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How To Build A Way Of The Long Death Monk In DND

Monks who follow the Way of the Long Death do not fear dying—rather they seek to understand and even master the act. They gain power and strength by embracing the inevitability of death, a gift they not only prepare to receive but one they are willing to give to others. Those who choose this monastic tradition must embrace the transience of life.


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Found in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s guide, the Way of the Long Death monks are students of the dead and dying. They take what they learn and apply it to their understanding of martial arts. For those unafraid to confront the mysteries of existence, this monastic tradition offers one of the more macabre character options in Dungeons & Dragons.


The Way Of The Long Death Monk Overview

three githzerai wearing robes and readying for combat
Githzerai Monks via Wizard of the Coast

As students of death, the Way of the Long Death monks are afforded abilities that make them formidable foes in combat. Early on, they can siphon the life force from their enemies, stave off death, and use their knowledge to strike fear into their adversaries. Their path combines physical prowess with a profound connection to death, making them both potent martial artists and intriguing characters to role-play.

Compared to other monk traditions, the Way of the Long Death monk is distinctive in its dark theme. This tradition revolves around understanding death and what leads to it, exploring the concept of mortality and the fear intelligent beings have of death. The unique interests of Way of the Long Death monks can make them stand out in a party, providing you with rich role-playing opportunities.

Generally, monks are highly mobile, and their skills make them versatile opponents in combat. They can deal consistent damage while helping control the battlefield. High Dexterity scores inherent to most monks can make them challenging to hit, and when they are struck, their Unarmored Defense can make them tough targets to damage.

With its focus on death, the Way of the Long Death offers strong abilities that can make you even more durable during combat. Abilities like Touch of Death and Mastery of Death allow these monks to shrug off damage and heal themselves during combat. These can be especially useful when facing tough enemies or help free up any healers in the party so they can focus on other members.

Monks who follow the Way of the Long Death can be fun to play, given their macabre obsessions. Role-playing opportunities can be ample, as these monks are fascinated with the dead, diseased, and dying, ready to study them up to their last moments.

There are also opportunities to create compelling backstories, explaining why your character chose this monastic tradition and what led to their obsession with death. You can explore your character’s interest in death, grapple with their acceptance of it, and develop an intriguing personality shaped by their understanding of it.

The monasteries of Way of the Long Death Monks are often filled with dying, dead, and decaying animals and plants. Frequently, the monks buy rare specimens from traveling adventurers and merchants, using them for their studies.

Way Of The Long Death Class Features

Three priests of Osybus stand together
Osybus Priests via Wizards of the Coast

The Way of the Long Death monk class features define the monastic tradition’s unique abilities and gameplay style, emphasizing their connection to death, their understanding of it, and the mastery of fear on the battlefield.

Feature

Level

Description

Touch of Death

3

You gain the Touch of Death feature at third level, which allows you to extract vitality from another creature when it’s near death. After you reduce a creature’s hit points to 0, and if the creature is within five feet of you, you gain temporary hit points, enhancing your survivability.

Hour of Reaping

6

At sixth level, you gain the Hour of Reaping feature. As an action, you can use this ability to terrify creatures around you, so long as they pass a Wisdom saving throw.

Mastery of Death

11

Beginning at eleventh level, you gain the Mastery of Death feature, which grants you remarkable resilience. When you are reduced to 0 hit points, you can trade 1 ki point for a single hit point.

Touch of the Long Death

17

Reaching seventeenth level grants you the ability to channel the energy of death. As an action, you can touch one creature within five feet of you and use ki points to deal necrotic damage on a failed Constitution saving throw.

Best Ability Scores For A Way Of The Long Death Monk

Monster hunters Gennifer and Laurie Weathermay-Foxgrove corner the werewolf, Natalia Vhorishkova
Monster hunters Gennifer and Laurie Weathermay-Foxgrove corner the werewolf, Natalia Vhorishkova by Livia Prima

The best ability scores for a Way of the Long Death monk to prioritize are Dexterity, Wisdom, and Constitution.

Dexterity

The most crucial ability score for a Way of the Long Death monk is Dexterity. It affects your Armor Class, initiative, and your ability to dodge attacks. Since monks don’t wear armor, high Dexterity scores are essentially mandatory. Dexterity scores will also affect your monk’s attack rolls with finesse weapons. Prioritize this score for higher AC and improved mobility in combat.

Wisdom

Like Dexterity, Wisdom also affects the monk’s AC score, making it essential. Your Wisdom score will also affect your ki features, as the ki save DC is calculated using your Wisdom modifier. Even beyond monks, high Wisdom scores can be useful for enhancing your Wisdom saving throws, which can protect you from various magical effects.

Constitution

Constitution is vital for your hit points and overall durability. Simply, a higher Constitution score gives you more hit points, allowing you to withstand more damage.

Best Species For A Way Of The Long Death Monk

A group of adventurers flee a village during the night
Fleeing Escapess in the Night by Brian Valeza

When choosing a species for your Way of the Long Death monk in Dungeons & Dragons Fifth edition, you’ll want to consider racial traits that enhance your monk’s strengths, such as Dexterity, Wisdom, and Constitution, as well as any unique racial abilities that complement your character concept. Here are some species that work well for Way of the Long Death monks:

Species

Why It Works

Wood Elf

With an increase to your Wisdom score and proficiency with long and short bows, the Wood Elf can be a strong choice for Way of the Long Death monks. Their Fleet of Foot trait also gives a boost to walking speed, which can help make your monk more agile in combat.

Goblin

Granting Dexterity and Constitution score increases, the Goblin makes for a formidable monk. For the bold, Fury of the Small allows for extra damage, while Nimble Escape can be used to disengage as a bonus action rather than using a ki point to do the same.

Tabaxi

Tabaxi receive a bonus to Dexterity, along with Charisma, and their Features can give monks an upper hand in battle. The Feline Agility feature grants you a burst of speed, enhancing your mobility around the battlefield. Cat’s Claws, another Tabaxi feature, also gives you a climbing speed and natural weapons, which allows unarmed strikes to use slashing damage rather than bludgeoning.

Shadar-Kai

These elves of the Shadowfell can make a great choice for monks, with their damage resistances and an ability to teleport once per day using the Blessing of the Raven Queen trait. Shadar-Kai are also able to increase two to three different Ability Scores, which means you can bump up Dexterity, Wisdom, and Constitution.

Hill Dwarf

While it’s not the most obvious choice for a monk, Hill Dwarves are still a popular option for monks, with interesting synergy between the class and race. Not only do Hill Dwarves allow you to increase your Wisdom score by one, but the Dwarven Toughness feature grants you an extra hit point.

Aarakocra

For another unconventional choice, Aarakocra receive bonuses to Dexterity and Wisdom. Using the Aarakocra’s flying speed will make you one of the fastest creatures in D&D, allowing you to move quickly around the battlefield with unparalleled mobility.

Human (Variant)

The Human variant is one of the most versatile species in D&D. Not only can you customize your ability score bonuses, allowing you to allocate extra points to Dexterity, Wisdom, or Constitution, but you can also choose a feat at first level.

Best Feats For A Way Of The Long Death Monk

A character stands int eh snow as a glowing heart beats in her chest
Elise by Irina Nordsol

While some feats might be hard to fit into specific monk builds, they are still hugely helpful. With the number of feats that also grant increases to ability scores, it can be an easy way to boost your stats while also gaining new perks.

Feat

Description

Tough

With no armor proficiencies, increasing a monk’s hit points can be a smart tactic to use. The Tough feat can significantly boost your hit points, increasing your survivability on the battlefield.

Alert

This feat grants a +5 bonus to your initiative, making you highly likely to act first in combat. It also prevents you from being surprised and stops other creatures from gaining advantage over you.

Resilient

The Resilient feat allows you to increase an ability score of your choice and gives you proficiency in saving throws using the same ability. Dexterity and Wisdom are always good choices for monks, but if you’ve already increased those stats with other options, Constitution can be a good choice to raise your HP.

Mobile

Speed can be a key feature of monks, and the Mobile feat complements the class’s agility. This feat increases your movement speed, reduces difficult terrain penalties, and allows you to avoid opportunity attacks from creatures you make melee attacks against, which can be used for fast hit-and-run tactics.

Mage Slayer

Monks tend to fight in close quarters, which can make Mage Slayer a great choice if you might be going up against spellcasters. It allows you to use reactions when a creature casts a spell within five feet of you, as well as granting advantage on saving throws against spells cast on you.

Observant

Granting an increase to Wisdom, the Observant feat also boosts passive Wisdom and passive Intelligence scores, enhancing your awareness and ability to notice details.

Best Starting Equipment For A Way Of The Long Death Monk

A woman places body parts in a cauldron
Icewind Dale by Irina Nordsol

Monks, by their very nature, don’t need much. Their focus on unarmed combat limits the kind of weapons you’ll want to arm your monk with. The lack of any armor or shield proficiencies, and penalties for using them, restrict your equipment options even further.

You’ll want to focus on making the most of what can be used with the monk’s abilities and hold to the belief that less is actually more.

Weapon

Description

Shortsword

A monk’s weapon proficiencies allow for the use of shortswords, which have the Finesse property, allowing you to use your Dexterity modifier rather than Strength. It’s not a bad option to get a little extra damage.

Handaxe

The handaxe lacks the Finesse property, but it can be thrown, giving the monk a nice ranged option while dealing some of the best damage out of the simple weapons.

Javelin

Like the handaxe, the javelin can be thrown, giving you a ranged attack with the same damage output as shortswords

Dart

Darts are a purely ranged weapon, but have the Finesse property, allowing you to choose between your Dexterity and Strength modifiers. However, the versatility comes at the cost of a lower damage output.

Dagger

Daggers have both the Finesse and Thrown properties, allowing monks to use them in ranged and close quarters combat. Like darts, though, daggers have a lower damage profile so the tradeoff will depend on how you want to play.

Caltrops

Caltrops can be a great tool for crowd control, helping monks more strategically choose their targets. They cover a 5-foot area and any creature that enters it needs to make a Dexterity saving throw or else the creature needs to stop and take piercing damage.

Ball Bearings

Like caltrops, ball bearings can be a great way to control the battlefield. They cover twice the area of caltrops, but rather than damage, the ball bearings can knock a creature prone on a failed Dexterity saving throw.

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