In Tasha's Cauldron of Everything, the Way of Mercy Monastic Tradition grants both Hand of Healing and Hand of Harm at 3rd level. Hand of Healing/Harm describe their effects as using 1 ki point to heal damage or to deal necrotic damage equal to one roll of a Martial Arts die + Wisdom Modifier, but Hand of Harm has the stipulation that it can only be used once a turn, and can't be added to Flurry of Blows to negate the Ki point cost.

Even at 17th level, the maximum damage is only 15 (1d10+Max Wisdom Mod), and 25 on crit. Hand of Harm doesn't even get the ability to be used more than once a turn by now, despite the fact that 15 necrotic damage is often a drop in the bucket compared to the HP of encounters for 17th level parties.

At level 3, the best case scenario of 9 necrotic damage is far outclassed by other martials and all spellcasters doing average damage.

If I were to modify Hand of Harm so it could be used in Flurry of Blows, and more than once a turn, like we see on Hand of Healing, what would the mechanical impacts of that be?

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    \$\begingroup\$ When a question is closed, we'd prefer that you revise it so that it can be reopened, rather than delete it and repost it with minor revisions. You've circumvented the close-reopen process and bypassed the community review that closed questions typically undergo. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 2, 2022 at 13:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov The problem with the old question was that it tried asking two different questions with very different answers at the same time. The fire that burned in the comments is one I doubt can be salvaged, so I flagged it for deletion and made a more directed question here. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 2, 2022 at 14:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ In this case Imma say we sidestep that. While yes, that's generally better, in this case I think this is cleaner. The answerers to that question are welcome to repost an applicable version here, and I'm sure they'll welcome the (valid) reset on votes. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Dec 2, 2022 at 14:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ While not perfect, definitely a relevant meta post: rpg.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/11347/… \$\endgroup\$ Dec 2, 2022 at 14:52

3 Answers 3


This is Very Unbalanced

The additional damage the Way of Mercy (WoM) Monk would be able to throw out with this would get absolutely ridiculous which would far outshine the Paladin whom is known for their nova damage. I think it's important to recognize, the Monk does already have the ability to deliver burst damage a lot of times per day by default, but it's usually via a lot of small attacks. But this proposal takes it over the top.

Assuming a 10th level Monk, you've got a character with 10 ki points for use. Given they're a Monk, they can regularly make 4 attacks per round using their Flurry of Blows (FoB). Given the Monk must spend 1 ki point to initiate the FoB, they would then spend an additional 4 ki points to trigger Hands of Harm. This would mean the Monk's damage output for the round would be as follows:

  • 4d6 (base unarmed strike damage)
  • 4d6 (additional necrotic damage)
  • 4x Dex modifier
  • 4x Wis modifier

This roughly converts all of the WoM Monk's attacks to deal damage which is worse than a crit because it also tacks on their Wisdom modifier.

But the question of whether this is unbalanced is still a bit nebulous, so let's quantify it. Let's assume the ability modifier is +4 for both Dex and Wis. This nets an average damage per round of 68; for comparison, without this feature triggering each hit the total average damage would be 34, so the difference is about 34 extra damage. Woof. That is straight up doubling their damage.

Given their amount of available ki, they'd only be able to pull this trick off twice and then need a short rest to recover. Assuming a normal adventuring day has 2 short rests in it, they'd see this trick being used 6 times in all. This amounts to about an additional 204 damage (24d6+120) per day. So instead of death by a thousand cuts, this monk deals death by a thousand necrotic motorcycles.

For the sake of simplicity, I'm going to forego discussion on the opportunity cost of this tactic. Obviously, if a WoM Monk elects to proceed with this tactic, then they can't do other Monk things like Stunning Strikes or Patient Defense.

For comparison, let's look at a 10th level Paladin and their smiting. At 10th level, they get 2 attacks, and similarly get to make the decision on extra damage after seeing if they hit. Let's give them a longsword and full spell slots (which is 4/3/2).

So each round, they attack with smites and their damage output is:

  • 2d8 (base longsword damage)
  • 4d8 (additional radiant damage from smite)
  • 2x Ability modifier

Assuming a +5 ability modifier, the Paladin in this situation is dealing an average of 37 damage per round. They can do this trick once more before they expend their 1st level slots, but then they can start using higher level slots and dealing more damage. Overall, they can do this trick about 4.5 rounds per day, but due to the higher level spell slots, this totals an additional 112.5 (25d8) per day.

Similar to the Monk, a Paladin choosing to always smite will not have those slots for other Paladin things.

This means the WoM Monk can deal burst damage that is nearly double that of a Paladin focusing on the same thing. That is NOT ok. Even if it means that the Monk isn't doing anything else they're good at (Stunning Strikes), because they won't need to. The enemy is dead and pounded into a paste. What is there to dodge?

HOWEVER, then to make it worse, there's Physician's Touch, which says:

When you use Hands of Harm on a creature, you can subject that creature to the poisoned condition until the end of your next turn.

It is notable that there is no save on this. That just happens. For free. If you allow the WoM Monk to freely used Hands of Harm whenever they want, then they can pretty much impose Disadvantage on all enemies' attack rolls and ability checks on a regular basis. This means the need for the Monk to use Patient Defense goes away.

Coupled with a Monk's normal ability to quickly move around the battlefield (or just take the Mobility feat), this can get ridiculous very quickly as enemies who rely on attack rolls to deal damage will be regularly dealing with a substantial nerf which again has NO SAVE.

Enemies who can't reliably land their attacks are enemies who can't deal damage. And damage that's mitigated is damage that doesn't need to be healed. CR10 monsters are regularly dealing 65+ damage per round, CR5 monsters deal 35+ damage per round (DMG pg 274). Misses are very costly for them.

For this reason, I think being able to freely stack this condition on enemies can get out of control very quickly via a lot of mitigated damage, probably to the point of too much.

So you've got enemies whom are dead, dying, or poisoned after this Monk rolls over them. So yes, this is unbalanced.

  • \$\begingroup\$ this is clearly the better answer. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ Dec 2, 2022 at 15:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Now this is a very well thought out answer. Answers everything I had tried to ask. Many thanks, Pyrotechnical. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 2, 2022 at 15:45

You could create nova damage on the first round of combat in tier one

On tier one, the monk gets 3 ki points on level 3 and 4 on level 4. This will allow them to make a Flurry of Blows attack (1 ki) adding two more attacks as bonus actions, and to invest all three attacks with Hand of Harm damage (3 more ki). This ability will reset with every short rest, so this will be available for most combats.

What is the numerical impact of this? With a prime ability bonus of +3, and a martial arts dice of d4, the monk can reliably make 3 attacks for a total of

3 x (d4 + 3 bludgeoning + d4 + 3 necrotic) = 33 total damage

Applying typical to hit of 65% rates (this will vary of course by AC) this would be expected 21 damage in the first round of combat. This is higher than what other classes can achieve as reliable damage output in one round at this point.

Martial classes do not yet have access to their extra attack. For example, an alternate high damage build could be a polearm fighter with great weapon figthing style, a halberd and polearm master. They would get a bonus action attack with a d4 bludgeoning damage for a total of

d10 (6.3) + 3 slashing + d4 (3) + 3 bludgeoning = 15 total damage

Applying normal hit rates, the expected damage for the figther would be 10 damage. So this would realiably deal more than twice the amount of damage on the first round. Many fights could be lopsided by taking out key opponents on the first or second round.

It's not clear to me if this would be disbalancing, as on level four, many opponents can already have solid hit point pools, and if the fight goes over several rounds, the fighter can repeat their damage each round, while the monk will be down to a mere d4+3, so over three rounds they'll do about the same amount. But there clearly is some danger in front-loading the damage, as an opponent who is already taken out early cannot fight back.

If this becomes releatively weaker at very high levels does not matter so much, as for purposes of most D&D play, it is the first two tiers of play that count -- most published campaigns spend the majority of time there.


I think there is something to be said for the Nova damage of using Hand of Harm multiple times.

Hand of Harm TCE p49 3rd-level Way of Mercy feature

You use your ki to inflict wounds. 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. You can use this feature only once per turn.

I'm not sure I think that is substantial enough to worry. The monk would be making sacrifices in order to produce the damage.

Physician's Touch becomes problematic as the ability to go nova and automatically poison creatures could drastically unbalance encounters...

Physician's Touch TCE p49 6th-level Way of Mercy feature When you use Hand of Harm on a creature, you can subject that creature to the poisoned condition until the end of your next turn.

but the monk is still making drastic choices to decide what they want to do. Potentially this can all be balanced by giving challenging adventuring days that require those choices to be made.

Physician's Touch & Flurry of Healing and Harm would drastically wreck things.

Flurry of Healing and Harm TCE p49 11th-level Way of Mercy feature In addition, when you make an unarmed strike with Flurry of Blows, you can use Hand of Harm with that strike without spending the ki point for Hand of Harm. You can still use Hand of Harm only once per turn.

At that point the monk no longer needs to make the choice. It becomes 1 key point to essentially double their damage and poison ever creature they hit.

It's arguable that the tier 3 nature is viable enough to just accept this.

To me; the real balance is that often, I'm tempted to homebrew extra Ki points for monks in my games. I would be very hesitant to give my monk more Ki and also able to do hand of harm multiple times.

I don't think of monks as a 'damage dealer' I wouldn't mind letting them deal solid nova damage if they wanted to focus on that hand of harm. But it should be a choice.


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