Monks are proficient in focusing their bodies through the mystical energy known as psionics or ki in order to defend themselves while unarmed or to strike their foes with deadly power. Due to their special training monks are, in fact, as capable in combat as fully armed warriors typically are, striking with as much lethality as many fighters, rangers, or rogues. Additionally, most monks are capable of affecting their enemies in other ways.
Monastic traditions appear to have originally arisen in Amn and Calimshan simultaneously, though traditions from Kara-Tur and other material planes have since immigrated to Faerûn and may have, in fact, originated earlier. Most monastic orders are devoted to the worship and internalization of the ideals of a god, though others do not and it is not required for the practice of a monk’s lifestyle, since a monk’s power comes from within, rather than from divine sources.
Monks usually live in monasteries, which can be found throughout all of Toril, though most commonly in Amn, Calimshan, Damara, Kara-Tur, the Lake of Steam, or Silverymoon, as well as Mulhorand prior to the Spellplague. It is here where monks rigorously train the mastery of their bodies and minds, notably being able to defend themselves with their bare hands and certain specialized weapons. Due to the discipline imposed by this training, all monks are of an orderly, some would say lawful, temperament. However, monasteries, and the monks that reside within, may vary in morality. Good monasteries are servants of the people, protecting them from bandits and other threats. Evil monasteries, on the other hand, can become tyrannical bastions, ruling the surrounding lands through fear or serving despots as spies and assassins. Most monks adhere to neither extreme, however.
Most monks come to their individual monastery at an early age, either as orphans or members of starving families. However, relatively few of these monks feel any close connection to their previous families or friends from before joining the monastery, though they may or may not feel such a connection to their fellow students. Other monks come from a different background, most often within cities where masters of an order set up schools to teach the fighting style and traditions of his or her order to prospective students.
Monks’ psionic mastery of martial arts does not require them to fight without armor, although they do gain benefits from eschewing it for an unarmored defense, acquiring a unique ability to sense and avoid attacks sometimes enhanced by their experience and ability to percieve or intuit. Likewise, monks often use only their bare hands as weapons, delivering powerful blows that grow stronger as the monk increases in power. Monks are, however, trained as well in the use of clubs, daggers, spears, slings, shurikens, and quarterstaffs. Of these, monks can use their unarmed strikes, clubs, daggers, staffs, or spears.
As melee combatants, monks are more or less equivalent to more traditional warriors in skill and deadliness, learning a number of techniques that give them an edge over their armed foes. Monks can also learn to stun their opponents.
All monks are unusually focused and many are difficult to charm or enchant. Monks can also use this focus, as well as their psionic power, to affect their own body in unusual ways. With a little training, for instance, monks can become adept at using their surroundings to slow their descent when falling to nonlethal speeds. Likewise, monks may be able to purify their body, gaining immunity to common illnesses and the ability to heal themselves at will. With additional training, monks learn to halt their aging, speak with any creature, gain immunity to poisons, or gain an unusual degree of resistance to virtually all supernatural effects.