How to Play a Ninja Monkey: Druid/Monk Multiclass Concept for D&D 5e

Learn to play a Druid Monk Monkey Ninja in D&D 5e. Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links that add gold to our coffers.

When a druidic protector of the jungle utilizes the self-perfecting tenets of a monk, a martial artist that can transform into wild beasts is born. Adopting a crime-fighting name is encouraged for these sorts of druids. One such name… is Monkey Fist! The Sword Coast’s gregarious monkey monk is ready to join your D&D game, providing unique role-play opportunities coupled with worthwhile combat capabilities. I’ll also discuss variations, combinations, and multiclassing options that build upon this character concept. Even if you don’t desire to build a player character based on Monkey Fist, I promise he makes a great NPC.

Imagine This

Your character is imprisoned in chains by an infamous drug lord. Suddenly, the monk that sits in captivity transforms to half his normal size, sprouting more hair and a prehensile tail. This prisoner has become an unexpectedly dangerous foe, indeed. Utilizing his smaller size to slip his bonds, he knocks out the guards with two precise kicks to their pressure points. Now he is in the middle of a criminal syndicate’s base, and none are aware of his newfound freedom. They won’t know what hit them, literally…


Monkey Fist practices the Way of the Open Hand, and is also a disciple of the Druidic Circle of the Moon (Player’s Handbook). This character transforms into an agile ape capable of devastating flurries of furry fists.

You’ll want to take appropriately proportioned levels in druid based on what sort of monkey your DM will allow you to transform into. The monster manual has stats listed for a regular Ape. The main concepts to remember, no matter what build you choose, is that beating up a bad guy in the form of a Bruce-Lee-like primate is epic. If you want to emulate Primeape (from Pokémon), you could even add barbarian levels to get your rage on.

If you want to explore some cool druid spell options, check out this article about under-utilized druid spells.


Your monk path would also make sense as a Kensei if you want to be a terrifying monkey with many knives and assorted weapons. A monkey monk that follows the Way of the Drunken Master would also be flavorful for you when role-playing, and as entertaining to your fellow players as a barrel of drunken monkeys.

Alternatively, at your 14th druid level, you’ll be able to shapeshift into elementals. This is a great opportunity to be the archetypal monk of the four elements! Use the Fangs of the Fire Snake ability to empower your primate punches with fire, followed up with a Fist of Unbroken Air.

Adding several paladin levels from the order of the ancients could be thematically concurrent and mechanically rewarding. Using druid spells to smite with your furious fury fists sounds like a scene straight out of Kung-Fu Panda. You can flavor smites as if you’re releasing your body’s energy in focused blasts. Be sure to keep your holy symbol handy after you shapeshift, granting glory to the ancients that grant you power.

Taking levels in barbarian so you can rage in beast form would be mechanically viable as well. Release the fury of the natural world as a bear totem barbarian in the form of a gorilla.  Your monkey jaws will foam with fury as you rage in battle, brushing off damage and punching with greater strength. For this build, you may want to invest in more strength for your unarmed strikes to be empowered by rage damage instead of relying on dexterity (but raging is the true prize, so you don’t have to worry about the strength synergy if it’s not convenient).

Roleplay Opportunities

This type of character is grand in its opportunities, and warrants a desire to make big choices and enjoy oneself. Making big choices is important, and you can have some thoughts on the subject in this other article. Here are several suggestions for how to roleplay this type of character:

  • Raised by apes, you now emulate them during your transformations. You feel more at peace as an ape than you have ever felt as a human. People are so complicated; apes are straightforward, simple, and (of course) cunning.
  • Your monastery teaches you to master your body, but also the body of all creatures. Nestled deep in jungle geography, the monks of your order learn to transform into various beasts as they tap into nature’s magical energy. While transformed, these monks endure grueling training exercises to master their new forms.
  • The forest has chosen you as its champion, but your identity must remain a secret. You fight off the greedy settlers who would clear and raise the forest to make room for their vast hordes of people. These people do not realize that the mysterious monkey who has been sabotaging operations is among them. Your purpose is clear, for the gods have granted you this power so that you can teach your own people a better way. They must learn conservation and responsibility. Or perhaps you are attempting to keep them away from an ancient evil that lays dormant in the forest’s depths…
  • Maybe a sidekick with similar, but lesser, abilities as your own. His signature transformation is the noble burro. His name is Donkey Kick, and he is loyal to the end.

Similar characters in popular culture:

  • Rafiki (The Lion King)
  • Monkey (Kung Fu Panda)
  • Rabbit of Caerbannog (Monty Python and the Holy Grail)
  • Beastality variations of fatalities (Mortal Kombat)
  • Kiba Inuzuka (Naruto)
  • Visser Three (Animorphs book series by Katherine Applegate)


If this sounds like a fun build for you, definitely talk to your DM about the character. You might need to limit your bestial martial arts to animals with similar bodies to your own (monkeys, raccoons, etc.) because martial arts are about mastering your own body. Shapeshifting may hinder your ability to master the body of your new form. You’ll also want to discuss whether the natural armor and weapons of beasts will count as being unarmored and unarmed. But perhaps your monastery specifically trains in beast art, perfecting the martial arts in any form; this would provide a fun backstory rather than choosing to limit yourself to animals with hands.

Share Your Thoughts

Have you already tried this? Is there anything I missed? What other ideas have you had that I should cover? Comment with your experiences and thoughts. See you in the next post!

Need help multiclassing? See our Ultimate How To Multiclass Guide.

Interested in other multiclassing combinations? See what works in this Multiclass Combinations Article.

See our other multiclass builds:
The Hexarcher: Ranger/Warlock/Fighter
Aasimar Paladin/Warlock/Rogue
Monkey Fist: Druid/Monk
Assassin of the Grave: Rogue/Cleric
Master Assassin: Rogue/Fighter
Arcane Assassin Archer: Rogue/Fighter

5 thoughts on “<b>How to Play a Ninja Monkey</b>: Druid/Monk Multiclass Concept for D&D 5e”

  1. TheMarvelousDogface

    Neat idea. Only one problem: From what I understand, there is a difference between unarmed strikes (used in monk abilities like flurry of blows) and the natural weapon attacks which come with the druid’s beast shape (or the natural weapons of certain races like the lizard folk with its bite attack). So, it seems like the only benefit of transforming into an animal form is that perhaps* you can substitute your own subpar strength or dexterity stats with those of a more powerful creature so that you have better AC and damage bonuses while in combat.
    I’ve seen a similar class build called the “martial raptor” (epic Kung-Fu velociraptor) where the creator ignored the natural weapon property of the raptor’s attacks and theorized all sorts of high damage combo attacks. I mean, I love the idea, but it requires some homebrew rules alterations by the DM and wouldn’t be legal in something like Adventurer’s league… Then again, what do I know? I’m just a lonely enthusiast whose never even played the game. 😉

    1. Hi MarvelousDogFace,
      You’re correct; this concept is loose with RAW. However, there is a case to be made that it is uniform to RAW. Look at the Martial Arts Adept non-player character stat block in Volo’s Guide to Monsters. Its unarmed strikes are described as melee weapons. This is similar to the Ape stat block in the Monster Manual that attacks with its fists. I know the Ape doesn’t specifically say “unarmed strike” like the Martial Arts Adept does, but both are attacking with their fists that are deemed as melee weapon attacks.
      Aside from that, I think 90% of DMs would love the concept of a shapeshifting martial artist enough to make it happen. It’s definitely not game breaking. I know one friend of mine wouldn’t allow it because he thinks it breaks immersion.
      Thank you for your interest in the topic! Have you truly never played a game?
      Have a nice day!

  2. A few problems I’m running into trying to convince my DM to allow this. First, wildshaping into a monkey: monkeys are CR 0 creatures with 1d4 HP in the 5e SRD. You take any sort of damage and there goes your wildshape. Second, while an ape has higher HD/HP (29 average), it’s also a CR 2 creature, and therefore not available as a wildshape option to any but the Circle of the Moon druids with the Circle Form feature.

  3. Sorry, was accidentally looking at the 3.5 SRD for ape stats, so you can ignore that part. Still only CR 1/2 and average of 19 HP doesn’t leave much room for combat in ape form above the level 4 where you could wildshape into it.

    1. Hi RogueEntity,
      Thank you for your comment your interest in this character concept. I admit this isn’t what I’d market as an optimized character concept, but I do think the concept is fun to describe for those willing to try it. Though I chose a monkey due to an inside joke that I shared with friends in high school, you could potentially choose a variety of creatures to transform into. You could even be a ninja elemental at level ten as a Moon Druid. The problem I ran into was when my DM didn’t think my Martial Arts ability would translate to a new form since a Monk is trained to use its own body and not a variant form with Wild Shape. I think this is debatable, only depending on the narrative of the character, but that’s up to each individual I suppose. I think DMs would do well to encourage this kind of suboptimal character build since it’s not game breaking by any stretch of my imagination. If you’re looking for a concept that is optimized for combat, this isn’t the concept you’re looking for. If you want to try something new and unconventional, I think you’ll enjoy playing a Druid/Monk.
      We do have other multiclass concepts that are based on optimization for a set of skills or for combat if you want to browse other articles in our multiclassing category. Happy gaming to you!

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