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Pathfinder 2e - The Monk Handbook

Last Updated: October 25th, 2019

Disclaimer

I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks.

  • 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.

Introduction

The Monk is most easily commpared to the Fighter. Where the Fighter is the master of arms and armor, the Monk is the master fighting unarmed and unarmored. While some monks use a handful of specialized Monk Weapons, most monks fight unarmed. Where fighters often differentiate themselves by the arms and armor they use, monks are most easily differentiated by the stances that they use.

In a party, the Monk is a Defender and a Striker, standing on the front lines of melee combat to keep foes far away from their less sturdy allies. In some cases, the Monk can also access some area of effect abilities, but those options aren't numerous or reusable enough to make the Monk viable as a Blaster. With sufficient investment in certain skills, the Monk can also serve as a Scout due to their need for high Dexterity and Wisdom, allowing them to fill roles traditionally covered by both the Fighter and the Rogue. However, this broad skillset doesn't come without cost. Monks are extremely MAD, and despite Pathfinder 2e's generous number of Ability Boosts you simply can't be good at everything that the Monk can do.

Unlike other classes, the Monk does not have a subclass option. Instead, monks are generally defined by the styles that they use, if any. This notably means that a monk could totally reconstruct their build with enough time to retrain their feats, though their options may be affected by how you've chosen your ability scores.

Monk Class Features

Key Ability: Strength or Dexterity. Your key ability is used for all of your Monk class feature DC's with the exception of Ki Spells, which are Wisdom-based.

Hit Points: 10 hit points is standard for fron-line martial characters.

Initial Proficiencies: Monks are fantastic defensively, especially at low levels. With no items and without actively doing anything, they can expect an AC of 18 or 19, and they're Expert in every type of saving throw. However, monks have few attack proficiencies and severely lack good ranged weapon options, and their Perception proficiency starts poor and barely increases. In short, monks are really good at what they do best, but they're bad at nearly everything else.

  • Perception: You never get past Expert normally, and despite decent Wisdom you're still not going to be good at Perception. Consider Canny Acumen as you approach 17th level so that you can get up to Master.
  • Saving Throws: Expert in all saving throws, and due the Monk's normal spread of ability scores you'll be good at all of them. Unfortunately, only two of them will rise to Master, then one of those two will rise to Legendary, so one of your saving throws will be stuck at Expert forever. You can take Canny Accumen to raise the third saving throw to Master, but that won't take effect until 17th level.
  • Skills: 4+ skills is normal.
  • Attacks: You only get simple weapons and Unarmed Attacks. Most monks will choose to rely on Unarmed Attacks, but you can also choose Monastic Weaponry to get a better selection of weaponry.
  • Defenses: You don't get any armor, including shields, but you start at Expert in Unarmored Defense, so your AC will be good. With 18 Dexterity, you'll have an AC of 19 at 1st level with no items of any kind. You can then pile typed bonuses on top of that. Monks are one of the only classes to reach Legendary in Unarmored Defense (Champion do too, but they're much less likely to fight unarmored), and with some investment in Explorer's Clothing or Bracers of Armor, your AC should be excellent.
  • Class DC: Your Monk Class DC can be either Strength- or Dexterity-based, which works for any monk build. You'll use it for a number of important Monk Class Feats like Stunning Fist.

Flurry of Blows: This is so good that multiclass characters can't get it until 10th level. It's mostly the same as making two individual Strike actions because the Multiple Attack Penalty still works normally. A turn in which your only attacks come from Flurry of Blows is a perfectly fine turn, and since you'll have additional actions you can use them for things like Stepping and Grappling. Also note that you can only use Flurry of Blows with Unarmed Attacks unless you take the Monastic Weaponry feat, in which case you can also flurry with Monk weapons.

Powerful Fist: This is an average of 1 additional damage per damage die, and you're almost certainly going to override this with a Stance or by using a weapon.

Monk Feats: See Monk feats, below.

Skill Feats: Standard for everyone except the Rogue.

General Feats: Standard.

Skill Increases: Standard for everyone except the Rogue.

Ability Boosts: Standard.

Ancestry Feats: Standard.

Incredible Movement: +10 ft. of movement is a 40% increase over the normal 25 ft. speed of most humanoids, and the bonus increases by another 5 ft. every 4 levels to a maximum total bonus of 30 ft.

Mystic Strikes: +1 Handwraps of Mighty Fists are level 2 items, costing just 35 gp., and they're your most important item. If you don't have a +1 weapon by 3rd level when you get Mystic Strikes you're doing something very odd or your DM isn't giving you enough treasure. Of course, if you're using weapons primarily this is a helpful way to fall back on Unarmed Attacks if your weapon is ineffective for some reason. This can be a helpful option once abilities like Metal Strikes come online.

Alertness: More Perception is always great, but it would be nice if you went further than Expert.

Expert Strikes: More proficiency with your attacks is always good. Remember that if you took Monastic Weaponry this also applies to the affected Monk weapons.

Path to Perfection: Bring one saving throw to Master.

Weapon Specialization: More damage is great, and since you can use Flurry of Blows to make more attacks than most characters you can get a lot of mileage out of small bonuses.

Metal Strikes: Absolutely essential if you're not using a weapon because you don't get to change what your hands are made of. For weapon users, it's helpful if your weapon happens to be the wrong metal.

Monk Expertise: An important boost to important options like Stunning Fist, as well as to your spell DCs with Ki Spells.

Second Path to Perfection: Bring a second saving throw to Master.

Graceful Mastery: Another +2 to AC.

Master Strikes: Another +2 to your attacks.

Greater Weapon Specialization: Double the damage bonuses from Weapon Specialization.

Third Path to Perfection: Bring one of your two previous selections from Master to Legendary. Tragically, your third saving throw will be left at Expert unless you also take Canny Acumen to raise it to Master.

Adamantine Strikes: The rules for adamantine weapons allow adamantine weapons to ignore half the hardness of struck items, so long as the attacking weapon's hardness exceeds that of the target item. Unfortunately, you don't have a Hardness, so you don't get that benefit. You get to ignore resistance to non-adamantine weapons, but that's all.

Graceful Legend: Improve your AC, your Class DC, and your spell attacks/DC all at once. This is a really fun level, even if it's only numeric improvements.

Perfected Form: You're guaranteed at least a 10, but you can still roll natural 20's. In many cases, that means that you can guarantee that you will hit with at least one Strike every turn. If you use Stunning Fist and Flurry of Blows, that means that you can potentially stun a target every turn.

Ability Scores

Monks were famously MAD in Pathfinder 1st edition; because Wisdom defined so many of their capabilities, including their AC, it was an essential ability score. The 2nd edition Monk is still MAD, but their hit points are better and their Wisdom is considerably less important, so it's not quite as bad as it once was.

An extremely important note: Wisdom is used to determine the Monk's Spell DC's, so if you plan to use Ki Spells (Focus Spells) that allow saving throws, you need high Wisdom. For other monks, Wisdom is no more useful than it is for any other character, and you can even use many Ki Spells without worrying about Wisdom. Tragically, the text specifying that Wisdom determines the Monk's spell DC was omitted in the first printing of the core rulebook. Hopefully we'll see written errata soon.

Strength-Based Monk

Strength-based monks focus primarily on hitting stuff and doing damage. Your attacks won't be any more accurate than a Dexterity-based monk's attacks because Finesse is so readily available, but your attacks will deal more damage and options like the Bo Staff and Dragon Style are considerably more effective.

Str: Choose Strength as your Key Ability both so that it gets and extra +2 Ability Boost, but also so that it sets your Monk Class DC.

Dex: Even if you choose to emphasize Strength, you still want high Dexterity. Monks fight unarmored, so you need Dexterity to pad your AC. You can probably stop at 20 (+5) Dexterity, which you should reach at 15th level, because the Dexterity Cap on Explorer's Clothing is +5 and you want to be able to put Magic Runes on your clothes. The big exception is Mountain Stance, which gives you a Dex Cap of +0, so you can start at 1st level with 10 Dexterity and never suffer a reduced AC (so long as you're in your Stance). This cap eventually rises to +2 with some class feats, so you'll want to reach 14 Dexterity at some point, and doing it during Character Creation is a fine time to do it.

Con: Essential for hit points and saving throws.

Int: Intelligence will give you more Trained skills at first level, and more skills means that you can more easily replace a Rogue outside of combat.

Wis: Helpful for Perception and some skills, but you don't need very much Wisdom. Even if you plan to explore some Ki Spells like Ki Strike, you can (and should) easily avoid spells which allow saving throws.

Cha: Dump. Monks have no dependence on Charisma. If you have the skills for it you might serve as your party's Face, but other members of your party will be more able to easily emphasize that skillset.

Dexterity-Based Monk

Dexterity-based monks will have higher AC than Strength-based monks, but they'll have lower damage output. They'll also be more effective as Scouts because of their higher Dexterity, which will help you with skills like Stealth and Thievery..

Str: You still.

Dex: Your key ability. Finesse is readily available on various unarmed strikes, as well as on some monk weapons. Dexterity also sets your AC. Expect to exceed the Dex Cap on Explorer's Clothing/Bracers of armor, but it will be only be by +1 or +2, and the AC bonuses from the runes on your armor will likely exceed those bonuses at an insignificant cost.

Con: Essential for hit points and saving throws.

Int: Intelligence will give you more Trained skills at first level, and more skills means that you can more easily replace a Rogue outside of combat.

Wis: Helpful for Perception and some skills, but you don't need very much Wisdom. Even if you plan to explore some Ki Spells like Ki Strike, you can (and should) easily avoid spells which allow saving throws.

Cha: Dump. Monks have no dependence on Charisma. If you have the skills for it you might serve as your party's Face, but other members of your party will be more able to easily emphasize that skillset.

Ki Monk

Ki Monks are the only monks which actually need Wisdom, but Dexterity is still your definitive ability. You are, first and foremost, a martial artist. No matter how many Ki Spells you learn, you're still limited to a Focus Pool of just three points, so you can cast at most three Ki Spells per encounter. You want those to be as impactful as possible, but after you spend those points you need to go right back to punching things and you need to be good at it.

Str: You don't need a ton of Strength since all it's doing for you is adding a flat numeric bonus to your damage. 14 is plenty at first level because that gets you +1 damage with Propulsive attacks from Wild Winds Stance, but if it's convenient you may want more for fighting in melee.

Dex: Dexterity should be your go-to option because you can use it with ranged attacks like Wild Winds Stance. You're also likely to have higher AC than Strength-based monks, which is always nice, but you'll deal less damage with your attacks.

Con: Essential for hit points and saving throws.

Int: Only useful for skills, and given the choice between more Strength and more Intelligence, you should go for Strength.

Wis: The DC for your spells is determined by your Wisdom. You want it to be as high as possible, but remember that Dexterity is still

Cha: Dump. Monks have no dependence on Charisma. If you have the skills for it you might serve as your party's Face, but other members of your party will be more able to easily emphasize that skillset.

Ancestries

Because monks are so MAD, good ability boosts are much more important than they are for most classes. Using the Optional Flaw rules is a great idea in most cases because you need increases to multiple physical ability scores, and with the exception of Free Ability Boosts there's no way to get an Ability Boost to all three physical ability scores from your Ancestry.

Dwarf: Constitution and Wisdom is a great start, and the free boost can go into your choice of Strength or Dexterity. Optional Flaws are an option, but you'll need to change the +2 Wisdom to -2 Wisdom or to take -4 Intelligence. Either option is fine, but they'll probably feel bad when you write them down.

Elf: The Elf's Constitution penalty is hard for many martial characters, and the Monk is no different. The Intelligence increase isn't especially useful, either. Use the Optional Flaws rule to change the +2 Int to -2 Int and offset the Constitution Flaw. That leaves you with +2 Dexterity and a Free Ability Boost which you can use for Strength or Wisdom.

Gnome: The Gnome's ability scores are a very difficult starting point, similar to the Elf's. Because the Gnome's Ability Flaw is in Strength, you'll want to stick to Dexterity-based builds or Ki Monk builds.

Goblin: A Wisdom flaw makes Ki Monk builds difficult, but otherwise the Goblin is a fine choice. Use the Optional Flaws rule to change the +2 Cha to -2 Cha, and put both Free Ability Boosts into your physical ability scores so that you get +2 to all three. Unbreakable Goblin, combined with Cat Fall and feats which allow you to jump absurd distances can help bridge you deal with problems normally solved by flight, which is commical if nothing else.

Halfling: Dexterity and Wisdom boosts are great, and you can survive a Strength Flaw if you don't want to deal with the Optional Flaws rules, but you may still want to use them to offset the Strength Flaw. Halfling Luck is a great option for the Monk because you're already going to be good at every type of Saving Throw, and you can use Halfling Luck on those rare occasions that you fail a save.

Human: Take Versatile Heritage to get Toughness to make yourself more durable. Use the Optional Flaw rules to dump Intelligence and Charisma, giving you three Free Ability Boosts to do with as you please. If you're not building a Ki Monk, put them in your physical ability scores. If you're building a Ki Monk, put them in Dexterity, Constitution, and Wisdom.

Backgrounds

Pick a background which gives you a boost to the ability scores which you care about (physical ability scores, plus Wisdom for Ki Monks). The skills and Skill Feats which you care about depend heavily on your role within the party, but Athletics and Acrobatics are safe choices, and Wisdom-based skills can also be helpful.

If you're having trouble deciding, here are some suggestions:

  • Hermit
  • Martial Disciple
  • Street Urchin

Skills

  • Acrobatics (Dex): A broad range of applications, and you'll have enough Dexterity to be good at it.
  • Arcana (Int): Intelligence is a dump stat.
  • Athletics (Str): Athletics-based actions are very useful for the Monk. You spend a lot of time fighting with one or both hands free, making options like grappling, shoving, and tripping both easy to use and option very effective.
  • Crafting (Int): Intelligence is a dump stat.
  • Deception (Cha): Charisma is a dump stat.
  • Diplomacy (Cha): Charisma is a dump stat.
  • Intimidation (Cha): Charisma is a dump stat.
  • Lore (Int): Lore is hard to use because it's so broad and there are so many variations, and since your Intelligence isn't fantastic you won't be especially good at it.
  • Medicine (Wis): Many monks, especially Ki Monks, will have enough Wisdom to be effective at Medicine.
  • Nature (Wis): The only Wisdom-based knowledge skill. Even if no one else in your party has it, being Trained can still go a long way.
  • Occultism (Int): Intelligence is a dump stat.
  • Performance (Cha): Charisma is a dump stat.
  • Religion (Wis): An important knowledge skill, and you have enough Wisdom to make it work.
  • Society (Int): Intelligence is a dump stat.
  • Stealth (Dex): Monks need high Dexterity to boost their AC, so they're already most of the way to making good use of Stealth. Proficiency and an occasionaly increase can make you an excellent Scout.
  • Survival (Wis): Situational.
  • Thievery (Dex): You have high enough Dexterity that you can handle picking locks, disarming traps, and other things typically handled by the Rogue or a simialr class.

Feats

Monk Feats

1st Level
  • Crane Stance: One of the more defensive stance options at 1st level, Crane Stance is a great defensive option for monks with high Dexterity. The extra jumping distance is neat, but extremely situational. Note that the AC bonus is a Cirumstance bonus, so it won't stack with the bonus from a shield if you're getting one somehow.
  • Dragon Stance: Dragon Stance is the most Unarmed Strike damage you can get, but the attacks also have some of the worst traits. The only interesting trait is Backswing, which is just a worse version of Agile. Dragon Stance is one of few monk options which lacks Finesse, so it's only a good option for Strength-based monks.
  • Ki Rush: Very situational. Notably, this feat does not expand your Focus Pool if you already have one, so I don't recommend taking this if you already have a Focus Pool.
  • Ki Strike: At low levels, being able to use Ki Strike for a 1-turn boost to damage looks really tempting, but it's not as useful as a permanent benefit you could get from other 1st-level feats like a Stance feat. You might consider this later if you're going for a build which emphasizes Focus Spells (a "Ki Monk"). Notably, this feat does not expand your Focus Pool if you already have one, so I don't recommend taking this if you already have a Focus Pool.
  • Monastic Weaponry: Choosing to use monk weapons generally means choosing weapons over stances. That's a perfectly fine choice, and you won't need to worry about spending an Action to enter your Stance every time you enter combat. However, don't expect to be able to shift tactics any faster than Stance-based monks. As soon as you get into magic weapons, you'll likely be as attached to a single weapon as you are to your own arms.
  • Mountain Stance: At 1st level, this gives you an AC of 19 (+5 proficiency with Unarmored Defense, +4 Status) with 10 Dexterity. That will match the AC of other monks with 18 Dexterity. Because you don't need to significantly raise your Dexterity you can focus on other ability scores. You will still want 14 Dexterity at some point as you gain feats which further improve Mountain Stance, but boosting Dexterity at 5th and 10th level will get you the Dexterity you need before the feats become available. This feat is especially tempting for characters multiclassing into the Monk who can use heavy armor and would already have a low Dexterity cap. The bonus also notably stacks with shields since shields provide a Circumstance bonus to AC, but the Mountain Stronghold feat will provide the same bonus. Like other stances at this level, you're limited to making a single type of Unarmed Strike, so multiclass characters should be prepared to invest in fighting unarmed rather than using the weapons which they might be accustomed to.
  • Tiger Stance: Tiger Stance is great if you just want to stand and hit enemies, but its emphasis is on hit-and-run tactics. Dealing ongoing Bleed damage and allowing you to Step 10 feet encourages you to hit a target, then Step away to put yourself out of the target's reach. Unfortunately, I don't think you can combine this with the Elf Step feat because both feats specify exact distances that you can Step.
  • Wolf Stance: If you have an ally like a rogue who benefits significantly from flanking, this is a great option. If you can't rely on flanking, Tiger Stance will likely be more effective.
2nd Level
  • Brawling Focus: Over the course of your life you're going to make a lot of critical hits. The Critical Specialization effect for Brawling weapons causes enemies to become Slowed 1 (assuming that they fail a Fortitude Saving Throw), which robs them of an Action on their next turn. Of course, Stunning Fist makes the target Stunned on the same save, and doesn't require a Critical hit. You can combine the two, but if you need to choose one it should be Stunning Fist.
  • Crushing Grab: Crucial if you like grappling, otherwise skip it.
  • Dancing Leaf: Magical flight will make this obsolete and until that time it's doubtful that the tiny amount of extra jump distance will matter.
  • Elemental Fist: Situational. You only want to use this when attacking enemies which are weak to a specific element. Otherwise, Lawful, Negative, and Positive damage are all fantastic options that are very rarely resisted.
  • Stunning Fist: Using Flurry of Blows to repeatedly attack a single creature will happen constantly, and adding the ability to rob the target of an action by stunning them makes your attacks considerably more dangerous.
4th Level
  • Deflect Arrow: Too situational.
  • Flurry of Maneuvers: The listed maneuvers are all fantastic, but since you're relying on Flurry of Blows already, you probably have spare Actions to spend on maneuvers. The only case I can think of where you want to use this is if you only want to make a single maneuver and a single Strike in the same turn, and that's a very specific circumstance which I don't think justifies this feat. In those cases you may just need to give up on the Strike, perform your maneuver, and be done with it.
  • Flying Kick: Possibly useful as a way to cross difficult terrain, but primarily intended to allow you to attack flying enemies. At low levels this may be tempting, but magical flight is right around the corner so expect to retrain this if you choose to take it. If you don't have any other option, ranged weapons should be able to handle flying enemies, though your options are admittedly very limited.
  • Guarded Movement: While many melee-oriented enemies have the Attack of Opportunity reaction, most do not. If you're fighting a melee enemy, you probably want to continue fighting that enemy rather than running away from it to fight something else. If you do want to get away, you can typically Step away without cutting into your attacks significantly because Flurry of Blows allows you to make two Strikes in a single Action.
  • Stand Still: Similar in many ways to Attack of Opportunity, Stand Still has a more restrictive trigger, but it gains the ability to halt a creature if you score a critical hit.
  • Wholeness of Body: If you're going to take one Focus Spell, make it Wholeness of Body. The hit point recovery is fantastic, and since Focus can be recovered for free with sufficient time you can use Wholeness of Body to remove diseases and poisons and to return to full hit points after most fights.
6th Level
  • Abundant Step: Even limited teleportation is still teleportation, and teleportation is really good.
  • Crane Flutter: If you're enganging an enemy in melee one-on-one, you can expect to use this nearly every round, potentially gaining an extra attack every round.
  • Dragon Roar: Frightened 1 applies some helpful debuffs, but the area of effect is small and Dragon Roar uses your Intimidation DC rather than your class DC, so you need to invest heavily in Intimidation and you need to have high Charisma, which is hard because nothing else about the Monk requires Charisma.
  • Ki Blast: One of very few ways that the Monk can handle groups of enemies efficiently. Unfortunately, it requires that you already have Ki Spells, so hopefully you learned one at a previous level.
  • Mountain Stronghold: Raising the Dexteirty cap of Mountain Stance raises your AC by 1, and you can use the Mountain Stronghold action to gain AC similar to the way the Raise a Shield action works. This raises your AC by a total of 3 (in addition to your AC increasing by 1 every level), though you do need to spend an Action to get the +2 Circumstance bonus.
  • Tiger Slash: The extra damage dice are nice, and since it's only a single Strike your Multiple Attack Penalty won't hamper your damage output unless you've made other Strikes earlier in your turn. However, since you're pushing the target away from you you will likely have issues making any other attacks in the round. I don't think that I would use this as a go-to attack option, especially since you can make a Flurry of Blows and a Step (stepping 10 ft. thanks to Tiger Stance) with the same number of Actions, and usually that will have a similar or better effect. You might use this to follow up a Flurry of Blows, but even then making a Strike and a Step will guarantee that you put distance between yourself and the target regardless of the outcome of the Strike.
  • Water Step: Too situational.
  • Whirling Throw: Situational, but much more effective than Shove, and there's definitely room for abuse here. If you multiclass into Fighter and take Combat Grab, you can make a Flurry of Blows, follow up with Combat Grab, then finish up your turn with a Whirling Throw, hurling your oponent a sizeable distance and dealing a pile of damage while not concerning yourself with a Multiple Attack Penalty since the action doesn't have the Attack trait. Of course, this means three feats (Whirling Throw, Fighter Multiclass Dedication, Basic Maneuver) for a gimic that you can't necessarily use every turn, and that's often a hard investment to make.
  • Wolf Drag: With the same number of actions you could Trip the target then make a Flurry of Blows. That will be more reliable, simply due to the additional number of rolls, and while you're more likely to get at least some of the effect of Wolf Drag (rather than the all-or-nothing you get with Wolf Drag), and if you're lucky you may even be able to hit twice with Flurry of Blows. Fatal d12 looks neat, but unless you can reliably score a Critical Hit it's not enough to justify this feat.
8th Level
  • Arrow Snatching: Deflect Arrow is already very situational, and improving a very situational option is rarely a good option.
  • Ironblood Stance: A great option for weapon users, this provides a small amount of universal damage resistence. It notably allows you to perform a new type of unarmed strike, but does not limit you to those strikes like many stances, which makes this a stance usable by monks who prefer to rely on weapons.
  • Mixed Maneuver: Delaying the Multiple Attack Penalty until after you make both maneuvers is nice, but this is basically only useful for builds
  • Tangled Forest Stance: Stand Still can generally cover this need, but Stand Still eats your Reaction so it only works once per round, so Tangled Forest Stance works better for multiple enemies.
  • Wall Run: Very cool, but totally useless comapred to magical flight.
  • Wild Winds Initiate: Easily the Monk's best option for prolonged engagements at range, Wild Winds Initiate effectively lets you punch things at a distance. This is a core option for Ki Monks, but it's not essential for other monks. Wild Winds Stance gives your Unarmed Attacks the Propulsive property, which allows you to apply half of your Strength Bonus to damage, so if you plan to use this consistently you should probably stop improving your Strength at either 14 or 18.
10th Level
  • Knockback Strike: If you want to get enemies away from you, Whirling Throw is considerably better.
  • Sleeper Hold: Difficult to justify unless you can somehow guarantee that you'll score a critical success after several attempts.
  • Wind Jump: An absolutely essential option for nearly any monk. This is the Monk's only built-in flight option.
  • Winding Flow: Situational, but extra movement never hurts, and if you're heavily reliant on position (possibly for flanking) or you like to hit enemies then withdraw, this can make doing so considerably more effective.
12th Level
  • Diamond Soul: Situational by design.
  • Disrupt Ki: Enfeebled 1 is a really minor debuff since the penalty is small and it only applies to Strength-based rolls and DC's, but you're primarily using this for the ongoing damage. I'm not sure that the math justifies spending two Actions to do this when you could just make another Strike, but in prolonged fights or against enemies with vulnerability to Negative damage this can yield an impressive amount of damage (assuming that the target doesn't get lucky on the Flat Check to end the effect at the end of their turn).
  • Improved Knockback: Whirling Throw is still a much better option, though admittedly you need to Grapple the target first to use it. Still, Shove is a very situational option.
  • Meditative Focus: If you're relying on Focus Points in any significant way, you need this. The rules for Refocus are written specifically so that you can't Refocus multiple times in succession: After you regain a Focus Point by any means, you must spend a Focus Point again before you can Refocus. So: If you have a Focus Pool larger than one point, you almost certainly need this feat.
  • Stance Savant: Another action early in a fight might make a big difference, and if you're using stances like Mountain Stance or Ironblood Stance you want those up and running at the beginning of combat to protect yourself before your first turn.
14th Level
  • Ironblood Surge: Remove the Action tax to benefit from Iron Sweep's Parry trait, and increase the damage resistance from Ironblood Stance by a few points. Of course, if you're not Strength-based the base damage resistance from Ironblood Stance will match or exceed your Strength modifier, which dramatically devalues this feat.
  • Mountain Quake: Possibly +1 AC and an AOE crowd control effect which you can use repeatedly. Forcing enemies to spend an action to stand is absolutely worth the feat and the action, and you get a little bit of damage as a bonus.
  • Tangled Forest Rake: Situational.
  • Timeless Body: Damage resistance is always tempting.
  • Tongue of Sun and Moon: Spellcasters have been able to address language barriers for a long time by this point in your career, and your dumped Charisma makes you a poor candidate for a Face.
  • Wild Winds Gust: If you are using Wild Winds Stance, this is an absolutely spectacular way to handle crowds of enemies. If you can hit at least three targets, this should be your go-to option. The fact that there's no cooldown of any kind makes this even better.
16th Level
  • Enlightened Presence: Nearly all Will saves are against mental effects, so this is a significant defensive bonus for your party.
  • Master of Many Styles: Using multiple stances is hard and rarely effective, so this feat is situational and only worthwhile in builds that have found a way to capitalize on multiple stances somehow.
  • Quivering Palm: The Monk's only Save-or-die option, and it can still Stun the target even if they don't die.
  • Shattering Strike: Situational. Typically you'll want to find other ways past a target's resistances like weapons made of special metals, or using class features like Mystic Strikes, Metal Strikes, and Adamantine Strikes.
18th Level
  • Diamond Fists: More damage never hurts. This is especially useful if your Unarmed Attacks have the Agile trait, and if you like to stand still and make numerous Strikes in a single turn. The extra damage scales as you make multiple attacks, so the more you focus on attacking, the more effective Forceful becomes. It's exceptionally rare to be able to combine both Agile and Forceful, so this is a uniquely powerful option for the Monk.
  • Empty Body: Being Etheral is extremely powerful.
  • Meditative Wellspring: Essential if you're relying heavily on Focus Spells, but for other monks it's not worth such a high-level feat slot.
  • Swift River: Essentially a permanent Freedom of Movement effect.
20th Level
  • Enduring Quickness: In many cases you'll find yourself in melee and unable to use this without provoking Reactions from melee-focused enemies. In other situations, you're already fast enough that your regular Stride actions will nearly always be sufficient. Winding Flow provides a similar benefit, and it's available at 10th level.
  • Fuse Stance: Conceptually fantastic, but limited by the current selection of stances. Crane Stance and Mountain stance both limit you to a single type of Strike, but other stances can be easily combined. Ironblood is generally an easy option for a second stance because it's literally always useful and doesn't require you to change your tactics in any way to make it effective.
  • Impossible Technique: This is insanely good. You're good at every type of Saving Throw, and being able to reroll one save every round makes you incredibly difficult to kill. If you're not facing enemies which rely on abilities which trigger Saving Throws (spellcasters, enemies with breath weapons, etc.) you can force rerolls on attacks, essentially giving you a significant boost your AC.

General Feats

  • Canny Acument: This can raise either your weakest save or your Perception to master, but not until 17th level, making it a great option for a hihg-level General Feat.
  • Toughness: More hit points are always a good idea, but as soon as Paizo publishes more interesting General Feats you'll likely find that you can't justify Toughness.
  • Untrained Improvisation: Intelligence is a dump stat for many monks, which means that you likely won't have many trained skills. Monks are also MAD, which means that you'll have several high ability scores. That means that you can do a lot with skills in which you're untrained despite lacking the +2 bonus from being Trained. You'll still be limited to actions which you can make untrained, but you'll be very good at them.

Skill Feats

  • Assurance: The Monk can get a lot of use out of skills like Acrobatics and Athletics, even in the thick of combat, and knowing that you'll get a consistent result from those checks makes skill actions much easier to rely upon.
  • Cat Fall: Monks can do a few things like running up walls or flying which might place them slightly further off the ground than you want to be. Cat Fall can help mitigate those issues, and if you're clever you can use the additional safe fall distance to get more out of your movement then fall great distances without issue.
  • Swift Sneak: The Monk has the most to lose by moving at half their speed, but at the same time it's also less of a problem because your speed will still be excellent.

Weapons

  • Bo Staff: The Temple Sword will deal just as much damage and only takes on hand, but the Bo Staff's properties are more useful. If you don't need a free hand for things like grappling, the Bo Staff is the way to go.
  • Kama: Trip is a really good weapon trait, but the Kama doesn't have the Finesse trait, so you'll want to be Strength-based if you plan to use it.
  • Nunchaku: Basically a Sai with a bigger damage die, and it trades Agile and Versatile for Backswing.
  • Sai: Functionally similar to the Nunchaku.
  • Shuriken: The only thrown weapon that doesn't need Quick Draw or Returning to be useful. The damage die is small, but if you're using weapons you'll still want to carry some shurikens. They'll still apply your Strength bonus, making them a fantastic option despite their low damage die. The Shuriken is also the only Thrown weapon with the reload property, which appears to override the normal Action required to draw a weapon, allowing you to draw and throw a Shuriken as a single action. When you get into magic weapons, get a Returning property rune as soon as possible so that you can throw a single shuriken repeatedly rather than needing to buy a pile of them.
  • Temple Sword: The best weapon damage die available as a monk weapon, but the traits aren't great.

Armor

  • Unarmored: Literally your only choice. Gaining armor proficiency from feats, even from multiclass archetype feats, isn't as effective because your proficiency won't increase beyond Trained (or Expert if you get a second Champion archetype feat).
  • Shield: You're not proficient, but if you can get proficiency somehow a shield could be a great option. Flurry of Blows is your go-to attack option in most builds, and subsequent attacks will suffer a significant Multiple Attack Penalty (Agile helps a bit), so you might find that your Action is better spent to Raise a Shield rather than making another Strike.

Monk Focus Spells

1st-Level Spells

  • Ki Rush: Very situational.
  • Ki Strike: A fine go-to option to boost your damage, but it will eat your Focus Points very quickly so save it for when your target is disadvantaged somehow (Flat-Footed, etc.) and you're not going to do anything that turn except hit things so that you can maximize the damage you get for your Focus Point.

2nd-Level Spells

  • Wholeness of body: If you take exactly one Focus Spell as a monk, make it this one. Given enough time to repeatedly use this and Refocus, you can always return to full hit points, recover from poisons, and recover from diseases. Even in combat, this costs a single Action and restores an impressive number of hit points, making it a great way to recover hit points in the middle of a fight.

3rd-Level Spells

  • Ki Blast: One of very few ways that the Monk can easily handle large groups of enemies. The damage scaling is good, especially if you use at least two Actions, and leaving an extra action means that you can afford to spend it to Stride and position yourself to hit as many targets as possible. The 3-Action option only deals 1d6 more damage than the 2-Action option, so only use it if you can make the 60-foot cone at least as effective as moving to a better position and using the 30-foot cone.

4th-Level Spells

  • Abundant Step: Teleportation is always good, but this is limited both by your speed and your line of sight. You can still use it to bypass many obstacles like high cliffs or dungeon bars and the like, and you can use to easily reach squishy enemies like spellcasters which are often protected by more martially-inclined enemies.
  • Wild Winds Stance: For a Ki Monk, this is often your go-to option in combat. It's also the most effective option or the Monk to fight at range for an extended period. However, due to the Stance rules, it has some risky limitations. If you're unable to Refocus between fights, you may find yourself unable to use this. If combat ends (and therefore your Stance ends) then a new combat begins shortly thereafter (an ambush, a poorly-chosen door, etc.), you may find yourself without your favorite stance. Make sure that you can still fight at least passably well without relying on this stance. Also remember that since these are ranged attacks, you'll want to build around Dexterity rather than Strength, though you'll still want at least 14 Strength to get some damage out of the Propulsive trait.

5th-Level Spells

  • Wind Jump: By this level you can easily by Master in Acrobatics (level+6), granting you a total bonus of +15 before consider your Dexterity modifier. With the Assurance skill feat that's a guaranteed result of 25 before your Dexterity modifier. If you have at least 18 Dexterity (easy by this level, assuming you started with no less than 16 Dexterity), you can guarantee a result of 30 on Acrobatics checks by 10th level, so by the time the effect heighters (11th character level/6th-level spells), you can guarantee that you won't fall while flying. Flight is an absolutely essential tactic at high levels, so being able to fly consistently without relying on allied spellcasters or items is an important option.

8th-Level Spells

  • Quivering Palm: Even with the unusual mechanics, this is still a save-or-die effect, and those are always good. The target is still stunned even if they succeed (though not if they criticall succeed), which can still be very helpful.

9th-Level Spells

  • Empty Body: Being Ethereal is extremely useful both as an escape mechanism and as a way to safely infiltrate and scout dangerous places.

Magic Items

Weapon Property Runes

  • Grievous: Most monks make attacks in the Brawling group, and the Critical Specialization for Brawling weapons makes targets Slowed 1 if they fail a save. Applying a -4 penalty dramatically improves the odds of the target failing, and by high levels the 700gp cost is easily affordable.
  • Speed: If standing still and making a bunch of Strikes is a regular option for you, Speed adds one more Strike. You'll still suffer the Multiple Attack Penalty normally, but if you're using Flurry of Blows and making a total of 3 additional Strikes, you're likely to hit with some of them despite the -10 penalty (-8 with Agile). This gets even more appealing if your attacks are Forceful.
  • Ghost Touch: Dirt cheap compared to other property runes, and without it you're severely disadvantaged against incorporeal enemies.

Other Magic Items

  • Bracers of Armor: Slightly cheaper than the equivalent effects from enhancing a suit of Explorer's Clothing, but you can't transfer runes and you can't buy it piecemeal over time, so enhancing Explorer's Clothing may work out to be cheaper if you're fortunate enough to loot the runes that you want.
  • Handwraps of Mighty Fists: Essential for any monk who is not primarily relying on weapons.

Archetypes

Multiclassing into spellcasting classes works in a somewhat unique way for the Monk due to how Ki Spells work. When you choose your first Ki Spell, you get to choose if your spellcasting is Divine or Occult, and you become Trained with spells of that type and your proficency improves as you gain levels. Choosing a class which matches that type of spellcasting (Cleric or Sorcerer for Divine, Bard or Sorcerer for Occult) allows you to capitalize on that improving proficiency, keeping your offensive spells effective despite not taking additional Multiclass Archetype Feats to progress your spellcasting benefits.

  • Alchemist: Mutagens have a lot to offer martial classes like the Monk. Unfortunately, your Advanced Alchemy level stays at 1 unless you invest a large number of feats, and you may be able to get similar benefits from Monk Class Feats. If you do pursue Alchemist, I strongly recommend the Juggernaut Mutagen.
  • Barbarian: Rage is a great option for the Monk, but since the damage bonus is halved with Agile weapons/attacks, your options for attacks and stances are severely limited. If you're going for stances over weapons, you'll want to stick to Dragon Tail, Falling Stone, and Iron Sweep.
  • Bard: When you get your first Ki Spell you can choose to be an Occult spellcaster, so you'll get the scaling Occult proficiency, but your Bard spells will still be Charisma-based so they won't be as effective offensively as Cleric spells would be.
  • Champion: The Fighter will typically provide more useful options than the Champion, though you may get some benefit from the Champion's Focus Spells.
  • Cleric: If you have one or more Ki Spells, you get the scaling proficiency as you gain levels, plus Ki Monks will already have Wisdom high enough to back them up. An offensive cantrip can be absolutely fantastic improvements to your ability to fight at range, especially when options like shurikens or Wild Winds Stance are ineffective or unavailable. I recommend taking Divine Lance and Shield if no other options seem appealing. You can also gain access to a number of great Focus Spells to complement any Ki Spells which you might learn if you go beyond Cleric Devotion.
  • Druid: If you want spellcasting, the Cleric is a much better option.
  • Fighter: Fighter grants you proficiency in Simple and Martial weapons, but you'll never use it because the proficiency never improves unless you waste another feat. The real appeal is the Fighter's class feats. Feats which work while you have a free hand lik Combat Grab are great additions to the Monk's capabilities. Fighters also have several Stance feats, but until we get some options for archer monks they're not very interesting.
  • Ranger: Most of the Ranger's best options are based on their Prey mechanic, and while you'll often have spare Actions thanks to Flurry of Blows, Prey creates a constant Action tax early in an encounter which competes for space with initiating a stance, and the beginning of an encounter is when your Actions are the most important.s
  • Rogue: Many monk stances give you Unarmed Strikes which have the Finesse trait, so they can be use with Sneak Attack. You'll need to take the Sneak Attacker feat, but with Flurry of Blows you'll have more opportunities to apply the bonus damage than many other characters.
  • Sorcerer: You can choose a bloodline which provides Divine spellcasting, but the spells will still be Charisma-based, and Charisma is typically a dump stat for the Monk.
  • Wizard: If you want spellcasting, Cleric is a much better option.