Pathfinder - Monk Vows Breakdown
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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.
The Monk's biggest limitation on his abilities is the Ki Pool. Very few options exist to refill or expand the Ki Pool, and the Expanded Ki Pool feat is terrible. Monk Vows allow the monk to add additional Ki, but at a price.
Keep in mind that the ability to take Monk Vows replaces the Still Mind ability, so not all Monk archetypes will allow you to take Monk Vows.
Vow of Celibacy: The big sacrifice here is the inability to allow your allies to touch you with healing effects. Expect to spend a lot of money on potions, and invest in the Heal skill to treat your wounds. The payoff is very small, and you won't see the second extra ki point until level 10.
Vow of Chains: The payoff is fantastic, but a -1 penalty to both attacks and AC is brutal. The 10 foot penalty to speed is annoying, but the Monk's speed bonuuses will quickly outweight it. If you aren't having trouble hitting and defending yourself, this can be a great way to get a lot of extra Ki.
Vow of Cleanliness: The only important thing you give up is the ability to willingly touch the diseased/dead/undead. If you use monk weapons, this won't be a problem. Even if you do, your GM may let you get away with using Brass Knuckles because they are a manufactured weapon. The payoff is small, but the cost is minimal.
Vow of Fasting: The payoff is pitiful, and you can't drink potions.
Vow of Peace: A pacifist adventurer is a strange creature indeed. Assuming your party is on board, this can make for an interesting character, but in terms of raw murdering power, this is poor.
Vow of Poverty: You give up a lot, but you get a lot. Magic items are fantastic, but an extra point of Ki at every level offers a lot of options.
Vow of Silence: Your Charisma is probably garbage anyway, so this costs very little. The payoff is small, but the cost is smaller. Plus, it combines with Vow of Truth very easily.
Vow of Truth: You give up very little, but don't get much. Combine this with Vow of Silence for maximum effectiveness.