5th Edition is deliberately vague about aging so as to avoid RAW pitfalls but in certain areas such as Timeless Body there seems to be an inherent contradiction: Monks cease to age and no longer require food or drink.

Now I've read that WotC considers this to be: "a "Ribbon", i.e. a neat ability with mostly story, rather than mechanical, applications.

Aside from the 8th level spell Clone there aren't many ways to be effectively immortal, but it seems like Timeless Body would provide it--except for the inherent contradiction of Monks no longer aging and not suffering from the debilities of aging--until they die of old age?!?!?


3 Answers 3


Timeless Body does not stop your natural aging

The text on Timeless Body says:

Timeless Body

At 15th level, your ki sustains you so that you suffer none of the frailty of old age, and you can't be aged magically. You can still die of old age, however. In addition, you no longer need food or water.

As a monk, they simply suffer "none of the frailty of old age," which means even as old people, they can still move like they were in their 20's. This makes sense when you consider the amount of old monks who can do flawless kung fu in media. They usually serve as mentors to the younger folk so that their secret techniques don't die with them.

two venerable old monks, with white hair and long beards, fighting with all the vigour of youth. - From "The Invincible Armour" a 1977 John Liu film.

In conclusion: Timeless Body still lets you age, and you may still die of old age naturally. However, due to your timeless body, you don't get the back pain or blurry vision that comes with senescence.


They die suddenly, since they don't suffer any ill effects, they are fine one moment and dead from old age the next. Which could vary greatly from your standard member of the same race, since most old people die of complications to their old age instead of age itself. Monks also definitely would not die from starvation, since monks no longer need food or water.

you no longer need food or water.

I tend to think that Monks who reach level 15 could live for a very very long time. See this http://www.aplaceformom.com/blog/2-6-2014-what-does-it-mean-to-die-of-old-age/

Perhaps we can speculate that they die more of a Tolkien elf's death, which would be from grief or weariness of life.

For the Elves die not till tile world dies, unless they are slain or waste in grief (and to both these seeming deaths they are subject); neither does age subdue their strength, unless one grow weary of ten thousand centuries; and dying they are gathered to the halls of Mandos in Valinor, whence they may in time return.



The top response to this question (at time of writing) seems to have an opinion about "dying of old age" that I think Wizards of the Coast had when they wrote this ability, that there's such a thing as "dying of old age". There isn't. That's a catch-all phrase we use when the cause of death is the cumulative frailties we acquire as we get older. Some of these things are related to lifestyle, some are down to how our bodies degrade over time, sometimes from UV radiation damaging DNA.

Our immune systems tend to weaken, our bone density decreases, our bodies find it more difficult to repair damaged tissue and our blood doesn't carry oxygen as well. As these problems get worse and worse, our mortality rate increases and eventually we'll die of an illness or injury that we very likely would have survived had we been younger.

In short, "dying of old age" is only a problem for you if you suffer the frailties of old age. The text explicitly states that you suffer none of the frailties of old age. You're just as healthy as you were in your prime, and therefore you'd be no more likely to drop dead at 125 as you were at 31.

Taking into account the 11th level ability of the Monk- the one that makes you immune to poison and disease and there's really not much left that can kill you at that point. Immunity to cancer pretty succinctly prevents the last major obstacle to immortality since cancers can develop spontaneously. Assuming you had enough ventilation to breathe (or were a race that didn't need to), you could pretty much live forever if you locked yourself in a room.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "You can still die of old age, however." would not be in there if they intended for this to stop death from old age. Clearly something continues to age, it's just not anything that affects your combat efficacy. Maybe they all die of a stroke in their sleep at an advanced age (no dying of a broken hip from a fall, that's definitely frailty), but they do die. Trying to extend "not frail" to "not deteriorating in any way" is extending beyond what they wrote. Trying to apply exact medical definitions to game rules is a fun exercise, but not how the game works. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 22, 2022 at 23:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Your answer makes a certain amount of real world sense. Someone that did not deteriorate at all with old age probably should not die of it at least as we understand it presently. However the rules text makes absolutely clear that they still can die of old age, so this cannot be a correct answer under RAW or RAI. It just points out that D&D is not entirely simulationist and there can be a tension between the rules and their real world implications. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 21, 2023 at 22:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TimothyAWiseman Agreed. I also think that it's WotC's way of saying that you shouldn't be required to be a top consulting geriatrician with a Masters degree in the nuances of advanced geriatric medicine in order to read the Players handbook. ;-) \$\endgroup\$
    – RickL
    Commented Jun 8, 2023 at 7:14

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