At several points there has been some discussion about, as Maliloki put it, "world-building" monk abilities: social skills, knowledge of history or literature, animals, plants, etcetera. The original Player's Handbook had monks talking to animals and plants, for example. We're used to tropes where monks are able to talk to birds or sense the emotional status of the surrounding natural landscape. The Chinese term "jianghu," which describes the hermit-like nature of the monk, means literally "rivers and lakes." This would seem to suggest a druidic root to the monk's background.
However, just as I mean to consider the monk a universal class and not one based on Eastern mythology, the druid is also a universal class and not based on Western mythology. The descriptions of jianghu will apply as well to druids as to monks. Druids are also hermits. Druids can also manipulate qi.
As such, I want these classes distinguished from one another. I rush to point out that there are three other means by which a monk can gain skills as a cultivator, a social climber, a scholar or any one of the sage abilities ascribed to the other classes:
- First, the monk can have parents that possessed these skills and gave them to the monk. This is part of my background generator. It presumes you grew up around your father, that you gained his skills as a young child, and that today you're able to act upon those skills. Since farming is a very common thing for your father to have had as an occupation, this explains all the western monks who have formed colonies to cultivate vinyards and farms. Too, a monastery only needs one "farmer." The rest of the participants will learn to farm as they spend their years tilling and tending the plants. There's no need to create a sage study that will cover something that can be done as a virtual laborer.
- Second, the monk may have the opportunity to cross-train due to their high wisdom. This, too, is part of the background generator. It is a random chance, but if it is gained by the correct roll against the character's wisdom, the character can take any study from any class and include it in their own sage abilities. Thus, some monks will have history, alchemy or literature in their knowledge base, as well as a potential knowledge of plants, animals or anything else. We have to ask the question, do all monks need this as part of their class construction?
- Finally, the monk may choose to be multi-classed. I know this isn't acceptable in the player's handbook but I have no limitations on mixing classes, whether a character is human or any other permissible race. Therefore, a character can be a cleric-monk, a druid-monk, a paladin-monk, a mage-monk or what have you. This means a full slate of sage abilities from the alternate class, so that many monks who have chosen more than one class would be well versed in druidic, clerical, magical or bardic fields of pursuit.
Remember that eventually the monk, as it improves, gains ALL the amateur studies associated with the class. As they get really high level, they'll get all the authority levels for all the classes as well. Are all monks musicians? Alchemists? Historians? I don't believe that they are or that they should be. I want the monk class to be distinct and not watered down with a lot of abilities that really ought to be the domain of other classes, that shouldn't in turn have to compete with the monk. The druid should feel that the druid is the center of attention where plants and animals are concerned. The monk should be the center of attention where focus on the body as a unique and profound fighting style is concerned.
Like recently where I have begun treating the assassin as one of the fighter class, I feel that the monk, too, is properly a "fighter." Not a spellcaster and not a thief. I have chosen to strip most of the thieving abilities from the monk, with the exception of stealth and climbing. Likewise, I have also chosen to strip those abilities that are magical in nature, such as avoiding magical damage or speaking with plants and animals.
The monk is properly a creature that has spent so much time concentrating on the methodical training necessary to accomplish the monk's feats that they are virtually unschooled where it comes to the outside world. This, too, is a trope ~ and I believe the more definitive one. It is true that a monk is always cast as someone with wisdom (mostly Kant-derived wisdom, but hey, it's the movies and television), but the bigger descriptor is someone who just doesn't "get" the world. "Why do ordinary people act so strangely?" This is written on the face of every monk who finds that they are cast out into the world. This is just as true with the European monk as it is with the Asian.
So I intend to cripple the monk by making them the best fighter and combat artist in the game ~ but the worst social component in a party. Not uncharismatic, necessarily, but not the character with the answers about how this bridge works or what rocks are these, what is the local law here or can I mend a pair of shoes. For these things, I want my monk to be surprised, confused, and unsure about how to react.
Do look at the comic below. I will have a new one when Saturday begins.