Are Monks Really Broken?


Monks are far from “broken,” but some trees could use a lot of love.

There are several threads on the DDO forums that discuss the state of the Monk class and how some feel is “broken.”

Here’s some initial advice for those in the threads, and I’m paraphrasing a dev here. Merely calling something “broken” without specific examples and reasons does not aid your case with the developers. As programmers and producers who also have a world to keep in balance so that neither enemies or players are particularly overpowered, developers need real data, not just your mood.

There’s also the matter of remembering that the Monk class is based on many D&D fundamentals that likely won’t change. This especially includes the fact that, both in DDO and D&D, Monks always have less HP than a Fighter. This is a game mechanic that you must overcome as a player, and plenty of us have done so.

That said, over a few threads and even on a DDOCast episode that Shamgar was kind to invite me, I’ve spoken my take on what in the Monk class enhancements could be improved or left alone.

In this post, I’m going to try make my thoughts at their most cohesive for my “official” opinion that the devs can consider with all the other player’s thoughts.

Unarmed Combat

This is the most-discussed topic, and the suggestions disturb me as much as what Update 19 did to the Monk elemental stance formats.

Many want handwraps to become true weapons. This would mean that the Monk’s body is not (necessarily) counted as the weapon in terms of coding. That’s what the Unarmed feat generates and why other classes who fight unarmed do not generate the same damage as Monks.

But we all know too well how handwraps can get buggy. Perhaps a change to handwraps as weapons would de-bug the situation. I think not, since much of the game, especially crafting in quests and in House Cannith, have dependencies in that coding.

I say, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

Rather, change the simple weapon damage output for Unarmed. It should scale higher for every Monk level, and really be more effective in Epic play. That’s just adjusting a feat.

You can’t expect Monks to work like Fighters and Barbarians. Even if handwraps get changed, you shouldn’t see Monks necessarily matching or even outperforming the best melee classes. They have other talents to offset this. Getting a “bigger, better weapon” doesn’t offset other intrinsic issues for other melee classes, so why would this work here?

As for difficulty class saves, this requires more attention. An unarmed Monk must use STR to determine damage, DEX for Reflex and to-hit and AC, CON for survivability, and WIS for their DCs. I fear that, often, players treat their Monks more as Fighters. boosting (logically) their STR and/or DEX but neglecting their WIS, and thus things just don’t land.

I don’t usually experience this problem; I often boost WIS higher, especially with Ninja Spies, because I use finishing moves that stick on Epic Hard easily, even some Epic Elites. Once I paralyze, blind, or mute enemies, I gain a lot of damage from their Helplessness. But then, Ninja Spies gain DEX-to-Damage with shortswords, and I use these as their primary weapons, reducing my dependency on STR.

So having four critical abilities to keep high is tough on an unarmed Monk. Balance is one thing, as a class trait, but there has to be a way to improve overall at least the tactical DCs, of which Stunning Fist, our hallmark unarmed attack, is involved. Perhaps an Epic feat that allows you to use STR as your DC modifier for Stunning Fist would be welcome.

I’m not going down the route of other DCs for Monk abilities like Quivering Palm. That should remain a WIS DC, and yes, you can get it high enough. Quivering Palm isn’t meant to be used as a spamming Assassinate, but the devs at least added bonuses to your attempts if you’re trying to do so.

Armed Combat

I love quarterstaves, shortswords, shuriken and kamas. But let’s consider that daggers are smaller than shortswords and shouldn’t cause Monks to be uncentered. And kamas are just a type of sickle.

Let’s add daggers and sickles into the mix for any Monk.

Henshin Mystic Combat and Defense

I love the Mystic’s weaponizing of ki. But it’s combat speed with staves should approach, if not match, the level of Thief-Acrobats. Hell, the Acrobat is more like a Mystic than a Mystic.

Mystics also have terrible overall defenses, needed since they are really a melee class, not a caster. Rather than a massive revision of the tree, I’d suggest:

  • Adding Dodge bonuses and bonus AC for each core ability. 2% Dodge and 3 AC per core would do nicely. The last core would also give a 5% increase to Dodge cap (not stackable with Ninja Spy’s Agility).
  • Adding a Mystic effect for 25% Incorporeality for 30 seconds to self and to party, a finishing move buff. Void/Void/Void would work, especially if a lesser Void Strike would return to the feats.
  • Increased attack speed with quarterstaves. Make it identical and anti-prerequisite to the Acrobat.

Elemental Stance Enhancements

As noted, the Shintao Monk tree all but exclusively requires the use of Earth Stance.

Why not create a new tree that, similar to effects that favor elemental acuity in the Season’s Herald Druid or the many Sorcerer trees, give specialized training to the other three stances? The effects would only work most effectively in a particular stance except Earth Stance, and provide either an offensive or defensive advantage that can be increased by training. AP would limit the player from becoming too crazed and encourage fostering one path. In short, let’s think “Avatar: The Last Airbender” here.

Here are some samples that pop in my head:

Water Stance: You are mastering Cold attacks and the nature of ice to slip and slide, powerful enough to push even a mountain away. Your ultimate attack can freeze an enemy for up to 12 seconds (cooldown of 1 minute) and reduce the enemy fortification by 10%. Lesser attacks also increase your Cold damage, armed or unarmed, except for ranged weapons (but not thrown). Your Dodge cap is increased by 1% for every Cold enhancement trained while Water Stance is active. Because Cold does not favor the swift, you also lose 2% of your movement speed.

The restriction to ranged, but not thrown weapons is to support the star-throwers but not bows because they already have the Arcane Archer option.

Fire Stance: You master the art of flame and its tendency to burn. Your ultimate attack sears enemies with immolating flames for a time, briefly blinding them and reducing their offensive prowess, especially enemy Fire resistance. Other lesser enhancements will increase your Fire damage with ki attacks. Your healing amplification is boosted by 1% for each Fire enhancement you train while Fire Stance is active. Because Fire is indiscriminate to what it burns, you lose 2% of your HP.

Ice elementals, beware.

Wind Stance: You master the power of that which is not seen yet can knockdown a whole forest with great speed. Your ultimate attack causes a thunderous area-of-effect knockdown with enemies, causing them substantial Lightning damage as they fall with a failed Reflex save. Lesser enhancements will increase your Electric ki attack damage. You gain 2% Doublestrike for each Wind enhancement trained while Wind Stance is active. Because Wind is a free spirit that can be stopped by solids, you lose 1 AC for each Wind enhancement.

The tier 5 path would give the “ultimate” reward from an offensive mode. Wind could have a chance to activate a chain-lightning effect on knockdown. Ocean could have a chance to cause a Freezing Ice area-of-effect or a Tomb-of-Jade freeze effect with a 1 minute cooldown. Fire stance could cause an immolation effect that logically creates a Fear effect as the monster runs away, burning alive. You can only choose one, but of course can always respec your enhancements. Imagination can run wild here.

Again, since the Shintao tree is already favored to Earth, there’s no need to give that stance any advantages.

The Least Broken Enhancement Tree

The Ninja Spy remains a near-perfect enhancement tree. Every enhancement found there reflects abilities that make any Monk, trained with even a portion of these skills, quite the certified badass.

With Update 19, my gameplay focus turned to 80% Ninja Spy, nearly forsaking my venerable Shintao Monks, for reasons already noted. In fact, I claim there is nothing broken in the Ninja Spy enhancements.

That said, I make a couple of suggestions:

  • Let’s make the ninja look more like a ninja. Other classes have special ways to hold their weapons, such as the orbs for spellcasters, and rune arms for Artificers. Give ninjas a reverse-grip hold on swords held in their main hand. For SWF ninjas, it’ll look awesome. For two-weapon ninjas, they’re REALLY looking masterful with the off-hand in the forward grip and the reverse grip in the main. If possible, when a ninja holds a shuriken in their main hand, the off-hand weapon, if any, should go reverse-grip, too.
  • Allow Sting of the Ninja to work on Centered bows. I don’t want to make Ninja Poison too prevalent, but it’s illogical for shurikens to be poisonous but not arrows from a bow. I can understand if this is rejected. Since when do you envision a ninja with a bow? But then, Ninja Poison also has a Poisoned Darts core ability, so there’s a precedent.



21 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. saekee
    May 04, 2015 @ 10:43:57

    Neat ideas! I think the ninja capstone needs tweaking. Right now, aside from the vorpal, it is equivalent to core 3 of swash. It should get a boost like rogue lethality, boosting the multiplier way up–at least to x3.

    • teachersyn
      May 04, 2015 @ 10:45:53

      More Assassin skillz. Logical since ninjas ARE assassins by definition. But keeping it to the highest tier also forces people to commit, which I’m fond of encouraging. And that change would also encourage more shortsword usage.

      • saekee
        May 04, 2015 @ 12:49:49

        I think ninja capstone should include longswords–although one would still need WSS. Note how no ninja weapons or longswords appeared in the loot of the last update…

        We can add the problem of WSS being costly in exchange for a slightly less poor weapon lol. Am using it now and actually liking long swords–will see how the Oathblade works out.

        WSS should not only grant long sword use but also buff short swords and Kamas in some way, like adding a few MP when they are wielded.

        • teachersyn
          May 04, 2015 @ 14:39:38

          Hard to veto the longsword, although that’s less ninja or monk and more samurai. Still, some class support on this would be better than having to go Kensei and weaken one tree for another. That’s a good topic for me to tackle: What new classes/enhancements should be in the game, based on current D&D classes?

  2. longshotist
    May 04, 2015 @ 11:40:32

    I love these thought out, colorful ideas! And cosmetically that reverse grip would be very, very cool.

  3. tocaia
    May 04, 2015 @ 15:40:36

    That ninja reverse weapon hold would be awesome indeed. But what about the attack and defense animation? Would need a rework… devs could even try to variate those sound effects when you hit a monster. Whether you use a bludgeoning, piercing or slash, it always sound “ploc, ploc, ploc, plac-ploc”..

    Attack animations for everyone!

    (By the way, that reverse weapon hold is a stance called “Jotsuke No Kamae”.)

    The alignment never bothered anyone?? I always thought to myself monks could not be necessarily lawful or good. Why not chaotic? Chaotic has its open minded freedom..

    Why not neutral?? Argh!@

    We know ddo won’t ever allow Evil characters, but good and evil are sides of the same coin, relatives. Same goes by Law and Chaos.

    (Yes, my dream is to make a radical barbaric low monk. Or a sarcastic mouther bardic one.)


    • teachersyn
      May 04, 2015 @ 15:48:06

      Hey there. Monks have to be Lawful, so you can go Neutral. Basic D&D rules, there. As for animations, it would be great if this were a customization where specific classes that use weapons can have variations. But I’m biased and I want only the ninjas to have it. 🙂 DDO wants us to resolve the chaos, not become it as some games do, with varying degrees of failure or confusion. And there’s Chaotic Neutral for some classes or races, too.

  4. DDOCentral
    May 05, 2015 @ 08:07:19

    Reblogged this on DDOCentral.

  5. Trackback: DDOCast 381 – DDO Debates: Raid Bosses, Grouping, and More « DDOcast – A DDO Podcast!
  6. erdrique
    May 09, 2015 @ 21:36:54

    I really like those ideas as well. It would definitely create some diversity in monk builds!!

  7. Windaar
    May 15, 2015 @ 18:06:06

    love the idea of the different trees for different stances. I’ve been playing a monk for 3 years now, and I still miss the way it was prior to U17 and the enhancement trees.

    I do have one critique about when you say shintao is a purely mountain-stance tree. to be honest, I avoid the earth stance enhancements altogether. I am mainly in sun-stance, and that means that I am able to get my ki high enough to do constant buffs/heals as needed in a fight without having to wait for my enemies to hit me enough. and considering most of the special abilities of the shintao tree have a WIS based save, I could see it being useful running in ocean as well.

    other than that, I love your ideas. and could we see a lesser void attack again as a feat? I would like to be able to put the void:light:void or the void:dark:void finishers back on my bar, but unless I go pure henshin there is no way to. considering the dark version is more suited to a ninja-spy, this makes no sense.

    • teachersyn
      May 15, 2015 @ 22:06:53

      It’s been a while since I’ve played my Shintaos at high levels. And never for long in Fire stance. But I think a revisit of the stances is due, based on your insights. My ninjas are time suckers because they really have a great tree that has lots of versatility. I should see about the Shintao again. Are they really one-stance unarmed fighters? Still want that Void Strike back. 😀

      • Windaar
        May 16, 2015 @ 13:08:26

        I hope my insight helps. And yes, I definitely want that void strike back. I think my main monk died a little when they got rid of it as a feat.

        I have begun working a bit with the ninjas, but I’m not sure I like the idea that I have to constantly switch dark finisher toggles to get the stacks of ninja poison and then remove them for damage. is there something I have missed that would give those stacks without the finisher?

        • teachersyn
          May 18, 2015 @ 08:18:44

          If you have Sting of the Ninja trained, it will deliver 1 stack of Ninja Poison on a critical hit by itself; Poisoned Soul not required. And the Poisoned Darts core ability also shoot a cone of darts that give 1-4 stacks. For my Poison Master, rarely do I use Poisoned Exploit mode where I rip poison out. But when I do, it’s on a boss. I’ll stay in Poisoned Soul mode, maximizing the stacks before switching to Exploit mode and ripping it out. Often this misses as would any attack and all that work seems for nothing. But they’re still loaded with Poison DoTs. You know that weapons with Poison enhancements are magnified, too, as is Venomed Blades from Ninja Poison’s vulnerability?

          • Windaar
            May 18, 2015 @ 15:04:18

            actually, I didn’t know about that. that will help a lot for damage. so I guess I will just keep using the wave of despair and save the poison stacks for bosses. now I just wish ninjas could get a slight boost to attack speed with short swords…that would make for a very nice damage output.
            would also like to see them either reduce the faster sneaking cost to 1/1/1, or make it the same as the new assassin version that goes up 25/50/75% sneak speed. of course, I can see why they will probably not reduce the cost, as even my shintao still gets enough points left over to max that out… and people do complain at times about the monk being too fast, for some reason…but it would be nice if the two were the same.

            • teachersyn
              May 18, 2015 @ 16:17:17

              My Poison Master doesn’t see Ninja Poison proc often on trash because the Wounding shortswords weaken and kill them so quickly. But on bosses, the Ninja Poison sinks deep. The Tiefling Assassin’s Blade is a fine sword even into L20. That Ninja Poison DoT is deadly with the right sword. Remember that Monk movement speed stacks with the ninja Faster Sneaking. I can sneak about as fast as most classes run. The Assassin’s boost now simply matches the ninja’s total speed. Wave of Despair is a great game changer when you can’t poison (like in Amrath).

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