Reimagining the Monk

fallinglynnWhile 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.

I would improve Touch the Void Dragon to add more STR boosts in addition to general ability scores.

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.

20 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. saekee
    Apr 03, 2016 @ 13:07:34

    Hi, I would add the following to the cores; maybe level 12:
    1) ninja core–when blocking or tumbling, gain 1% dodge per ki in ki bar, no cap
    2) shintao core–when blocking, gain 1PRR per ki in ki bar
    3) henshi core–as above but MRR & when holding a staff

    This makes an excellent tradeoff between offensive uses of ki vs active combat defenses

    • teachersyn
      Apr 03, 2016 @ 15:49:17

      I like those. I didn’t note what Epic adjustments could be done but I should do so. The unarmed Monk can hardly use most of the destinies don’t support improving unarmed damage.

  2. DDOCentral
    Apr 03, 2016 @ 21:24:59

    Reblogged this on DDOCentral.

  3. Paisheng
    Apr 05, 2016 @ 19:27:26

    I support your reasonable — effective and simple — add of .5 hit die/per level of monk as well as improved melee power in the epics while leaving the wrap coding as it is. I agree that monks may not hit as hard as barbs other fighter classes, but surely they should be the fastest. I believe one of the tier one enhancements should be the speed boost 30% for 30 seconds as the fighters get (and rogue acrobats). I hate cross training my monk to get that to still be the fastest. Finally a simpler fix to the Shintao enhancements that only support earth stance is to make it effective when centered, regardless of stance. Thanks for your ideas and I hope the devs are listening 🙂

    • teachersyn
      Apr 05, 2016 @ 20:19:37

      Thanks. Shintao needs versatility. Tanking for Earth, but bonuses to use different stances with, say, different weapons. I have so many ninjas with so much variation in weapons and attack. Single weapons. Two weapons. Bow. Shortswords. Kamas. Shuriken. Let’s add more weapon versatility, or even fighting styles (drunken master? Tiger style? Kicks only? Fists only?)

  4. PuddingCup
    Apr 05, 2016 @ 20:33:33

    Henshin needs A LOT more than just simple attack speed. Henshin is not a thief acrobat, and doesn’t need to be a clone of the thief acrobat. Thus, it needs to go a different direction, like how arcane archer is from deepwood, or how eldritch knight is from, say, archmage. Henshin is a supportive hybrid tree, not meant to be a one-trick pony with quarterstaves, but meant to deal both physical and magical damage in equal amounts.

    Your assessments of Henshin are way off the path to what it needs to be. For all your concerns over monks, you elaborate on shintao and merely scoff at henshin mystic, which, as it stands now, is the worst tree in the game both in damage and execution.

    • teachersyn
      Apr 06, 2016 @ 08:26:33

      Disagree. The Mystic’s overall versatility offensively is there. Now that handwraps and many other ki weapons with spell power effects drop regularly, a Mystic could try other attack options. But its tree is built for staves. The tree could use a few more spell power options, but these can be compensated by racial or Harper trees. I never had problems offensively with the Mystic, but surviving with one, since it can generate far more aggro than any Shintao, is the tree’s most problematic deficiency. Attack speed would help, but a Mystic should have far stronger defenses than it has, which is why Epic play with the tree is too difficult right now. I can generate far more damage in both physical and magical sides with a stock Mystic–and you pay the price when your AoE effects cause all to charge you. The general plan of the tree is fine and balanced offensely; the defense is non-existent.

      • PuddingCup
        Apr 06, 2016 @ 14:31:15

        I completely disagree. There’s a reason you don’t see more henshin mystics in the game.

        – Unreliable DC’s for ki abilities: you can’t utilize spell focus feats or items. Spellcasters that do have access to these things often have trouble in elite quests landing damaging spells on mobs with evasion or high reflexes. For all their DC capabilities, if a wizard, sorcerer, or spellsinger has a bit of trouble doing it, the henshin doesn’t stand a chance.

        – Half the tree is pointless and worthless in meaningful content if all you do is swing a quarterstaff, and if that is what you’re doing, then thief acrobat is ten times better in every way.

        – Ki damage doesn’t matter for 75% of the game’s content. If you do manage to hit an enemy with your ki attacks, the damage is still going to be low due to the lack of metamagic use. Also, what ki damaging abilities you do have are situational, slow to use, expensive, and have limited use.

        – Paladin syndrome; too many stats for too many things. You’re essentially going to be in melee for 70% of your time as a henshin, so you can’t dump con. Dex, int, and cha can be dumped or pumped as needed. The main issue is if you pump strength, your wisdom is lacking, meaning your ki DC’s will plummet into worthless territory. If you pump wisdom, your dps will suffer because of lower strength, and your ki DC’s still won’t be worthy of any use in any remotely end-game content. So, you can pump str and dump wis and have average damage and worthless ki damage, or pump wis and dump str and have low damage and low ki damage. There’s a no-win situation, here. A wisdom-to-attack/damage mod for quarterstaves would alleviate any issue on this front and open up interesting multiclass options with druids, clerics, and fvs.

        – Poor execution. Henshin is a classic example of something that looks good on paper but fails miserably when you get down to it. You have two abilities that require you to stand still and do nothing, something which is very much frowned upon in DDO’s fast-paced environment, and the abilities themselves harm your damage output rather than boost it. You have 8 AP worth of useless elemental word abilities nobody in their right mind would ever use because they do nothing for you. While not one of the more expensive trees, everything in the tree except for two things costs 2 AP per rank, making it annoying to level and more often than not, you don’t get the bang for the buck. This tree almost looks like it was an afterthought, and poorly designed.

        • teachersyn
          Apr 06, 2016 @ 22:18:57

          I agree on Elemental Words (a legacy formerly in Ninja Spy that isn’t too effective). Nor is it worth training to get the ill-placed Void Strike. But it’s also clear that you have an entirely different play style. My Mystic had very good WIS and STR, but from there, it couldn’t have high CON, essential for all the aggro it generated. I killed effectively, just not fast enough. I use ki a LOT for augmenting my damage on every Monk. Far too many players equate “ki is Monk spell points” and they fail when they don’t strategize how to use it. STR is the main stat for damage, like Shintao. I see far larger crits on Mystics for this reason. That said–cut the devs some slack. The Mystic didn’t EXIST before the enhancement pass, nor did most of the changes that make Ninja Spy far more versatile before the new trees. I’m confident that many of the ills of the tree are going to be addressed. I won’t address multiclassing, but I don’t discourage it, either. It’s not my thing and I let others far more experienced than I to ponder those options. Monks are all about balance–but the Mystic is clearly unbalanced in certain areas.

  5. Xeraphim
    Apr 06, 2016 @ 10:11:56

    Monks for ages have been known as extremely dangerous combatants for 3 solid reasons:
    1) They require a small portion of provisions and support, as the majority of their support is internal and provided by nature. This means standard battlefield tactics don’t work against them.
    2) They hit harder than any complex noun known to man has ever been capable of. A recent study of the Shaolin monk found that they can punch with the force of a small automobile crashing into something at 55MPH, concentrated into the size of a fist. They can do this extremely quickly, some monks punching as often as six times per second with freakish force.
    3) They are more difficult to injure than any known non-monk human being, even in full plate armor. The Shaolin art of “Iron Skin” shows just how sturdy the Monk is by disallowing a razor-sharp spear from puncturing a fellow’s gut in one video with two monks demonstrating it.

    Essentially, a Monk is to be the most fearsome and dangerous combatant and needs nearly no support. In DDO they would be “The ultimate fighter.” They rightly should put Fighters and Barbs and anyone else that uses weapons to shame. Sadly, we have the issue of balance demons crawling all over the forums and defecating on and in our beloved game regularly.

    The only reason Monks haven’t won any wars is because to a Monk, war is an abomination and should never be allowed to exist. The only way to win a war in a Monk’s eyes is to never let it happen in the first place, and they act accordingly.

    Now, introduce magic to these introspective geniuses and you have yourself nearly deific beings that can focus so intensely on magic that they literally become magical beings and gain strong psionic abilities. I doubt the devs at DDO understand what a Monk actually is.

    • teachersyn
      Apr 06, 2016 @ 10:37:18

      I was cool on everything you said except the very last sentence. The devs understand. But they are also attempting to keep the class interesting. But you can go too far and corrupt the essence of the class. I play Monks because of that very resilience and self sufficiency you note. I’d just like some attack variation and a lot of Mystic fixing.

  6. Hartanna
    Apr 07, 2016 @ 01:40:58

    I agree with the Teacher about the idea of having the Shintao tree be more versatile. My Shintao is never in the earth stance, as I prefer Fire or Ocean (fire mainly, but Ocean if I need the extra boost to my quivering palm). I do not agree about the idea that the only stat to main is STR, however. I am able to keep up with most fighters or other main killing machines as a WIS/DEX build with weapon’s finesse. I fight unarmed, but can still usually tank in most epic content with the right destiny (Sentinel puts me at about 1300 hp, and my healing ki heals me for about 300-400). I do wish we had void strike back, though I would say add it as a monk feat, similar to empty body or abundant step. I would say give it at level 12 or 15. also, curse of the void dragon needs to add more uses of meditation, say 1 every 2-3 monk levels. otherwise this almost useful enhancement just isn’t worth it, as you need to put several points into mystic to gain the extra uses, and only end up with 5.

    • teachersyn
      Apr 07, 2016 @ 10:12:45

      Thanks for that clarification. While the Shintao enhancements favor Earth stance, you don’t have to always use it–but you may miss out on enhancements that only work in that stance. Syncletica, my first Shintao, is a Wind stancer. Excellent speed but now gets eaten up because Shintao’s best defenses are less effective. Turn on Meditation of War before L20 and it’s downright painful. I wish that Shintao would be more beneficial to all stances. That said, Grandmaster of Flowers doesn’t make non-Earth stance use a cakewalk, either.

  7. Vladrich
    Apr 11, 2016 @ 16:24:34

    Returning to the game after a hiatus and finally hitting level 20 with my Henshin staff-wielder, I have noticed a few things now that I’m finally able to play with the Fury of the Wild destiny. (I’m a solo player so that affects my play style as well)
    Unlike when I had Vlad on my Ninja Spy fist/sword combo, I have to actively think about sources of healing. I’ll sneak through as much as I can, but I’ve noticed that without a good stun option I’m “tanking and spanking” more like my barbarian-alt than I ever did in Vlad’s first life. Of course I have all of my miss chances maxed out as high as I can, and I’m constantly cycling various debuffs (Unbalancing Strike to activate my sneak attack, Flash Bang to blind/stun, Wave of Despair on Touch of Despair finishers when I can’t turn my foes into charcoal with my fire attacks, knockdown on Adrenaline attacks, paralyze via finishers, Shadows Can’t Exist Without the Dawn for some serious healing in mid combat –about 280 with healing advancements–, etc) to screw with the enemy (and making sure I drop an All-Consuming Flame on bosses as I stand my ground in a Cauldron of Flame, 10% adds up in that inferno of death), but I do find myself needing a healer NPC more often than not. Pots of Haste have become a must depending on the boss. Thankfully Ki regen isn’t the problem that it used to be as I approached level 20, but even with Earth Stance it can be rough (and the Way of the Sun fire stance healing is really nice depending on the adventure).
    When I crit, I hit like a ton of bricks. It’s even more beautiful when I crit using Adrenaline, I easily hit four digit damage with a staff and take a noticeable hunk out of most bosses hp bar (about 1300 damage). That’s nothing to sneeze about, but that’s only possible with an almost maxed out destiny and doesn’t represent normal play with a henshin.
    I’m still getting used to the new equipment released in the last few patches, but I haven’t seen too much that really benefits a henshin. Gear requirements are a bit screwy for a enhancement tree that uses both spell-power and still need to beat things to death that you can’t avoid via sneaking; I’ve very much seen a need to try and balance my bonus fire damage and melee attacks (which can be tough but not impossible).
    If anything henshin reminds me of playing my dark knight in FF11 (way back in the day) where I’m constantly balancing my attacks between spells while trying not to bite off too much at the same time. You don’t get as much “bang” upfront like you do from being a caster, but casters don’t often crit with a staff and deal triple digit damage (around 300) in epic very often. The only downside is if it doesn’t burn then i’m far less effective against the mob, but not as bad as I feared while leveling up.
    What I’d like to see are the various Elemental Word Curses being more useful in combat, I’ll be honest that I’ve MAYBE used the cold version against certain fire-critters just to drop em faster, but I can honestly say that I’ve never used the acid or electric versions. I’ve given up on Embracing the Void (too expensive for 2 AP apiece) as nearly useless in combat, and Negotiator does the exact opposite of what I need to do in combat (I need the mobs to come into my circle of death, not away from it). Some melee attack speed with a a staff would be fantastic (I’m looking forward to the Haste feat when I reach a high enough level) and not having the Ki penalty to Lighting the Candle would be appreciated.

    • teachersyn
      Apr 13, 2016 @ 06:13:42

      Great observations on the Mystic and ninja that match up to my use, although you’ve clearly made some superior adjustments. Thanks!

      • Vladrich
        Apr 13, 2016 @ 16:17:58

        No problem! It’s been interesting trying out this build, even if the last four levels leading to 20 were horrific to earn at times (fist and shortswords were so much FASTER in how they killed end bosses than my staves) (and sorry about the rambling of the above post, I shouldn’t be mainlining coffee and working on multiple writing projects at once)

        I’ve learned a few things that I will probably take away with me if/when I TR and begin my monk life anew and try this build again after 30 (I went human with a very heavy investment into Str and Wis this last time) :

        1) Scale back slightly on both Str and Wis so I can add a bit more Constitution, would be welcome in this kind of build. I’m floating at a very healthy HP in the lower 500s with 2 levels of epic and almost maxing out my destiny currently, but standing still and taking the beating has made me nervous far more than I’d like to admit.

        2) Not even bothering taking Stunning Blow, I’m sure that I could have taken something more useful as I leveled up with how infrequently it lands (even with my spiffy new random loot staff with a huge stunning bonus). The stunning math is just against me.

        3) Begin stockpiling Haste pots, I’ll need em.

        4) Focus more on Ninja enchancements at lower levels to get a lot of the spiffy survival toys and skills, and less in Henshin until I start approaching level 10. Henshin just doesn’t add much until you get into higher levels anyways. Mystic almost is an “all or nothing” tree at times.

        5) Not wasting my time trying to lower hate from enemies: I need to crank it up to 500% when I need to clear a room.Instead of using a scalpel for surgery like I would with a Ninja, I have to realize that I’m doing the same surgery with a clue-by-four studded with nails against the patient and his entire family.

        6) And thank the shadows I perfected sneaking around in my first life and how to leverage all of the miss chances that I can get: It matters since I’m acting a bit like a barbarian without the heavier armors.

        Anyways, thanks for the great blog, I know many of us appreciate it!

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  9. Vladrich
    Apr 19, 2016 @ 14:26:37

    I had an observation that I’d like to ask other Mystic players if they’ve run into: when I’ve been playing around in epic content I’ve noticed that I always have far more ki than I can possibly use in combat. I’m not just swinging away with my staff and failing to use my monk special abilities, I just produce it faster in both Earth and Fire stances that I can possibly use even against bosses. Does anyone else experience this or is this just unique to my play style?
    If this isn’t a unique experience, could chunk of the solution to some of the “quirkiness” of the mystic enhancements be in letting mystics pump more ki into our ki strikes and finishing moves for bigger attacks?

    • teachersyn
      Apr 19, 2016 @ 19:20:50

      Or, allow them to use ki to boost defenses, attack or even speed. It would be like the Spirit Charges that Primal Avatars can build up to activate abilities. Nice idea. You should send that to the devs!

      • Vladrich
        Apr 21, 2016 @ 12:38:09

        To be honest I wouldn’t know where to begin with submitting that idea to the Devs, but I do like the idea of boosting defense, attack, or even speed as well like the Primal Avatar’s Spirit Charges. I guess it’s research time when I get off work.

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