This is where I will be departing quite radically from the traditional view of the monk as wuxia in D&D. When one uses the word monk, there are two archetypes that stand above all others: Shaolin and Benedictine. Understandably, D&D opted for the former because the latter, being a non-martial contemplative, doesn’t really fit with the whole dungeon delving schtick of Dungeons and Dragons. While it isn’t a perfect fit, at least a Shaolin is trained to fight.
Given my own proclivities, however, and the concept of the cleric being so heavily influenced by Christian archetypes in earlier versions of D&D such as Holmes, I have a hard time seeing a Shaolin monk as a subclass of the Christian-influenced cleric. Indeed, when AD&D was published, the monk was completely divorced from the cleric class. My friends and I always classified it as a subclass of the thief. Thus, I am much more inclined to lean toward a fantasy version of the Benedictine.
The first thing to decide is what effect a western-style monk might have access to. If one breaks down the Benedictine Rule to its fundamentals they are work and pray. The first deals with the mundane while the second asks for the miraculous. One thing I know that monks are praying for all the time is health. Therefore, I am going to explore the possibility of healing as the basis of a monk' s Turning mechanic.
In Cook there are six healing-type spells: Cure Light Wounds, Cure Disease, Remove Curse, Cure Serious Wounds, Neutralize Poison and Raise Dead. Since tying healing to Turning is going to be quite powerful, I am willing to eliminate Raise Dead with the justification that a monk’s Turning ability only works on the living. This leaves us with five special effects.
Both Holmes and Cook have eight target types in their Turn Tables. Thus, there needs to be an additional three healing effects. Since Cure Light Wounds uses a d8, the three other categories can use small die types: d2, d4 and d6.
Thus the Turning categories of the monk might look like this:
- Cure 1d2 hp
- Cure 1d4 hp
- Cure 1d6 hp
- Cure 1d8 hp
- Cure Disease
- Remove Curse
- Cure 2d8
- Neutralize Poison
Once per encounter, a monk could attempt to effect 2d6 targets with a Turn. A success means affecting all targets with the effect. A ’T’ means an automatic success and a ‘D’ means a maximum effect.
As I stated before, this is quite powerful, much more so than being able to Turn undead. Thus, a monk would have to give up some other mechanic(s) to balance out the class. There are two that are obviously available: combat ability and spell-casting.
Thus, we have four options:
- Monks fight as Magic-users (no armor, limited weapons)
- Monks cast as fighters (no spell casting)
- Monks fight as thieves (leather armor and limited weapons) AND cast as fighters
- Monks fight as Magic-users AND cast as fighters
I think Option 4 would make this class largely unplayable. Basically, the class would be a heal-bot that could offer nothing much else during an adventure, especially during combat. Option 1 would blur the line between magic-user and cleric in an interesting way, but I think it would be too powerful. This leaves us with deciding on the fighting ability of the monk: fight like a cleric or like a thief.
I am sore tempted to go with Option 2 for playability reasons. With no spells, the monk becomes a glorified medic. Limiting their ability to jump into combat in a meaningful way would make me think twice about playing it, whereas being a legitimate second-line fighter that allows clerics to freely use utility spells without worrying about healing sounds like a lot of fun.