5e playtest buffs DnD Monk, renames Ki to ‘Discipline’

Wizards of the Coast has given the DnD Monk a major makeover, with more powerful unarmed strikes, weapon mastery, and new names for class features.

DnD monk updated in 5e playtest - Monastery Mentor art by Brian Valeza

The DnD Monk class gets a massive overhaul and a stack of buffs in the latest 5e playtest document, published by Wizards of the Coast on Thursday. DnD fans have often considered the monk to be underpowered; the updates gives it plenty of new features, as well as changing the names of the class’ ‘Ki’ resource to ‘Martial Discipline’.

Other DnD classes have been updated in this playtest: we covered the news yesterday that both the DnD Bard and Druid 5e classes have received new subclasses for budding DnD character creators to tinker with.

Here are the major changes to the DnD Monk in the latest 5e playtest PDF:

Monk level Change
1st Martial Arts Die; monk 5e unarmed attacks inflict D6 instead of D4 damage at first level. This damage now increases up to D12 by level 17.
Weapon Mastery; each short rest the monk can pick two Simple weapons and use their Mastery properties.
2nd ‘Ki’ is now called ‘Martial Discipline’. Most of this class feature functions the same, but ‘Step of the Wind’ has been improved, granting the ability to dash and disengage as a single Bonus action.
3rd Deflect Missiles; if the monk catches an enemy projectile and throws it back, instead of making a ranged attack with short range 20′ and long range 60′, the monk targets an enemy within 60′ who must make a Dex save to avoid being hit.
5th Stunning Strike; can only be used once per turn, and a stunned target shakes the effect at the start of your next turn, not the start.
6th Empowered strikes; deal force damage rather than counting as magical attacks.
7th Heightened metabolism; new feature. The monk can spend one minute resting and get all the benefits of a full short rest.
Monks lose the ‘Stillness of Mind’ feature.
10th Self-restoration; new feature that replaces Stillness of Mind, Purity of Body, and Timeless Body. The monk spends a bonus action to shake the Charmed, Frightened, or Poisoned condition. The monk doesn’t gain exhaustion levels from going without food or drink.
Monks lose ‘Purity of Body’.
13th Deflect energy; Deflect Missiles now works on any type of ranged attack, including spells, fireballs, acid splashes…
Monks lose ‘Tongue of the Sun and Moon’.
15th Perfect Discipline; previously called ‘Perfect Self’, and gained at 20th level. Whenever the monk rolls initiative, if they have zero Discipline points, they gain four Discipline points.
Monks lose ‘timeless body’.
18th Superior Defence; previous called ‘Empty body’, this ability gives the monk resistance to all damage except force damage for one minute. It now costs three Discipline points (rather than four Ki points). It’s no longer possible for the monk to cast Astral Projection with this feature.
20th Defy Death; new feature. Whenever the monk would be reduced to zero HP they can instead spend four Discipline points, roll four Martial Arts Dice, and change their HP total to the result. This ability costs two more Discipline points to use each time after the first until the monk rests.

The Monk sub-classes have been reworked as well. The Warrior of Shadow (formerly Way of Shadow) loses some of its flexibility at 3rd level but focuses in on making things dark. The monk gains an extra 60’ of Darkvision, can cast the Darkness spell for one discipline point, can see within that Darkness, and can move it around after it’s been cast.

The Warrior of the Hand (formerly Way of the Open Hand) simply gets a tune-up, with boosts to the power level of some features and a nerf to Quivering palm. Quivering palm can do lots of damage, but it can no longer reduce any creature in the game to zero hp with a single hit.

DnD monk updated in 5e playtest - Monastery Swiftspear illustration by Gabor Szikszai

Warrior of the Elements (formerly Way of the Elements) has had a major overhaul. Instead of spending Ki points to cast elemental magic spells, the subclass can spend Discipline points to gain 10’ range on their unarmed strikes, the ability to push or pull targets they hit, and inflict elemental rather than bludgeoning damage. At higher levels it can throw around elemental energy explosions and gains additional movement abilities.

Renaming “Ki” to “Martial Discipline” and changing the name of various other class features reduces the connection between the Monk class and stereotypes around East-Asian culture. There’s definitely room for more monks in DnD; the archetypal monk in British folklore is Friar Tuck, a quarterstaff wielding glutton and sidekick to Robin Hood (the textbook definition of a neutral good DnD Rogue).

If you’re disappointed about the monk becoming less focused on a particular portrayal of East-Asian martial arts, I heartily recommend this interview with the creators of Gubat Banwa, an epic South East Asian RPG full of story and character ideas you just won’t find anywhere else.