The Unmindful Monk

Normally when I write about 4e, I do so trying to talk about the game in a way that doesn’t involve or introduce any particular changes to the game. It’s not useful for me to advocate for a game in terms of ‘here’s how cool this game is, if you accept my houserules.’ Typically speaking, I try to talk about what’s in the rulebook, even if I’m gleeful about pointing out the ways that we didn’t play 3e by the rules and probably nobody else did.

But it’s a bit of a challenge to advocate for something when you’re actually advocating for a connected idea in your head. Like, at that point I might as well point out that part of why I like 4e D&D so much is I get to play it with my cool friends who are great, and at that point: Who am I fooling, of course that game kicks ass. If I present new content for 4e, it’s discretely new; it’s cultures from my own world, new class feats or whatnot, but it’s not asking you to change anything in the game that exists. That makes this something new, and something I am doing with so much more thought than it really needs.

Anyway, hey, what if the Monk was Martial, not Psionic?

I’ve written in the past about how the Monk, the class, in 4e is a psionic class, and how that psionic flag on them is a strange exception. My ‘conspiracy theory’ is that it’s detritus from the ki power source that was ditched at some point, either for good reasons (‘is this a little racist?’) or mediocre reasons (‘we can’t think of three other classes for this’). To simplify, the Psionic power source represents four classes: Battleminds, Ardents, Psions, and Monks. Battleminds, Ardents and Psions all have a system of power points and feats that relate to them, and the Monk has a totally different system called Full Disciplines. And the Monk is Psionic, despite having nothing in common with the other Psionic classes. Weird, right?

It’s not even like ‘Psionic’ is a generic term lacking in a particular meaning in the context of 4e D&D. In one of the stranger beats in the rulebook, ‘Psionic’ power is power that stems from a contact with the Far Realms. That makes sense for the horror opened unnatural eyes and bending of reality of the Battlemind and Psion, but the Monk’s power is described as coming from within. They’re expressed as pushing the limits of the body, tapping into a greater spirit, and coming to understand something about themselves.

Look, who am I kidding: You know exactly what “Monk” means. It’s Kung Fu shit. It’s a class of Kung Fu shit and Kung Fu in the west has no association with psychic powers. Despite the way Kung Fu may be tied to a bunch of different kinds of mysticism, in the west it’s tied to mastery of the body, and typically is explicitly the opposite of magical powers. A kung fu hero is the guy who beats up some kind of wizard or talisman wielder, not a guy who can channel the power of his mind to change things across the world. Sure, you can argue that Kung Fu shit is about using the mind to power the body, but the Kung Fu Shit still punches things powered by the mind.

It’s not far realm Lovecraftian brain tentacles. It’s cool Kung Fu shit.

Accept if you will that the Monk doesn’t really belong in the Psionic power category. Just accept that I accept it, even if you don’t. If it’s not Psionic now, what is it? You could hypothetically have a power sourceless class – there’s no reason for it to have to have one, it would just be even more bogglingly weird than the Psionic power source itself was. But there doesn’t have to be a complete vacation from that source when instead there’s an existing power source that the monk could belong to, and I mean, as written, should belong to.

See, here’s the description of the Martial Power Source in the Player’s Handbook:

Martial powers are not magic in the traditional sense, although some martial powers stand well beyond the capabilities of ordinary mortals. Martial characters use their own strength and willpower to vanquish their enemies. Training and dedication replace arcane formulas and prayers to grant fighters, rangers, rogues, and warlords, among others, their power.

Training and dedication. Training and dedication. Training and dedication. You know, those things that we use monks and monasteries to shorthand and signify. It’s not magical weapons, it’s dedicatedly training endlessly to refine the body into a perfect tool for the craft of… well, again, Kung Fu Shit.

What though! What changes if this change is implemented? What does this house rule open up? What need of mine does it satisfy, as the person who is going to play with this rule at best?

Well, it means that Monks lose access to all Psionic feats, Paragon Paths, and Epic Destinies. Of which Monks have… zero meaningful interactions. Alright, that sets that aside. Anything that ‘requires’ a monk and a psionic background can be easily folded to just ignore the psionic requirement. It also means that Monks gain access to Martial feats, Paragon Paths, and Epic Destinies. What does that mean?

Uh Martial Practices?

Which includes flavourful things like being able to craft and repair objects, tracking people, being able to preserve a corpse, balance perfectly, recognise details in a space perfectly, faking an identity, slowing your heartbeat and – hang on this is more Kung Fu shit!?

It does mean that Martial arts get to do more things like throw flame and channel the spirit of a dragon and all that but that stuff is meant to be a metaphor for what the body can do! You might see it as a development of something in the Martial space that you don’t want it to have, but I might suggest that the limited vision of how Martial characters can’t do things like that is part of the problem that led to bad opinions on 4e in the first place.

I’m going to level with you, that as a designer, this is not an important or meaningful change. This is a change that tidies up the bookkeeping of an organisation chart that nobody actually playing needs to care about. Maybe you have a monk character who would really like access to Martial Practice, and that player gets one bonus feat now they don’t have to spend. It’s such a niche thing, I can’t imagine it actually matters.

But it kinda matters to me.

Now, as with doing your own appendectomy, if the Monk moves out of the Psionic pool to the Martial pool, then that cleans up the Psionic Power Source, we are now filled with courage and confidence and ready to reach over and start extracting other organs.

Like c’mere, Vampire…

This article was reposted from Talen’s personal blog.
You can find the original at Press.exe

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