Way of the Long Death: D&D Monk Class Guide

Kill To Live.

For those who may not be overly familiar with the Monk class in Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition, the Way of the Long Death is a subclass that was first introduced with the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide in 2015.

If we’re being a bit technical, the subclass is not exactly a terminology used in-game. Different classes have different names for their specialties, and in the case of Monks, the correct descriptor is ‘Monastic Tradition.’ As of right now, a total of nine official Monastic Traditions have been introduced into the game.

We’ll ignore the rest for now, but let’s go over the Way of the Long Death in detail with this article.

Way of the Long Death Guide

Way of the Long Death
A Party of Adventurers.

As anyone who’s ever played this class before will be aware, Monks are not exactly known for their durability. When compared to most other melee classes, they possess a smaller health pool and are much more susceptible to dying during the earlier levels.

To counter this handicap, they possess a few extremely useful class features:

Unarmored Defense – Beginning from the 1st level, if a Monk does not have any armor or shield equipped, they gain an Armor Class based on their ability scores. To calculate this, you take 10 AC as a base value and add both your Dexterity and Wisdom modifiers to this amount.

Unarmored Movement – Starting from the 2nd level, a Monk’s speed increases by 10 feet when they are not wearing any armor or shield. After reaching the 9th level, this feature is upgraded to allow movement along vertical surfaces and across bodies of water.

Deflect Missiles – At the 3rd level, Monks can use their reaction to deflect or catch projectiles when they are hit with a ranged weapon attack. To do this, they roll a 1d10 and then add their Dexterity modifier and their Monk level to that value. If the total number exceeds or is equal to the damage from the attack, then you catch the projectile. If it’s less, then you negate that amount from the damage inflicted on you.

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Each of these features is great on their own, but a great deal of luck is also involved in Dungeons and Dragons. Things don’t always play out the way you intend them to, and a single mistake can cost your character their life.

So to further improve the chances of a Monk on the battlefield, the Way of the Long Death comes into play.

What Is Way of the Long Death?

Way of the Long Death
Official Monk Class Art.

Monks belonging to the Way of the Long Death tradition worship the concept of death. They are fascinated by it, and as such, they study the demise of living creatures as their core guiding principle.

Due to this morbid curiosity, these characters are able to incorporate their knowledge of death into their martial arts. What they get as a result of this is a style of fighting that focuses on absorbing the essence of other living creatures to extend their own life.

We’ll go over each of their unique class features below:

Touch of Death 

As soon as Monks pick the Way of the Long Death tradition at the 3rd level, they gain access to Touch of Death. This is a passive feature that allows them to gain temporary hit points whenever they kill a creature within 5 feet of them. To calculate this bonus HP, you take your Wisdom modifier and then add your Monk level to that value.

Right off the bat, players get this excellent feature that allows them to gain extra health as they kill enemies in combat. And because temporary hit points are separate from regular hit points, players can exceed their maximum HP limit. What’s even better is that as their Wisdom modifier and Monk level increases, so does the amount of health gained.

So Monks can target weaker enemies at the start of an encounter and build up their health pool, then use that to survive fights against the tougher enemies on the board.

Hour of Reaping 

At 6th level, Monks gain the ability to terrify enemies around them as an action. When they do this, each creature within 30 feet that has a clear line of sight on them must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or become frightened until the end of your next turn.

Frightened creatures have a disadvantage on Ability checks and Attack rolls while they can see the source of their fear, which in this situation is the Monk. Additionally, they also cannot move closer to the source of their fear willingly.

This feature is extremely useful in situations where a Monk might be surrounded on all sides by enemies. Because if you can’t avoid your attackers, make is so that they cannot approach you at all. And if they are already close enough to attack, then they have a disadvantage.

Mastery of Death

After Way of the Long Death Monks reach 11th level, they are able to escape their demise with Mastery of Death essentially. With this, whenever players are reduced to 0 hit points, they may expend 1 ki point to stay at 1 HP instead.

Now, I don’t have to explain why this is useful. This feature allows Monks to negate the effects of being reduced to 0 HP with their ki. They’re able to take this chance to get away from their attackers and heal up and get back into fighting shape.

Not powerful enough you say? Then what if I told you that this feature can be used again and again, as long as you still have ki points? For reference, a Monk gains one of these for each level that they gain after the 2nd. So an 11th level character with full ki points has to lose all of their HP, and then get attacked ten more times before they actually go down.

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Touch of the Long Death 

The final feature in Way of the Long Death is known as Touch of the Long Death. It becomes available at 17th level and allows the Monk to inflict massive damage with a single action.

It works because if a creature is within 5 feet of the character, then players can touch it and expend anywhere from 1 to 10 ki points. The target must then make a Constitution saving throw, and if they fail, then they take 2d10 necrotic damage per ki point spent on a failed save. If the saving throw is successful, then half as much damage is dealt.

On one hand, this feature allows Monks to potentially deal a maximum of 200 damage with a single action. But on the negative side, a significant amount of ki points have to be used up for this effect. So if you are going to use this, make sure that you never overdo it. You do not want to run out of ki points in the middle of a tough fight.

And that about does it for eXputer’s Way of the Long Death guide. Monks are certainly a unique class to play as, and we hope that our article helped you understand a bit more about this particular Monastic Tradition.

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Huzaifah Durrani

As an RPG fanatic, Huzaifah is probably Immersed in yet another playthrough of Fallout: New Vegas or Elden Ring. He will also help you complete game quests, and stay familiar with the latest game releases. You can also find his articles on Gearnuke & Twinfinite.

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