damage and critical threat range, but be prepared to drop it once you get Ki Strike if you need to bypass DR/magic, or abandon it completely once you can get enhancement bonuses on your fists reliably. The sansetsukon can also be used to disarm, but when you stop using it as your primary weapon replace it with something lighter like a double-chicken saber (for the slashing damage). Also carry a double-chained kama for tripping and for reach. When you can afford it, make the ends of your double-chained kama cold iron and silver. Piercing damage isn't as important, but carry a Lungchuan Tamo or two just to be safe.
Monks can't use armor, so I recommend getting someone in your party to cast Mage Armor on you. With hours/level duration even a low level wizard can cover you for the full adventuring day. If your pet Wizard is stingy with his spell slots, drop 1000 gold pieces to buy him a Pearl of Power 1 so you can both share Mage Armor from one slot. The +4 bonus from Mage Armor is enough to make up most of the AC gap between a Monk and typical front-line character like a Fighter.
- Blade of the Sword-Saint (75,350 gp): 18-20 threat range and you can use it two-handed. I'm not sure if it's worth the cost because Ki Intensifying isn't very good, but sometimes you just really want to double-down on the far-east feel of a monk swinging a katana.
- Brawling (+1): Add your enhancement bonus to all of your combat maneuvers. Conveniently, unarmed strikes are light bludgeoning weapons so you could put this on an Amulet of Mighty Fists if you wanted to do so.
- Furyborn (+2): The best case scenario for this weapon ability is for a monk to put it on an amulet of mighty fists. You need to be attacking with the same weapon a large number of times to make the ability work, and monks are the best way to do that. Unfortunately, it's not clear if the maximum bonus of +5 is +5 in total with other enhancement bonuses (like your +5 unarmed strikes) or if it's +5 just from Furyborn. If it's the latter, the appeal of attacking with a +10 enhancement bonus is hard to ignore. Of course, you still face the issue that you should be killing enemies too quickly for this to ramp up, in which case you're sinking a bunch of money into an ability that rarely matters.
- Ki Focus (+1): If you insist on using weapons, you need to have this.
- Ki Intensifying (+2): Basically Ki Focus but you get to add half of your enhancement bonus to relevant special abilities. If you plan to put a bunch of money into an enhancement bonus this might work, but I would wait until you have a ton of spare money before you even consider this ability. Enhancing your Wisdom will do much more for you for much less money.
- Wounding (+2): Because the bleed stacks with itself, Wounding works best when you make a huge number of attacks with a single weapon, which is where monks specialize. Unfortunately, most of the time you'll get more damage out of abilities like Flaming because bleed damage takes so long to deal significant of damage. This could be great against enemies with huge pools of hit points, but even against those foes you'll do more damage hitting them more on successive rounds.
- Wyroot (1,000/2,000/4,000): An easily-overlooked method for recovering Ki. Attacking a helpless target is an automatic critical hit, so you can use this to farm Ki from unconscious enemies. If you deal nonlethal damage you can beat the same target repeatedly to fully restore your Ki pool, then fill the weapon to recharge later. I would only get the first tier of the effect unless you're high level and built to emphasize critical hits..
- Protection: You need all the AC you can get.
- Cure Light Wounds: You can't use it, so buddy up to someone who can. Your hit points will go up and down very sharply on a normal day, so this will see a lot of use.
- Mage Armor: You can't use it, so buddy up to someone who can. It has a one-hour duration, which should last through several fights if you have time to cast it ahead of time. It provides as much AC as Bracers of Armor +4, which cost 16000gp. That's more than 23 wands worth of GP. If you go through 1 wand per level (I don't know how you would manage to do that) you will still save money.
- Amulet of Mighty Fists: This allows you to add special weapon abilities to your unarmed strikes. Notably, it doesn't require a +1 enhancement bonus like a weapon does, so you can go straight to the fun stuff. The Impact enhancement is tempting since it lets you use a larger damage scale, but Paizo has ruled that unarmed strikes count as light weapons and Impact can't be placed on light weapons. Instead, consider options like shocking, speed (oh look more attacks), or holy.
- Belt of Physical Perfection: Get one early, and upgrade it often.
- Bracers of Armor: A wand of Mage Armor provides as much AC as +4 bands, and for the same cost you can guy a huge box of wands, and get the AC bonus at much lower level.
- Cloak of Resistance: Too crucial to forego.
- Deliquescent Gloves: For just 8,000 gp you can add +1d6 acid damage to attacks made with your hands. You'll need to use your hands for unarmed strikes to get the damage, but if you're not using a weapon that's probably not a problem. These cost as much as a +2 weapon, so wait to get these until your Amulet of Mighty Fists is already +2-equivalent.
- Ioun Stone (Dusty Rose): At only 5000gp, a Dusty Rose Ioun Stone provides a cheaper boost to AC than upgrading your Ring of Protection from +1 to +2. The bonus is an insight bonus, which makes it easy to stack because insight bonuses to AC are extremely rare.
- Headband of inspired wisdom: Get one for the extra AC, ki pool, and boost to your saves, but your belt is more important.
- Monk's Belt: Your belt of Physical Perfection will be considerably more effective.
- Monk's Robe: Similar to the Monk's Belt, but you pretend to be 5 levels higher instead of 4 and it takes your mostly useless robe slot.
- Longarm Bracers: Functionally similar to the Lunge feat, but they only work 3 times per day and they don't impose a penalty on attack rolls for your unarmed strikes. Lunge is too situational to justify a feat in my opinion, so these are a fantastic option for covering those rare situations when you need some extra reach.
- Quickrunner's Shirt: Though it only functions once per day, the Quickrunner's Shirt solves the Monk's biggest problem: the need to move and make a full attack in the same turn. Talk to your GM about allowing better versions which allow you to use the ability more than once per day.
- Enlarge Person: Large size brings a nice Strength bonus, reach, a considerable increase in the Monk's unarmed strike damage, and a size bonus to CMB/CMD.
- Magic Fang: For roughly 3000gp (2500 for permanent magic fang, 450 for an NPC spellcaster casting Permanency, and probably 90gp for that same spellcaster to actually cast Magic Fang) you can have permanent +1 to attack and damage. When your party members are upgrading to +1 weapons, this is a great low-cost option until you can afford +5 Greater Magic Fang.
- Magic Fang, Greater: Assuming that you can find someone with Caster Level 20, permanent +5 to your unarmed strikes costs just 8550gp (7500 for permanent greater magic fang, 1000 for permanency by that same caster or 450 for someone else to do it, plus 600 to actually cast greater magic fang at CL 20), only a hair more than a +2 weapon. So while your buddies are waving their +2 longswords around, you're caving in monsters' faces with your +5 fists of fury.
Multiclassing and Prestige Classes
Monks benefit very little from multiclassing, but other classes can benefit greatly from a dip into Monk for one or two levels. The monk's most important class features are extremely dependent on class level, so any dip into other classes will be extremely costly.
- Unchained Rogue: One level gets you Weapon Finesse for free. Three levels gets you Dexterity to damage instead of Strength for one weapon. Unarmed Strike is an option, though you may want to stick to an actual weapon since you're giving up three levels worth of unarmed strike progression.