5E PHB Errata Nerf Unarmed Strikes!? WHY??? :(

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Knuckledusters are unquestionably weapons. If you don’t agree, try taking one on an airplane and see what happens. A gauntlet is definitely not clothing, at minimum it’s armor. But, when used to punch someone? It’s as much of a weapon as a cestus is. It’s basically a metal cestus. If you want to argue that neither is a weapon, that’d be a stronger argument, but given that the point of a cestus is to increase the harm done by a punch, same as a knuckleduster or a push dagger, I would still disagree.
The purpose helps define what it is.

Armor is a type of clothing.

A cestus is a weapon because it’s purpose is to hit people with it in order to hurt them real good. It’s also not a weapon in that it is instead an item that enhances an unarmed attack.

If a gauntlet is a weapon, then punching with one on becomes an attack with an improvised weapon. But it isn’t, anymore than simple leather gloves or hand wraps are.
 
The purpose helps define what it is.
Okay.

Armor is a type of clothing.
But you just said that the purpose helps to define what it is, and the purpose of armour is not the same as the purpose of clothing. Usually you wear armour and clothing, not instead of (certain unrealistic fantasy art notwithstanding).

A cestus is a weapon because it’s purpose is to hit people with it in order to hurt them real good.
Correct.

It’s also not a weapon in that it is instead an item that enhances an unarmed attack.
You just said it was a weapon. It cannot be both a weapon and not a weapon.

And it "enhances an unarmed attack" in the same way a dagger, club, axe or sword enhances and unarmed attack.

If a gauntlet is a weapon, then punching with one on becomes an attack with an improvised weapon. But it isn’t,
Yes it is, you just said so yourself. A cestus is a weapon because it's purpose is to inflict damage, and a gauntlet is an improvised cestus.
anymore than simple leather gloves or hand wraps are.
You said yourself, purpose defines what it is. If the purpose of the hand wraps is to protect the fist from injury it is protective clothing, not a weapon. If the purpose of the hand wraps is to increase damage to the thing you are punching (e.g. you attach nails) it is a weapon.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
You just said it was a weapon. It cannot be both a weapon and not a weapon.
That assumes that all these categories are mutually exclusive, which doesn't seem to have been explicitly agreed upon.

In English... one object may fit in several categories of things. The world is ambiguous. You just kind of have to deal with the edge cases, and move on.

If the purpose of the hand wraps is to increase damage to the thing you are punching (e.g. you attach nails) it is a weapon.
And... if the hand wraps don't have the effect of increase damage to a thing you are punching?

And... there seems to be a bit of a weirdness, in that most weapoins don't increase damage, so much as they allow damage. A sword does not "increase damage you do when waving your arms around." It enables you to stab and slash people, which you really couldn't do effectively on your own.

Why should "increase damage" and "enable damage" necessarily be in the same category?
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
That assumes that all these categories are mutually exclusive, which doesn't seem to have been explicitly agreed upon.

In English... one object may fit in several categories of things. The world is ambiguous. You just kind of have to deal with the edge cases, and move on.
”A weapon” and “not a weapon” are mutually exclusive categories though. An object can be a weapon and also be something that is not a weapon. A knife, for instance, is a weapon and it is also a tool. But an object can’t both be a weapon and not be a weapon. I would argue that a gauntlet is armor, but it can also be a weapon, if you use it like a cestus or a knuckleduster, two things that are pretty inarguably weapons. I’d consider it an improvised weapon, since unlike caestus and knuckledusters, a gauntlet is not built for the purpose of being used as a weapon. In much the same way that a baseball bat (or cricket bat, croquet mallet... whatever sports tool you like) is not built to be used as a weapon, but can be used as one.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
Gauntlet in the sense of metal glove (part of chain or plate armor) is a weapon.

For example, D&D 4e lists ‘gauntlet’ as a weapon, if I remember correctly an improvised weapon, on the weapons tables.
 

Bacon Bits

Explorer
That assumes that all these categories are mutually exclusive, which doesn't seem to have been explicitly agreed upon.
That's rather the point they're making. As far as being a weapon goes, a gauntlet is functionally identical to a cestus. Historical gauntlets (e.g., the first two examples here) even had knuckle ridges to make them effective for striking. It's not a mistake that they resemble brass knuckles. Compare that to this Hellenistic depiction of the cestus.

Rather than saying that a gauntlet counts as a cestus, I think it's more appropriate to say that the cestus was a type of gauntlet that was not intended for protection of the hands.

And... if the hand wraps don't have the effect of increase damage to a thing you are punching?
I find that unlikely, given that people have used things as mundane as a roll of quarters to increase the damage they deal with their punches. Gauntlets have been listed as weapons in D&D in the past. I would say the lack of a listing in 5e to be the result of simplification than some desire to correct previous misconceptions. Historically gamewise, unarmed strikes did no damage at all, or did "nonlethal" damage in some editions. Gauntlets, as presented in every edition that I'm aware that they appear in, are presented as dealing 1d3 or 1d2 "lethal" or actual damage.

I'm also fairly sure that spiked gauntlets have been presented before. Or, as I've mentioned elsewhere, what about the Battlerager's spiked armor?

And... there seems to be a bit of a weirdness, in that most weapons don't increase damage, so much as they allow damage.
I don't buy that reasoning. After all, every humanoid can make an unarmed attack which deals 1 + Str mod damage (unless stated otherwise, of course).
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I find that unlikely, given that people have used things as mundane as a roll of quarters to increase the damage they deal with their punches.
And, on the other hand, folks in the upper levels of my dojo used to wrap their hands specifically to protect their knuckles and support their wrist joints, not to increase damage - since they were supposed to be doing no damage at all in sparring. So, "hand wrap" and "damage" are not synonymous by any means.

It would seem to me that "gauntlet" is a very general term - you can, as a practical matter, have things on your hands to protect your hands, have things on your hands to do extra damage when you hit, or both, or neither - you can find lightweight lether gloves that are called "gauntlets" that serve no appreciable combat purpose.

You can imagine a listing for "gauntlet" on a weapon table, and on an armor table (not that 5e does much with piecemeal armor, but whatever). Your character gear may use the listing on one, the other, both, or neither.

If all gauntlets in your game are the same, mechanically, that's fine. I don't see a reason to argue that everyone should use just your version, or just some other person's version.
 

Bacon Bits

Explorer
And, on the other hand, folks in the upper levels of my dojo used to wrap their hands specifically to protect their knuckles and support their wrist joints, not to increase damage - since they were supposed to be doing no damage at all in sparring. So, "hand wrap" and "damage" are not synonymous by any means.
Calling a cestus "just hand wraps" is rather disingenuous. You know what a cestus looks like. They evolved from leather wraps to include metal plates or weights so they would be more useful as a weapon. That point really isn't debated from a historical perspective: they were the way they were because they were intended to be used as weapons. That's what made them a cestus instead of "just hand wraps." It's the equivalent of boxing with loaded gloves or fighting with sap gloves or using brass knuckles. They're all modified specifically to cause more damage.

Metal gauntlets, while less expressly intended to be used as weapons, are, by their nature, constructed similarly to a cestus. They're padded or worn over padding, and the armoring necessary to provide the protection against lethal attacks means the have extra weight and hardness you'd find with a cestus. Further, they were historically known to be designed with features that make hand strikes more effective because the opportunity cost of doing so is so low relative to the cost of the armor itself.

If all gauntlets in your game are the same, mechanically, that's fine. I don't see a reason to argue that everyone should use just your version, or just some other person's version.
Er, that's not the point. The ultimate point is that Crawford's justification for the errata doesn't make sense. The argument where this point comes from, as far as I remember, is trying to determine if a character wearing metal gauntlets can benefit from the Duelist fighting style ("When you are wielding a melee weapon in one hand and no other weapons..."). If you say that using a wielding longsword and wearing (not attacking with) gauntlet allows you to benefit from Duelist, while wielding a longsword and a wearing (not attacking with) a cestus does not allow you to benefit from Duelist, then you're being arbitrary in your distinctions. There's very little distinction practically between a cestus and a gauntlet.

The whole point is that the ruling that "Unarmed strikes aren't a weapon" is not required for the rules to make sense, which is kind of what Crawford implied when he made the errata and others here claimed. If the rules are just completely arbitrary and not remotely based on reality, that's extremely gamist and will break immersion for some people because the game world stops making sense. I'd even go so far as to say that 5e generally takes steps to avoid gamist interpretations that break immersion.

The point isn't about trying to draw a line between a gauntlet and a cestus, separating or dividing them as you see fit. It's that there are lots of corner cases like Battlerager spiked armor, races that have natural weapons, polearm master with a spear, staves as spellcasting focuses, improvised weapons, striking with the pommel of a weapon, etc. where you "have a weapon" and "don't have a weapon" at the same time. These corner cases make it a lot more muddied to say "unarmed strikes aren't weapons," particularly if you want to argue that the game rules require that rule to function. The whole "is a weapon"/"isn't a weapon" distinction doesn't make much sense in general and unless you marry yourself to the strictest most literal reading of the rules, and that just isn't necessary if you're not an armchair DM.

Bottom line, if what players are doing is mathematically less powerful or makes sense based on what the mechanics are supposed to represent, why are you making rules against it? If the rule has no meaningful goal, what are you fixing? Why do you want more rules that don't have a point? Why do you care if magic weapon can target the Monk's or Fighter's fists? Is that really a meaningful restriction for balance purposes? It really seems pretty unlikely. "Because I want it like that," is a pretty poor justification for a rule, even coming from Crawford and Mearls.
 

coolAlias

Explorer
Not sure if this is entirely on topic, but one idea I find intriguing but haven't yet had the chance to try is to allow characters to fluff their weapon attacks however they like.

I see no reason to punish someone mechanically for saying "I kick at his knees and then attempt to drive my sword through his chest" vs. "I attack twice with my longsword." If they can make two longsword attacks, might as well let them imagine how that plays out in a more interesting way if they choose, rather than "oh well a kick from you is an unarmed strike at best, since you're just a measly fighter, so 1 + Str if you hit with that and no other effect."
 

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