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How to Create Great Pathfinder 2nd Edition Characters: Monk

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A big change that occurred with the release of Pathfinder Second Edition (PF2) is the introduction of Modes. These are dedicated blocks of time that occur depending on what’s going on during the adventure:

  • Encounter Mode – A situation where turn order and individual actions have a significant impact, like combat or tense diplomacy.
  • Exploration Mode – Free flowing situation, like traveling, where there may be less granularity than an Encounter but there are still threats or challenges.
  • Downtime Mode – When time passes freely and the party is safe and sound, allowing time to recuperate.

Modes aren’t necessarily a new idea. In theory, Modes exist across nearly all tabletop roleplaying games. I am, however, a big advocate for structure at the table, especially when it comes to rules. In my mind rules breed creativity, and provide a consistent framework for players to engage in the world.

When the Gamemaster (GM) sets the stage for the party by informing them that they’re in Downtime Mode, it allows the players to shift mental gears. Instead of worrying about perceiving for enemies or looking for tracks, they can relax and select activities from a broader range of options.

And if there’s one class that’s typically up for meditation and rest, it’s got to be the Monk!

We’re continuing our 12-part series with several potential options for building a new Monk in PF2. This includes story-based brainstorming to give you a framework for your next character. You’ll also find a Pathmap which can help translate the character to the PF2 system mechanically.

The Monk awaits!

Pathfinder 2nd Edition Monk Class

Pathfinder Second Edition Monk Iconic, Sajan, in a pose befitting of his martial prowess.
Sajan, the 2E Iconic Monk

Monks are concerned with personal perfection. Whether that means honing a physical ability like a martial discipline, or practicing a crafting skill, they want to be the very best. They are most often viewed as introspective and spiritual people.

At risk of sounded repetitive, monks are usually in pursuit of enlightenment. This could be a goal associated with a spiritual journey, but it could also be grounded in something physical or mental as well. They believe that their body makes the most effective weapon.

This means limited armor and mastery of simple weaponry. Why put your faith in a weapon that could weaken or break at any moment when you could trust your own skills instead?

When thinking of a monk, people are going to gravitate towards the stereotypical versions of monks, like Aang from Avatar: the Last Airbender, or Henri Ducard from the League of Shadows. These are fantastic starting sources for envisioning a new monk.

However, think about what drives these characters to make them compelling; they’re hyper-focused on a singular goal. That’s the central, common core of these characters.

Monks provide a unique perspective on a combative class, because they possess the agility of a rogue but the lethality of a barbarian. They make excellent interrogators, stealth operatives, and examples of what can be achieved by setting ambitious goals. Stances and ki abilities ascend them to new heights, making them larger than life and worthy of a bard’s embellishments.

  IRRELIGIOUS IMPOSTOR

The latest development in your string of deceptions is to convert others to your cause. It’s not necessarily a cause that you believe in, except for the fact that it raises your reputation and puts a bit of coin in your pockets. Some might call you a scam artist, if they knew what you were up to. Fortunately, they don’t; you’re too good for that.

You travel across the world, preaching about enlightenment and discovering one’s true purpose. It’s quite easy, really. Put on some simplistic robes, mix and match some memorized text from famous monks, and that’s all there is to it. Being convincing and well-spoken certainly helps too.

Pretending to be a monk embarking on a path of divine atonement is just the flavor of the month, but you’re certainly good at it. You gladly welcome others into the fold, offering acclamation sessions and bootleg guidebooks for a fraction of the cost of the more established temples. Since you can back up your words with your skills, people are more than inclined to take that first step towards perfection.

Do you believe any of the teachings that you preach? What is the name of this ‘religion’ that you’ve founded? What are its main tenets? Whose teachings is it based off of? Did you learn your monkish techniques from someone or did you develop them to sell the bit? Are you just starting out or are you well-known for your teachings?

Have you performed other scams or is this your first? Is some of the doctrine rubbing off on you? What is your greater purpose in life? What is the goal that you wish to achieve through the deception of the masses? Are you in desperate need of attention and affection? Do you think that surrounding yourself with adoring fans will be your crowning achievement? How do you handle non-believers? Are there grains of truth in your teachings, or is it just believable enough to hold up until you’re long gone?

Pathmap

  • Background: Charlatan
  • Ability Scores: Charisma, Constitution
  • Skills: Fortune-Telling Lore, Performance, Deception
  • Monk Feats: Ki Rush, Brawling Focus (2nd), Guarded Movement (4th), Ki Blast (6th), Wall Run (8th), Winding Flow (10th), Improved Knockback (12th), Tongue of Sun and Moon (14th), Quivering Palm (16th), Empty Body (18th), Impossible Technique (20th)

  UNDECIDED STUDENT

You don’t know what you want to be. There are simply too many options to choose from, and you’ve been exposed to the best snippets of each. What if you decide to argue law and semantics, but then develop a deep longing to cast arcane spells? What if you pursue a life of conservation and then you realize that glory on the battlefield was more your speed? A privileged upbringing has allowed you opportunity; you don’t want to squander it.

So here you are, trying to find your calling. Your formal schooling is nearly at its end and you still haven’t chosen any sort of specialization for the future. You are curious, ambitious, and get excited over most things. In fact, you have a special gift of finding the joy in even the most mundane of tasks. You ooze appreciation for people who answer your questions, of which you have many.

Pathfinder Second Edition Monk, Amaya, dressed in leather and carrying a staff behind her cloaked back.

You feel left out if you are prohibited from learning a new skill. In a similar way, you are generally indecisive because you are presented with so much choice. You are confused why anybody would want to lock down their life in a single role when there is so much to be gained by being well-rounded. The phrase ‘jack of all trades’ describes you perfectly.

Are you currently a student at a university or temple? Have you been there a long time? Is adventuring a form of sabbatical or walkabout for you? What are your top fields of study? Do you have a hard time focusing your attention? Have you traveled a lot and been exposed to a variety of cultures and occupations? Was your monk training a part of those travels or was it merely a facet of your upbringing? Are you on good terms with your parents?

How will you know that you’ve found your true calling? Do you have a vague idea of what you’d like to specialize in, or would you rather not specialize at all? Is there a specific person or organization that you are seeking out to help you answer this question of your identity? Do you learn better from books or through first-hand experiences? Why did you turn to adventuring? Will this exposure to new people, hardships, and harrowing combats give you the direction that you so desperately crave?

Pathmap

  • Background: Noble
  • Ability Scores: Intelligence, Strength
  • Skills: Library Lore, Society, Arcana
  • Monk Feats: Dragon Stance, Stunning Fist (2nd), Flurry of Movements (4th), Dragon Roar (6th), Tangled Forest Stance (8th), Winding Flow (10th), Stance Savant (12th), Tangled Forest Rake (14th), Master of Many Styles (16th), Swift River (18th), Fuse Stance (20th)

  CADAVEROUS THRALL

You’ve lived your entire life in service to someone else. Their ideals, charisma, and protection have shaped you into the person you are today. Unfortunately, your dedication wasn’t without its side effects; you are a complete servant. Years of brainwashing and malnutrition have made you pale and thin. Whatever the reason have been assimilated back into society, you are slowly regaining your trust of people around you. The person you served wasn’t all that bad; it was actually their humane characteristics that initially drew you in.

Every day used to be scheduled for you. Whether it be daily devotions, running errands, or doing chores, you never questioned your role as a cog in the machine. And don’t get it wrong – you weren’t chained up or held against your will. You learned things that you’ll never forget. But now that you’re on your own, you’re trying to figure out how you can apply your skills and gifts to shape your own destiny.

You aren’t generally trusting of others around you. Doing your own research on claims is the only verification you have that people aren’t lying to your face. At the same time, you still believe in serving others and you take requests for help seriously and personally. Your training is mainly used for self-defense, and you are slowly rejecting the tenets of your previous master.

How did you end your period of servitude? What drew you into a life of serving? Was it your master’s message, their skills, or their attitude? Were there others like you? How did things change from the beginning? What sorts of things were you taught? Did you pay any money to be a part of the community? What parts of your service were the worst, or was it all sunshine and roses?

Now that you have a new lease on life, what are your goals? Is adventuring your way of wiping the slate clean? How often do you think about your past? Is your training second nature now? Are you adopting the teachings of a different monk? Do you believe in freeing others from oppression? Did your time make it easier for you to see through the disguises of others? Was your previous master a bad person? Why were your conditions so poor?

Pathmap

  • Background: Prisoner
  • Ability Scores: Dexterity, Wisdom
  • Skills: Cult Lore, Occultism, Survival
  • Monk Feats: Ki Strike, Elemental Fist (2nd), Stand Still (4th), Water Step (6th), Ironblood Stance (8th), Sleeper Hold (10th), Disrupt Ki (12th), Ironblood Surge (14th), Shattering Strike (16th), Diamond Fists (18th), Enduring Quickness (20th)

  GRANDIOSE ABBOT

With a flourish and a bow, you welcome new crops of students to your abbey each year. Parents from far and wide submit applications months in advance, along with gifts, to sway your opinion and admit their children. Known for your guiding hand, grand productions, and immense wisdom, you mold and shape the minds of future generations. You’ve been doing this a long time; you don’t even teach full-time anymore.

You have perfected the intricacies and tiny details of the monk stances. After all, they say the best way to learn something is to teach it. You really take that to heart. You enjoy teaching in large group settings, but you really find joy in smaller groups that allow you to get to know the people that you’re teaching. That’s how you learn best, so that’s why you teach in a similar fashion. Every student is different and you understand that shaping a lesson to an individual is more effective than using standard lesson plans.

Although respected, you’ve been called eccentric and nontraditional. You are consistent, but you can’t be expected to waste time on students who don’t want to commit themselves to the teachings. You are fair and accepting in all things. When you’re not conducting training, you’re completing repairs to the abbey. After all, it’s not going to run itself.

Who taught you the ways of the monks? How many people work at the abbey? What are your favorite and least favorite parts of teaching? Do you specialize in a specific fighting stance? Do you spend a lot of time reading or walking in the garden? Who have been your most promising students? Did they go on to do great things or did they use their training for evil? What unconventional teaching techniques do you employ?

What is your normal attire like? Do you have any tattoos? Why don’t you teach anymore? Have there ever been any accidents with your students? How much do you read? Do you identify more with younger people or people your own age? Were you a prodigy? Is the abbey doing well financially? How often do you feel trapped or cooped up?

Pathmap

  • Background: Martial Discipline
  • Ability Scores: Wisdom, Charisma
  • Skills: Hills Lore, Diplomacy, Religion
  • Monk Feats: Tiger Stance, Stunning Fist (2nd), Flying Kick (4th), Tiger Slash (6th), Arrow Snatching (8th), Knockback Strike (10th), Diamond Soul (12th), Timeless Body (14th), Enlightened Presence (16th), Diamond Fists (18th), Impossible Technique (20th)

  RECLUSIVE SCULPTOR

Pathfinder Second Edition Monk, Rudrakavala suspended above a stone pillar with the spectral shapes of skulls poking out from his ribcage.

You are a master sculptor in nobody’s eyes but your own. Even though you prefer keep your creations secret until they’re ready (read: they never are), you’re certainly not as skilled as you think you are. Your time at the monastery gave you plenty of time for reflection and practicing your art. You took that second part literally. Using the stone motifs of the monastery as your muse, you began attuning yourself to the stone.

Mastery may elude you for the time being, but you won’t let that dissuade you from trying. Hard work and determination are keys to success. Learning the ways of the monks didn’t come naturally to you either, so why would this be any different? It’s healthy to have an outlet for your emotions. After trying to get into other hobbies like woodcarving and basketry, you settled on sculpting. Mistakes aren’t permanent when you’re working with wet clay.

You are optimistic but reluctant to receive criticism. If you haven’t achieved perfection in something, you believe that it’s not worth sharing with the masses. Progress should be measured internally. You talk a big game but don’t always have the skills to back it up.

Did someone at the monastery introduced you to sculpting? Do you find that your monk training offers you an advantage in your artistry? Why are you so reluctant to share your work? Do you focus on making busts or smaller trinkets? Is any of your work on display? Do you have a background in architecture? What about formal training in other artistic forms?

What do you consider to be your white whale of sculpting? Is there any overlap between your monk disciplines and sculpting? Do you believe minds can be molded like clay? How long did you study at the monastery? Are you hard on yourself? Are you delusional about your abilities? Have you shared your art with anybody you trust? Have you been rebuked by famous sculptors in the area?

Pathmap

  • Background: Artist
  • Ability Scores: Strength, Dexterity
  • Skills: Art Lore, Crafting, Stealth
  • Monk Feats: Mountain Stance, Crushing Grab (2nd), Guarded Movement (4th), Mountain Stronghold (6th), Ironblood Stance (8th), Winding Flow (10th), Stance Savant (12th), Mountain Quake (14th), Shattering Strike (16th), Diamond Fists (18th), Enduring Quickness (20th)

Pathfinder 2E Monk Class – One-Two Punch!

Monks can certainly pack a punch! Their mobility and quick strikes make them great allies, complementing any party. The three-action economy system also allows them to take advantage of a wide set of their skills each turn.

Next week we’ll be back with another installment of the series as we brainstorm some builds for the Ranger class. They’re basically the fighters of the forest, and I’m eager to share some interesting builds with you.

Until then, ki-p your wits about you!

How to Create Great Pathfinder Second Edition Characters