I'm homebrewing a high level monk NPC and stumbled on the intriguing feature Tongue of the Sun and Moon:

Starting at 13th level, you learn to touch the ki of other minds so that you understand all spoken languages. Moreover, any creature that can understand a language can understand what you say.

Now I'm not sure how to interpret the word "touch" in this case. The description of ki implies that this magical energy is closely related to the body of living beings:

[Ki] is an element of the magic that suffuses the multiverse—specifically, the element that flows through living bodies.

Is the feature's description meant literally, as in: touch another creature('s ki) and therefore understand their language? Or is this actually meant figuratively, leaving it open for interpretation how this ki is being touched? In the latter case, I can even imagine that by just being in touch with living creatures around you, you passively understand all languages. This seems immensely powerful, hence my confusion. In the literal interpretation it could perhaps be limited to just the languages a specific individual know, and requires touching the head of a (N)PC for example. So in short, by RAW:

Does a monk need to physically touch a creature before using Tongue of the Sun and Moon?


  • \$\begingroup\$ Why would a different interpretation of "touch" mean that it is flavor text and not just figurative language? \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Apr 12 at 15:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron Good point, I guess I meant "figurative" as opposed to "literal". Will edit it into the question. \$\endgroup\$ – Vadruk Apr 12 at 15:45

Physical touch is not required

When there is a requirement for one of the Monk's class features it is stated clearly in the description. For example the description of Stunning Strike states:

When you hit another creature with a melee weapon attack, you can spend 1 ki point to attempt a stunning strike.

and the description of Deflect Missiles:

Starting at 3rd level, you can use your reaction to deflect or catch the missile when you are hit by a ranged weapon attack. When you do so, the damage you take from the attack is reduced by 1d10 + your Dexterity modifier + your monk level.

and Slow Fall:

Beginning at 4th level, you can use your reaction when you fall to reduce any falling damage you take by an amount equal to five times your monk level.

(I've added italics to these texts which were not in the original texts) These all use specific language, the word When, to indicate that there is a specific requirement for the feature to take affect. The feature works when you do such and such.

Tongue of the Sun and Moon has no language that indicates touching is a requirement:

Starting at 13th level, you learn to touch the ki of other minds so that you understand all spoken languages. Moreover, any creature that can understand a language can understand what you say.

The language here is describing what it is you are doing and does not stipulate any required action. You can achieve the affects of Tongue of the Sun and Moon without touching a creature/character. If touching was required the description would have language indicating that, such as When you touch another creature...



When an ability requires you to touch something, it will say so. A good example is the spell Comprehend languages. It lets you understand spoken languages, but to read something you need to be touching the text.

For the duration, you understand the literal meaning of any spoken language that you hear. You also understand any written language that you see, but you must be touching the surface on which the words are written. It takes about 1 minute to read one page of text.

This spell doesn't decode secret messages in a text or a glyph, such as an arcane sigil, that isn't part of a written language.

As the ability doesn't specifically state you need to touch a creature, the touching ki part is simply fluff.


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