I have only ever created one monk character (other than a sect of itinerant halfling monks for a short-lived D20 campaign...that's another story). Or maybe two. Hmmm...I know that I had one, for sure, that had the name "Soft Treader" (which makes me wince as I write the words). I also had one for whom I did a number of "character sketches," generally depicting an individual with a cloak and hood that obscured the character's face (like one of those Assassin's Creed dudes), armed with a variety of monk-eligible weapons (crossbows, daggers, quarterstaffs). Were these two characters the same? I honestly can't remember. Neither one was played more than once. Neither became major NPCs in our old AD&D campaign (of the late '80s), which is what often happened with unplayed PCs. Yeah, aside from the wince-worthy name and the illustrations of the other, I really can't any accomplishments of this (either?) character.
And as far as I can recall, I've never ever seen a monk in ANY D&D game before or since. Zero. That's even including a brief stint with 1E Oriental Adventures.
According to wikipedia, the monk class/concept was created by Brian "Buckshot" Blume, inspired by the Destroyer series of novels. Not familiar with those? Have any of you children of the 80s seen Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (starring no less than Fred "Timerider" Ward)? Well, that's the movie based on the books, and due to its disappointing receipts at the box-office, it never morphed into the film franchise it was intended to become. ANYway...
|The inspiration for the monk.|
Fighting-Man, Clerical, Magic-User, Ranger, Paladin, Assassin, Merchant, Sage
[and, no, there are no write-ups for "merchants" and "sages"]
The assassin definitely appears to be an Arneson creation; based on its inclusion in Supplement II, the stuff in the FFC, and his well-known love of pulp, I think it was probably inspired by the assassin caste of the Jon Norman Gor books. Of course, assassins are the next subclass of this series...
Originally (and this is different from every subsequent version of the class, with the exception of its "mention" in Holmes), the monk was a subclass of cleric. This is fairly important because, as a subclass, it is presumed the character has the same abilities of a cleric except when contradicted in the text. For example, Supplement II is explicit that the monk has no magical abilities (spell-casting) like a cleric; however, it does not say the monk cannot turn undead if Lawful (there is no alignment restrictions for monks in Blackmoor). It says monks may have no permanent followers and must treat treasure "as does paladins;" it does not say they don't receive divine aid to help construct their "modest stronghold" when the time comes to do so,
It makes sense for clerics to be a subclass of cleric, given their Blackmoor description of "Members of an Order [who] seek both physical and mental superiority in a religious atmosphere." As I wrote the other day, an individual in a pseudo-historic/ancient environment would have spent many years training in their expected profession (rather than attending elementary and secondary school), and the monks training would have been in a religious capacity supplemented by martial arts. At least ones similar to the Shao Lin temple-style monk.
[contrast this with the chivalrous knight ("paladin") whose training is in combat, riding, and warfare and only supplemented by religious tutelage in the churchy virtues]
A class has a focus...a subclass has a divergence from the "usual" training, but retains the focus.
However, beginning with 1st Edition PHB, the monk became its own class.
And I can see the (very sensible) reasoning of doing so. Despite a religious upbringing, the monk has almost nothing in common with the cleric. It wears no armor. Its weapons (at least in Blackmoor) were completely unrestricted. It has no spells. It has no followers. It possesses a variety of unusual powers learned as the character advances upwards. It has a level limit. It has restrictions on advancement beyond a particular level of experience. It uses D4s for hit points for God's sake, while clerics use D6s!
[this last may actually have been a typo, by the way. Supplement II lists the assassin (subclass of thief) using 6-sided dice and the monk (subclass of cleric) using 4-sided dice, whereas the ACTUAL variation (first presented in Supplement I) gave clerics the D6 and thieves the D4. It is conceivable that the editor of Supplement II missed the fact that the thief subclass should share the same HP progress as its parent class, and the cleric subclass share the larger die type. Things were a little "amateur hour" back in those days, as one can tell from reading the original books]
There are so many differences between the parent class and the subclass that it makes sense mechanically to divorce the two from each other, even when there's a thematic connection. Yes, you read that right...it makes sense to keep 'em the same and it makes sense to separate them. Both options make sense based on the mess we have here (thematic parallels with perpendicular mechanics). How to reconcile this?
Probably by throwing one of the two things away. And since Holmes has already designated the monk as a subclass of cleric (and we're doing this exercise in "Holmesian" fashion) I think we're going to need to keep the THEME of the class ("religious order") and chuck the mechanical kitchen sink of thing. In other words: overhaul the hell out of it.
|Here comes the "flurry."|
[as a quick example, fighters in the PHB receives their highest attack rate...2 per round...at 13th level, achieved at 1,750,0001xp. An AD&D monk achieves 14th level with the same XP total. At 14th level, the monk has a natural AC of -1, receives three attacks per round, and strikes for 5D4 damage: average of 38 points of damage if they hit with every attack. If the fighter had a halberd and 18/00 strength, they'd still only be looking at an average damage output of 23 points per round (more if the weapon was magical, but certainly not over 30)]
And here's the thing, folks: I like the idea of the monk. Some people might be surprised to hear that, given the general feeling that "Eastern and Western fantasy shouldn't be mixed;" that the martial arts monk is out-of-place in the pseudo-Camelot style D&D campaign. And maybe I was that way, too, once upon a time (I can't remember if I was). However, that was before I was introduced to the Scarlet Brotherhood. Once I got a whiff of that particular concept, I could see half a dozen ways to fit monkish orders into a fantasy campaign...at least one with a pulpy, sword-&-sorcery vibe to it (which is how I like my game).
SO...since this post is getting long (and its my third post of the day; my poor readers! Their eyes are melting!), I'm going to sign off for the moment. Next entry will be reviewing the monk-ish character's abilities line-by-line to see what can stay and what definitely needs to go-go-go.
|Is it still cultural appropriation once|
it's already been appropriated?