D&D 5e: Aarakocra Monk Guide

A dual wielding arrakocra monk striking from above.

D&D 5e: Aarakocra Monk Guide

What happens when you combine a rapid, mobile brawler with a racial lineage that has built-in flight as its major perk?

You create what’s probably the fastest, hardest-to-pin-down character in the entire game, that’s what! 

An unarmed male arrakocra monk practicing martial art forms.

How to Make an Aarakocra Monk

Monks as a class have always been INSANE, considering they’re heavily dependent on three separate ability scores (Dex, Wis, & Con), but building one is relatively simple. 

Dexterity dictates combat prowess, controlling both attack and damage rolls, as well as Armor Class, an important save, and a bunch of skills. Always raise this first. 

Wisdom fuels all of the monk’s mystical powers, increasing save DCs, number of uses, and more. 

Finally, any monk without at least a few points in Constitution is liable to fall over bleeding as soon as the first big monster looks at them sideways. 

Monks don’t need gear. Their Armor Class is dependent entirely on Dex and Wis, and their damage scales with levels. It’s worth pointing out that the Monk tends towards middling AC and HP, and tends towards the squishy side with a whole host of supplementary defenses, so directly tanking damage probably isn’t the best idea. 

Monks are also surprisingly skill starved. However, the class is pretty decent at the few skills that they’re proficient in. Perception, Survival, and Insight are all excellent choices, as are things like Stealth, Medicine, and Sleight of Hand if your character idea suits them. 

Particular subclasses that stand out include Sun Soul, which lets the monk hurl Ki blasts as a ranged attack, and fire off spells at higher levels. The Way of Mercy turns the character into a flying ambulance, able to soar over the fight and slap HP back into their allies. Way of the Open Hand lets the character force enemies prone or knock them backward, heal, and more. 

Finally, Drunken Master gives the character what is essentially Flyby Attack, meaning that you can soar into a fight, drop the damage, then fly to safety again, as well as redirect attacks and pass saves at higher levels.  

How to Play an Aarakocra Monk

The Monk is built to be a secondary melee character, darting into fights to deal damage and apply status effects to key targets, then ducking back and trying not to get hit.  

The Aarakocra builds hard on top of that with its innate fly speed. Anywhere that you fly lets you drop directly on top of your target, hammering them with multiple attacks, then fly back up into the relative safety of the skies. Monks are fantastic at disabling one big enemy, especially once they hit level 5 and gain access to Stunning Strike, which can be used on every single attack you have until the target fails the save and becomes useless for a turn. 

The Monk chassis is also one of the safest to be soaring around with. Monks have good saves and gain a bunch of defenses as they level including Deflect Missiles, Slow Fall as a reaction, Evasion, and the ability to just switch off certain debuffs. This means that many of the ways enemies have to meaningfully interact just don’t work on you.   

As they level, Monks gain a growing bonus to their speed, which stacks with their flight speed to give the character probably the highest consistent, turn-by-turn speed in the game. Higher levels also bring the option to parkour across walls and run across water, which is nice for those times you have to go indoors. 

In terms of gear, it’s worth packing a secondary ranged weapon, for the times enemies manage to stay out of reach or are dangerous enough to avoid tangling with. Monks are proficient with the shortbow and light crossbow, both of which are perfect for your needs. 

Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the multiclass potential with the Rogue somewhere in this guide. 

Just two rogue levels get you an absolute ton: 

  • Sneak Attack damage, as long as you attack with a monk weapon instead of unarmed. (Bring a staff.) 
  • Cunning Action to Bonus Action Dash, Disengage, or Hide. 
  • A skill proficiency as well as Expertise in two skills (which is massive on a class that generally suffers with skill use.)

Finally, if you can find space in your build for a third level of Rogue, subclasses like the Soulknife mean you’re always armed, or you can sprinkle in some magical power by taking Arcane Trickster or Phantom.   

How to Roleplay as an Aarakocra Monk

There are as many ways to play a monk as there are character archetypes. Wise zen master. Mischievous, deceitful trickster. Focused perfectionist. Holy, peaceful warrior. 

One thing to bear in mind is the Aarakocra side of the build. These bird-people tend to be wilful and itinerant, moving from place to place, so insight and interaction with many places is one possible way to play it. 

The other is to focus on the insular, repressed side. Perhaps your character is interacting with the world for the first time, after spending so much time on their training.

Remember also that how you fight is an expression of who you are. A purely aggressive warrior who punches straight through problems is an entirely different character from a soft, flowing practitioner who works around problems. Eastern martial arts also take a lot of inspiration from the animal kingdom. And your character is a literal bird, so taking some time to think about how birds actually act can add some interesting flavor. 

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