Lifepaths for a Burning Wheel Monk

I am looking for suggestions for lifepaths appropriate for a Westernized version of a “Monk” as well as variations on that theme.

Ideally, the monastery would be a self sufficient society, growing, making, building, mending everything that they need while being able to defend themselves, tend to their sick and injured, and of course, seek enlightenment through the application of their religious doctrine in their daily life.

Obviously, many of the Peasant and Village lifepaths are a good fit, as are some Religious ones.

Your thoughts are greatly appreciated.

Do you mean a Westernized version of the Buddhist monk? Because there are already monk lifepaths. Cloistered Nun with the right path into the LP get you what you want. Not every monk will be good at everything, but of course that’s true.

Ideally, they would have few skill points with many skill options as not everyone learns to do everything.

Some make crafts, some clean and mend, others tend herds, or grow crops, everyone pitches in.

The religious aspects are the central driving force of their community.

Initiates clean and and do menial labor. If they do well, they become students (Acolytes), successful students become disciples (Monks), disciples become masters (Priests), the grand master (Abbot) oversee the Monastery, until such time as he either grows weary of such tasks and names a successor, or dies.

They would need to have some form of medical skills to tend to their sick, as well as a way of defending themselves.

If they are to be capable in the Martial Arts, their lifepaths should provide enough physical points to do so, just as their spiritual growth would require they earn some mental ones.

Does the skill “Monastic Ritual” on the Cloistered Nun lifepath refer to daily rituals performed at a monastery (making it a monks version of “Soldiering”), the rituals used by Monks to service the community (“Rituals”), or is it in reference to the “Monastic” Die Trait?

Note that “Monastic Ritual” isn’t listed as a skill in my book.
“Monastic” is listed as a Die Trait, and “Ritual” is listed as a skill.

I suspect that should be the Monastic trait. BWR had a bunch of these skills that were converted to traits. No LP has “Monastic” (which is specified as a Mannish LP trait) presently.

What you’re describing to me sounds like a classic case of a career that has multiple lifepaths in it, and a community made up of multiple overlapping but non-identical sets of lifepaths.

The guy who grows food needs a monk lifepath but also a farmer lifepath; in fact, probably the Farmer lifepath. Other than that, you want someone who has many of the villlage LPs. The rough template here is Born Peasant/Village -> Farmer/Village LP -> Village/City Acolyte -> Cloistered Monk. That can continue with Abbott. Priest, or whatever.

What this doesn’t include is martial skills. Those aren’t standard abbey fare. For that you’d need a new LP, a soldier LP somewhere in the mix, or General points. You could also fix the order a little bit by creating a “Monastic” setting that includes both villager-like LPs and religious LPs together, so you don’t have to start out learning your trade and then take vows but can do it the other way around. I wouldn’t make a single LP that covers all the various skills the monks would need. That would be equivalent to having a “villager” LP, which is silly. Monks have to take various paths to make a fully functioning commune-village.

Yeah, I would lean towards making your own “Setting” but borrowing the existing Lifepaths. That would allow you to gate them in a logical manner (i.e. to take Farmer you must have Initiate, etc) AND could allow you to drift in a handful of “fighting” LP’s designed to represent people who have focused on their physical selves.

So to make a simplified version of a monastery setting, it could be:

(any peasant/village lifepath)

(village/temple acolyte lifepath)

(any monk or priest lifepath)

“Grand Master”
(abbot/thinker lifepath)

The Monastery becomes a circle setting unto itself and all leads from chosen monastery paths (monastery shepherd) are the same as their original (peasant shepherd), working within the monastery setting saves the +1yr. cost of following leads at the expense of having multiple circles from those leads.

Monastery would be considered a Religious category for others to lead to.

What do you think?

So the thing about monasteries is that they’re also a hamlet. The monks work in the fields, but there’s lay farmers, as well. In fact, the monk-run farms are usually token efforts, with tenant farmers providing most of the food. This is just as true for the Shaolin as for the Dominicans.

Are you suggesting that I burn my monks by having them follow various lifepaths that eventually lead to becoming a “Monk” (in character definition, if not BWG lifepath title) instead of trying to simulate one that was raised in a Monastery, learning everything from the Monks themselves?

Both are acceptable character concepts, but the second is harder to do.

No, more that monks who do a bit of farming in the day aren’t really farmers. The bulk of their day is going to be tied up in doctrine, so the LPs should reflect that.

The Servitude lifepath “Field Laborer” has a lot of what I would expect to see in an Initiate too, it’s just missing Animal Husbandry and a +1P stat boost.

I’ve long felt we need a real Monestary subsetting. As stormie points out, it’d be the equivalent of a little village. In Europe, they’d host a monopoly on wine and grain (the government bought from the monestaries).

You’ll have to make a statement about how wealthy/corrupt these monks are though. The more they are, the less work they’ll do.

Most of the physical labor (cooking, cleaning, etc.) would be perfomed by the Initiates and the lay people of the monastery

Disciples are more focused on enlightenment, which comes through seeking perfection in their chosen discipline (martial or otherwise) these are the Vintners, Bakers, Gardeners, Martial Artists, Brewers, Craftsmen, Artists, Sculptures, etc.

Masters are those that have achieved a certain amount of mastery over their chosen discipline (B6) and are able to pass that knowledge along to their disciples (Instruction should be a Required skill)

The larger the monastery, the higher it’s maintenance obstacle will be. It falls to the community to make up such resources through their combined skills and labors.

The typical walled monastery with scores of lay-people and attendant monks would have a lifestyle maintenance cycle obstacle of 5-7, whereas a small priory would be 3-5.

Individually, monks should be considered working poor.

I think corrupt monks would skim from the order or fail to provide their tithes from their adventuring windfalls, corrupt Abbotts would hoard things for their own use (holy artifacts become their own personal fund dice instead of monastery fund dice) and much like Venal Priests, they would have more resource points than an honest one.