Hi everyone. In this thread, I wanted to present my build for my ninja-type Kensei Monk. I'm looking for any feedback to help with her optimization. I already have an idea for what I want her to be: A highly-mobile, difficult-to-pin-down, agile striker. I've designed her to be capable of bolting in and out of combat, sniping some times to force an engagement, and then closing in to deal her big damage. She can tank when she needs to with her high AC (final item build will eventually be Cloak of Protection, Ring of Protection, and Bracers of Defense) and about-average CON.
Here's what I have so far.
Level 1: Monk, Human Variant -- Quarterstaff and Darts are her primary weapons this early on; with a standard point-buy and Athlete going into a +1 DEX, this allows her scores of STR: 10, DEX: 16, CON: 14, INT: 10, WIS: 16, and CHA: 8. Athlete also makes it much easier to get around, and makes it much easier to recover from being knocked prone, should it happen.
Level 2: Monk
Level 3: Monk (Way of the Kensei) -- Longsword (Katana) and Longbow become Kinuko's primary weapons of choice for both their damage output, and the fact that she can now force the issue with long-range pressure. Positioned carefully, anything that comes after her this early on will have a devil of a time coming to blows with her. Add to that her standard Catch Missile ability, most things will literally be forced to try and close ranks, or be at a severe disadvantage the whole fight. Also, proficiency with Painter's Supplies because... why not?
Level 4: Monk, Mobile feat -- Mobile allows Kinuko to utilize her speed even more. At this level, she'll have 50 ft. of movement. She can dish out her damage at point-blank range and then safely move back out of reach, forcing most creatures she's fighting at this level to expend a Dash action to get back in close. The game essentially is knowing how to kite your enemies and not get pinned in or surrounded. If you need to use Slow Fall to get out of a sticky situation, you can. Just make sure where you're jumping from isn't too high.
Level 5: Monk -- Extra Attack makes it that much easier to be an effective participant in combat. Don't even need to drop Ki anymore to deal decent damage.
Level 6 (current level): Monk -- Deft Strike is amazing. 1 Ki to give a major boost to your weapon attacks (essentially almost lets you hit four times with two attacks -- assuming you land them both). Also, Scimitar (Wakizashi) as her third Kensei weapon (primarily for the possibility of taking Defensive Duelist feat later on).
Level 7: Monk -- Why wouldn't you? Purge fear and charm effects at-will. And Evasion is a must-have, particularly when your DEX runs as high as it will be.
Level 8: Monk, DEX +2 -- Essentially maxing DEX here and at 12 to peak out at 20. My dice aren't always kind to me, and any boost I can get to reliably increase my chances of hitting and damage are a must.
Level 9: Rogue -- Take a dip into Rogue for the eventual plan of taking Scout (and a massive increase in mobility). Also, Expertise in Athletics and Acrobatics. And a Sneak Attack die doesn't hurt.
Level 10: Rogue -- Cunning Action makes life a whole lot easier in terms of choosing your fights. Bonus actions to Dash every turn (or Disengage if you really are swamped) and you get to conserve all your Ki for Deft Strikes.
Level 11: Rogue -- Scout. Period. Nothing ever gets to stand next to you for long, and your high AC means they'll have a heck of a time hitting you anyway. Nature and Survival proficiencies (with Expertise, no less) are a nice bonus. I honestly think Scout/Monk combos are almost-kinda-sorta broken. Seriously, what in the game could catch you, short of a creature with Legendary Actions and teleports? A second Sneak Attack die is gravy.
Level 12: Monk -- Now we get Unarmored Movement Improvement. Don't like the situation you're in? Run up the wall and get the heck out of there. As if you weren't hard to corner already. Now you're getting options for how to escape. Also, no more climb checks are nice. Running down cliffs is awesome. Running up trees is awesome. Running sideways on walls just out of reach of the group that's blocking your path in that cramped dungeon... is awesome.
Level 13: Monk -- Immunity to disease, poison damage and the condition alone is worth this level, but the fact that at this point, you get a walking speed of 60 ft. too? Yum.
Level 14: Monk -- Sharpen the Blade. That nonmagical katana I carry around is now a +3 whenever I want it to be. May not always need to use this if I eventually come across a +3 longsword. Also, Daggers (Kunai) are a Kensei weapon now, because why not? One of the most easily accessible weapons and it's always magical in your hands. As a bonus, if you need to mix up the damage types because something is resistant to a type you deal, now it's easy to.
Level 15: Monk, DEX +2 -- Maximum attack and damage bonus, nice Stealth rating and Initiative, raise AC further.
Level 16: Rogue, Alert or Defensive Duelist (not sure which) -- Alert would help keep one-shotting Rogues at bay, and allow for better positioning earlier in combat. +10 Initiative is nothing to laugh at. Defensive Duelist, on the other hand, would really limit your enemy's offense. Your AC, assuming you have your full item load-out, is well into the 20's at this point, and is pushing close to 30 one attack per round with this feat. You really could be your party's tank. And if you do take Defensive Duelist, you could dip a level into Fighter and get a free +2 to damage with every swing, rendering the longsword irrelevant. Or, if you want to take the boring option, opt for +2 to WIS.
Level 17: Monk/Fighter -- Tongue of Sun and Moon is really just getting you towards your true capstone ability: Diamond Soul. If you took Defensive Duelist, however, you can give yourself a total of +10 to damage per swing of your Wakizashi by taking Duelist.
Level 18: Monk -- Diamond Soul is truly the best ability the Monk has. After this point, you'll probably have a fighting chance against pretty much anything your DM can throw at you. If you dipped into Fighter, you've just delayed it a level.
Level 19: Fighter/Monk -- Take another level of fighter if you want Action Surge. Otherwise, Diamond Soul.
Level 20: Monk/Fighter -- Timeless Body is... okay. If it gave your character immortality, then I'd say it was worth it in its own right. Part of me, however, would rather go a third level into Fighter and take the Samurai archetype.
So, how do you like it, my fellows? Do you see any leveling I could have done better? Any alternative routes you would have taken? Part of me thinks maybe I should stick with Monk until level 14 to grab Diamond Soul, just because it's that good, then explore the side classes afterward. Scout with Monk, however, is really, really good too, and the other part of me wants to grab that sooner rather than later.
Really, I'm at war with myself. I've yet to make a concrete decision for her final leveling path. Samurai matches her background quite well. Scout matches the fact that she's on the run. Sadly, I probably won't have enough levels to explore them all.
Just one comment. The monk's ability to deflect arrows can only deflect one missile per round. Plus it doesn't always eliminate all damage from that attack. It's a nice ability, but it's not as effective as it looks. Two opponents can work together to shoot arrows at a monk all day long and eventually they'll wear the monk down unless the monk closes into melee with them.
Fair point. I stand by my assessment, though. Most of my experience with missile enemies, they've had their damage reduced to zero and had their missile flung right back at them, whether with the Ki ability or on my turn, while their friends were preoccupied with mine. And full cover is always effective when you have it, otherwise. High AC would make it difficult to hit the Monk anyway -- many of the times when I've been sniped at, I've been secretly praying for a high roll from the DM just so they'd hit and I could use my ability.
My experience with missile enemies and monk is the damage by returning a weapon isn't worth the Ki points so I only did it once. When we fought a group of opponents who all used missile weapons I was only able to block one missile and I got hit. When we fought opponents who closed to melee quickly instead the deflect missile ability protected me from any damage when the DM did manage to hit me.