Curiosities and Acquisitions
I find the rules for the Monk class in 2nd edition unsatisfactory. Originally, the class was removed entirely from the 2.0 core rules. Later, monks became a specialty priest class with somewhat enhanced unarmed combat skills, no armor, and cleric spell casting. In 2nd edition, monks became, in their own words, “jacks of all trades but masters of none”. Well that’s completely wrong!
Monks are trained from an early age to strive for enlightenment through rigorous physical and mental training. They are masters of mental discipline and martial arts in the form of unarmed combat. Though they are quite spiritual, they do not receive divine power from their god. The monk’s strength, his ki comes from within!
That being said, the 1st edition and 1st edition oriental adventures version of the monk aren’t suitable either. There are severe restrictions on level advancement past 7th level, severe restrictions on magic items and treasure, gimped 1d4 hit die, strange assortment of skills and abilities such as speak with animals (that’s a druid/ranger thing), and thieving skills (monks are NOT rogues). The fluff on 1st edition monks makes them sound so spocklike and detached that I can’t really imagine why they bother adventuring.
As an alternative I propose adapting the 3.0/3.5 DND version of the monk for use in Curiosities and Acquisitions as follows:
Dotted across the landscape are monasteries—small, walled cloisters inhabited by monks who pursue personal perfection through action as well as contemplation. They train themselves to be versatile warriors skilled at fighting without weapons or armor. The inhabitants of monasteries headed by good masters serve as protectors of the people. Ready for battle even when barefoot and dressed in peasant clothes, monks can travel unnoticed among the populace, catching bandits, warlords, and corrupt nobles unawares. In contrast, the residents of monasteries headed by evil masters rule the surrounding lands through fear, as an evil warlord and his entourage might. Evil monks make ideal spies, infiltrators, and assassins.
The individual monk is unlikely to care passionately about championing commoners or amassing wealth. She cares primarily for the perfection of her art and, thereby, her personal perfection. Her goal is to achieve a state that is beyond the mortal realm.
A monk approaches an adventure as if it were a personal test. While not prone to showing off, monks are willing to try their skills against whatever obstacles confront them. They are not greedy for material wealth, but they eagerly seek that which can help them perfect their art.
The key feature of the monk is her ability to fight unarmed and unarmored. Thanks to her rigorous training, she can strike as hard as if she were armed and strike faster than a warrior with a sword.
Though a monk casts no spells, she has a magic of her own. She channels a subtle energy, called ki, which allows her to perform amazing feats. The monk’s best-known feat is her ability to stun an opponent with an unarmed blow. A monk also has a preternatural awareness that allows her to dodge an attack even if she is not consciously aware of it.
As the monk gains experience and power, her mundane and ki oriented abilities grow, giving her more and more power over herself and, sometimes, over others.
A monk’s training requires strict discipline. Only those who are lawful at heart are capable of undertaking it.
A monk’s training is her spiritual path. She is inner-directed and capable of a private, mystic connection to the spiritual world, so she needs neither clerics nor gods. Certain lawful gods, however, may appeal to monks, who may meditate on the gods’ likenesses and attempt to emulate their deeds.
A monk typically trains in a monastery. Most monks were children when they joined the monastery, sent to live there when their parents died, when there wasn’t enough food to support them, or in return for some kindness that the monastery had performed for the family. Life in the monastery is so focused that by the time a monk sets off on her own, she feels little connection to her former family or village.
In larger cities, master monks have set up monk schools to teach their arts to those who are interested and worthy. The monks who study at these academies often see their rural cousins from the monasteries as backward.
A monk may feel a deep connection to her monastery or school, to the monk who taught her, to the lineage into which she was trained, or to all of these. Some monks, however, have no sense of connection other than to their own path of personal development.
Monks recognize each other as a select group set apart from the rest of the populace. They may feel kinship, but they also love to compete with each other to see whose ki is strongest.
Monasteries are found primarily among humans, who have incorporated them into their ever-evolving culture. Thus, many monks are humans, and many are half-orcs and half-elves who live among humans. Elves are capable of single-minded, long-term devotion to an interest, art, or discipline, and some of them leave the forests to become monks. The monk tradition is alien to dwarf and gnome culture, and halflings typically have too mobile a lifestyle to commit themselves to a monastery, so dwarves, gnomes, and halflings very rarely become monks.
The savage humanoids do not have the stable social structure that allows monk training, but the occasional orphaned or abandoned child from some humanoid tribe winds up in a civilized monastery or is adopted by a wandering master. The evil subterranean elves known as the drow have a small but successful monk tradition.
Monks sometimes seem distant because they often have neither motivation nor skills in common with members of other classes. Monks do, however, work well with the support of others, and they usually prove themselves reliable companions.