With their magically charged fist and highly skilled martial arts, monks weave around the battlefield, throwing many blows to many targets. Monks serve and train at temples, amongst many other monks.
They are highly skilled and deadly but never barbaric, keeping their calm even in the worst combat situations. The skill set and nature of the monk allow for backgrounds that take many different themes and have additional benefits.
These are some excellent background options for the monk listed, from good to best.
In service of a temple or a religion, a monk can spend years as a hermit out in nature to deepen their connection to the world and their faith. The hermit background grants you proficiency in religion and medicine skills.
Religion is already in the monk’s skill list but uses the intelligence ability score, which many monks lack. Medicine can be a helpful skill proficiency along with the wisdom of many monks being decent. You also gain proficiency with the herbalism kit, giving you some support capabilities by creating potions that might be needed in some parties, even with a bard or a cleric on board. Hermit also offers one additional language, which is helpful.
The equipment of a hermit includes a scroll case with prayers and notes, a winter blanket, a set of everyday clothes, a herbalism kit, and five gold. These items are not anything special, but the herbalism kit is proper. The last part of the background is the Discovery feature. The feature grants the character a truth of the world or creation.
This truth of the world does not directly affect the monk positively or negatively, but with the DM, it can potentially be helpful to the campaign. The hermit adds pretty valuable proficiencies, especially the herbalism kit, allowing the monk to be a viable healer, overall, an excellent background for the monk.
5. Far traveler
Travelling for years to reach a completely foreign land can be done by a monk to further learn about the world and strengthen both the body and mind. The far traveler background grants proficiency in insight and perception skills.
Insight is already part of the monk’s skill list and is a functional proficiency. Perception is one of the most valuable proficiencies, and since many monks have high wisdom, it is effective. You also gain ability with a musical instrument or gaming set of your land. This proficiency is wasted chiefly but can be an heirloom to your past.
You gain an additional language, the far traveler’s equipment, and the proficiencies. The kit includes a set of traveler’s clothes, the chosen musical instrument or gaming set, poorly made maps of your homeland, a small piece of jewelry, 10 gold coins of your homeland, and 5 standard gold coins.
Unfortunately, the equipment does not provide much use, and even the 10 gold coins of our land might be denied in some tables. The All Eyes on You feature allows you and your party access to unlikely places, such as noble houses and high society, as nobles and people in power want to hear your stories and see you for the first time. Finally, the far traveler background offers some decent proficiencies and a helpful feature; otherwise, the rest is pretty useless.
As an acolyte, you serve your temple or the god/pantheon associated with your temple of practice. The acolyte background grants proficiency in insight and religion skills. Both of these skills are in the monk’s skill list. Insight is far more helpful than religion proficiency but it allows you to choose one of the other better proficiencies on the monk’s list, like acrobatics or stealth.
You also gain two additional languages of your choice, which is beneficial for the monk and the acolyte’s equipment which includes a holy symbol, a book of prayer, 5 sticks of incense, vestments, a set of everyday clothes, and 15 gold coins. This equipment does not include anything beneficial to the monk.
The Shelter of the Faithful feature allows you to take Shelter or gain assistance from fellow supporters of your religion or temple. This feature can be handy in a few situations when it can be used. The acolyte background offers excellent skill proficiencies, a good quality, and needs no work to match the monk’s backstory.
3. Faction Agent
The faction a monk is part of can be the religious temple they serve in, making this background a simple choice. The faction agent background grants proficiency in the insight skill and a chosen mental skill (Charisma, wisdom, and intelligence). Insight is already part of the monk’s skill list and is a good skill proficiency.
Still, the chosen mental skill proficiency can assist in creating any kind of monk, whether heavily religious or charismatic. Along with these proficiencies, you learn two different languages and gain the faction agent’s equipment which includes a badge/emblem of the faction (or temple/church), a copy of seminal faction text (a prayer book), a set of common clothes and 15 gold.
You also gain the Safe Haven feature, which works like the acolyte’s Shelter of the Faithful quality. Those in your faction grant you help and Shelter. While non of the skill proficiencies use the monk’s best ability scores, the variety of skill options makes up for the fact.
With the monk’s skills, it is easy to become a successful criminal, breaking and out of houses before anyone has a second to realize what happened. This background grants proficiency in deception and stealth skills.
Stealth is already part of the monk’s skill list and uses the monk’s talent, which is often great, but deception uses charisma, a skill monks generally ignore. You also gain proficiency with a chosen gaming set and thieves’ tools. The thieves’ tools proficiency can come in handy, but the gaming set is wasted.
The Criminal Contact feature allows you ways to use your previous connections to find other criminals in the local area to help you or pass the information along. The criminal has some applicable proficiencies, but the monk must specialize in criminal activity to be used best.
Growing up on the street forced you to learn new skills to survive. The criminal background grants you proficiency in stealth and sleight-of-hand skills. These skills capitalize on the monk’s great dexterity score, and stealth is already part of the monk’s skill list. You also gain proficiency in the disguise kit and thieves’ tools.
All these proficiencies lead to a rogue-like monk but work on every type of monk since dexterity is the primary skill of monks. The equipment of this background is not great. It includes a small knife, a map of your city, a pet mouse, a token of your parents, a set of common clothes, and ten gold coins.
The City Secrets feature is handy for a rogue-like bard. Your experience living in the streets allows you to know the patterns of cities and thus know where to find passages most others would miss.
The urchin background grants two dexterity skills and two tool proficiencies but no languages. It is a great background but requires altering the character’s backstory to work well.