RPGBOT site logo RPG BOT{{(konamiCodeMode)?' - KONAMI CODE GO':''}}

{{ subtitle }}

Pathfinder - The Monk Handbook

Last Updated: November 8, 2018


I support a limited subset of Pathfinder's rules content. If you would like help with Pathfinder player options not covered here, please email me and I am happy to provide additional assistance.

I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks. Also note that many colored items are also links to the Paizo SRD.

Temporary Note: Paizo has recently discontinued support of their official SRD. From this point forward SRD links on RPGBOT.net will instead link to d20PFSRD.com. While Archive of Nethys is now Paizo's officially licensed partner for the purposes of serving the Pathfinder SRD, Archive of Nethys is a horribly designed website and it simply doesn't match d20PFSRD's ability to keep pace with published content and d20PFSRD's search functionality.

If you encounter any links which still point to the old SRD, please email me so that I can correct them. I also recently added a page explaining my supported content which you may find helpful. --September 15, 2018


Since the days of 3.0, the Monk has been somewhat of an enigma. An almost strictly combat character with medium Base Attack Bonus progression, d8 hit points, and no armor. Monks in Pathfinder still have the same features, but many of their most glaring issues have been heavily improved upon.

Due to their unique abilities, it can be difficult to identify the monk's role in the party. With their skill list, they can function as a scout, but their combat skills make them a passable defender or striker (See my article on Party Composition).

This guide is for the vanilla Monk. For the Unchained Monk, see my Unchained Monk Handbook.

Monk Class Features

Hit Points: d8 hit points is hard for a strictly melee class.

Base Attack Bonus: The Monk's primary offensive option, Flurry of Blows, pretends that the Monk has full BAB, which is usually enough in combat but can be frustrating when qualifying for feats.

Saves: All good saves.

Proficiencies: The Monk is proficient with Monk weapons (which make up a collection of strange, exotic, and often foreign weapons) and a couple of other odds and ends like hand axes, crossbows, and spears. Strangely, the Monk weapons tend to be the best options since they can benefit from Flurry of blows. Monks gain no armor or shield proficiencies, and generally rely on their Monk AC bonus instead.

Skills: The Monk skill list has several excellent options, several of which are difficult for the monk to capitalize on. By splashing a few skills and focusing on the best ones, the Monk can make excellent use of their 4+ skill points.

AC Bonus (Ex): The Monk AC bonus helps to offset the monk's lack of armor. The scaling is fairly negligible, but it still feels good to have. However, your AC will still be awful without additional items and AC improvements.

Flurry of Blows (Ex): This is the Monk's iconic attack. It follows the same progression as a fighter maximizing the two-weapon fighting feats, but you have no "off-hand" attacks. You don't even need free hands. You can use your feet if your hands are full. You can also alternate freely between weapons and unarmed strikes, and you can substitute disarm, sunder, and trip combat maneuvers for unarmed attacks.

Unarmed Strike: This is why you generally play a monk: because you want to hit things with your bare hands/feet/etc. The damage dice starts off fairly small, but when you hit d8 at level 4, it begins to outpace whatever weapons you might be two-weapon fighting with. At level 12, your fists are greatswords. You can also deal nonlethal damage without penalty, which is situationally useful. It's important to note that your unarmed strike damage is heavily size-based, so you want to do everything you can to increase your effective size. Get enlarged and throw Impact on an Amulet of Mighty Fists. It's also interesting to note that the damage progression stops at 20th-level, so items like a Monks Belt stop being useful at high levels unless you multiclass.

Brawler/Monk Unarmed Strike Damage by Size and Level
Level Small Medium Large Huge Gargantuan Colossal
1st-3rd 1d4 1d6 1d8 2d6 3d6 4d6
4th-7th 1d6 1d8 2d6 3d6 4d6 6d6
8th-11th 1d8 1d10 2d8 3d8 4d8 6d8
12th-15th 1d10 2d6 3d6 4d6 6d6 8d8
16th-19th 2d6 2d8 3d8 4d8 6d8 8d8
20th 2d8 2d10 4d8 6d8 8d8 12d8
This table is taken from the 3.5 rules. They should be the same in Pathfinder, but Pathfinder doesn't provide official rules for monks smaller than small or larger than large. Check with your GM before using this table.

Bonus Feats: With the addition of the Advanced Player's Guide and Ultimate Combat, the Monk has a lot of great bonus feat options. And the best part: "A monk need not have any of the prerequisites normally required for these feats to select them." This is especially great for the high level style feats, since many of the prerequisites are fairly awful.

Stunning First (Ex): Another iconic Monk ability, stunning fist gets better as you advance. A stunned creature drops everything held (free disarm!), can't take actions, takes a -2 penalty to AC, and loses its Dexterity bonus to AC (if any). This makes the rest of your iterative attacks much better, and prevents the target from taking attacks of opportunity when you make Combat Maneuver attempts in place of your iterative attacks. At higher levels you can instead make the target fatigued (-2 to CMD due to reduced str and dex), sickened (-2 to saves so you can more reliably apply other affects), staggered (only one action per turn), permanently blinded or deafened (permanently flat-footed or permanently bad at casting spells), and finally paralyzed (lol). The only issue is that it's a fortitude save, which is typically high for monsters.

Evasion (Ex): Always fantastic, Evasion works well with your reasoanbly high dexterity and strong saves.

Fast Movement (Ex): Extra speed lets you get into position to stop moving sooner. Past round 1, hope that you won't need this much speed.

Maneuver Training (Ex): Using your class level in place of BAB makes you actually viable for Combat Maneuvers. Combined with good strength and a plethora of weapons which give you bonuses to Combat Maneuvers, you can actually do pretty well.

Still Mind (Ex): Your saves are already great, but a bonus against enchantments and compulsions can save you from some really awful effects.

Ki Pool (Su): Damage reduction is the biggest problem for builds which rely on large numbers of attacks with relatively low damage. Ki Pool lets you treat your attacks as magic, silver, cold iron, lawful, and finally adamantine. While very few things have DR/lawful, the others are excellent and cover a broad spectrum of enemies. At low levels, you may need to carry weapons to handle DR silver and DR cold iron, but Ki Pool will handle things at higher levels so long as you have a point in your Ki Pool. You can spend points from your ki pool as a swift to get an extra attack, boost your speed, or boost your AC. When things get serious, these boosts can make or break your monk.

Slow Fall (Ex): Patently worse than Feather Fall, which is a first level spell, is more effective, and can affect multiple targets.

High Jump (Ex): The bonus is cute, but almost never useful. By spending Ki, you can jump an extra 5 feet in the air. At 5th level Wizards can Fly.

Purity of Body (Ex): Immunity to diseases is nice, but rarely useful. With the exception of Contagion spell, you typically have enough time to have someone cast Remove Disease before disease becomes a problem.

Wholeness of Body (Ex): At the end of the day when you're about to rest, this is a good way to empty your Ki Pool, but I don't think it will see a lot of use if you still have things to fight today.

Improved Evasion (Ex): Always amazing and reliable.

Diamond Body (Su): Lots of high level monsters have poison effects, and it's nice to not worry about them.

Abundant Step (Su): Sometimes your speed can't get you where you need to go, and you can use this a move action. However, keep in mind that you can't take additional actions after using it. Make sure to do something with your other actions before teleporting, even if it's just to Fight Defensively for the AC bonus.

Diamond Soul (Ex): Spell resistance which effectively makes 50% of spells and spell-like abilities not affect you, assuming the caster is the same level as you.

Quivering Palm (Su): This is notably worse than most wizard save-or-die spells, but it's still a once per day death effect with a reasonable DC.

Timeless Body (Ex): Stay young and pretty until you die of old age. Leave a pretty corpse.

Tongue of the Sun and Moon (Ex): You can talk to anything, but you're not particularly good at it with no Diplomacy and lousy charisma.

Empty Body (Su): Punch ghosts and walk through walls.

Perfect Self: Suddenly you can't use Enlarge Person. The DR is cute, and you become immune to things like Dominate Person, but things which require you to be a humanoid have generally been abandoned for several levels. I would argue that this ability actually makes you worse since you can't benefit from Enlarge Person.


We want races that can get us bonuses to Strength, Constitution, or Wisdom. Extra vision abilities are always nice. Because the Monk's damage output depends so heavily on their damage die size, being small is a serious problem.



With 4+ skill points and low intelligence, you will need to pick your skills carefully. Fortuantely, many Monk skills can function with only one rank.


General Feats

Style Feats

Your best bet will often be to pick one or two styles and stick to it. If you take Combat Style Master, you can switch styles as a free action, which allows you to spend your turn in an offensive style, then switch to a defensive style when you are done attacking.


While you will most likely be fighting unarmed, monk weapons offer you a lot of really fantastic options, including bonuses to combat maneuvers. Monks who aren't specialized with weapons should still carry a couple to bypass DR until Ki Pool covers the bases, and for bonuses on CMB checks.

Monks can use a single weapon for flurry of blows, which removes the need for double weapons or two-weapon fighting. This also increases the importance of damage enhancements on your weapon because you get a large number of low-damage attacks. If you plan to use weapons, be sure to pick up some damage enhancements.

I recommend carrying a sansetsukon as your primary weapon due to the high damage and critical threat range, but be prepared to drop it once you get Ki Strike if you need to bypass DR/magic, or abandon it completely once you can get enhancement bonuses on your fists reliably. The sansetsukon can also be used to disarm, but when you stop using it as your primary weapon replace it with something lighter like a double-chicken saber (for the slashing damage). Also carry a double-chained kama for tripping and for reach. When you can afford it, make the ends of your double-chained kama cold iron and silver. Piercing damage isn't as important, but carry a Lungchuan Tamo or two just to be safe.


Monks can't use armor, so I recommend getting someone in your party to cast Mage Armor on you. With hours/level duration even a low level wizard can cover you for the full adventuring day. If your pet Wizard is stingy with his spell slots, drop 1000 gold pieces to buy him a Pearl of Power 1 so you can both share Mage Armor from one slot. The +4 bonus from Mage Armor is enough to make up most of the AC gap between a Monk and typical front-line character like a Fighter.

Magic Items




Wondrous Items

Permanent Spells

Multiclassing and Prestige Classes

Monks benefit very little from multiclassing, but other classes can benefit greatly from a dip into Monk for one or two levels. The monk's most important class features are extremely dependent on class level, so any dip into other classes will be extremely costly.