Yay D&D! I’m a faithful player. Here’s some advice:
CHARACTER CREATION ADVICE:
First off, for the best D&D resource on the Web, go check out EnWorld. There are some wonderful D&D related messageboards there, heavily moderated to avoid the flamewars that all too often develop amongst socially maladjusted gamers.
Second, for naming resources, I usually decide on a culture and work from there. Dwarven monks – do you want them to be a nomadic underground society analogous to Polynesians? a feudal, traditional society similar to 17th-Century Japan? an animistic society similar to ancient Ireland? or something different? Figure out a good cultural hook for your group. And then go online and find an appropriate name. This Website, while not necessarily totally accurate, has about half a million names indexed by culture, and is a fantastic resource.
Thurd: depending on the type of game you play (ask the DM), build in some character hooks. Your twin sister left your village twenty years ago with a mysterious stranger, and hasn’t been heard from since. You have a birthmark that looks frightneingly like a horned skull. You’ve been having nightmares recently about the woman who trained you in martial arts, a woman who died five years ago. The kama you use in battle is one you bought from a tiny shop in a city – but when you next went past that street corner, the shop was gone.
The more hooks you build into your character, the easier a job your DM has building adventures – and the likelier you’ll be to get time in the “spotlight.” Of course, if your DM doesn’t do character-based adventures (i.e., adventures built around the characters, rather than adventures built around mysterious ruins and the like), don’t bother with this.
MONK SPECIFIC ADVICE
-Monks are one of the weaker classes in the game, although they can be great fun to play. You want to have a high dex, a high con, a high strength, and a high wisdom – which order you put these stats in is up to you, of course, but given that these four pretty much have to be good, you’ll probably end up with a low intelligence and a low charisma. (the fact that you’re a dwarf means you can afford to, and kinda gotta, have a low charisma).
-Do you have a wizard or sorcerer in the party? MAKE them cast mage armor on you. If they want you to protect them in battle, they gotta protect you.
-Do you have a druid in the party? Same thing: MAKE them cast barkskin on you. Later, they’ll get greater magic fang, which is a fantastic spell to cast on a monk.
-Do you have a cleric in the party? Almost the same thing: give them a choice of casting bull’s strength or endurance on you. You’re a frontline fighter, and you need to be buffed up.
-Don’t forget to use stunning blow! There’s no point in hoarding this ability, so you may as well use it the first time you smack somebody. I actually encourage my players to have this as a default strategy: unless they tell me otherwise, I count their first blow in a fight as a stunning blow. This keeps them from forgetting to use the power.
-If there’s a rogue in the party, work with her. When her opponents are stunned, she can do extra damage against them. When you’re on the opposite side of an opponent from her, she can do extra damage against them. Help her do that extra damage.
-People say that doing Flurry of Blows isn’t usually worth it, when you calculate damage. This may be true. Whatever – it’s still fun to roll all those dice. (and if you ever pick up a couple levels of rogue, then it becomes much more effective – but that’s another discussion).
PLAYING THE GAME ADVICE:
Go ahead and study up on grappling, tripping, and disarming things. You’re likely to be the party expert at these special maneuvers, and when it comes time to do them, you want to be able to do them fast. Plus, they’re lots of fun to do.
When you want to try something out of the ordinary in combat, try to find the rules for it while other people are resolving their actions. When it comes time for your turn, you want to have the Player’s Handbook open to the right spot so you can say, “Okay, I’m going to tumble in under the ogre’s club and knock the staff out of his wizard friend’s hands. I rolled a 17 on my tumble check, good enough to get past the ogre’s squares. The wizard doesn’t get an attack of opportunity on me, since I have improved disarm. I rolled a … 15 on my touch attack to hit the wizard’s staff; is that good enough to hit the wizard’s touch armor class? Yes? Great: then the wizard needs to make an opposed strength check against me. It says that since he’s using a staff, and I’m also using a staff, neither of us gets an adjustment on the roll. I rolled a 12; what did he roll?”
As a small time-saver, roll all your dice together. Are you doing a flurry-of-blows? Roll two twenty-sided dice (different colors) and two six-sided dice (different colors), knowing which 20 and which 6 correspond to one another. Tell the DM what AC you hit with each attack; if you connected with either one, tell him what damage you did.
Ideally, you want your combat to be both smooth and cinematic. Knowing the rules you’re going to use, and doing as much work as possible to prepare for your action in combat, is key to pulling this off.
Have a blast!