D&D 5e: Way of the Drunken Master Monk Guide
D&D 5e: Way of the Drunken Master Monk Guide
Role in the Party
Found in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, the Way of the Drunken Master monk is your lucky, dex-based friend who never seems to get hurt. Best placed in the thick of danger, the Way of the Drunken Master monk is hard to hit and hits hard.
But is this monk really the best choice for your party?
The Way of Drunken the Master Monk subclass is found in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. Click here to pick up your own copy of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything!
Way of the Drunken Master Features
Starting when you pick this subclass, the Way of the Drunken Master gives you Drunken Technique, which lets you have the benefits of disengage any time you use Flurry of Blows, and gives you an additional ten feet of movement until the end of your turn. This is pretty good if you just want to get in and out of danger pretty quickly. You also get proficiency in the Performance skill and brewer’s supplies, if you don’t already have them.
At sixth level, you get Tipsy Sway, which lets you stand up from being prone by spending only 5 feet of movement, and lets you use a ki point to redirect a missed enemy’s attack to hit one other creature of your choice (other than the attacker) that you can see within 5 feet of you. While standing from being prone quickly is pretty good, spending a ki point to redirect an enemy attack is pretty situational. It makes this subclass work best when surrounded by enemies.
At Eleventh level, you get Drunkard’s Luck, which lets you spend 2 ki points to cancel out disadvantage for an ability check, attack roll, or saving throw. Not bad when you really need it! That said, while generally very useful, Way of the Sun Soul monk at level 11 gets Searing Sunburst, a 20ft radius sphere that does 2D6 radiant damage (or more depending on how many ki points you spend), and it doesn’t seem to be limited. Drunkard’s luck seems to pale in comparison to its lazer-shooting brother. Especially since you’re only making a chance of dodging less bad. You can’t use it to give you advantage on a neutral roll.
At 17th level you get Intoxicated Frenzy, which lets you add 3 attacks to Flurry of Blows, up to 5, but only if each attack targets a different creature this turn.
Again, great if you’re “Placed in a target-rich environment”. Way of the Drunken Master is the boisterous character who laughs at impossible odds, but he’s not going to be that much more powerful than anyone else. And you know what? That might be more fun for everyone.
We all know that monks are hard to hit, as a rule. So what happens when you make your monk even harder to hit? While the skills make it seem unhelpful, this actually looks like a very fun class to play. This is your gambler, your drinker, your devil-may-care character who laughs boisterously at impossible odds, and later invites your enemies to go drinking with you. This is a character who can have an incredible amount of personality if you let them. You could easily rebrand this without any mechanical changes, into a Capoeira master; into Sanji from One Piece; into a loony toon who evades danger purely by dumb luck and attacks only by accident. What it lacks in crunch, it makes up for in flavor.
The weakness of this class is just that other classes are mechanically more powerful. Drunken Master is for if you like a basic monk but wanted to be even more evasive. Other than that, it doesn’t give you anything too new. You’re better with hordes, and probably better suited to melee horde fights than the Hunter Ranger, but you’re not going to be “doing more damage” so much as “Be more widespread”. One could almost call it an “AOE Melee build” if you want to be cheesy. The fighter and rogue will do more damage, but you’re probably voted least likely to need a heal in combat until mages get involved.
Best Race Options
–Tortle: Let’s get this one out of the way: With a base AC of 17 right off the bat, plus whatever your wisdom modifier is, plus the benefits you get from Way of the Drunken Master, you’re just not going to get hit. That’s it. And of course, you get claw strikes, which will be 1d6+Dex mod in slashing damage. Tortle was made for monks. We know you’re going to name him Oogway, get it out of your system now, it’s fine.
–Satyr: A drunken reveler with a strong leap, a ramming unarmed strike, And magic resistance, Satyrs were practically made for this subclass specifically. It’s perfectly thematic, and the magic resistance will keep you alive a lot longer, as mages seem to be Way of the Drunken Master’s weak point. Of these three races, Satyr is probably the ideal choice for both fun and function.
–Halfling (Any subrace): Really, this is just thematic funsies. If you want to capitalize on your luck and ability to dodge, get yourself Halfling Luck, just to minmax your ability to use your luck to get yourself out of danger! Besides, Halflings should be revelers and fun-time generators. More flavor than function, but by no means bad. Besides, the +2 to dex adds to your monk skills.
Choosing the Right Skills
Monks choose 2 from Acrobatics, Athletics, History, Insight, Religion, and Stealth. For Way of the Drunken Master, go with Acrobatics and whatever you think will be most useful for your character. Insight for someone who pays attention to the opposition, Religion or History for someone leaning heavily into the ‘Monk’ aspect, Stealth if you’re going to back up your rogue (please and thank you), Athletics if you think you might use strength once in a while as well as your dex. (Which, you probably will use it, but it probably won’t go as well as your Parkour adventures.)
Alert: Get a +5 bonus to initiative, you can’t be surprised while you’re conscious, and other creatures don’t get advantage just because you didn’t see them. Give your monk some quick reflexes and make sure they attack first!
Dungeon Delver: Advantage on perception and investigation checks to find secret doors, advantage on saving throws to avoid or resist traps, resistance to damage dealt by traps, and no penalty on perception checks while traveling quickly. If you do a lot of dungeons, take this feat to avoid damage outside of combat as well as inside it.
Lucky: As much as there’s always a good time to take Lucky, this is an even BETTER time, to capitalize on how hard you are to hit. If you’re going to specialize, specialize completely. Get Halfling luck to double-down on this and maybe your dungeon master will be the one who needs a drink.
–Entertainer: Proficiency in acrobatics and performance, which you should already have as a Way of the Drunken Master Monk, but from a lore standpoint this is a great background. You get more money, it’s likely for your skillset, and you can get popular in town for your performances! You can also use the Gladiator variant if you’d like.
–Guild Artisan (Variant: Guild Merchant): This one’s good if there’s political intrigue in your games. Proficiency in insight and persuasion, you might get to put your brewer’s kit to good use, you get a language of your choice, and you get 15 gp. Your Guild Membership feature costs 5 gp per month (assuming your DM cares), but you can use the guild to give you some political advantage. More helpful yet is the Guild Merchant variant, which gives you a mule and a cart, and navigation tools/proficiency in them (or an additional language).
–Urban Bounty Hunter: From Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, the Urban Bounty Hunter is a pretty great option for a drunken monk trying to get a little extra coin for drinks. You get a choice of two proficiencies between Deception, Insight, Persuasion, and Steath; you get to choose a gaming set and thieves’ tools (because you already have a musical instrument proficiency, so you can ignore that unless you want to learn another instrument), you get 20 gp, and you get to have contacts in the bounty hunter community. It’s great if you don’t necessarily want a very ‘monk’ flavor for your monk.
–Rogue: Have a high dex and is hard to hit? Gotta be a Rogue. Get yourself sneak attack and thieves’ cant. Why would you want anything else? You can back up the party rogue and do crazy damage while you’re bouncing around the battlefield.
–Druid: Take a level or two in Druid just to get Circle of the Moon. Wild shape should give you some fun and interesting options. You already weren’t wearing armor, and you get spells that are cast with wisdom, which is likely your other best stat. It’s a niche interest but creates some really interesting flavor. You can take any other kind of druid, of course. Circle of Wildfire gives you a Wildfire spirit, which could look really cool for your monk. Alcohol and fire go well together, right?
–Cleric: Get a domain at level 1, get some spells for casting, and choose to help your friends or to make yourself a terrifying magical whirlwind, depending on the specialty you choose. Add to it the fact that you were already hard to hit, you’ll be a great force for the front lines.
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Would I recommend playing a Way of the Drunken Master Monk?
Yes, actually! Will you be a godlike being at level 3? No. But you will be the life of the party, as long as you play it right. This is the kind of character that you roleplay with gusto, and have a lot of fun with. Other flavors of the monk are more minmaxed, but Drunken Master is endearing and fun to be around. Just don’t be obnoxious; ‘being drunk’ is not a whole personality trait.
Also, remember that you’re not just bound to “Alcoholic monk” as a stereotype. You can be a teetotaler (alcohol isn’t required for any Drunken Master abilities) and a Capoeira expert; you can move like water and call yourself a dancer with combat skills, whatever interests you! So give it a shot, and try to flavor it with something other than “Raging Alcoholic”, see how creative you can get.