D&D: Building an Astral Self Monk

D&D: Building an Astral Self Monk

The Monk in Dungeons & Dragons is a disciplined martial artist who harnesses the power of ki to perform extraordinary physical and mystical feats. Unfortunately, Monks tend to be viewed with skepticism for their heavy Multi-Attribute Dependency (MAD). Relying on Dexterity for damage, Wisdom for saving-throw DCs, and Constitution for their low hit dice, they can struggle to match the frontline prowess of other martial classes.

“But I wanted to drop-kick someone through a wall!” Don’t worry, we hear you! This guide will help you harness one of the Monk’s strongest subclasses to build an optimized powerhouse that not only deals remarkable damage but also excels at crowd-controlling enemies and providing support to your party.

Subclass Overview

Dragonborn Monk of the Astral Self via Wizards of the Coast Way of the Astral Self Monks are capable of manifesting their true spiritual self, and they can also summon various spectral body parts. This manifestation lasts for ten minutes and provides the Monk with offensive, defensive, and utility capabilities while active.

Monk Level Way of the Astral Self Features
3 “Arms of the Astral Self” lets you spend 1 ki point to create spectral arms, which can be used to deal the rarely-resisted Force damage. While active, you can use your Wisdom modifier instead of Strength or Dexterity when making unarmed attacks, as well as in place of Strength-based checks and saving-throw.
6 “Visage of the Astral Self” lets you spend 1 ki point to create a spectral mask. While active, you see in magical and non-magical darkness, gain an edge in Insight and Intimidation checks, and can communicate telepathically or broadcast your voice.
11 “Body of the Astral Self” can be used for free while you have the arms and mask activated. It creates a spectral body that can deflect elemental damage and boost your arm’s attacks.
17 “Awakened Astral Self” can be used for 5 ki points to activate the arms, mask, and body all at once. This grants you a massive defensive boost of +2 AC and lets you attack one more time with your arms.

The impressive visual flavor of the subclass aside, you’ll notice that Astral Self Monks are able to use their Wisdom modifier in place of Strength for checks and Dexterity for attacks. Because of this unique capability, Astral Self Monks are less dependent on Dexterity than the average Monk, allowing you the flexibility of putting your points into Wisdom instead of Dexterity without suffering a huge damage loss.

Grappler Build

Because of this, Astral Self Monks are capable of being good grapplers. Even without investing in Strength, you’ll have a good chance of successfully keeping one enemy prone on the ground by replacing both of your attacks with the Shove and Grapple actions—and using your already-high Wisdom modifier in place of the Athletics check.

After this, you can attack again with advantage using Flurry of Blows due to the enemy’s now-prone status, or simply keep the enemy locked down so that the other martials in your party can have at it—again, at advantage.

Ability Scores

Knight Exemplar by Jason Chan As mentioned before, Monks are one of the most Multi-Attribute Dependent classes of the game. The ability scores that they are most dependent on are:

  • Dexterity: Used to calculate your attacks and damage rolls, as well as your AC through the Unarmored Defense feature.
  • Wisdom: Uniquely used by the Astral Self Monk for attack and damage rolls, as well as AC through the Unarmored Defense feature. Also used for saving throw DCs for features such as Stunning Strike. Astral Self Monks can focus on Wisdom instead of Dexterity due to their Arms of the Astral Self feature.
  • Constitution: Generally great for a frontline class such as the Monk, especially as they have one of the lowest hit-dice of the martial classes. Astral Self Monks will also find themselves in the middle of the fray because of their self-centered AOE damage.

On the other hand, ability scores that won’t do much for a monk are: – Strength: Not necessary at all, especially because the Way of the Astral Self subclass offers a way to use your Wisdom modifier in place of Strength! – Intelligence: Likewise, Intelligence does very little for the Monk. More likely than not, you’ll be wise, not smart! – Charisma: Many other classes are better-suited to be the face of the party. You’ll probably want to leave the diplomacy to them—though note that Visage of the Astral Self does give you an edge on Intimidation checks!


Dungeons and Dragons Strixhaven Curriculum of Chaos via Wizards of the Coast If your Dungeon Master doesn’t use Custom Lineages (from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything) at your table (which allows you to choose your own ability scores), consider a Species that boosts both your Wisdom and Dexterity:

Species Benefit
Aarakocra Boosts both Wisdom and Dexterity. Racial flight is also an excellent feature in general.
Wood Elf Boosts both Wisdom and Dexterity. Adds bonus to speed, synergizing with Monk’s mobility.
Shifter Boosts both Wisdom and Dexterity. Remember to discuss with your DM whether Arms of the Astral Self and the Wildhunt Shifting Feature are compatible!
Halfling Boosts both Wisdom and Dexterity, crucial abilities for Monks.
Kobold Boosts Dexterity. ‘Pack Tactics’ feature allows advantage on attacks with allies nearby.
Human Versatile Ability Score Increases, and the additional starting Feat is always fantastic to have.

However, if your Dungeon Master allows for Custom Lineage, a whole lot of other options become much more viable:

Species Benefit
Duergar Resistance to poison, a common damage type. Duergar Magic (Enlarge/Reduce) extends the range of Arms of the Astral Self.
Plasmoid Excellent for grapple-focused builds, providing additional control in combat.
Warforged Enhanced durability and survivability through increased AC, health, temporary health, etc.
Svirnefblin Provides magic resistance, a valuable asset against spellcasters.
Tiefling Resistance to common damage types like poison or fire, increasing overall durability.
Dwarf Resistance to common damage types like poison or fire, increasing overall durability.
Yuan-Ti Resistance to common damage types like poison or fire, increasing overall durability.
Reborn Resistance to common damage types like poison or fire, increasing overall durability.


Mordenkainen’s Tome Sourcebook via Wizards of the Coast Here are some suitable feats for the Way of the Astral Self Monk that encompass a diverse range of character themes:

Feat Benefit
Fighting Initiate: Unarmed Fighting Provides extra damage on unarmed strikes, which Monks use liberally, and even more damage on a grappled target.
Skill Expert Grants additional skill proficiencies and expertise on Athletics for grappling builds.
Telekinetic Aligns with the spiritual/spectral flavor of the Monk. Great utility in general.
Resilient Boosts an ability score and improves saving throws in that ability. Especially useful as Monks don’t get proficiency in the all-too-common Wisdom saving throw.
Observant Increases Wisdom and Passive Perception scores, both of which should already be quite high for an Astral Self Monk.
Alert Provides a bonus to initiative, allowing for better positioning in combat.
Mobile Increases movement speed even more. Lets you avoid opportunity attacks while navigating the battlefield.
Sentinel Takes advantage of the extra reach from Arms of the Astral Self, allowing for better control of enemy movement.
Fey Touched Adds to Wisdom, provides the spell Misty Step for increased mobility in combat.

To summarize: the Way of the Astral Self Monk offers a ton of flair and flexibility! It’s rich in flavor, versatile in design, powerful in combat, and gives you leeway in ability score distribution to mitigate the Multi-Attribute Dependency challenges faced by other Monks. By making wise choices in race selection, feat acquisition, and ability score investment, this subclass can quickly become your team’s backbone on the battlefield.

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