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On the 3rd level Way of Mercy monks receive the Hand of Healing ability:

Your mystical touch can mend wounds. As an action, you can spend 1 ki point to touch a creature and restore a number of hit points equal to a roll of your Martial Arts die + your Wisdom modifier.

On the 6th level this is extended by Physician's Touch:

When you use Hand of Healing on a creature, you can also end one disease or one of the following conditions affecting the creature: blinded, deafened, paralyzed, poisoned, or stunned.

The question is: does the highlighted "also" mean you can choose to cure one of these conditions instead of restoring HP or that you can do both in a single move?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I did, so someone else might confuse this subclass with the UA Way of Tranquility which has a "Healing Hands" feature which works differently. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 21, 2023 at 9:35

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Context clues point to you getting healing and curing


'Also' is used in both ways in the PHB

When one ability has multiple effects, ideally the text would tell us whether these effects are mutually exclusive (through language like 'instead') or are complementary (through language like 'in addition'), and it often does.

For example, the two uses of Lay on Hands are described as being alternates of one another1, while the two features of the Elemental Adept Feat are explicitly co-occurring2.

Sometimes, however, the rules text uses 'also', and such uses can be grammatically ambiguous. This is the case with Physician's Touch. At third level, you can use use Hand of Healing to restore hp. It could be that at 6th level, you can also use Hand to cure disease; you now have two different things you can use Hand for (also = alternatively, instead of). Or, it could be that at 6th level you can use Hand to both restore hp and also cure disease at the same time (also = in addition to). 'Also' can be used either way.

Within the PHB, we can find both uses of also. For example, in the section on using oil3 and in the clone spell4, 'also' means an alternative in a list of things. You can throw oil as an attack and you can also pour it on the floor, but you can't do both with the same flask. You can have a clone grow to maturity in 120 days or you can also have it grow to a stage younger than maturity - but you can't do both with the same clone. Here 'also' indicates that these are alternative choices.

On the other hand, sometimes 'also' means in addition, rather than as an alternative, as is the case with dominate person5, where you can use your action to control the action of the target, and in addition, you can also use your reaction to control its reaction.

So 'also' can be, and is, used in both ways in the core rules. I've chosen specific examples as cases in which the context makes it clear what the meaning of 'also' is. However, that clarity is not present in the case of Physician's Touch. Both meanings of 'also' are possible, which is what makes it particularly difficult to understand what the rule intent is for Physician's Touch - hence the question.

But 'when' is a clue that here, 'also' means additionally

Fortunately there is one context clue present in Physician's Touch, in the form of:

When you use Hand of Healing

In every example of using 'also' that I could find in the PHB, the use of 'when' signaled that 'also' was being used in the sense of 'additionally', rather than in the sense of 'alternately'. That is, some base effect applies, but you can add another effect under certain circumstances, and those circumstances are signaled by the use of 'when'. This can be seen in, for example, arcane lock6 where you and designated creatures can always open the lock; this is the base condition, but in addition to these designated creatures, you can 'also' have someone not designated open the lock, when they speak the password. Similar language is used to similar effect in guards and wards and symbol. The Share Spells feature of the beast master ranger7 has 'additional also', targeting you and your companion 'when' you cast (not 'alternate also' targeting one or the other). Similar language is used in find greater steed.

Not every 'additional also' uses the 'when' language, as we saw with dominate person. But in cases where 'when' is used, it is a clear indication that the intent is 'additional also'. Knowing this, we can interpret the ambiguous Physician's Touch as an 'additional also'. "When you use Hand of Healing" is the base condition - you are already restoring hp. The Physician's Touch permits you to remove disease in addition to the healing.


1 Lay on Hands (emphases mine):

As an action, you can touch a creature and draw power from the pool to restore a number of hit points to that creature, up to the maximum amount remaining in your pool.
Alternatively, you can expend 5 hit points from your pool of healing to cure the target of one disease or neutralize one poison affecting it. You can cure multiple diseases and neutralize multiple poisons with a single use of Lay on Hands, expending hit points separately for each one.

2 Elemental Adept Feat (emphasis mine):

Spells you cast ignore resistance to damage of the chosen type. In addition, when you roll damage for a spell you cast that deals damage of that type, you can treat any 1 on a damage die as a 2.

3 Using oil (emphasis mine):

As an action, you can splash the oil in this flask onto a creature within 5 feet of you or throw it up to 20 feet, shattering it on impact...You can also pour a flask of oil on the ground to cover a 5-foot-square area, provided that the surface is level.

4 Clone (emphasis mine):

This clone forms inside the vessel used in the spell’s casting and grows to full size and maturity after 120 days; you can also choose to have the clone be a younger version of the same creature.

5 Dominate person (emphasis mine):

You can use your action to take total and precise control of the target. Until the end of your next turn, the creature takes only the actions you choose, and doesn't do anything that you don't allow it to do. During this time you can also cause the creature to use a reaction, but this requires you to use your own reaction as well.

6 Arcane lock(emphases mine):

You and the creatures you designate when you cast this spell can open the object normally. You can also set a password that, when spoken within 5 feet of the object, suppresses this spell for 1 minute.

7 Beast Master Ranger (emphases mine):

Beginning at 15th level, when you cast a spell targeting yourself, you can also affect your beast companion with the spell if the beast is within 30 feet of you.

Your spells normally function on their target; that is the base condition. When you target yourself, the spells can affect your companion in addition to the default target.

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And now with more healing!

As you've quoted, Physician's Touch begins with "When you use Hand of Healing..."

That gives us the effects of Hand of Healing and then ALSO either ending one disease or one of the listed conditions.

Your Hand of Healing is improved with Physician's Touch to extend its effects beyond just HP healing.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Importantly, other abilities that are exclusive-or, rather than inclusive-or, typically include wording like "instead of X, you can do Y". There's nothing remotely like that in Physician's Touch. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 20, 2023 at 22:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowRanger Sometimes 'instead of' language is used (eg, Lay on Hands), but often it is not (cf. oil, clone). Without a number count, I doubt that such explicit language is 'typical'. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Sep 20, 2023 at 23:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kirt: Even when that happens, they often add wording like "you can choose" and the options are typically obviously mutually exclusive (e.g. Clone is very clearly creating a single clone, your options are to make a clone the same age or younger than you, there's no chance whatsoever they meant "you can make one the same age and one younger copy for free"). Oil is similarly obvious; you can't use the same oil to do to mutually exclusive things for obvious reasons, so they didn't need to get precise in their language. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 20, 2023 at 23:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowRanger I think it is fair to say that sometimes the choices are obviously exclusive, and when they are not obvious, they sometimes include exclusive language like 'instead'. But you claimed that exclusive abilities typically include exclusive language - that is, more often than not, so often that they are the norm. And you made that claim without providing numbers or even one example. I don't see why we should just take your word for it that such language is 'typical'. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Sep 21, 2023 at 4:27

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