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The Monk

This document provides suggestions and insights into how to translate the ideas of the Monk class from the source material into Pathfinder Fate Accelerated.

"Monks excel at overcoming even the most daunting perils, striking where it's least expected, and taking advantage of enemy vulnerabilities. Fleet of foot and skilled in combat, monks can navigate any battlefield with ease, aiding allies wherever they are needed most.

For the truly exemplary, martial skill transcends the battlefield—it is a lifestyle, a doctrine, a state of mind. These warrior-artists search out methods of battle beyond swords and shields, finding weapons within themselves just as capable of crippling or killing as any blade.

These monks elevate their bodies to become weapons of war, from battle-minded ascetics to self-taught brawlers. Monks tread the path of discipline, and those with the will to endure that path discover within themselves not what they are, but what they are meant to be."

Archetype Considerations

The only Archetype a monk has to concern themselves with is Focused; everything else is optional.

To be considered a monk (and not some other hybrid concept), most characters should start with at least Focused +3; which for a standard starting character leaves only the decision of where to put the final +1.

Most monks will go all in on Focused +4, but some might prefer to put a +1 into one of the other Archetypes to round out a background or a concept.

However the Martial Artist set of Starting Archetypes illustrates a non-standard option.

Roguish +1 is a great choice for a monk with an urban facet. Additionally, Focused and Roguish synergize well at higher tiers of play, so a monk character who progresses through a few major milestones as a Focused / Roguish split should offer a very satisfying play experience.

Divine +1 might seem somewhat unusual, but some monkish orders also have a spiritual facet and thus splashing Divine can make sense in that context.

In the Pathfinder setting of Golarion many monks venerate the god Irori, and a monk with Divine +1 who worshiped Irori would not be out of place.

Primal +1 is a reasonable choice for a monk originating from a remote temple or who is a recluse or trained at a mountain shrine or who grew up in the country before becoming a monk. It's a solid choice, particularly for an adventuring monk who might spend a large amount of time traveling the wilderness.

Arcane +1 is a pretty unlikely option that would most likely be taken to anchor a creative concept incorporating a more "mystical" or overtly magical facet.

For instance, a monk with magical tattoos, or a monk that uses one time "scrolls" to activate their strange abilities might take Arcane +1 to "sell" the concept.

Also, a Archetype can always defend against itself; thus a monk with Arcane +1 effectively has an "improved save" vs arcane magic. However, this is a relatively weak reason unto itself to invest in a Archetype.

Combatives +1 can be a choice for a starting monk who also uses weapons, though generally it's more efficient to take a Stunt allowing the monkish character to use Focused instead of Combatives for a small selection of weapons.

It is also possible to go the other way and make a monk with high Combatives and a Stunt like Barehanded Fighting to allow Combatives to cover barehanded fighting and grappling.

Barehanded Fighting: Because my fighting skills include barehanded combat, I may use Combative instead of Focused when fighting barehanded or grappling.

Going this route works well for a more practical and less mystical barehanded fighter.

Approach Considerations

Monks are quite diverse, and thus all Approaches are equally viable depending upon what sort of monk is being represented.

Contemplative monks are generally Careful, while more scholarly or academic monks are usually Clever.

Monks dedicated to fancy fighting styles might be Flashy, or Forceful, or both. Many monks are able to be unusually Quick when they need to be.

Monks that practice a secret style or oppose oppressive regimes tend to be Sneaky.

What Kind Of Monk, Exactly?

Generally speaking, when defining a character in Pathfinder Fate Accelerated that you envision falling into the "monk" category, you might start out by asking yourself the following questions:

Sample Iconics

Ejik, Suki, Volus, Byragh

Starting Archetype Sets

Phenom

Focused +4

Street Fighter

Focused +3, Roguish +1

Contemplative

Focused +3, Divine +1

Martial Artist

Combative +3, Focused +1

Self-buffing Barehanded Strikers

The source material offers monks as a putatively melee oriented class. that eventually accrues a laundry list of supernormal abilties as they progress.

Monks benefit from the best "saving throws" available in the game, a high rate of movement, scaling barehanded damage, and some other useful (but seemingly randomly chosen) class features.

Underpowered And Maligned

Monks are severely hampered by several problems. Despite being a primary melee based class, the monk only has intermediate attack rate progression, sub-optimal hitpoints, and at higher levels difficulty hurting things with special resistances without expensive magic items.

The monk class is also one of the more divisive in D&D in general, and Pathfinder is no exception. Some people find the entire concept to be out of place in the largely western influenced fantasy genre.

Others have no philosophical problem with the idea but take exception at the monk's low power level, or their quirky array of fluff abilities, or the fact that the class is woefully Multiple Ability Dependent aka MAD (meaning a character of the class needs multiple high stats rather than a single high stat to be competitive).

Still others find it frustrating that the entire breadth of Wuxia is shoehorned into the rather odd assortment of class abilities granted by the monk.

The source material does offer ways to differentiate monks using "archetypes" (as defined in the Pathfinder rule books) that allow swapping out the more useless class features for better ones, style feats, and other class and level manipulation shenanigans. There are also certain specific feat chains that can be cobbled together and exploited to help make the monk more competitive. However, an unpleasant amount of system exploitation is involved.

Due to the perceived problems and despite a few specific viable builds, the monk as a whole is widely regarded as being in competition for the weakest or worst class in Pathfinder. Bottom line, the class is much maligned and the potential of the overall concept largely falls on the floor.

Diverging From Source Material

The good news is, if you are making a monkish character for play in Pathfinder Fate Accelerated, you have the freedom to express whatever sort of Wuxia or martial artist or barehanded pugilist concept you want.

Inspired by the rich traditions and fiction of Asian cultures, what monks are meant  to represent is much more interesting and exciting...

  • Incredibly skilled, amazing devotees of semi-mystical martial arts capable of physical and mental feats beyond the ken of normal folks.
  • Barehanded street fighters and brawlers, masters of diverse fighting arts.
  • Nearly superhuman masters of the inner potential of ki energy.
  • Practitioners of strange hard, soft, hidden, animal inspired, and even forbidden styles of combat.

I.e., all the crazy stuff seen in countless "kung fu" movies.

The flexibility and permissiveness of Fate Accelerated is ideally suited to allowing this kind of character to excel, and making a monkish character in Pathfinder Fate Accelerated offers a lot of opportunities to express a distinct concept and play it to great heights of acheivement.

The system is not going to get in your way or force you down an arbitrarily narrow path. The only limiters are your imagination and the number of Aspect and Stunt slots available to you.

  1. What "role" do I want my monk to fill?
  2. Is my monk Asian-inspired or an expression of some other concept?
  3. Does my monk concentrate on internal or external abilities?
  4. Does my monk use weapons or do they rely entirely on their innate abilities?

Role?

Unlike some of the other "class" concepts coming from the source material, the monk fills no specific role, instead having a broad (some might even venture semi-random) collection of abilities.

In D&D this leaves the monk as a wildcard, providing some advantages for a small group where the monk can adapt to holes in the party lineup and find a way to provide value, but struggling in a larger group where every role is well covered by a specialist and the monk is cursed to always play second fiddle to someone else.

But when you make a monk character in Pathfinder Fate Accelerated, you get to decide what role you want your monk to attempt to fill.

You might intend for your monk to be a front line combatant, helping a group to succeed in conflicts. Or perhaps you want to play a "face" or leader monk who takes point in social encounters. Or you might want your monk to be a problem-solver or "support" character who is either specialized to address a particular niche or generalized to have a broad range of "utility" allowing them to adapt to emerging challenges that the group might face in their adventures. And of course, your monk might attempt to fill more than one role or not be intentionally designed to fit any particular role as you prefer.

Inspired By?

The monk concept is more about concept...style...flavor...fluff...call it what you will, than anything concrete or mechanical. Therefore, it is very helpful to have a clear idea in mind when making a monk character.

You might want to stick to the idea of a character influenced in whole or part by ideas taken from Asian cultures. You might also prefer to go a different route and express an idea more inline with Western or Fantasy fiction norms. You might even want to express something taken from your own imagination with no basis in either.

Byragh is a misanthropic tiefling fueled by a combination of his inner abyssal flames, the pain of poverty-stricken existence, and lifelong suffering. He can project searing heat and scorching fire in a variety of different ways. Additionally he has a wiry strength much greater than his emaciated frame would suggest, and he fights purely dirty. More than one fool has underestimated him with fatal results.

Internal or External?

Your character might be a brutish brawler, or a mystic master of their inner chi or "qinggong" or "neigong", something in between, or something altogether different.

Thinking about this question should help you settle on a High Concept, and inform your choice of Approaches and Stunts, and also your background concept and portrayal.

Also, as the "monk" concept in D&D is effectively a stand in for a broad spectrum of cultural myth, there is plenty of room to make more atypical or even whimsical characters.

Hard / Soft

A trope of martial arts that pops up in some venues is a supposed dichotomy between "hard" and "soft" styles. This is usually interpreted as "external" physical and striking arts and "internal" psuedo-mystical or ki / chi based abilities.

If this trope appeals, you might make a monk that is all knuckles and feet and no wuxia, or one that eshews such mundane exertions as punching and kicking in favor of extraordinary abilities, or one that is a mix of practical and mystical.

Ejik is a quirky, upbeat, and hyperactive halfling acrobat-tumbler with a knack for tripping up large folk with his energetic antics. But don't let his small size and whimsical nature fool you; this pint-sized ankle biter can be quite deadly when the situation requires it.

Weapon or Barehanded?

Focused allows barehanded fighting and grappling by default, but if you want to also use weapons you'll need to either invest in Combatives or a Stunt that allows you to use Focused instead of Combatives with a set of weapons, or a high Combatives with a Stunt to cover barehanded.

If you want to be able to engage armed opponents who are using Combatives while you are barehanded and using Focused without having to constantly think up narrative justifications, you will want to take a Stunt like I Am A Living Weapon.

I Am A Living Weapon: Because I have honed my body and my skills, my unarmed strikes are equivalent to lethal weapons. I may use Focused instead of Combative when fighting unarmed without any special narrative justification or penalty. In situations where it matters I can choose to be treated as attacking barehanded or attacking with a weapon, whichever benefits me more in the situation. Finally, though I can be inconvenienced or restrained, being disarmed is generally off the table for me.

Suki is a potent sword-mistress due to her sublime mastery of the Nine Katas of Aori, and her impressive internal ki reserves. She will need all of her skills to succeed at her personal quest to salvage her honor by recovering her family's ancestral sword.

Volus is a massive physical specimen, hugely muscled but lithe as a cat. Cast out of his Shoanti tribe for being a thuggish meathead and stirring up needless trouble, he now makes a living as a profressional fighter when he can find gigs and otherwise gets by as best he can. His fighting style is of his own devising, featuring a lot of powerful punches, knee strikes, and elbow smashes...and sometimes he just picks up an opponent and tosses them around like a rag doll.

Stunts

Monk characters might find the following Stunt categories of interest: Fitness, Competence, Durability, Mental, Warrior, Special.

The following Stunts are offered as samples that might be relevant for some monks. However, the best Stunts are those that are tailor made to fit your concept, so don't hesitate to come up with your own or work with your GM to define something that is "just right" for your character. See the Stunt options document for ideas on how to do this.

Mentally And Physically Fit

Most monks have developed extreme mental and physical fitness as part of their training.

Alertness: Because I am unusually alert and perceptive I gain +2 while Focused to notice things.

Impressive Reflexes: Because I have excellent reflexes, I gain +1 while Quickly attacking.

Indomitable: Because I refuse to give in and I always vigorously protect myself, I get +1 when I am Forceful and defend if I am aware that I am in danger.

Just Roll With It: Because I excel at avoiding harm and rolling with whatever comes my way, I can use more than one stress box to absorb stress from an attack (normally, only one stress box may be used to offset stress from a single attack).

Naturally Sneaky: Because I am innately good at being sneaky, I may use Focused instead of Roguish or Primal when Sneakily attempting to avoid notice. However, I suffer a -1 penalty when I do so.

Naturally Sneaky (-2): Because I am innately good at being sneaky, I may use Focused instead of Roguish or Primal when Sneakily attempting to avoid notice.

Sprinter: Because I am able to put on a little extra burst of speed when I need to, once per scene whenever I move a zone I may choose to immediately move another zone for free and this does not prevent me from attacking. Alternately, if I do nothing but move I may use this ability to move two (2) extra zones.

Strider: Because I am fleet of foot and able to move quickly, if I am in a conflict and do nothing in an exchange except move, I may move an extra zone and I am unobstructed by foot hazards of less than knee height. If I am in a contest involving me walking rapidly or running, I gain +1 to overcome while I am Quick.

Sublime Expertise (-2): Because I am extremely skilled and rarely blunder, whenever I make a 4dF roll I treat any result of less than 0 as -1.

Tumbler: Because I am excellent at acrobatically flipping around and tumbling, if I am in a conflict and do nothing in an exchange except move, I may move an additional zone and I am unobstructed by minor obstacles that I can tumble around or flip over. If I am in a contest involving me running away from something or avoiding capture, I gain +1 to overcome while I am Quick.

Very Strong: Because I am so strong, I get +2 while I am Forcefully Focused and create advantage or overcome when my great strength is a factor.

Martial Artist

Most monks have some skill at fighting.

Brawler: Because I am so strong, I get +2 while I am Forcefully Focused and attack when fighting unarmed or grappling or when throwing heavy blunt things.

Canny Guard: Because of my skill and experience as a warrior it is difficult to catch me off guard. When I am defending against physical attacks and tie, my opponent does not get a boost.

I Am A Living Weapon: Because I have honed my body and my skills, my unarmed strikes are equivalent to lethal weapons. I may use Focused instead of Combative when fighting unarmed without any special narrative justification or penalty. In situations where it matters I can choose to be treated as attacking barehanded or attacking with a weapon, whichever benefits me more in the situation. Finally, though I can be inconvenienced or restrained, being disarmed is generally off the table for me.

Improved Disarm: Because I like to disarm others, I get +1 when I am Quick and attempt to create advantage to attach the situational Aspect Disarmed to other people who weild weapons.

Making It Count: Because I am able to make my attacks really matter, on an attack that succeeds with style I may spend a fate point to prevent the target from checking a stress box to reduce the stress of the attack. The target may still take consequences.

One Against Many: Because I am skilled at defending myself against multiple attackers, I gain +2 to defend when I fight alone against two or more opponents. A single mook defined as a mob counts as being multiple opponents for purposes of this ability as long as there are two or more 'individuals' within the mob. 'Fighting alone' in this context means no allies are in my zone or an adjacent zone, and no ally is aiding me or attacking my opponents.

Passing Attack: Because I have a fast-moving agile fighting style, whenever I am Quick and attack, if I choose to reduce the damage I inflict to get a boost I may use that boost to immediately move one (1) zone away as a free action. If I also spend a Fate point I may move an additional zone further away.

Pounce!: Because I excel at leaping into combat in a startling burst of aggression, I gain +4 on my first attack in a conflict if I act first and can charge, lunge at, or pounce upon an opponent.

Resilience: Because of my impressive resilience, once per session if I would take a Consequence I may instead spend a Fate point.

Retribution: Because my retribution is terrible when I succesfully attack an opponent who has inflicted stress or consequences upon me in the current conflict I inflict +1 shift more damage and this damage cannot be reduced.

Stunning Fist: Because I have learned how to throw a vicious punch, whenever I am Forcefully Focused and attack barehanded, if I succeed with style and choose to reduce the damage I inflict to get a boost I may use that boost to apply the situational Aspect Stunned! to my target with two (2) invokes. The target can remove this Aspect by overcoming a Superb (+5) difficulty.

Thunderous Jab: Because I have learned how to throw a vicious punch, whenever I am Quickly Focused and attack barehanded, if I succeed with style and choose to reduce the damage I inflict to get a boost I may use that boost to apply the situational Aspect Staggered! to my target with two (2) invokes. The target can remove this Aspect by overcoming a Superb (+5) difficulty.

Mystically Adept

Some monks have mastered unusual abilities, or developed their inner chi to such extremes that they are more than mundane.

Close Call: Because I excel at getting out of really bad situations, I can spend a fate point to concede after I already rolled to defend (normally a concession must be made instead of rolling to defend).

Cloud Step: Because I have mastered a mystic discipline, I may defy the normal bonds of the earth to float upon the wind and available contact points as if I weighed no more than a feather. I am never harmed or unduly inconvenienced by falling, even if I am unconscious. However this effect is temporarily cancelled if I am encumbered or anchored by more than half my own body weight.

Damage Reduction: Because I am more durable than normal, I reduce by one (1) all stress inflicted on me by physical and magical attacks.

Danger Sense: Because I am unusually alert and perceptive I gain +3 while Quickly Focused to notice things that are dangerous, fast moving, or pose an imminent threat to my safety.

Fast Healing: Because I heal extremely quickly, I reduce by 2 all stress inflicted on me by physical and magical attacks. I appear to take damage but it 'heals' almost immediately in an impressive and potentially intimidating display. However, this does not work versus stress inflicted as damage by a specific reasonably common kind of attack and in fact I take +1 shift of stress from such attacks.

Fated Fortune: Because I thrive under pressure, when I spend a fate point to invoke one of my Aspects I gain a +3 bonus instead of a +2 bonus.

Focused Resistance: Because my innate fortitude and intrinsic vitality protects me, I may use Focused to defend against magical and unusual attacks without needing special narrative justification or first creating an advantage to invoke.

Unusual Senses: Because I a have unusual senses I gain +1 while Focused to notice things, and I can sense things that are not detectable by normal senses.