Monks and Assassins for Basic D&D

Most of the classes in classic D&D fit into a Tolkien-esque sort of campaign world, which in turn is largely based on northern european history and folklore. However over the years there have been a few character class options that suggest a campaign world with a more eastern flavour.

The Monk class was based on fighting monastic orders such as the Shaolin Temple, a Buddhist monastery in Henan province, China.  This style of Monk (or Nun if a female character) is quite different from the western religious orders who did not focus on physical training and hand-to-hand fighting techniques. While I like that the Monk offers more diversity in the implied setting, the implementation was messy. Lots of special abilities that are easy to forget, and special rules for advancement.

Similar to this was the Assassin class which was actually based on militant Islamic "monks" in Persia during the middle-ages. While the Shaolin Monks would dress in a manner making them easy to recognize the Ḥashshāshīn would travel in disguise and infiltrate neighbouring communities and rival kingdoms. They would then be able to eliminate key figures who might seek to move against their order.

In our continuing series of streamlined classes for Basic D&D I'm going to treat the Monks and Assassins as variants of each other, since they both represent eastern orders with fortified monasteries.

These classes are both based on the Cleric and are treated as such except as noted below. Due to the fantasy nature of the game they, like the Cleric, have been given fantastic abilities representing the folklore about them, rather than the historical truth of their orders.

Monk (Assassin)
Cleric Sub Class
Note: Bracketed text applies to Assassins

Must be Lawful (Chaotic)
Minimum Wisdom score of 9 (Minimum Charisma score of 9)
May not wear any armour
Monks may not use weapons (Assassins may use Any Weapons)
Can not Turn Undead

Special Abilities
+2 AC unless surprised
Unarmed attacks do d4 Damage; add an extra d4 at levels 5, 9, 13, 17
Move Silently, Climb Sheer Surfaces, Hide in Shadows as Thief of same level
Immunity to Fear, Charm, ESP, Magical Sleep
Monks can Save vs Petrification to deflect/doge any missile attack
(Assassins gain +4 to hit, x2 damage, when striking unnoticed from behind)

Spell Lists
Monks do not need to memorize spells ahead of time; their spells can only affect the Monk
1st - Cure Light Wounds, Resist Cold
2nd - Bless, Resist Fire
3rd - Cure Disease, Striking
4th - Cure Serious Wounds, Neutralize Poison
5th - Commune

Assassins do not need to memorize spells ahead of time.
1st - Cause Light Wounds, Darkness
2nd - Blight, Silence 15' Radius
3rd - Disease, Striking
4th - Cause Serious Wounds


David said...

Wasn't there a Monk style class called the Mystic?

Stuart said...

That sounds familiar, but I don't think I've seen it.

David said...

I think it was in the Rules Cyclopedia for sure, but I don't know what box it was in before that. They had unarmed combat and Monkish flavour.

Jack said...

Nice! I just use the monk and assassin from Labyrinth Lord (with a few tweaks) but I like how you've gone back to the folklore for your take on them

DuBeers said...

Je suis impressionné. C'est travail très bon.

(Excuses pour ma compétence maigre avec le Français.)

Lord Gwydion said...

The Mystic class is in the Masters Set and the Rules Cyclopedia. But it's still just as much of a mess as the AD&D Monk.

This iteration seems cleaner and simpler for sure.

However, Shaolin monks without the use of the staff, spear, or various other martial arts weapons doesn't seem right. Maybe give them a short list of allowed weapons, similar to the standard Cleric's short list?

Stuart said...

@DuBeers Merci beacoup. :)

Stuart said...

Email says there was a question... but it's not here... weird.

However, Shaolin monks without the use of the staff, spear, or various other martial arts weapons doesn't seem right. Maybe give them a short list of allowed weapons, similar to the standard Cleric's short list?

In Basic/Expert a club and staff both only do d4... so if you wanted a Monk to use one for "colour" it'd be the same as their unarmed attack. The d4 "weapon" was one of the ways I balanced the Monk compared to the Cleric -- which gets a d6 weapon (Mace or War Hammer).

Michael Moscrip said...

Very interesting! I wasn't expecting the assassin to be a cleric type with spell abilities. I can definitely see it. Very thought provoking.

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