Introduction

Monks are notoriously MAD, so ability score increases are absolutely crucial. For the vast majority of monks, you’ll want Dexterity, Wisdom, and Constitution in roughly that order. Races which provide three increases are very appealing because you can start with 16 in all three of those ability scores, which is frequently your best option as a monk at first level.

Additional skills are great if you want to play a Scout since the Monk’s list of skill choices is so limited and with only the standard 2 skills, the Monk will find it difficult to match the Ranger and Rogue’s skill capabilities. Darkvision can also be helpful unless someone in your party can provide it with a spell.

You may also look for ways to make yourself more durable to help keep yourself alive at low levels. Things like the Goliath’s Stone’s Endurance and the Orc’s Adrenaline Rush can pad your relatively low hit points. Resistances to common damage types like poison can be helpful, and AC boosts from races like the Warforged are rare but excellent.

Innate spellcasting can work on the monk, but it’s difficult to find options which complement the Monk’s capabilities without actively conflicting with your tactics in combat. That’s not say that it’s impossible, but you need to be prudent about what spells your race might offer and consider how they fit into your character more broadly.

After reading this handbook, I encourage you to read our Monk Handbook.

Table of Contents

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Monk Races

Keep in mind that not all races will be available in every game. Consult your DM about which races are welcome in your game, as not all settings are appropriate to every setting or even to specific campaigns within a setting which might otherwise welcome any and all races.

AarakocraEEPC

UpdatedMMoM: The updated version of the Aarakocra doesn’t change how they work for the Monk in any major way. There’s some appeal to having three +1 increases, but otherwise the advice doesn’t change.

Customized Origin: The Aarakocra’s ability score increases were already perfect for the Monk, so the custom origin rules make the Aarakocra less appealing now that other races can match that benefit. The proliferation of other flying races also dilutes the Aarakocra’s signature benefit. While the Aarakocra remains the fastest flying race, the Owlin’s Darkvision and Stealth proficiency and the Winged Tiefling’s Darkvision and fire resitance make them both more appealing options.

Default Rules: Dexterity, Wisdom, and flight. Monks are almost entirely locked into melee combat, and without a built-in way to fly that’s a huge problem when enemies start flying. The Aarakocra will make an excellent ranged Kensei, but once you’re in melee with enemies that can’t fly, the Aarakocra is little better than the Wood Elf or any other race with similar ability score increases. The Monk’s speed bonus notably applies to all of your natural movement speeds, so the Aarakocra is able to achieve truly incredible fly speeds.

AasimarVGtM

UpdatedMMoM: Radiant Consumption is good if you worry about crowds and Radiant Soul provides flight that most monks simply can’t match. Two damage resistances are great on the monk since monks are relatively frail compared to other front-line martial classes, and most monks don’t have built-in healing options, so Healing Hands is useful if your allies go down.

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +1), Darkvision, and two damage resistances. Healing Hands offers minor healing which is helpful on any character, but won’t be especially impactful beyond low levels. The biggest draw is the subraces’ transformations, which vary by subrace but all provide a short-duration combat buff.

  • Fallen: Necrotic Shroud offers a nice crowd control option, which is helpful because the Monk doesn’t have a good way to handle crowds. However, the DC is Charisma-based so many enemies will be able to resist it reliably.
  • Protector: Conveniently solves the problem of flight enough times in a day that you don’t need to worry about flying in combat.
  • Scourge: With d8 hit dice, the Monk doesn’t have enough hit points to gamble them.

Default Rules:

  • Fallen: Bad ability spread.
  • Protector: The Wisdom increase is not enough.
  • Scourge: Bad ability spread.

Aasimar (DMG Variant)DMG

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, two damage resistances, and some innate spellcasting. Lesser Restoration fills a crucial role in any party, and combined with hit dice and possibly the Quickened Healing Optional Class Feature you can get pretty far without having access to a cleric or a similar healer.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread. You do get a Wisdom increase, damage resistances, and some interesting innate spellcasting, but Way of the Astral Self is the only subrace which won’t suffer from the lack of a Dexterity increase.

Air GenasiMMoM

Darkvision and Lightning resistance are the only meaningful things that the Air Genasi contributes to the Monk.

Astral ElfSAIS

Two skills and a tool close the skill gap between the Monk and the Rogue, making it much easier to serve as your party’s Scout. The cantrips are interesting since monks are almost entirely locked into melee, but you’ll generally still do better using darts to attack at range.

AutognomeSAIS

The Autognome’s natural armor and damage resistances are great for the Monk, especially if you pick a subclass where you can safely dump Wisdom like Way of the Kensei. Built for Success is always great, and once you have Diamond Soul, saving throws feel much less threatening.

Bugbear

UpdatedMMoM: Darkvision, proficiency in Stealth, reach (sort of), and Surprise Attack applies on every hit if you surprise your enemy. An absolutely spectacular ambush predator monk.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, one skill. Long-limbed works very well for the Monk, allowing you to easily adopt hit-and-run tactics without going to lengths to get access to reach by other means like using a whip or Way of the Astral Self’s arms. Between those capabilities and Surprise Attack, the Bugbear makes an effective high-DPS, sneaky rogue equivalent. Way of Shadow is an obvious choice, but most subclasses will work.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: Reach is hard for most monks to get (though it’s available with whips thanks to the Dedicated Weapon Optional Class Feature, and Way of the Astral Self gets reach), but reach and a small Dexterity increase are the only things that the bugbear has to offer that specifically cater to the Monk. Surprise attack is a nice damage boost, especially at low levels, but it’s little better for the Monk than for any other class.

Centaur

UpdatedMMoM: Even with rearranged ability scores, the Centaur’s traits are too dependent on Strength.

Classic (Customized Origin)GGTR: Too dependent on Strength-based melee attacks.

Classic (Default Rules)GGTR: Strength is borderline useless for the Monk, and Charge is redundant with Martial Arts.

Changeling

UpdatedMMoM: Monks can’t make good use of the majority of the Changeling’s traits.

Classic (Customized Origin)ERLW: +2/+1 increases and two skills. Shapechanger is the only unique trait on the Changeling, and it’s not especially useful for the Monk.

Classic (Default Rules)ERLW: Bad ability spread.

Deep GnomeMMoM

Gnome Magic Resistance is a helpful defense for the Monk since monks aren’t proficient in any mental saves until their get Diamond Body. Svirfneblin Camouflage helps make up for not getting Expertise so you can almost compete with a rogue as your party’s Scout.

DragonbornPHB

Chromatic: The line AOE is difficult for the monk, but an AOE is still helpful and bnoth damage resistance and Chromatic Warding will be helpful for the Monk due to their poor durability.

Gem: Conical AOE with good damage types, and Gem Flight lets you handle occasional flying enemies, which is great since monks are almost entirely locked into melee. The damage resistance will be less useful since the damage types are less common, which may not be worth the trade for the Monk.

Metallic: The conical AOE is better for the Monk than the Chromatic Dragonborn’s line, but the Monk rarely has enough ASI’s to keep their Constitution high in order to make the all-or-nothing saves on the additional breath weapon options meaningful.

Customized Origin:

  • ClassicPHB: The breath weapon just isn’t very good. Most monks struggle to handle crowds, so there is some appeal here, but it may be easier to play Way of the Ascendant Dragon.
  • DraconbloodEGtW: Nothing useful for the Monk.
  • RaveniteEGtW: Darkvision and Vengeful Assault are more consistently useful than one damage resistance.

Default Rules:

  • ClassicPHB: Bad ability spread.
  • DraconbloodEGtW: Bad ability spread.
  • RaveniteEGtW: Bad ability spread.

DuergarMMoM

Everything about the Duergar works for the Monk, and their innate spellcasting is among the Monk’s best innate spellcasting options. Enlarge/Reduce can enlarge you for a damage bonus in combat. Invisibility is great for stealth or escaping. Dwarven Resilience and Psionic Fortitude provide helpful defenses which nicely complement the Monk’s class features, though you will eventually become immune to poison, making Dwarven Resilience obsolete.

DwarfPHB

For the updated version of the Duergar, see their separate race entry on this page.

Customized Origin: One +2 increase and a second from your subrace, Darkvision, four weapons, and one tool. Poison Resilience is great, but will be redundant once you become immune to poison at 10th level. Trade the weapons to get options like whips and shortbows, and trade the tool for Thieves’ Tools.

  • DuergarSCAG: Another +1 increase, Superior Darkvision, and some interesting innate spellcasting, but you’re also stuck with Sunlight Sensitivity. Keep in mind that Enlarge/Reduce’s enlarge option only adds a damage bonus for actual weapons, so you don’t get more damage with unarmed strikes.
  • HillPHB: Another +1 increase, and the additional hit points will close the gap between the Fighter and the Monk. It’s not super exciting, but it works reasonably well.
  • MountainPHB: A second +2 increase, and two armor proficiencies that you can trade for weapons or tools. The second +2 increase is really tempting on a class which is so dependent on Ability Score Increases. Starting with two ability scores at 17 is a great foundation, allowing you to max out Dexterity and Wisdom four levels earlier than most monks.

Default Rules: The Constitution bonus is nice, but many of the Dwarf’s abilities are either useless or redundant for the Monk. The Dwarven Fortitude racial feat has a neat side-effect: you can use Ki to Dodge as a bonus action, which still allows you to spend a hit die to heal.

  • DuergarSCAG: Nothing good for the Monk.
  • HillPHB: A bit of Wisdom and the bonus hit points do quite a bit to improve the Monk’s durability, but you really need a Dexterity increase.
  • MountainPHB: Bad ability spread.

Earth GenasiMMoM

Darkvision, Earth Walk, and Pass Without Trace are both nice on a monk, but without a way to re-cast Pass Without Trace the Earth Genasi’s traits are minimally useful. Even Blade Ward feels redundant thanks to Patient Defense.

EladrinMMoM

Monks lean heavily on their Bonus Action, and options like Step of the Wind make Fey Step’s short-range teleportation less useful. Charm effects are less threatening for the Monk than for most martial characters due to the Monk’s unusually high Wisdom, so Fey Ancestry isn’t huge. Trance offers access to a weapon, but since it won’t be a monk weapon you’ll want to pick a tool instead. That means that the most impactful things that the Eladrin brings to the Monk are proficiency in Perception and in one tool, and that’s just not enough..

HadozeeSAIS

Even if you can somehow trigger it, Glide is less useful for the Monk since monks already get Slow Fall. Hadozee Dodge is nice, but at that point play a goliath.

ElfPHB

For the updated versions of the Eladrin, the Sea Elf, and the Shadar-Kai, see their separate race entries on this page.

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +1), Darkvision, one skill (which you should leave as Perception). The Elf needs to compete with the half-elf’s three ability score increases and access to the Elf’s subrace traits via variants.

  • DrowPHB: Superior Darkvision is great, but Sunlight Sensitivity is hard and the Innate Spellcasting is Charisma-based which is hard for the Monk. If you just want to be able to cast Darkness, consider Way of Shadow. If you’re determined to get the innate spellcating, Half-Elf is a better fit for the Monk.
  • EladrinMToF: Easy teleportation is a huge benefit for a class that’s almost always locked into melee. However, the rider effects on the teleportation are Charisma-based so few of them are useful for the Monk.
  • Eladrin (Variant)DMG: Teleportation as often as the regular Eladrin, but you give up the rider effect for four weapon proficiencies. If you plan to use the Dedicated Weapon Optional Class Feature, that’s a good trade. Otherwise, I would consider the Shadar-Kai first.
  • High ElfPHB: A wizard cantrip does almost nothing to help the Monk, and using melee cantrips like Booming Blade prevents you from using features like Martial Arts.
  • Pallid ElfEGtW: Decent skill bonuses, but the innate spellcasting can be difficult. Sleep doesn’t allow a saving throw, but because you get it at level 3 the 3d8 hit points makes it borderline unusable. Invisibility is great, but that likely isn’t enough to make the Pallid Elf a go-to option.
  • Sea ElfEGtW / MToF: Only in an aquatic campaign, and even then there are better aquatic racial options like the Triton.
  • Shadar-KaiMToF: Damage resistance, and a once per day teleport. Damage resistance after you teleport is great for the Monk, especially if you’re jumping into melee alone.
  • Wood ElfPHB: Perfectly fine, but with perfect ability scores accessible for every race the Wood Elf loses much of its appeal. Mask of the Wild is only situationally useful and 5 ft. better speed hardly matters for the Monk. I would consider the Variant Eladrin first.

Default Rules: Good ability bonuses, and Perception helps to capitalize on the Monk’ excellent Wisdom. The Elven Accuracy facial feat is tempting, but monks survive on making numerous attacks rather than putting a bunch of effort behind a single attack.

  • DrowPHB: Nothing good for the Monk.
  • EladrinMToF: Bad ability spread.
  • Eladrin (Variant)DMG: Bad ability spread.
  • High Elf: A wizard cantrip does almost nothing to help the Monk, and using melee cantrips like Booming Blade prevents you from using features like Martial Arts.
  • Pallid ElfEGtW: The Wood Elf is a better fit due to their racial traits beyond their ability score increases, but the Pallid Elf is absolutely viable, and the innate spellcasting offers some interesting options.
  • Sea ElfMToF: Constitution is nice, and the Monk’s move speed bonus will also increase your swim speed. Reasonably effective, even in a land-locked campaign, but any other race with similar ability score increases will be more effective.
  • Shadar-KaiMToF: Dexterity and Constitution is a good combination for the Monk, and teleportation is great, but the Wood Elf is still a better choice.
  • Wood ElfPHB: Wisdom, access to bows, bonus speed, and Mask of the Wild is very helpful for Shadow Monks during the day.

FairyWBtW / MMoM

The Fairy’s innate spellcasting can be Wisdom-based, which can work reasonably well for the Monk. However, with generally poor durability and no proficiency in Constitution saves, maintain Concentration can be very difficult, and with no spell slots you only get to use each spell once per day. The benefits of other flying races are more consistently useful.

Firbolg

UpdatedMMoM: Monks can’t replicate the effects of Detect Magic or Disguise Self, and the Monk’s dependence on Wisdom works well with Wisdom-based spellcasting (though your save DC doesn’t matter much for the Firbolg’s spells). Hidden Step is especially appealing for a class which is frequently good at stealth but can’t turn invisible, though it does compete for the Monk’s already over-burdened Bonus Action.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2/+1 increases. Hidden Step is nice, but Invisibility is available as an innate spell on several races. The nature-themed abilities aren’t especially helpful for the Monk.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: A Wisdom increase and some innate spellcasting. Hidden Step is nice and the rest is interesting, but lack of a Dexterity increase is difficult and few of the features complement the Monk’s capabilities.

Fire GenasiMMoM

Produce Flame can give you a passable range attack option, but throwing darts will almost certainly be more effective.

GenasiEEPC

For the updated versions of the Air Genasi, the Earth Genasi, the Fire Genasi, and the the Water Genasi, see their separate race entries on this page.

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +1), but the vast majority of the Genasi’s traits come from the subraces.

  • Air: If you need to breath underwater, go for an aquatic race. Levitate is borderline useless.
  • Earth: Pass Without Trace isn’t usable often enough to justify this, and difficult terrain is much less of a problem with the Monk’s incredible speed.
  • Fire: Damage resistance, and the innate spellcasting is Constitution-based so it may not be totally useless depending on how you arrange your ability scores.
  • Water: Damage resistance and you can cast Shape Water. That’s decent, but unless you’re in an aquatic campaign you lose too many of the race’s benefits. Even underwater, you can likely find a more effective race option.

Default Rules: Bonus Constitution goes a long way to help the Monk’s durability.

  • Air: A bit of Dexterity is always nice, but essentially the only things that matter are the ability score increases and you can do better with numerous other races.
  • Earth: Nothing good for the Monk.
  • Fire: Nothing good for the Monk.
  • Water: A bit of Wisdom, resistance to a common energy type, and some cool spells. A decent combination, especially in an aquatic campaign, but lack of a Dexterity increase is hard.

GiffSAIS

An easy source of Advantage is a massive boon for monks, but with typically poor Strength most monks can’t effectively Shove enemies prone. With a splash of Strength, proficiency in Athletics, and Hippo Build, Shove suddenly becomes a viable option for the monk. Knock your enemy prone then hit them with Flurry of Blows.

GithMToF

For the updated versions of the Githyanki, the Githzerai, see their separate race entries on this page.

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +2), but the bulk of your notable racial traits come from your subrace.

  • Githyanki: One skill or tool, three weapon proficiencies, and two armor proficiencies that you can trade for more tools. The innate spellcasting is neat, but you’re mostly only concerned with Misty Step so in a lot of ways the Githyank is similar to the Variant Eladrin.
  • Githzerai: A good defensive complement to the Monk’s other defenses. Charm and fear effects are common, and Shield is a wonderful supplement to your AC at low levels before your AC catches up to other front-line classes.

Default Rules: The Intelligence increase is wasted on the Monk.

  • GithyankiMToF: Bad ability spread.
  • GithzeraiMToF: The Wisdom is nice, but the rest of the Githzerai’s traits aren’t good enough to make up for the lack of a Dexterity increase.

GithyankiMMoM

The extra skill is nice, but the Monk benefits very little from the innate spellcasting.

GithzeraiMMoM

Githzerai are frequently portrayed as monks, which makes sense thematically. Unfortunately, the Githzerai’s traits don’t do much to complement the Monk’s capabilities. Monks already have decent Wisdom saves, so Mental Discipline isn’t as helpful as it is for other martial classes, and psychic damage isn’t common enough that resistance has a big impact. The innate spellcasting offers some utility and Shield is very tempting, but with no way to re-cast Shield it’s not particularly impactful. As a whole, the build works fine, but it’s not amazing and it doesn’t solve the Monk’s durability challenges.

GnomePHB

For the updated version of the Deep Gnome, see their separate race entry on this page.

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace offers a +1 increase), Darkvision, and Gnome Cunning.

  • Deep (Svirfneblin)EEPC / SCAG: Superior Darkvision and Stone Camouflage. A good option for a stealthy monk in a subterranean campaign, and you’re not stuck with Sunlight Sensitivity like most underdark races.
  • ForestPHB: You’re basically here for Minor Illusion. it’s a great spell, but it doesn’t make you a better monk.
  • RockPHB: Tinker is a novelty, but it’s not especially useful.

Default Rules: The Intelligence increase is wasted, but Gnome Cunning is helpful.

  • Deep (Svirfneblin)EEPC / SCAG: Nothing good for the Monk.
  • ForestPHB: A bit of Dexterity is very helpful, but I don’t think it’s enough to make the Forest Gnome a good option. Without increases to Constitution or Wisdom, you’re going to be incredibly frail.
  • RockPHB: The Constitution increase isn’t enough. Tinker is novel, but not very useful.

Goblin

UpdatedMMoM: Nimble Escape is somewhat redundant with what you can do with Ki, but if you’re planning to rely on hit-and-run tactics it can save you a lot of Ki. Fury of the Small provides a small damage bonus.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision. Nimble Escape is somewhat redundant with what you can do with Ki, but if you’re planning to rely on hit-and-run tactics it can save you a lot of Ki. Fury of the Small provides a small damage bonus.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: Fantastic ability increases and abnormally fast for a small character (though with the Monk’s increased speed that doesn’t matter much). Nimble Escape will compete with Martial Arts for your Bonus Action, but it offers helpful options which normally cost the monk Ki. Fury of The Small is good, too, though it only works once so it won’t be a huge improvement to your damage output.

Goliath

UpdatedMMoM: Stone’s Endurance can reduce quite a bit of damage, which helps close the durability gap between the Monk and other front-line classes like the Fighter, but most monks can’t make good use of proficiency in Athletics so generally all you get is durability.

Classic (Customized Origin)EEPC: +2/+1 increases, damage resistance, and one skill. Stone’s Endurance can reduce quite a bit of damage, which helps close the durability gap between the Monk and other front-line classes like the Fighter.

Classic (Default Rules)EEPC: Bad ability spread.

Half-ElfPHB

Customized Origin: Three ability score increases is hard to beat for the Monk, and the abundance of options to replace the standard Half-Elf’s two skills means that you have several options to choose from.

  • Aquatic Half-ElfSCAG: Only in an aquatic campaign.
  • Drow Half-ElfSCAG: The innate spellcasting is neat, but it’s Charisma-based. If you just want Darkness, play Way of Shadow.
  • High Half-ElfSCAG: Wizard cantrips won’t help the Monk. Utility options will work fine, but they don’t improve your capabilities as a monk.
  • Standard Half-ElfPHB: Two skills does a lot to close the skill gap between the Monk and the Rogue, allowing you to more easily function as a Scout.
  • Wood Half-ElfSCAG: The weapon proficiencies are tempting, but given the choice I think the standard half-elf’s skill proficiencies will be more impactful.

Default Rules: The half-elf’s ability score increases are nice, but the Variant Human gets the same flexible increases, so the choice between the two comes down to the half-elf variant you choose compared to a feat for the Variant Human.

  • Aquatic Half-ElfSCAG: Only in an aquatic campaign, and in that case the Sea Elf is a better choice.
  • Drow Half-ElfSCAG: The magical options are tempting on a mostly non-magical class, but the spellcasting is Charisma-based, which is a hard choice.
  • High Half-ElfSCAG: Monks don’t have a good use for wizard cantrips, and using cantrips like Booming Blade actively works against the Monk’s class features.
  • Standard Half-ElfPHB: Two skills can help fill in gaps if you’re trying to serve as your party’s Scout, but at that point go Variant Human and take either Skilled or Skill Prodigy.
  • Wood Half-ElfSCAG: The only tempting option is the weapon proficiencies, but at that point go for Variant Human and take Weapon Master.

Half-OrcPHB

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, one skill. Relentless Endurance is great for a front-line character, especially with Monk’s relatively frailty. Brutal Critical is neat, but depends heavily on the size of your damage die. It can work for the Kensei since you’re likely using something with a d10 damage die, and it might work if you’re using Dedicated Weapon with a longsword or something, but you’ll still be using your relatively small damage die for your Bonus Action attacks for most of your career so the benefits may not be as impactful as you’d like.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

HalflingPHB

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Lucky, and Brave. Lucky is great since the Monk makes so many attacks per turn.

  • GhostwiseSCAG: The ability to communicate telepathically is great for a sneaky monk.
  • LightfootPHB: Naturally Stealthy is hard to use without the ability to hide effectively in combat. You could assemble a build by dipping into the Rogue for Cunning Action, but for a single-class monk the Lightfoot Halfling doesn’t do much to help you.
  • LotusdenEGtW: The spellcasting is Wisdom-based, so it’s reasonably effective for most monks. On top of the Halfling’s excellent base racial traits, the Lotusden Halfling is a surprising but certainly effective option.
  • StoutPHB: Poison Resilience is redundant once you become immune to poison at level 10, so your subrace trait is effectively negated for just over half of the level range.

Default Rules: Good Dexterity, and Lucky is fantastic when you make as many attack rolls as a Monk does.

  • GhostwiseSCAG: Ghostwise isn’t an especially interesting choice for a monk, but the ability score increases are perfect.
  • LightfootPHB: Naturally Stealthy is tempting, but the Charisma bonus is totally wasted unless you put in some effort to build Face skills into your character, which will come at great expense to your capabilities in combat.
  • LotusdenEGtW: Dexterity and Wisdom. The Innate spellcasting is neat, too, and since it’s Wisdom-based it should be reasonable effective.
  • StoutPHB: The Constitution bonus is nice, but Stout Resilience is redundant for the Monk.

HarengonWBtW / MMoM

Rabbit Hop will save you some Ki if you want to Disengage as a Bonus Action, but otherwise the Harengon does little for the Monk beyond ability scores.

Hobgoblin

UpdatedMMoM: Monks use their Bonus Action every turn in combat. Fey Gift’s Hospitality option provides temporary hit points that you can activate before going into combat, but I don’t think that’s good enough. Similarly, Fortune of the Many provides a helpful bonus to saves, but saves aren’t the source of the Monk’s frailty problems.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, two weapons, and armor that you can trade for a tool. Saving Face is the Hobgoblin’s distinguishing feature, and it’s a great way to recover from a failed saving throw but I wouldn’t waste it on an attack roll.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: The Constitution bonus and Saving Face are the only things that the monk can use, and Saving Face is less useful for a class which is all about making lots of attacks.

Human

Customized Origin:

  • Standard: With perfect ability scores on the table for every race, there is no reason to play the Standard Human.
  • Variant: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no change to the Variant Human.

Default Rules:

  • Vanilla: Monks have at least minor features which depend on every ability, so if anyone was going to use the vanilla Human, it’s the Monk.
  • Variant: Two +1 increases, one skill, and a feat. Feats are very useful for the Monk, but it’s hard to fit them into your build because the Monk needs so many Ability Score Increases. Getting a feat from your race makes that much easier, and with the abundance of feat which provide a +1 increase you can even manage +1 to each of the Monk’s important ability scores.

KalashtarERLW

Customized Origin: +2/+1 resistances. The Kalasthar’s mental defenses are excellent, making them a great choice in a campaign which features foes like mind flayers. Their telepathy notable doesn’t require creatures to share a language, though that doesn’t somehow make you a good Face for the party.

Default Rules: The Wisdom increase is great, and the Kalashtar gains defenses against some stuff which the Monk typically doesn’t have an answer to, but it’s still a hard proposition without a Dexterity increase.

KenkuVGtM

UpdatedMMoM: Two skills and the Advantage mechanic from Kenku Recall (if you’re using the updated version of the Kenku) do a lot to close the skill gap between the Monk and the Rogue.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2/+1 increases, two skills. Expert Forgery and Mimicry are novel but likely not impactful, and numerous other races can match the increases and skills.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: Fantastic ability increases for a Monk, and the bonus skill proficiencies really help you to serve as a Rogue equivalent. Be sure to pick up Thieves’ Tools proficiency with your Background.

Kobold

UpdatedMMoM: The Monk already leans heavily on their Bonus Action, but using Draconic Cry in place of a Bonus Action to attack may provide a bigger boost to your party’s damage output than just hitting your enemies one more time that turn. Draconic Legacy is hard, but Crafty may be you best bet despite the limited skill options.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: While only getting a single increase is definitely a challenge, Pack Tactics is still absolutely incredible for the Monk and easily offsets the lack of a second increase.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: A Dexterity increase and Pack Tactics make the kobold an excellent monk option. Monks rely on making numerous attacks, and Advantage on all of them will make you considerably more effective.

LeoninMOoT

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and one skill. Daunting Roar provides a nice crowd control effect, and the DC is Constitution-based so it should be reasonably effective for many monks.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

Lizardfolk

UpdatedMMoM: Hungry Jaws will be useless in combat, but it’s still a few temporary hit points if you have a bag of rats. Two skills helps close the skill gap between the Monk and the Rogue, but the skill options aren’t fantastic. The natural armor is high enough that you can match the AC provided by having 16 Wisdom, so theoretically you could build around Dex/Con and disregard Wisdom almost entirely. That’s hard for most monk subclasses, but the Kensei and the Drunken Master don’t rely on save DC’s beyond Stunning Strike so there’s at least two ways to build a low-Wisdom monk without crippling yourself.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2/+1 increases, and you can probably use Dexterity for the attack made with Hungry Jaws. The natural armor is high enough that you can match the AC provided by having 16 Wisdom, so theoretically you could build around Dex/Con and disregard Wisdom almost entirely. That’s hard for most monk subclasses, but the Kensei and the Drunken Master don’t rely on save DC’s beyond Stunning Strike so there’s at least two ways to build a low-Wisdom monk without crippling yourself.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: Despite the lack of a Dexterity increase, the Lizardfolk could make a functional Monk. Natural armor at 13+Dex will match the Monk’s Unarmored Defense with the ability scores which you should expect at level 1 and beyond (+2 from Dex, +3 from Wis), so it’s not much of a solution. The Constitution increase and Hungry Jaws will make you slightly more durable, and your DM may allow to use Dexterity with Hungry Jaws rather than Strength. To summarize: the Lizardfolk doesn’t solve any big problems for the Monk, but it can work if you can get past the lack of a Dexterity increase.

LocathahLR

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, two skills. The natural armor isn’t fantastic, so expect to ignore it, but Leviathan Will provides a long list of condition resistances.

Default Rules: +1 Dexterity is helpful, but Strength is useless for the Monk and the Locathah’s Natural Armor isn’t good enough to reduce your reliance on Wisdom. Leviathan Will and the additional skills are great additions, too.

LoxodonGGTR

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases and resistance to charm and fear effects, but that’s all that the monk can use in any meaningful way. The natural armor looks tempting at first glance, but Unarmored Defense will be much more effective.

Default Rules: Constitution and Wisdom is helpful for a Monk, but you’ll lag offensively until you pick up some Ability Score Increases to boost your Dexterity.

Minotaur

UpdatedMMoM: Too dependent on Strength.

Classic (Customized Origin)GGTR: +2/+1 increases and one skill. Goring Rush is redundant with Step of the Wind, and since Hammering Horns is Strength-based it’s borderline useless for the Monk.

Classic (Default Rules)GGTR: Bad ability spread.

Orc

UpdatedMMoM: Adrenaline Rush is somewhat redundant with Step of the Wind, but Adrenaline Rush both gives you temporary hit points and doesn’t consume Ki, so there is some benefit there. Relentless Endurance is good insurance, especially at low levels before your AC scales with your Ability Score Increases.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and two skills. Aggressive does almost nothing for the Monk. You already get excellent speed, and you can spend Ki to Dash as a Bonus Action.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: Bad ability spread.

OwlinSCoC

Flight is a powerful asset on the Monk since they’re nearly locked into melee and have few counters to flight. Darkvision and Stealth proficiency make it easier to function as a Scout, allowing you to expand your capabilities outside of combat.

PlasmoidSAIS

Monks don’t need equipment, which is great for the Plasmoid. A plasmoid monk can squeeze through a gap, spend their turn attacking, then squeeze back out to wait in safety while the round passes. But beyond that, the Plasmoid is mostly a novelty with some damage resistances.

Way of the Astral Self is unique in that it allows the Monk to grapple effectively. Combined with the Plasmoid’s Advantage to initiate grapples, there’s some appeal here.

Satyr

UpdatedMMoM: The updated version once again locks the Satyr into an instrument proficiency and Charisma-based skills, none of which are great for the Monk. Consider the Yuan-Ti instead.

Classic (Customized Origin)MOoT: +2/+1 increases, two skills, one instrument, and magic resistance. The Satyr is a better fit thank the Yuan-Ti Pureblood since they don’t have redundant poison immunity and they get additional skills.

Classic (Default Rules)MOoT: Dexterity and magic resistance.

Sea ElfMMoM

Darkvision and proficiency in Perception are great for the Monk, and cold resistance is always nice. Trance’s extra weapon proficiencies aren’t helpful, unfortunately, and monks don’t have the Charisma to support Friend of the Sea.

Shadar-KaiMMoM

Monks lean heavily on their Bonus Action, and options like Step of the Wind make Gift of the Raven Queen’s short-range teleportation less useful. Charm effects are less threatening for the Monk than for most martial characters due to the Monk’s unusually high Wisdom, so Fey Ancestry isn’t huge. Trance offers access to a weapon, but since it won’t be a monk weapon you’ll want to pick a tool instead. That means that the most impactful things that the Eladrin brings to the Monk are proficiency in Perception and in one tool, and that’s just not enough.

Shifter

UpdatedMMoM: Beasthide’s additional durability is great for the Monk, but the Monk’s Bonus Action is monopolized by Martial Arts and Flurry of Blows, so the action economy can be frustrating. Even so, I think giving up an attack or two is worth the cost. The skill options aren’t great.

Customized OriginERLW: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +1), Darkvision, one skill, and Shifting. Shifting is activated as a Bonus Action so it can conflict with Martial Arts, but the benefits are frequently worth what you give up.

  • Beasthide: The additional durability is very helpful for the Monk.
  • Longtooth: The additional attack is Strength-based and conflicts with Martial Arts.
  • Swiftstride: Interesting if you enjoy hit-and-run tactics, but there are better and easier ways to accomplish that.
  • Wildhunt: Too situational.

Default RulesERLW: Darkvision is great, but the Monk is heavily reliant on their Bonus Action for things like Martial Arts, so Shifting is a difficult proposition when the benefits do so little for the Monk.

  • Beasthide: Bad ability spread.
  • Longtooth: The bite is redundant with Martial Arts, and since the attack is Strength-based you’ll do more damage with Martial Arts.
  • Swiftstride: The Dexterity increase is fine, but the Shifting Feature is pointless for the monk.
  • Wildhunt: Great ability score increases, but the shifting feature is nearly useless for the Monk.

Simic HybridGGTR

Customized Origin: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no meaningful changes to the Simic Hybrid. You can move the Constitution increase around, but increasing Constitution is still the best way to use that increase.

Default Rules: Fantastic and versatile, and Animal Enhancement can provide useful options to fill gaps in the Monk’s capabilities.

Tabaxi

UpdatedMMoM: Monks can’t make themselves fly (ascendant dragon can, but only briefly), so a climb speed is great. Feline Agility doubles the Monk’s already incredible speed, making tabaxi monks the fastest characters in races that only last for one round. Two skills helps close the skill gap between the Monk and the Rogue, making it easier to serve as your party’s Scout, especially since they line up so perfectly with the Monk’s ability scores.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and two skills. You can use your claws with Martial Arts to deal slashing damage, but Feline Agility will rarely matter. Since the monk is already so fast.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: Perfectly passable, but Kenku get most of the same benefits and slightly better ability score increases.

Thri-KreenSAIS

Chameleon Carapace is basically the only useful thing that the Thri-Kreen brings to monk.

TieflingPHB

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and damage resistance. Most subraces/variants will give you innate spellcasting, but the spellcasting is Charisma-based so it’s a hard choice for the Monk.

  • AsmodeusPHB/MToF: Hellish Rebuke is at least mildly useful because the target will at least take half damage, but you’re basically taking this for Darkness. If you want Darkness that badly, consider Way of Shadow.
  • BaalzebulMToF: Mostly offensive spells.
  • DispaterMToF: Situational utility options. I’m not sure that they make sense on the Monk.
  • FiernaMToF: Too reliant on save DC.
  • GlasyaMToF: An interesting choice for a sneaky monk, this adds some illusion options which can go a long way before your spellcasting ability modifier matters.
  • LevistusMToF: Armor of Agathys will never provide more than 5 temporary hp so it won’t last long enough to be impactful. Still, it might be better than Hellish Rebuke on the Asmodeus Tiefling.
  • MammonMToF: All very situational options.
  • MephistophelesMToF: Mage hand is the only part worth having.
  • ZarielMToF: Too dependent on save DC and the smite spells eat your Bonus Action.
  • Variant: FeralSCAG: The Customizing Your Origin optional rules make the Feral variant obsolete. All it does is rearrange your ability score increases.
  • Variant: Devil’s TongueSCAG: Too reliant on save DC.
  • Variant: HellfireSCAG: Hellish Rebuke will be a more effective choice for the Monk.
  • Variant: WingedSCAG: Basically equivalent to the Aarakocra, but you trade 20 feet of speed for Darkvision and resistance to fire damage. I think that’s a good trade compared to the Aarakocra since you’re already going to be so fast. Remember that the Monk’s bonus speed adds to all of your natural movement speeds.

Default Rules: Vanilla Tieflings aren’t great as Monks simply due to their ability scores, but the Feral variant may be enough. Darkvision and Fire resistance are both great, and the innate spellcasting can be very helpful.

  • AsmodeusPHB / MToF: Nothing good for the Monk.
  • BaalzebulMToF: Nothing good for the Monk.
  • DispaterMToF: Feral is better.
  • FiernaMToF: Nothing good for the Monk.
  • GlasyaMToF: Potentially an interesting combination with Way of Shadow Monk, but Feral is probably still better.
  • LevistusMToF: Nothing good for the Monk.
  • MammonMToF: Nothing good for the Monk.
  • MephistophelesMToF: Nothing good for the Monk.
  • ZarielMToF: Nothing good for the Monk.
  • Variant: FeralSCAG: The Intelligence increase is wasted on a Monk, but the Dexterity is nice. According to the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, the Feral Variant is compatible with other variants, so if your DM allows it you may be able to use this in conjunction with another useful subrace.
  • Variant: Devil’s TongueSCAG: Nothing good for the Monk.
  • Variant: HellfireSCAG: Nothing good for the Monk.
  • Variant: WingedSCAG: Nothing good for the Monk except flight. Great if you can combine this with Feral, but otherwise skip it.

TortleTP / MMoM

Customized Origin: You may be able to get away with a Strength-based build as a tortle, but the 17 AC will fall behind once other monks hit level 8 and get a second ability score increase.

Default Rules: Monks are nearly always built on Dexterity and Wisdom, but tortles may be the only race with the ability to overlook Dexterity on a Monk. A monk with enough Dexterity and Wisdom will eventually beat the Tortle’s natural armor, but at low levels before you’ve picked up ability score increases tortles have an advantage.

Triton

UpdatedMMoM: The updated version of the Triton is less novel since everyone can get three +1 increases. With that level playing field, the Triton’s primary distinguishing traits is their innate spellcasting, which isn’t particularly useful for the Monk.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: Three +1 increases, Darkvision, damage resistance, and some innate spellcasting. Almost certainly the Monk’s best aquatic options, but it’s good enough that it works on land, too.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: Nothing good for the Monk.

VedalkenGGTR

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, one skill, and one tool. The bonus with the skill can be very helpful if it still applies if you go beyond the normal list of skills, and Vedalken provides protection from a huge number of saving throws thanks to Vedalken Dispassion.

Default Rules: Vedalken Dispassion are the only interesting parts of the Vedalken.

VerdanAcInc

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases and one skill. Black-blood healing is reasonably effective with the Monk’s d8 hit dice, so you can stretch your natural healing a little further. Telepathic Insight provides a powerful defense against saves which can often take you out of a fight entirely.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

WarforgedERLW

Customized Origin: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no meaningful changes to the Warforged. You can move the Constitution increase around, but increasing Constitution is still the best way to use that increase.

Default Rules: Constitution and a flexible increase work great, and the bonus AC will allow you to reach an AC of 21 totally unequipped. The Warforged’s resistances and immunities may overlap with some monk class features, but not so much that it makes the race less viable.

Water GenasiMMoM

If you’re in the water, play a locathah, a sea elf, a triton, or anything else that breaths water. The spellcasting isn’t helpful here.

Yuan-Ti

UpdatedMMoM: Monks eventually gain proficiency in every type of saving throw, and when combined with Magic Resistance you’ll be nearly immune to harmful magic. Poison resistance is also nice on a class which is almost entirely locked into melee but still has notoriously poor AC at low levels, but it will become obsolete at level 10.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and poison immunity 10 levels earlier than other monks. Magic Resistance is a very powerful defense on top of the Monk’s other various resistances and immunities. The innate spellcasting is borderline useless.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM:

Dragonmarks

Dragonmarked DwarfERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Warding: Mage Armor may be the only thing here that we care about, and if you have 16 Wisdom even that isn’t useful.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Warding: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked ElfERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Shadow: A good option for a stealthy monk.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Shadow: Definitely a possibility, but a wood elf way of shadow monk could achieve the same capabilities more effectively.
Dragonmarked GnomeERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Scribing: Nothing useful for the Monk.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Scribing: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked Half-ElfERLW

Dragonmark traits replace some of your normal racial traits, as described in the entry for each Dragonmark.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Detection: The skill bonuses are okay, but the only thing that we really care about in the innate spellcasting is See Invisibility.
  • Mark of Storm: Everything you get is very situational, and the innate spellcasting is bad.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Detection: While the ability scores work, the innate spellcasting isn’t useful enough and monks have no way to gain access to spellcasting.
  • Mark of Storm: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked Half-OrcERLW

Dragonmark traits replace ALL of your racial traits.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Finding: A lot of Wisdom-based stuff, but I don’t know if it’s enough. Hunter’s Mark is the big appeal here, and at one hour per casting it’s simply not enough, especially if you lose Concentration.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Finding: Lacking a Dexterity increase is hard for the Monk, and Hunter’s Mark once per day isn’t enough to justify this as an option.
Dragonmarked HalflingERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Healing: The Halfling’s core traits are a good fit for the monk, but the subraces often don’t fit well. Mark of Healing offers some limited healing options which go beyond hit point restoration and can help you stand in for a cleric.
  • Mark of Hospitality: The benefits are too situational.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Healing: While the ability scores work, the innate spellcasting isn’t useful enough and monks have no way to gain access to spellcasting.
  • Mark of Hospitality: Nothing useful for the Monk.
Dragonmarked HumanERLW

Dragonmark traits replace ALL of your normal racial traits.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Finding: See Mark of Finding under Dragonmarked Half-Orc, above. Mechanically, the final racial traits are identical.
  • Mark of Handling: Nothing useful for the Monk.
  • Mark of Making: Nothing useful for the Monk. Magic Weapon looks tempting, but at low levels when it matters most you probably don’t have proficiency with Constitution saves, and you can’t cast Magic Weapon on your unarmed strikes.
  • Mark of Passage: Basically just a worse version of the Eladrin.
  • Mark of Sentinel: Bonuses with two Wisdom-based skills, Shield once per day, and you can trade places with allies to protect them from attacks. That’s a good package on a front-line monk playing their party’s Defender.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Finding: See Mark of Finding under Dragonmarked Half-Orc, above. Mechanically, the final racial traits are identical.
  • Mark of Handling: While the ability scores work, the innate spellcasting isn’t useful enough and monks have no way to gain access to spellcasting.
  • Mark of Making: Bad ability spread, and while you can cast Magic Weapon on a spear or quarterstaff, you can’t cast it on your unarmed strikes.
  • Mark of Passage: The ability scores are great, but the innate spellcasting is redundant with Abundant Step and you’ll never benefit from the expanded spell list.
  • Mark of Sentinel: Thematically this works very well, but without access to the expanded spell list you’re missing many of the benefits and without a Dexterity increase you’ll suffer in combat.

Lineages

Published in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything and beyond, no Lineage exists prior to the introduction of the Customizing Your Origin rules, and as such each lineage has flexible ability score increases. Every Lineage has the choice of +2/+1 increases or three +1 increases except for the Custom Lineage which only receives a single +2 increase.

Lineages are applied on top of a base race. While the Custom Lineage isn’t affected by your base race, the three lineages published in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft (Dhampir, Hexblade, and Reborn) borrow from your base race thanks to the Ancestral Legacy trait. Despite selecting a base race, you do not count as a member of your race for the purposes of any other effect, such as qualifying for feats or using magic items.

Custom LineageTCoE

The Variant Human’s split increases are typically a better fit for the Monk, but the Custom Lineage is absolutely viable. I recommend looking for feats which provide an increase to one of your ability scores so that you can get increases to both Dexterity and Wisdom.

DhampirVGTR

Spider Climb and Ancestral Legacy are both good options for the Monk, but it’s unclear if Vampiric Bite works with Martial Arts, and RAW it appears that it does not based on a very strict reading of the text. Without that capability the Dhampir is basically just two skills and fancy climb speed, which you can get from the Tabaxi. I go into the rules around Vampiric Bite in The Dhampir Handbook.

HexbloodVGTR

Hex feels like a great choice for the Monk, but with only one use per day it’s unlikely to be consistently effective. The Hexblood’s other traits are mostly better found elsewhere.

RebornVGTR

The Reborn’s resistances and immunities are nice ways to pad the Monk’s poor durability, and Ancestral Legacy is always nice.