While I don’t think the Monk class as a whole are underpowered (far from it), there are some serious arguments on the Shintao Monk’s future being raised on several threads in the past. The Henshin Mystic is also a peeve to me.
The Shintao represents the traditional form of the Monk: Unarmed combat.
Shintaos keep to a strict use of STR to determine damage from unarmed combat and DEX for the attack rolls. In theory, the higher your STR, the more damage you deal.
The problem for me is, unlike the Ninja Spy tree, there isn’t much versatility in the Shintao or Mystic trees, and that needs fixing.
It’s Not About More Damage
It’s been a bit since Lynncletica was an Epic character, a hardy Shintao Monk that has soloed the Subterrane, and braved the haunted deeps of Thunderholme. She’s on her way now to Epicland and dedicating her training to be a raid tanker.
With the recent healing amplification adjustments, Lynncletica’s already-potent HP recovery with Healing Ki (which would bring back 1/3 of her health at the least) will likely bring back 2/3, not to mention the vampiric boosts to Fists of Light.
But that’s not what a central thread or two on the state of Monks is concentrating on.
To most of the posters, it’s all about damage.
Now, I’ve never had a problem landing powerful hits with Lynn. I clear things just fine. So I pose this argument: Perhaps some people are just too damned impatient and want to clear monsters with a Shintao Monk in the same way that a Barbarian does. That’s not the role of the class.
Monks are the lesser damaging of the melee classes by design. What? You expect to hit as hard with a fist as you would with a sword and very high STR? That’s incredulous. But that doesn’t mean that there may be some…some…lack of damage present on Monks in Epic levels.
This presumes one thing: You’re running a pure Monk. You can’t expect all the damage benefits of a pure Monk to be present in a splashed one. The better core abilities and enhancements appear at these higher levels.
I would tweak the Unarmed Strike feat to boost damage more for every Monk level, including Epic. That’s it. It doesn’t require scary recoding of handwraps as weapons, which could cause far greater game-breaking issues since handwraps have been notoriously unstable to be begin with. Such coding would affect crafted wraps, wraps already looted, and problematic wraps such as metal-laced ones or those with special features such as piercing.
Further, Epic Monks should gain perhaps an additional +5 Melee Power per level. This would require 20 Monk levels to receive. Otherwise you gain the usual Melee Power as all characters do.
I’m deliberately ignoring any points on the Shintao enhancements overall here. So where can the tree stand some re-tweaking to help with general unarmed damage?
What’s a Better Shintao Monk?
An improved Shintao Monk tree shouldn’t overly favor Earth Stance. In fact, it should have toggles to benefit the Shintao while in certain stances. Similar effects come from a specific item revered by Monks: the Jidz-Tet’ka bracers. You also see Monk stance effects augmented by the Grandmaster of Flowers Epic Destiny.
Now, adding stance-based augmentations shouldn’t change the focus of the Shintao’s role. She’s not a berserker like the Barbarian or a pure tanker or front-line fighter as the Paladin. I’d want to see greater adaptation of the tree against all manner of extraplanar, aberration and undead creatures. Moving over the old Tainted ki strikes and improving the levels of unarmed DR bypassing was not enough.
Some might point to the changes we got from the Tier 5 Meditation of War enhancement. From what I’ve read, this enhancement is often the most reviled, and I agree. To me, it’s a double-penalty. You already have less defense in Wind Stance, for instance. Why should Meditation of War magnify this for a poor boost to attack off-hand chance and damage? The DC boosts to tactical feats are laughable in Fire Stance as it lowers defense.
Water Stance is a natural defensive stance but Meditation of War drops damage by 10%. No wonder we never use this enhancement unless in Earth Stance, where you gain more PRR at the price of lower Dodge. It’s the lesser of many evils.
The Empty Hand Mastery enhancement should go from 1d6 to 1d10, instead of 1d8.
The To Seek Perfection core ability should give +4 WIS and +4 STR.
And, as there’s no Monk that has mastery of kamas, the Shintao should add an option to perfect damage with kamas.
See a pattern?
Shintao Monks determine damage by STR. WIS is needed for the Stunning DCs, sure, but because of the Monk’s need to have many ability scores somewhat balanced, we’ve never been able as players to give STR as great an emphasis as Fighters and Barbarians can do. This (and other adjustments) should reflect greater STR or Melee Power boosts to a revised Shintao tree in Heroic and Epic levels.
So, that’s it. I’d rather tweak enhancements and feats to significantly improve the Shintao’s overall damage rather than have recoding break not only the handwraps but the role of Shintaos themselves. The mechanics of the Monk are fine. To avoid breaking the game, simply tweak up the Monk granted Unarmed Strike feats and enhancements noted.
Defensively, the tree is fine. Epic Shintaos should be entering Epic Elite with no less than 150% Fortification; 200% would be optimal. Their unarmed strikes should be at 80-120 base damage per hit. Since they strike faster, this adds up quick and should offset the slower kill rate a bit over other melee classes that strike far harder.
Updating the Mystic
I loved the Henshin Mystic when it first arrived. The damage it can do with quarterstaves is extremely nasty, especially with criticals–more than the Shintao but a bit less than my Zen Archer build.
However, the Mystic lacks two critical points that must be addressed: Attack speed and defense.
I would suggest +3 untyped PRR per core enhancement, with a +10 PRR bonus by the last core. Perhaps as well, a +2 AC bonus per core. I wouldn’t also be against a new finishing move or enhancement for the tree that gives temporary Dodge or Ghostly.
Most importantly, the Mystic tree needs the same attack speed as the Thief-Acrobat, although they might reach that speed more slowly than the Acrobat. Most players tend to multiclass in Rogue just to get the Mystic’s speed up. That shouldn’t be necessary. The speed types should be anti-prerequisites as well, naturally.
One More Thing
Put back a simple Void Strike feat attack back in the game, already, for the love of God.
Ever since the initial enhancement tree introduction, no other Monk except the Mystic can use the Void Strike–and that required a ridiculous tier 5 enhancement. This completely broke the Moment of Clarity and Curse of the Void finishers, which require a Void attack.
Just make it a feat so that any class can add in a 1 to 6 damage attack that also reactivates those finishers when they are eligible in the normal leveling.
I hope the developers do not consider changing handwraps to weapons. This can be a disastrous decision because the coding for all types, including crafted ones, will kill the class until functionality is restored. I’m normally not particularly one to go “d00m!!1” about things, but I’ve been around the game long enough to see how even the slightest change in handwraps often screw up things in a very bad way.
Handwrap code is stable. Just boost the features of feats and update a few key enhancements in the Shintao and Mystic trees for versatility, speed, and defense.
Touch the Ninja Spy tree and I will be unhappy. It’s perfect as it is.