"Whether your passion is the classic unarmed mystic, the non-mystic martial artist, the armored sohei, the zen meditative archer, or something entirely different, The Talented Monk gives you the building blocks to create the monk of your imagination."
As with most gamers, there are a handful of classes that speak to me. The first character I ever created was a half-elf ranger way back in 1st edition. In 2nd edition I started playing with the ranger-druid multiclass. v3.* and Pathfinder re-envisioned the rangers and druids like I always pictured them--highly skilled and agile wilderness warriors and shapeshifting masters of animals, respectively. As much as the nature-based classes have ruled my roleplaying career there's been one other class that fascinates me, one that I always consider playing but rarely do. The monk.
I love gender and genre bending and mystic martial artists turn the western fantasy genre on its ear. They are the Kung Fu of the gaming world only instead of a martial artist in the Old West, they wander the worlds inspired by Tolkein. For decades people have argued about their validity in the many western settings of D&D. I've played monks in every edition (yes, even 4th), but rarely for long. I've bought every supplement I could find in order to fix the elusive problems I've had with monks on the table and it's taken me years to realize that I'm not in love with monks, just the idea of them.
The problem with the monk is that the game's vision of it is static. Unlike the cleric or fighter, monks have few opportunities for individualization, yet they arguably have more examples in literature, film, and TV to draw on for inspiration. Most editions and settings have supplements that tweak or specialize the monk, but very few pull far enough away from the core class to be truly called unique. It looks like Owen Stephens from Rogue Genius Games has finally given me what I wanted.
In The Talented Monk, Owen strips the class to its foundation. The Edge/Talent system introduced in The Talented Fighter and Talented Rogue is a lifesaver for the variety of builds that monk fans have wanted.
Talented monks start with good saves in all categories, 4+Int skill points, d8 HD, a very limited list of weapon proficiencies, and their standard BAB. Flurry of blows is now an edge, so its place on the chart is taken by something called the Specialty Attack Bonus. The SAB follows the fighter progression but can only be used in limited circumstances, such as with weapons the monk gains through the Fighting Style edge.
All other class features are bought through edges and talents, allowing you to mix-and-match your features to fit your vision.
Edges vs Talents
Edges represent the foundation of a class' training, where talents are the skills and abilities developed over the course of a monks worldly experience. Edges are front-loaded into the class and represent the major powers and abilities the monk has developed over the years before reaching level 1; for example, advice, evasion, fast movement, fighting styles, or ki pools. Monks gain 3 edges at 1st level, plus an additional edge at 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 8th, and 20th.
Talents represent skills and abilities the monk develops as he explores the boundaries of his body and mind. Monks gain two talents each at 1st, 2nd and 3rd, and then one additional talent every level after (except 8th). Talents often improve or modify edges and include powers such as blindsense, elemental fist, martial stances, improved evasion, or expert advice. At 10t level, the monk can choose from Advanced Talents like blindsight, diamond soul, quivering palm, or greater ki (weapons).
Instead of being limited to Perfect Body as a 20th level end-cap, the monk may choose from six Grand Talents, including immortality, master of dragons, perfect self, perfect style, pure power and true sacrifice.
Monks no longer gain unarmed combat, AC bonuses, flurry of blows or a Ki pool as class features. You can use your starting edges to buy the Ki Pool, Flurry of Blows, and Unfettered Kata edges, plus the Deadly Strikes and Stunning Fist talents to creates the classic monk if you want, but why reinvent the wheel?
You can now buy Fighting Style (polearms), Flurry of Blows, and Ki pool edges, plus the Flowing Dodge and Light Armor Kata talents to create an armored naginata-fighter with a mystic edge. The Advice, Learned, and Unfettered Kata edges, plus the Deadly Strikes and Stunning Fist talents creates a martial artist raised in a library as much as the sparing ring. Like the idea of the zen archer? Take the Fighting Style (bows), Insightful Strike, and Flurry of Blows edges, plus the Blindsense and Reflexive Shot talents.
With 6 edges and 7 talents in the first 4 levels (plus 2-3 feats), there are plenty of powers to choose from to build the kind of monk you want.
Whether your passion is the classic unarmed mystic, the non-mystic martial artist, the armored sohei, the zen meditative archer, or something entirely different, The Talented Monk gives you the building blocks to create the monk of your imagination. Combined with other supplements like The Talented Rogue and The Talented Fighter, players will finally be able to put their best concepts on the table.