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
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.
You cannot legally rule that a bear is unarmed, since that would violate the constitutional right to bear arms.
 

bedir than

Explorer
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.
For races that have d6 natural weapons you think that their monks would be less effective with those than a rando on the streets?
 

Yunru

Villager
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.
Of course it doesn't, but then again, each race's Darkvision is different and specific to them, but they all match the basic mechanics of the general rule (with only the tint being different).
Is it unreasonable to expect that whatever the general rule is for natural weapons (since it's never specified) to do likewise, given that every instance of them having a specific ruling all alter Unarmed Strikes?

(at least there are monsters who do e.g. bites and unarmed attacks separately)
Sure, but there are also monsters who do bites and claws separately, or Tabaxi players under the effect of Alter Self who could do the same. Or Tabaxi players who decide they're going to headbutt someone instead of using their claws.

Three possibilities, including my vote: they are a different thing called natural weapons.

An attack with a natural weapon is a melee weapon attack, but is not an attack with a melee weapon or an unarmed attack.
But an unarmed strike is any melee weapon attack where you're not using a weapon?
 

GlassJaw

Explorer
Your poll needs a "both" option.

I am so tired of the weapon/natural weapon/unarmed strike debate. 3ed had a massive problem with this and it's been unclear ever since. I've tried to follow the errata, Sage advice, etc. and it becomes mind-numbing. I really wished they cleared up the wording in 5E. One of 5E's big missteps.

I'm at the point where I don't care. You want to cast Magic Weapon on your fists or your claws? Awesome. Let's play and roll dice.
 

Azzy

Cyclone Ranger
Since a Tabaxi's cat claws are treated as unarmed strikes (as per their description), they would naturally be able to use them with the Monk's martial arts ability. Whether other creatures can do so with their natural weapon (withou a full description) is really up to the DM. I would say they could, using the Tabaxi as a precedent.
 

Shiroiken

Adventurer
It is clearly a DM's call if they are unarmed attacks or not, since the books are unclear. The only example of a PC having natural weapons without a transmutation (that seem to have listed rules) that I've seen in a non-3PP is the Tabaxi. The Tabaxi cat claws ability clearly calls out that they can be used as an unarmed attack. A DM could believe that this sets precedent, meaning that all natural weapons are unarmed attacks, or believe that this is a case of the specific overruling the general.

It should be VERY clear that they are not weapons, since they are a part of the creature. You cannot logically disarm a natural weapon, for instance.

My personal belief is that it should be neither. When they changed Unarmed Attacks to no longer be on the weapon table, they indicated that all creatures can make Unarmed Attacks, being redundant for creatures with natural weapons (which is most of them). YMMV
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
I'll go with option C.: anybody who chooses/allows races with natural weapons to be PCs deserves what they get for choosing/allowing aberrant races.
 
But an unarmed strike is any melee weapon attack where you're not using a weapon?
I don't think so, there are many cases of melee weapon attacks:

- melee weapon
- unarmed strikes
- objects as improvised weapons
- specific spells

The "melee attacks" section of the PHB combat chapter doesn't call them "natural attacks" but mentions monsters using claws etc separately from weapons, so it could be read either way as an important or unimportant distinction. But certainly not everything which is not a weapon in chapter 5 is automatically an unarmed strike.

There is too little about "natural weapons" in the books to be sure they are their own thing to be added to the list above, but they are however mentioned explicitly so neither it's sure they aren't.
 
Since a Tabaxi's cat claws are treated as unarmed strikes (as per their description), they would naturally be able to use them with the Monk's martial arts ability. Whether other creatures can do so with their natural weapon (withou a full description) is really up to the DM. I would say they could, using the Tabaxi as a precedent.
Uhm... it rather sounds to me that the Tabaxi creates a precedent that it must be specified for a natural weapon to be usable as unarmed strikes.
 

MerricB

Eternal Optimist
Two types of weaponry produce "Melee Weapon Attacks".

* Manufactured weapons. e.g longsword, dagger,
* Natural weapons. e.g. claws, bite, unarmed strike

It is *possible* there is a third type, called an "Unarmed Strike". Urgh.

I classify unarmed strike as a natural weapon. (You can see the definition of manufactured vs. natural weapons in the Monster Manual introduction, under Actions). However, it's its own specific attack type. Either you attack with Unarmed Strike or you attack with Claw. The two are separate - you go by the title of the attack.

The trouble derives from 5E having two definitions for weapon. One is for type of attack - spell vs weapon. The other is for the item you use - whether a manufactured or natural weapon.

With the tabaxi, you have claws which grant you the ability to make an Unarmed Strike (a natural weapon) for 1d4 + Str modifier slashing damage. You still have your regular Unarmed Strikes (1 + Str modifier bludgeoning damage). The monk allows you to replace the damage die of either form or Unarmed Strike with a 1d4 or higher, depending on level, and the monk can do the bonus attack with claws or regular unarmed strikes.

Note that the tabaxi doesn't give you the ability to make a "Claw" attack, but rather an "Unarmed Strike".

The feat Savage Attacker, even post-errata, is badly worded.

Cheers!
 

Azzy

Cyclone Ranger
Uhm... it rather sounds to me that the Tabaxi creates a precedent that it must be specified for a natural weapon to be usable as unarmed strikes.
You can indeed see it that way, or that, since no other creature that has natural weapons has descriptive text that describes what natural weapons are or how they interact with other rules, that the Tabaxi's description is how natural attacks work and interact is the assumed norm rather than a special one-off as it is not contradicting any existing description or rule.
 

MerricB

Eternal Optimist
Replace "melee weapon attack" with "melee physical attack" (so physical vs spell) in Monster Manual entries, then you can make "melee physical attacks" with Unarmed Strikes, and see if the problems go away... :)
 

S'mon

Legend
5e reminds me of 1e in that it's easy to see what the intent is in any particular case, but difficult to impossible to tease out any general rule!
 
Meh... I have trouble understanding both the RAW and the RAI to be honest.

Of course, we can always resort to the RAF and allow a Warlock to summon her pact natural weapon... the claw!

[video=youtube;3Jrxyt4gzyQ]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Jrxyt4gzyQ[/video]
 
Seems pretty clear for things like a Tabaxi's Cat's Claws and a Lizardfolk's Bite. They allow for special unarmed strikes, Martial Arts modifies unarmed strikes, they don't conflict directly, so they can both work at the same time. Trying to group things into categories like Natural Weapons makes things more complicated than it should, as for player-side material the game quite consistently uses 'unarmed strikes' (even Alter Self works by modifying unarmed strikes).

I guess there could be some player hijinks with Polymorphing or Wild Shaping, but I'll deal with that when it comes to it. Considering I could conceivably DM for an entire decade without this coming up, I can live with that pretty easily.
 

Tallifer

Adventurer
For races that have d6 natural weapons you think that their monks would be less effective with those than a rando on the streets?
Well, a Monk is less effective at d4 than other players with a simple weapon. His effectiveness coems from the Flurry and the scaling damage. I guess.
 

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