D&D 5e: Goliath Monk Guide

A male goliath monk draped in green garb and an old staff.

D&D 5e: Goliath Monk Guide

Enormous giantkin that spend most of their time seeking to both better themselves and challenge each other to greater heights, the Goliath race seems to suit the monk class perfectly. 

This guide breaks down how to build a Goliath Monk, including stats, skills, and possible build options. 

How to Make a Goliath Monk

The Monk class is generally seen as MAD (multiple abilities dependent,) needing good scores in Dexterity, Wisdom, and Constitution to do their job properly. This means many monks are going to have the same stat spread. 

While it’s possible to build a Strength-based monk, we’d recommend against it, as you’re going to have a much lower AC and so overall survivability. Instead, max Dex first, then Wis, with any spare points going into Con. 

Hailing from the harsh mountaintops, Goliath characters have a built-in resistance to cold damage, as well as acclimation to high atmosphere. The second part of that probably won’t be useful in most campaigns, but an elemental damage resistance to a damage type that a good number of monsters and spells deal is very nice to have. 

Goliaths also gain proficiency in Athletics, a very useful skill for any Monk, and one you were probably already going to take, plus bonus carrying capacity, which can be deceptively useful for a certain build and combat style. (More on this later.)

Another bonus from Goliath is Stone’s Endurance; a reactionary damage reduction ability. At low levels, this is excellent, with around a 50% chance at level 1 of reducing an attack to a flat 0 damage, twice per day. However, the ability scales oddly, falling off past level 5, but still remains another layer of defense that you get for free and only requires your reaction, on a class that can feel squishy at times. 

One advantage of the Monk is that it doesn’t need gear. The class is prohibited from wearing armor, and weapons essentially do as much damage as simply kicking someone in the face. Packing a ranged option like a short bow is a good idea, but apart from this, a monk doesn’t require anything further. 

Monks have limited skill options, but great stats for the skills they do have. As mentioned, almost every monk tends to have high Dex and Wis, so choices like Stealth, Acrobatics, Sleight of Hand, Insight, and Survival are all excellent. 

A male goliath monk bare chested, hands and feet wrapped with cloth.

How to Play a Goliath Monk

The Monk is primarily a combat character, competent at dealing sustained DPS and throwing out status effects like Stun or Prone. 

However, Monks generally have a middling AC and HP total, which means they have to be careful. The class simply can’t face tank enemies in the same way as a Barbarian or Paladin. Instead, they’re better suited to picking single targets and eliminating them one by one. 

At low levels, a Monk will generally skirt the edges of the encounter as the battle lines meet, before lunging in with a flurry of attacks. At higher levels, as class abilities and Ki comes online, the Monk becomes much more self-reliant, able to boost their own defenses or slam 4 attacks into one enemy, all of which can stun the target, utterly disabling a key boss monster for a turn. 

In terms of subclasses, Way of the Ascendant Dragon is a fun, fluffy choice that adds a lot of utility. Tying nicely into your damage reduction and race, you gain elemental strikes, AOE bursts of damage, and at later levels limited flight and a whole host of interesting and flexible abilities. 

Way of Shadow turns the build into a ninja. It multiclasses amazingly with Rogue and any of the Wis-based classes like the Ranger, plus gives interesting spellcasting and teleportation shenanigans in low-light conditions. 

What if your 7ft tall, 500lb half-giant could punch HP back into people? Way of Mercy answers that particular question, offering a lot of healing throughout the adventuring day, plus bonus damage and unsavable status effects on enemies. The concept might sound strange at first glance, but the subclass is incredibly good, plus fun to play. 

One particular thing a Goliath Monk is excellent at is grappling. The race already comes with the necessary skill proficiency built-in, plus a bonus to carrying weight, which tends to matter when you’re trying to shoulder press a giant. Adding the Open Hand subclass to this means you can throw out a grapple attempt (remember, grappling is part of the Attack Action, so it still triggers all your Monk abilities.) Then use Flurry of Blows to knock an enemy prone, in one turn. 

Grappled and Prone means the enemy literally cannot move, at all, until it breaks the grapple. Find a way to pick up Expertise as well, perhaps with a 1-level dip in Rogue, to create a terrifying pro wrestler who can comfortably put an ogre in a headlock from level 4. 

How to Roleplay as a Goliath Monk

Nomadic and obsessed with their own excellence, the Goliath race naturally lends itself to the seeking of mastery and traveling itinerant archetypes that are common to a lot of monks. 

Expectations might include a desire to witness, fight and learn as many different styles of combat as possible. To challenge oneself against worthy foes. Or even to keep striving higher until one achieves ascendant wisdom through combat or dies trying, like so many wandering swordsmen of old. 

Good questions to ask include: Where your character learned to fight, and what their particular art entails? Why are they adventuring instead of learning, or possibly teaching, in a more formal setting? And what are their end goals?

Anyone looking for RP inspirations might consider the arrogant warrior obsessed with his brilliance, the trickster mentor, or the reserved and stoic zen master. 

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