As Diablo 3 lore goes, the Monks are from a remote region called Ivgorod. They're raised in secluded monasteries from childhood and taught a myriad of fighting techniques likened to a fusion of Eastern European and Asian styles. Rob Pardo likes to say, "One of our favorite things to do is to tell one of our artists to draw draw an Eastern European orthodox monk from the 13th century with an Asian influence, and to watch them go insane." Monks are also intricately tattooed with images of 1,001 gods all over their bodies. The process is said to take "the balance of their lifetime" to complete -- and likely a high tolerance for needles.
The Monk is meant to feel like a fighting game character, which isn't exactly a stretch for Diablo's clicking-frenzy gameplay. Several of the character's moves are combos. Take "Crippling Wave," for example: In Stage 1 of the attack (first click) the enemy is slowed down; Stage 2 (second click) deals damage; and the final stage (third click) piles on even more damage.
Although Runes weren't on display in the game demo, we did see them in action during one of the Blizzcon panels. When the Monk uses a Rune-enhanced skill, a giant, glowing Rune appears on the ground and "frames" the area of fighting. The effect is only on-screen for a second or two, but it's an interesting way to visually display skill enhancement. You can just barely see it (it's fading away) in the image below, as the Monk is deploying the Seven-Sided Strike:
Still, the Monk was a lot of fun to try out. The martial arts skills add some welcome variety to the clicking, and it'll be interesting to see what else Blizzard can do with the character. We did notice that the Monk could really use a ranged attack, and when Blizzard was asked if it would add a Hadouken-like attack to the character's repertoire, the developer teased, "It's possible! We're not ruling it out."