Pathfinder - Monk Archetypes Breakdown
I support a limited subset of Pathfinder's rules content. If you would like help with Pathfinder player options not covered here, please email me and I am happy to provide additional assistance.
I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks. Also note that many colored items are also links to the Paizo SRD.
- Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
- Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances
- Green: Good options.
- Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.
The monk has always been a difficult class to master. With an odd assortment of abilities which frequently don't cooperate, the Monk has trouble being effective. Still, with the right archetype the Monk can be Defender, Scout, Striker, or even a Support or Librarian. For the most part, the monk serves best as a Defender or Striker, and the better Monk archetypes tend to reflect this.
The Drunken master gives up some of the Monk's less interesting passive abilities for the ability to generate Ki by drinking alcohol. This gives the Monk a functionally unlimited pool of Ki as long as there is booze handy. Drunken Master is also compatible with a startling number of other archetypes, which gives you lot of very interesting character options.
The Fast Drinker and Deep Drinker feats are basically required ofr this archetype.
Drunken Ki (Su): Ki fuels a lot of what monks do, and any ability to gain or recharge Ki is welcome. The ability to generate temporary Ki with something as cheap as alcohol is absolutely fantastic. Rules for alcohol side-effects are apparently missing from the rules, so it appears that you can chug brewskies all day without so much as a hangover. Oh, and on top of being able to get ragingly drunk, you can use a swift action to get a free 5 foot step.
Drunken Strength (Su): Extra damage never hurts, but you can generally get much better returns from a point of Ki. Of course, if you have enough liquor to fuel your Ki pool, your Ki points may be a fairly cheap resource. If you have Fast Drinker, you can get a point of Ki or two every round to get some extra damage.
Drunken Courage (Su): Fear is generally pretty gentle, and not particularly common, but immunity to it is pretty nice.
Drunken Resilience (Ex): The scaling is pretty small, but Monks generally have low AC and only d8 hit points. DR can really help keep you alive.
Firewater Breath (Su): Blasting generally isn't the Monk's job, but this is a pretty solid AOE blast. The DC will keep pace with casters, and the cone is a reasonable size.
Monk Vows: No
Replaced Features: Still Mind, Purity of Body, Diamond Body, Diamond Soul, Empty Body
Compatible Archetypes: Master of Many Styles, Monk of the Four Winds, Monk of the Lotus, Monk of the Sacred Mountain, Sensei, Weapon Adept
The Flowing Monk is a Monk based on Dexterity. If you have read my Monk Handbook, you know that Monks need strength to do anything useful. The flowing Monk can be very good defensively, but falls into the classic Tank pitfall: tons of great defenses, but no reason for anyone to attack you.
Bonus Feat: The Flowing Monk gets very few good bonus feat options, and the loss of the 2nd level bonus feat further exacerbates the problem.
- Agile Maneuvers: The Flowing Monk is a dexterity-based Monk, so Agile Maneuvers is an obvious way to boost your CMB.
- Combat Reflexes: Combat Reflexes can make the Flowing Monk a potential Defender. Be sure to invest in Enlarge Person to get yourself some reach.
- Deflect Arrows: Situational and bad.
- Dodge: More AC never hurts on a Monk.
- Improved Reposition: Too situational.
- Improved Trip: Fantastic for a Monk, and you can use it with Redirection.
- Nimble Moves: Situational, and you can get Acrobatic Steps for three times the effect.
- Weapon Finesse: If your dexterity is considerably higher than your Strength, this is a must-have.
- 6th Level
- Acrobatic Steps: Better than Nimble Moves, but still situational.
- Bodyguard: Situational, and not all that great.
- Improved Disarm: Situational.
- Improved Feint: You get almost nothing for feinting.
- Ki Throw: Redundant with Redirection.
- Mobility: Running around drawing attacks of opportunity isn't generally something that Monks do.
- Second Chance: The Monk is all about Flurry of Blows, and giving up your flurry attacks is foolish. At 6th level when you can first get this feat, you can already make 4 attacks, the second of which is already at your highest BAB. Using this feat means that you are giving up two attacks for literally nothing.
- Sidestep: Prevents you from using Redirection, which is considerably better.
- 10th Level
- In Harm's Way: You probably shouldn't be spending a lot of time standing next to allies who need you to take hits for them. Instead, keep your enemies far away from your squishy friends.
- Repositioning Strike: Counting on critical hits is not a good way for a Monk to do things, and Reposition is rarely useful.
- Snatch Arrows: Situational and bad.
- Spring Attack: Not for Monks. Stand still and use Flurry of Blows.
- Tripping Strike: Just use Improved Trip. Counting on critical hits is not a good way for a Monk to do things.
Redirection (Ex): Reposition is highly situational, but a free Trip attempt as an immediate action is fantastic. Adding the Sickened condition makes this even better. Be sure to invest in Improved Trip and a tripping weapon to maximize Redirection's effectiveness. Because you can only use this once per round, be careful when facing numerous opponents.
Unbalancing Counter (Ex): This won't get you much, but if you have a Rogue in the party they will appreciate the help. Because this replaces the Monk bonus feat at level 2, it makes the Flowing Monk's bonus feat list less useful.
Flowing Dodge (Ex): Because this only works for adjavent enemies, watch out for enemies with reach. This bonus will really help when you get mobbed by weak enemies, which is a big problem for Monks due to their low AC and weak hit points.
Elusive Target (Ex): Saving throw bonuses do not keep pace with attack bonuses, so you will likely find that this is hugely innefective unless you invest a large quantity of resources into your Reflex save.
Volley Spell (Su): This is very cool, but because it consumes so much Ki it will be very difficult to use.
Monk Vows: Monk of the Sacred Mountain
Replaced Features: Bonus Feats, Stunning Fist, Bonus Feat (2nd), Fast Movement, Purity of Body, Diamond Body, Quivering Palm
Compatible Archetypes: Yes
The Hungry Ghost Monk is considered by many to be the best Monk archetype, and for very good reason. Steal Ki provides a bottomless pool of Ki, and Life Funnel provides a matching source of hit points. The Monk's biggest defensive issue is hit points, and the Monk's biggest limiting factor is the Ki Pool. By addressing these two issues, Monk can continue to fight until he eventually collapses from lack of sleep. The Hungry Ghost's abilities are hugely abusable, as they depend on critical hits and dropping enemies to 0 hit points. Because "enemies" is such a loosely defined term, you could easily fuel your abilities with a box of sligthly annoyed rats.
Punishing Kick (Ex): Tripping is a great option for Monks, who tend to have low attack bonuses and depend heavily on full attacks. Because Combat Expertise increases the Monk's already terrible Multiple Ability Dependency, this is a great way to get a reliable Trip option. Giving up Stunning Fist is unfortunate, but you get this long before you could meet the +8 BAB requirement, and you can take Stunning Fist as a feat.
Steal Ki (Ex): This is why you take Hungry Ghost. This is the most abusable way to get Ki that I have ever seen. You could very easily carry around a box of rats that you then infuriate to the point of hostility, then murder them for their Ki. Oh, and a Coup De Grace is an automatic Critical Hit, so you can Coup De Grace your unconcious foes for extra points when your box of rats runs dry. The ability to get free saves against diseases is almost the same as immunity to them considering how good a Monk's saves are, especially with the ability to add your wisdom bonus on the saving throw.
Life Funnel (Su): As with Steal Ki, you can keep a box of rats, make them angry, then turn them into hit points. Or you can murder onconcious enemies. Hugely abusable either way. Miles better than Wholeness of Body.
Life from a Stone (Su): Not that you really need it, but now you can steal Ki from the undead and constructs. In addition to your box of rats.
Sipping Demon (Su): Giving up spell resistance really hurts, but temporary hit points address the Monk's low hit points, and the Monk's already excellent saves should address the issue of spells.
Monk Vows: Yes
Replaced Features: Stunning Fist, Purity of Body, Wholeness of Body, Diamond Body, Diamond Soul
Compatible Archetypes: Master of Many Styles, Monk of the Sacred Mountain, Sensei
The Monk's biggest problem is that it is the most MAD class in the game. The Monk's only dump stat is Charisma. Now add a dependency on Charisma. The Kata Master doesn't get the Monk anything particularly useful, and makes it even more MAD than it already was.
Panache: Panache depends on Charisma, and because the Kata master gets to few Deeds, it isn't really worth investing in.
Menacing Swordplay (Ex): Monks aren't good at Intimidation.
Ki Pool (Su): Largely removes the need for Charisma to fuel the Kata Master's Panache pool.
Targeted Strike (Ex): Very versatile, but it cuts down on the Monk's damage output..
Dizzying Defense (Ex): Situational.
Replaced Features: Stunning Fist, Still Mind, Ki Pool (Modified), Wholeness of Body, Quivering Palm
Compatible Archetypes: Master of Many Styles
The Ky Mystic gets some very powerful support abilities. He gains the ability to provide rerolls on his allies' attack rolls and saving throws at the cost of Ki. While these abilities are fantastic, and the Ki Mystic gets a little bit of extra Ki, the rate at which the Ky Mystic goes through Ki will often leave him out of points early in the day. Without a way to generate more Ki, or to get a bigger Ki pool through Monk Vows, the Ki Mystic will be constantly starved for Ki.
Ki Mystic (Su): Getting Ki Pool a level early is nice, even if it's slightly smaller until level 4. The extra +2 ki is also nice. A +2 bonus to all knowledge checks is really helpful if you're serving as the party's Librarian, and the ability to spend Ki to boost skills with a +4 insight bonus is fantastic.
Mystic Insight (Su): 2 ki points is expensive, but a reroll on an attack roll or saving throw can absolutely turn the tide of a fight.
Mystic Visions (Su): To be clear: This feat works like the spell "Divination", not just any spell of the Divination school. Situationally useful if you don't have a Cleric handy.
Mystic Prescience (Su): Permanent Insight bonus to AC and CMD. Insight bonuses to AC are very rare.
Mystic Persistence (Su): While this running, your party is going to dominate almost any fight that they're in. Howver, this ability eats your Ki Pool like nothing else.
Monk Vows: No
Replaced Features: Still Mind, Purity of Body, Diamond Body, Diamond Soul, Empty Body
Compatible Archetypes: Master of Many Styles, Monk of the Four Winds, Monk of the Lotus, Monk of the Sacred Mountain, Sensei, Weapon Adept
Combat Maneuvers are a great way to disable enemies and apply negative status conditions, but the best status condition is dead. The Maneuver Master is fantastic at combat maneuvers, and can do more in a round than anyone else. The archetype makes excellent use Flurry of Blows, Monk Bonus Feats, and even introduces a really fun option for using your Ki pool. Despite a list of very excellent abilities, the Maneuver Master sacrifices the Monk's only real source of damage output. Still, the ability to disable your enemies may make the Monk's remaining attacks more reliable, which might actually outpace the normal Monk's damage output.
Bonus Feat: Access to all of the Combat Maneuver feats is excellent. Pick a favorite maneuver (Trip is a good choice, and Dirty Trick is very versatile), and take the Improved and Greater versions. Skip the X Strike feats, as they are very difficult to rely on. Instead, take a second Greater combat maneuver feat. When selecting your favorite maneuvers, be sure to keep Flurry of Maneuvers in mind, as you will want something that you can benefit from multiple times in a round, such as Dirty Trick.
Flurry of Maneuvers (Ex): While you give up a lot of the Monk's normal damage output, this is a huge improvement on your combat maneuvers. Because you can use Standard Action combat maneuvers, you can finish your flurry of blows with something like a Grapple, a Bull Rush, or a Drag. Be sure to plan your maneuvers at the beginning of your flurry to maximize their effectiveness. If you plan to inflict penalties to your enemies defenses (with Trip for example), use your maneuver(s) early to maximize their usefulness.
Maneuver Defense (Ex): Very situational, but nice against enemies with the Grab or Trip special rules.
Reliable Maneuver (Ex): Miles better than slow fall. One Ki point is a really great price for what amounts to an attack roll. Don't forget that this won't work in conjunction with Meditative Maneuver becuase they are both swift actions. A reroll on a d20 works out to something like +5 bonus, so this is more powerful than Meditative Maneuver, but Meditative Maneuver doesn't cost Ki. Reliable Maneuver also only works for one attempt, while Meditative Maneuver works for an entire round.
Meditative Maneuver (Ex): If you don't need your swift action in any given round, this is your go-to usage. It works on every maneuver of one type in a given round, so pick something spammable like Dirty Trick or something that you can use on attacks of opportunity like Trip.
Sweeping Maneuver (Ex): Great for rounds in which you need to move into reach.
Whirlwind Maneuver (Ex): Trip everyone, then use Improved Trip to get free attacks against all of them.
Monk Vows: No
Replaced Features: Flurry of Blows, Still Mind, Slow Fall, Purity of Body, Diamond Body, Quivering Palm
Compatible Archetypes: Monk of the Four Winds, Weapon Adept
The Martial Artist gives up the Monk's Ki pool and related abilities for sheer martial prowess. The Martial Artist's powers make him stronger, more durable, and generally better in combat than the average Monk. You lose some of the versatility provided by powers like Abundant Step, but the ability to survive a fight is worth the trade.
Alignment: Chaotic Monks! Woo!
Pain Points (Ex): The bonus to critical hit rolls is laughable, but the extra DC to Stunning Fist and Quivering Palm are fantastic.
Martial Arts Master (Ex): Weapon Specialization with Unarmed Strike is a good idea.
Exploit Weakness (Ex): Your bonus should be, at minimum, your level +2, meaning that you should succeed on this check at least 60% of the time against average enemies, and even more in encounters with multiple weak foes. The +2 bonus to hit is really nice by itself, but bypassing hardness/DR greatly improves the Monk's ability to deal damage. For some reason the wording doesn't specify that the bonus to hit only applies against the target, but it probably should. The defensive option is also good; the bonuses scale reasonably well, and at high levels the dodge can keep you alive against troublesome foes.
Extreme Endurance (Ex): Fatigue and Exhaustion aren't very common or particularly annoying, but Stunning will ruin your day, and Death Effects will kill you (obviously). The ability to be any alignment makes this an interesting option for multiclassing into Barbarian so that you can rage cycle.
Physical Resistance (Ex): Ability damage is a huge pain at any level, and it becomes increasingly common at high levels. Reducing the damage by even one or two points makes you largely immune to the effects of most diseases and poisons.
Bonus Feat: An extra bonus feat is great, especially because Monks get to ignore prerequisites when selecting their bonus feats.
Defensive Roll (Ex): This will save your life.
Quivering Palm: Save or Die on a Monk. Pain Points increases the DC by 1, and you can use it more often than any other Monk.
Greater Defensive Roll (Ex): Like improved evasion for attacks. Fantastic.
Monk Vows: No
Replaced Features: Still Mind, Ki Pool, Slow Fall, Purity of Body, Wholeness of Body, Diamond Body, Diamond Soul, Timeless Body, Tongue of the Sun and Moon, Empty Body, Perfect Self
Compatible Archetypes: Sensei
Style Feats are a fantastic addition to the Monk, and they can do a lot to improve your Monk both offensively and defensively. Generally a Monk can only justify using one or two styles because you can only maintain one at a time. The Master of Many Styles removes this limitation, and really lets style feats shine. However, the loss of Flurry of Blows can really hurt your damage output, so be sure to focus on your damage output to comensate.
Before considering this archetype, read the Style Feats section of my Monk Handbook for insight into which style feats will work for you. Keep in mind that many style feats will combine very well, so while they may be poor by themselves, they can be excellent as a set.
Bonus Feat: The first thing you need to know is that only the first feat in a Style Feat chain is actually a Style feat. Fortunately, this lets you select feats in a style feat chain while ignoring most of the prerequisites. Don't worry about things like BAB, ability scores, skill ranks, etc.. All you need is the base Style feat. No, you don't need the full style chain to get the feat at the top of the chain.
Fuse Style (Ex): This is why you play the Master of Many Styles. Pick one offensive style and one defensive style, and leave them both up for the duration of the fight. As you gain levels, you can add additional styles to the mix. This increase leaves you just enough room to pick up the feats you need to make full use of your styles.
Perfect Style (Ex): 5 styles is a lot, and it's a lot to keep track of. I would pick 5 styles and live in them forver. Investing more feats in or more styles is very difficult, likely won't pay off, and you will spend hours every round trying to figure out which styles you are in and what they do.
Monk Vows: Yes
Replaced Features: Bonus Feats (Modified), Flurry of Blows, Perfect Self
Compatible Archetypes: Drunken Master, Hungry Ghost Monk, Kata Master, Ki Mystic, Monk of the Lotus, Monk of the Sacred Mountain, Wildcat
The Monk of the Empty hand specializes in enhancing improvised weapons using Ki. While this is a really cool mechanic similar to the Magus's ability to enhance weapons, the Ki cost is simply too high for this archetype to function. The archetype lacks a way to generate additional Ki, and disallows Monk Vows, so the Ki Pool is a major problem with no easy solution.
Weapon and Armor Proficiency: The monk's weapon list actually includes some very interesting options. Until mid levels, weapon are often a much better choice than fighting unarmed, and weapons are a good source of CMB bonuses. Giving up those options hurts.
Flurry of Blows (Ex): Largely the same, but you can flurry with improvised weapons.
Bonus Feat: Improvised Weapon Mastery is basically required.
- Improved Dirty Trick: An excellent option, but hard to rely on and hard to optimize.
- Improved Steal: Steal is an awful combat maneuver.
- Improvised Weapon Mastery: This archetype centers on using improvised weapons, so this is basically required.
Versatile Improvisation (Ex): This adds some nice versatility to your damage types since you can't rely on switching to a weapon when bludgeoning damage won't cut it. (See what I did there?)
Ki Pool (Su): You're probably not much of a ranged weapon enthusiast, but sometimes this can be helpful.
Ki Weapons (Su): This ability would be realy cool if it had a duration longer than one round. A 20th level Monk with 20 wisdom gets a total of 15 Ki points per day. You might get to use this ability for one fight before you exhaust your Ki Pool. And even then, you should be happy that you made it to the end of the fight.
Monk Vows: No
Replaced Features: Weapon and Armor Proficiency, Flurry of Blows, Still Mind, Purity of Body, Diamond Body
Compatible Archetypes: Monk of the Four Winds, Monk of the Lotus, Monk of the Sacred Mountain, Weapon Adept
The Monk of the Four Winds is a weird archetype. Their abilities can be very powerful if you manage your Ki, and the Aspect Master and Immortatily aspects are truly fantastic abilities. Elemental Fist and Slow Time are the most definitive portions of the archetype, so be sure to find a way to recharge your Ki in order to fuel them.
Elemental Fist (Su): Elemental Fist is a pretty poor way to spend Ki because the damage is so small. Increasing the damage as you grow in level really helps improve the usefulness of the feat. If you still want Stunning Fist, you can take Stunning Fist as a feat if you need to Stun people.
Slow Time (Su): Though twice as expensive as Abundant Step, with the Monk's move speed this will allow you to get around very quickly. The extra standard actions mean extra attacks at your best BAB. You might even consider taking Vital Strike to capitalize on having multiple standard actions. However, because the Ki cost is so high, be sure to save this for when you really need to mess someone up.
Aspect Master (Su): Many of the aspects provide some very cool options for the Monk.
- Aspect of the Carp: Swim speed is situational.
- Aspect of the Ki-Rin: Flight is fantastic, even if you need to end your turn on the ground.
- Aspect of the Monkey: Climb speed is situational.
- Aspect of the Oni: Excellent escape/infiltration mechanic.
- Aspect of the Owl: Flight is the best movement type. The rules don't specify maneuverability, so I would assume Perfect.
- Aspect of the Tiger: Pounce fixes a lot of problems for the Monk.
Immortality (Su): Never age, and if you die you just reincarnate. Liches wish they were this immortal.
Monk Vows: Yes
Replaced Features: Stunning Fist, Abundant Step, Timeless Body, Perfect Self
Compatible Archetypes: Drunken Master, Ki Mystic, Maneuver Master, Monk of the Empty Hand, Monk of the Sacred Mountain, Sensei
The Monk of the Healing Hand is a weird attempt to turn the Monk into a Healer. Unfortunately, Ancient Healing Hand is the only actual healing mechanic, and the Ki cost is fairly high. Ki Sacrifice allows the Monk to raise the dead without material components, which is nice, but still doesn't really make you a Healer. If the party has someone who can use a wand of Cure Light Wounds, they will be a better healer than you.
Ancient Healing Hand (Su): Losing the ability to heal yourself hurts because the Monk has so few hit points, and two Ki points for so little healing is very expensive. Save this for the end of the adventuring day when you no longer need to keep your Ki Pool full.
Ki Sacrifice (Su): No preperation, no material components, and you get upgraded to Resurrection at level 15.
True Sacrifice (Su): This would be a great way to end a character, but you really can't rate this as a useful ability.
Monk Vows: Yes
Replaced Features: Wholeness of Body, Diamond Body, Quivering Palm, Perfect Self
Compatible Archetypes: Monk of the Sacred Mountain, Sensei, Tetori
Pathfinder is a game about swashbuckling fantasy, and the Monk of the Lotus is a pacifist archetype. The abilities are focused on disabling enemies without killing them, and magically charming them. If you want to be a pacifist who talks his problems out, maybe you should consider a Bard or something else with some Charisma.
Touch of Serenity (Su): This is a fantastic debuff, but because you don't actually do damage you need to either talk the target into not fighting, or your party needs to kill them.
Touch of Surrender (Su): This would be a cool mechanic if it didn't cost so much Ki. But hey, sometimes you want to punch people until they like you.
Touch of Peace (Su): Charm stuff. No save. Go charm the Tarrasque and see what happens.
Learned Master (Ex): This would be fantastic if it had shown up early enough to justify putting ranks into a bunch of non-class skills which depend on an ability score you don't need.
Monk Vows: Yes
Replaced Features: Stunning Fist, Abundant Step, Quivering Palm, Tongue of the Sun and Moon
Compatible Archetypes: Drunken Master, Ki Mystic, Master of Many Styles, Monk of the Empty Hand, Sensei
One of the monk's biggest problems is that it depends on Flurry of Blows for damage, and Flurry of Blows depends on standing still and making a full attack. The Monk of the Sacred mountain doubles down on this issue, but in exchange gets a few defensive abilities which help make up for the Monk's weak hitpoints and AC.
Iron Monk (Ex): Losing evasion really hurts, but the Monk really hurts in terms of hit points and AC. A little but of natural armor and Toughness does quite a bit to help with that. Of course you can't take Toughness again to get even more hit points, so make sure that you still buff your Constitution a bit.
Bastion Stance (Ex): Trip isn't a particularly common tactic for enemies, and forced movement is even less common. If you fight a lot of wolves or NPCs, this might be useful.
Iron Limb Defense (Ex): Monks need all the help that they can get in terms of AC. Giving up your 5 foot step really hurts your tactical options. However, it's also great motivation to stand still and make full attacks.
Adamantine Monk (Ex): DR can go a long way to keep a Monk alive. The scaling is pretty small, and giving up Improved Evasion hurts, but a bit of DR really addresses the issue that the Monk is vulnerable to lots of really small hits.
Vow of Silence (Su): An insight bonus to AC is very rare. It comes a bit late in the game, but even at this level the Monk needs all of the help he can get in terms of defense.
Monk Vows: Yes
Replaced Features: Evasion, Slow Fall, High Jump, Improved Evasion, Tongue of the Sun and Moon
Compatible Archetypes: Drunken Master, Flowing Monk, Hungry Ghost Monk, Kata Master, Ki Mystic, Master of Many Styles, Monk of the Empty Hand, Monk of the Four Winds, Monk of the Healing Hand
The Qinggong Monk is a weird a la carte archetype. You can take as many or as few of the abilities as you like, and you can trade in the Monk's worst abilities for something more exciting. Because the Qinggong Monk's abilities are fueled by Ki, th size of your Ki Pool is very important. Invest in your Wisdom score, take Extra Ki, and take some Monk Vows to keep your pool full.
The Qinggong Monk can be combined with any archetype, and many of the powers are worthwhile for any type of Monk. Ki Leech in particular is a bottomless wellspring of Ki for any Monk, and I would take it on any Monk who can't already generate their own Ki at will.
Ki Power: Give up basically any Monk ability, and you can select it as a Ki power later if you change your mind.
- slow fall (4th)
- high jump (5th)
- wholeness of body (7th)
- diamond body (11th)
- abundant step (12th)
- diamond soul (13th)
- quivering palm (15th)
- timeless body (17th)
- tongue of the sun and moon (17th)
- empty body (19th)
- perfect self (20th)
* - can be activated as an immediate action.
- 4th Level
- Acrobatic Steps (1 ki point): Very Situational.
- Augury (1 ki point): Situational.
- Barkskin (self only, 1 ki point): Good duration, and it helps compensate for the Monk's poor AC. Stays great at every level.
- Deny Death * (0 ki points): Like a better version of Die Hard. You generally shouldn't spend enough time incapacitated to need a feat to make yourself good at it.
- Feather Step (self only, 1 ki point): Situational. I would take Acrobatic Steps instead because you don't need a Standard Action to turn it on.
- Hydraulic Push (1 ki point): Or you could just bull rush them like a real Monk.
- Ki Arrow (1 ki point): Interesting way to get a decent ranged attack, but veyr situational.
- Ki Stand * (0 ki points): You can use this as an immediate action, which makes you very resistant to tripping.
- Message (1 ki point): Don't waste such a potentially powerful resource to get a lousy cantrip.
- Power Attack (1 ki point): Just take the feat.
- Quick Draw (1 ki point): Too situational, even if you use weapons frequently..
- slow fall (monk ability, 0 ki points): Bad, even in the rare situations in which it applies.
- scorching ray (2 ki points): Not a good use of your Ki, even if the damage is somewhat respectable.
- Throw Anything (1 ki point): Situational, and not very good for a Monk.
- True Strike (self only, 1 ki point): You can buy potions for 50gp that work just as well and just as fast.
- 6th Level
- cloak of winds (self only, 2 ki points): Costly, but it protects you from both melee and ranged attacks. The DC keeps pace with spells, so you will generally be difficult to hit. However, knocking enemies away from you makes it ahrd to hit them with Flurry of Blows.
- gaseous form (self only, 1 ki point): Situational, but a great infiltration/escape option.
- Heroic Recovery* (1 ki point): As an immediate action you can make a fortitude save against an ongoing effect like poison or disease. I'm not sure if you are still limited to once per day.
- high jump (1 ki point): Situational, and bad.
- hydraulic torrent (2 ki points): A bigger version of Hydraulic Push, which is already pretty bad.
- remove disease (2 ki points): Situational and costly.
- Sidestep* (1 ki point): This just isn't a good feat. Your five foot step is more useful on your own turn when you can use it to get into a position to immediately attack. If you use this feat, your enemy can 5 foot step away from you at the end of their attack in order to force you to use a move action to follow them.
- Snatch Arrows* (1 ki point): Situational, and very bad.
- Spring Attack (1 ki point): Not good for a Monk.
- 8th Level
- Dragon's Breath (2 ki points): A decent blast effect which can allow you to handle large groups of enemies. The cost is fairly high, so don't go throwing this around every turn.
- Gliding Steps* (1 ki point): Better than withdrawing, but very situational.
- Neutralize Poison (3 ki points): Situational, and far too expensive.
- Poison (2 ki points): This really don't seem like the sort of thing a Monk should be doing, but Poison is a pretty decent debuff spell.
- Restoration (self only, 2 ki points): Situational, but very commonly necessary. You also don't need to spend the 1000 gp for the material component.
- Share Memory (0 ki points): Situational, but potentially very cool. Because it consumes no Ki and can be used on unwilling targets, you can use this is a very effective interrogation technique.
- Silk to Steel (1 ki point): The duration is too short, and the benefits aren't very good.
- Spider Step (1 ki point): Cool, but very situational.
- Whirlwind Attack (2 ki points): This feat is normally terrible because it requires several feats which conflict with the purpose of the feat. Getting it without prerequisites could make this a usable option. However, it will rarely be as effective as Flurry of Blows.
- Wholeness of Body (monk ability, 2 ki points): It doesn't provide a lot of healing, but this is a great way to spend your Ki at the end of the day.
- 10th Level
- discordant blast (2 ki points): The damage is poor, and you're a melee character. Stop knocking them away and punch them.
- Greater Bull Rush (2 ki points): Situational, but this allows you to draw a bunch of attacks of opportunity against the target without investing in a whole feat chain.
- Greater Disarm (2 ki points): Not very good, and situational.
- Greater Feint (2 ki points): Doesn't really provide you any benefit.
- Greater Sunder (2 ki points): Very situational.
- Improved Blind-Fight* (1 ki point): Great for fighting enemies affected by effects like Blur or Invisibility.
- ki leech (0 ki points): Like a tiny taste of being a Hungry Ghost Monk, this allows you to permanently fuel your Ki Pool. Note that a Coup De Grace is a critical hit, so you can use it with this ability. The spell doesn't specify enemies, either, so you can keep a box of pet rats and eat them for free Ki. You do need to activate the effect ahead of time, but the minutes per level duration will get you through most fights. Between fights, just reactivate it for free. I would take this on literally every Monk.
- Lunge (1 ki point): Situational, but ocasionally useful if your five foot step doesn't get you close enough.
- shadow step (1 ki point): Cheaper than Abundant Step, but also less versatile.
- spit venom (2 ki points): Expensive, and the blindness doesn't last enough for you to benefit from it, but con damage poison is very tempting.
- Step Up and Strike* (2 ki points): Due to the wording of the feat, you need Step Up and/or Following Step to make use of this, and the Ki cost is fairly high.
- Wind Stance (2 ki points): Most Monks don't get to move more than 5 feet in one round, and even then the bonus just isn't very good.
- 12th Level
- abundant step (monk ability, 2 ki points): Fantastic, even if it costs two Ki points.
- battlemind link (4 ki points): Neat, and potentially very effective, but this is also the most expensive Ki Power available.
- diamond body (monk ability): Situational, but nice to have.
- Elemental Fist (2 ki points): Miles better than the Elemental Fist, and because you can use Elemental Fist a number of times per day equal to your Monk level, you can just turn this on and throw a flaming flurry of blows for one turn.
- Improvised Weapon Mastery (2 ki points): I'm really not sure why a Monk would need this. Just use your hands.
- Ki Throw (2 ki points): Moving the target into a different square is situationally useful, but the cost is too high to justify spending a power and two Ki points.
- Punishing Kick (2 ki points): Punishing Kick is good for Monks who can't get Improved Trip, but it's still very expensive to use.
- Shadow Walk (3 ki points): Cool long distance travel option, but situational.
- 14th Level
- Blood Crow Strike (2 ki points): Full attack at medium range. The fire damage is subject to energy resistance, but converting some of your damage to negative energy is fantastic.
- Cloud Step (3 ki points): Very expensive. By this level you should have access to much cheaper flight options.
- Cold Ice Strike (3 ki points): Expensive, and lines are one of the least useful AOE shapes.
- Diamond Soul (monk ability): Spell resistance is great, and this scales very well with level.
- Disarming Strike (2 ki points): Critical hits are generally not a great option for Monks, and disarming on a critical hit is extremely situational.
- Improved Ki Throw (2 ki points): Hillarious, but situational.
- Ki Shout (3 ki points): The only appealing part is the stun effect and the sonic damage. But you can use Blood Crow Strike to get better range, and your unarmed strike damage output is probably comparable. Blood Crow Strike also costs one less Ki, and you can use Stunning Fist on any of those attacks.
- Sonic Thrust (2 ki points): Poor utility and poor damage.
- 16th Level
- Bleeding Critical (3 ki points): Critical hits are not a good mechanic for Monks, and this is very expensive.
- Greater Blind-Fight* (2 ki points): At this level invisibility is a common problem. Reducing full concealment to 20% and rerolling reduces concealment to effectively a 4% miss chance.
- Improved Vital Strike (2 ki points): This gives the Monk an excellent Standard Action option. If you plan to make frequent use of Vital Strike, you may want to invest in the actual feats.
- Lightning Stance (3 ki points): Situational.
- Penetrating Strike (2 ki points): Monks often have issues with DR, and Weapon Focus (Unarmed Strike) is a pretty low cost to make use of this feat.
- quivering palm (monk ability, 2 ki points): Save or Die as a Monk.
- strangling hair (3 ki points): It's weird that this is a 3rd level spell. Your Grapple bonus should be good, and your damage will be respectable. However, you may be better served moving into range and grappling with your hands.
- 18th Level
- timeless body (monk ability, 0 ki points): Really only useful for RP purposes.
- tongue of the sun and moon (monk ability, 0 ki points): This ability doesn't do much for Monks, who typically have very poor charisma.
- 20th Level
- Blinding Critical (3 ki points): Critical hits are not a good mechanic for Monks.
- Crippling Critical (3 ki points): Critical hits are not a good mechanic for Monks.
- Deafening Critical (3 ki points): Critical hits are not a good mechanic for Monks.
- empty body (monk ability, 3 ki points): Cool, but situational.
- Greater Penetrating Strike (3 ki points): Monks often have issues with DR, and Weapon Focus (Unarmed Strike) is a pretty low cost to make use of this feat.
- perfect self (monk ability, level 20): This may actually make Monks worse because you can't benefit from Enlarge Person.
- Tiring Critical (3 ki points): Critical hits are not a good mechanic for Monks.
Monk Vows: Yes
Replaced Features: Player choice
Compatible Archetypes: Any
The Sensei takes a class which defines Multiple Ability Dependency (MAD), and turns it all way up to 6. The Sensei needs literally every ability, and even if you somehow had 18s in all of your abilities, the archetype still wouldn't be very good. The best use I can see for this archetype is as a class dip for weird Cleric builds which want knowledge skills or which want to use their wisdom for attack rolls.
Skills: Oh great, a bunch of skills dependent on the Monk's dump stats. If you want to play a Monk as a face or librarian, I guess this is your best bet.
Advice (Ex): Bardic Music is a great ability, but it becomes more useful as Bards level because they can activate songs as move or swift actions. Without this improvement, your Advice ability is lackluster in comparison.
Insightful Strike (Ex): This allows you to depend on one of three abilities for your attacks. If you want to deal damage, Strength is probably still your best bet.
Mystic Wisdom (Su): While this is a very generous use of your Ki Pool, the lousy duration makes it very difficult to use. However, you can do silly things like use Abundant Step on your whole party.
Monk Vows: Yes
Replaced Features: Flurry of Blows, Bonus Feat (2nd, 6th, 14th, 18th), Evasion, Fast Movement, Improved Evasion
Compatible Archetypes: Drunken Master, Hungry Ghost Monk, Kata Master, Ki Mystic, Martial Artist, Monk of the Four Winds, Monk of the Healing Hand, Monk of the Lotus
The Sohei is more of a fighter than a Monk. He gives up most of the Monk's Ki abilities for proficiency with light armor and martial weapons, and gets a cool ability to buff whoever's horse he happens to be riding. The Sohei is, in concept, a mounted archetype, but it doesn't get a Mount like one would expect. Instead, the Sohei can buff whatever he is riding.
Regardless of this weirdness, the Sohei combines Flurry of Blows with the ability to use two-handed martial weapons. This combination can make the Sohei a fantastic melee DPS. The addition of light armor also vastly reduces the Sohei's need for Wisdom, thereby reducing the Monk's iconic Multiple Ability Dependency.
Skills: You don't get an Animal Companion or Mount, so Handle Animal has fairly limited usefulness. You will want to buy and train a horse, but even then you don't need to dump a ton of ranks into Handle Animal. Monastic Mount allows you to buff your mount with Ki, but even then your mount is mostly expendable.
Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Woo! Armor for a Monk!
Bonus Feats: Most of the mounted combat feats won't work well with Flurry of Blows, but you can pick up Trick Riding without taking Mounted Combat, then take Mounted Skirmisher to use Flurry of Blows after a mounted charge. However, keep in mind that multiplied damage from Spirited Charge and Lances only applies to the first attack.
Devoted Guardian (Ex): Initiative bonuses are excellent, and being guranteed to act in surprise rounds can make a big difference. I'm not certain what happens if you're still unaware of your enemies, but leave that up to your GM.
Unarmed Strike: Your unarmed strike maxes out at 1d6. Time to go find a real weapon. Fortunately, you're proficient with martial weapons.
Monastic Mount (Su): Despite not actually getting the Mount ability, Monastic Mount does a lot for your mount defensively. However, because your mount will still have its base hit points, natural armor, and saves it will have trouble surviving combat if it is directly targeted. Be sure to keep your mount's temporary hit points charged or you will quickly find yourself on foot.
Ki Weapon (Su): This is like a really lousy version of the Magus's ability to enhance his weapons. The 1 round duration will eat through your Ki Pool very quickly, and the enhancement shouldn't be much better than whatever your weapon already has.
Weapon Training (Ex): This is perhaps the Sohei's best ability. Because Flurry of Blows works like two-weapon fighting, you can effectively use a two-handed weapon as though you were using an identicaly weapon in each hand. This means that you can use Power Attack to great effectiveness, and small bonuses like Weapon Focus and Weapon training still stretch their effectiveness over multiple attacks like normal two-weapon fighters. Be wary of the Monk Weapons group; while it contains a great number of interesting weapons, the Sohei does not get proficiency with Monk weapons by default. Instead, I would go with Polearms or Spears.
Monk Vows: Yes
Replaced Features: Weapon and Armor Proficiency, Stunning Fist, Unarmed Strike, Fast Movement, Slow Fall, Purity of Body, Diamond Body, Abundant Step, Quivering Palm, Timeless Body, Tongue of the Sun and Moon
Compatible Archetypes: None
If you want to grapple, this is how you do it. Fighters get more feats, but the Tetori gets all of the feats they need for free, and they get the Monk's crazy unarmed strike damage to pile on top of their multiple grapple attempts per round.
Bonus Feat: For a grappler, I would have picked most of these feats anyway, but getting them for free really helps.
- Improved Grapple: Obviously.
- Stunning Pin: Stunning someone makes them very easy to keep grappled.
- Greater Grapple: Double your grapple ouput once you have started your grapple. Or, you can maintain a grapple as a move action and start a second as a standard action. Strangle two people at the same time!
- Pinning Knockout: It sucks that it's nonlethal damage, but Monks can deal nonlethal damage with their unarmed strikes without penalty, so when this works it effectively doubles your damage output.
- Choke Hold: Decent way to shut down enemy spellcasters, especially those with spells like Dimension Door prepared which have verbal components but no somatic components. Actually strangling something to death will take considerably more time than just grappling their hit points to 0. You get this feat very late, so if you want it early you can take it as a normal feat, then bonus feat rules allow you to take any other normal feat in its place. This has the added benefit of getting you an extra feat slot at high levels when you meet more pre-requisites.
- Neckbreaker: 2d6 points of Strength or Dexterity damage will really hurt your opponents chances of escaping your Grapple. Once they hit 0, you can either Coup De Grace them or continue to deal ability damage until their Constitution hits 0. You also get this feat without the pile of prerequisite feats or ranks in Heal.
Graceful Grappler (Ex): This ability sets the Tetori head and shoulders above other grapplers. Using your level in place of BAB for CMB/CMD brings you on par with fighters, but this abilities higher level aspects are amazing. Not being flat-footed while grappling makes you much less vulnerable to groups of foes. Grab does wonders for your early damage output, and gets you a +4 bonus on your crucial first grapple attempt. Constrict will give you a ton of extra damage, especially at high levels when you can make up to three grapple attempts in a round.
Counter-Grapple (Ex): Situational, but decent. No one should start grapples but you. Don't forget that you get a +5 to your CMB checks if you are in control of the grapple. Don't let the other guy have that bonus.
Break Free (Ex): If the grapple ever goes badly for you, you can add your Monk level (in addition to using your Monk level in place of your BAB) to bail.
Inescapable Grasp (Su): Apparently no one ever gets to leave the grapple except you. You can even grapple ghosts!
Form Lock (Su): This is a good way to remove effects like Baleful Polymorph, and to keep enemies from polymorphing into something too big for you to grapple. I'm not certain if this prevents creatures from returning to their original form, but I don't think it does.
Iron Body (Su): Nice defensive buff, but a bit late to the party.
Monk Vows: Yes
Replaced Features: Bonus Feats, Flurry of Blows, Slow Fall, High Jump, Improved Evasion, Abundant Step, Diamond Soul, Timeless Body, Tongue of the Sun and Moon, Empty Body
Compatible Archetypes: Kata Master, Monk of the Healing Hand
Despite a few decent choices, the Weapon Adept adds fairly little to Monk weapons. The coolest part of the Monk weapon group is that the weapons are diverse, and many of them have bonuses to one or more combat maneuvers. Perfect Strike limits you to the classic core rulebook weapons, which are among the most bland options on the Monk's weapon list. With some enhancement a weapon can be a fine choice in the hands of a monk, but the weapon adept really doesn't add anything meaningful to the Monk's ability to use weapons.
Perfect Strike (Ex): This feat would be really cool if it let you use a decent weapon. Take a look at the weapon section of my Monk Handbook for help picking a weapon. Your best bet is likely the Kama because it can be used for Trip attempts. You're stuck with 1d6 damage and x2 crit no matter what you pick. Perfect Strike is a cool ability because it can make your attacks much more reliable, but due to the limited uses per day you'll want to save it for high risk situations. I don't even know why quarterstaff is on the weapon list; you can't flurry with it.
Way of the Weapon Master (Ex): Weapon Focus and Specialization are great because they apply to all of your attacks. The +2 damage isn't much by itself, but it adds up quickly with a high number of attacks.
Evasion (Ex): Getting Evasion 7 levels late hurts, but at least you still get it.
Uncanny Initiative (Ex): Imagine everyone's surprise when you pick 20 literally every time. If you want to go later in the order, you can always delay.
Pure Power: Permanent typeless bonuses.
Monk Vows: Yes
Replaced Features: Stunning Fist, Evasion, Improved Evasion, Timeless Body, Perfect Self
Compatible Archetypes: Drunken Master, Kata Master, Ki Mystic, Maneuver Master, Monk of the Empty Hand
Do you like Dirty Trick? Do you like Monks? Here's where they intersect. Dirty Trick is easily one of the best combat maneuvers, and emphasizing it can make the Monk very effective at locking down and defeating single targets.
Ready for Anything (Ex): Initiative bonuses are always great, and bonuses to Perception are nice too.
Brawler Maneuver Training (Ex): Wow this is badly worded. This scales much like the Fighter's Weapon Training: You're locked into Dirty Trick at first, but at higher levels you can pick any maneuver. Every time you get a new maneuver, the bonuses for your existing maneuvers increase by 1. This gives you a total +4 bonus to CMB/CMD for Dirty Trick, which is fantastic because it's so hard to find bonuses to dirty trick.
Improvised Weapon Mastery (Ex): I'm not sure why a Monk would use an improvised weapon instead of their bare hands, but if you're going to do it, it's nice to get a little bit more damage. Note that you don't get proficiency, so be sure to pick up the Catch Off-Guard feat and the Surprise Weapon trait if you intend to use this frequently.
Bonus Feat: The Dirty Trick feats are the only ones that you should want.
Knockout (Ex): Save or suck dependent on your offensive ability score. Knock them out, then take a Coup De Grace on your next turn. Be sure to use Dirty Trick to make them Shaken and Sickened beforehand so that they take -4 to their saving throws.
Turn the Tables (Ex): Most enemies don't use combat maneuvers.
Dirty Blow (Ex): Now you never need to decide between performing a Dirty Trick and hitting things.
Replaced Features: Bonus Feats (Modified), Still Mind, Ki Pool, High Jump, Slow Fall, improved evasion, abundant step, diamond soul, empty body
Compatible Archetypes: Master of Many Styles
The Zen Archer is a fantastic take on archery. The archetype provides a long list of excellent abilities which work very well together, and make close-quarters archer builds very easy. You get as many bonus feats as an Archery combat style Ranger, and you get most of the same options. Flurry of Blows allows you to make more bow attacks than anyone else in the game, making the Zen Archer a very promising ranged Striker.
Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Bows add an excellent ranged option to Monks, who are typically limited to thrown weapons with very short ranges. You will, of course, want to use a Composite Longbow.
Flurry of Blows (Ex): It sure beats Rapid Shot, but you also can't use Rapid Shot or Manyshot with this. Still, overally this is going to be more arrows, and therefore more damage.
- Combat Reflexes: Get Snap Shot and Improved Snap Shot, and you can control a 15 foot radius circle around yourself.
- Deflect Arrows: Situational, and bad.
- Dodge: More AC never hurts, especially for a squishy character like a monk.
- Far Shot: Occasionally important, but range on a composite longbow is already impressive, and at 4th level you can spend Ki to increase your range.
- Point-Blank Shot: Not particularly powerful, but you can spend a lot of time in melee range, and this will let you take archery feats beyond your bonus feats.
- Precise Shot: Essential.
- Rapid Shot: Can't be used with Flurry of Blows, and Flurry will give you a better attack bonus and the same number of shots.
- 6th Level
- Focused Shot: Intelligence is a dump stat for Monks.
- Improved Precise Shot: Ignore cover and concealment, two of the biggest problems for archers.
- Manyshot: Can't be sued with Flurry of Blows.
- Mobility: You probably won't be running around much in the middle of a fight.
- Parting Shot: You have Point Blank Master by this level. Stand and fight.
- 10th level
- Improved Critical: Critical hits with bows are fairly infreuqent, but 19-20/x3 is pretty great, and you get a huge number of attacks.
- Pinpoint Targeting: One attack as a standard action will be very likely to hit, but you won't do a whole lot of damage.
- Shot on the Run: Very rarely more useful than firing before/after you move.
- Snatch Arrows: Situational, and fairly bad even in cases where it might apply.
Perfect Strike (Ex): This isn't a fantastic feat, but allowing you to use it with your bow certainly helps.
Way of the Bow (Ex): Weapon Focus and Specialization are great because they apply to all of your attacks. The +2 damage isn't much by itself, but it adds up quickly with a high number of attacks.
Zen Archery (Ex): It's annoying that you don't get this at first level, but it's still really cool. Of course, because your Dexterity and Wisdom both apply to one save and both apply to your AC, you can basically pick which save you want to be good at. Keep in mind that Wisdom also effects your Ki pool, but Dexterity gives you more attacks opportunity with Snap Shot. Pick one to focus on, but don't neglect either.
Point Blank Master (Ex): This is a feat with a +11 BAB prerequisite, and you get it at 3rd level. Walk up to people and Flurry of Blows them do death with a bow.
Ki Pool (Su): Very situational, but this largely removes the need for Far Shot.
Ki Arrows (Su): Use this when you are sure that you're going to hit several times. Extra damage is nice, and the Monk's unarmed strike damage gets pretty great at high levels.
Reflexive Shot (Ex): Basically the Snap Shot feat. I'm not sure why they don't just give you snap shot, but I imagine it's to make you waste an extra feat to get Improved Snap shot. I would still take Snap Shot and Improved Snap shot because they make archers very scary in close quarters.
Trick Shot (Su): Hilarious and very effective, especially at high levels where enemies have concealment more readily available.
Ki Focus Bow (Su): Very late to the party, this allows you to treat your arrows as magical, adamantine, and lawful. By now your bow should be very well enchanted, you should be able to afford plenty of adamantine arrows, and you can affords oils of Align Weapon in quantities large enough to bathe in.
Monk Vows: No
Replaced Features: Bonus Feats, Stunning Fist, Evasion, Maneuver Training, Still Mind, Purity of Body, Improved Evasion, Diamond Body, Tongue of the Sun and Moon
Compatible Archetypes: Qinggong Monk