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I have a barbarian who has 2 natural claw attacks.

Do these attacks count as Unarmed or is there a difference between the two?

I'm asking because I'm considering giving him the Improved Unarmed Strike Feat and the Feral Combat Training Feats. Would these work together or not?

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2 Answers

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An Unarmed Strike is (kind of)1 a natural weapon.

Not all natural weapons are Unarmed Strikes.

Natural weapon is a category of weapon, which includes Bites, Claws, Slams, Stings, Tail Slaps, and yes, Unarmed Strikes (sort of).1 Improved Unarmed Strike improves only Unarmed Strikes, not the rest. Improved Natural Attack can improve any one natural weapon, except not Unarmed Strikes because Paizo hates Monks even more than Wizards did.

Note that Feral Combat Training changes this somewhat, however. Improved Unarmed Strike itself still doesn’t apply to natural weapon other than Unarmed Strikes, but anything that has Improved Unarmed Strike as a prerequisite does apply to all natural weapons when you have Feral Combat Training, even if usually they only apply to Unarmed Strikes.

Ultimately, you’re burning two feats to absolutely no effect other than possibly making other feats work. If you found some really good feats that improve Unarmed Strikes, it might be worth it, but I doubt it. That’s a ton of feats. And honestly, I think a good DM should just let most Unarmed Strike-improving feats work for other natural weapons; this is not exactly a high-power strategy here. A two-feat tax is wholly unnecessary.

1 I say “kind of” because Unarmed Strikes are really weird. They mostly follow the rules for manufactured weapons, not natural weapons (e.g. you get iteratives, you don’t get multiple Unarmed Strikes, etc.), but most spells and feats treat Unarmed Strikes as natural weapons. And on top of that, Paizo put a further restriction on Improved Natural Attack to prevent it from working with Unarmed Strikes. So Unarmed Strikes are very much a weird hybrid case. In any event, Claw attacks are not Unarmed Strike attacks.

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They are different thing. With a natural attack you are never considered unarmed. So the Improved Unarmed Strike feat by itself does nothing while you have natural weapons.

The Feral Combat Training feat does not change this. But: Feats that have Improved Unarmed Strike as a prerequisite (like e.g. Deflect Arrows) are usually only usable with unarmed strikes. So you may Deflect Arrows while you have natural weapons with the Feral Combat Training Feat.

TL/DR:

Do these attacks count as Unarmed or is there a difference between the two?

No, they don't count as unarmed and there is a difference between them.

Would these work together or not

No. Though feats that have Improved Unarmed Strike as a Prerequisite would work with your natural weapons.

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