Monks are psionicists, proficient in focusing their bodies through the mystical energy known as psionics or ki in order to defend themselves while unarmed or to strike their foes with deadly power. Due to their special training monks are, in fact, as capable in combat as fully armed warriors typically are, striking with as much lethality as many fighters, rangers, or rogues. Additionally, most monks are capable of affecting their enemies in other ways.
Sabuti Shanardanda was a notable monk from Amn during the Era of Upheaval. Danica Maupoissant was another notable monk studying at Spirit Soaring (Edificant Library). Grandmaster Kane is an incredibly powerful monk of the order of Ilmater, one of the companions of Gareth Dragonsbane who assisted him in defeating the evil witchking Zhengyi.
Monastic traditions appear to have originally arisen in Amn and Calimshan simultaneously, though traditions from Kara-Tur and other material planes have since immigrated to Faerûn and may have, in fact, originated earlier. Most monastic orders are devoted to the worship and internalization of the ideals of a god, though others do not and it is not required for the practice of a monk’s lifestyle, since a monk’s power comes from within, rather than from divine sources. Gods more commonly worshiped by monks tend to be either gods like Bahamut who are champions of virtue, deities of battle such as Tempus, or those who require of their followers a disciplined lifestyle. Monks of Ilmater, Shar, Yondalla are also common, and members of the Shining Hand were devoted to Azuth prior to the exarch's death.
Monks usually live in monasteries, which can be found throughout all of Toril, though most commonly in Amn, Calimshan, Damara, Kara-Tur, the Lake of Steam, or Silverymoon, as well as Mulhorand prior to the Spellplague. It is here where monks rigorously train the mastery of their bodies and minds, notably being able to defend themselves with their bare hands and certain specialized weapons. Due to the discipline imposed by this training, all monks are of an orderly, some would say lawful, temperament. However, monasteries, and the monks that reside within, may vary in morality. Good monasteries are servants of the people, protecting them from bandits and other threats. Evil monasteries, on the other hand, can become tyrannical bastions, ruling the surrounding lands through fear or serving despots as spies and assassins. Most monks adhere to neither extreme, however.
Most monks come to their individual monastery at an early age, either as orphans or members of starving families. However, relatively few of these monks feel any close connection to their previous families or friends from before joining the monastery, though they may or may not feel such a connection to their fellow students. Other monks come from a different background, most often within cities where masters of an order set up schools to teach the fighting style and traditions of his or her order to prospective students.
Most monks are humans, yet another example of humanity’s ever-varying and ever-changing culture. Similarly, many monks who are not human are half-humans such as half-elves or half-orcs, the latter in particular being well-suited for a physical rigors of a monk’s life. Elves can be, due to their unusually long lives, agility, and single-minded approach towards arts and disciplines, be potentially well-suited for the life of a monk. However, dwarves, in spite of their hierarchical and orderly culture, find the concept of the monk unusual and only very rarely do dwarven monks make themselves known. Likewise gnomish and halfling monks, with the exception of stronghearts, are not particularly common. Similarly, monks are a completely alien tradition to the more savage humanoids such as orcs or goblinoids.
The body is a wonderful and little understood thing, capable of amazing feats that most would consider impossible. Through the use of various meditation techniques, monks gain complete mastery over their body and harness its power in wonderful ways. For example, they can support themselves on a single extended finger for an indefinite period of time, shatter bones, wood, stone, and armor with a single blow of their hand or foot, break solid stone with their head, move with unnatural speed, dodge and deflect incoming missiles such as arrows, leap incredibly high and far, gain an unbelievable agility, control rapid movements of their body with perfect precision, achieve strength far beyond that of persons of similar body build, and make themselves perfectly rigid and immoveable.
Monks’ psionic mastery of martial arts does not require them to fight without armor, although they do gain benefits from eschewing it for an unarmored defense, acquiring a unique ability to sense and avoid attacks, sometimes enhanced by their experience and ability to percieve or intuit. Likewise, monks often use only their bare hands as weapons, delivering powerful blows that grow stronger as the monk increases in power. Monks are, however, trained as well in the use of clubs, daggers, spears, slings, shurikens, and quarterstaffs. Of these, monks can use their unarmed strikes, clubs, daggers, staffs, or spears as implements to enhance their psionic powers, known as disciplines. Some monks are also trained in the use of crossbows, handaxes, nunchaku, kamas, or sianghams and, in particular, prefer the use of kamas and sianghams, which are small enough and specialized enough to allow them to use their unarmed techniques.
As melee combatants, monks are more or less equivalent to more traditional warriors in skill and deadliness, learning a number of techniques that give them an edge over their armed foes. Monks can also learn to stun their opponents and as they grow more experienced some monks learn a number of other methods, becoming capable of deflecting missile attacks or killing a foe with a single blow.
All monks are unusually focused and many are difficult to charm or enchant. Monks can also use this focus, as well as their psionic power, to affect their own body in unusual ways. With a little training, for instance, monks can become adept at using their surroundings to slow their descent when falling to nonlethal speeds. They can also gain an affinity with their surroundings, taking on some of their characteristics (for example, becoming like stone to escape the effects of a fireball). Likewise, monks may be able to purify their body, gaining immunity to common illnesses and the ability to heal themselves at will. With additional training, monks learn to halt their aging, speak with any creature, gain immunity to poisons, or gain an unusual degree of resistance to virtually all supernatural effects.
- ↑ Rob Heinsoo, Mike Mearls. Playest: Monk (PDF). Dragon magazine 375 p. 65-66.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams (August 2000). Player's Handbook 3rd edition, p. 37. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 0-7869-1551-4.
- ↑ Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition, p. 24. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 Rob Heinsoo, Mike Mearls. Playest: Monk (PDF). Dragon magazine 375 p. 66.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition, p. 25. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams (August 2000). Player's Handbook 3rd edition, p. 38. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 0-7869-1551-4.
- ↑ Rob Heinsoo, Mike Mearls. Playest: Monk (PDF). Dragon magazine 375 p. 67.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams (August 2000). Player's Handbook 3rd edition, p. 39. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 0-7869-1551-4.
- ↑ Rob Heinsoo, Mike Mearls. Playest: Monk (PDF). Dragon magazine 375 p. 67-68.
- ↑ Rob Heinsoo, Mike Mearls. Playest: Monk (PDF). Dragon magazine 375 p. 70-77.
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams (August 2000). Player's Handbook 3rd edition, p. 39-40. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 0-7869-1551-4.