Friday, November 13, 2015

Holmes Rules: The Monk

[this is part...I don't an on-going series revamping OD&D subclasses for use with Holmes Basic. You can find the paladin and ranger here, the witch here, the illusionist (part 1 and part 2), and the druid (part 1 and part 2) all available for use. I've had some time to stew on my monk musings and analysis from yesterday, and decided that the most important thing I can do is make it a class that I'D like to play (yet still remaining focused and thematically consistent). It may look a little different from what you expected...]

Monks -- instead of dedicating themselves to a particular deity, some clerics devote themselves to understanding the gods' greatest creation: the human mind-body temple. Though their first priority is their own self-development, many belong to monastic orders, providing each other with mutual teaching and support on the path to enlightenment. Sometimes, these orders attach themselves to a clerical group or institution, acting as muscle for the church.

The Scarlet Brotherhood
might require its own post.
A cleric must have a minimum strength of 10 and dexterity of 11 to become a monk. Monks do not wear armor or use shields, but they are trained in the use of all weapons (monks of good alignment will still refrain from using edged weapons). They do not cast spells, nor can they turn undead, but they do enjoy a +2 bonus to saving throws to resist mind-affecting magic (charms, etc.). A monk is only ever surprised on a roll of a 1, they may move silently as a thief of equal level, and they use the rate of speed given for an unarmored man.

Because of their training, monks excel at unarmed combat. They move with such preternatural grace and quickness that they subtract one-half their level (round up) from opponents' attack rolls, and non-magical missiles may be dodged/deflected by monks who make a successful saving throw. Their unarmed attacks do D6 damage on a successful attack roll, and if maximum damage (6) is rolled, they may choose one of the following maneuvers in place of damage:

  • Disarm (opponent's weapon now in monk's possession)
  • Disable (opponent suffers -2 to attack rolls for D6 rounds)
  • Hold (opponent may take no action as long as monk maintains lock; monk may not act either)
  • Knockout (opponent must save of be knocked senseless for D12 rounds)
  • Takedown (opponent loses next action standing up)

Maneuvers always work against opponents of human size (or smaller); however, monks may also use these maneuvers on monsters whose hit dice do not exceed one-half their level of experience (for example, an 8th level monk could takedown a 4 hit dice ogre). Monks who have reached 5th level may execute a maneuver on a damage roll of 5 or 6; monks of 9th level make execute a maneuver on a 4, 5, or 6.

Monks are adept at meditation, and may use it to a number of effects. The monk may slow their body functions (heart rate, breathing, etc.) to the point that they can resist the effect of poisons and toxins, or appear dead to observers (maximum of 1 turn per level). They may heal themselves (curing D4 hit points +1 hit point per level), and monks of at least 5th level can use this effect to cure disease as well. A monk of 9th level can focus their inner power into their hands in order to make a fatal strike: the next opponent hit in unarmed combat must save or die immediately. Each of these meditation effects (slowed body, healing, or fatal strike) can be performed but once per day.

Monks practice non-attachment: they give all treasure to their order, and may retain a maximum of four magic items, plus up to two magic weapons. They may use any magic item (save armor) not restricted to a particular class. Monks may never have hirelings or followers. A monk's level determines her place in the hierarchy of her order; upon reaching maximum level (12th) she must challenge the master of the order for leadership. If she fails (and survives), she loses the level (goes back to the minimum experience needed for 11th level). Any time after reaching 9th level, a monk may leave the order to found her own; it will gradually attract new novices (1st level monks) over several months.

[all right, that's a little longer than I expected it to be, but I really liked how it turned out. Even though Holmes doesn't go into the "name level" type stuff, I thought it important to write a bit about the monastic order and how it functions. If this were in some kind of "Holmes Companion" book, this information would be important to the setting material; if I ever run a Holmes campaign, it will be important material]

[by the way, this IS a monk I'd be interested in playing]

[oh, yeah...and it's my birthday today]


  1. Outstanding! I'd play that Monk too ;-) And a heartfelt Happy Birthday to you and kudos for your excellent B/X Companion. I am currently using it in my B/X Campaign.

    1. @ Randolph:

      Thank you for the kind words.

  2. Elegant, sir.
    I like the special attacks being possible when maximum damage is rolled. And 17% is often enough that you get to use it in the game.
    An effective ac of 3 at 13th level (friday the 13th today...) isn't overpowered at all. With ring of protection it's practically the same as a mundane plate and shield combo.

    Not being able to accumulate wealth until 9th level (if founding their own order) might make it difficult to build a monetary. Is this intentional? It's not a problem. I just wonder if it's intentional.

    Happy birthday :)

    1. @ Janich:

      Glad you like it; however, I just edited the maneuver section in order to scale a bit with increased level (higher level monks are better at executing maneuvers). As such a monk of 5th level only needs to roll a 5+ on damage (33%) while a 9th level monk only needs to roll a 4+ (50%).

      I think the 12 level scale is pretty good. Yes, the 9th level problem is intentional: if you want to build your own monastery, you're going to have to be creative.
      ; )

    2. "if you want to build your own monastery, you're going to have to be creative.
      ; )"

      If you help build this place for free then it'll get you closer to "the good place". Oh, and while you're at it, feeding us while you do will get you even closer :)
      One have to role play, doesn't one?
      Well, as I wrote, I don't find it problematic. I just wondered about if you thought about it. And of course you did :)

    3. @ Jan:

      My tendency is towards "over-thinking."
      ; )

  3. I went with ruk-thoak or rough-bear. A monk variation devoted to a more barbaric fighting method. Must post it.

  4. I'd rule that Disable would be cumulative.

    1. @ Roger:

      I wouldn't be against that, but it would have a diminishing rate of return (due to the limited duration of the effect).