D&D 5E How broken is Long Death Monk at 11th level or higher?

ECMO3

Hero
I have never played a high level Long Death Monk. At 11th level they get the following feature:

Mastery of Death: Beginning at 11th level, you use your familiarity with death to escape its grasp. When you are reduced to 0 hit points, you can expend 1 ki point (no action required) to have 1 hit point instead.

So this basically makes you immune to going to 0 hit points until you run out of ki. With 11 ki per short rest this means on average you can nullify going down up to 33 times on a normal adventuring day and it would work on both damage that reduces you to 0 hit points and effects that reduce you to 0 hps. The only way to bypass it would be things that kill you without damaging you (for example intellect devourer or power word kill). Further since it does not require an action of any type you can do it while stunned, incapacitated, paralyzed or even while unconscious.

Has anyone played at high level with someone with this feature and have a report on how it went in play?
 

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Clint_L

Legend
It’s an ability that is better in theory than in practice. Practically speaking, how often does your character go to 0 HP in an adventuring day? And of those, how often is a party member not available to cast a healing word or whatnot?

Don’t get me wrong; it’s a nice failsafe to have, especially because it lets you withstand certain potential insta-kill effects (cf disintegrate). But it’s not really a game-changer. It does open up fun possibilities like running across lava, etc.
 

You can get basically the same ability from an Eldritch Invocation or as a Half Orc trait, but in both cases it's balanced by the fact that it can only be used once per long rest. The big difference is that the monk version can be used over and over again, as long as the monk has Ki points left. Repeated use basically allows the monk to spend Ki to take on the role of tank. This is a job that the monk typically struggles with.

If you want to avoid abuse, the simplest solution is to house rule that it can only be used once per long (or short?) rest. I can't imagine it would be a problem with that limitation added.
 


S'mon

Legend
It’s an ability that is better in theory than in practice. Practically speaking, how often does your character go to 0 HP in an adventuring day? And of those, how often is a party member not available to cast a healing word or whatnot?

It seems a lot like an "auto self healing word". IME once a PC drops to 0 once they are likely to keep on dropping to 0, and Monks will surely be spending Ki on other stuff too, so I suspect that in practice it's considerably less powerful than the Zealot Barbarian's Rage Beyond Death - While you're raging, having 0 hit points doesn’t knock you unconscious. You still must make death saving throws, and you suffer the normal effects of taking damage while at 0 hit points. However, if you would die due to failing death saving throws, you don’t die until your rage ends, and you die then only if you still have 0 hit points.
 

J-H

Hero
It seems a lot like an "auto self healing word". IME once a PC drops to 0 once they are likely to keep on dropping to 0, and Monks will surely be spending Ki on other stuff too, so I suspect that in practice it's considerably less powerful than the Zealot Barbarian's Rage Beyond Death - While you're raging, having 0 hit points doesn’t knock you unconscious. You still must make death saving throws, and you suffer the normal effects of taking damage while at 0 hit points. However, if you would die due to failing death saving throws, you don’t die until your rage ends, and you die then only if you still have 0 hit points.
Yep, Zealot Barb gets this in a much better form.
 

Beyond what others have mentioned, all this does is prevent defeat by dropping to 0 hp. Anyone who has seen someone's "I have a 30+ AC" build in play knows that is less impressive than it seems. There's always another defense you don't have shored up. Even if you do have a solid defense*, what that can mean is that the enemies ignore you (and the likely minor damage output you have) while they demolish all your friends (and then gang up on you at the end). A monk who dedicates their ki to defense may well end up realizing that they'd rather spend it on flurries or stun-locking their opponents. FWIW, it also runs into a bit of redundancy -- monks already had a way to enhance their defense by spending ki (spending a ki point to dodge as a bonus action), this just doesn't take a bonus action and works better for some AC/HP distributions.
*Monks eventually get proficiency in all saves (although because they are attribute/ASI-starved, still likely will only have a middling Str, Int, and Cha save) and get a defense against the main non-AC/save-based HP loss (falling), leaving hp lost based on their relatively modest AC a main limit (one this monk variety has a solid response).
 


jgsugden

Legend
Broken has (at least) two angles to consider: Daily Use and Abuse.

A Daily Use broken element is just so strong that it disrupts the game just by being there and being used casually and as intended. The arguments against Sharpshooter and Great Weapon Master tend to focus on just how good they are overall and, if you suscribe to the argument that they are too strong, would be an example of this type of "Daily Use broken".

Abuse broken elements are ones that don't stand out much when used in a typical way, but can be set up to be insanely overpowered in a way that disrupts the intent of the game. Mastery of Death fits into that category. There are some areas where this can be abused by capitalizing upon just how much damage you can take so as to trivialize the damage being flung around. If you can position this monk to be the 'one' taking this damage, he can absorb hundreds, if not thousands of points of damage that might otherwise go elsewhere.

I would not worry about it causing problems in general, but I think it could have a very significant impact in specific opportune times. Some DMs might consider that broken - but I consider it a feature that makes the PC cool and important. To that end - in my book it isn't broken so much as it is situationally amazing.

I will mention - mechanically - it can be problematic for storytelling. If, for example, a gigantic stone gate is closing and the PC steps into it to hold it open with his body - he keeps dropping to 1 hp every time he takes damage, but what does that mean? A DM could say he gets pushed out, but what if the PC fights to stay in position? I can work around the issue a number of ways as a DM, but it does create one of those, "Huh - this isn't a very organiz waty to interprete this, is it" moments.
 

S'mon

Legend
I'd house rule it that massive damage can still kill, ie drop to negative max hp, very unlikely in play but would prevent extreme case abuses.
 

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