Natural Weapons; What's Your Take?

Natural Weapons: Unarmed Strikes, or weapon attacks

  • Natural weapons alter unarmed strikes, and are thus usable with Martial Arts

    Votes: 15 93.8%
  • Natural weapons are weapons, and are thus usable with Pact of the Blade

    Votes: 1 6.3%

  • Total voters
    16

Yunru

Villager
So there's quite some debate over whether Natural Weapons work with Martial Arts.
It can be boiled down to two possibilities: They alter unarmed strikes (as with every instance of a PC getting them), or they're weapons (since every instance of a PC getting them could be considered just a lot of specific rules).

So I want to ask you, which do you feel it is?
 

Krachek

Explorer
I dont have enough juridical expertise to answer that kind of question,
And my lawyer don’t take call on Sunday.
 

S'mon

Legend
Because that would be impossible, as they're used to make melee weapon attacks.

Now if you'd asked me why not both... I wouldn't have an answer for you.
AFAICS natural weapon attacks (eg a Beast's attack routine) in 5e RAW are neither unarmed strikes NOR weapon attacks. And yet they clearly exist! Eppur Si Muove.

Edit: IMC there's a legendary item, the Dragon Gauntlets, that allows a beast/dragon-type attack
routine as an Attack (it's Claw/Claw/if both hit then Rend). Used by a typical 2-attack PC it allows use of the routine 2/round, but in theory a Ftr-20 could do it 4 times per round, or 8 with Action Surge. Obviously this a house-created (very powerful) item though.
 
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Yunru

Villager
AFAICS natural weapon attacks (eg a Beast's attack routine) in 5e RAW are neither unarmed strikes NOR weapon attacks. And yet they clearly exist! Eppur Si Muove.
Oh they're definitely weapon attacks when made by NPCs, it says so in their stat box. And they modify Unarmed Strike for PCs (see Alter Self or one of the player races with them like Tabaxi). I know I support option 1 because of this and Occam's Razor.
 

S'mon

Legend
Oh they're definitely weapon attacks when made by NPCs, it says so in their stat box. And they modify Unarmed Strike for PCs (see Alter Self or one of the player races with them like Tabaxi). I know I support option 1 because of this and Occam's Razor.
Alter Self indeed modifies PC Unarmed Strike, but doesn't create an attack routine. Alter Self or Tabaxi claw can clearly be used with Monk abilities. Unlike say being Wildshaped into bear form, where the form's attack routine replaces your class abilities.

That's my understanding & how I run it, anyway.
 

Yunru

Villager
Alter Self indeed modifies PC Unarmed Strike, but doesn't create an attack routine. Alter Self or Tabaxi claw can clearly be used with Monk abilities. Unlike say being Wildshaped into bear form, where the form's attack routine replaces your class abilities.

That's my understanding & how I run it, anyway.
Where's this "attack routine" thing coming from?
What is this "attack routine"?
 

S'mon

Legend
Where's this "attack routine" thing coming from?
What is this "attack routine"?
Claw/Claw/Bite, Claw/Bite, Claw/Claw/Rend. That sort of thing. Animals often get these multi-attack routines that are not intended to stack with PC class abilities.
 

Yunru

Villager
Claw/Claw/Bite, Claw/Bite, Claw/Claw/Rend. That sort of thing. Animals often get these multi-attack routines that are not intended to stack with PC class abilities.
... Multiattack is an action.
Claw, Bite and Rend are all separate attacks.
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
I picked the first option since it's closer to accurate, but the real answer is "neither."

First, I don't think "natural weapons" is a term in 5E, so you're kind of asking about the game-mechanical meaning of something with no game-mechanical meaning. That makes it harder to give a clear RAW answer. But, I think everyone here knows exactly what you mean, and as a concept I think "natural weapons" makes sense to most people. It's just that as a category, "natural weapons" covers two distinct things in 5E, not one thing:

1. Natural weapons that say they are unarmed strikes count as unarmed strikes, e.g. the aarakocra, lizardfolk, and tabaxi traits, and the effects of alter self. I mean, they use the words "unarmed strike" right there in the description. So they're usable with Martial Arts.

2. Monster actions that don't say they are unarmed strikes, aren't. So they don't work with Martial Arts. BUT... they're not weapons either, they're weapon attacks. Just like an unarmed strike is a weapon attack that doesn't use a weapon, a brown bear can use its Claws to make a weapon attack without actually using a weapon. So it doesn't work with Pact of the Blade either, nor can you target the bear's claws with magic weapon, etc. I can't find anything in the rules to suggest that the only two possible sources of weapon attacks are weapons and unarmed strikes, so it seems to me that "natural weapons that aren't unarmed strikes but not weapons either" should be a valid category of things that can make weapon attacks.

Now, if we want, we could get absurd and say that by this logic, a knight's Greatsword action isn't a weapon either, because it doesn't say it's a weapon. But since the word "greatsword" is literally a type of weapon, I think it's best to assume that the ability name conveys the additional information that, yes, this is a weapon, not just a weapon attack. So you could kill the knight, loot her greatsword, and attack with it. But if you kill a bear and loot his claws, you can't attack with them, except as an improvised weapon, because they're not actually a weapon, they're his fingernails. He can make a Claws weapon attack with them, but you can't.

OTOH, we could lean on "natural language" to rule that the bear is unarmed (we just established that he didn't have a weapon) and he's striking with his claws, therefore, by definition, he is making an unarmed strike. I think that's a valid interpretation, and it would allow the bear (or someone Wild Shaped into a bear) to use Martial Arts with the Claws attack. But I don't think that's the intention. Because by that same rationale you could claim that a monk's unarmed strikes were being used as weapons and are therefore usable with Pact of the Blade and other weapon-related spells, which can lead to some weird interactions, like applying alchemical silver to your fists. Which would I think would be a valid interpretation, and lots of fun for certain play-styles. But...

If you are looking for the best answer for "baseline, lowest-common-denominator D&D" then it seems to me that monster weapon attacks are neither unarmed strikes nor weapons unless they say so.
 

Draegn

Explorer
I have natural weapons as a special weapons skill that those who can shape shift can learn. It also applies to beasts, for, older more experienced beasts are deadlier foes compared to cubs and yearlings. If your players came across a band of carnivorous apes which would they target first, the babies, mothers, juvenile males or the silver back?
 
Oh they're definitely weapon attacks when made by NPCs, it says so in their stat box. And they modify Unarmed Strike for PCs (see Alter Self or one of the player races with them like Tabaxi). I know I support option 1 because of this and Occam's Razor.
I don't think that Alter Self creates a general rule for the game.

The game is exception-based so if only Alter Self says that your unarmed strikes damage increase, it means it's a specific benefit of Alter Self.
 

Satyrn

Villager
I can't answer this poll. The second answer is a non-sequiter (am I using that right?) to me.

I really don't think whether the natural weapon counts as a weapon or not matters to whether it can be used with the Pact. The Pact is clearly all about a weapon that is separate from the warlock, and so even if natural attacks are weapons, they're still not weapons that play nice with Pact of the Blade.
 
I picked the first option since it's closer to accurate, but the real answer is "neither."

First, I don't think "natural weapons" is a term in 5E, so you're kind of asking about the game-mechanical meaning of something with no game-mechanical meaning. That makes it harder to give a clear RAW answer.

...

If you are looking for the best answer for "baseline, lowest-common-denominator D&D" then it seems to me that monster weapon attacks are neither unarmed strikes nor weapons unless they say so.
Well "natural weapons" definitely ARE mentioned in the MM!

But indeed it's not easy to interpret the RAW on this case.

My first feeling is the same as yours, that natural weapons are not unarmed strikes (at least there are monsters who do e.g. bites and unarmed attacks separately), but also aren't necessarily weapons. A monster does melee weapon attacks with its natural weapons but so does a caster with a spell sometimes...

In the specific case of the Warlock, I think the pact weapon is supposed to be a separate object, but that's the RAI, and the RAW doesn't necessarily make it illegal to count a natural weapon as a specific kind of weapon, but still a weapon...
 

Satyrn

Villager
I'd also like to mention that if you don't count natural weapons as unarmed, then your better treat them as simple melee weapons, or any Monk with a natural attack is hosed out of his core feature.

Martial Arts only works "while you are unarmed or wielding only monk weapons."

So, if you want a tabaxi monk to work, a natural attack must be an unarmed strike, a simple melee weapon, or a short sword.
 
I'd also like to mention that if you don't count natural weapons as unarmed, then your better treat them as simple melee weapons, or any Monk with a natural attack is hosed out of his core feature.

Martial Arts only works "while you are unarmed or wielding only monk weapons."

So, if you want a tabaxi monk to work, a natural attack must be an unarmed strike, a simple melee weapon, or a short sword.
Why? I don't think you "wield" your natural weapons, just like you don't "wear" your natural armor.

But if that had to be the case, I'd rather rule that tabaxi monks don't work than to be forced to rule something more general.
 

Satyrn

Villager
Why? I don't think you "wield" your natural weapons, just like you don't "wear" your natural armor.

But if that had to be the case, I'd rather rule that tabaxi monks don't work than to be forced to rule something more general.
I just have a real hard time not thinking my cat is wielding his claws when he can so readily lash out with them when I disturb his sleep. :uhoh:

That said, this whole poll is unanswerable for me. Like I think the claws simply shouldn't work with Pact of the Blade because the feature is clearly about a material item, there's no way I wouldn't count the claws as a monk weapon since a hefty part of Martial Arts is about using your body itself as the weapon and a natural weapon is definitely a part of your body.
 

Dausuul

Legend
Natural weapons are weapons, and cannot be used with Pact of the Blade, which specifies that its weapon options are listed in Chapter 5 of the PHB.

(Exception: If you can somehow make your natural weapons magical, you could then transform one into your pact weapon, per the third paragraph.)
 

Tallifer

Adventurer
I suppose a monk could use Natural Weapons such as his claws, but the damage and number of attacks would revert to whatever his Class Feature prescribes at that level.
 

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