Last Updated on January 22, 2023
Finding the right magical gear for your character can present varying degrees of headache for players and dungeon masters alike, especially when it comes to finding the right equipment for a monk.
Monks are some of the most item-independent classes in the game. Not only do they share the barbarian’s disdain for armor of any kind, but the shine on a +1 magic sword (what little appeal there was to begin with – seriously, +1 magic swords are a snoozefest. Don’t @ me) wears kind of thin when you can deal more damage with your own fists.
However, that doesn’t mean that monks should have to go from 1st level to 20th with a dearth of magic items. That wouldn’t be any fun. And, because some of the more traditional options for martial characters are off the table, monks can actually end up with some of the most fun magical gear in the game.
Welcome to our guide to magical items for monks at every tier of play in Dungeons & Dragons 5e.
What Makes A Good Monk Magic Item?
When it comes to magical items, monks find themselves somewhat limited. In terms of weapons, monks tend towards fighting either unarmed or with monk weapons – defined as any simple weapon without the two-handed or heavy properties – like quarterstaffs, shortswords, or something else reflavored to have a monk-ish aesthetic.
Clubs reimagined as nunchucks or darts reflavored as throwing stars are both popular. When it comes to magical weapons, a good number are based on base items with the martial tag, making them unsuited to monks.
Then there’s armor and shields, which monks can’t wear if they want to benefit from their Unarmored Defense.
This means we have to get a little creative when finding items that a monk can wear. Monks also aren’t spellcasters, which shrinks the field of items they can make use of even further.
When we look at choosing magical items to compliment any class, there are two ways to approach the process:
- Look at what the class does well and find items to further augment those advantages.
- Look at what the class lacks or does badly and find a way to compensate with items.
The monk’s strengths are pretty straightforward: using simple weapons powered by their Dexterity, attacking multiple times per round (with additional effects like stunning enemies), and being extremely mobile.
As far as weaknesses go, monks tend to be quite squishy (they only have a d8 hit die, the same as a rogue or a bard) and rely on a high AC to survive, as well as dealing relatively little damage per attack thanks to their dependence on making unarmed strikes, which means enemies with big hit point pools are going to be an issue.
They also tend to suffer from poor ranged options, meaning that enemy spellcasters who like to hide in the back line, not to mention flying enemies, can give them trouble.
Therefore, any magical items we select for the monk class should either augment their strengths or help compensate for their weaknesses.
Monk Magic Items For Low-Tier Play
Utility and incremental buffs are the names of the game.
Amulet of Health (rare): For all the time monks spend in the thick of battle, their hit dice (and therefore hit point pool) tend towards being a little low. Also, because Dexterity and Wisdom are both such key stats, your Constitution often gets left behind. The Amulet of Health fixes that problem by raising your Constitution to 19. If you have a Constitution score of higher than 19, the Amulet has no effect, but that shouldn’t be the case at lower levels.
Amulet of the Drunkard (uncommon): Another good survivability option for low level monks, the Amulet of the Drunkard allows you to regain 4d4 + 4 hit points when you drink a pint of beer, ale, mead, or wine. Once the amulet has restored hit points, it can’t do so again until the next dawn.
Blood Spear (uncommon): Monks are one of the few martial classes that don’t see a simple magic weapon as something of a let down. In addition to being magical, if you reduce a creature to 0 hit points with this spear, you immediately gain 2d6 temporary hit points, which can make for a nice, virtually permanent buffer to your survivability.
Boots of Speed (uncommon): Monks are all about mobility, and Boots of Speed are a great way to enhance your already formidable capabilities in that department. As a bonus action, you can click your heels together to double your walking speed, and ensure any creature that makes an opportunity attack against you has disadvantage on the attack roll. You get a total of 10 minutes of double speed for the boots every day, which should be enough for about three encounters, or one grueling boss fight.
Cloak of Protection (uncommon): A great way to increase your AC without using armor, the Cloak of Protection increases your AC by 1, as well as your bonus of all saving throws, which is huge. The Ring of Protection is another good option here.
Javelin of Lightning (uncommon): Channel elemental power with this magic javelin that, once per day, can transform into a bolt of lightning when hurled. Each creature in the 120 ft long, 5 ft wide line in which it is hurled must succeed on a DC 13 Dexterity saving throw, taking 4d6 lightning damage on a failed save, and half as much damage on a successful one. The lightning bolt turns back into a javelin when it reaches the target. Make a ranged weapon attack against the target. On a hit, the target takes damage from the javelin plus 4d6 lightning damage.
Ring of the Ram (rare): Imbue your punches with the power of a charging ghostly goat. This ring has 3 charges, and it regains 1d3 expended charges daily at dawn. While wearing the ring, you can use an action to expend 1 to 3 of its charges to attack one creature you can see within 60 feet of you. The ring produces a spectral ram’s head and makes its attack roll with a +7 bonus. On a hit, for each charge you spend, the target takes 2d10 force damage and is pushed back 5 ft. You can expend 1 to 3 of the ring’s charges as an action to try to break an object you can see within 60 feet of you that isn’t being worn or carried. The ring makes a Strength check with a +5 bonus for each charge you spend.
Ring of Jumping (uncommon): Another great utility and mobility item, this ring lets you cast the jump spell on yourself as a bonus action at will.
Seeker Dart (uncommon): A slightly demonic simple magic weapon that feels very monkish. When you choose a target within 120 ft, the dart flies towards it and, if the target fails a DC 16 Dexterity saving throw, inflicts 1d4 piercing damage and 3d4 lightning damage. The dart’s magic is then spent, and it becomes an ordinary dart.
Winged Boots (uncommon): Get to grips with any pesky ranged enemies, or gain access to hard-to-reach places using these winged boots. You gain a flying speed equal to your walking speed for 4 hours per day (which you can divide up however you like) and the boots regain 2 hours of flight time for every 12 hours they aren’t used.
Monk Magic Items For Mid-Tier Play
Bracers of Defense (rare): An absolute classic monk item, these bracers grant you a +2 bonus to AC if you forgo armor and a shield.
Cloak of Displacement (rare): Maybe my favorite monk item. This cloak projects a mirror image of you beside you, making you harder to hit. Attack rolls against you have disadvantage. The effect ends until the start of your next turn if you take any damage, and the cloak stops working if you are incapacitated, restrained, or otherwise unable to move.
Gulthias Staff (rare): This magic quarterstaff from the Curse of Strahd emits a menacing aura that makes animals deeply uncomfortable. It also has 10 charges and regains 1d6 + 4 of its expended charges daily at dusk. You can use the charges to regain the damage dealt by a hit, although you need to make a DC 12 Wisdom saving throw to avoid being affected by “madness”. The staff also stops plant and blight-type monsters from regarding you as a threat unless you harm them.
Iron Bands of Binding (rare): A great source of battlefield control, when you throw the Iron Bands of Binding at a creature size Huge or smaller (make a Dexterity attack roll) this rusty iron ball unfurls and restrains the target, which must make a DC 20 Strength check to escape.
Mantle of Spell Resistance (rare): A strong durability item at higher levels when enemies have more innate spellcasting. This cloak gives you advantage on all saving throws against spells.
Monk Magic Items For High-Tier Play
Absorbing Tattoo (very rare): The new magical tattoos introduced as part of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything make for great monk “items”. The absorbing tattoo gives you resistance to a particular damage type determined by the color of the design. Also, when you take your chosen damage type, you can use your reaction to gain immunity to the damage and regain hit points equal to half the damage taken once per day.
Ghost Step Tattoo (very rare): This delightfully ethereal, spooky tattoo has three charges, which replenish at dawn every day. You can spend a charge as a bonus action to become partially incorporeal. You gain resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from nonmagical attacks, you cannot be grappled or restrained, and you can move through creatures and solid objects as if they were difficult terrain.
Gloves of Soul Catching (legendary): A high-level improvement on the Amulet of Health, your Constitution becomes 20 when attuned to these gloves and, when you make a successful unarmed strike, you add 2d10 force damage to the target. You can also choose to either regain hit points equal to the damage dealt, or gain advantage on one attack roll, ability check, or saving throw you make before the end of your next turn.
Manual of Quickness of Action/Tome of Understanding: These magical books allow you – after a period of study – to respectively increase your Dexterity and Wisdom by 2. More importantly, your maximum for the ability score you increase also increases by 2, meaning you could potentially push one of your primary monk ability scores as high as 22 (for a modifier of +6).
Peregrine Mask (very rare): While wearing this winged helm, you gain a flying speed of 60 ft and advantage on initiative rolls. Perhaps one of the ultimate monk mobility items.
Staff of Striking (very rare): A +3 magical quarterstaff, which is kind of the ultimate monk weapon for starters. Then, the staff also has 10 charges. When you hit an enemy with the staff, you can expend up to 3 charges to add 1d6 force damage per charge spent. The staff regains 1d6 + 4 expended charges each dawn. If you expend the last charge, roll a d20. On a 1, the staff’s magic is gone.
There are plenty of other weapons that monks can make use of to augment their abilities or gain new ones, but if you’re a player looking to outfit your fists of fury or a DM looking for some character-specific loot, hopefully, our list should have you covered.
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I played my first tabletop RPG (Pathfinder 1e, specifically) in college. I rocked up late to the first session with an unread rulebook and a human bard called Nick Jugger. It was a rocky start but I had a blast and now, the better part of a decade later, I play, write, and write about tabletop RPGs (mostly 5e, but also PBtA, Forged in the Dark and OSR) games for a living, which is wild.