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Fists of Flurry: Twists on the Monk’s Signature Ability

Fists of Flurry: Twists on the Monk’s Signature Ability

The moonlight fight between Yoshitsune and Benkei on the Gojobashi, KyotoThere have been a variety of joke names for a monk’s flurry of blows class ability. “Flurry of misses” is a common one, and so is “death of 1,000 whiffs.” Sacrificing accuracy for additional attacks is a gamble, and it becomes an even bigger one if you’re combining the ability with Power Attack to try to do more damage. However, an alternative strategy might just make your windmilling monk a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield.

The flurry of blows writeup in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook covers some familiar ground. Monks may make a flurry of blows attack as a full round attack, gaining one additional attack. For the purpose of this ability, your base attack bonus is equal to your monk level, and you treat the attack as if you have the Two-Weapon Fighting feat. You may use any combination of unarmed attacks or special monk weapons during the attack.

However, the last section points out that you can substitute a trip, sunder, or disarm combat maneuver for any of your flurry of blows attacks…

The Way of Superior Asskicking

This small change in the ability, which was left vague in 3.5E, gives monks a great deal more latitude on the battlefield. For instance, say you created a human monk with the Improved Disarm feat. If two enemies were threatening you, you could use your quarterstaff or your bare hands (for dramatic effect) to take their weapons away, rather than attempting to pummel them into submission. Then your enemies would either have to draw new weapons to attack you, pick up the weapons you slapped out of their hands (provoking an attack of opportunity from you), or attack you barehanded (also provoking an attack of opportunity from you).

This bit of strategy could also be used for a sunder attack to destroy your enemies’ weapons or a trip attack to flip them flat on their backs. If successful, you’ve put your enemies in a very precarious position that can be taken advantage of by both you and the rest of the adventuring party.

Character Building

Beyond simple strategy, using the alternative attacks that are possible with flurry of blows can play right into character story and personal honor codes.

Say for instance that your monk is a peaceful warrior. It would make much more sense for him or her to disarm opponents or to pull their legs out from under them than it would to just beat them to death with fists. Or say that your monk was trained by a military or gladiator school in the arts of disciplined combat. Putting your enemy into a disadvantageous situation, such as being disarmed while you are not or flipped prone where you can give a curb stomp for the enjoyment of the crowd, is the way that sort of monk would handle the battlefield.

So not only have you turned a monk, generally thought of as a backup combatant, into a much greater force, you’ve also enriched the potential backstory through careful thought and some number crunching. A win-win situation for everyone!

9 thoughts on “Fists of Flurry: Twists on the Monk’s Signature Ability”

  1. I loved this option in Pathfinder, but my DM kept discouraging it, essentially telling me that doing anything but punching when I had a full round was almost a waste of time (but not in those words). I am kinda considering withdrawing my monk from that game.

  2. Sounds like a poor-to-middling DM–I think that players should always have control over character actions, and DM “suggestions” are a bad idea unless players are fishing for hints.

    So yeah, I wouldn’t play a monk in his game either.

  3. Combat maneuvers are where the monk weapons can come into play. Sundering and disarming unarmed are a bit challenging as you suffer a few penalties depending on what feats you have.

    For the secondary attacks (those where you are taking -5 or more BAB penalty) I find the touch based attacks are the most effective since you typically are against a lower AC. This means trip and grapple. Often you can get in some solid hits then switch into one of those two as your final moves.

    Flurry of blows is nearly always superior to an extra +2 attack bonus for a single strike. +2 is effectively 10% and one attack at 50% is not as good as two attacks at 40%. Only when you need a 18 or 19 to hit on your regular strike does it not make sense to go for a flurry when you can take one.

    I find the most effective monks favor strength and wisdom in that order, then secondarily constitution and dexterity. I’m not a fan of finesse build monks, especially not at lower levels.

  4. Poor Wandering One

    I have always liked the idea of opening a flurry with a trip and useing anything left over for attacks. If the trip works you pretty much get another primary attack on them do to the fact that they are prone and then on their turn if they get up or try to crawl away you get a full BAB attack of opportunity.

    At higher levels or with some good gear the monk can trip using multiple attacks in the flurry. This allows the monk to basicly lockdown multiple foes until the barbarian power-attacking with the great axe can get around to them.

    I would be interested in seeing how a monk focused on the new maneuvers in the APG would play.

    Flurry of steal anyone?

  5. PWO: yeah, but one thing that drives me crazy about Pathfinder is that if you fail a trip attempt by 10 or more, you get tripped yourself. Even if you have all the way to Greater Trip and somehow botch it. To me this just flies into the face of SEVERAL methods I know of for tripping someone without ever being in danger of being tripped yourself (any decent trip attempt doesn’t even target the legs, but the center-of-mass and the head).

  6. The monk player in my current game caught on to this early. One of the more memorable fights is when my male friends female dwark monk PC was crit on a charge, then on her turn knocked the weapon she was crit with out of the guy’s hand, knocked the guy on his butt, and then used the rest of her attacks to deal damage. Most impressive.

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