Way of the Hoof: Building a Centaur Monk

While perusing the various ‘guides’ for building Centaurs that have popped up since Mythic Odysseys of Theros was released earlier this year, one would simply pass on the notion of building one as a monk.  For each one of them simply dismisses the idea as frivolous and ‘non-optimal’.  Well, the gang at The Magic Tavern doesn’t let the status quo determine where our imagination takes us.  And we don’t make our camp in ‘optimal’.  So, let’s look at where the thought of a Centaur monk can take us, shall we.

Art by Vance Kovacs

First off, if you’re going to build a Centaur monk, you should probably not be doing it just as a joke or a bit.  I believe any character done such with no real though or substance will wear thin real fast.  Not that a character can’t be done for a bit of comedy, but it has to have more going for it than a laugh.  Make sure you build the numbers, background and backstory strong as to flesh out you character.  Remember, Sam Reigal’s characters have always had that shade of hilarity, but, in the long and short of it, they were deep, well thought out, fleshed out creatures; characters worthy of any novel or short story.

So, if you’re ready to tell an interesting, meaningful story, we’re ready to build.

First of all, let’s talk Hoof damage.  It states in Mythic Odyssey’s of Theros that you can use hooves as an unarmed attack which is excellent.  According to SAGE ADVICE’s Jeremy Crawford, this can replace the normal Unarmed Strike damage as given my the Monk class and will, therefore, scale with advancement. Unfortunately, it doesn’t give you any special plus damage other than using Strength rather than Dexterity.

art from Mythic Odysseys of Theros

A MONK’S STENGTHS?

The suggested build for a monk is to put your top stat in Dexterity and the second in Wisdom.  The Centaur racial traits give a +2 on Strength and a +1 on Wisdom.  So, you have your bump in Wisdom.  Also, the Martial Arts feature allows you to use Strength instead of Dexterity for attack and damage rolls, so the +2 will help actually.  You will still need a decent Dexterity as the Unarmored Defense allows you to use Dexterity and Wisdom stat bonus to calculate AC.

HOW FAST IS FAST?

Another caveat for the Centaur is his speed.  While, in the long run, not as optimum as the Tabaxi, the Centaur IS faster than most.  Getting a Speed of 40, this will help you close in on opponents a bit quicker than others.  Your speed increases by another 10 at second level with your Unarmored Movement making you even faster.  I wonder?  Centaurs…Horseshoes…of SPEED? (OR maybe the Horseshoes of Zephyr-look at both in the 5E DM’s guide.

 However, climbing that requires hands and feet becomes difficult for you and costs you more movement than the others in your party.  But this is to be expected considering your ‘Equine Build’.  This may be a deal breaker for many as most of the monks who have played my games like to run up and down walls.  But, fret not, at 9th level, as a monk, you can run up vertical surfaces and across liquids despite being ‘Equine’. (NOTE:  the good news about being ‘Equine’ is that you can carry more)

CENTAUR’S GOT SKILLS

The Survivor feature of the Centaur traits really brings nothing to the table for the Monk.  But chosing either Animal Handling, Medicine or Survival might actually help in the long run.  Or maybe it will aid in building that Druid down the road.

WHAT THE FEY?

One great advantage to being a Centaur is the fact that you are not humanoid.  You are FEY.  This protects you from a great many things.  You cannot be the target of spells like Hold, Charm or Dominate Person.  They cannot contract Lycanthrope.  However, they can possibly be sent back to the FEYWILD using Banishment or like spells. (Plan on dropping a separate article dealing with this in detail before the end of the week)

WHO’S IN CHARGE?

The Charge option in the Centaur traits is not optimum for a monk or any other class really.  It basically just adds a 1D4+Strength  damaging attack possibility but it requires a ‘melee weapon attack’ to trigger it.  So, unless you’re going to pick up a monk weapon, it doesn’t add a lot.

CLASS ACTS AND BACKGROUND OPTIONS

I know we’re talking about building a Centaur monk, but besides checking the options to accentuate your monk, we’re going to look briefly at other possibilities.

But first, if you’re looking for a good background for your Monk, you have a few options.  I think whether you choose the Lagonna or the Pheres bands, your monk could have been involved with their people’s military or guards.  Taking on either the soldier background or the city watch should help you along.  With SOLDIER, you get proficiency in Athletics and Intimidation which opens up you to choose two skills from among Acrobatics, History, Insight, Religion, and Stealth.  CITY WATCH gives proficiency in Athletics and Insight instead which narrows down your choices from the other list.  SOLDIER comes with the benefits of rank among you fellow soldiers and allies.  CITY WATCHES feature Watcher’s Eye will allow your Monk to be very perceptive to criminal activity and the hub of local law authority.

Art by Mark Winters and Wotc

The Lagonna may be more merchantile, but have armed (or unarmed) escorts called Koletra.  You could definitely build a party around a guros or trade outfit.  Your Monk would be the head security guy for the team who just happens to not carry or use weapons (although you could). 

The Pheres band are raiders and it’s more likely that your monk set out on his own.  You could adapt SOLDIER and CITY WATCH to pertain to your work with the strong arms of the clan.  But it may be better for a Pheres Centaur to take on CRIMINAL (pertaining to their life among the raiding bands) or even better BOUNTY HUNTER.  With the BOUNTY HUNTER Background, found in Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, you get some insightful choices for skills, but the feature, ‘EAR TO THE GROUND’, gives you character an insider who can help you find your bounties.

Other options for backgrounds and classes are just as viable.  I know you’re going to laugh, but a Centaur Rogue could work.  I think working a build more attune to persuasion and cunning could work.  The Lagonna are mercantile people, so tacking on a Guild Merchant background also makes sense.

The source of all things 5E Centaur, Mythic Oddesseys of Theros, opens up some other great options. 

The Lagonna have a handful of specialists who are honored among the Guri.  The BARTERER is the negotiator of the group and would be best as rogue (although your Monk could do it aptly).  The OMENER, as Oracle, is the go between to the gods and guides the guros as it travels.  Maybe a Cleric or Paladin?  The Courser is an explorer and scout that cuts into ‘unexplored territory’ probably as a Ranger. 

Pheres Callers are actually DRUIDS or RANGERS who are natural beastmasters.  The Trompers are usually FIGHTERS, but your Monk could definitely be of this ilk.

Last thought on class, one of the options I feel I’d build is Paladin: Oath of Glory!  Centaurs are regal creatures and true to their word.  So, Paladin is fitting.  Check out Mythic Odyssey’s of Theros for the details

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