Character Workshop – Pathfinder Tetori Monk

January 25, 2016 10414 7 Comments

Greetings ST-ers!

It’s time to talk about characters, strategies, classes, and probably even items that will make the gaming experience more enjoyable for you and those around you and possibly even make your GM rethink their plans a little. It’s time for “The Character Workshop!”

This week we’re going to discuss the hands-down, most enjoyable character class I’ve ever played. The Guru of Grappling, the Prince of Pinning, the Squire of the Squared Circle, Pathfinder’s unique addition to the world of professional wrestling, The Tetori Monk.

The traditional Monk in the Pathfinder/D&D realm was treated as a quick-moving martial artist who was able to traverse the battlefield while avoiding enemies before finally landing a flurry of devastating punches to an opponent. There are many subclasses of Monk that alter this archetype slightly to let players feel like they’re playing a much more specific martial artist than the generic Monk. Of these you can choose to be a Drunken Master, a serene Mystic and even a Zen Archer. While I’m sure all of these subclasses would be fun to try, they all were basically the same character with slightly different focuses. This is where the Tetori is different.

Snore, boring non-wrestling Monk.
Snore, boring non-wrestling Monk.

The Tetori is a Monk in name only. He forgoes some of the most iconic and powerful Monk skills in favor of being a graceful grappler who can grab enemies with great ease and eventually squeeze the life out of them like a boa constrictor. He’s not a buzzing bee flitting about the battlefield like most Monks, instead he’s a 1,000lb gorilla who will have his way with you when, not if, he gets his powerful hands on you.

I’m sure there is some skepticism from more traditional players about how much a guy in a luchador mask and a pair of leather speedos can contribute when adventuring in a world populated with mummies, minotaurs and merfolk. But the great thing about the Tetori is that if he’s built well he can really be a game changer.

Try and tell him he's not a game changer!
Try and tell him he’s not a game changer!

How do you make sure your Tetori is built well enough to thrive in a fantasy realm? Wisdom, Strength and some well researched Feats with a teensy house-rule added on top. Strength adds to your Combat Maneuver Bonus (CMB) which is basically the Monk’s “to grab and squish a wizard” stat (Base Attack Bonus + Strength Mod + Size Mod + Misc Mods = CMB).  Conversely, the Combat Maneuver Defense (CMD) is helped out by both Wisdom and Strength and is the Tetori’s stat that allows him to laugh heartily at anyone foolish enough to try to grab onto him (BAB + Str Mod + Dex Mod + Size Mod + Dodge Bonus + Deflection Bonus + Misc Mod = CMD). It’s basically the Tetori’s grapple ‘armor’.

I mentioned a “teensy house-rule” above but in order to explain it I’ll need to get into more stats minutiae than I had originally planned but I think if your GM agrees with this rules change it’ll be worth it, so hear me out. At level 1, the Tetori’s “Graceful Grappler” skill allows the Tetori a big advantage when determining his CMB. Instead of using his Base Attack Bonus to help determine CMB, the Tetori gets to use his character level. This may not seem like a huge deal at level 1 but even at level 6 a Monk’s BAB is 4 which means that a Tetori has a +2 to grapple something at that level over a standard Monk. Or rather he would be if it weren’t for the skill that all Monk’s get at lvl 3, Maneuver Training, which does the exact same thing that I said Graceful Grappler does at level 1. There are other skills that the Tetori has which specifically take the place of standard Monk skills. For example, Graceful Grappler replaces the Flurry of Blows ability. But nowhere in the Tetori build is it ever mentioned that Maneuver Training is being replaced. So what should you do with this information? It would break the game to allow you to add your character level to your CMB twice, but it also seems unfair to not only lose an ability but also have the Tetori’s signature ability of Graceful Grappler neutered at level 3. So here’s what I suggest you discuss with your GM, ask him to let you add your Wisdom to your CMB as part of your maneuver training. You can argue on the part of fairness in addition to the Tetori’s wisdom allowing him to see all of the openings and weaknesses in his opponent’s CMD.

As for Feats, I spent many enjoyable hours planning all of the Feats I’d take with my Tetori, Ralph Furley, so rather than bore everyone with a giant list of the Feats I used, let me just suggest you take the same path as I did. Pull up Pathfinder’s complete Feats list online, dive in and explore how best you’d like to make your Tetori better. It made me feel much more invested in him and his character after I did.

Ralph moonlights as a landlord between matches.
Ralph moonlights as a landlord between matches.

Speaking of character, lets get away from the numbers game and discuss how fun it is to role play a professional wrestler in this world. Pro wrestlers are larger than life characters who are flashy, loud and boastful, so playing a Tetori allows you to dive into that character archetype with gusto. I would suggest hopping on to YouTube and watching promos (the talking/yelling that goes on in-between matches in the pro wrestling world) from some of the masters, Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, Macho Man Randy Savage, Chris Jericho and Rowdy Roddy Piper. Watch these performers and then try and take add a part of one or more of them into your Tetori. I’ve found it’s fun to have my Tetori cut a promo on monsters while they’re being grapple. You may want to have your Tetori be extremely full of himself and be only interested in winning a championship belt that no one has ever heard of. Have fun with it, because without Role Playing, you’re just playing a dice-rolling game.

Lastly, let’s discuss how the Tetori may help convince the group you play with that he’s more than a squishy meat shield.

Its almost a cliché that when your party reaches the main villain in your quest they find their path to him halted by a number of bodyguards and other henchmen who not only individually weaken your group but they also allow the big bad to takes potshots at you with nasty spells.

But what happens when you add a Tetori to your group? He still maintains the Monk’s fast movement speed so he can rush across that throneroom to tangle up the big bossman (not to be confused with THE Big Boss Man). He may not do enough damage to eliminate the enemy himself but by pinning him to the ground and punching him in the face, the Tetori has taken your nastiest challenge out of the fight until your group has dealt with all of his henchmen. Do you have a Rogue in your group? Well then he is going to want to make friends with the Tetori because once your wrestler has an enemy pinned your Rogue can make all of the sneak attacks they want. Vicious fun!

The Tetori obviously has weaknesses just like any class. For the Monk class, armor is a no-go if he wants to retain most of his monkish abilities which means that hit points and good save scores are critical. Outside of a grapple his offensive usefulness is limited and if he grabs a creature that has an aura which does per/round damage he’d better make sure he’s on speaking terms with the group’s healer. I’ve found however that these concessions to safety are minor inconveniences when I get to play a character that can suplex a dire bear, ddt a ghoul and make a frost giant tap out and cry for its mommy.

If you decide to roll up a Tetori or you’ve already played one until he was level 18, let us know! What was your Tetori’s greatest accomplishment (so far Ralph is extremely proud of making an Ancient White Dragon negotiate with him after he pinned it’s mate) and funniest failure? We love stories from the gaming table so share away below!


Related Posts
Closing Up Shop
June 14, 2023 Dungeon Master 2084
Savage Pathfinder – Additional Info, Part 2
March 14, 2023 Dungeon Master 1496
Savage Pathfinder – Additional Info, Part 1
March 8, 2023 Dungeon Master 574
7 Comments Leave New
Porkness October 3, 2013

You’re mistaken in saying the rules imply you could add twice your character level to CMB. Graceful Grappler and Maneuver Training are REDUNDANT, not additive. The language in those two abilities is actually quite clear.

Jack October 4, 2013

Graceful Grappler gives you a ridiculously awesome flight of abilities:

4th level
-he suffers no penalties on attack rolls
-can make attacks of opportunity while grappling
-retains his Dexterity bonus to AC when pinning an opponent or when grappled.

8th level
-a tetori gains the grab special attack when using unarmed strikes, and can use this ability against creatures his own size or smaller by spending 1 point from his ki pool, or against larger creatures by spending 2 points from his ki pool.

15th level
-tetori gains the constrict special attack, inflicting his unarmed strike damage on any successful grapple check.

It ALSO happens to given you Manuever Training two levels early, which is a cool but really pretty incidental part of this class feature. The reason it doesn’t replace Manuever Training is because that wouldn’t be a sacrifice for the archetype in any way at all. Given all the possibilities a Tetori has once they achieve a grapple, getting to add the Wisdom modifier to CMB is unacceptably OP.

    Jack October 4, 2013

    also, this is a nice discussion of an archetype, but the character is really all in the feats! let’s see your build bro!

Kevin Malcolm October 4, 2013

Fair enough. Its not something I’ve done with my Tetori, just a thought that occurred to me while writing that someone else would want to try.

One of my first feats I took “Snake Style” which was a good defensive choice for a new character who couldn’t take much armor and only got one grapple attempt per round. And as I’ve leveled its proven pretty useful when something is trying to hit me from afar.

From there its been pretty standard with taking Weapon Focus “Grapple” when I had another free feat and when it was available at lvl 9 I took Rapid Grappler.

I’m a big fan of getting up to 3 grapple checks per round now.

Anonymous October 6, 2013

Why not make the house rule for Graceful Grappler rather than Maneuver Training? Giving character level to CMB at 1-4 is kind of moot if you’re already getting it at 4, so the change should be for the 1st level ability, not the 4th. I can say right now that a well built monk who gets it’s WIS mod at 1st level to CMB would be useful enough at the low levels to really make a name for it’s self and manage to deal with the challenges that come it’s way. The 1-4 level range, in my opinion and experience, is where the biggest difference in ability to death ratio exists. Higher levels have more defensive abilities and options, but at such a low level things, both PC and NPC can go down in a critical hit or two.

Brandon July 22, 2014

I’ve found snapping turtle style to be better suited than snake.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.