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Unarmored Movement, a monk feature, says...

Starting at 2nd level, your speed increases by 10 feet while you are not wearing armor or wielding a shield. This bonus increases when you reach certain monk levels, as shown in the Monk table.

... so clearly your speed stays at its base level if you don armor or a shield.

The next paragraph states...

At 9th level, you gain the ability to move along vertical surfaces and across liquids on your turn without falling during the move.

... with no mention of armor or shields.

Can a 9th level monk move along vertical surfaces and across liquids after donning armor or a shield?

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Yes, they can move across liquids and surfaces while wearing armor RAW

Unarmored Movement is a feature that has two benefits: one is a speed increase and one allows the monk to move over different surfaces.

Starting at 2nd level, your speed increases by 10 feet while you are not wearing armor or wielding a shield.

Note how the armor/shield clause is specifically tied to the speed increase alone. It isn't even tied to a generic requirement for the whole Unarmored Movement feature, just the speed. And there appears to be no connection between the speed benefit and the surface benefit besides being under the same feature name.

I can't really see any way to interpret this other than that the requirement for not wearing armor or shield only applies to the bonus to your speed.

The only kind-of maybe hint that it might not be could be from the next phrase:

At 9th level, you gain the ability to move along vertical surfaces and across liquids on your turn without falling during the move.

The fact that it says "gain" could be interpreted as being meant to imply that this is a benefit that is on top of and inherently connected to the speed boost. I think this is a huge stretch though. I think the more reasonable reading of that word is just that it indicates that the PC is gaining that new capability.

There is no indication for what is intended here

There doesn't seem to be any explicit indication of what was actually intended here (no JC tweets or anything in the Sage Advice Compendium).

The title of the feature certainly might seem to imply something of the intent here, but that is undercut by the fact that titles of spells and features often, by the intended reading, do not reflect the ability it is naming (see catnap as a good example of a poorly named spell). Titles don't really have any mechanical effect on the ability and serve only as a label.

However, I think that the good money would be on this being an oversight. Many of a monk's features are inherently tied to the archetype envisioned for this class which is the martial character who uses simple weapons or their body as weapons and wears flowing robes instead of armor. And that would make even more sense here being that the picture of a monk stepping lightly over liquid while wearing full plate is a bit ridiculous.

But, on the other hand, not all of the features are actually tied to this so it could go either way.

I'm not seeing anything in the RAW that would indicate it is a requirement though.

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RAW: No.

The key is the second sentence in the first paragraph. "This bonus increases when you reach certain monk levels, as shown in the Monk table."

The bonus is referring to the unarmored bonus. The increase is the addition of walls and liquids, as explained in the second paragraph.

It's under the feature "Unarmored Movement", so it is going to describe things you can do while unarmored. The syntax supports that.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. The increase it refers to is the movement speed increase shown in a separate column of the table, not the change to the feature. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast May 8 at 18:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Having said that, I think there is a potential argument here regarding context that you're going for and is reasonable. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch May 8 at 18:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ Could you elaborate on why the syntax supports that? I can see it either way. They are in the same section, but they are also separated by a line break. \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron May 8 at 21:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ You also mention the monk table which says "Unarmored Movement Improvement", but this is not connected to the "bonus increases [at] certain monk levels" since those are in a separate column (where the speed bonus changes from 10 feet to 15 feet and so on) \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron May 8 at 21:19
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As I see it, the ability to move across liquids & vertical surfaces is based on your very high unarmored movement speed (think Dash from The Incredibles).

This is supported, in a way, by the fact that RAW reads: "... without falling during the move", i.e. you need to keep moving for the ability to work.

And it makes sense: how would a 9th level armored Monk be able to move across a body of water or up a wall, if she's barely able to move on horizontal ground?

So, even if technically allowed by RAW, I wouldn't allow it as a DM.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast May 21 at 8:08

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