D&D 5e: Way of the Open Hand Monk Guide

D&D 5e: Way of the Open Hand Monk Guide

Role in the Party

The Player’s Handbook calls Way of the Open Hand monks “The ultimate masters of martial arts combat”. While there may be arguments about that, we CAN say that the Way of the Open Hand monk is the most monk-like monk out there, with a devastating final ability at level 17 that can’t be overlooked.





Way of the Open Hand Features

Open Hand Technique: Starting at level 3 when you choose the subclass, when you hit a creature with your Flurry of Blows, you can choose A. Make them pass a Dex check or be knocked prone, B. Make them pass a strength check or be pushed up to 15 ft away, or C. Be unable to take reactions until the end of your next turn.

Now YOU get to be the one to keep away the creature, make them fall, or just not be able to do some ridiculous ‘gotcha’ in return. And wouldn’t we all like to stop enemy reactions now and then?

Wholeness of BodyAt 6th level, you can heal yourself. As an action, regain hit points equal to 3x monk level. Must finish a long rest before using the feature again. If you’re going to pick this class, you probably don’t want to multiclass. Still, at 6th level, that’s +18 HP per long rest, and that can mean the difference between life and death. It’ll only get better over time.

Tranquility: At 11th level, any time you end a long rest you gain the effect of a Sanctuary spell that lasts until the start of your next long rest (and can end early as normal). The saving throw DC for the spell equals 8+Wis Mod + Prof Bonus. 

So as long as you’ve jacked up your wisdom score, that can be great for an oath of nonviolence (or violence only when you REALLY want to hit somebody. I won’t judge). The problem is: It ends once you’ve attacked somebody, cast a spell on/at an enemy, or dealt damage to another creature. 

Quivering Palm: The only especially good one. At 17th level, when you hit a creature with an unarmed strike, you can spend 3 ki points to start ‘imperceptible vibrations’ which last a number of days equal to your monk level. The vibrations are harmless unless you use your action to end them. To do so, the target must be on the same plane of existence. When you use an action to activate these vibrations, the creature must make a con save. If it fails, they fall to 0 hit points. If it succeeds, it takes 10d10 necrotic damage. You can only have one creature under the effect of this feature at a time, and you can choose to end it harmlessly as an action.

This is great for doing big damage to creatures, of course, and you should do that.  You could also interrogate people or Suicide Squad them into doing your bidding if you get to play a high-level baddie at any point, or you don’t know what the word ‘ethics’ means.


Heal yourself, avoid others wanting to hurt you, trip, push, and steal reactions; and at high levels, you can explode somebody’s heart. This is a GREAT class for dealing with a small number of big damage dealers. what can’t it do? 


Well, it can’t cast spells. So, you may want a dedicated healer and an AOE or ranged person, because you’re very much a close-range person in your party. I’d suggest getting in close and then getting out of dodge, but that’s pretty standard fare for a monk anyway.

Best Race Options

AutognomeIf Spelljammer books are an option, the Autognome is a surprisingly good choice. Their AC is higher than average (13+ Dex mod while unarmored), they can add a D4 to one attack roll, ability check, or saving throw you make (and can do this a number of times equal to proficiency bonus, regained after long rest). They can spend hit die when someone casts Mending as well as being healed by some healing spells, there are resistances, tool proficiencies, and you can’t be ambushed in your sleep because you don’t sleep.

Centaur: For a more unique option, have a centaur monk. They can charge (giving you multiattack if you move 30ft first, something easy for a monk to do), Equine build means you should be able to push larger creatures (If you point it out to your DM, hint hint), your hooves give you pretty good unarmed strikes, and you can have one more proficiency in Animal Handling, medicine, nature, or survival. Just be sure to take the Athlete feat to cancel out your difficulty climbing.

Lizardfolk: Gain a swimming speed equal to your walking speed, a 1D6+Str bite attack as an unarmed strike, hold your breath for up to 15 minutes (Great for dealing with poison gas traps), Hungry Jaws can give you temporary hit points for using your bite attack, Base AC of 13+Dex Mod, and two bonus proficiencies in Animal handling, Medicine, Nature, Perception, Stealth, or Survival. There’s a lot to like about the Lizardfolk, don’t let their watery origins fool you. A monk that can swim, hold their breath for 15 minutes, and add temp HP is pretty good. 

Choosing the Right Skills

When you choose to start as a monk, you get to choose two skills Acrobatics, AthleticsHistory, Insight, Religion, or Stealth. And if you don’t pick Athletics and Acrobatics, are you even truly a monk? Stealth is a good choice too, of course. 

Fitting Feats

  • Athlete: Increase strength or dex by 1, standing from being prone requires only 5ft of movement, climbing doesn’t cost extra movement, and you can make a running jump after moving only 5ft instead of 10. The strength/dex upgrade and the standing from prone are what you need most unless you’re a centaur in which you need that climbing movement.

  • Alert: +5 initiative bonus, can’t be surprised while conscious, being unseen doesn’t grant creatures advantage on attack rolls. Good against enemy rogues and any ambushers. Especially fun if you’re one of the races that never needs to sleep, meaning you can never be surprised unless you’ve already been knocked unconscious.

  • Mobile: Movement speed increases 10ft; when taking the dash action, difficult terrain doesn’t cost extra movement that turn; and when making a melee attack against a creature, you don’t provoke opportunity attacks that turn, whether or not you hit. Perfect for a hit-and-run monk.

Optimal Backgrounds

Entertainer: Take proficiencies in Acrobatics and Performance (freeing up one of your monk skills), proficiency with a disguise kit and one musical instrument, typical equipment, and 15gp. You can always find a place to perform, and where you perform you get lodging and food. You may even become a bit of a local celebrity. A monk who’s a man of the people sounds like a great character to roleplay, especially if you’re going the Pacifist route (or pretending to). 

Athlete: If Mythic Odyssey of Theros is on the table, the Athlete background is a nice change of pace. Acrobatics and Athletics proficiencies (Freeing you up for two different monk skills), a language of your choice, proficiency in land vehicles, relevant equipment, 10GP. Your feature is that you have admirers of your skill among spectators. Anywhere around 100 miles from where you grew up, there’s a 50% chance of finding an admirer to give you temporary shelter or information. This also gives you a great reason to participate in fights or events around the town, giving you plenty of roleplay fodder.

Urchin: Perhaps a common one, but a good one. Sleight of hand and Stealth proficiencies, proficiency in disguise kit and thieves’ tools, typical equipment, and 10GP. Your feature is that outside of combat, you and the companions you lead can travel between any two locations in a city twice as fast as you would normally be able to. It’s not super helpful, but it is a great roleplaying background.

Multiclassing Options

Gloom Stalker Ranger: Mostly for the 3rd level Dread Ambusher feat, and dark vision or improved darkvision (depending on your race choice). Ambushing is a great strategy for any monk, but especially for THIS monk, as you’re probably going to want to end fights quickly to get back to the Sanctuary.

Assassin Rogue: Give your monk a little mystique, and more importantly, sneak attack damage. By getting the drop on creatures, you’ll do more damage at third level, and even one level in Rogue is pretty good for many characters, just by getting Sneak Attack. Another ambusher build, but that’s what Monks are good for.

Would I recommend playing a Way of the Open Hand Monk?

Yeah, especially if you think there’s a reasonable chance you’ll get to high levels. It’s very balanced, it’s not as flashy as some of the other monks, but it’s the most monk-like monk out there, and monks have been pretty damn good with all their many attacks. Personally, I like the flash of other monk types, but if you just want to hit things really well and avoid getting hit, you’ve got a great choice here. 

Sage Gamers

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