The Way of Mercy Monk's Hand of Harm feature says:

When you hit a creature with an unarmed strike, you can spend 1 ki point to deal extra necrotic damage equal to one roll of your Martial Arts die + your Wisdom modifier.

However, the Way of the Kensei Monk's "One with the Blade" feature says:

When you hit a target with a kensei weapon, you can spend 1 ki point to cause the weapon to deal extra damage to the target equal to your Martial Arts die.

This second feature notably lacks the phrase "one roll of". Now, I've ruled that One with the Blade adds damage equal to a roll of the Martial Arts die, but I've got a player that insists that the intent of the feature is to add the maximum damage of one roll to the hit. So in our case instead of adding the result of 1d6, they insist that it is supposed to add a flat 6 every time they use the feature. They cite the argument "if Wizard's intended the features to do the same thing, they would use the same words, so obviously they are supposed to be different."

So what I don't need here is "just rule it how you want" or something to that effect, because that's what I have done and everyone is okay with that. That's the solution I have already implemented and it has worked out just fine. What I would like from answers is a more rules focused justification for my ruling (or, of course, rules focused objections to it), if only to satisfy my general desire to be consistent with the rules as written.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Does this player argue that every use of "add the die" or similar phrases where it doesn't explicitly say "roll the die and add the result" (or similar language) refers to the referenced die's maximum value? For example, many of the battlemaster maneuvers? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 19:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DarthPseudonym Didn't think to take it that direction, but that gives me a good conversation point. Looking through some of the maneuvers, there seems to be a similar inconsistency in laguage, some maneuvers saying "add the die" and others including an explicit instruction to roll it. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 19:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is there a possibility that it was intended that the effect not be ever subjected to advantage / disadvantage rules, as these result in two rolls? \$\endgroup\$
    – Sam
    Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 13:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Sam Adv/Dis can only apply to attack rolls, ability checks, and saving throws. Never damage. From the intro to the PHB: "Sometimes an ability check, attack roll, or saving throw is modified by special situations called advantage and disadvantage" \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 13:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BenBolker This should cover your curiosity: Time to retire the [rules-as-written] tag? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 17:44

1 Answer 1


They have the same meaning

Firstly, "damage equal to one roll of your Martial Arts die" is rather straightforward in that you actually roll the die. And then we must examine "damage to the target equal to your Martial Arts die."

Looking at the Martial Arts feature itself we see that it says the following (emphasis mine):

You can roll a d4 in place of the normal damage of your unarmed strike or monk weapon. This die changes as you gain monk levels, as shown in the Martial Arts column of the Monk table.

The Martial Arts die is, itself, a die. It is not a number, or this sentence wouldn't make sense. Thus we can translate "damage to the target equal to your Martial Arts die" as "damage to the target equal to a d4" (or another die). If they wanted it to mean the maximum of your Martial Arts die, they would have used the word "maximum" or something similar to what they do with Hit Dice:

You start with hit points equal to the highest roll of that die

Furthermore, different features using different wording is not evidence that they must mean different things. The writers and editors are human, so they will make mistakes, but more important than that is the fact that 5e is written using natural language, so while features may try to have consistent wording between them, they do not need to be worded consistently because so much of their descriptions consists of non-game-defined terms.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Indeed, as far as I know there is no instance where the rules use a die as a number directly, only the roll of a die (either by actually rolling it or saying something like "the highest roll". Also, it's worth noting that these 2 monastic traditions are printed in 2 different books, which makes discrepancies in wording more likely to be unintentional. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 22:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RyanC.Thompson This same discrepancy in language occurs on the Battle Master maneuvers, which are all on the same page. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 12:38

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