[RPG] Would magic ‘weapons’ make the monk more balanced


The monk in D&D 3.5 (and, to a lesser extent, in Pathfinder) is generally considered underpowered.

Would adding magic 'weapons' that could add enhancement bonuses and magic weapon effects to a monk's unarmed strikes be sufficient to re-balance them? Would they then be over-balanced?

To be specific I'm thinking of something like hand wraps that are a zero-cost weapon having no mundane effect on combat (the wielder counts as unarmed) but that can be enchanted in the same way and at the same cost as a normal magic weapon.


Thanks to @mxyzplk, I see that Gauntlets would effectively fulfill this effect. Odd that I haven't seen this in any of the discussions on monk optimisation!

Regarding assessing balance, I'll judge this based on how well it addresses the issues in @KRyan's answer in the above-linked question. Obviously if anyone doesn't agree with his analysis then this question is moot, although I would like to see those competing opinions.

Best Answer

Necessary but insufficient

It would help. It would more than help; I have a hard time imagining them being functional without it. The necklace of natural attacks or scorpion kama are generally necessary for Monks. That said, the necklace of natural attacks does exist (as do similar items in Pathfinder), and it’s not nearly enough to make the Monks good.

The Monk’s problems are problems of design: the people who wrote it evidently had no clear idea of what a Monk was or should do. Thus it receives a mish-mash of random abilities that do not synergize (and frequently contradict one another, see Flurry of Blows and Fast Movement).

To “fix” the Monk, one must first come up with a clear vision of what the Monk is supposed to be and do, and then most likely rebuild it from the ground up focused on that vision.

Or simply use one of the many classes that can effectively model one or more possible visions of what a “monk” should do, without any levels in the “Monk” class. The Cleric and Psychic Warrior are both Open Game Content and quite capable of fulfilling most roles you could imagine for the Monk, for instance. I’d argue that it’s entirely reasonable to treat a Barbarian’s Rage as “Zen Focus” and waive the non-lawful requirement (which I’d further argue is dumb to begin with). Such a “Barbarian” multiclassed with Fighter for combat maneuver mastery and perhaps taking Improved Unarmed Strike would make a decent monk. And if you have Tome of Battle, the Swordsage also does an excellent job.