The Secrets of the Monk: A Complete Guide to Monk 5e

Written by: Staff



Time to read 15 min

Monks in Dungeons and Dragons are masters of martial arts, harnessing their mind and body to incredible heights. If you've ever been curious about playing a Monk in the popular tabletop role-playing game, then you're in luck. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the secrets of the Monk class in 5th Edition (5e) and explore everything you need to know to create and play an effective Monk character. From the origins of the Monk class to the various paths and abilities available, we'll provide you with an in-depth understanding of this unique and disciplined class. Discover how to build a Monk character that excels in combat, whether it's wielding fists or specialized weapons. Explore the different Monastic Traditions and learn how to channel the power of ki to perform awe-inspiring feats and support your allies. Whether you're a seasoned player looking to master a new class or a beginner curious about the Monk's potential, this guide is your key to unlocking the secrets of the Monk in D&D 5e. Get ready to embody the tranquility and power of the Monk class and manifest your true potential on the battlefield.

The Monk's Key Abilities and Features

The Monk class is defined by its unique set of abilities and features that set it apart from other classes in Dungeons and Dragons. At the core of the Monk's abilities is its mastery of martial arts and the power of ki. The Monk's key abilities include Unarmored Defense, Martial Arts, and Ki Points.

Unarmored Defense allows Monks to calculate their AC (Armor Class) while not wearing any armor, making them highly agile and difficult to hit. This ability, combined with the Monk's other features, allows them to rely on their natural abilities and training rather than relying on external protection.

Martial Arts is another essential ability for Monks. It grants them the ability to use their Dexterity instead of Strength for their attack and damage rolls, making them deadly and agile combatants. Additionally, Monks gain the ability to make an extra unarmed strike as a bonus action, allowing them to unleash a flurry of blows on their opponents.

Ki Points are the fuel that powers a Monk's abilities. Monks can spend Ki Points to perform various actions, such as using their Step of the Wind to dash or disengage as a bonus action, or using their Stunning Strike to incapacitate their foes. As Monks gain levels, they unlock additional Ki features, expanding their options in combat and exploration.

Overall, the Monk's key abilities and features make them versatile and formidable warriors. Their mastery of martial arts and the power of ki allow them to excel in both offense and defense, making them a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield.

monk 5e

Hit Points

Hit Dice:  1d8 per monk level
Hit Points at 1st Level: 8 + your Constitution modifier
Hit Points at Higher Levels:  1d8  (or 5) + your Constitution modifier per monk level after 1st


Armor:  None
Weapons:  Simple weapons, shortswords
Tools:  Choose one type of artisan’s tools or one musical instrument
Saving Throws:  Strength, Dexterity
Skills: Choose two from Acrobatics, Athletics, History, Insight, Religion and Stealth.

Level Proficiency Bonus Martial Arts Ki Points Unarmored Movement Features
1st +2 1d4 Unarmored Defense, Martial Arts
2nd +2 1d4 2 +10 ft. Ki, Unarmored Movement
3rd +2 1d4 3 +10 ft. Monastic Tradition, Deflect Missiles
4th +2 1d4 4 +10 ft. Ability Score Improvement, Slow Fall
5th +3 1d6 5 +10 ft. Extra Attack, Stunning Strike
6th +3 1d6 6 +15 ft. Ki-­Empowered Strikes, Monastic Tradition feature
7th +3 1d6 7 +15 ft. Evasion, Stillness of Mind
8th +3 1d6 8 +15 ft. Ability Score Improvement
9th +4 1d6 9 +15 ft. Unarmored Movement improvement
10th +4 1d6 10 +20 ft. Purity of Body
11th +4 1d8 11 +20 ft. Monastic Tradition feature
12th +4 1d8 12 +20 ft. Ability Score Improvement
13th +5 1d8 13 +20 ft. Tongue of the Sun and Moon
14th +5 1d8 14 +25 ft. Diamond Soul
15th +5 1d8 15 +25 ft. Timeless Body
16th +5 1d8 16 +25 ft. Ability Score Improvement
17th +6 1d10 17 +25 ft. Monastic Tradition feature
18th +6 1d10 18 +30 ft. Empty Body
19th +6 1d10 19 +30 ft. Ability Score Improvement
20th +6 1d10 20 +30 ft. Perfect Self

Choosing a Monk 5e Subclass

In Dungeons and Dragons 5e, Monks have the option to choose a Monastic Tradition, which represents a specific path or school of martial arts. Each Monastic Tradition provides unique abilities and features that further specialize the Monk's playstyle and enhance their combat capabilities.

One popular Monastic Tradition is the Way of the Open Hand. This tradition focuses on unarmed combat and grants Monks access to powerful techniques like the Open Hand Technique, which allows them to knock their opponents prone or push them away with a successful attack. Additionally, at higher levels, Monks of the Way of the Open Hand can use their Flurry of Blows to impose various effects on their foes, such as stunning or pushing them back.

Another intriguing option is the Way of the Shadow. Monks who follow this path gain access to a range of stealth and teleportation abilities. They can blend into the shadows, become invisible in dim light or darkness, and even teleport through shadows to surprise their enemies. This Monastic Tradition is perfect for players who enjoy a more stealthy and elusive playstyle.

For those seeking a more mystical and magical approach, the Way of the Four Elements offers a unique experience. Monks of this tradition can harness the elemental forces of fire, water, air, and earth, unleashing devastating attacks and defensive abilities. They can create walls of fire, summon blasts of lightning, or even fly using their elemental powers.

Other Monastic Traditions include the Way of the Drunken Master, the Way of the Long Death, and the Way of the Sun Soul, each with its own distinct flavor and abilities. When choosing a Monk subclass, consider your preferred playstyle and the kind of character you want to create. Each Monastic Tradition offers a different set of abilities and thematic elements, allowing you to customize your Monk to fit your vision.

How to play Monk 5e

Understanding the Monk's Combat Style

Monks are renowned for their unique and fluid combat style that combines martial arts with supernatural abilities. Understanding the intricacies of the Monk's combat style is essential for maximizing your effectiveness in battle.

One of the key aspects of the Monk 5e combat style is their reliance on unarmed strikes. Monk 5e are proficient with their unarmed strikes and gain bonuses to their damage rolls as they level up. This makes unarmed strikes a viable and powerful option, especially when combined with the Monk's other features like Flurry of Blows, which allows them to make additional unarmed strikes as a bonus action.

However, Monk 5e are not limited to unarmed strikes alone. They can also wield specialized monk weapons such as shortswords, quarterstaffs, and spears. When using a Monk 5e weapons, Monks can choose to use their Dexterity instead of Strength for their attack and damage rolls, making them deadly with these weapons.

In addition to their martial prowess, Monks can harness the power of ki to perform extraordinary feats. Ki features like Stunning Strike allow Monks to incapacitate their opponents, giving their allies an advantage in combat. Monks can also spend ki points to dodge attacks, increase their movement speed, or even catch projectiles like arrows and throw them back at their assailants.

The Monk's combat style is not limited to offense and defense. Monks also have access to healing abilities like the Healing Hands feature, which allows them to restore hit points to themselves or others. This versatility makes Monks valuable assets both on and off the battlefield.

To excel in combat as a Monk 5e, it's essential to utilize the class's unique abilities effectively. Combining unarmed strikes, ki features, and specialized weapons can create devastating combinations that will leave your enemies reeling. Mastering the Monk's combat style will allow you to become a force to be reckoned with, capable of turning the tide of battle in your favor.

monk 5e moustache, ready to fight with his staff

Tips for Playing a Monk Effectively in Combat

Playing a Monk 5e effectively in combat requires strategic thinking and careful consideration of your abilities and options. Here are some tips to help you maximize your Monk's potential on the battlefield:

1. Focus on Dexterity: As a Monk 5e, your Dexterity is crucial for your attack rolls, damage rolls, and armor class. Prioritize increasing your Dexterity score to maximize your combat effectiveness.

2. Use Flurry of Blows Wisely: Flurry of Blows is a key ability for Monks, allowing them to make additional unarmed strikes as a bonus action. However, it does consume ki points, so use it strategically when you want to deal maximum damage or when you need to finish off a tough opponent.

3. Exploit Stunning Strike: Stunning Strike is one of the most powerful ki features available to Monk 5e. Use it to incapacitate dangerous enemies or to disrupt spellcasters. However, keep in mind that some enemies may have high Constitution saving throws, so save this ability for crucial moments.

4. Utilize Patient Defense: Patient Defense is a ki feature that allows Monks to take the Dodge action as a bonus action, granting them advantage on Dexterity saving throws and imposing disadvantage on attack rolls against them. This ability can be a lifesaver in tough battles, so don't hesitate to use it when you need to protect yourself or your allies.

5. Be Mindful of Ki Points: Ki Points are a limited resource, so manage them wisely. Consider the situation and determine when it's best to spend ki points on offensive abilities, defensive abilities, or even healing abilities. It's better to conserve your ki points for crucial moments rather than exhaust them too quickly.

By following these tips, you'll be able to make the most of your Monk 5e abilities and contribute significantly to your party's success in combat. Remember to stay adaptable and think creatively, as the Monk's versatility allows for unique approaches to different encounters.


1. High Mobility: Monk 5e have incredible movement speed, allowing them to quickly traverse the battlefield and reach enemies or allies in need. Their speed makes them excellent scouts and skirmishers.

2. Versatile Combat Abilities: Monks can use a variety of weapons and unarmed strikes, giving them flexibility in combat. Their ki features provide additional options, allowing them to adapt to different situations.

3. Unarmored Defense: Monk 5e have the ability to calculate their AC without wearing armor, making them highly agile and difficult to hit. This allows them to focus on maximizing their offensive capabilities.

4. Stunning Strike: Stunning Strike is a powerful ki feature that can incapacitate enemies, rendering them unable to act. This ability can significantly tip the scales in favor of the Monk 5e and their allies.

5. Ki-Fueled Healing: Monk 5e have access to healing abilities like Healing Hands and Wholeness of Body. This self-sustainability allows them to heal themselves and others during combat, reducing the reliance on dedicated healers.


1. Limited Armor Options: Monks are restricted to unarmored defense, which means their AC may not be as high as heavily armored classes. This makes them more vulnerable to attacks, especially from enemies with high attack bonuses.

2. Reliance on Ki Points: Many of the Monk's powerful abilities require ki points, which are a limited resource. Monks need to manage their ki points carefully to avoid running out during crucial moments.

3. Lower Hit Points: Monks have a smaller hit die compared to some other melee classes, resulting in lower hit point totals. This makes them more susceptible to sustained damage and critical hits.

4. Limited Range Options: Monk 5e excel in close combat but may struggle against enemies with ranged attacks or spells. Their abilities and features are optimized for melee combat, so they may face challenges when engaging enemies from a distance.

5. Ability Score Dependence: Monks rely heavily on Dexterity and Wisdom for their abilities and features. This means they need to prioritize these ability scores, potentially sacrificing points in other areas.

By understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the Monk class, players can make informed decisions when creating and playing their Monk characters. Capitalizing on the Monk's strengths while mitigating their weaknesses will ensure a rewarding and enjoyable gameplay experience.

Roleplaying a Monk 5e Character

In addition to their formidable combat abilities, Monk 5e also have rich roleplaying potential. Whether you're creating a stoic and disciplined character or a free-spirited wanderer, the Monk class offers various themes and backgrounds to explore.

One aspect of roleplaying a Monk 5e character is embracing their monastic lifestyle. Monks dedicate themselves to a life of discipline, self-improvement, and spiritual enlightenment. They may live in secluded monasteries, following strict codes of conduct and engaging in rigorous physical and mental training. Roleplaying a Monk 5e character can involve exploring the character's journey to attain enlightenment and the challenges they face along the way.

Monk 5e also have unique philosophies and beliefs that influence their actions. Many Monks follow a specific Monastic Tradition, which shapes their worldview and approach to life. For example, a Monk of the Way of the Open Hand may prioritize balance and harmony, seeking to maintain equilibrium in all things. On the other hand, a Monk of the Way of the Shadow may embrace the duality of light and darkness, using their abilities to serve a higher purpose.

When roleplaying a Monk 5e, consider their motivations and goals. Are they seeking inner peace and enlightenment? Are they driven by a desire to protect the innocent or seek justice for the oppressed? Understanding your Monk character's motivations will add depth and complexity to their role in the campaign.

Monks are not just martial artists; they are also scholars and seekers of knowledge. They may have a thirst for learning, studying ancient texts and philosophies, or seeking out wise mentors to further their understanding of the world. Roleplaying a Monk 5e character can involve moments of introspection, meditation, and contemplation, as well as engaging in philosophical discussions with other characters.

Overall, roleplaying a Monk 5e character offers a unique opportunity to explore themes of discipline, spirituality, and personal growth. Embrace your Monk's journey and let their inner strength and wisdom shine through in your roleplaying interactions.

5e monk

Multiclassing Options for Monks 5e

Multiclassing allows players to combine different classes, creating unique character combinations and expanding their abilities. While Monk 5e have a strong standalone class, multiclassing can provide additional versatility and customization options.

One popular multiclass option for Monks is the Rogue class. Combining Monk and Rogue allows for a highly mobile and stealthy character. By taking levels in Rogue, Monk 5e can gain access to Sneak Attack, which adds extra damage to their attacks when they have advantage or an ally is within 5 feet of the target. This synergizes well with the Monk's ability to make multiple attacks, increasing their damage potential significantly. Additionally, Rogue levels grant expertise in skills, enhancing the Monk's exploration and social capabilities.

Another interesting multiclass option is the Fighter class. By multiclassing as a Monk/Fighter, characters can benefit from the Fighter's Action Surge ability, which allows them to take an additional action on their turn. This can be particularly useful for Monk 5e who rely on ki points to perform powerful actions, as it effectively grants them extra ki points. Additionally, Fighter levels grant access to Fighting Styles, which can further enhance the Monk's combat abilities.

Casting classes like the Wizard or Cleric can also be intriguing multiclass options for Monk 5e. Taking a few levels in a casting class allows Monk 5e to gain access to a range of spells and magical abilities, expanding their options in combat and providing utility outside of combat. However, multiclassing into a casting class may require a significant investment in different ability scores, so careful consideration is necessary.

When considering multiclassing options for Monk 5e, it's essential to think about how the two

Can Monks be any alightment 5e?

Monks are not restricted to any specific alignment, allowing players to choose any alignment for their Monk characters. This flexibility supports a variety of character backgrounds and personal codes of conduct, reflecting the diverse traditions and philosophies that Monks might follow. Whether lawful, chaotic, good, or evil, a Monk's alignment is chosen by the player to best fit their character's story and personality.

Can monk 5e move without leaving tracks?

Monks don't inherently have the ability to move without leaving tracks as part of their class features. However, specific abilities, spells, or magical items available within the game could allow any character, including Monks, to move without leaving tracks or traces. Players seeking this ability should explore options such as the Pass without Trace spell or items that grant similar effects, possibly in collaboration with their Dungeon Master to align with their character's development and the campaign's story.

Do monk attacks have to be melee for bonus 5e?

A Monk's bonus attacks granted by abilities like Flurry of Blows do need to be unarmed strikes or attacks with monk weapons, which are typically melee. However, certain Monk features or subclass abilities might allow for ranged attacks under specific conditions. The primary mechanism for bonus attacks in the Monk's kit emphasizes melee combat to reflect their martial arts expertise.

Is the monk 5e overpowered?

The perception of whether the Monk class in D&D 5e is overpowered varies among players and Dungeon Masters. Monks are versatile, capable of delivering a flurry of attacks, moving quickly, and accessing unique abilities through their Ki. However, their effectiveness can depend heavily on the context of the campaign, the challenges faced, and how a player utilizes their abilities. Some may find Monks to be exceptionally powerful in certain situations, while others may find their abilities to be more situational compared to other classes. Ultimately, balance is often determined by the specifics of each game.

How to make a good monk 5e?

To make a good Monk in D&D 5e, focus on Dexterity and Wisdom for your primary attributes, as these affect your defense, attack rolls, and many Monk abilities. Choose a background that complements your character's backstory and aligns with the monastic tradition you plan to follow. Pick skills that leverage your Monk's strengths, such as Stealth or Acrobatics. Consider the role you want to play in your party and select Monk features and feats that support this role, whether it's a damage dealer, a mobile scout, or a controller in combat.

Are monks bad 5e?

Monks in D&D 5e are not inherently bad; they offer unique gameplay experiences with their mobility, versatility, and ability to deliver multiple attacks per turn. The perception of Monks as less effective compared to other classes often comes from their specific situational strengths and the strategic approach needed to maximize their abilities. With the right build and tactics, Monks can be powerful and enjoyable to play.

Can monks wear armor dnd 5e?

In D&D 5e, Monks can physically wear armor, but doing so disqualifies them from benefiting from several key class features, including Unarmored Defense and Unarmored Movement. These features are designed to work without armor, emphasizing the Monk's agility and training. Therefore, wearing armor is generally not advisable for Monks seeking to optimize their abilities.

How to build a monk 5e?

To build a strong Monk in D&D 5e, prioritize Dexterity for attack and AC, and Wisdom for your Ki abilities and some defenses. Choose a race that enhances these stats or offers useful abilities. Select a monastic tradition that aligns with your desired playstyle, such as Way of the Open Hand for versatility or Way of Shadow for stealth. Focus on skills like Stealth and Acrobatics. Remember, Monks excel with mobility and rapid strikes, so utilize your movement and Ki features like Flurry of Blows effectively in combat.

How many attacks can a monk make 5e?

At level 1, a Monk in D&D 5e can make two attacks per turn—one with their Action and another with their bonus action via Martial Arts. As they progress, they gain the ability to make additional attacks. For example, at level 5, they can attack twice with their Action thanks to Extra Attack, and potentially add two more unarmed strikes with Flurry of Blows using a bonus action, totaling four attacks. The number can vary based on level, Ki points available, and specific abilities used.

How do monk weapons work 5e?

Monk weapons in D&D 5e are simple melee weapons without the two-handed or heavy property, plus shortswords. Monks can use Dexterity instead of Strength for attack and damage rolls with these weapons. Additionally, when using a monk weapon, the monk can make one unarmed strike as a bonus action, allowing for a combination of weapon and unarmed attacks in a single turn. This flexibility lets Monks engage effectively in combat while utilizing their martial arts skills.