Partial spoilers for Rise of the Runelords: Burnt Offerings ahead.

I'm a GM preparing for the final encounter of the Adventure, Nualia. She has a mutated taloned hand and a bastard sword. In her attack block, she can do one sword slash and one natural weapon attack with the claw in a full attack.

I was wondering what were the rules about that. Can she use the Bastard sword two-handed, like in the artwork, and then claw a PC? Or, more generally, can a character with a BAB of 6/1, holding a bastard sword, swing the first attack two-handedly and, for some reason, punch with the second attack?

I'm not sure I want to do that in the encounter anyway. It's more for the thought exercice.

Thank you for your input,

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! Take the tour! Pathfinder makes a distinction between natural attacks — like, typically, claws or a bite — and unarmed strikes like the typical human's punch. So that answers won't be restating what you may already know, can this question make it clear whether or not you understand that distinction that game makes? Anyway, thank you for participating and have fun. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 25 '18 at 19:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ I believe so. Natural attacks are in two flavours, "main" and "secondary", the latter sufferings negative modifiers and not being limited to what the BAB offers. Let me know if there's something that I don't understand properly. It's true that given how my question is asked (Comparing Nualia's additional natural attack to a character with a BAB of 6/1), might show a bit a confusion. I guess my question has now became two. Can Nualia use her claw hand to make a two-handed strike with her bastard sword and can a character make a two-handed + unarmed strike if the BAB allows it? \$\endgroup\$
    – Jonathan
    Sep 25 '18 at 19:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think it may be a little more complicated than that. See this question, this question, this question, and others. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 25 '18 at 19:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks! I had a hard time formulating a proper research to find answers. From what I am reading, both are resolved individually. First, a full attack with a manufactured weapon, then, resolve all natural attacks. One of the answers stipulates "You then get any natural weapon attacks, all treated as secondary attacks unless the limb involved in the natural attack". It makes sense, but now I'm looking where this was stated. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jonathan
    Sep 25 '18 at 19:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ That answer was probably thinking of this: "Creatures with natural attacks and attacks made with weapons can use both as part of a full attack action (although often a creature must forgo one natural attack for each weapon clutched in that limb, be it a claw, tentacle, or slam)." It's somewhere around here. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 25 '18 at 19:54

So this situation changes somewhat if you are talking about a natural weapon, like a claw, versus talking about unarmed strikes, because unarmed strikes (mostly) use the rules for manufactured weapons, not natural weapons.

Unarmed Strike

We’ll start with the simpler case of an unarmed strike.

If she already has the attacks, certainly

Each attack action is separate, unless something (like two-weapon fighting) says otherwise. Each time you choose to attack, you choose what weapon you are using. What weapon you use is entirely up to you.

Furthermore, adding or removing a hand from a weapon is a free action, so you can do that in between attacks in a full-attack. That means you can make your +6 attack with the bastard sword in two hands, let go of it with one, and attack with the free hand for your +1 attack.

This generally doesn’t serve very much purpose; usually one weapon is going to be better than another, so you’ll want to just make all your attacks with that one. But there can be exceptions; you could imagine, perhaps, an ability that triggers on an unarmed strike, but only once per round: attacking with an unarmed strike to trigger that, and then making the rest of your attacks with the biggest weapon available, may make sense.

The other issue here is that you can make unarmed strikes without using your hand; kicks, headbutts, whatever. That means you really don’t need to bother removing your hand from your biggest weapon. But maybe this hypothetical ability specifies you can only do it with a punch.

If she wants to gain extra attacks using two-weapon fighting, unclear

Someone with BAB +6/+1 just gets to make two attacks, no doubt about it. But someone who uses two-weapon fighting gets to make an extra attack, in exchange for a penalty to all attacks in that full-attack. But unlike the usual case where attacks can just be made with any weapon you like and they don’t influence one another, two-weapon fighting specifies that the attacks must be made with separate weapons, one “main hand” and the other “offhand.” The penalties you take depend on what that offhand weapon is. This is a harder situation.

In my mind, the way two-weapon fighting “works” is that both attacks are simultaneous, in-character (even though you roll dice sequentially, that’s just to keep things from getting confused). That means if you are attacking using both hands on the bastard sword, your hand isn’t free at the same time to make an unarmed strike. But again, you could maybe kick or headbutt or whatever simultaneously. And really, nothing says they are happening simultaneously in-character.

Paizo has issued an FAQ entry implying that non-punch unarmed strikes, and other weapons that seem to be hands-free like armor spikes, still somehow “take up” a hand, so that you cannot do this. These statements don’t make a whole lot of sense, aren’t well backed up in terms of what rules they are supposedly using for this claim, and in any event, don’t bear very much scrutiny. Nonetheless, the intent to prevent this is there, so Paizo, at least, considers it a problem to allow. Personally, I have not had any such problems.

Natural Weapons: even more unclear

Natural weapons are complicated and confusing, and the source of many, many questions on this site, particularly with respect to how they do or don’t combine with manufactured weapons. See this question for more detail about how they work.

Anyway, natural weapons don’t use “iteratives,” the extra attacks you get for having a high BAB. Someone who has BAB +11/+6/+1 attacking with just a claw only gets the one attack, at +11, and that’s it. If that same person attacks with a dagger in the other hand, the dagger goes first and uses up all the regular attacks, that is +11 and +6 and +1, and then the claw goes in addition to that, as a “secondary” weapon (which means a −5 penalty, i.e. +6, unless she has Multiattack).

Which means that it’s not clear that your character with +6/+1 could use the +1 for a claw even if she wanted to. She could certainly let go of the sword and have the hand free for the +1 attack, but mixing manufactured and natural weapons does not usually allow this; the natural weapon must come in addition, as a secondary attack.

The problem with that is that there is also a rule saying that you cannot use a natural weapon if that limb has already been “used” that round. By being the second hand on a two-handed weapon, it’s been used, so you can’t get to use it at all.

  • \$\begingroup\$ RE: "[P]erhaps, an ability that triggers on an unarmed strike, but only once per round…." Don't ivory tower it, man; just say Stunning Fist. :-) \$\endgroup\$ Sep 25 '18 at 21:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Forgot about the 1/round limit on Stunning Fist, but also despite the name nothing in it actually says it has to be a punch... \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Sep 25 '18 at 21:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras Thanks, but ugh do I hate to give that more visibility. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Sep 25 '18 at 21:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't see how there being a rule stating you can't use a natural attack after having used that limb this round is "even more unclear". That seems like a pretty clear "no" to me. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Sep 28 '18 at 16:36

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