Friday, July 2, 2010

Class Acts: Monk - Pushing the boundaries of Full Disciplines.

UPDATE: Darn, the errata bugbear hit this article hard! It turns out that movement techniques with immediate actions were deemed too confusing, after all, as they all got changed to minor action shifts in the compilation. Good news is, minor action movement techniques are still there, and the article is still full of awesome.

I haven’t been writing much about Dragon Magazine lately, due to the overall mediocrity of last month’s content. Only two of the articles in June's issue (#388) were of interest to me: an intriguing Winning Races for Dragonborn, featuring an alternate encounter power for the race (which you can take without any kind of feat cost, an idea I fully support, and which I’d like to see more of), and a Class Acts dedicated to fire Wizards that introduced some cool ideas, but irregular mechanics.

It seems like issue #389 may be a different story, though, as we start the month with a great article for the Monk class, signed by Peter Schaefer. Subtitled "Fallen Needle Itinerants", the article features some amusing backstory on a monk master called Fat Aloisus, as well as really inspired mechanics. I already talked about my love for monks when we got to see one half of the class and, after reading the rest, I think they are easily the best thing to come out of Player’s Handbook 3, and one of the coolest strikers in the whole game. However, there is one thing that PHB3 didn’t get completely right but this article redeems: the use of Full Disciplines.

Don't let him deceive you, it's all muscle. Really.

For those not versed in the Way of the Monk, a full discipline is a special kind of attack that actually includes two powers in one: an attack technique, and a movement technique. The attack technique is pretty much your standard 4E attack power, but the other one is the cool part - a special mode of movement that can only be used on the same round you use the associated attack, typically granting effects such as increased movement speed or shifting, but also jumps, teleports, switches, and other tricks that you’d expect from utility powers.

The Full Discipline mechanic shows a lot of potential, as both parts of a power can be tied thematically or mechanically, having special synergies with one another and even resulting in powers with sub-standard attacks that are nevertheless worth taking due to a strong movement effect. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see too much of this in PHB3 - but this short article makes up for it in spades.

The greatest innovation of the new powers in this Class Acts (one At-Will and six Encounters) lies in breaking an unwritten rule of Movement Techniques: that they have to cost a Move Action. By using triggered free and immediate actions, and even minor actions, these disciplines add even more variety and dynamism to your monk, and can result in great frustration for monsters trying to engage in melee.

This kind of powers can be a little confusing, in that many players tended to assume that you could only activate a movement technique in the same round as the corresponding attack technique. However, looking closely at the rules text, we find that the limitation is actually to use them in the same round, so it’s perfectly possible to use the reaction moves as long as you made an appropriate attack during your turn. Also, you should be aware that the rules only prevent you from using different full disciplines, but nothing stops you from spending your standard action on a different kind of attack (like basic attacks or multiclass powers) and choosing any of your at-will movement techniques. This should prove particularly useful for hybrid characters.

Anyway, I hope we can see more DDI material of this quality in the future. Now I just need to get my hands on a monk PC, to try out the new stuff...

1 comment:

  1. I'm with you on the Monk. I've loved them since AD&D (where they were barely a class).

    I play a ranged beastmaster in my 4E game and REALLY want to try a monk, but I feel that my ranger is too needed. Beyond DPS (which the monk can probably approach without too much trouble), I've built the ranger to be a strong utility class with broad skills and utilities like Crucial Advice (someone always fails a Stealth check) and attacks that push opponents or move allies.

    I just don't see any other striker having that added utility. Any thoughts?