Way of the Drunken Master Monk Subclass Guide

The Way of the Drunken Master is a monk subclass based on a martial arts school that teaches a chaotic, uncoordinated style of fighting that mirrors the movements of someone drunk. The Drunken Master is agile and tricky, making them unpredictable and dangerous opponents.

What Is a Way of the Drunken Master Monk?

Drunken Masters are also accomplished entertainers; their intoxication (whether real or feigned) serves as bait to deflect opponents. In truth, these warriors are entirely in control of their bodies and their minds, able to fight with astonishing grace and power.

Drunken Master Monk Class – Defining Abilities

3rd Level

Bonus Proficiencies: As an accomplished performer, you gain proficiency in the Performace skill. You also gain proficiency with Brewer’s Supplies. 

Drunken Technique: You gain the benefit of the Disengage action after using Flurry of Blows.

6th Level

Tipsy Sway

  • Leap to Your Feet: Spend 5 feet of movement to stand up from prone.
  • Redirect Attack: When a creature attempts a melee attack against you and misses, you can spend 1 ki point to redirect the attack against another creature that is within 5 feet of you and that you can see.

11th Level

Drunkard’s Luck: You’re extremely lucky. You can use 2 ki points to cancel Disadvantage on any ability check, attack roll, or saving throw.

17th Level

Intoxicated Frenzy: You’ve mastered the art of fighting against a group of enemies and can make up to five Flurry of Blows as long as each attack targets a different creature.

The Strength of the Drunken Master

A Drunken Master is a highly effective melee combatant capable of holding their own against multiple opponents. These warriors are also quite adaptable and can support their allies through various combat techniques.

The strength of the Drunken Master subclass is its unpredictability. An opponent never knows what the Drunken Master will do next, making them a difficult target to anticipate and defeat.

The best part about playing a Drunken Master is that they are an incredibly fun and entertaining subclass to roleplay. If you enjoy making your friends and family laugh, then this is the subclass for you. Just be sure to keep the ale flowing!

The Drunken Master’s Limitations

The drawback of playing a Drunken Master is that, due to the nature of their abilities, they often rely on being in close proximity to their enemies. This can make them easy targets, especially for ranged attacks.

Many of the Drunken Master’s abilities are circumstantial, and most encourage you to stay in the front ranks, which can be hazardous for a monk. Because the Drunken Master’s techniques often rely on intercepting and redirecting an enemy’s attacks, the monk can be left in a vulnerable position.

Black Citadel’s Ranking and Tier System

Color and Tier ranking is very helpful when you’re trying to digest a lot of information. In our ongoing series of 5e class guides, we use the following color-rating scheme:

  • Red – C Tier. Red options can sometimes be situationally useful and might make for an interesting narrative choice, but they are largely less effective than other tiers.
  • Green – B Tier. Solid but nothing that is absolutely critical for a build, or Green can be very good but only in very specific situations.  
  • Blue – A Tier. An excellent choice. Widely regarded as powerful in some way, useful, highly effective. 
  • Purple – S Tier. The top of our rankings. Objectively powerful or transformative in some way. No choice in D&D is essential, but these options are worth strongly considering when you create your character.

Our goal here is to provide scannable but comprehensive guides for you as you develop your character.

While we might sometimes make reference to unofficial or homebrew content to illustrate a point (or just because it’s too cool not to talk about), every option we suggest is legal in the official rules for D&D 5e as published by Wizards of the Coast.

Getting Started: Features and Abilities

Introduced in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, the Way of the Drunken Master is not the most powerful monk subclass, but it is one of the most fun to play. If you’re looking for an effective and entertaining monk, consider playing a Drunken Master.

The Drunken Master has a number of abilities that allow them to move around the battlefield quickly and avoid taking damage. Due to their speed and unpredictability, the Drunken Master is a force to be reckoned with, and their antics are sure to entertain their allies.

Ability Scores

  • Strength: If you’d like to shove or tackle opponents, both of which are excellent for monks, put a few points in Strength. Otherwise, you can dump this score.
  • Dexterity: A Drunken Master needs a high Dexterity score to improve their AC. A high Dexterity score will also increase their damage output with weapons like the shortsword. 
  • Constitution: A Drunken Master needs a high Constitution score in order to improve their hit points and increase their chances of surviving attacks. 
  • Intelligence: Monks don’t need a high Intelligence score. Unless you want to be a particularly crafty or deceptive monk, there’s no need to put any points into Intelligence.
  • Wisdom: A high Wisdom score is essential for a monk as it will increase their AC and help with their Ki abilities. If you’re making a monk, put a few points in Wisdom.
  • Charisma: Feel free to make Charisma your lowest stat. You won’t be using it much, if at all.

Race Choices

As with all D&D classes, the race you choose to play can have a significant impact on how your character will develop over the course of the game. When choosing a race for your Drunken Master, consider one that will complement your combat abilities.

Wood Elf

Wood Elves make excellent Drunken Masters due to their natural agility and grace. Their racial ability, Fleet of Foot, increases their base walking speed by 5 feet, which can be helpful when trying to close the distance on an opponent.

Wood elves can also use Mask of the Wild to hide when only lightly obscured by natural phenomena, making them difficult to find. 

The mechanical benefits of a race that provides bonuses to both Dexterity and Wisdom are obvious when it comes to playing a Drunken Master. Therefore, the Wood Elf race is a good choice.

Human

Humans are a versatile race and can be customized to fit any role in the party, including a Drunken Master. Humans get a +1 bonus to each of their ability scores, making them a reliable choice if you’re looking for a well-rounded character.

If you’re planning on playing a Drunken Master, you might consider taking the human variant option. This way, your character can learn a feat at level 1, such as Tough, which increases your maximum hit points. We discuss the human variant option in more depth in the Example Builds section below.

Halfling

Halflings are small creatures that have a +2 bonus to their Dexterity score, making them quite nimble on their feet and harder to hit in battle. 

The Lucky trait is also beneficial for a Drunken Master, as it allows halfling characters to reroll ability checks, attack rolls, and saving throws whenever they roll a 1. Lastly, the Brave trait gives halflings an advantage on saving throws against being frightened, which can come in handy when facing opponents that use intimidation tactics.

Dwarf

The Hill Dwarf subrace is a good option for a Drunken Master due to its +1 bonus to Wisdom and the Dwarven Toughness racial trait, which increases the dwarf’s maximum hit points by 1. The 1-point increase occurs with every level gained.

The Hill Dwarf’s other racial traits, such as Darkvision and Dwarven Resilience, are also beneficial for a melee combatant such as a Drunken Master.

Background Choices

Choosing a background is an important part of creating your character in Dungeons and Dragons. The background you select will provide your character with a set of skills and proficiencies and a unique feature.

Your background is also critical to roleplaying. As a Drunken Master, you might want to consider a background that reflects your chaotic and carefree nature. The following are some backgrounds that would be well-suited for a monk.

While these backgrounds combine well with the Drunken Master subclass, any background can work. Talk to your DM about what would make the most sense for your character and the campaign you’ll be playing.

Entertainer

The Entertainer background is an obvious choice for a Drunken Master. The background gives your character proficiency in Performance and Acrobatics, which will come in handy for a character who relies on Dexterity and agility.

The Entertainer background also provides your character with the feature By Popular Demand. This feature allows you to secure free lodging and food in any village, town, or city as long as you perform for at least one night. This can be a great way to save money on your adventures. The feature also makes you a well-known figure locally, and people who have seen you perform are more likely to help you out.

Most entertainers have large personalities and are natural-born charmers. If you’re looking for a background that will help you roleplay a Drunken Master, the entertainer is a good choice.

Urchin

The Urchin background is another option that makes sense for a Drunken Master. The background gives your character proficiency in Sleight of Hand and Stealth, which are great if you want to pull the wool over your opponent’s eyes.

The Urchin background also provides your character with the feature City Secrets. This feature gives you knowledge of hidden passages and locations in cities that other characters might miss. This can be useful for getting around undetected or avoiding dangerous areas.

As an Urchin, a Drunken Master might have grown up on the streets and learned to fend for themselves, or they may have been picked up by a mentor and taught the ways of the Drunken Master. Either way, this background can help you flesh out your character’s story, giving you a great deal of roleplaying options.

Hermit

The Hermit background is always popular for monks, and Drunken Masters are no exception. The background provides your character with proficiency in Medicine and Religion, which may be useful during a campaign in a variety of ways.

The background’s unique feature, Discovery, also gives your character the opportunity to roleplay their backstory. This feature means you have access to a discovery that you made during your time in isolation, such as a relic, a fact about the past that had been lost, or a new site. You and your DM can decide on an appropriate discovery together. The DM may even work your Discovery into the fabric of the story to give you the best roleplaying opportunities. 

The Hermit is a fantastic background for players who want to have a character with a rich history and one that matches perfectly with the typical monk’s knowledge and experience.

Criminal

The Criminal background is a good pick for a character who wants to play up the chaotic and lawless nature of the Drunken Master. The background provides your character with proficiency in Deception and Stealth, which are convenient for a character who wants to stay out of the spotlight, at least until they’re ready to strike.

The Criminal background also gives your character the feature Criminal Contact. This contact can provide you with a contact to the criminal underworld. You can send and receive messages through this contact, and you can use this contact to find a safe place to stay in an unfamiliar city or town. This contact can also put you in touch with other criminals, which can be helpful if you’re looking for information or trying to find someone to help you with a job.

It makes a lot of sense for a character who wants to enhance the criminal aspects of the Drunken Master to choose the Criminal background.

Skill Choices

When you choose the Drunken Master subclass, you will want to pick skills that complement your martial arts training.

Monks can choose two skills from the following list: Acrobatics, Athletics, History, Insight, Religion, and Stealth.

Acrobatics and Athletics are two skills that go hand-in-hand with the Drunken Master’s fighting style. Acrobatics will allow you to perform stunts like diving, somersaulting, or walking on a tightrope. Although most monks don’t rely on their strength, having skills in Athletics gives you the power to climb obstacles, jump high, and toss your opponents around.

History and Religion are two common skills for monks as they are associated with the monk’s lifestyle of contemplation and study. History will let you recall ancient tales and legends, while Religion gives you knowledge of religious dogma and doctrine. 

Insight and Stealth are skills that can be useful for a character who wants to stay out of the spotlight. With the monk’s heavy emphasis on Dexterity, Stealth is an obvious choice. Insight will let you read people, giving you an idea of whether or not they can be trusted, a valuable skill to have on any D&D adventure.

  • Primary Skills: Acrobatics, Religion, Stealth
  • Secondary Skills: Athletics, History, Insight

Feats

Feats are a great way to further customize your monk and make them even more effective in combat. There are a few feats that work well with the Drunken Master subclass. 

If you’re craving more feats, look into playing a Variant Human under the Player’s Handbook rules.

Sentinel

The Sentinel feat allows you to stand your ground in combat, making it more difficult for enemies to move past you. You can reduce a creature’s speed to 0 when you hit them with an attack of opportunity.

Sentinel is an excellent feat for any character who wants to be in the thick of combat, controlling the battlefield and protecting their teammates. 

Tough

Taking the Tough feat will increase your monk’s durability. The feat gives you extra hit points, which can be a lifesaver in a challenging fight. Monks are relatively fragile, so the extra hit points can be very useful.

The Tough feat is a great choice for any character who wants to be able to take a hit and keep on fighting.

Lucky

It’s always good to be lucky! The Lucky feat allows you to reroll failed ability checks, attack rolls, and saving throws. 

With Lucky, you’ll gain three luck points that you can use to influence the outcome of your die rolls. These luck points can help you succeed when the odds are against you. 

You can also spend a luck point when you are attacked, allowing you to roll a d20 to replace the attack roll. You choose whether to keep the original result or take the new one. This can help you avoid getting hit by a powerful attack.

Drunken Masters are heavily dependent on their ability to avoid injury, making the Lucky feat a superb choice.

Defensive Duelist

The Defensive Duelist feat allows you to add your Dexterity bonus to your AC when you are wielding a finesse weapon. This is excellent for avoiding taking damage in battle.

This feat is suitable for any character who wants to be more evasive. Monks rely on their speed and agility instead of armor, so the extra bit of AC can be beneficial.

Defensive Duelist is also a good choice for roleplaying purposes. If you want your character to be an entertainer, fighting duels in bars and taverns, this feat will give you an edge in those fights.

Skill Expert

This feat has multiple benefits, all of which are useful for the Drunken Master. The first benefit is that you can increase one of your ability scores by 1. This is always useful as it will increase your character’s overall potential.

The second benefit is that you gain proficiency in one skill of your choice. Use this to fill out your skill set.

The final benefit is that you gain expertise in a skill that you are proficient in, allowing you to double your proficiency bonus when making ability checks with that skill. This is an excellent way to round out your character and make them more effective and versatile.

Progression

As you progress in levels, you’ll gain new abilities and improve your existing ones. Each level is a new opportunity to grow your character and make them more effective and unique. Here is a quick summary of what you can expect as you advance in levels.

Levels 1-2

Because the Way of the Drunken Master subclass isn’t available until your monk reaches level 3, you’ll be playing a regular monk at the beginning of the game. Use this time to learn the ropes and get a feel for how the monk class works.

Level 3

You gain access to the Drunken Master subclass at level 3. You gain Bonus Proficiencies from your martial arts technique, which blends the precision of a dancer with the antics of a performer. You become proficient in the Performance skill if you aren’t already. You also know how to brew your own alcohol and become proficient with Brewer’s Supplies.

At level 3, the Drunken Master learns Drunken Technique. With this ability, you can maneuver swiftly as part of a Flurry of Blows attack. When you use Flurry of Blows, you gain the benefit of the Disengage action until the end of your current turn, and your walking speed increases by 10 feet.

Level 6

At 6th level, you become skilled at moving in erratic ways, giving you access to two new abilities: Leap to Your Feet and Redirect Attack. 

Leap to Your Feet allows you to stand up from a prone position for only 5 feet of movement, a valuable skill for getting out of sticky situations or getting into a position to strike.

Redirect Attack allows you to use your reaction to divert an opponent’s attack. When a creature misses you with an attack, you can use 1 ki point to redirect the attack toward another creature within 5 feet of you. This can be a great way to get in some extra damage or set up an ally.

Level 11

When you reach 11th level, you learn Drunkard’s Luck. As good fortune always seems to be on your side, if you ever have Disadvantage on an ability check, saving throw, or attack roll, you can spend 2 ki points to cancel out the Disadvantage for that roll.

Level 17

When you reach 17th level, you learn how to unleash a devastating amount of attacks against a group of opponents. With Intoxicated Frenzy, you can use Flurry of blows to make up to five attacks as long as each attack is aimed at a different opponent. When it comes to tackling a group of enemies, the Drunken Master is in a class of their own.

Gearing Up: What To Have at Level 1

You have a few options for gearing up for your adventure as a monk, and if you’re planning on surviving the dangerous worlds of Dungeons and Dragons, you’ll need to choose the right gear.

A Monk’s starting equipment includes:

  • (a) a shortsword or (b) any simple weapon
  • (a) a dungeoneer’s pack or (b) an explorer’s pack
  • 10 darts

Choose a Weapon

Your first choice is your weapon. Monks can use a shortsword or any simple weapon, but popular choices include spears and quarterstaffs. 

You’ll need to decide what kind of weapon your character will use, but we recommend a spear. 

A spear is a versatile weapon that can be used for both melee and ranged combat, making it a good choice for the Drunken Master. 

Monks wielding a monk weapon can use their Dexterity instead of their Strength for attacks and damage rolls. 

Monk weapons include:

  • Darts
  • Javelins
  • Handaxes
  • Quarterstaffs
  • Shortswords
  • Spears
  • Unarmed

Other Adventuring Gear

Monks are an unarmored class, which means they do not wear traditional armor. Instead, they rely on their training and reflexes to avoid getting hit during a fight.

This does not mean that you are helpless, however. There are still ways to increase your character’s survivability. Besides weapons, you’ll need to choose some adventuring gear.

You’ll also choose between a dungeoneer’s pack and an explorer’s pack. The former includes a backpack, a crowbar, a hammer, a tinderbox, 10 torches, 10 days of rations, and a waterskin. The latter contains a backpack, a bedroll, a mess kit, 10 torches, 10 days of rations, and a waterskin. 

Magic Items

During your adventures, you’ll have the chance to find magical items. These items can range from weapons and armor to trinkets and other treasures. As a Drunken Master, you’ll want to look for items that increase your mobility and allow you to quickly get in and out of combat. 

With magic items, the options are nearly limitless. To keep things simple, we’ll recommend a few items that we think would be useful for the Drunken Master. If you’re interested in reading more about magic items, check out our guide on monk magic items.

Boots of Elvenkind

You’ll find that these boots are incredibly potent on any sneaky hero. If your monk serves as the party’s scout, the Boots of Elvenkind are just what you need to avoid detection.

With these boots on your feet, your steps will be silent, and you’ll have a better chance of hiding and sneaking around undetected. Combine these boots with a Cloak of Elvenkind to become virtually invisible to your enemies.

Cloak of Elvenkind

A must-have for any stealthy character. Disadvantage is imposed on creatures attempting to detect you, and you gain Advantage when hiding, so you’re doubly protected against creatures trying to find you.

Broom of Flying

This broom is an excellent item for any character who wants to get around quickly. As long as it’s carrying less than 50 pounds, it has a flying speed of 50 feet. It’s great for getting around and for getting out of trouble.

A Drunken Master is dangerous; a Druken Master on a Flying Broom is downright terrifying.

Amulet of Health

One of the weaknesses of playing a monk is that they are not very durable. The Amulet of Health helps to mitigate this by increasing your Constitution to a whopping 19! With this wondrous item around your neck, you’ll be much more resistant to the rigors of war. Good luck finding one, however, as they are exceedingly rare. 

Ring of Protection

This is a rare item, but it is one that can be very useful for the monk. The ring of protection gives you a +1 bonus to AC, which can be the difference between taking a hit or not.

Playing a monk is all about avoiding getting hit in the first place, but when you do get hit, it’s nice to have some extra protection.

Lantern of Revealing

You can’t fight what you can’t see, and the Lantern of Revealing lets you see invisible creatures within 30 feet of you. A great item for any character, it’s convenient for the monk who lacks a way to detect invisible creatures.

With the Lantern of Revealing, you can see the creatures hiding in the shadows, just waiting to ambush you.

Stone of Good Luck (Luckstone)

This lucky stone gives you a +1 bonus to all of your ability checks and saving throws. With this in your possession, you’re less likely to suffer the effects of an attack or get caught off guard. 

Monks are all about being quick and agile, and the Stone of Good Luck helps to ensure that you’ll always be one step ahead of your enemies.

Bracers of Defense

These bracers give you a +2 bonus to AC, which is always nice to have. They’re not a necessary item, but if you can find a pair, they’ll help to keep you alive in battle. Drunken Masters are usually in the thick of combat, and any extra protection is always welcome. 

Example Characters

There are many ways to build a Drunken Master Monk. Depending on your playstyle, you may want to focus on roleplaying, fighting, or a combination of both. Here are a few example characters to get you started:

Flonk the Scoundrel

  • Race: Human Variant
  • Background: Charlatan
  • Stats: STR: 12, DEX: 18, CON: 10, INT: 8, WIS: 14, CHA: 8
  • Skills: Acrobatics, Insight, Sleight of Hand, Deception
  • Equipment: Dagger, Shortsword

Flonk is a small, nimble human who has made a living by deceiving and robbing others. He’s not a particularly brave or strong fighter, but his quick reflexes and agility have served him well so far.

Flonk’s Drunken Master abilities allow him to use his speed and agility to stay one step ahead of his adversaries. His ability to fight while intoxicated makes him a deadly opponent in close quarters.

Flonk can be a powerful asset to any party. With various skills at his disposal, he can easily take on the role of a rogue or scout. He’s not the most reliable team member, but his unpredictability can be valuable in a tight spot.

Saren the Talented

  • Race: Elf
  • Background: Noble
  • Stats: STR: 10, DEX: 17, CON: 12, INT: 9, WIS: 14, CHA: 12
  • Skills: Acrobatics, Religion, History, Persuasion
  • Equipment: Quarterstaff

Saren is an elven noble who has always had a knack for acrobatics. She’s not the strongest or toughest fighter, but her agility and reflexes are second to none. Her natural charm allows her to easily talk her way out of trouble.

Her trusty quarterstaff looks harmless to most, but it’s a deadly weapon. She loves to earn extra money by challenging multiple opponents to fight her at once. Her agility allows her to dodge their attacks effortlessly while pummeling them with her staff.

Vazzolir Mudstone the Wise

  • Race: Hill Dwarf
  • Background: Hermit
  • Stats: STR: 10, DEX: 14, CON: 14, INT: 8, WIS: 18, CHA: 8
  • Skills: Insight, Religion, Medicine, History
  • Equipment: Shortsword

Vazzolir is a wise and experienced dwarf who has spent many years in seclusion. He’s not a very agile fighter, but his Wisdom and knowledge are unparalleled.

Vazzolir’s Drunken Master training allows him to deceive his opponents, and his knowledge of History and Religion gives him an edge in any debate or discussion. He’s also been trained in the art of Medicine, and his skills are invaluable in a crisis.

He’s not the most outgoing person, but he’s always ready to help those in need. Vazolir’s experience and knowledge make him a valuable asset to any party.

Synergies and Multiclassing

The Drunken Master Monk synergizes well with several classes, so players may want to consider multiclassing. The best options for multiclassing are classes that complement the Drunken Master’s strengths, such as the Fighter, Barbarian, and Rogue

The Fighter provides a nice boost to the Drunken Master’s damage output, and the Barbarian’s Rage ability can be used to great effect when paired with the Drunken Master’s technique. 

The Rogue’s Sneak Attack ability is an outstanding option for dealing extra damage, and because the Rogue’s skills are dependent on Dexterity, this is a good option for increasing the Drunken Master’s survivability.

Of course, there are several other possible combinations available. The important thing is to choose one that best fits the character you want to play.

Beginner’s Guide to a Drunken Master Monk 

If you enjoy throwing your enemies off balance and using your wit and humor to confound them, you’ll love playing as a Drunken Master. With this subclass, you can deal a lot of damage while taking a more comedic approach to Dungeons and Dragons.

Despite the name, the Way of the Drunken Master has no mechanics related to drinking. This build is effective for those who want to use hit-and-run tactics to keep your monk alive and out of harm’s way.

The Drunken Master sways out of the way of the attacking enemy at the last second. The enemy can’t stop in time and ends up striking someone else who wasn’t expecting it and couldn’t defend themselves.

You’ve seen this happen in almost every light-hearted action movie where the hero is outnumbered and needs to take down a room full of bad guys.

That’s what playing a Drunken Master is all about. You use your agility, quick reflexes, and wit to stay one step ahead of your enemies and come out on top.

The main benefit of the subclass is the added flavor and roleplaying opportunities it provides. It’s a fun and exciting build that can be played in many different ways. These monks specialize in fighting groups of enemies and often take on the role of a rogue or scout. They use their speed to dart in and out of combat, striking quickly before retreating to safety.

The biggest drawback of playing a Drunken Master is their lack of direct damage output. This build deals indirect damage by redirecting enemy attacks. While this technique can be effective, it’s not the best choice for players who want to deal massive damage directly to their opponents.

At level 3, the Drunken Master learns the Drunken Technique, which grants them a speed increase of 10 feet and the ability to disengage whenever they use their Flurry of Blows ability. Use this ability to your advantage by running around the battlefield and avoiding enemy attacks.

At level 6, you learn Tipsy Sway. This ensures that you quickly get back into the fight whenever you’re knocked down. 

Tipsy Sway’s second ability, Redirect Attack, allows you to use a reaction when an opponent misses you to redirect the attack against another opponent. This move is perfect for taking on multiple enemies at once.

Drunken Masters are usually found in the center of a brawl. At level 17, they learn Intoxicated Frenzy, giving them the ability to make a frenzy of blows against a group of opponents.

If you’re planning on making a Drunken Master character, you’ll want to keep in mind a few things:

  • What is your role in the party? Are you there to dish out damage or provide your allies with support?
  • What fighting style do you prefer? Do you like to get up close and personal, or do you prefer to keep your enemies at a distance?
  • Third, what sort of character do you want to play? Do you want to be the wisecracking jokester or the more serious and stoic type?

The Drunken Master Monk subclass is loaded with features that make it an ideal choice for new players. It’s straightforward, tolerant of mistakes, and tons of fun to play. However, even seasoned players who enjoy having plenty of options and mechanics to explore will enjoy playing this capricious subclass.