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The description of the monk's Tongue of the Sun and Moon feature states:

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.

While the ability is useful in social situations, it can occasionally be detrimental. For example, communicating tactics in Common while fighting Duergar (who only speak Dwarvish and Undercommon) is a situation where the Monk would prefer not to be understood.

Is a Monk capable of "turning off" the Tongue of the Sun and Moon class feature?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Does this answer your question? Can I exclude characters from understanding my magically understandable speech? \$\endgroup\$ – Dan Jurgella Jun 10 at 3:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DanJurgella Thanks for the suggestion. The link you shared points to a closely related, but significantly more complex question. Because this question is more straight forwards, I believe there's value in directly addressing it. \$\endgroup\$ – Joshua Jun 10 at 4:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is your question asking specifically about "turning off" the second benefit, i.e. the monk choosing to prevent a creature (e.g. enemies) from understanding them? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jun 15 at 8:40
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Yes

When you 'learn to do' something that doesn't mean that you are forced to do it. The ability makes it clear that you are merging your ki to translate the message, and just because you know how to do that doesn't mean you are forced to do that.

The whole point of ki is control of one's self.

Generally beneficial abilities like this have absolute wording, most likely (IMHO) because the number of situations where it isn't beneficial is limited and the designers didn't think about them. Going purely RAW without putting any thought into the how or why isn't how the game is intended to be played.

1 . The DM describes the environment.

2 . The players describe what they want to do.

3 . The DM narrates the results of the adventurers' actions.

There is no 2 1/2 "The DM rigidly translates every word on the page."

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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 last sentence explains more of the ability you have learned (moreover), which requires you to touch the ki of others. Moreover is not just a filler word which could be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence, it refers to something.

If moreover does not refer to the ability you have just learned to do, the whole sentence does not make any sense. With this (in my opinion wrong) interpretation, everybody just spontaneously and without explanation starts to understands you at this level.

Therefore, to me it is implied that the "moreover" means, "if you do touch the ki of their mind.". In my reading of the English text, that is rules-as-written.

Other interpretations are obviously possible, but that (making a class feature harmful to the PC, removing RP options) would require malicious intent in part of the DM, I'd say.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "It is a very much implied that the "moreover" means, "if you do touch the ki of their mind."" - I don't see how you're interpreting "moreover" that way at all. It's describing two different benefits of the feature; "moreover" is just another way of saying "also" or "in addition". I could understand if you're making an argument that you don't think it's reasonable to interpret the ability as uncontrollable, but the word "moreover" has no relevance to that. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jun 15 at 8:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @v2blast I guess my reasoning is, moreover is not just a filler word. That is, if you remove it, the meaning needs to change. \$\endgroup\$ – WakiNadiVellir Jun 15 at 9:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ ...Well, yes, it's not a filler word; it just means "in addition to what has been said". (It doesn't mean "as a result of the same thing", as the answer seems to suggest.) Removing the word would change the meaning only very slightly. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jun 15 at 11:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @v2blast Well, I obviously disagree with that interpretation of moreover, the interpretation in the answer is how I read it. I guess I could also say, that interpretation which removes player options at level-up, and also which makes better control over ki somehow mean losing control, is non-sensical to me. \$\endgroup\$ – WakiNadiVellir Jun 15 at 11:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think it's perfectly understandable to argue that gaining this feature should not mean less control over how/whether you're understood - that logic makes sense to me. (SeriousBri's answer already makes that exact argument.) I just don't see how the word "moreover" implies that in the slightest. It seems like a weird point to base your answer on, but perhaps that's just me. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jun 15 at 12:49
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It doesn't say that it can be turned off, so it can't be turned off.

If you ask your DM nicely, they may allow you to turn it off. Alternately you could speak in code or adjust your volume.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jun 16 at 3:57
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Yes, part of it

Tongue of the Sun and Moon lists two features under one ability name. You have the ability to understand all spoken languages, and other creatures are capable of understanding your speech. If you want to choose to not understand a creature's speech, you are allowed to not understand.

The way I see it, the second sentence can be interpreted in two ways:

  1. "Any creature that is capable of understanding a language is capable of understanding what you say, end of story."
  2. "Any creature that is capable of understanding a language may choose to understand what you say."

Whichever interpretation of the wording the GM goes with, it is not the monk's choice whether other creatures are able to understand him.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The monk has learned how "to touch the ki of other minds". How is this any different than a rogue learning how to pick locks? Imagine a rule written for human children: "between the age of one and two, you learn to translate your thoughts into audible vibrations that other humans can hear (i.e. they learn to talk). Anyone who can understand your language can understand you." This wouldn't mean that the child has to say everything they think out loud. A main point of being a monk is to learn to control ki. Why would greater control result in less control? \$\endgroup\$ – gymbrall Jun 13 at 19:30
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Yes, because it's an ability explicitly linked to ki.

Nothing in D&D 5th edition can be read in isolation, everything has a context. By narrowly trying to interpret a section of text, without considering that context, we can follow an incorrect path of logic.

The Monk class is all about mastery of ki (emphasis mine):

Whatever their discipline, monks are united in their ability to magically harness the energy that flows in their bodies. Whether channeled as a striking display of combat prowess or a subtler focus of defensive ability and speed, this energy infuses all that a monk does.

[...]

Monks make careful study of a magical energy that most monastic traditions call ki. This energy is an element of the magic that suffuses the multiverse—specifically, the element that flows through living bodies. Monks harness this power within themselves to create magical effects and exceed their bodies’ physical capabilities, and some of their special attacks can hinder the flow of ki in their opponents. Using this energy, monks channel uncanny speed and strength into their unarmed strikes. As they gain experience, their martial training and their mastery of ki gives them more power over their bodies and the bodies of their foes.

[...]

As a result of the structured life of a monastic community and the discipline required to harness ki, monks are almost always lawful in alignment.

The Tongue of the Sun and Moon feature states (emphasis mine):

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 ability to both understand all spoken languages, and having any creature understand what you speak is specifically linked to your learned ability to touch the ki of other minds.

In fact, from the text of the ability, it's clear that this isn't some latent ability of your body that you have awakened, but an ability triggered by you actively touching the ki of other minds that you have learned to control.

Remember:

[Monks] as they gain experience, their martial training and their mastery of ki gives them more power over their bodies and the bodies of their foes.

As a monk, your whole class and features are defined by your mastery over ki, as a result of careful study [of ki], and your incredibly disciplined approach to that study, and your life. If you cannot control whether or not you are touching the ki of another mind to facilitate them understanding you, then you can't really be described as a master of ki no can you?

As a result, we must conclude that you, as a monk, have the ability to choose whether or not this ability is active.

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Yes

The word "can" is used consistently in the rules to mean "has the ability to"; not "is required to".

For example, going through the combat rules:

On your turn, you can move a distance up to your speed and take one action.

You can forgo moving, taking an action, or doing anything at all on your turn.

You can take a bonus action only when a special ability, spell, or other feature of the game states that you can do something as a bonus action.

Your turn can include a variety of flourishes that require neither your action nor your move.

You can communicate however you are able, through brief utterances and gestures, as you take your turn.

... and I'll stop there.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Where exactly does this feature say "can"? Where it does use "can" it refers to what other creatures can do, so why would the Monk have a choice? \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Jun 10 at 5:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 you are assuming that the other creature is the subject of the sentence. I suggest that the monk’s speech is the subject. \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Jun 10 at 8:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ The subject of the sentence is "any creature that can understand a language"; that fact is beyond debate. The sentence might be talking about something else, but the subject is what I just quoted. \$\endgroup\$ – Tanner Swett Jun 10 at 13:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DaleM "I suggest that the monk’s speech is the subject" ? "[The monk's speech] can understand what you say" ? \$\endgroup\$ – gszavae Jun 15 at 0:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ I could understand if you're making an argument that you don't think it's reasonable to interpret the ability as uncontrollable, but as Medix2 and Tanner Swett point out, the verb "can" isn't evidence that the monk can control whether others understand them. If the rules say "creature X can Y", the logical interpretation is that creature X controls whether Y happens, not that some other creature controls it. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jun 15 at 8:40

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