This guide is incomplete! If you don't see what you need check out No Paper Tigers!!!
I Cast Fist!
A Muscle Wizard's Monk's Handbook!
Fist vs. Sword: Why play a monk?
Any clod with an attack-caliber Strength can smash an orc into submission. The ranger and barbarian have the bulging, rippling muscles for it, and there are at least two fighter builds centered around unarmed or improvised combat. So why would you play a monk?
You're at your best when surrounded. OK, fine, your damage is a little lacking compared to the ranger or avenger, but you can spread it around like no one else. With all your close bursts and blasts, not to mention a striker feature that rewards spreading your attacks around, you can easily hit half a dozen targets in one round for the kind of damage expected of your role.
You're agile like no one else. Right out of the box, monks are the best skirmishers in the game, period. Your powers give you movement options on the level of rogue or ranger utility powers, and they come baked into your attacks to boot.
You fight smarter, not harder. You are designed to get yourself into and out of trouble with ease. If you want a class that rewards battle tactics other than "focus fire until it's dead" the monk is a good choice.
You know fists are not just for punching. While many monks are flavored as disciplined unarmed combatants, that's not the only option available to you. The katana-wielding eladrin with defender-level AC, the spunky pixie beating up things four size categories bigger than her, the mantis-man chucking shuriken halfway across the battlefield--all of these are viable monk builds.
The guide uses the standard LDB-inspired rating system, as described below:
Gold: Mandatory. You need this to be optimized, period. Generally reserved for feat taxes and options that are too good to pass up.
Skyblue: Excellent. An exceptionally strong choice. Optimizers will want as many of these as possible.
Blue: Very good. You can't go wrong with this choice.
Black: Good. A solid choice, but probably not without issues. Optimizers will prefer other options, but you'd be well-served taking this if nothing else appeals to you.
Green: Situational. The viability of this option is wildly dependent on your campaign and DM.
Purple: Poor. Even if you can use this option effectively, there's probably another choice that will serve you better.
Red: Weak. Either totally overshadowed by another option, or just completely bad. Never take this.
The guide will use the following abbreviations for game terms:
FoB=Flurry of Blows
MBA=Melee basic attack
NAD=Non-AC defense (Fortitude, Reflex, Will)
and the following abbreviations for books:
D###: Dragon Magazine Issue ###
HotEC: Heroes of the Elemental Chaos
PHB3: Player's Handbook 3
PP: Psionic Power
The guide is updated with all 4th editon material as of February, 2013.
Big thanks to furious_kender for the previous guide, No Paper Tigers!!!, which this guide copies wholesale in parts