The kenku are a race of avian creatures known for their stealth, agility, and awareness. A kenku monk is a great choice in D&D 5e because of the kenku’s Dexterity and Wisdom ability score increases. Their Dexterity makes them nimble and quick on their feet, while their Wisdom makes them insightful and perceptive. This combination makes them excellent combatants as well as diplomats. This allows them to be agile and cunning on and off the battlefield while staying calm under pressure.
In this blog post, we show you why the monk class is a great choice for your next kenku in D&D 5e. And by the end of this post, you will understand:
- Why kenku make amazing monks
- Which Monastic Tradition you should choose for your playstyle
- The skill proficiencies to pick up from your kenku and monk training
- The abilities and features you can expect from this killer combo
This is strictly a class guide. If you want to know more about the kenku, I put together a kenku lore guide to help you understand this fascinating race.
Kenku Ability Score Increases are Perfect for the Monk Class
Monks transform their bodies into living weapons by harnessing the energy flowing through them. They can utilize this energy in offensive ways like rapid-fire unarmed strikes and defensive ways like effortlessly evading attacks.
The kenku’s Dexterity and Wisdom Ability Score bonuses create a great foundation for a monk. Monks have the Martial Arts feature which allows them to use their Dexterity modifier on attack and damage rolls. So don’t worry about Strength (unless you want it for your saving throws).
And because of the bonus, you won’t need to invest as many points into Dexterity. This means you can increase your survivability by putting those points into your Constitution instead.
What about that Wisdom bonus?
Monks have Unarmored Defense, which grants them natural armor as long as they’re not wearing armor or wielding a shield. Their excellent agility and perception combine to make their AC:
- AC= 10 + DEX modifier + WIS modifier
In addition to masterfully dodging enemy attack rolls, Monks harness the mystic energy of ki. You can spend ki points (also known as (ki)ck-ass points) to perform sick monk abilities like Deflect Missiles and Step of the Wind, and bonus attacks like Flurry of Blows. Some of the abilities require the target to make a saving throw to resist the effects. And that DC is calculated using your proficiency bonus and Wisdom modifier.
- Ki save DC = 8 + proficiency bonus + WIS modifier
Boom! Another win for the kenku!
Make your Wisdom ability score higher and you increase your chances to:
- Disable someone with Stunning Strike
- Decimate your enemies with Breath of the Dragon
- Prevent someone from lying to you with Extort Truth
These are only a handful of the skills you’ll learn depending on the path you choose.
Monastic Traditions—Choose Your Path
Monastic Traditions in 5e are subclasses for the monk. At the time of writing this, there are 11 traditions you can choose from. I’ve highlighted a few strong picks, so choose the subclass that fits your particular playstyle. Or create a build around a primary ability and support abilities you like and work back from there.
Way of the Drunken Master, Way of the Kensei, and Way of the Open Hand amplify the Monk’s melee attack options:
- Drunken Master—This path is about using your (ki)ck-ass points to fuel erratic movement around the battlefield. Confuse your enemies into thinking you’re just a drunk kenku bard before taking them down swiftly. In true drunken technique, you can spend one ki point to use the Redirect Attack ability to turn your enemy’s attacks against them. Eventually, you can use your Flurry of Blows ability to make five attacks in one round!
- Kensei—This path is for those who want to focus on perfecting their techniques with specific weapons rather than martial arts. You gain access to special Kensei Weapons that allow you to focus ki to boost your weapon attack. And at 6th level, your kensei weapon counts as a magic weapon so you can bypass resistance and immunity to nonmagical attacks!
- Open Hand—This path allows you to control the battlefield with your movement and unarmed attacks. You can push, pull, and knock down your enemies as well as heal your allies with special Open Hand techniques. Additionally, you learn techniques like Catch and Release that can disarm your opponents.
How about a little magic?
Way of the Dragon Master, Way of the Four Elements, and Way of the Shadow Traditions expand the Monk’s arsenal with potent magic abilities:
- Dragon Master—Monks who take up the Way of the Dragon Master believe emulating a dragon integrates them into the world and its magic. As a result, monks who follow this tradition can enhance their fighting ability and increase the effectiveness of their allies. And they can even fly through the air on dragon-like wings.
- Four Elements—This path grants monks with the power of the elements to vanquish their enemies in melee and ranged combat. They can use fire, earth, water, and air to unleash powerful attacks on their opponents. Additionally, they can use these elements to support their allies and protect them from harm. Grab the Elemental Adept feat if you want to ignore the enemy’s resistance to your element of choice!
- Shadow—A shadow monk prizes subterfuge and stealth, and is as close to a rogue like monk as you can get without sneak attack. These are the ninjas and shadowdancers who serve as spies and assassins when a deadly rogue cannot be found. Shadow monks use ki to duplicate effects of spells like darkness and darkvision, and can teleport from shadow to shadow like something out of a nightmare.
Sidenote—Using magic and learning new spells as a kenku isn’t as simple as it is with other races. I address this and provide solutions in tip 6 of my guide to make your kenku stand out from the flock.
Kenku Training Meets Monk Training
So you’re on track to be one dope monk based on the kenku racial traits, monk training, and the background you choose. Let’s look at how the two worlds collide to give you a solid set of skills.
Kenku Training grants you two extra skill proficiencies:
- Acrobatics (DEX)
- Deception (CHA)
- Stealth (DEX)
- Sleight of Hand (DEX)
And as a monk, you gain proficiency in two of the following:
- Acrobatics (DEX)
- Athletics (STR)
- History (INT)
- Insight (WIS)
- Religion (INT)
- Stealth (DEX)
Leverage your kenku’s ability score increases to supercharge your monk’s abilities. Choose Acrobatics, Insight, Sleight of Hand, and Stealth. Doing so will turn your character into an agile and alert monk capable of sneaking into hostile territory, swapping fake documents or treasure for the real thing, and successfully evading the guards in a dope rooftop chase scene!
What more could you ask for?
Don’t forget to grab a background granting your kenku proficiency with thieves tools so you can get inside without alerting anyone! Criminal, Inquisitor, Spy, and Urchin are a few that fit the bill, but feel free to make up your own background like I did for my ninja kenku!
Choose Your Monk Weapon
Monk Weapons are simple melee weapons that don’t have the heavy or two-handed property. So you can choose any simple weapon except for a greatclub, spear, or longsword.
Therefore, your options are:
Also, if you choose the Path of the Kensei, you get the ability to make two additional types of weapons count as monk weapons. But you can just make up your own weapons based on the list I just gave you. In tip 7 of my guide to make your kenku unique I show you what I did to give my ninja kenku some sick ninja-inspired hardware.
And don’t forget about the two weapon fighting ability. With the kenku’s boost to Dexterity and the list of suitable weapons, your monk can be a dual-wielding master when you make my modification to the two weapon system.
Other Dope Monk Skills
Still on the fence about what path to follow as your kenku sets out upon his adventure? In that case, below are some dope monk skills from a variety of traditions to get you excited about playing a monk and help you choose a path. We’ll start with some abilities you gain no matter which path you walk.
Slow Fall—4th level—You can use your reaction (when falling) to reduce falling damage by [5 x your monk level].
Ki-Empowered Strikes—6th level—Your unarmed strikes count as magical FISTS OF PAIN for overcoming an enemy’s resistance and immunity to nonmagical attacks and damage.
Diamond Soul—14th level—Your mastery of ki grants you proficiency in all throws of the saving variety. And when you fail one, you can spend 1 (ki)ck-ass point to reroll it and take the second result.
Empty Body—18th level—Become invisible for 1 minute and gain resistance to all damage (except force damage). And you can spend 8 (ki)ck-ass points to cast the astral projection spell, without needing material components. When you do so, you can’t take any other creatures with you.
Way of the Sun Soul
Radiant Sun Bolt—3rd level—Your unarmed strikes count as magical FISTS OF PAIN for overcoming an enemy’s resistance and immunity to nonmagical attacks and damage. You hurl searing bolts that do radiant damage. This counts as a 30 ft ranged spell attack. When you take the Attack action on your turn and use this special attack as part of it, you can spend 1 (ki)ck-ass point to make the special attack twice as a bonus action.
Searing Arc Strike—6th level—Channel your ki into searing waves of energy. You can spend 2 ki points to cast the burning hands spell as a bonus action.
Way of the Astral Self
Awakened Astral Self—17th level—Astral self monks summon their astral arms, visage, and body as a bonus action using 5 ki points. They gain +2 Armor Class, and when they attack again using Extra Attack, they can attack three times if all attacks are made with their dope astral arms.
Way of the Four Elements
Fangs of the Fire Snake—3rd level—Tendrils of flame stretch out from your fists and feet and your unarmed strike deals fire damage. Your unarmed strike reach also increases by 10 feet for that action (and the rest of the turn). A hit deals fire damage, and you can spend a (ki)ck-ass point to deal an additional 1d10 fire damage when you successfully land an attack.
Eternal Mountain Defense—17th level—Spend 5 ki points to cast stoneskin on yourself.
Way of Mercy
Hand of Ultimate Mercy—17th level—Resurrection ability granted! You touch the corpse of a creature that died within the last 24 hours and expend 5 (ki)ck-ass points to return the creature to life.
Way of Kensei
Agile Parry—3rd level—Make an unarmed strike on your turn while holding a kensei weapon and you can use it to defend yourself (if it is a melee weapon). You gain +2 AC until the start of your next turn, while holding the kensei weapon.
Deft Strike—6th level—Hit a target with a kensei weapon and can spend a single ki point to cause the weapon to deal extra damage equal to your Martial Arts die. You can use this feature only once per turn.
The Kenku Monk in a Nutshell
With the right combination of skills and abilities, this race/class combo can be an unstoppable force in the shadows, during times of diplomacy, and on the battlefield. Thanks to their natural agility and spiritual training, the kenku monk is able to perform amazing feats of acrobatics and harness their ki to stop the enemy in its tracks.
So if you’re looking for a class that is both powerful and versatile that can hold its own in any situation, the monk is the perfect choice for you.
Want to take your kenku experience to the next level? Check out our series of guides for this fascinating player race:
- Kenku 5e Lore: A Guide to the Mysterious Bird-People
- Roleplay a Kenku in 5e: Simple Tips for Epic Adventures
- Make Your Kenku Unique With These 9 Unusual Tips
- The Best Classes for Kenku in Dungeons & Dragons
Did you find this guide helpful? If so, what stood out the most? If not, what would you have changed or included to make a dope kenku monk? Let us know in the comments below!