What is the proper way to refer to non-spell attacks in D&D 5e? "Non-spell" attacks doesn't seem right.

I'm looking for a term that includes attacks made with a melee weapon, a ranged weapon, an improvised weapon, and unarmed strikes.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ If you share with us more about the context, the answers will be more likely to be relevant to your problem. \$\endgroup\$
    – Szega
    Feb 16, 2018 at 16:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you looking for a way to describe them mechanically (according to the rules) or in-fiction (narratively describing it to players/characters in the story)? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 16, 2018 at 17:07

2 Answers 2


"Weapon Attacks"

Attacks that are not "spell attacks" are necessarily "weapon attacks".

Even attacks that aren't made with a weapon can be weapon attacks.

As an example, the vampire's Unarmed Strike action on page 353 of the SRD (direct PDF) is listed as a "Melee Weapon Attack".

Sage Advice

Jeremy Crawford, lead rules designer of Dungeons & Dragons, confirmed on Twitter that "every attack is either a weapon attack or a spell attack."

  • \$\begingroup\$ Except for the attacks that are neither spell nor weapon (e.g. unarmed attacks, claw attacks, shove etc.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Feb 16, 2018 at 23:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ unarmed is an attack with a natural weapon instead of with a tool. still a weapon attack, claws, teeth. fist. etc. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jasen
    Feb 16, 2018 at 23:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Unarmed attacks are melee weapon attacks made with a non-weapon. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jul 1, 2018 at 0:32
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Also, there are two exceptions to this: shoves and grapples. Both are described in the rules as "special melee attacks". Besides such exceptions, though, the answer is correct. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jan 10, 2019 at 23:25

All the given examples are considered 'weapon attacks'.

Even unarmed strikes are considered melee weapon attacks; see the following quote from the Sage Advice Compendium:

Some attacks count as a melee or ranged weapon attack even if a weapon isn’t involved, as specified in the text of those attacks. For example, an unarmed strike counts as a melee weapon attack, even though the attacker’s body isn’t considered a weapon.

Ultimately, there are (currently) only two types of attacks: spell attacks and weapon attacks. Everything that isn't a spell attack is a weapon attack, and vice versa.

If I understand it correctly, there are weapon attacks and there are spell attacks and that covers all attacks. So if an attack isn't one, it's the other.

@MadDuckie, 12 Jan 2018

This is correct: every attack is either a weapon attack or a spell attack. #DnD

@JeremyECrawford, 12 Jan 2018


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