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D&D 5.5E: The New Monk Got Some Major Buffs

5 Minute Read
Jul 8 2024

Monks are so back in D&D 5.5E. At least according to a new preview video from Wizards of the Coast. Find out what changed!

Monks are one of the classes that have changed the most from the 2014 D&D 5E Player’s Handbook to the 5.5E 2024 Player’s Handbook. To be fair, they’ve also needed to. Monks weren’t in the best place in 5E. The core class was cool, but practically, was just a vessel for delivering Stunning Strikes. A far cry from what they could be, as Baldur’s Gate 3 illustrated. In that game, Monks were among the most powerful characters.

Thankfully, Monks are coming out smelling like roses in the upcoming edition. Monks pack in a ton of new features, and have old ones that have been redesigned so you might actually use them. Or feel good that you have them.

There’s a lot of changes to dig through, so let’s dive right on in.

D&D 5.5E Monks – Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

There’s so much changed about the core D&D 5.5E Monk. For starters, at level 1 you get a reimagined Martial Arts feature, which lets you just make an unarmed strike as a bonus action all the time. No more do you need to make an attack with a monk weapon or anything to get yourself a bonus action, which is very cool.

Also the Martial Arts damage die now starts at 1d6 instead of 1d4, and goes all the way up to 1d12. Plus Monks can use their Dexterity instead of Strength to Grapple and Shove, which is important, because we also learned that Unarmed Strikes have changed. Now instead of just being a vehicle for dealing damage (and mostly for Monks), Unarmed Strikes also give you the option to initiate a Grapple or to Shove an opponent. Meaning you can Grapple or Shove someone as a Bonus Action, if you’re a Monk.

But there’s even more improvements at 2nd Level. Here’s where you would unlock Ki abilities, which have been renamed to “Monk’s Focus”. You still get the same pool of points to spend on abilities. But those abilities have all been buffed.

Let’s start with Patient Defense and Step of the Wind, which in 5E were a pale shadow to the Rogue’s Canny Action, which let them Disengage, Dash, or Hide as a Bonus Action. Monks used to have to spend a ki point to do what Rogues could do for free.

I’m pleased to say that’s no longer the case. Patient Defense lets you Disengage as a Bonus Action for free. Step of the Wind lets you Dash as a Bonus Action. Both of these can be enhanced with a Focus point, much as we saw in Playtest 8, letting you add a Dodge to Patient Defense, or a Disengage and Dash with doubled Jump Distance to Step of the Wind. All very cool stuff.

But the hits keep on coming in. By 3rd Level, you get the last key piece of Monk abilities. Deflect Attacks, which has been reworked from the ol’ Deflect Arrows which used to only work on ranged attacks and nobody cared too much about it. Now it works on Melee AND Ranged attacks, letting you reduce incoming damage by 1d10 + Dex + Monk Level, making them much more survivable. Plus, if you reduce that damage to 0, you can spend a Focus point to redirect the attack against a nearby creature, who makes a Dex save or takes damage based on your Martial Arts die. It’s a much needed buff that will make Monks more active and fun.


Stunning Strike also got some love. Now the ability works whether your target saves or not. If they fail a save, they’re stunned. But if they succeed, your Stunning Strike still halves their speed and makes the next attack against them have Advantage. So it’s a good power either way. Sure, you can only use it once per round, but that’s honestly not too bad.

At level 5, Empowered Strikes gives you the option of doing Force Damage. And then at higher levels, your features get better and better. So all in all the new Monk is looking great.

Subclasses – Four Elements Monks are Good Now

Then there’s the subclasses. Starting with Four Elements Monks, who are reimagined. If you saw them in Playtest 8, you know what to expect. But in a nutshell, gone are the spells that cost Ki points to cast. Instead, you make elemental strikes which extend the reach of your attacks and can even give you extra damage and push or pull foes around the battlefield.

The Warrior of the Open Hand got some tweaks. It’s mostly the same, but certain features have been adjusted. There’s a new Fleet Step feature which let’s you use Step of the Wind as part of any Bonus Action, and Quivering Palm is way less swingy.

Warrior of Shadow has a lot more going for it. While they’ve lost some spells, like Pass Without Trace and Silence, they can instead now see through the magical darkness they create and gain improved darkvision. They also no longer are without their powers if there’s no darkness or dim light nearby.


Finally, Warriors of Mercy work basically identically to how they did in Tasha’s Cauldron. Which is great, because they were great there, too.

All this in the new 5.5E PHB coming September 17th!

Author: J.R. Zambrano
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