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The Monster Manual lists skeleton damage for swords and short bows.

If a skeleton is disarmed, how much damage does it do?

Unarmed Strike is listed as a melee weapon on p.190 of the Player’s Handbook that does 1 bludgeoning damage.

Under using Ability Scores under Strength, it says, "You add your Strength modifier to your attack roll and your damage roll when attacking with a melee weapon ..."

As noted previously, there are often discrepancies between a monster’s stats and PCs stats with weapons. A skeleton’s attack and damage with swords and short bows have +4 modifiers to hit and +2 to damage even though its strength is listed as 10.

Do the +4/+2 modifier discrepancies carry over to its unarmed attacks too - or does one just use its base strength modifier (thus making its bludgeoning attacks 1 damage)?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you sure this is the correct link?.. It's not like I am mad or something. \$\endgroup\$ – AntiDrondert Mar 14 '18 at 12:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AntiDrondert Fixed \$\endgroup\$ – Praxiteles Mar 14 '18 at 17:45
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It should deal 1 damage.

The +4 attack and +2 damage modifiers for the skeleton's shortbow (ranged) and shortsword (melee but finesse) attacks are consistent with its +2 DEX modifier and a proficiency bonus of +2.

Since it has a +0 STR modifier and in general unarmed strikes deal 1 + STR bludgeoning damage (in the absence of any special features), its unarmed strike should have +2 to attack (+0 STR with +2 proficiency bonus) and deal 1 bludgeoning damage (1 + 0 STR).

...With the caveat that reverse-engineering monster statistics is technically guesswork even when the math seems clear and consistent. It's impossible to know exactly what the designers intended in the absence of any explicit statements on their part: sometimes the attack and damage modifiers aren't perfectly consistent with a monster's STR and DEX mods. However, in most cases a straightforward application of the monster creation guidelines in the Dungeon Master's Guide yields reasonable and consistent results. I believe this is one off those clear and consistent cases.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I would say with 95% certainty that it is meant for skeletons to have a +2 mod to proficiency and agree with this answer. +1 \$\endgroup\$ – Jihelu Jan 13 '18 at 23:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jihelu we can know with 100% certainty that skeleton has +2 proficiency bonus: see MM p.8. (The MM intro is a great bit of hidden system-info.) \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jan 14 '18 at 0:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's not actually guaranteed. There are a few monsters in the MM that violate that table. I'd say we're at 99% certain, especially for something super basic and uncomplicated like a skeleton. \$\endgroup\$ – Bloodcinder Jan 14 '18 at 2:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Bloodcinder fair enough. Still, that's an 80% reduction in uncertainty =) \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jan 14 '18 at 3:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ Keep in mind that the CR of an unarmed skeleton would be much lower than a regular skeleton. Using 1-dot-encounter-planner.appspot.com/quick-monster-stats.html it looks like you should drop the CR to 1/8. It's barely a threat unless there are a lot of them. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Brown Jan 15 '18 at 21:44

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