Is the monk an "Eastern" class?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


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One of my problems with the monk class is that I've always considered it an Asian flavored class and I prefer a more typically medieval setting for my games. I was wondering how other DMs/players treat the monk in their game settings: Is it something to keep out of a medieval Europe style fantasy setting? Or would a monk style character feel at home in a Lord of the Rings style setting?


in most of my games that that i have played yeah they are considered an eastern flavored character but that doesn't deter me from playing one. also if you think about it there were monks in medieval Europe just not the kind that you were used too. But Ive been trying to incorporate them in to my games as much as possible to get rid of that eastern feel.


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The monk certainly follows the an easter theme, both with the flavor of the class and with the mechanics. I do think that the fish out of water archetype of a character from a 'far away land' is suitable. Think of the character of Azeem from Robinhood Prince of Thieves. That could have just as easily been an asian monk to tell a similar story (where a robin like character had a fish out of water companion).

However the unarmored and either unarmed or simple weapon fighter definately has a place in european medieval fantasy. If you look for instance at the martial artist archetype from ultimate combat it takes alot of the 'eastern' mechanics out of the monk and inserts more physical ones. So I definately think there are ways to make the monk fit a strictly european style setting even if there isnt room for an eastern style part of your campaign setting.

Silver Crusade

I've always had a perception of monks as "Eastern" as well. I haven't had much trouble integrating them, though, when there's a player who wants to be one. They can always be an outsider, or someone who learned from an outsider, etc.


Thematically, yes they are. However it's not hard to re-skin something.

Lantern Lodge

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Using real-world history and culture as an example, there have been karate, judo etc schools/gyms in our western cities, television cop shows etc, popular in our culture for as long as I can remember (at least the 70s). Marco Polo brought noodles and other eastern influences back from his travels and introduced them to the western world as pasta etc, even if the ingredients were changed to local ones (eg, wheat flour instead of rice). So as long as your world has an eastern continent, even if your players never get to see it, game in it, or even hear about it, there are likely eastern influences (unarmed combat styles) even if they don't recognise them as such (pasta). I think people stress unnecessarily about monks in a western setting.

Shadow Lodge

Really, from a in-universe standpoint, the only things keeping the monk an Eastern class are the names of the weapons. Otherwise it's an unarmed grappler or a scholar of physical self-mastery who just happens to gain unexpectedly powerful abilities from shunning armor and restricting himself to a small variety of weapons(unless one starts as Sohei). Now, I'm no history scholar, but I'm willing to bet that while there likely weren't martial arts schools in Medieval or Early-Renaissance Europe, unarmed combat was still taught, since one wasn't always armed when the need for combat arose.

Now take a place like Cheliax or Taldor where walking around armed, in public places, or royal courts is out of question, the peons discouraged or outright disqualified from keeping weapons and finally a need for subterfuge is vital for survival and I can't see why people wouldn't either learn to use improvised elements, like canes, shovels and picks or their bodies as weapons.

I know it can feel like a long stretch to have one of those people start grappling dragons in a couple of months time(the average running length of a Paizo AP), but then again there's Bob the Martial Scholar's neighbour, who some people call...Tim, who one day suddenly just learned to make things explode with his mind. People call him "a sorcerer", whatever that means.


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If you want to make a more Christian-styled monk for a Western setting, you could simply rename Ki, calling it Grace. Then replace some of the self-mastery themes with themes revolving around charity and improvement of the community, and you've got a different sort of monk that mechanically is no different than the Eastern one.

Alternatively, you could re-fluff the mechanics with a fictional religion/philosophy and you've got a fantasy-monk that works in a LotR sort of setting.


Detect Magic wrote:

If you want to make a more Christian-styled monk for a Western setting, you could simply rename Ki, calling it Grace. Then replace some of the self-mastery themes with themes revolving around charity and improvement of the community, and you've got a different sort of monk that mechanically is no different than the Eastern one.

Alternatively, you could re-fluff the mechanics with a fictional religion/philosophy and you've got a fantasy-monk that works in a LotR sort of setting.

That is a good enough idea I will probably steal it.

I would add to that, that you might want to swap out some of the monk weapons for more western ones. The quarterstaff is fitting, but kama, nunchaku, sai, and siangham. would probably get replaced with dagger, spear, etc. for flurrying.


Definitely, Charender-- Eastern weapons wouldn't fit such a character.

Lantern Lodge

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Charender wrote:
Detect Magic wrote:
If you want to make a more Christian-styled monk for a Western setting, you could simply rename Ki, calling it Grace. Then replace some of the self-mastery themes with themes revolving around charity and improvement of the community, and you've got a different sort of monk that mechanically is no different than the Eastern one.
That is a good enough idea I will probably steal it.

Agreed!

Charender wrote:
I would add to that, that you might want to swap out some of the monk weapons for more western ones. The quarterstaff is fitting, but kama, nunchaku, sai, and siangham. would probably get replaced with dagger, spear, etc. for flurrying.

Noodles vs Pasta, works for me.


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You should find a way to use a sling instead of shuriken. The idea of a flurrying sling user amuses me.


You can also see the monk as a wrestler or boxer. Greco-Roman Pankration would fit. So would Norse Glima.

Dark Archive

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I wrote up some of the 3.X iconics for Mutants and Masterminds a dog's age ago, and here was the backstory I had for Ember, tweaking the martial art-sy flavor to look less Asian and more African;

Quote:

Ember was raised in the plains, and spent her younger years testing herself against wild animals, seeking to be able to react faster than the serpent, outrace the wild dogs and outlast the hyena. Her people were a warrior culture, who prided themselves in their metal-working, but she saw the fascination with metal weaponry and armor as a weakness. The lion did not need to fashion weapons to hunt his prey. The rhinoceros wore his armor on his flesh. She sought out to prove to her people that the body was stronger than any casing of metal, so long as the spirit that burned within it was able to forge flesh and bone, like shining steel from crude iron.

Others of similar mind found her, and adopted her into their traveling ‘school’ of sorts, where they similarly challenged themselves against the natural world. They leapt like leopards and swam like crocodiles and climbed like monkeys, ever strengthening their bodies, seeking to rediscover the strengths that the so-called ‘civilized’ man was leaving behind, becoming soft and weak, dependent on tools to cut his food, and servants to fetch his garments.

Ember’s current area of study is the grappling techniques of the mighty pythons, and she seeks to learn their technique of swarming over an opponent and choking the life from them. She has learned to quickly establish a grapple, during a deceptively swift attack, but has yet to fully develop this technique. [She will learn Grappling Finesse, Improved Grapple, Improved Pin and Chokehold before she considers this art mastered.]

Ember carries a quarterstaff crafted from the long leg bone of an unknown beast. (It attacked her. It lost. That’s all she cares to know about the subject.) She prefers not to use it, save as a walking stick, or to poke at questionable items, but has on occasion found herself in need of something to throw, or facing up against something that she doesn’t want to actually *touch,* such as a foul creature coated in acidic slime, or a plant-creature with many venomous thorns decorating it’s hide. She’s also owns a rare magic gourd that produces sweet sugary water that is known to heal the drinker. Given her tendency to ‘overdo it,’ this has become her most prized possession, and she fears that she’s become a bit too confident in the face of danger, thinking that her magic gourd will always be there to wash away her hurts. Still, she has fond memories of the night she won the item in a wager from a Djinn who underestimated her skills (and, more importantly, her inability to turn down a physical challenge).

As her body continues to adapt to the rigors of her ascetic lifestyle, she will gain more Immunities (poison, aging, need for sleep, hunger & thirst), as well as develop some other unusual gifts, such as Second Chance (mind control), the ability to Comprehend (and speak with) animals and even ranks of Power Resistance!


We think of monks as eastern because the flow from eastern sources in our own world. For whatever reason almost every fantasy world I can think places an analogous culture in the east where monks come from. Certainly renaming some of the abilities and using more western weapons might be a good idea. I would think a lot of gladiator weapons like the trident, net, and others might fall into a "western" flavored monk. In the case of Middle Earth certainly monks from Khand would be not out of place.

One of the biggest changes from history verses "western" themed campaign worlds is a monolithic church. With differing faiths might come differing monks. Rather than the typical cloistered monks we think of maybe monks in a more diverse campaign world might vary in the type of vows they take. Rather than silence a monk might vow to use no weapons.

Perhaps small clans might practice techniques or use weapons that are unlike their neighbors.


While it often is portrayed as Eastern, it does not have to be. I'd just like to point out the ancient Greek mixed martial art of Pankration, which mixed wrestling and striking and some think influenced eastern martial arts (sinc it predates most of them).

EDIT: Didn't notice darth mentioned it already, oops. Well, may as well contribute more, then. Human Weapon episode from History Channel about Pankration: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtYtZDWCNMs

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