Allow me to begin by acknowledging that I have read enough threads on the topic to know that most who read this post may consider this a bad idea. If you are open to some possibilities, then I ask for your input. Otherwise, I will agree with you that a zombie monk is just a crazy idea that can’t possibly work. The goal here isn’t to discuss the merits of such a crazy idea, but rather to explore how to make it work. What are the possibilities rather than the road-blocks?
My current zombie monk is a first-life human 16 (7wiz/9monk). Current stats (with items, but no zombie form, no stance, and no buffs) are: Str-17 Dex-18 Con-22 Int-17 Wis-19 Chr-8.
Selected Feats: Dodge, Extend Spell, Improved Critical - Bludgeoning Weapons, Lightning Reflexes, Mental Toughness, Path of Inevitable Dominion, Resilience, Slicing Blow, Toughness x4, and Two Weapon Fighting.
Enhancements of note: Cloak of Night x1, Greater Heroism, Fists of Iron, Human Versatility – Saves Boost, Improved Mage Armor x3, Shroud of the Zombie, Ambidexterity x3, Bone Armor x3, Deathless Vigor, Deft Strikes, Don’t count me out x3, Iron Skin x3, Way of the Clever Monkey, and various hit point enhancements.
Items of note: Spider Silk Robe w/ Sapphire of Physical Resistance +8, Jidz-Tet’ka, Blood Stone, Resistance +3 (cloak) or Resistance + 6 (necklace), and Speed IV.
Generally speaking, I keep in Earth Stance and Zombie form. However, like any good monk, flexibility is key and I will switch to Sun for damage/ki gen, Wind for speed, or Ocean for saves.
“Why Earth stance in Zombie form?” You may be asking about now. “Isn’t that insanely slow?” The answer is “no.” Fortunately the penalties don’t stack. Let me first elaborate on the philosophy of the build, then we can address the speed and DPS.
There are three areas the build primarily focuses on Damage Reduction, Saves, and Damage (raw damage, not DPS). Speed would be fourth, just to give you an idea of where speed ranks.
First and foremost, this build is a bit of a tank. Nothing compared to a solid Stalwart Defender mind you, but decent. Start with 100% fortification (or up to 200% if needed). This means, generally speaking, no critical hits and no backstabbing. Next is a PRR of 41, or 21.95% Damage Reduction. Also, there is 4 to 6 Damage Reduction for Zombie form and the Spider Silk Robe. AC is only 35, and Dodge is only 11%. But add in a blur for 25%, and we’re looking at getting hit about 60% at level. This damage is easily replaced by Death Aura as long as there are only a few opponents. More opponents and I start jumping around to avoid being crowded (yeah… there goes the tank). If Hit Points drop below 50% health, PRR goes up by 10 to 51.
Next, I needed to make sure that I could take on casters too, which means saving against those nasty spells. With Resilience, Way of the Monkey and standard equipment, saves range from 20 to 26 in Earth Stance + Zombie form. I can switch to Ocean stance for +3 and cast GH for +4. Saves boost for +4 plus no auto-fail on a roll of a one. And another +3 if I swap out to a necklace with +6 resistance. To give you an idea of how all this stacks up, I’m easily able to swim the Test of Endurance in the Crucible on elite. With Improved Evasion, not much can hurt. Not to mention immunity to death effects/spells. Spell resistance may be the only thing missing.
The third focus is on damage. Start with the 2d6 for 9th monk. Next, add in +1d6 for Zombie form and +1d6 for Jidz-Tet'ka in Earth stance. I also show .5 for Paragon Weapon, but it doesn’t seem to be stacking on the character sheet. So, base damage roll is 4d6, or 4 to 24. Add to that +4 for strength, +3 for Deadly III item, +1 for Human Ambidexterity and +2 Weapon Enhancement. This adds +10 resulting in a range of 14 to 34. Not shabby for two sets of knuckles. Next I like to include the Fists of Iron attack regularly for +3d6 and +1 critical threat range.
The critical threat range is what’s crucial here. Wraps start at 20 critical threat range. Add in +1 for Improved Critical – Bludgeoning feat, and +1 for Fists of Iron. Now the threat range is 18 to 20, or 15% chance. Or roughly 1 out of 7 strikes (~14%) is a critical hit. With a 50% chance to make an off-hand strike (TWF and Deft Strikes, roughly 25% of Fists of Iron attacks will result in a critical threat, or 1 out of 4. If a critical hit lands, let’s look at the damage: Start with 7d6 (base + Fists of Iron) + 10. Seeker for the Blood Stone adds in another 6. The critical multiplier is +1 for Fists of Iron, for a total of x3. The critical damage is now 69 to 174.
Without buffs or other elemental damage from weapons, every four hits is doing ~100 damage on average, then throw in off-hand hits, and the occasional critical hit usually in the hundreds. Given that zombie monk is receiving reduced non-critical damage and healing from Death Aura, this turns out to be a pretty decent trade-off.
As a result, zombie monk has experienced some epic battles because the DPS in both directions is quite low. Zombie versus zombie fights are often the most epic since it is all Damage Reduction and Fortification. Fighting in Delara’s was uber-epic: I would keep the skeletal mages alive for the free healing, saving against their Lightning Bolts with Acid Resistance for Melf’s, all while pounding the other undead back into the dirt. The best part of those fights was also trying to herd two skeletal mages close enough together to get in both Death Auras.
Finally, let’s get to speed. I will not stay in Earth Stance / Zombie form. Clerics with light spells are usually the first reason I will pop out of Zombie form. I can still recover after a battle using Wholeness of Body if need be. To improve on speed, I can get to -10% by switching to Wind stance. But I usually start by casting Haste. The -20% Zombie attack-speed and +15% haste results in -5%. With double strikes and off-hand attacks, the damage starts to fly.
If I were to move in to take out a beholder quickly, that would be a appropriate situation to pop out of Zombie form and switch to Wind stance. There certainly is no standing toe-to-toe with a beholder since your Death Aura is probably gone and Disintegrate hurts even if you make your saving throw.
Given the monk stances, as well as the ability to swap in and out of Zombie form, I would argue that one of the greatest strengths of this build is the flexibility. Can tank if needed. Can bypass most traps if a rogue isn’t available. Can cast GH to help out the rogue when one is available. Haste is always a party-friendly spell, especially Extended. Jump, Tumble, and Swim skills are built up, as well as like buff spells, means there isn’t many places zombie monk can’t go. Ice Storm is used to add in area damage when in the middle of a horde. Sleet Storm is used to slow enemies down (used with caution, of course).
Some of the planned directions zombie monk will be heading in are:
-Eldritch Knight - Improved Shield x3: Adds +10 PRR and +4 AC.
-Granted Feat - Master of Forms: Earth stance adds +4 PRR (total +12) and +1 Critical Threat range.
-Improved Two Weapon Fighting: +20% offhand attacks.
Possibly the following:
-Eldritch Knight – Elemental Resistance x3
-Ninja Spy – Sneak Attack Training.
So, do you have any ideas on how to improve this build? What would you do differently? What would you do next?