A monk in Baldur's Gate 3 spins his quarterstaff before striking an undead dragon.
Screenshot by Dot Esports via Larian Studios

Baldur’s Gate 3: Best Monk build in BG3

I am going to punch Faerûn in half and not a single person can stop me.

The Monk in Baldur’s Gate 3 is a class that utilizes very few weapon and armor choices but provides massive damage via buffs to their unarmed attacks.

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However, without the proper build these characters can feel absolutely pitiful on the battlefield. Still, even the Monk has the opportunity to turn the BG3 on its head. Let’s talk about how.

The best build for Monk in BG3

Monk’s aren’t the strongest class, but the best possible Monk build in Baldur’s Gate 3 utilizes the Tavern Brawler feat to turn the monk into a heat-seeking missile worthy of your time. This build should not be taken without some game knowledge, as it reduces your Monk’s AC and health—or their Wisdom—to the point where they will have trouble stunning foes or knocking them off their feet.

However, by taking the Tavern Brawler feat on a high Strength Monk, you can gain a titanic bonus to attack and damage rolls with each punch, dealing extremely high and consistent damage to any target.

We want to set a few ground rules before continuing with the build.

  • We are not multiclassing. While the Monk is typically unfriendly to the multiclassing system, it can benefit from it. This system adds additional complexity and strange labels to a build. If I go Monk Four/Rogue Four, is it still a Monk build? So, we’ll just assume we want to go all 12 levels into Monk.
  • We can use any companions. The Monk is best assisted by good healing and solid friends on the frontline. Companions like Karlach can help the monk stay alive by taking fire, while Shadowheart can use her combination of Healing and Duplicity to give the monk buffs and keep them in the fray. We also keep Gale around, because we like him. Also because Wizards with AC are exactly what we want behind us. Even then, we might need to swap into talkers over the course of the campaign, like Wyll or Astarion.
  • We are custom characters. While you can technically force any Origin Character to become a Monk, we’ll have the extra flexibility on our side. The Dark Urge can start as one, of course, but we like the background a tiny bit less than the custom options. That being said, a Dark Urge Tavern Brawling Monk is extremely thematically appropriate.

A Monk’s role in a BG3 party

Before we go on with the build, it’s good to identify what a Monk does in a Baldur’s Gate 3 party. The Monk is a single-target damage dealer with above-average crowd control. Like the Warlock, the Monk lives and dies on Short Rests. That’s because they refill their Ki pool when they take a rest, a resource that allows them to do extraordinary feats.

The Monk serves a similar role to the Rogue, and thus many players have been throwing the class under the bus. Rogue’s amazing out-of-combat damage might have you scratching your head. Monks are almost fully dedicated to melee, so what can they possibly do in a party when the Rogue exists?

Well, turns out that the answer lies in the Monk’s ascension to level four. The Monk serves as an okay damage dealer with very low health and middling AC before that point. But, when we reach that heavenly level, we’re gonna throw some hands.

The Tavern Brawler Feat in BG3

The Tavern Brawler feat in BG3 is a peculiar one, which doubles Strength bonuses to attack and damage rolls. The Monk is recommended to have Dexterity for their punches. We even said as much in our best Monk ability scores guide. However, the bonuses on Tavern Brawler are way too powerful to ignore.

Our entire build is going to centralize around the Tavern brawler feat. What does that look like for the early game, then?

Best starting ability scores, race, and background for Tavern Brawler Monk in BG3

Even though we plan on going tavern brawler, our starting ability scores will still be Strength 10, Dexterity 16, Constitution 15, Intelligence eight, Wisdom 16, and Charisma eight. Our Race will be the Gold Dwarf because we desperately need that extra health. Our background isn’t very important, but we recommend Street Urchin since you’re likely to be the group’s lockpicker.

We start with high Dexterity and next to no Strength because we’re going to use Withers. Withers will respec our current ability scores to something friendlier to the midgame, with a high Strength score. Our goal is to survive the early game and then pay our 100 gold fee to migrate to Tavern Brawler once we’ve gotten to level four. Otherwise, the monk either pays with health, AC, or movement speed.

Tip:

With Monks having such high Dexterity, they’re a great choice for handling all your lockpicking and pickpocketing. Of course, Rogues will be even better at this stuff, but Monks have such a nice Dexterity score that you wouldn’t even need to worry about having a Rogue for any of your possible thieving antics.

Gold Dwarf is going to be required. Our favorite rendition of the Tavern Brawler Monk sacrifices Constitution the most, so one HP per level is going to be almost required.

Alternatively, the Wood Elf allows the Monk to be significantly more likely to reach their targets in a meaningful amount of time. Perception proficiency makes them useful and the extra movement speed basically guarantees that you can make it to targets without spending ki or actions on anything else.

Best skills for a Monk in BG3

The Monk benefits from quite a few skills that help them in and out of combat. We talk about the Street Urchin, and there are a few other skills that you should prioritize.

  • Athletics (from Monk) provides our unarmed friend with a gigantic jump arc and a decent chance to shove. The jump adds quite a bit to our mobility during turns that we need it and shoving can win specific boss fights by itself.
  • Insight (from Monk) allows the Monk to be a bit more useful during conversations. If you get forced to be the front of the party during a conversation as this build, a good Insight can let you get away with murder.
  • Sleight of Hand (from Street Urchin) lets you serve as a version of the party Rogue, opening doors for your allies.
  • Stealth (from Street Urchin) improves your vision cones when you need to sneakily get towards something before a fight breaks out.

Respecced Tavern Brawler Ability Scores

However, for higher mobility and better crowd control at the cost of AC, the best ability scores for the Tavern Brawler monk are:

  • Strength 17
  • Dexterity 14
  • Constitution 10
  • Intelligence Eight
  • Wisdom 16
  • Charisma Eight

This set of ability scores works for if you want to stay unarmored, and therefore embrace the Monk lifestyle more. You lose one AC compared to the standard Monk build and can re-up your AC through Gloves of Dexterity, a late-game glove. You also keep your Ki saving throw DC quite high, making yourself more consistent with Way of the Open Hand and Stunning Strike. However, you might notice that our Constitution is a 10. That’s a massive problem since the Monk’s HP matches that of a Bard. And we’re going to be the ones tanking the Greataxe. Gold Dwarves help the issue slightly, but good Lord will we be eating damage all the time. Tip your Clerics, folks.

As a warning, when you swap to Strength, your tooltips will likely incorrectly say you are using Dexterity for unarmed attacks. You can check the Combat Log to see that the game is just getting confused. You are using Strength, as long as it is higher.

For a slightly safer but less effective combat build, you can use the following:

  • Strength 17
  • Dexterity 14
  • Constitution 16
  • Intelligence Eight
  • Wisdom 10
  • Charisma Eight

This set of ability scores is for the multiclass, Githyanki, or Wood Half-Elf options. Armor only needs 14 Dexterity to be effective, after all. This build will slow your monk down by a ton but will keep their AC high without needing to rely on Dexterity and Wisdom. However, due to your low Wisdom, your Ki abilities have a low saving throw DC, making them unreliable in a pinch.

Best subclass for the Tavern Brawler Monk in BG3

Once you’ve gotten to level 3, your subclass should be Way of the Open Hand for either build. Our only goal in this class is to spam Flurry of Blows every turn, and the Way of the Open Hand lets us do that while knocking opponents prone or pushing them away. Even for our low Wisdom variant, we still spam trips all of the time. Then, later on, you get even more ki, healing, and eventually Sanctuary access.

Honestly, for the high Wisdom variation of the build, all three subclasses are decent choices. Way of Shadow provides for several ways to Hide and gain an advantage on Flurries, as well as fantastic mobility. Way of the Four Elements lets us add damage and range to our unarmed attacks, as well as some additional crowd-control options.

However, our gameplay revolves so much around spamming Flurry of Blows as much as possible that we just benefit more from making that flurry hit harder. The chance to knock people down for the next set of unarmed strikes is too tantalizing to ignore. And other ways to spend ki, while useful, take away from our main problem-solving technique of punching a hole through their chests.

Best feats for Tavern Brawler Monk in BG3

It might be surprising but, for this build to work, we need Tavern Brawler as soon as possible. That will always be your level four feat. Afterward, things get a little more interesting and our feats open up.

LevelDescription
FourTavern Brawler (Plus-One to Strength)
EightEither Plus-Two to Strength or Tough
12Plus-Two to Wisdom

Well, those are a few options for our build. What happened?

Larian missed a tooltip for Tavern Brawler, mentioning that it provides a plus-one to Strength or Constitution. So, that rounds us out to 18 Strength.

Now, we get way too much out of Strength to leave it at 18. We want that at 20 ASAP, so the armored build should take it immediately. However, for our unarmored friends, you will likely be able to find The Mighty Cloth by level eight, a clothing item that boosts Strength by two found in the Last Light Inn‘s merchant. Alternatively, we can use Act Two’s Potion of Everlasting Vigor to get to 20 Strength.

These are commonly given to Barbarians, but we can make great use of them. Then, we can instead bail onto Tough so we can pretend that we can take a hit sometimes. Tough at level four is our equivalent of investing four points into Constitution. This’ll lower our Constitution saving throw, but we’ll just turn anything to mush that can trigger a CON save.

Then, at level 12, we have a smorgasbord of options. We can take a simple plus-two to Strength if another piece of clothing or armor, such as Viconia’s Priestess Robe, catches our eye. However, for the Armored variant, we can take Durable if we did not use Auntie Ethel‘s plus-one on ourselves. That’d round up our Constitution to 16, a big improvement. Lucky is a fine choice for characters looking to make important saving throws or ability checks—or dodge deadly crits—during endgame encounters. Alternatively, a plus-two to Constitution or Wisdom won’t go amiss.

For our unarmored build, we ended up going Tavern Brawler, Tough, and then Plus-Two Wisdom. This setup gave our Dwarf respectable health going into Act Two, a +10 to attack and damage rolls with punches, and relatively positive save DCs on his ki attacks. While Karlach drank the Everlasting Vigor potion, the monk got his hands on the Mighty Cloth.

Sadly, there aren’t many options for boosting Wisdom right now, so he’s stuck at 18.

Best magic items for Monk in BG3

We’ve already talked about some magical items that you want to look out for. The Mighty Cloth provides a sustainable stat increase that lets him explore other feat options, but other clothing items like Viconia’s Priestess Robe provide better survivability. There are a few other magic items that we want to keep our eyes on.

Importantly, it has been reported that there are ways to use an unarmed attack while wielding a two-handed weapon on a few websites. However, Larian hasn’t addressed this as a bug or feature in either official patch that has come out since—we’ll keep our fingers crossed for Patch Three—meaning that those players likely encountered a glitch. So, we will largely ignore weapons that give a plus-one to unarmed attacks, like the Corellon’s Grace staff, until they either confirm that unarmed strikes cannot be performed with weapons or fix the issue.

  • Gloves like Gloves of Dexterity or Bracers of Defense do a great job giving you higher AC.
    • However, gloves like Gloves of Soul Catching or Seraphic Pugilist Gloves can help you deal significant damage. It’s important to keep a balance of AC to damage with the Tavern Brawler.
    • This build is a very reasonable contender for the Gloves of Hill Giant Strength, which sets your Strength to 23. Plus-six Strength is quite a lot. This also lets you invest more in Constitution and a bit of Dexterity. However, this item is endgame and part of the House of Hope.
  • Bonespike Boots provide large defensive bonuses for a character who is unarmored, meaning that your Monk will likely be the only one fighting for them.
    • Boots of Uninhibited Kushigo are the best boots for a damage-dealing Monk, since they add Wisdom to unarmed damage strikes. Your +10s are suddenly +13 or +14s.
  • A Cloak of Protection is always a good option. However, the Cloak of Displacement can provide clutch moments that protect your monk against attack rolls.
  • The Amulet of Greater Health will be fought for by everyone in the party but is nice for you to have. The Amulet of the Windrider works fine for the purposes of your mobility if you lose the 23 Constitution conversation.
  • Rings that improve Movement Speed, like the Emerald Ring, are always nice for a Monk. The Ring of Protection, which you get for stealing the Sacred Idol, is an improvement to AC and saving throws that a frontline squishball like you are looking for.

Combat tips for Tavern Brawler Monks

There are two big parts of the Tavern Brawler to keep in mind. First of all, you do high damage very consistently. Even without weapons, your fists have +13 to attack rolls and +10 to damage by the time you get the Mighty Cloth, the Everlasting Potion of Vigor, or level eight.

An average round for you will have you walking up to your opponent and activating Flurry of Blows for upwards of 60 damage, assuming you have no consumables or Gloves of Soul Catching active. By targeting middling health enemies, you can easily take out single targets while Hasted or stun them with Stunning Strike in a position that leaves them wide open.

The second thing to keep in mind is that your combination of low AC and low health makes you a prime target for the AI. This can be solved slightly through Deflect Arrows—to lower ranged damage—or a Relentless Striking Karlach—which might bait the AI away from you. In addition, you can have Shadowheart target you with Warding Bond, a spell that buffs your defenses and has her take half of your damage. Alternatively, items like True Love’s Embrace can give it to slightly healthier members of your party.

Using Invisibility to get next to a priority target leaves you with a great opportunity to quickly take them out. You’re no assassin Rogue, but you still deal fantastic damage within a single round of combat. If you get the Surprise on them, you can really ruin the first person you run into. Then, the goal will be to try and utilize that momentum to continuously crowd-control monsters that you can get to in a movement action.


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Author
Jason Toro-McCue
Contributing writer and member of the RPG beat. Professional writer of five years for sites and apps, including Nerds + Scoundrels and BigBrain. D&D and TTRPG fanatic, perpetual Fighter main in every game he plays.