I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Friday, September 08, 2023

Minimalist monk (B/X)

Here is my B/X version of the monk, vaguely inspired by AD&D and the RC, also using a few ideas from Old School Feats (that contains a Monk "package"). The goal is to make it balanced and simple, rather than sticking closely to the original, similarly to my minimalist warlord and white mage.

Minimalist Monk

Requirements: None 
Prime requisite: DEX

XP, HP, saves: as fighter.
Attacks, weapons, armor: as thief.
Skills (climb, traps, locks, hearing, stealth, but NOT pick pockets): as thief.

Special features:

Pick one on level 1, and one more on every even level.

Martial artist. You deal 1d3 damage with bare hands/feet, which is increased to 1d4, 1d6, 1d8, 1d10 and 1d12 on levels 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12. When attacking with weapons, you can choose to use this damage or simply add +2 to weapon damage.

Unarmed offense. You can make an extra attack per round, but it must be an unarmed attack (punch, kick, etc.)

Unarmored defense. You get a bonus to AC equal to half your level (round up), to a maximum of +6 if unarmored, +3 if wearing armor.

Mobile. During encounters, your movement rate is half you base movement instead of one third (e.g., 120’ [40’] becomes 120’ [60´]).

Acrobatics. You take half the usual damage when you fall. You get a +4 bonus to AC during retreat and withdrawal. You get a +4 bonus to  ability checks and saves involving jumping, tumbling, etc.

Pure body. You are immune to disease and poison.

Pure mind. You are immune from mind-controlling magic, including sleep, charm, geas, etc.

Pure soul. You get a +4 bonus to saving throws against all spells.

Regeneration. Once per day, recover an amount of HP equal to your level.



The monk, in all its versions, has lots of small powers and fiddly bits. This is probably the simplest version can come up with while still maintaining the same feel. I prefer the "pick a feature" version than giving each feature a predetermined level as it allows for more customization while keeping things very simple.

Is this monk better than the fighter? I think the armor and THAC0 limitations are enough to balance them. What about the thief? The thief is a weak class with an easy XP progression, which the monk doesn't have; the monk cannot backstab either (although I'd let them take is as a feature).

If you think the monk is too powerful, I suggest using the magic-use XP progression, but no more - the monk still feels a bit weaker than a paladin.

I didn't include any taboos for the monk, but I think they would make sense. I'd let each monk pick a taboo according to their own vows (again, customization without complication): truthfulness, refusing healing potions and magic, cannot carry more than three magic items, etc.

Anyway, if you like this customization without complication approach, try Old School Feats

It contains most of these features, and many notes on balance, taboos, and so on.


  1. This is great. If I were to change something, I would take away some of the thief skills (pick pockets, locks, and traps) and combine them with backstab in a "Thievery" special feature. So a monk could truly fill a thief's role in a party, but he'd need to forgo one monk feature to do so.

    1. That is a great idea! I gave them thief skills because of the original, and because these skills are not great to begin with, but separating them in a feature would give another layer of customization...

      Maybe I'll go Solomonic and give them skills like a thief half their level, with the other half as a feature...

  2. Monks are my favorite, and this is a solid take!