Monks may not have been in every edition of d20 fantasy games, yet most accept them as one of the core classes. If your only exposure to what a monk should be is by watching Kung Fu or by watching bad (awesome!) martial arts movies, then I recommend checking out a few other sources of inspiration. High up on my list is the movie Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter … and Spring. It is an excellent movie about the life of a monk. It can help you see a monk as a complex person rather than just someone that wanders around spouting nonsense and calling it wisdom (wah). You could also sign up for some martial arts classes and understand first hand the discipline a monk possesses. Unlike learning sword fighting and casting spells, martial arts classes are relative common and should be taken advantage of if you want to understand how a monk sees the world.
1) Were You Born To This Life, Or Did You Choose It?
The fundamental question, how did you get here? This will alter your world view. If you were raised from a small child to be a monk, you will see their ordered way of life as the only natural way to live. Such an austere lifestyle will be something you do not even question. You will recognize the importance if breathing and how it relates to life and fighting. However, you may always wonder who your parents were and why you were sent to the monks. If you joined a monastery later in life, you may choke at the lack of pleasures, chafe at the rules. Like Doctor Strange, you find it difficult accepting their ways and practices. Yet you choose this life for some reason. What happened that made you see this lifestyle as better than the one you previously choose.
2) Why Did You Start Adventuring?
Unlike classes like fighter and ranger that pretty much require adventuring, monk is one of those classes where it would be completely normal to stay in the building where you train and never go adventuring. So why did you? Did your master send you out in the world to gain experience (not XP) so you can achieve a higher plane of enlightenment? Perhaps you walked out of your own accord, not feeling that the reasons you originally joined changed. Did “real” life happen, like a family member die and you are now just wondering around looking for answers before returning to the monastery? For one fleeting moment, did you achieve enlightenment and now are trying to reattain it?
3) What Do You Think Of The World Outside the Monastery?
Now that you have spent time in the monastery, what is it like going out into the world? If you were raised by monks, this place would be strange, almost alien in the way that people do not treat each other with respect and honor. If anything, the monsters of the world might be more familiar to you since you probably have seen your fair share of them, being away from civilization. If you were raised in civilization and choose the monastic life and then returned to civilization, you would definitely be surprised by how your perspective has shifted. Things that once seemed normal to you would seem completely unreasonable. Your “fish out of water” point of view should be evident whenever you enter town.
4) How Do Your Actions Demonstrate Your Philosophy?
Being a monk means you have a philosophy, a way of looking at the world that is part practical, part mystical. Unlike lawful religion that sees things in start terms—good and bad, holy and unholy, worthy and unworthy—monks tend see the world through the lens of discipline because of their rigorous training. But the specifics of what your monk philosophy are up to you. The real question is how does your actions demonstration what that philosophy is? Do you believe in only defending and will only attack those that attack first? Will you always give someone the option to surrender? Are you careful where you step, always cautious of stepping on a bug or a worm? Will you have tea with your enemies? Always think how your actions are different than a typical fighter. They should be very visible to everyone.
5) What Do You See In Your Fellow Adventurers
For a monk to travel with adventurers is a great honor. It shows that they are worthy of you. What do you see in them in worthy? What sets them apart? You should be able to answer that for each of the characters.
Emberwood choose to join the Cragtree Monastery at age 407. Before then, it found life confusing. Humans did not make any sense. The monks were the first such humans that were logical and saw the world in much the same way. All the other students admired Emberwood for his ability to meditate endlessly, since it did not need to eat or sleep. Now that he is over 1,000 years of age, he is the last of his monastery. The numbers of the Cragtree Monastery dwindled over the intervening centuries and yet Emberwood stayed. It was only the building collapsing under it that broke it from meditation. In all that time, Emberwood never achieved enlightenment like the other monks had. It recalled the words of one of an old master, that enlightenment sometimes comes from strange places. So it went in search of those strange places. It continues to meditate every morning but then continues on seeking what it had not yet achieved.
Emberwood is featured on the cover of the Book of Heroic Races: Advanced Compendium for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Do you prefer 5e? Download his kind’s racial traits today in the Book of Heroic Races: Player Races 2. How about 13th Age? Download the Book of Heroic Races: Age of Races 2 today. Be sure to use coupon code “holiday2017” to get 30% off this and everything else at the JBE Shop now through January 31, 2018.