25 Ways to Use a Monk’s Elemental Attunement

Out of all three of the paths available to the 5th Edition D&D monks, one of the least popular has to be the Way of the Four Elements. Much like the popular anime series, Avatar: The Last Airbender, the Way of the Four Elements monk can use earth, air, fire, and water in their attacks and abilities.

Although there are a lot of different abilities associated with this path, one of the most interesting (and overlooked) skills is called “Elemental Attunement”. Similar to prestidigitation, it is the only ability for this monk path that does not require ki and it easily provides the most room for actual roleplay.

Here’s what the Player’s Handbook says:

Elemental Attunement: You can use your action to briefly control elemental forces nearby, causing one of the following effects of your choice:

  • Create a harmless, instantaneous sensory effect related to air, earth, fire, or water, such as a shower of sparks, a puff of wind, a spray of light mist, or a gentle rumbling of stone.
  • Instantaneously light or snuff out a candle, a torch, or a small campfire
  • Chill or warm up 1 pound of nonliving material for up to 1 hour
  • Cause earth, fire, water, or mist that can fit within a one foot cute to shape itself into a crude form you designate for one minute.

Now, the most important thing to note is that there is no limitation as to how many effects you can have going at once. However, while I expect a DM would put a limit on it, having two to three effects going at at time would probably be permitted by most DMs.

It should be noted that there is quite a bit of ambiguity in the way that this ability is worded, so you’ll need to talk to your DM about what they will allow. We’ll get more into that below. First, here are 25 ways to make the most out of elemental attunement.

Create a harmless sensory effect

airThe important thing here is that the effect must cause zero harm, and that it must be a sensory effect such as smell or touch.

The following ideas should all work based on the info in the PHB:

1. Create a shower of sparks to signal someone
2. Use a breeze to make your cape billow heroically
3. Illuminate an area briefly with a shower of sparks
4. Blow away smells or smoke with a breeze
5. Create a thin fog
6. Spray mist on something too hot to touch so you can touch it
7. Scatter papers or small objects from a desk with a puff of wind
8. Make the stones rumble to intimidate people

Snuff out/Light a flame

fireTechnically, the PHB lists out only a handful of things that can be lit including a candle, torch, or campfire. If you have a very rules-oriented DM, then you may not be able to play with this much. However, most DMs would likely allow the following:

9. Light any flammable object with a small flame
10. Snuff out the candles in a room and then sneak through

Chill or warm 1 pound of nonliving material

waterThe key here is that it says “chill or warm” not “freeze or heat.” Keep that in mind; the temperature change is meant to be slight and shouldn’t be enough to cause ice or burn anyone.

11. Cool clothing to deal with hot temperatures
12. Keep drinks cold
13. Warm clothing to deal with cold temperatures
14. Keep food warm
15. Warm bed sheets on a cool evening
16. Melt ice or snow for drinking water

Shape 1 foot cube of earth, mist, fire, or water to a crude form

earthOut of all of the different parts of elemental attunement, this is both the most useful and most ambiguous.

Regardless, the below options should all work whether your DM is literal when it comes to rules or not.

17. Shape the ground into stairs for easy climbing
18. Create basic arrows and images out of water or dirt to give silent directions
19. Create potholes in the road to slow pursuers
20. Excavate a small amount of earth
21. Shape dirt into caltrops/spikes to slow pursuers
22. Raise up a square of dirt to trip and opponent
23. Create a bubble of air to breathe underwater for a minute
24. Shape fire into a crude symbol and press the mark into wood, creating a permanent burn
25. Make a dirt area muddy to hinder enemies

Things to Ask your DM

Elemental Attunement is, as mentioned above, very vague and leaves a lot of room for interpretation. For that reason, you will want to talk to your DM and find out how they are going to interpret the ability description.

Here are some questions for the DM to consider:

  • Are near-elements such as stone, sand, ice, lava, or smoke included?
  • Can the monk create the elements they are working with?
  • What happens after the magic has passed? Do the elements disappear or return to their original state?
  • How big can shaped objects become? Are they limited to 1 square foot, or is that just the volume of material, leaving shape up to the monk?
  • Can elements be condensed as part of the shaping? For example, could you make the ground into quicksand or compress air to exert pressure? Could you create a suction or vacuum?

As with most things, make sure that you talk with your DM to find out what limitations they wish to impose before you hinge a plan on it.

Did I miss a great use of this ability? Tell me in the comments below!

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