As gifts from its master, an ettin (Monster Manual 106-7) gains two fiendish grafts, two long arms (Fiend Folio 211).

Bearing in mind an ettin's extraordinary ability superior two-weapon fighting, when this ettin takes the full attack action does it make all of its iterative attacks both with each of its two spinning swords (Secrets of Sarlona 136-7) that it wields in its long arms and with each of its two morningstars that it wields in its two natural arms? Or does it make all of its iterative attacks only with the two spinning swords and but one attack with each of its morningstars? Or is there another bizarre combination?

Further, is the ettin's reach with its spinning swords 30 ft. (10 ft. then 5 ft. for the long arm then doubled for the reach property of the spinning sword) or 25 ft. (10 ft. then doubled for the reach property of the spinning sword then +5 ft. for long arm)? Or, again, is there another bizarre combination?

Note: Can't just ask the DM because I'm the DM.

  • \$\begingroup\$ May we suppose that you already adjudicated that "Though it cannot take independent action, the arm can be used to make natural attacks, dealing damage based on the grafted creature’s size" didn't mean it could not attack with the weapons it's allowed to hold? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 18, 2018 at 20:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MatthieuM. To be perfectly honest, I've never been entirely sure how to adjudicate that phrase. If an answer addresses that, that'd be awesome even if the answer ends up challenging the question's frame. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 18, 2018 at 20:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am not too surprised since you felt the need to ask, but boy is this situation a mess :( The Ettin's ability is already under-specified to start with, and Long Arm itself is weirdly specified (in the arm and independent action; great). \$\endgroup\$ Dec 18, 2018 at 20:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ I believe that phrase means the arms can't do anything but natural attacks. Which would appear to mean that the only thing that graft does is add an additional natural attack to the creature, that auto triggers whenever the creature uses its natural attack chain. If so, it can't even weild weapons. This obviously requires the add a limb theory on the graft. \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Dec 20, 2018 at 17:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nijineko Like I said, even an answer that challenges the frame is welcome. Also see the already-posted answers for their commentaries on that line in the description of the long arm. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 20, 2018 at 17:12

3 Answers 3


Full Attack

The description of the Ettin's ability is pretty dense:

Superior Two-Weapon Fighting (Ex)

An Ettin fights with a Morningstar or Javelin in each hand. Because each of its two heads controls an arm, the Ettin does not take a penalty on attack or damage rolls for attacking with two weapons.

  1. The Ettin fights with a Morningstar or Javelin in any hand it has; it seems reasonable it could wield another weapon.
  2. It is not explicitly mentioned that the Ettin benefits from any supplementary iterative with its off-hand; though it is arguable that it is intended from the fact that each head acts independently.
  3. The absence of penalties to Attack Roll and Damage is strictly restricted to attacking with two weapons.

There is a specific version of Two-Weapon Fighting, appropriately called Multi-Weapon Fighting (Monster Manual, p .304), for creatures with more than 2 hands:

Prerequisites: Dex 13, three or more hands.

Benefit: Penalties for fighting with multiple weapons are reduced by 2 with the primary hand and reduced by 6 with off hands.

Special: This feat replaces the Two-Weapon Fighting feat for creatures with more than two arms.

I would therefore argue that the Ettin's Full Attack should be one of 2 alternatives:

  • Two-Weapon Fighting + Secondary Natural Attacks with unoccupied Long Arms.
  • Multi-Weapon Fighting.

I would be inclined to grant the Ettin all iteratives on its off-hand attack while Two-Weapon Fighting, seeing as the Ettin incurs no Attack Roll nor Damage penalty. Its Secondary Natural Attacks would be done with a -5 Attack Roll penalty and only applying half its Strength modifier to Damage as appropriate.

If the Ettin chooses, instead, to use the Multi-Weapon Fighting option, then I would recommend that its Two-Weapon Fighting still grant it an inherent advantage:

  • All iteratives with its first 2 weapons, at full Strength,
  • Only one iterative from its other 2 weapons, at half Strength.

However lacking the Multi-Weapon Fighting feat, it would suffer from a crippling -6 penalty to its Attack Roll on the first 2 weapons, and -10 penalty to its Attack Roll on the other 2 weapons. This is essentially the equivalent of each head controlling two arms and Two-Weapon Fighting; it could be mixed up -- one head attacking with a single weapon and a natural attack, the other Two-Weapon Fighting -- with more or less freedom depending how the DM rules (ah!) which arm a head can control (fixed or floating?).

Note: this is a compromise between RAW (full iteratives with only 1 weapon; half Strength with all off-hands when Multi-Weapon Fighting) and NICE (full iteratives, not penalty to Attack Rolls and full Strength with all weapons); where NICE replaces the Superior Two-Weapon Fighting by Superior Multi-Weapon Fighting... which I do not feel is supported by the narrative (4 arms, but only 2 heads).


The Long Arm description, just after mentioning that a Long Arm increases the natural reach of a creature with the weapon held "in the arm" (sic), says:

Though it cannot take independent action, the arm can be used to make natural attacks, dealing damage based on the grafted creature’s size [...]

A strict reading would be that the Long Arm cannot be used for anything else than making a Natural Attack; "independent action" being an undefined term.

This would simplify the above Full Attack significantly, only allowing Two-Weapon Fighting followed by two Secondary Natural Attacks; though it still would not solve whether an Ettin benefits from all its iteratives on both weapon attacks...


From the SRD:

[...] Most reach weapons double the wielder’s natural reach, meaning that a typical Small or Medium wielder of such a weapon can attack a creature 10 feet away, but not a creature in an adjacent square. A typical Large character wielding a reach weapon of the appropriate size can attack a creature 15 or 20 feet away, but not adjacent creatures or creatures up to 10 feet away. [...]

There is no specific wording in the Spinning Sword entry which suggests that this general rule doesn't apply; so it behaves like "Most reach weapons".

And from the description of Long Arms:

The grafted creature’s natural reach for attacks made with the arm or weapons held in the arm increases by 5 feet.

Therefore I conclude that (1) the Natural Reach of the Ettin increases from 10 ft. to 15 ft., and then (2) the Natural Reach is doubled by the Reach Weapon to 30 ft.

I count myself lucky that you selected a Spinning Sword, so that I do not have to find out the area in which the Ettin cannot attack (15 ft.? 20 ft.?).


Multiweapon fighting mess

There is a question of whether or not the ettin gets any iterative attacks with its off-hand. The description of superior two-weapon fighting does not mention this at all, and the ettin lacks the Improved Two-Weapon Fighting feat which would otherwise be required for “iterative” offhand attacks. This concern was questioned here, and in my answer, I discuss the idea that the ettin ought to be either +12/+12/+7 or +12/+12/+7/+7, and the text is unclear about which.

However, if you rule that the ettin’s superior two-weapon fighting silently offers the benefit of Improved Two-Weapon Fighting, or even Perfect Two-Weapon Fighting, and that long arm adds new arms rather than replacing old ones, then I would say that the superior two-weapon fighting benefits should apply to all four arms, too. Multiweapon Fighting says it “replaces” Two-Weapon Fighting for creatures with more than two arms, and Perfect Multiweapon Fighting likewise says it “replaces” Perfect Two-Weapon Fighting. What that means is massively unclear, but as I’ve laid out elsewhere, my opinion is it means that the distinction between two-weapon and multiweapon options should be ignored entirely. It adds nothing but horrific confusion to the game. I would apply that to superior two-weapon fighting just as I would to Two-Weapon Fighting et al.

About that “independent action” blurb

Fiend Folio’s description of the long arm graft includes this:

Though it cannot take independent action, the arm can be used to make natural attacks,

and no one knows what it means. “Independent action” isn’t a defined game term, and read as plain English, it might mean any number of things, so it’s not really at all clear what this arm cannot do for lack of it.

The most straightforward/literal interpretation, that I tend to go with, is that this is a statement that the long arm doesn’t have its own set of actions to attack with, and doesn’t automatically attack on your turn while you’re doing other things—which is a feature some options do have. For example, the living whip symbiont from Eberron Campaign Setting. But note that Eberron Campaign Setting was published many years after Fiend Folio, and none of the grafts in Fiend Folio have this feature—which makes you wonder why, if this is what they meant, they felt the need to include the line. Even if it weren’t there, there is nothing to suggest that the long arm would have that ability anyway.

But nonetheless, I think this interpretation simply makes the most sense and leads to the least problems in game. Trying to deny the long arm the ability to, say, wield weapons, doesn’t really make sense—the book would probably say that if that were what was meant, and in any event that doesn’t involve “independent action” any more than it does for your original arms.

It might mean that you cannot use your long arm and your original arm (arms?) in the same round—that the addition of a new arm doesn’t give you the brain capacity to direct more arms. Except with practice, you ought to, and in any event, again, if that was what they meant, they would probably say that and not this thing about “independent action.”

Another possibility is that they mean that the arm needs to work in conjunction with one of your original arms. In other words, it can allow you to do something two-handed or three-handed or whatever, where otherwise you wouldn’t have enough limbs to do that, but it cannot do anything one-handed on its own. Except that makes no sense—the entire point of the long arm is to have greater reach than your original arms, which you wouldn’t be able to use if the long arm was forced to act in conjunction with your original arms.

Anyway, assuming that the long arm is in addition to your original arms rather than instead of, it seems to me that the most reasonable interpretation of this line should have no impact on the ettin’s ability to quad-wield weapons.


This, at least, is clear enough: reach weapons double your natural reach. With the long arm graft, your natural reach is 5 feet longer than it otherwise would be. Therefore, when a long arm wields a reach weapon, that gets doubled too—the spinning swords wielded by the long arms should have 30-ft. reach.

Reversing the order of operations is nonsense, because it would require the benefits of long arm to apply after those of the reach weapon—literally impossible since the long arm has to be in place and granting its benefit before it can pick up a weapon.

As an aside, though, for the record: if you went with a whip, or meteor hammer or rope dart, and then asked this question, no one would be able to help you, because the rules just never explain how the whip’s 15-ft. reach for Medium creatures works. See my answer to this Pathfinder question, noting that unlike Pathfinder, 3.5e lacks even a developer stating a quasi-official opinion on the matter.

  • \$\begingroup\$ "Though it cannot take independent action, the arm can be used to make natural attacks, dealing damage based on the grafted creature’s size," says the the long arm description. Any thoughts, or can that be safely ignored? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 18, 2018 at 23:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan There are some examples of things getting independent attacks—the living whip symbiont in Eberron Campaign Setting comes to mind, though obviously that was long after Fiend Folio was published—so the most straightforward/literal meaning of that sentence is that it doesn’t do that. Which makes one wonder why they felt the need to include it, since I see no reason to suspect the long arm would have such a feature, but nonetheless that makes more sense to me than any other meaning I can imagine for it. Would this rambling speculation be worth including in the answer? \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Dec 19, 2018 at 0:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Maybe? I mean, it might be useful to mention even so as to reaffirm that the core scenario the question describes is, at least, possible. Also, that way a future answer (probably?) may not garner more support than this one by—based on that line from the long arm alone—solving the problem by dismissing the question out of hand. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 19, 2018 at 14:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Fair enough, added a bit \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Dec 19, 2018 at 15:27
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ About that blurb: FF p.207 at the start of the grafts appendix says “Some grafts are capable of independent action—usually this means that the creature with the graft gains an extra single attack or move action of a specific kind each round (a natural attack with a fiendish clawed arm, for example).” So, that minor mystery seems much clearer in context. \$\endgroup\$
    – fectin
    Sep 16, 2019 at 3:27

How much hands?

While "acquiring findish grafts" section says devices used for grafting process replace a limb for 6d6 damage and than place another (graft itself) for 5d6 healing, it is unclear if it is the only way. Fiend folio goes further and says some grafts are gifts of powerful entities and therefore hardly made through the use of some devices. So I think there are at least some cases when grafted limbs are in addition to creature's usual set.

I also may note, I haven't seen any evidemce grafts require you to have particular body parts as prerequisites of a sort. You should be able to attach a tail or a tentacle to a human and in this case there is nothing to replace.

So lets assume your ettin now has four arms.

On the number of attacks

To my knowledge, ettin's superior two-weapon fighting works in a following way:
When ettin makes full attack, you threat it as if two creatures were attacking. So in one full attack it makes two sets of two attacks each. It has nothing to do with actual two- or multi-weapon fighting. Ability says each head controls a hand and we see what it means from a stat block. Ettin gets one set of attacks more then it would have without superior two-weapon fighting, including as many iteratives in each set as it's BAB allows. Be it ettin warrior 6 it would have three attacks with each hand without any need to take feats in actual two-weapon fighting chain.

Untill now everything was clear enough but with adition of arms... no one probably can tell with 100% certainity how things would interact.

As ettin's superior two-weapon fighting clearly explains each head controls one arm managing more definitely wouldn't be so easy for the creature.

I'd personally rule that now, when your specific ettin has four hands and only two heads, it would be the same as two creatures without two-weapon fighting were trying to attack with four weapons. But... who knows?

Maybe it would be even harder for two "controllers" to manage four arms? You can guess even additional penalties, some condition similar to confusion, etc. Maybe multi-handed ettin should behave like any other creature with miltiple arm-like limbs and go for multi-weapon fighting? There may be different opinions on this subject.

But if you go with my interpreation you probably wont your ettin to take regular two-weapon fighting feat and maybe improved two-weapon fighting also in place of some of it's default feats. That way it would, presumably, be able to perform - as effectively two creatures for that purpose - two sets of two-weapon fightings with two primary hands (long arms presumably) and two secondary hands (morningstars).

How far can new modified ettin reach?

As for reach question, I'll agree with existing answers. As a part of natural reach, additional reach would be doubled with reach weapon property.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you share the basis for your claim that the ettin’s superior two-weapon fighting works that way? That would make more sense, and might match the statblock better, but the actual description of superior two-weapon fighting makes absolutely no mention of anything to that effect, which makes it hard for me to buy the claim that it works that way. Also, your use of <br> makes this answer far harder to read than it ought to be—is there a particular reason why you’re opposed to proper paragraphs? I’m not going to override your stylistic choices in this answer, but I would probably downvote it. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Dec 21, 2018 at 16:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan (I think this is a useful analysis. Its focus on the acquisition of grafts is really neat, and the conclusions are at least interesting especially in light of the question's complexity; those are what earned it my upvote. However, I must agree that I wish I had the time to edit this answer!) \$\endgroup\$ Dec 21, 2018 at 16:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I agree, including the actual rules available for grafting—limited though they are—is better than any previous answer had offered on that subject. And the claim about superior two-weapon fighting is interesting, and would offer a neat way to handle things—but I think the answer desperately needs to do more in the “Back It Up!” department there, or step back from claiming “this is how it does work” and focus more on “regardless of what they meant, this way works best,” which I’d happily upvote. Well, if it was more readable than this, anyway... \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Dec 21, 2018 at 16:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan [Rants.] (To be perfectly honest, I kind of like an answer seeming to state authoritatively that the ideas it contains are how things really do work. I mean, I hope every reader already knows answers here aren't gonna be science but just another dude reading. Really, I tend to preface mentally every answer with in my opinion anyway because at the bottom is a user's ID. I actually hate that site gets so bogged down in weasel words to compensate for exceptions and alternative points of view. For me, that makes upvoting and downvoting that much harder.) [Ends rant.] \$\endgroup\$ Dec 21, 2018 at 17:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I wish you would reconsider that position. You can do that, you can judge a claim on its own merits, because you are an expert in this field. The point of Stack Exchange is to have experts consider the merits of an answer—as it is—and vote accordingly, so that non-experts, who constitute the majority of our traffic, coming from Google searches etc., can see the accepted/high-voted answers and trust them. Accuracy therefore should be absolutely paramount, and making a stronger claim than you can back up should always be cause for concern. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Dec 21, 2018 at 18:11

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