Plane Shift: Ixalan includes the race vampire that possesses the trait bloodthirst that, in part, says

You can drain blood and life energy from a willing creature, or one that is grappled by you, incapacitated, or restrained. Make a melee attack against the target. If you hit, you deal 1 piercing damage and 1d6 necrotic damage. (14)

  1. Can this melee attack include melee attacks using weapons and spells?
  2. Is this a special "melee attack" as per shove or trip?
  3. What would be the modifier for the "melee attack" if there is one?

2 Answers 2

  1. No

The syntax is ambiguous but given the text of the effect it seems safe to assume this is not a weapon/spell attack as it gives a specific result (even if you rule that you can use a weapon it would still have the exact effect given: 1 piercing and 1d6 necrotic so it would be a moot point). Plus, thematically this is clearly supposed to represent a bite attack.

  1. Yes. See point 1

  2. 1d20 + proficiency bonus + Strength modifier (the standard for a physical melee attack, though I am making an assumption that the vampire is proficient in his own special attack!).

Disclaimer: Not sure how 'official' the Plane Shift: Ixalan stuff is, so there is always wiggle room there.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Ruling that you can use a weapon would be useful for extra attack bonuses, such as using a +2 weapon to get an extra +2 to your hit, or a finesse weapon to use your dexterity modifer. But I agree that it makes zero thematic sense. \$\endgroup\$
    – Theik
    Jun 8, 2018 at 10:51
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @Theik To use bloodthirst, the victim already must be willing, grappled, incapacitated, or restrained. Isn't the victim already a pretty easy target? Also, PJRZ, is the bloodthirst ability unique in not specifying, like, a bite attack, or does, for example, the traditional vampire use language similar to this for its blood drain? (I'm not a 5e guy; I'm just curious if there's another situation that can offer some clarity.) \$\endgroup\$ Jun 8, 2018 at 12:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ The vampire in the Monster Manual is less ambiguous with its language and lists one its actions as "Bite. Melee Weapon attack: +9 to hit...". Otherwise its an almost identical effect (again, leading me to believe this is the RAI). \$\endgroup\$
    – PJRZ
    Jun 8, 2018 at 12:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ The default for a melee attack is NOT strength. The default for a melee weapon attack is. Your rulings are in opposition. See Making an Attack in the Combat section of the PHB or Basic Rules \$\endgroup\$ Jun 8, 2018 at 14:18
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @David Coffron. Yes, you're right. Amended post to say physical melee attack, which I understand is still not the same wording as used in the rules. But I think still correct if you stick with the intent of this attack being a 'bite' attack and so using the same rules as a (natural) melee weapon attack. \$\endgroup\$
    – PJRZ
    Jun 8, 2018 at 14:36

As mentioned in some comments, this seems to mimic the Bite attack from the vampires.

Bite (Bat or Vampire Form Only): Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 5 ft., one willing creature, or a creature that is grappled by the vampire, incapacitated, or restrained. Hit: 7 (1d6 + 4) piercing damage plus 10 (3d6) necrotic damage. The target's hit point maximum is reduced by an amount equal to the necrotic damage taken, and the vampire regains hit points equal to that amount. The reduction lasts until the target finishes a long rest. The target dies if this effect reduces its hit point maximum to 0. A humanoid slain in this way and then buried in the ground rises the following night as a Vampire Spawn under the vampire's control.

With that in mind, answering your questions:

  1. No. The text states "Make a melee attack against the target.", this implies this is the action you are taking. It doesn't state "As a part of another melee attack" or "When you make a melee attack". The text is poorly written and inconsistent with other features, but seems clear enough (i.e. not ambiguous).
  2. I'm not sure about what the rules mean by "special", or how it's relevant. It is a melee attack, though.
  3. This is where the text is completely unclear. As it doesn't state a melee weapon attack, it is completely up to the DM. It is probably intended that it is a melee weapon attack, similar to how Bite is. It is also usual that creatures have proficiency with their attacks (such as the Bite case), but I'm not certain about race features. For example, the Aarakocra feature explicitly states

    Talons. You are proficient with your unarmed strikes, which deal 1d4 slashing damage on a hit

although this talon attack is intended to replace the unarmed strike.

Anyway, depending on how you rule if the vampire is or not proficient and if it is or not a melee weapon attack, you can calculate the modifier to hit as usual.

The most consistent (with Bite) way to rule it is making it a melee weapon attack and having proficiency with it, which would lead to a modifier of +bonus proficiency +Str.

Finally, note that the Plane Shift: Ixalan article has the disclaimer

The game mechanics in this supplement are usable in your D&D campaign but are not fully tempered by playtests and design iterations. For these reasons, material in this supplement is not legal in D&D Organized Play events.

similar to Unearthed Arcana (though with different purposes - UA is supposed to be playtested by the other tables). This means the writing is indeed inconsistent and most of the ruling and interpretation ends up to DM fiat.

I'm creating this answer because I disagree with the Ambiguous statement and using Physical to refer to the type of attack, when physical is actually used in the books for types of damage (slash./pierc./bludg.), which necrotic is not a part of. Yeah, kinda nitpicking, but anyway.


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