The jovial atmosphere of the Stag’s Head changed rather suddenly. First there clearly was shouting, then a clattering of cutlery, and finally more shouts, jeers and grunts of a suitable tavern brawl. Most drunks just waved their arms like off-axis windmills, doing more shock than bodily injury to the unlucky recipient. But Devril, now he was different. When the mood changed and the chairs took flight, he was a force of nature, fists like meaty boulders and a at once his shoulders that knew how to put them to work. By the conclusion of the night time all was quiet again, patrons drunk and aching on to the floor, as Devril drained the last of his ale with wrapped hands.
Sometimes you could find yourself with no weapon handy, playing a hand-to-hand specialist just like a Monk, or really wanting to headbutt the individual facing you, all this means it is additionally vital to make an unarmed strike , so let’s go through the ins and outs of socking it to ‘em.
How Do Unarmed Strikes Work in 5e?
An unarmed strike can be an attack with an integral part of your system, such as a punch, kick, headbutt or some other forceful blow. You’re always proficient with your unarmed strikes , which are melee weapon attacks and deal 1+ your Strength modifier. Whilst the damage for unarmed strikes is really a flat number not really a die, they cannot gain additional damage from critical hits. When you have a negative Str modifier then you definitely can do 0 damage on a winner with your unarmed strike unless you can add injury to it from elsewhere, such as for example the DnD 5E Languages.
An important distinction is that whilst unarmed strikes are melee weapon attacks, your system does not count as a weapon unless you have a characteristic which explicitly says it does, e.g. like the Path of the Beast Barbarian’s natural weapons. This really is weird and confusing but stems from melee attacks being forced to fall into one of two categories:
- Melee weapon attack – A real attack that uses Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution for the attack and damage modifiers unless you have a characteristic that enables a mental ability score to be utilized instead. The Attack action uses this sort of attack if you are within melee range. On rare occasions a spell might specify this sort of attack in place of a spell attack, like Booming Blade.
- Melee spell attack – An attack developed by a spell or feature, that uses your spellcasting modifier for the attack roll and the damage modifier if you have one. Spells like Shocking Grasp and Vampiric Touch use melee spell attacks.
An unarmed strike isn’t a spell or magical feature and is used with the attack action, so that it needs to fall under melee weapon attack, even though you’re not employing a real weapon. This really is important, as some spells and abilities only need a melee weapon attack, whereas others may require an attack by having an actual melee weapon.
A good example of this is the Paladin:
Divine Smite requires you hit a creature with a melee weapon attack, so you should use it by having an unarmed strike.
Improved Divine Smite requires you hit a creature with a melee weapon, thus you wouldn’t benefit from the extra damage on unarmed strikes.
This also relates to spells like Magic Weapon, you wouldn’t be able to use it to improve your unarmed strikes like you might with a weapon just like a longsword.
How Can You Improve Your Unarmed Strike Damage?
One of the easiest ways to enhance your Unarmed Strike is to improve the damage from an appartment 1 to a die. This not just increases your average and maximum damage, but in addition lets you benefit from the extra damage critical hits can provide.
Note – I won’t enter into additional damage modifiers which are suitable for unarmed strikes (like Divine Smite and Hunter’s Mark) here, this list is purely to enhance the unarmed strike in its base form.
Anything marked with * isn’t considered as making an unarmed attack, but is roofed within the list for completeness as it fits the imagery of an unarmed strike.
- Monk – At 1st level, the Monk’s Martial Arts feature lets you use Dexterity for the unarmed strikes and allows you to use a d4 for damage, leveling up as a Monk provides a larger die size at every new tier, letting you to go as high as a d10 at 17th level. This feature also lets you make an unarmed strike as an added bonus action, so long as you meet the requirements of the Martial Arts feature.
- Alter Self (spell) – You should use this spell to give yourself an all natural weapon that’ll deal 1d6 + Str, along with adding +1 to the natural weapon’s Attack Bonus and damage, and this weapon is considered magical. The damage type because of this weapon is bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing according to what is right for the type of weapon created, e.g. slashing for claws.
- Tavern Brawler (feat) – This feat increase your injury to 1d4, and lets you grapple as an added bonus action if you hit a creature by having an unarmed strike using your action.
- Dragon Hide (feat: Dragonborn only) – In addition to its main benefits, this feat offers you retractable claws you should use for unarmed strikes , increasing the injury to a d4.
- Insignia of Claws (magic item) – This magic item offers you a +1 to attack and damage rolls with unarmed strikes and natural weapons, making them magical as a result.
- Eldritch Claw Tattoo (magic item) – Like the Insignia, this Tattoo makes your unarmed strikes magical and adds +1 to attacks and damage. Additionally, once each day you are able to empower your unarmed strikes as an added bonus action, increasing the range from 5 feet to 15 feet and adding yet another 1d6 force injury to each hit. Unlike the Insignia, this can not affect an all natural weapon unless it can be useful for unarmed strikes.
Races offering natural weapons:
- Aarakocra – Talons that deal 1d4 + Str slashing damage.
- Centaur – Hooves that deal 1d4 + Str bludgeoning damage.
- Dhampir* – A bite that deals 1d4 + Con piercing damage.
- Leonin – Claws that deal 1d4 + Str slashing damage.
- Lizardfolk – Bite that deals 1d6 + Str bludgeoning damage; can make an added bonus action bite once per rest that grants temp hp corresponding to your Con mod.
- Minotaur – Horns that deal 1d6 + Str piercing damage; lets you create a bonus action attack whenever you take the Dash action.
- Satyr – Horns that deal 1d4 + Str bludgeoning damage,
- Shifter (Longtooth) – Fangs that deal 1d6 + Str piercing damage as an added bonus action whilst shifted. It’s not explicitly stated these can be utilized for the action in the text, so make sure to check with your DM.
- Tabaxi – Claws that deal 1d4 + Str slashing damage.
- Tortle – Claws that deal 1d4 + Str slashing damage, and yes, a wasted opportunity to produce them snapping Tortles.