When building an aarakocra monk in DnD 5e, consider the following:
- Aarakocra gain +2 Dexterity/+1 Wisdom and Flight.
- Basic monk features: Martial Arts, Ki, Unarmored Defense…
- Attack, Step of the Wind, fly away.
- Choose Way of the Four Elements for ranged Elemental Disciplines.
- Remember higher-level monk abilities.
- Be one with the sky, man.
The bird-like aarakocra in Dungeons and Dragons 5e come with a +2 Dexterity/+1 Wisdom ability score modifier. Therefore, it’s only natural to build a monk from this race, at least as far as the ability scores go. Hopefully these hollow bones won’t snap as I create the ultimate martial arts aarakocra master. Let’s take a look at which monk build is best and how we can roleplay this wise and fierce bird character.
Aarakocra gain +2 Dexterity/+1 Wisdom and Flight.
The monk class benefits from races who carry inherent Dexterity and Wisdom, as my armor, damage and techniques rely heavily on these two ability scores. Fortunately, the aarakocra gain a +2 Dexterity/+1 Wisdom ability score modifier, making them naturals for the monk class.
Aarakocra come from the Elemental Plane of Air, which gives them Flight. In fact, I have 50 feet of flying speed, which is way faster than my walking speed—even with Unarmored Movement. If I want to fly, I can’t wear heavy or medium armor. Therefore, the monk’s Unarmored Movement and Unarmored Defense fit my flying needs while keeping me defended and maneuverable.
Basic monk features: Martial Arts, Ki, Unarmored Defense…
With my basic monk build, I have proficiency in simple weapons. However, my martial arts skill enhances my damage output. I think a spear would work well for this build—giving me 1d6 in one hand, with the versatile property to increase damage to 1d8. Also, I can throw a spear up to 20 feet without disadvantage and 60 feet with disadvantage.
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Along with my spear combat, I’ll gain Unarmored Defense and Martial Arts at level 1.
Unarmored Defense adds my Dexterity and Wisdom modifiers together for my AC. This should be at least 16 if I build my monk correctly.
Martial Arts grants me several benefits:
- I can use my Dexterity modifier for unarmed attacks.
- I can make an unarmed attack as a bonus action after an attack.
- Unarmed attacks cause 1d4 damage (raising as I level).
Level 2 steps up my martial arts game with Ki points. I gain an amount of Ki points per day equal to my monk level and can spend them for special effects. My first 3 abilities are:
- Flurry of Blows: Gain an additional unarmed attack.
- Patient Defense: As a bonus action, take the Dodge action.
- Step of the Wind: Take the Disengage or Dash action as a bonus action. My jump distance is doubled for the turn.
My other key ability at level 2 is Unarmed Movement, which increases my movement speed by 10 feet. Now, my ground speed is 35 feet while I’m not wearing armor or holding a shield.
Attack, Step of the Wind, fly away.
In my early levels, I’ll keep my engagement light. My focus will be to aid my party’s tank, hopping in and out with my spear. Let’s take a look at my options as the combat continues.
If an enemy turns its aggression on me, I’ll need to make a quick exit without triggering an attack of opportunity. Therefore, I’ll use a Ki point for Step of the Wind after a spear attack, using my bonus action to Disengage. Then, I’ll fly into the air and reexamine my situation.
If an enemy looks low in HP, I’ll move in with a Flurry of Blows, spending a Ki point for an extra unarmed attack. Hopefully, my calculation pays off and I don’t get floored by my enemy’s final attack.
Otherwise, I’ll poke and kick to add damage as needed.
Choose Way of the Four Elements for ranged Elemental Disciplines.
At level 3, I’ll choose Way of the Four Elements to give my monk ki-infused, elemental magic. With this specialization, I’ll gain the ability to use Ki points for these spells. I can even power up certain spells with additional ki points when I reach level 5, with a maximum of 3 to begin. Of course, my maximum will increase as I level, topping out at 6.
These spells and abilities are called Elemental Disciplines. I’ll start with 2: Elemental Attunement and Fangs of the Fire Snake.
Elemental Attunement is a basic ability all monks of this path receive. Though not super exciting, I’ll gain the following abilities:
- Create a harmless sensory effect with an element—sparks, breeze, gentle rumbles…
- Instantaneously light or snuff a candle or campfire.
- Chill or warm up to 1 pound of nonliving material for 1 hour.
- Create a crude elemental object that can fit 1 cubic foot.
Fangs of the Fire Snake uses 1 Ki point to extend unarmed strikes into 10 feet of fiery tendrils. I can spend another Ki point to deal an additional 1d10 fire damage. Therefore, I’ll realistically spend 2 Ki points per use. The reach this offers me gives me an opportunity to attack from the air. Plus, this early-level Elemental Discipline that doesn’t burn up all my Ki points.
As I level to 6, 11 and 17, I’ll be able to add Elemental Disciplines to my repertoire. I’ll search for fiery or air abilities like Fist of Unbroken air and Flames of the Phoenix. Fist of Unbroken air grants me 3d10 bludgeoning damage, pushes foes back 20 feet and knocks them prone for 2 Ki points. However, my foe will have to fail a Strength saving throw. Flames of the Phoenix gives me the fireball spell for 4 Ki points.
Remember higher-level monk abilities.
As I level my elemental bird monk, I’ll gain a whole list of abilities from the basic monk class. Several abilities of note are:
- Deflect Missiles: Level 3—reduce damage from ranged shot equal to 1d10 + Dex mod + Monk level. If I reduce this damage to 0, I can catch the arrow and throw it back for 1 ki point. I can throw this arrow with proficiency and counts as a monk weapon.
- Slow Fall: As a reaction, reduce fall damage equal to 5 times my monk level. This could come in handy if I’m knocked out of the sky for some reason.
- Extra Attack: Gain an extra Attack on my turn.
- Stunning Strike: Level 5—Spend 1 ki point to force opponent to make Constitution saving throw when I attack with melee weapon. On a failed save, the target is prone until the end of my next turn.
- Ki-Empowered Strikes: Level 6—My unarmed strikes count as magical, allowing me to hit opponents with resistance or immunity to nonmagical attacks.
- Evasion: Level 7—I can dodge out of area of effect abilities, taking 0 damage instead of half damage on successful saves.
Later monk abilities like Purity of Body, Timeless Body and Empty Body all grant me enhanced physical traits and immunities. Plus, abilities like Sun of the Tongue and Moon leverage my Wisdom to understand any language.
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Be one with the sky, man.
As I roleplay and adventure with this character, I’ll want to remember the themes I leaned into. This monk is wise and deeply connected to the sky. In fact, the aarakocra literally see the sky as their home. This love of the sky gives me rich material to build a backstory, along with combat abilities. The fact that I can fly at all gives this character unique spaces to explore within the campaign.