Monk in Baldur's Gate 3 is one of the most fun classes to base your build around. Larian Studios has spent a lot of time making sure that this class gets the love it deserves and attracts players to play it playthrough after playthrough.
There are three subclasses for the monk that can be chosen once you reach level 3 in your base class. While each class is distinct, throwing punches unarmed and unarmored is going to be your bread and butter as a monk. The core playstyle remains the same across subclasses, and you will still be dumping points into dexterity to gain incredibly high AC and damage.
Updated by Hamza Haq on August 26, 2023: We've added new links to the article to match the most current information on Baldur’s Gate 3.
3 Way Of The Four Elements
The Way of the Four Elements tries to fit the Monk class in the spellcaster archetype. Sort of like what Eldritch Knight does for the Fighter class and what Arcane Trickster does for the Rogue. However, where the Way of the Four Elements falls short is that it tries to put spellcasting as the main focus of the subclass rather than something complementary to what the monk already has going for it.
Don't get it twisted; it's a fun class with some unique mechanics that allow it to be distinct enough to be different from other subclasses. However, when choosing a subclass, players are looking for something different, something flavorful to spice up their play style. The Way of the Four Elements is a bland mix of martial arts and Ki spell casting that just don't go together as well as they could. If you want to play a spellcaster, Wizard is more fun and with a lot more options. If you want to play a martial melee character, Barbarians are just straight-up better at it.
2 Way Of The Open Hand
If you want to lean into the Monk roleplaying aspect of the character, the Way of the Open Hands does just that. It takes what a base monk is supposed to do; unarmed damage, and dials it up to eleven. Your character becomes more Monk-esque, so to speak. At level 3, Way of the Open Hand allows you to add modifiers to your Flurry of Blows ability, allowing you to push, topple, or stagger enemies, depending on which modifier you have toggled on (only one can be active at one time).
At level 6, Way of the Open Hand Monk gets access to the incredibly powerful ability, Manifestation. There are three variations of Manifestation (Manifestation of Body, Manifestation of Mind, Manifestation of Soul), with each having a different type of additional damage type attached to them (Necrotic, Psychic, Radiant). These are passive, toggle-able abilities that you can turn on or off at any point without expending either an Action or a Bonus Action. This subclass also gets an ability called Ki explosion at level 6. This ability essentially functions like an AoE spell, but the point of impact of your punches is going to be the epicenter of the blast. Getting both these abilities up and running is going to give you a big power spike, and you might want to wait until after you get them before you multiclass if you're planning on doing that.
1 Way Of Shadow
Definitely, the most fun subclass for the Monk, Way of Shadow, transforms your goody-two-shoes monk into a shadowy assassin out for blood and vengeance. In a game like Baldur's Gate 3 where being good all the time is boring, having the option to lean into your darker tendencies is going to come in handy. Way of Shadow takes full use of all those Dexterity points you've been pumping into your character because that's the monk's preferred ability and puts it to use to combat stealth checks. If you were thinking of multiclassing to Rogue to take advantage of your character's high DEX, the Way of Shadow does that in a unique way.
Way of Shadow monks also gain the option to learn spells like Way of the Four Elements, but their spells are much more focused on making them more effective at stealth. At level 3, you get Shadow Arts: Hide, which functions exactly as the Rogue's Cunning Action: Hide makes hiding a bonus action you can take every turn. This ability alone transforms the playstyle of the monk entirely. Combined with Shadow Cloak at level 5, which gives you invisibility at command, you'll be able to hide and strike at an advantage at every turn. At level 6, you get the ability you're going to fall in love with: Shadow Step. This ability allows you to teleport anywhere in a massive area and maintains your stealth even after teleporting. Not only that, it also gives you an automatic advantage on your next Attack Roll, no matter the condition.