5e Monk::Assassin

I’ve never liked that monks are Wisdom based, because I’ve never liked the Wisdom attribute.

But in a lot of ways, the monk chassis is an excellent fit for the kind of highly-mobile, highly-trained, ludicrously deadly Assassin’s Creed style of assassin.
It feels like they should be even a better fit than the rogue, thematically. You’ve got your wire-fu movement (which the rogue has been stealing, I note), your flurry of attacks (hey, the rogue two-weapon fights into this, too!), excellent naked AC (the better for sneaking), and your variety of bad-touch effects.

So as it stands, the rundown and tradeoffs the monk’s got:

* Wisdom Based. I envision a more studious, learned, sneaky monk, so just swap that into Intelligence for this monk2. This is, for a single-classed monk, actually a /debuff/; there aren’t that many Intelligence saving throws, Wisdom drives perception and surprise checks and insight checks, and the kind of proactive info-dump Intelligence allows overlaps heavily with either player knowledge or else the DM’s drive to keep the plot moving.
But ultimately, I plan to multiclass into wizard, not cleric, and so I won’t complain too loudly 🙂
* Unarmed Only. This smells like niche protection to me, but basically, the monk is geared to open-hand fight; flurry of blows specifies unarmed attacks, the increasing damage is unarmed, even Deflect Missiles is confusingly worded but indicates a need for open hands.
It all goes away. The monk2 has a minimum damage (as monk1’s unarmed damage increases), and can use any of their features with any weapon whose damage die is less than their minimum damage. So a first level monk2 (unarmed damage 1d6) fights equivalently bare-handed, armed with a club, dagger, or even short sword. They can flurry with any of those weapons, too. The only thing changing is damage type, and it’s going /away/ from bludgeoning, which is better than slashing and piercing.
I want to play a storm of knives!
* Mobility. This one’s tricky, because I think that the designers have really dropped the ball here. Extra speed and slow fall are nice, but I’m referring to tactical, get-to-a-flying-enemy or disentangle-from-a-monster mobility. The rogue, for instance, works almost as well at range and melee, and has the Cunning Action free 1/round disengage, hide, or hustle.
The monk hits hard, I suspect much harder than the rogue (as long as their ki pool holds out), but is a lot more static. They either need more pushes, to buy them the space to disengage, or more shifts (or equivalent), to get them automatically disengaged. Or to daze their targets to deny them opportunity attacks. But giving these out for free seems too strong.
Suggestion: allow them to maneuver (grab, the only open way to push someone these days, and trip, denying them opportunity attacks) in place of one or more attacks each round, from (say) second or third level onwards. I actually think it should be first level on, but 1st is pretty weenie these days 🙂
This lets them regain a bit of the mobility that they need, and shrinks their deadliness a little since it transforms pretty guaranteed damage into an easily ended status effect. It could be a monk subclass feature, but I believe it shouldn’t be — this is something all monks should just have.
This doesn’t help with fliers. For them, throw something, then commiserate with the fighter and the barbarian.

I think the rest of mobility/stealth can be covered with sufficient proficiencies in sneaking and athletics, so they don’t really need class features or anything.

That actually does it for me: voila! Assassin!
Poison use and such would be nice, but that’s purchasable.

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About lackhand

I was born in 1984 and am still playing games, programming computers, and living in New York City. View all posts by lackhand

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