way of the long death monk dnd 5e

Way of the Long Death Monk: D&D 5e Subclass Review

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The Way of the Long Death Monk was introduced in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. It has some powerful features and becomes very hard to kill after level eleven.

This review will scrutinize the Long Death features and how they work with the core Monk class features. I’ll then look at the feat, race, and multiclass options combined into several character build concepts.

As always, these are just my thoughts. If you have any other ideas about the Long Death, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

3rd Level – Touch of Death – Long Death Monk Feature

When you reduce a creature within 5ft of you to zero HP, you gain temp HP equal to your Wisdom modifier + your monk level. You’ll probably get 5-6 temporary hitpoints at level three. You’ll max out at 25 temp HP at level twenty.

As always, temp HP does not stack, so you will only be topping up on each kill.

I imagine my Long Death Monk as a bit addicted to these temp HP, getting a massive drug-like rush whenever they receive them (think Gary Oldman in Leon/The Professional).

Touch of Death is open to exploits, which in my view are fully condoned by the flavor text this Monk gets: “Monks of the Way of the Long Death are obsessed with the meaning and mechanics of dying. They capture creatures and prepare elaborate experiments to capture, record, and understand the moments of their demise.” 

According to the flavor text, you absolutely should be carrying around a bag of rats or a jar of cockroaches and periodically killing one of them. This is called the “bag of rats” concept by power gamers when they consider abilities that trigger upon killing a creature irrespective of its mass, power, etc.

If you use the exploit, you’ll never enter combat without temp HP, which is a very nice defensive boost for your Monk. On top of that, accommodating party members will allow you to ‘kill steal’ and top up during combat as well (work with me on this, guys – there’s no ‘I’ in team – teamwork makes the dream work).


  • This feature doesn’t require a hostile creature, so if the Wizard’s familiar is being particularly annoying… or asleep…
  • You don’t actually have to kill a creature – you can choose to knock it out and leave it stable when you reduce it to zero hit points with a melee attack (standard rule from the Player’s Hand Book). An unconscious creature will naturally wake up with one hitpoint after 1d4 hours. This is a nice practical approach for your bag of rats, you only ever need a half dozen or so.

6th Level – Hour of Reaping – Long Death Monk Feature

This ability is so much fun. As an action, every creature within 30ft must make a Wisdom save or become frightened of you until the end of your next turn. It doesn’t cost any ki.

A frightened creature has disadvantage with ability checks and attack rolls while the object of its fear (you) is in line of sight. The creature cannot willingly move closer to the source of its fear.

Hour of Reaping is not party-friendly, but you should have enough movement speed to use this without scaring the bejesus out of our party as well. If your party includes a Paladin, they can use their Aura of Courage to keep party members safe from this.

You can lock down half the battlefield with Hour of Reaping. It’s a great tactic for allowing a wounded party member to withdraw from combat. You can cover the party’s retreat. Hell, the whole party can probably take a short rest while you deal with that army of goblins.

You can also use this outside combat to inflict disadvantage on Insight, Perception, Deception, Persuasion, and Intimidation checks. If a tricky negotiation isn’t going the way your party face likes, you can ask for a moment alone with the town council / power-mad emperor in question, scare the crap out of them, then invite the face back in to try again. You, of course, need to stay in the room, glowering mightily in the corner and occasionally munching on a cockroach.

Hour of Reaping is useful for dealing with pitchfork-wielding mobs of commoners. I have no idea why they get so attached to their pets…

11th Level – Mastery of Death – Long Death Monk Feature

In my view, this is second only to Quivering Palm for the potency of a Monk subclass feature. When reduced to zero hitpoints, you can spend one ki point (no action required) to have one hit point instead.

At this level, you have eleven ki points. You need to be killed up to twelve times to kill you (indestructible as your cockroaches).

Hour of Reaping, the Dodge action, and Mastery of Death can be used together. This combo allows you to tank most onslaughts for a few turns if your party needs time.

You may never need to use this during a campaign. Even so, consider reserving ki points for emergencies.

17th Level – Touch of the Long Death – Long Death Monk Feature

As an action, touch a creature within 5ft and spend 1-10 ki points. The creature takes 2d10 necrotic damage per ki point, with a Constitution save for half damage.

Touch of the Long Death is a reliable damage dealer. However, remember not to use it on creatures immune to necrotic damage. Otherwise, you are guaranteed to do some damage with your ki points.

It’s not as good as Quivering Palm (Open Hand Monk subclass) and can be more expensive in ki.

Dumping ten ki points for 20d10 (average 110) necrotic damage is tempting. It’s probably best to temper this amount based on the situation. Dealing as much damage as possible in one blow might be best for a nasty BBEG. If the boss monster is almost dead, go for it. Otherwise, consider Stunning Strike for a few rounds.

Long Death Monk Subclass Features Overall

The Long Death features are simple, useful, and strong at all levels of play. The Mastery of Death ability makes you very hard to kill.

Feat Options

My favorite feat for Monks is Mobile (allowing you to avoid opportunity attacks from a single enemy you have attacked). Mobile opens up a ki-free, hit-and-run playstyle that thoroughly suits the Monk’s high movement speed and distinctly average AC. Rather than using your bonus action and ki points to disengage, attack and save ki points for impactful Stunning Strikes.

The Long Death Monk gets quite a lot of defensive features, so one way to play one is to lean into that and take the Defensive Duelist feat. You have to be wielding a finesse weapon you’re proficient with, and then you get a reaction when you are hit with a melee attack – you add your proficiency bonus to your AC, potentially causing the attack to miss you. This feature scales nicely and can protect you from melee attacks.

Another option is to boost your damage with Fey Touched: Hex, Wisdom +1, and Misty Step. You can cast Hex more often if you have first-level spells slots from multiclassing with something like Cleric (more on that later). Hex lasts for an hour, requires concentration, and you can move it to another target using a bonus action. It adds a d6 of necrotic damage every hit on the cursed target, plus adds disadvantage on ability checks for one ability of your choice. You can even use it out-of-combat to debuff someone’s Charisma checks.

A good feat for all Monks is Crusher for slight battlefield control. It works both with your unarmed strikes and any Monk weapons you have that deal bludgeoning damage. The 5ft knockback once per turn can be useful, and the advantage gained from a critical hit helps you and the whole party until the start of your next turn.

Race Options

Variant Human and Custom Lineage give you that free feat, and given how feat-starved Monks can be, this can be a great way to get started as a Monk.

My usual favorite face for a Monk is the Bugbear, however the Touch of Death and Touch of the Long Death features both require you to be within 5ft, so for the Long Death Monk, it’s probably better to use Mobile and not rely on reach.

Tabaxi are always a great option for a Monk, the extra movement speed boost synergizes perfectly, and Stealth and Perception for free are always great (Monks don’t naturally get Perception). You can also make unarmed strikes that deal slashing damage, which is a nice change.

The new Dhampir from Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft is an interesting option. You get darkvision, a Spider Climb ability, and a Vampiric Bite attack that is a simple melee weapon and so classes as a Monk Weapon and will get a damage boost from the Martial Arts die, which increases both the healing you get back and the bonus you get for your next ability check or attack roll. The Dhampir matches the sinister Long Death Monk well.

A useful option for any Monk since Tasha’s is picking up a martial weapon proficiency. These can be swapped out for one or more weapons of choice to fire the new Dedicated Weapon feature (and give you a 1d10 versatile weapon attack die for your main attack) and/or converted into tools proficiencies. So Dwarves, Elves, Githyanki, Hobgoblins all make good race choices.

Multiclassing with a Long Death Monk

I like dipping a level of Cleric. Monks don’t have anything to do with their concentration, and a level of Cleric allows you to be a bit more versatile. Death Domain and Grave Domain are both an extremely thematic match for a Long Death Monk. 

  • Death Domain gives you proficiency with martial weapons which ties in nicely with Dedicated Weapon, and a Necromancy cantrip (Sapping Sting and Chill Touch are both great, you can get Toll the Dead from being a Cleric), plus your Necromancy cantrips can hit two creatures within 5ft of each other. 
  • Grave Domain gives you a 30ft range, bonus action Spare the Dying cantrip, extra healing when restoring an ally who is at zero hitpointsm. You may also probe for the presence of Undead within 60ft up to a number of times equal to your Wisdom modifier per long rest. Unfortunately, the Grave Domain’s second level Channel Divinity only works with attacks, so it won’t help your Touch of the Long Death ability – you could still take it to grant vulnerability on the next attack to one of your allies.

One level of Rogue is a nice option with its extra proficiencies, Expertise, and a little bit of Sneak Attack. A Rogue dip allows your Monk to act as the party Rogue if needed.

Build Ideas

I went for a defensive approach for the YouTube build – Custom Lineage (Defensive Duelist), with one level of Death Cleric, wielding a Dedicated Weapon whip or longsword and adding Slasher later.

For the more damage-focused approach, I would recommend Custom Lineage (Mobile) with one level of Death Cleric (for martial weapons proficiency), adding Fey Touched (Wisdom, Hex) later. Wielding a versatile 1d10 Dedicated Weapon warhammer (or longsword or battleaxe) for your main attacks. For a really sinister Long Death Monk, go with Dhampir instead. 


The Long Death offers strong features and rich role-playing flavor. It is one of my favorite Monk subclasses.

That wraps up my review of the Way of the Long Death! Check out more of my subclass reviews here on FlutesLoot.com. You can find a collection of my work here. You can also read all of FlutesLoot’s content about Monks right here. Enjoy your adventure this weekend!

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