5E Natural Attacks

Johnny3D3D

Adventurer
In terms of 5th Edition rules, what do natural attacks count as?


I've seen some comments in threads here and elsewhere which clarify that they cannot be used as "unarmed attacks" in the context of a monk.


Do they count as weapon attacks? For example, could a druid/paladin smite via crocodile bite?
 

mellored

Explorer
I don't think there is a 'natural attack' category.... each monster attack is their own special thing.

However the crocodile (and pretty much every creature) specifically state the attack is "Bite. Melee Weapon Attack:'.

So yes.
 
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Natural attacks count as natural attacks. By which I mean they do not count as weapons for anything that actually requires a weapon, and are allowed to be used to make melee weapon attacks

However, many features in the game benefit melee weapon attacks, rather than melee attacks made with weapons.

Specifically, your question on the druid/paladin croc-bite-smite is answered with; Yes, you can smite with a crocodile bite because smite says "when you hit a creature with a melee weapon attack" and the crocodile bite attack says "melee weapon attack".
 

Johnny3D3D

Adventurer
So, in 5th Edition, Natural Attacks would be a category of attack (typically melee) which is neither Unarmed nor a Melee Weapon?
 

Caliban

Rules Monkey
Unarmed strikes and natural attacks are not "weapons" in the 5e technical sense, but you can use them to make melee weapon attacks.

(Which sounds contradictory, I know. I think it's to keep them from being used with certain weapon specific abilities, spells, and feats.)
 

Johnny3D3D

Adventurer
You can make a weapon attack using natural weapons. 'Natural attack' isn't a thing.
Perhaps not, but, for rules purposes, it matters whether or not they are considered weapons or not.

It has been clarified by WoTC staff that the natural weapons of creatures and animals do not count as "unarmed attacks" unless specifically stated for a creature.

Weather or not natural weapons are considered weapons matters for some of the other rules of the game. It appears that the natural weapons of a creature can make weapon attacks, but are possibly not considered weapons in the context of certain game rules.
 

Hriston

Adventurer
Perhaps not, but, for rules purposes, it matters whether or not they are considered weapons or not.

It has been clarified by WoTC staff that the natural weapons of creatures and animals do not count as "unarmed attacks" unless specifically stated for a creature.

Weather or not natural weapons are considered weapons matters for some of the other rules of the game. It appears that the natural weapons of a creature can make weapon attacks, but are possibly not considered weapons in the context of certain game rules.
Which rules do you mean? According to the DM's Basic Rules a weapon can be a manufactured item or a natural weapon.
 

Hriston

Adventurer
Natural weapons make weapon attacks, so you can use Divine Strike or Improved Critical when making a weapon attack with them. They are not ranged weapons, melee weapons, or finesse weapons, so you cannot use the Archery, Dueling, or GWF fighting styles or Sneak Attack with them. Are those the rules you mean?
 

discosoc

Visitor
If you think this is bad, try listening to the pod cast where Mearls (I think it was him) talks about how "targeting" doesn't always mean what you think it means, except for when it does (but only sometimes) and others it's more of a general non-mechanical description...

Yeah, 5e is a hot mess in a lot of ways.
 

Jester David

Adventurer
"Natural attack" pops up in a few rules. Such as a magic item in Hoard of the Dragon Queen. It is explicitly different there, but it is not clarified in the rules. From Twitter rulings, we know that spells like magic weapon would not work on a beast companion or wild shaped druid.
 

Hriston

Adventurer
"Natural attack" pops up in a few rules. Such as a magic item in Hoard of the Dragon Queen. It is explicitly different there, but it is not clarified in the rules. From Twitter rulings, we know that spells like magic weapon would not work on a beast companion or wild shaped druid.
Oh. So natural weapons are not considered actual weapons, which I now assume to be limited to manufactured items. Good to know.

Out of curiosity (and not owning a copy of HotDQ myself), does "natural attack" there simply seem to refer to a weapon attack that uses a natural weapon, or can there be natural spell attacks as well, perhaps with reference to inate spell casting?
 

Johnny3D3D

Adventurer
Oh. So natural weapons are not considered actual weapons, which I now assume to be limited to manufactured items. Good to know.

Out of curiosity (and not owning a copy of HotDQ myself), does "natural attack" there simply seem to refer to a weapon attack that uses a natural weapon, or can there be natural spell attacks as well, perhaps with reference to inate spell casting?

Which is where some of my own confusion comes in because the rules clarifications often vary greatly.

My understanding thus far:

-natural attacks cannot be used as Unarmed Strikes
-natural attacks can be used to make weapon attacks, but are not always considered weapons
-natural attacks are not considered weapons for a druid being able to cast magic weapon on an animal (kinda odd)
-natural attacks are (maybe?) considered weapons for a paladin/druid being able to smite
-natural attacks do benefit from feats depending upon the wording of the feat
-natural attacks can make melee weapon attacks, but they are not always melee weapons in the context of the rules

I've tried to fall back on what makes sense to me, but what makes sense to me doesn't always match what makes sense in the context of D&D.
 
-natural attacks are (maybe?) considered weapons for a paladin/druid being able to smite
Not quite accurate on this one. Fully accurate would be:

-natural attacks counting/not counting as weapons is irrelevant to a paladin/druid being able to smite with them, because Divine Smite requires "hit a creature with a melee weapon attack" not "hit a creature with a melee weapon"
 

Johnny3D3D

Adventurer
Not quite accurate on this one. Fully accurate would be:

-natural attacks counting/not counting as weapons is irrelevant to a paladin/druid being able to smite with them, because Divine Smite requires "hit a creature with a melee weapon attack" not "hit a creature with a melee weapon"
So, natural weapons are used to make melee weapon attacks, but they are not melee weapons?
 
So, natural weapons are used to make melee weapon attacks, but they are not melee weapons?
Yes. Just like with unarmed strikes (after errata), which natural weapons also are not.

However, I should add that not all natural weapons are for melee use; A manticore, for example, has a natural weapon that is used for ranged weapon attacks in the form of its tail spikes. But it's tail spikes are ranged weapons (the game term).
 

Imaculata

Adventurer
Yes. Just like with unarmed strikes (after errata), which natural weapons also are not.

However, I should add that not all natural weapons are for melee use; A manticore, for example, has a natural weapon that is used for ranged weapon attacks in the form of its tail spikes. But it's tail spikes are ranged weapons (the game term).
If I understand this correctly, any attack made with claws, teeth, tails, is considered a weapon attack (for the purpose of determining the attack type), because the creature is using its natural weapons. So any spells and effects that would benefit a weapon-attack, benefit a natural weapon.

But this is different from physical weapons, in other words: objects, such as sword and clubs. Spells that benefit a weapon, or object, do NOT work on natural weapons, since they are technically not actual weapons (as in: objects).

So could we say that Unarmed Attacks are only made by creatures that could wield physical weapons, but decide not to use them, and use their hands and feet instead?
 
If I understand this correctly, any attack made with claws, teeth, tails, is considered a weapon attack (for the purpose of determining the attack type), because the creature is using its natural weapons. So any spells and effects that would benefit a weapon-attack, benefit a natural weapon.
Correct. Claws, teeth, tails, and other body parts are not categorized as spell attacks, so they must be categorized as weapon attacks, since those two categories are the only ones the game rules cover how to make.

But this is different from physical weapons, in other words: objects, such as sword and clubs. Spells that benefit a weapon, or object, do NOT work on natural weapons, since they are technically not actual weapons (as in: objects).
Correct. So when a spell like magic weapon says "You touch a nonmagical weapon." you can't choose Steve, or a goat, on any other creature, because none of those are nonmagical weapons.

So could we say that Unarmed Attacks are only made by creatures that could wield physical weapons, but decide not to use them, and use their hands and feet instead?
Almost.

Some creatures which could wield objects as weapons, but decide not to do so, still have natural weapons that they would use instead of making unarmed strikes (a weretiger in hybrid form using it's claws, rather than scimitar or longbow), and other creatures which could wield objects as weapons, but decide not to do so, have natural weapons that they have been specifically allowed by the game rules to use them to make unarmed strikes (the PC versions of lizardmen, and tabaxi, in Volo's guide).

So there are three categories of creatures that could wield physical weapons, but decide not to use them:
1) Those that have natural weapons to use that do not count as unarmed strikes (Monsters)
2) Those that have natural weapons to use that do count as unarmed strikes ("monstrous" PC options)
3) Those that do not have natural weapons, and thus fall back on unarmed strikes by default

Though this is a point at which I would deviate from, and encourage deviation from, what the game books actually say in favor of a more simple ruling despite whatever consequences it might have that could be considered "unwanted": all of category 1 above are treated as if they were category 2.
 

Cap'n Kobold

Adventurer
Which is where some of my own confusion comes in because the rules clarifications often vary greatly.

My understanding thus far:

-natural attacks cannot be used as Unarmed Strikes
-natural attacks can be used to make weapon attacks, but are not always considered weapons
-natural attacks are not considered weapons for a druid being able to cast magic weapon on an animal (kinda odd)
-natural attacks are (maybe?) considered weapons for a paladin/druid being able to smite
-natural attacks do benefit from feats depending upon the wording of the feat
-natural attacks can make melee weapon attacks, but they are not always melee weapons in the context of the rules

I've tried to fall back on what makes sense to me, but what makes sense to me doesn't always match what makes sense in the context of D&D.
Generally the distinction lies in the wording of the ability. Bear in mind a natural attack is not considered a discrete weapon.
So: things are generally worded in one of two ways:

"Melee weapon attack" or "Attack with a melee weapon".

Melee weapon attacks include pretty much any attack in melee that is not a spell attack, including natural attacks and unarmed strikes. So abilities with this wording (Such as Paladin's Smite) can be delivered with claws/bite etc.

Attacks with a melee weapon must be delivered with a melee weapon. Since a natural attack is not considered a discrete weapon, you cannot use claws or bite etc for these abilities. (Note that being in melee isn't required: you could use a melee weapon with the thrown property to deliver the attack at range.)
 

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