How to roleplay a monk in DnD is something that many players either want to know or hate. Monks have a love/hate relationship. Either you hate them for having a monk in a western setting, or you love them because they are just so cool.
How to roleplay a monk in DnD depends on what you have in mind. Do you want a brawler, someone who was taught, or will you slowly improve in time?
Either way that you chose to roleplay a monk will let you explore a very fun and unique way of playing the game. So without further ado, let’s get into what the most common type of roleplay is.
The most common monk
For some reason, everyone thinks of the stereotypical monk being an enlightened person who came from a monastery. This is what everyone thinks, but I will let you in on a little secret.
Almost no one plays a monk from a monastery. Almost all monks are just normal people who can hit really well with their fists.
This is what I have seen in my games and what almost everyone else talks about. No one plays monks from a traditional monastery even though that is the stereotype. But why don’t people play monks from a monastery?
When you play a monk from a monastery you are put into an uncomfortable position. You have to play an enlightened person who doesn’t know too much about the outside world. Most people don’t like this (and we will get into why this type of monk is awesome) and instead chose to play the normal person.
The normal person is how to roleplay a monk in DnD. At least, that is what most people think.
You see, most people play a monk first and foremost because monks are cool. Don’t you want to flip, kick, and punch a dragon? How about catching an arrow, throwing it back at a goblin, and stunning a troll in the same round while jumping off that troll to the 2nd story of a building?
Most people just want to do that and don’t want to chain themselves to the ideals of a monastic monk. That is why they take the brawler approach.
You have gone through fight after fight after fight and are unable to accurately count how many fights you have been in. It probably isn’t because of the brain damage but who knows!
These fights have hardened your body to become a bundle of well-toned and hardened muscles that can take on anything! Or you just decided to dodge everyone because you are just too cool.
However you wanted to fight as a brawler, you have gained your monk-like abilities through self-reflection on how to win a fight. You have put your body through hell and back to make it become something stronger than steel, and far more reliable.
This is for most people how to roleplay a monk in DnD. There are no previous ties to monastic traditions. You do not have to go back to a monastery somewhere in the mountains. Instead, your teacher is a failure and constant improvement. You could even win a fight, but a punch failed and you reflect why.
This is the most common type of monk out there. They use their acrobatics to maneuver around the field of battle or use their athletics to wrestle a sword out of a fighter’s hand! Who wouldn’t want to be this type of monk with no restrictions or backstory baggage?
This is mostly for those dextrous monks though. They are not strong but know where to hit and how to hit. Their fists may be solid like iron, but their reflexes and practice are what give the edge.
Instead of playing a more dextrous monk, why not try out a more strength-based monk?
There are many ways on how to roleplay a monk in DnD but most players gravitate towards the dexterity/wisdom route. It makes since when dexterity gives armor and to hit/damage, but what about the bruisers? What about the strength-based monks?
If you go out there as a beefy, unarmored, bare-fist killing machine you can still do a lot. Possibly more than a dexterity based monk. I am talking about grappling.
Most monks are boxers who will punch a person to death when they are in full armor and have a weapon. Why not instead make that armor a liability and the weapon a nonfactor? You can disarm a person’s weapon with a grapple and then stun them while they are in a chokehold.
Think about it. Who has trained for a crazy person that is going to throw themselves at you? More so than that, this crazy person is almost naked and is not even coming at you with a weapon!
The joke is on your victims though since when you grapple people they are not as proficient in this type of combat as you, and when you both are only able to use your fists you have the advantage.
This could be a great way for a pacifist character to play or just someone who wants to honorably take on 1 person at a time. If you want, at higher levels you can probably grapple multiple people at once and become a wrestling legend.
The strength-based grappling approach is a great way to play a monk, but what about having decent charisma and a good dexterity score?
Most spies cannot carry weapons on their person. That is a problem when they are caught and are unable to escape. You are the exception since you are always armed.
Your monk can be someone who has tried to perfect their body to a specific task. This could be infiltration and escape for when you need to. It can come in handy on dangerous missions where you would most likely be caught or compromised at any given point.
This way on how to roleplay a monk in DnD is best suited to the shadow monk. Not every monk is squeaky clean and from some stuck up monastery. We have already gone over that with the brawler and grappler. You have been in the shadows and trained for any situation. More than that, you have trained specifically for the worst-case scenario.
You could have the same backstory as most rogues, but what sets you apart is your prudence. Instead of putting everything into not getting caught, you have a worst-case scenario backup plan.
This is where you train your body. You constantly are working on making yourself a more dangerous weapon so that you can survive! This is a great motivation for your character and might let you be the 1 who finds a way out of sticky situations instead of just letting a smart person do the work.
Lastly, on this type of monk, you do not want to engage in combat. You have trained your body as a last resort. If you get into combat it should be on your terms. This makes you think more than most monks and instead of just looking cool you want to be smart about how you play.
Speaking of being smart.
The stereotypical way on how to roleplay a monk in DnD is all the way down here. Why, you ask? No one plays a monk like this! We went over that a bit before, but I really have to emphasize that I have not seen or even heard of someone playing an enlightened monk. This doesn’t have to be a stuck up monk but is just someone who has a meditative background.
There is a lot of potential for these monks. You can become the avatar from Avatar the last air bender with the elemental path, but you can choose different paths.
Part of the reason why no one seems to play these types of monks is because they feel like they have to go the elemental path and don’t want to. They just want to hit things and not be spellcasters.
The 2nd reason why no one wants to play these types of monks goes beyond the current edition. When they were introduced they were supposed to be played like this. They were lawful by requirement and had to have an upbringing of some sort.
This made everyone feel that an enlightened monk would be an annoying prick or at best a boring character. They might even be as bad as the completely true neutral druid. They have no opinions on anything, but at least that is better than being told something completely ambiguous.
An enlightened monk can be a fun class to play despite what others might think.
Why you should play an enlightened monk.
I just went over all the reasons why no one plays an enlightened monk. But here are some reasons why you should consider 1.
How to roleplay a monk in DnD doesn’t have to follow restrictions. You do not have to be lawful and don’t have to be a prick.
An enlightened monk could be given inspiration from….something. It could be a philosophy like Buddhism and doesn’t need to be religious in nature. It could honestly be closer druidism than any clerical religion, or have nothing to do with either.
These monks have not seen much of the world though, so while wise they don’t know much. This might make every encounter fascinating to them. A city would be a marvel and possibly a travesty at the same time. A new monster might be fascinating and they would want to keep it alive for study.
It depends on your tradition and monastery life, but you could value life, knowledge, or self-perfection above all.
The choice is on you how you want to play a monk, but do not just write off this enlightened monk. It can be done well and I would highly suggest that you give it a try. I would love to know that at least 1 person has played a monk like this and enjoyed it.
How to roleplay a monk in DnD has many options to consider. Do you want to go with the stereotype of what people actually play? More than that, do you want to do something unique that is cool in its own way?
At its core, the monk class is always about being cool. Do you want to walk up to a person in full armor and box them while they have a sword or do you want to slap the sword out of their hand and wrestle 3 people at once somehow winning and putting them to sleep?
If you are a shadow rogue, you can grin when 4 thugs try to approach your unarmed self and demand your cooperation. Then promptly stomp them without breaking your stride and walk away like nothing ever happened.
Perhaps you want to be the best at brawling and go around being the cool tough guy who challenges everyone, or that person who uses the elements when they fight.
You can’t go wrong with a monk. Everything they do is meant to be cool. Since you are always cool, embrace that and find out what amazing monk you want to play.
Also, if you want to check out our other guides on how to roleplay different classes then check out our theory blogs here!
This has been Wizo and keep rolling!