Featured Way of the Drunken Master Monk image credit to Wizards of the Coast’s D&D 5e Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.
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The Way of the Drunken Master Monk was introduced in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. It’s not the most powerful Monk subclass, but it’s one of the most fun to roleplay!
This review will take a deep dive into the Drunken Master features and how these work with the Monk class features, then go through feats, races, and multiclass options to identify good matches and combine these into some build concepts.
As always, these are just my thoughts. If you have any other ideas about the Drunken Master, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!
3rd Level Drunken Master Monk Features
When you take The Way of the Drunken Master at level three, you gain the ability to move unpredictably in combat, as if intoxicated. Whether you are actually drunk or have that appearance is up to you to decide 😉
You get Performance proficiency. Performance is unlikely to be useful without a high Charisma stat. Monks need to put ability scores in Dexterity, Wisdom, and Constitution already. You also get proficiency with brewer’s supplies – which perfectly matches the theme of the subclass and may allow some fun roleplay opportunities.
Your Flurry of Blows with Drunken Technique gives you the benefits of a Disengage (your movement doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks) plus ten feet of extra movement speed until the end of the current turn.
A couple of things to note about this:
- Flurry of Blows only triggers immediately after you take the attack action, so you won’t get benefit until your main attacks are done.
- Flurry of Blows requires one ki point each time. While this makes the ki point spent more valuable, it also means that you don’t have a third level feature if you run out of ki.
I typically recommend taking the Mobile feat for Monks, which is better than this feature and doesn’t require the use of a ki point each time.
6th Level Drunken Master Monk Features
You get a load of options at level six, but are they any good? Let’s find out.
For some reason, this is a feature with two parts.
Leap to Your Feet
When you’re prone, you can stand up by spending five feet of movement, rather than half your speed.
This is really funny. If you’re not in close melee combat, you really have no excuse not to be lying down at the start of each round. Being prone gives ranged enemies disadvantage on their attack rolls. Leap to Your Feet combines nicely with Deflect Missiles; you will rarely take ranged damage. Be careful not to use it too close to the front lines, as being prone gives melee attackers advantage.
This ability costs no ki to use.
You get a new reaction – when a creature misses you with a melee attack, you can spend one ki redirect that attack to hit one creature of your choice, other than the attacker, that you can see within five feet of you. The cost isn’t cheap, but it does sound like fun.
This feature encourages you to be in close combat often, which is not usually a safe place for a Monk to be. I generally recommend a more ‘hit and run’ style to synergize with the Monk’s high movement speed and only middling AC.
It’s funny to note that the attack doesn’t have to be from a hostile creature. If you have a party member with terrible melee attacks, you can have them attack you, miss, and guarantee a hit on an enemy, assuming there’s one within 5 feet. This could be a really cunning way to have a rogue land their sneak attack – get them to make a Strength (instead of Dexterity) attack on you with a melee finesse weapon; if they miss you, the redirected attack will trigger the ‘enemy within 5ft of an ally’ condition of sneak attack and they can apply their bonus damage 🙂 They don’t have to apply sneak attack damage if they hit you by mistake… 😉
11th Level Drunken Master Monk Features
Part of being a Drunken Master is the ability to suddenly succeed with a lucky sway or bounce back from a strike. Your unpredictable movements can make you succeed at the last moment when you seemed as if you’d fail.
You can spend two ki points to cancel the disadvantage on your ability check, attack roll, or saving throw.
It might be handy occasionally, although it feels a bit situational. It again costs ki.
17th Level Drunken Master Monk Features
You’re the ballroom blitzer who can take on crowds at any tavern!
You may perform up to three additional attacks with Flurry of Blows (up to five total), provided that each Flurry of Blows attack targets different creatures during your turn.
D&D rewards concentration of firepower on each target per turn. Spreading attacks across multiple targets is usually not the best approach. You can move between your attacks with the free Disengage and can attempt to stun up to seven enemies in one turn. Again this ability is highly situational. You don’t have a seventeenth-level feature if you are up against one BBEG and no peripheral minions.
Again, this feature is tied to Flurry of Blows, so it has the same caveat: no ki points left = no seventeenth-level feature.
Drunken Master Monk Subclass Summary
Many of the Drunken Master features are situational, and some encourage you to remain in the front lines, which can be a dangerous place for a Monk.
If you run out of ķi, your entire suite of subclass features consists of some low impact bonus proficiencies and the ability to stand up from prone more rapidly. That’s your lot. Still more than the Mercy or Astral Self Monks, so at least there’s that.
With your main abilities tied to Flurry of Blows, there is very little synergy with the new Ki-Fuelled Attack and Dedicated Weapon features.
I feel you have to take Acrobatics with this Monk and provide florid descriptions of your maneuvers in combat and drunken roleplay because there’s not much substance here.
My favorite feat for Monks is Mobile. The feat allows you to avoid opportunity attacks from a single enemy you have attacked, so it’s not quite as good as the full Disengage benefit of the third-level Drunken Technique feature. Mobile is always on, and its speed boost stacks with Drunken Technique, so I think it’s a great option for Drunken Masters.
Another good feat for all Monks is Crusher, although the knockback effect is not quite so useful for a Monk that already has extra ways to activate Disengage.
Mage Slayer might be an interesting option given the Monk’s ability to weave through enemies and reach the spellcasters at the back.
Lucky is always a great feat for any build at any time. It ties in nicely with Drunkard’s Luck.
A useful option for any Monk since Tasha’s is picking up any martial weapons proficiency. These can be swapped out for one or more weapons of choice to fire the new Dedicated Weapon feature (and give you a 1d10 versatile weapon attack die for your main attack) and/or converted into tools proficiencies. So Dwarves, Elves, Githyanki, Hobgoblins all make good race choices.
As always, Variant Human and Custom Lineage give you that free feat, and given how feat-starved Monks can be, this can also be a great way to get started as a Monk.
For some reason, I’ve always pictured my Drunken Master as a Dwarf. And actually drunk.
Halflings get the ability to move through another creature’s space as long as that creature is larger than them, which can help you weave your way through combat, and you get Lucky as a racial trait that thematically fits nicely with Drunkard’s Luck.
I always like dropping a level of Cleric onto my Monk – most Monks don’t have anything to do with their concentration.
One level of Rogue is a nice option. You get extra proficiencies, Expertise, and a little bit of Sneak Attack. This combination allows your Monk to act as the party Rogue if needed.
My favorite build for a Drunken Master Monk is a Mountain Dwarf who starts with one level of Rogue, with expertise in Acrobatics and Stealth with a Criminal background. Then adding the Mobile feat at level four, and finally Mage Slayer after Dex is maxed out. Swap out most of the Dwarven weapon and armor proficiencies for tool proficiencies and play him as a drunken kleptomaniac skills monkey.
You could ask your DM to allow the optional Tumble action/bonus action so you can make contested Acrobatics checks to move through another creature’s space, which sounds like a ton of fun.
Another fun build would be to double-down on your luck and create a Halfling named Felicity Fortune with the Drunkard’s Luck subclass feature, the Lucky racial trait, the Lucky feat, and the Bountiful Luck feat (to spread some luck around). You’ll probably drive your DM crazy.
Summary of the Drunken Master Monk of D&D 5e
The Drunken Master doesn’t get the most impactful abilities but is a lot of fun to play. You have almost no subclass features if you run out of ki, so a level or two in another class can help you feel like you are contributing a bit more to each session.
That wraps up my review of the Way of the Drunken Master! Check out more of my subclass reviews here on FlutesLoot.com. You can find a collection of my work here. You can also read all of FlutesLoot’s content about Monks right here. Enjoy your adventure this weekend!
2 thoughts on “<b>The Way of the Drunken Master Monk</b>: D&D 5e Subclass Review”
Gotta love any creative monks ability to totally destroy a DM’s perfectly planned out encounter. I love to play them! I hate to play against them…
When I think of the drunken monk my mind goes immediately to Jackie Chan. Some of those fights in Rush Hour with his unpredictable movements and improvisational moves are what I think of with the drunken sway stuff. Dudes a legend!
Jackie Chan is iconic for this style of combat!
I think of Rock Lee when he accidentally drinks alcohol instead of medicine before he goes into battle, revealing that he’s formidable when tipsy (talking about the Naruto series).