5E Natural Weapons discrepancies?

dnd4vr

Keeper of the Seven Keys
Don't know if this is addressed anywhere, but I didn't see it in the MM errata.

Why are some creatures natural weapon attacks considered STR and others are DEX?

For example, a wolf has STR 12 and DEX 15, its attack is:
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: (2d4 + 2) piercing damage.

Where as a dire wolf has STR 17 and DEX 15, with its attack as:
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: (2d6 + 3) piercing damage.

Both also carry the knock prone rider as well.

But, this means the wolf is using DEX as where the dire wolf is using STR. You see this in both the attack bonus as the damage bonus.

My question is why?

Is this yet another way in which 5E has its inconsistencies?

I consider these natural attacks equivalent to unarmed strikes in a way and of course unarmed strikes use STR, not DEX (unless you are a monk or something...). A Bite attack is hardly anything akin to a finesse weapon so why use DEX for a wolf but STR for a dire wolf (just a large wolf really)?

Yeah, I know some people will reply these are monsters yadda yadda yadda and don't have to follow the same rules as PCs, blah blah blah. But as a DM if I am making one monster and then another, what justifcation can I have to using STR in one case but DEX in, practically, an identical case?

Have these types of issues been addressed anywhere?

EDIT:

The reason I am posting about this is because new players in our group don't understand that "the DM can design things how they want" and often wonder is it an error in the stat block or on purpose? The Ghast bite as is mentioned below: intentional or an error? The wolf bite: intentional or an error? There are a lot of errors in the MM that have been fixed in the errata so wondering if there are still more is understandable, especially when the printed books our group bought within the last year still have those errors. This also came up when some party members got riding horses but one a warhorse (both stat blocks have errors BTW in the errata).
 
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ccs

40th lv DM
If there's a reason it's probably to highlight that a dire wolf is a larger stronger beast that relies upon brute force. Vs the ordinary wolf that's more agile.

But your real problem is that your just stirring the pot looking for a problem where there is none.

What justification can you give for making creatures different?
How about the best one: "Because I'm the DM & that's how I decided to represent them."
 

RogueJK

It's not "Rouge"... That's makeup.
I don't believe there's ever been a concrete explanation for this by the designers, other than offhand remarks like "some monsters have quirks like that". However, they have explicitly clarified through Sage Advice that not all monsters can choose between STR and DEX on their natural weapons.

So if you're designing a new monster, it's solely left up to your discretion.

Another quirk you'll run across is that some monsters don't add their proficiency bonus to some of their natural weapon attacks. Look at a Ghast, which has +3 for Bite but +5 for Claw. And their STR/DEX are both +3, so it's not because they're using different stats for the two attacks.
 
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dnd4vr

Keeper of the Seven Keys
But your real problem is that your just stirring the pot looking for a problem where there is none.

What justification can you give for making creatures different?
How about the best one: "Because I'm the DM & that's how I decided to represent them."
This is pretty much the same as a blah blah blah response so thanks for--well--nothing.
 

dnd4vr

Keeper of the Seven Keys
I don't believe there's ever been a concrete explanation for this by the designers, other than offhand remarks like "some monsters have quirks like that". However, they have explicitly clarified through Sage Advice that not all monsters can choose between STR and DEX on their natural weapons.

So if you're designing a new monster, it's solely left up to your discretion.

Another quirk you'll run across is that some monsters don't add their proficiency bonus to some of their natural weapon attacks. Look at a Ghast, which has +3 for Bite but +5 for Claw. And their STR/DEX are both +3, so it's not because they're using different stats for the two attacks.
Yeah, I figured it was just this sort of stuff again. I really don't know why they would do things this way when following consistent rules/design schema would result in perfectly good monsters.

Why make the Ghast bite less likely to hit? It it was also +5 it would work just as well really.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Don't know if this is addressed anywhere, but I didn't see it in the MM errata.

Why are some creatures natural weapon attacks considered STR and others are DEX?

For example, a wolf has STR 12 and DEX 15, its attack is:
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: (2d4 + 2) piercing damage.

Where as a dire wolf has STR 17 and DEX 15, with its attack as:
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: (2d6 + 3) piercing damage.

Both also carry the knock prone rider as well.

But, this means the wolf is using DEX as where the dire wolf is using STR. You see this in both the attack bonus as the damage bonus.

My question is why?
Well, because the wolf has higher DEX and the dire wolf has higher STR. Think of it like the wolf’s Bite having Finesse while the dire-wolf’s doesn’t (or maybe it does and the dire-wolf chooses to use STR because that gives it a better attack and damage bonus.

Is this yet another way in which 5E has its inconsistencies?
I don’t see how it’s inconsistent. A wolf’s Bite is not the same attack as a dire wolf’s Bite, which is not the same attack as a humanoid’s Unarmed Strike. It’s no more inconsistent for them to key off different abilities than it is for them to have different damage dice.

I consider these natural attacks equivalent to unarmed strikes in a way and of course unarmed strikes use STR, not DEX (unless you are a monk or something...). A Bite attack is hardly anything akin to a finesse weapon so why use DEX for a wolf but STR for a dire wolf (just a large wolf really)?
So you’re willing to accept that a wolf’s Bite is equivalent to a humanoid’s Unarmed Strike, you’re willing to accept that a wolf’s Bite has a different damage die than a humanoid’s Unarmed Strike, you’re willing to accept that a wolf’s Bite has a different damage die than a dire wolf’s Bite, you’re willing to accept that some humanoids’ Unarmed Strikes have different damage dice than other humanoids’ Unarmed Strikes (e.g. monks, tavern brawlers, etc.), AND you’re willing to accept that some humanoids’ Unarmed Strikes key off DEX instead of STR (again, monks)... But the idea that wolves’ Bites might key off DEX is a bridge too far? That seems like a very arbitrary line to draw.

Yeah, I know some people will reply these are monsters yadda yadda yadda and don't have to follow the same rules as PCs, blah blah blah. But as a DM if I am making one monster and then another, what justifcation can I have to using STR in one case but DEX in, practically, an identical case?
It’s not even a matter of monsters not having to follow the same rules as PCs. There’s no rule being broken here. There is precedent for melee attacks, even unarmed melee attacks, that key off DEX. The wolf’s Bite attack just happens to be one such attack.

If you need a guideline to follow when designing your own monsters, here’s what the trend appears to be in the monster manual: If a monster uses a weapon, its attacks with that weapon follow the same rules as when PCs attack with the same weapon.* If a monster has an attack that uses part of its body (i.e. a “natural weapon”), that attack is unique to the creature. You can give it whatever damage die you feel is appropriate, and it keys off your choice of the creature’s STR or DEX. Humanoid monsters generally don’t have Unarmed Strike listed in their stat blocks, but in the case that you want a humanoid monster to make an Unarmed Strike, it should probably follow the same rules as when a PC makes an Unarmed Strike.

*except in the case of two-weapon fighting, which seems to be handled via Multiattack instead of the two-weapon fighting rules. This is an inconsistency that bothers me more than it probably should.
 
If you've seen video of wolves hunting it might not seem so weird that they picked DEX. In any given case they have to pick either DEX or STR to define attacks and damage. The issue, IMO, is that most cases, described in 'real world terms', are a combination of both and thus a lot of the binary choices seem off to one degree or another.
 

Esker

Abventuree
*except in the case of two-weapon fighting, which seems to be handled via Multiattack instead of the two-weapon fighting rules. This is an inconsistency that bothers me more than it probably should.
Are there instances of monsters using two weapon fighting that have multiattack and also separate bonus actions they can use? If not it's equivalent to just saying they have the TWF fighting style, but simpler to manage as a DM than treating one of the attacks as a bonus action.
 

dnd4vr

Keeper of the Seven Keys
It's simple. Monsters will use the attribute that makes them the most effective at inflicting harm. It's how evolution works. So really, all natural attacks are finesse. I don't think that has to explicitly be called out in a rule anywhere.
Except for people, huh? Unarmed strikes are STR, not DEX. I agree, they should be either but that isn't the rule.

Again, the real issue is that because of errors in stat blocks that have since been updated in the errata, there is confusion because (since there is no strict method) players don't understand if a stat was intended or another error.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Honestly, and I apologize because I know this sounds a bit dismissive of your issue, but this is player confusion, right? Players shouldn't have to worry about any stat block of a monster, or concern themselves about how a monsters attack modifiers are done. That's the realm of the DM.

And even if players do insist on looking at stat blocks, of all the ambiguities with rpg rules, that seems a pretty minor one to get caught up in. Like most every other thing that is ambiguous, just make a ruling and carry on.
 

Leatherhead

Possibly a Idiot.
Monsters and PCs don't use the same rules. This is the first thing you have to learn about monsters, and the one thing they don't explicitly tell you.

Heck, natural weapons don't even have proper rules, most likely because players didn't get them until more recently. They are arguably more convoluted than the Stealth Rules, if only because the Stealth Rules are actually written down.

Here is the list of what we know about them, thanks to twitter and especially the new Path of the Beast UA:

  • They are used for Melee Weapon Attacks. (Which by default use STR)
  • They count for Attacks that use a Weapon (unlike Unarmed Strikes). This is a separate mechanic than the one listed above, which causes endless amounts of confusion and I wish in 5.5 they will bite the bullet, and rename "Melee Weapon Attacks" something like "Melee Physical Attacks" instead.
  • They don't count as Holding a Weapon. (Which is important for some spells and Two Weapon Fighting)
  • They don't count as a Weapon Object (Because they are a body part.) This disqualifies them from Infusions or spells like Magic Weapon.
  • They don't count as Simple or Martial weapons.
  • There is no rule that gives you Proficiency in Natural Weapons.
Now remember, none of this is explicitly written down, it all had to be inferred from other rules.

And in the few printed cases where a PC gets a natural attack, they totally sidestep the issue of not having rules by either using a Creature Stat Block (which don't have to follow PC rules), or having Natural Weapons count as Unarmed Strikes (which have their own subset of rules).
 
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My question is why?
Because the game designers engineered the monster stats using the rules but then did extensive playtesting, and tweaked the stats based on the results. Not every monster in the book follows the rules in the DMG exactly.

SImply put, dire wolves are supposed to be bigger and nastier than normal wolves, so their numbers are bigger.
 

dnd4vr

Keeper of the Seven Keys
Honestly, and I apologize because I know this sounds a bit dismissive of your issue, but this is player confusion, right? Players shouldn't have to worry about any stat block of a monster, or concern themselves about how a monsters attack modifiers are done. That's the realm of the DM.

And even if players do insist on looking at stat blocks, of all the ambiguities with rpg rules, that seems a pretty minor one to get caught up in. Like most every other thing that is ambiguous, just make a ruling and carry on.
Well, it came up for two instances.

1) our party was getting horses and noticed the mistakes in the stat blocks in the MM and I looked up the errata, and

2) we were fighting dire wolves and the ranger's beast companion wolf was fighting one.

Between the players and DM, these blocks were looked up and the DM (who is normally a player) noticed the differences between the wolf types--why one seemed to be using DEX and the other STR.

Basically, we realized the wolf's bite is a "finesse" weapon attack and the dire wolf is not (using STR), but nothing in the MM has any section really about natural weapon attacks, and how some use DEX and others STR.

The player who has a monk (in our other game) commented about how it must be like how he can use DEX or STR, and another commented about how normally unarmed strikes, the humanoid equivalent of natural weapons, has to use STR. Another who has a dragonborn sorcerer (other game) with the racial feat dragon hide (for the AC) asked why he can't use his DEX for his claw attacks, since it states it adds his STR mod (which is 0) and he never uses it or even considers it.

And so a lengthy discussion ensued about the problems with having inconsistency, lack of information, and so on.
 

Todd Roybark

Explorer
But your real problem is that your just stirring the pot looking for a problem where there is none.
ccs, this is not to single you out, but the statement quoted is a prime example of behavior that we as a chat board ( myself very much included) probably should NOT engage in.

As a board we should presume good faith on the part of posters. Most people, imo, do not engage in public discourse to have shit and abuse thrown at them. Trolls excepted.

I personally think it is entirely relevant and appropriate to ask:
“ Is there a secret system undergirding monster design in 5e”

Especially given that Secret Systems of Reality are de rigueur for fantasy themes. 🤓

In regards to DM/Design Fiat, Fiat requires trust. I’ve had players express incredulity the first time they experienced a MM creatures Legendary Action.

“Because I said so” works only when trust is present.
 
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Esker

Abventuree
Basically, we realized the wolf's bite is a "finesse" weapon attack and the dire wolf is not (using STR)
The dire wolf's stat block is perfectly consistent with their natural weapon attack having the finesse property. A rogue who has higher STR than DEX can still choose to use STR for their finesse weapon attacks; and they will, since they're better that way.

As to why wolves' natural weapons have something like the finesse property, who knows? But thinking of it along the lines of what a monk can do makes sense to me: monks are supposed to have a particularly instinctive control over how they attack with their body. Makes perfect sense that a wild animal would be the same way.

No idea about the ghast's bite though. That does seem pretty weird... As it is, I guess they can choose to make a slightly more damaging attack with a slightly lower chance to hit, which I guess if you're facing someone with a low AC and high CON save (or with a low AC and very few HP) might be slightly more effective?
 

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