This is the first draft.
Who remembers the first D&D Monk? I do, I loved it and hated it at the same time. Loved all its over-the-top abilities, hated what it lacked. As a person that has done martial arts for years, it was lacking. And it was all we had. Till I found other game systems. Let’s stick to D&D.
Monks are by their very nature, recluses that dedicate untold hours to physical training, self-reflection and mental and emotional conditioning. I will be ignoring much of the Human Condition to explain this. Some things are assumed, some things I just don’t care to explain. My job, as the Storyteller, is to fill in the gaps in this general overview.
Monks In Greyhawk
While my table uses the term Monk, My Greyhawk does not. If anything people have no clue what a Monk is. They know all sorts of names for people that fight with their hands and feet, but the Monk as written in the PHB, is alien to Greyhawk. Like a wizard, people don’t understand. They can’t relate and most of all, they don’t “get it“.
The Path, that is what I call it. Simple and to the point. Well, it’s not that simple, each school has its own name, philosophy, practice and expectation. Every martial style is unique, with a fundamental ideology behind each. Some schools learn Wolf or Falcon or Hawk or Dragon. These pursuits take a lifetime to master. The martial arts is actually the easiest part. The rest takes years to get a body on the right course. See, that is what it is all about, getting the body on the right course or Path.
Schools are not always organized by race, there are dozens of schools around the Flanaess open to all races, although the ones that accept a monster race are rare. These Martial Orders are usually dedicated to a God, group of Gods or even an Ideal. People go there, train for a decade, some stay, some leave. The Path has many roads.
Elves, Dwarves, and Gnomes, have their own schools, dedicated to their ideals. While many are dedicated to Good, a few are not so pure. Some are dedicated to darker pursuits. Some schools are dedicated to a particular style, while others train several, but NO school teaches ALL styles.
School of the Dragons
Elves are a cagy lot. Some schools are open to all, while others cater only to Elves, a few accept Grey and High Elves, and no others. While Wood Elves are members of schools, as a group they rarely find the time or patients to build a school dedicated to their arts. The Elves have a long history of admiring Dragons, and as per several old legends, they have a school dedicated to each compass point, Northern Dragon, Souther Dragon, Western and Easter Dragon. Each school teaches a unique style (normally the Monk’s Way of the Ascendant Dragon) but also teaches many other systems. The Blademaster (Monk’s Kensei) are common programs for those dedicated to learning a small focus of weapons.
It is rumoured there is a school, dedicated to the Northern Dragon, that trains assassins. The story has it that 50 to 70 years ago the Royal Court of Celene lost control of one of their elite assassins, stories continue saying it cost them nearly three dozen soldiers to contain the situation. Some claim the assassin is roaming the lands.
Children of the Earth
Dwarven schools are not nearly as common as the elves, and that is saying much. The dwarves are a physical lot, taking great satisfaction in smashing things with weapons. The number of Dwarves that pursue the Martial Arts is also rare. And yet some do.
The ancient schools, deep underground, specialize in size vs. mass. The foes of the dwarves are usually taller, so they train on disabling and knocking down their foes. Their styles are thoughtful, precise and to the point. While not as elegant as the Elven styles, no one disagrees that the Dwarven Way is dangerous.
The one thing the elves and dwarves have in common is their dedication to their Gods. The dwarven Gods are integrated into every action. Many of the motions are named after their gods. It has been stated that many of the Dwarven Monks act more like clerics than monks. Behaviour wise that may be true, skill-wise they are clearly different.
The issue at large is the lack of information regarding these schools. The ONLY accept dwarves and school may be overly generous. Many locations are simply a few masters that have students. There is no grand building or location, a few houses and nothing more. The monks focus on the Open Hand Path and Kensei. Beyond that, little is known.
Humans and their Many Ways
While still not common, compared to the Elves and Dwarves the Humans have dozens more schools to train those that seek the Path. With all the physical gods alone there are dozens of places that teach grappling, boxing and martial arts mixed with weapons. Dark Gods train their own followers and the list goes on.
While remote schools are the norm, there are schools integrated with large temple complexes. Every major city probably has a school within its walls.