(artwork by Eric Belisle)
Monks are a cool, but potentially confusing, class. This guide will try to point out the promise and the pitfalls of the 4th edition monk, without any focus on "flavor." Fighting monks in the real world come/came in a huge variety of flavors, so I'm not going to pretend to know what flavor you would like to play.
So Why Play a Monk?
Here are a few things that I feel make the Monk special and thus worthy of consideration:
Monks have unusual attack options - Monks are at their best when they are attacking/damaging multiple oppenents. Monks get a lot of burst powers, and are one of the only strikers with a striker feature that affects multiple opponents.
Monks are mobile - Monks are most mobile class in the game out of the box. Each at-will and encounter power gives a monk extra movement choices, some of which are frighteningly good.
Monks are tactically rewarding - Some degree of tactics is required to play a monk because of its focus on being a mobile, multi-attacking Striker.
Monks come in all favors - Monks, like in the real world, can be made to fit most flavors of unarmored fighter. For example, you could be a unarmed monk like in the Kung Fu TV series or a sword-wielding, Japenese-style, charging monk.
Weaknesses of the Monk
Monks have a lot of strengths, but also a few weaknesses that should be built around.
Most Traditions aren't terribly good at single target damage - Although monks can be made to do good single-target damage, a monk's best powers and their striker class feature are made to hurt multiple opponents. As a result, monks should either: 1) look at how they could increase single-target damage, or 2) simply embrace their multi-attacking nature.
Monks can get themselves in trouble - Everything about the monk screams: "beat on me!" Monks attack multiple oppenents for solid damage, which means that multiple opponents will likely be trying to kill the monk. In addition, the monk's extreme mobility and even a monk's great dexterity can get the monk in unfortunate positions. As a result, monks should put some effort into their defenses.
Hybrid - For the most part, Monk hybrids get all the essential benefits of being a Monk and often can fix AC to Monk+Unarmored Agility levels by spending their Hybrid Talent feat on the Armor feat of the other class. There are two specific reasons that you wouldn't want to hybrid: You want to build your build on online character builder and it currently doesn't list specific traditions other than Centered Breath or Stone Fist or you plan to optimize around Blurred Ki Focus and want your multi-attacks or minor action attacks to trigger off the use of Blurred Ki Focus twice in one round.
Non-Standard Action Attacks - Monks lack for the most part attacks that are Minor Action or Immediate action Encounter options. They have some unusual multi-attack powers.
The guide will use the following rating system
Gold - A must have. You're literally hurting your character if you don't take this
Sky blue - "Very Strong" - An exceptionally strong choice.
Blue - "Strong"- A solid choice but nothing awe-inspiring.
Black - "Average" -This is generally a fairly mediocre choice, or an otherwise good power with a noticable drawback. Optimizers will try to avoid these, but in most games you won't notice a discrepancy in power level if you go with a few of these.
Purple - "Weak" This option is weak, underpowered, or very situational. These choices won't show up in most optimized builds.
Red - "Very Weak" - Either totally overshadowed by another option, or just completely bad. These kinds of choices are generally avoided.
Green- "Too variable to rate"- Sometimes something is so variable that giving an overall rating is impossible or misleading.
The guide will use the following abbreviations
CA= Combat Advantage
CB= Centered Breath monastic tradition
DW= Desert Wind monastic tradition
ET= Eternal Tide monastic tradition
FoB = Flurry of Blows
IS=Iron Soul monastic tradition
MBA= Melee basic attack
NAD= Non-AC defense
SF=Stone Fist monastic tradition
The guide covers the following 4e sources
AP - Arcane Power
AV - Adventurer's Vault
AV2 - Adventurer's Vault 2
D XXX - Dragon Magazine, issue XXX
DMA 2009 - Dragon Magazine Annual 2009
DP - Divine Power
FRPG - Forgotten Realms Player's Guide\
HFL- Hereos of the Fallen Lands
HoEC- Heroes of Elemental Chaos
MM - Monster Manual
MM2 - Monster Manual 2
MOTP - Manual of the Planes
MP - Martial Power
MP2 - Martial Power 2
PHB - Player's Handbook
PHB2 - Player's Handbook 2
PHB3 - Player's Handbook 3
PHR: DB - Player's Handbook Races: Dragonborn
PHR: TF - Player's Handbook Races: Tieflings
PHH1 - Player's Handbook Heroes: Series 1
PHH2 - Player's Handbook Heroes: Series 2
PP - Primal Power
PsiP - Psionic Power
Note: This handbook would not be possible without Furious Kender's No Paper Tigers!!!!: The Monk Handbook and is for the most part, his posts directly copied onto here. Over time, significant edits will be made. Here is where I am at in terms of changes