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I have a Way of the Four Elements monk PC who likes to use the Shape the Flowing River elemental discipline to make all manner of shapes out of ice by expending a single ki point, such as creating a hemisphere with portcullises to protect the party, or stairs to reach inaccessible locations.

In the PHB (p. 81), Shape the Flowing River says "any manner you chose", but manner is singular and the list of options are given as "or" statements.

Wouldn't making stairs require 1 ki point to be expended to form a pillar, and then additional ki points to be spent for each lowered step? Can StFR even move ice sideways?

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While the examples are of simplistic objects/constructions, they are provided to explain/clarify the size limits rather than the allowed complexity.

"you can reshape ice in the area in any manner you choose" implies to me that the reshaping can be as complex as you want. "Stairs to reach inaccessible locations" seems like an intended use of the power.

Yes, you can move the ice sideways, or any other direction required for your structure.

By clarifying that you cannot shape the ice to "trap or injure a creature", it implies that you can make something more complex than a pillar.

It would have to be a DM decision as to just how complex a construction the Monk could shape, and if they have, or need, the knowledge of those shapes. e.g. a clockwork mechanism, or complex auto-loading multi-shot ice-crossbow.

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It's ambiguous, but I think the list that follows is meant to be examples, not a list of options.

I have both played this class and run a game where someone had it, and it's my strong opinion that this should be interpreted very liberally. This subclass is very weak compared to other monk subclasses, and really struggles with resource contention (where both basic monk options and the spell-like options consume ki — compare eldritch knight or arcane trickster or even paladin where you get a separate casting progression). So, I'm very inclined to rule in favor of actually doing interesting useful cool stuff when those resources are spent.

It says "in any manner you choose", so if you choose you should be free to make stairs, a hemisphere, or a swan, or whatever else you want.

Unless you are in a water-focused setting, or traveling in frozen wastes where large areas of ice are common, the opportunities to use this are necessarily very limited anyway. When it comes up, let your player shine.

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