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

I really can't think of any way to seriously exploit this ability. It's a nice failsafe, and having it available can justify playing a bit more aggressively with risky tactics. But if you're thinking to stay in combat at 1HP regularly, then you'll be burning through your Ki fast in lvl 11+ combats. So many enemies have multiple attacks, and facing hordes of low CR enemies will be a massive threat.
 

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jgsugden

Legend
It is pretty difficult to spend 11 ki in 3 rounds of combat. Not impossible but pretty difficult.

I have found once you get to 8th level Monks rarely out of ki. 8 ki is more than one per round, every round, and that is assuming you are doing 6 combats a day with 2 short rests, fewer combats or more short rests and you have a crapton of ki.
It is pretty common for me to see a 5th level plus monk spend 5 Ki on the first round of combat. They charge in, they Stunning (1) attack one target, they Flurry of Blows (1), they Stunning attack on both Flurry attacks (2) and then do the remainder of their Multiattack (1). These stuns may all be aimed at one target until they are stunned, or they may move to a secondary target once the initial target is stunned.

This is a really common approach I've seen often. If there is one main foe and the stun works on them early, they may hold those extra Ki for anothr combat, but I almost always ran out of Ki and wished I had more.
 

I really can't think of any way to seriously exploit this ability.

I don't think "exploit", or the OP's term "broken", is a good way to describe Mastery of Death. But it does have potential for unforeseen, and possibly undesired, consequences.

The first potential for wonkiness is along the lines of things other people have brought up. When the monk knows he can't die, it enables outlandish behavior like swimming in lava or dancing in a blade barrier. Many people won't see this as being any more of a problem than abstract hit points and other game mechanics. But I think Master of Death takes a few more chips away at verisimilitude (for those that care about it).

Beyond that, Mastery of Death has some interesting effects on resource management. If managing hit points and healing is a factor in your game, this changes the game a lot. If you know an enemy has the ability to hit hard, it suddenly becomes better to tank with a 1 HP monk than a 100 HP warrior. After all, Ki can be completely replenished after a short rest, but HP takes a long rest, and HD takes two days. Again, lots of people probably won't care. But for those that do it can result in significant changes to tactics.

One of the complaints some people have about 5e in general is that it's too easy to not die (especially compared to early editions). This ability just exacerbates that problem. And, IMNSHO, the ability to not care about death just screws with the story sometimes. Does the bad guy have me pinned to a wall with a gun against my head, demanding I tell him my secrets or die? Who cares? By 13th level he'll have to reload his six-shooter twice before I have to make a death save. Have you ever had to choose which friend to save with only seconds to keep them alive? Well, your Death monk friend is guaranteed to last an extra minute even if he's unconscious.

Most people probably won't deal with these edge cases often. Or ever. And even when they do come up, it's not going to break the game. But Mastery of Death does have potential to change the game, much more than many similar feats or abilities do. And that's something worth paying attention to.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Flurry + 4 stunning strikes = 5 ki per round. And that is before the monk starts doing anything interesting.
This isn’t good use of ki, good strategy, or a good general approach to the class.

This may be why you think the class is “so bad it needs all the help it can get”.

This is like complaining that paladins are only useful for deal overkill amounts of damage per round, who also never casts spells.

Yep, Zealot Barb gets this in a much better form.
Agreed. And a better chassis for making use of it.
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).
Yep. Every “unkillable” build I’ve seen other than some permastealth builds and actual tanks (heavies) just aren’t dishing out enough offense for the enemies to care.
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?
I love the story of a mystic warrior centering thier body and breath and becoming a human pillar that cannot be crushed, calmly telling thier friends “I can only hold this for a very short time, my friends. You need to run.” Knowing that the most likely outcome is that he will run out of time, lose his “focus”, and not be able to get out from under it in time, sacrificing himself to help his friends escape.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
It is pretty common for me to see a 5th level plus monk spend 5 Ki on the first round of combat. They charge in, they Stunning (1) attack one target, they Flurry of Blows (1), they Stunning attack on both Flurry attacks (2) and then do the remainder of their Multiattack (1).
What is that last one? Using extra attack doesn’t cost ki. Did you mean that they use another SS on their extra attack?

And it may be common to use stunning on all 4 attacks with FoB, but it’s rarely actually a good use of resources. Don’t waste ki stunning low damage (or low offense) or low HP targets, unless they have very high AC and are otherwise high value targets.
 

ECMO3

Hero
I really can't think of any way to seriously exploit this ability. It's a nice failsafe, and having it available can justify playing a bit more aggressively with risky tactics. But if you're thinking to stay in combat at 1HP regularly, then you'll be burning through your Ki fast in lvl 11+ combats. So many enemies have multiple attacks, and facing hordes of low CR enemies will be a massive threat.

11 hits at 11th level is probably around 150-200hps worth of damage, which would be after he lost the 70hps or so that he starts with. If a Monk runs through that much ki, that quickly, any other character would be long gone at that level, which is the point.

So you are generally talking about is a character absorbing over 250hps worth of damage alone ...... three times a day if he has 2 short rests.

For example - One Adult Green Dragon is a "hard" encounter for 5 11th level characters. A green dragon has 6 attacks a round (including legendary actions) and does an average of 16 damage per attack. So if he if he goes into that fight and uses all his ki against 11 hits from such a creature, that ki would have absorbed on average 176 damage and that is if the Dragon never breathes. If the dragon opens with a breath weapon it is about 216 damage he is soaking up and those numbers don't include any hps he starts with.

To put this another way - if he starts that combat with 1 hp, with no magic buffs and an 18AC, on average he will go down in the 4th round of combat and do on average 63 points of damage to the dragon BY HIMSELF before he goes down (using only attacks and martial arts). That is doing weak Monk damage, if the other 4 members of the party can manage to match the Monk's weak DPR, the Dragon will die in the 3rd round, and the Monk will still have on average 4 ki left with another 11 coming at the next short rest. If other party members can each equal the paltry 16DPR vs AC19 that he puts out, the Dragon will die in the third round .... That is assuming he breathes and then concentrates every single one of his attacks on that Monk.


Now if your hard combat is with 30 skeleton archers, where each hit does 6 points of damage, they all target you and you start the fight at 0 hps, then you have a point because it is the number of hits it nullifies.
 
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ECMO3

Hero
Flurry + 4 stunning strikes = 5 ki per round. And that is before the monk starts doing anything interesting.

As I said it is difficult to do that in combat, not impossible and what you describe is VERY difficult to do for 3 straight rounds.

First all 4 of those attacks have to hit or else you can't use the ki for Stunning Strike.

Second you need to be able to attack 4 enemies that are not already stunned - so hit one and if he fails his save you need to be able to get to another one (and hit him too) ...

Third up to three of those enemies need to be within 5 feet of each other because of the wording on FOB (i.e. "immediately after"). So you make an attack and stun a guy; if you want to use FOB and stun two more enemies, both of those enemies need to be within reach when you hit the first guy or you can't FOB on 2 more.

Finally you need to get 4 hits, in such specific conditions, for 3 straight rounds. While flights do commonly go longer than 3 rounds, they are often in mop up by the third round, and if your Monk was able to lay down 8 stunning strikes in the first two rounds, chances are it is over by round 3.

Bottom line, it will be extremely rare that you can do this, in this fashion. You either need to hit 4 different enemies with 3 in close proximity or you need to hit enemies and have them repeatedly make their saves, with each made save reducing the number of different enemies you need to attack by 1 and you need to do this three straight rounds. That is not easy to do.

Even without FOB, 3 attacks, each with stunning strike is not easy to do for 3 straight rounds, at least not in a manner that is tactically sound. You can do it easier if you are fighting an enemy with low AC an extremely high con save and legendaries, but in that case you are wasting ki on an enemy that isn't failing his save.

For the purpose of this discussion, I am obviously assuming that you are not wasting ki stunning an enemy that you already stunned this turn.
 
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ECMO3

Hero
It is pretty common for me to see a 5th level plus monk spend 5 Ki on the first round of combat. They charge in, they Stunning (1) attack one target, they Flurry of Blows (1), they Stunning attack on both Flurry attacks (2) and then do the remainder of their Multiattack (1). These stuns may all be aimed at one target until they are stunned,
Two things:

1. 5 in the first round is A LOT different than 11 in 3 rounds, and a lot easier to do.

2. I would argue that it is relatively uncommon to be able to successfully pull off what you claim here. Three of the enemies would need to be within 5 feet of each other (which is common enough on the first round but not always the case) or the one target you are going after would need to make his save 3 times (which is not common at all) and in either case you need to hit on all 4 attacks (which is uncommon).

I don't think using 5 ki in one round is unheard of, but neither do I agree that it happens often. Using 11 in 3 straight rounds is very rare.

or they may move to a secondary target once the initial target is stunned.

They can not "move" to a secondary target and use FOB, FOB must happen "immediately after" an attack. You can move and make a martial arts attack and stun another target but not FOB.
 
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Vaalingrade

Legend
Spend the monk's ki to be one hit from going down or spend the cleric's action to do the same but with a slightly bigger number.

The only problem I see is wasting one of the DM's infinite dragons' turns trying to rekill them.
 

jgsugden

Legend
What is that last one? Using extra attack doesn’t cost ki. Did you mean that they use another SS on their extra attack?
Yes... another stun attempt.
....2. I would argue that it is relatively uncommon to be able to successfully pull off what you claim here. Three of the enemies would need to be within 5 feet of each other (which is common enough on the first round but not always the case) or the one target you are going after would need to make his save 3 times (which is not common at all) and in either case you need to hit on all 4 attacks (which is uncommon)....They can not "move" to a secondary target and use FOB, FOB must happen "immediately after" an attack. You can move and make a martial arts attack and stun anouther target.
This is why we often see a 5th level plus monk move into position, do the first attack of their multiattack, then the FOB attacks, and then after that do the last attack - because they can move before that last attack.

Regardless, you also have to remember that stun attempts fail a lot. Con saves tend to be strong on monsters, and your DC tends to be a bit behind spellcasters as wisdom is not your primary stat.

It is rare that I don't have good uses for stun on all 4 attacks on the first round of a challenging combat. Heck, I have seen a gnarly gloomstalker 4/battlemaster 4/open hand 12 build in a one shot that was designed to eradicate legendary resistance. It moved in and attempted what would have been 8 stunning attacks to the big bad in the first round just to draw off the legendary resistances. It could force up to 15 saving throws in that first round...

As for the argument it is not a good use of resources to stun early and often: This is absolutely incorrect. Stunning early is the absolute best time to stun as it can allow you to prevent the foe from setting up a defense or from ever inflicting offense. When fighting a legendary monster, it can allow you to deplete those leganadry resistances and give you access to taking it down with a saving throw spell or ability. Outside of bad luck on the saving throw dice, I can't recall a single time I regretted stunning early and often.
 

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