Specifically, in D&D 5e is the Flameskull allowed to take opportunity attacks against enemies that move away from it? It has spells and one at-will spell attack (Fire Ray), but no melee abilities in the stat block.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ no melee attacks? "Merely a flesh wound! Come back here! I'll bite your kneecaps! Come back and fight, you coward!" \$\endgroup\$
    – CaM
    May 31, 2017 at 18:54

3 Answers 3


Yes, but why it can isn't immediately obvious, though in the case of a Flameskull it's pretty impotent

To make an opportunity attack the monster needs to be able to make a melee attack (PHB, p. 195):

To make the opportunity attack, you use your reaction to make one melee attack against the provoking creature.

Although a Flameskull has no melee attack actions in its stat block, a monster does have some options for actions that aren't in its stat block (Monster Manual, p. 10; emphasis mine):

When a monster takes its action, it can choose from the options in the Actions section of its stat block or use one of the actions available to all creatures, such as the Dash or Hide action, as described in the Player's Handbook.

The question then becomes, is there anything the Flameskull can do with “actions available to all creatures” that would allow it to make a melee attack, and hence an opportunity attack?

It can make an unarmed attack

As far as I can see, the only clear option for making the necessary melee attack available in the “actions available to all creatures”, for a creature that doesn't have a melee attack action in its stat block, is making an unarmed attack. Nothing about the Flameskull prevents making an unarmed attack, since an unarmed attack can be made with any body part, including the head. (Note that per the PHB errata, creatures always have proficiency with their unarmed strikes.)

So in general, monsters without melee attacks in their stat blocks do have a means of making opportunity attacks.

However, bad news for the Flameskull: this would do the normal damage for an unarmed attack, which is 1 point of bludgeoning damage, plus any strength modifier. But since the Flameskull has a −5 strength modifier and the damage from a successful attack can be zero, that means it can make the attack but it's guaranteed to do zero damage.

Basically, the Flameskull can gently headbutt you if you provoke an opportunity attack from it. (D'aww, isn't it adorable?)

It may be able to grapple you, too

Although Sage Advice clarifies that grappling can only be done by using the Attack action on your turn (or Ready to prepare a grapple off your turn), not as an opportunity attack, some DMs may overrule that and allow grabbing someone as a opportunity attack in their games. (I do, since it just makes sense to me that you could try to snag someone as they try to run past you.)

Assuming then that you're in a game where grappling can be done as an opportunity attack, the Flameskull also has that option. (The same Sage Advice Compendium clarifies that creatures without hands could use teeth instead.) It's not very strong (Str 1) so it's unlikely to successfully grapple for long or to much effect, but it can try.

So the Flameskull can futilely headbutt you, or (maybe, depending on DM) grab you with its teeth. Fun!

  • 12
    \$\begingroup\$ I was going to dispute this answer at first but then I remembered it's essentially the same as saying "Every Pokemon can learn 'Tackle' (which i'm not sure is really true but whatever)". Yeah it doesn't have a melee attack listed, but "Throw [self] at [target]" is always an option, however stupid/hilarious. \$\endgroup\$ May 31, 2017 at 17:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ "I can easily see DMs splitting down the middle on that point." Will the DM reform into two DMs once split down the middle? What are the chances of them agreeing? Can they further subdivide? \$\endgroup\$ May 31, 2017 at 17:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ "The attack would likely not be made with proficiency though." Why? Creatures are proficient with their unarmed strikes. \$\endgroup\$
    – Doval
    Jun 1, 2017 at 9:16
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Doval Oh thanks! A memory lapse — I actually checked the PHB before adding that, but I'd forgotten that it was errata'd later to give everyone proficiency with unarmed strikes. Fixed! \$\endgroup\$ Jun 1, 2017 at 17:23
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The question of what monsters can do as opportunity attacks is now addressed in the 2019 Sage Advice Compendium. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jan 30, 2019 at 20:13


Opportunity attacks are defined as follows (emphasis mine):

To make the opportunity attack, you use your reaction to make one melee attack against the provoking creature. The attack occurs right before the creature leaves your reach.

The Flameskull lacks any special ability which gives it extra options for how it makes opportunity attacks. As a result, it follows the same basic rules that the PCs do, as defined above. Thus, since the creature has no melee attack, it cannot make an opportunity attack.



An opportunity attack must be a melee attack.

Opportunity Attacks

To make the opportunity attack, you use your reaction to make one melee attack against the provoking creature.

However, under the entry for the Flameskull's actions.

Fire Ray. Ranged Spell Attack

And under it's other abilities the only other attacks listed are under the entry spellcasting. There it does not have a melee attack spell; all the attack spells are ranged attack spells.

Spellcasting. .... mage hand, magic missile, shield, blur, flaming sphere, fireball

So the Flameskull has no melee attacks, and therefore cannot make opportunity attacks.


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