The Dragon Hide racial feat (XGtE, p. 74) gives you claws. It states that

The claws are natural weapons, which you can use to make unarmed strikes.

In general, unarmed strikes aren't considered weapons, as the errata says:

Weapons (p. 149). Unarmed strike doesn’t belong on the Weapons table.

Since specific beats general, do claws count as weapons? If they do, what are the properties of these weapons (melee, two-handed, light, etc)?


Natural weapons aren't (intended to be) treated as weapons

Official 5e rules designer Jeremy Crawford clearly addresses whether natural weapons are "weapons" here:

Interesting point in Dragon Talk today, you mentioned the "natural melee weapon" language of the minotaur's horns means it works with Divine Smite (and magic weapon?). That seems at odds with previous answers regarding bite attacks. Is this a revision?

Or are PC minotaur horns/centaur hooves somehow mechanically different from a monster minotaur's horns/monster centaur's hooves?


I'll boil it down for you. When we wrote the "Player's Handbook," we meant the weapons on the weapon table when we wrote "weapon," unless we said otherwise. But you break nothing in the game if you let natural weapons go along for the ride.

...So they have no such weapon properties

Crawford responds to a since-deleted tweet about the properties of natural weapons here:

Are natural weapons considered finesse weapons? A lot of them use dex for to-hit and damage, but I can't find a reference.

No. A weapon has the finesse property only if its description says so, and using Dex. to hit doesn't equal finesse.

By virtue of not being weapons, natural weapons also don't have the properties that actual weapons do, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

But attacks with natural weapons are generally still melee weapon attacks

The user Crawford responds to in that first conversation also references a tweet in this conversation with Crawford by some others:

Does the magic weapon spell work on natural weapons (thinking about beast master rangers specifically)?

The magic weapon spell targets weapons (PH 146–49), not body parts. A DM can rule otherwise and not break it.

wait! this would undo every fighter / druid. beast natural atks are melee weapon attacks (q.v.)

See the druid's Primal Strike feature.

yes, of course, but any precedent that says beast natural is not a weapon has breaking reach.

Their attacks count as weapon attacks, but the system doesn't consider their body parts weapons.

wouldn't that mean every ftr type / drd multiclass is undone, unable 2 use 'weapon' abilities?

Many fighter abilities rely on a weapon attack or a melee attack. Natural weapons qualify for both.

ok. I'm still confused on when a natural weapon is considered a weapon by the rules & when not.

Most of the system only cares whether an attack is a weapon attack, not whether the thing used is a weapon.

As Crawford says, they're not technically classed as actual weapons, but they're still usually used to make melee weapon attacks - just as unarmed strikes are - and most related class features trigger off weapon attacks or specifically melee weapon attacks rather than requiring a weapon or relying on the weapon's properties. (The rogue's Sneak Attack is a notable exception, requiring a finesse or ranged weapon.)

(And as clarified here, natural weapons are not used to make unarmed strikes unless something explicitly states otherwise - most features giving natural weapons to player races do specify that the natural weapon can be used for unarmed strikes.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Wow, that is an astonishing mess. Why not just allow them to count as weapons? He keeps saying it won’t break anything, so why not eliminate this confusion and allow it? Well, I know what I’m doing in my games... \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 28 '19 at 5:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan: Because that wasn't the intent when they designed the rules? It's not really that confusing to me... \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jan 28 '19 at 5:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ Unintended, emergent gameplay is a good thing when it doesn’t break the game. Game designers should not be in the business of dictating how to play, and concordantly, their intent only matters insofar as they are experts and might know of game breaks we haven’t considered. But that is apparently not the place here. And yes, “natural weapons aren’t weapons but attacks with them are weapon attacks,” is hideously confusing—impossible to understand from the text, difficult to remember when told, and likely ambiguous in any number of corner cases. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 28 '19 at 12:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan: "Game designers should not be in the business of dictating how to play" - Good thing they're not! They just tell people what their intent is. Jeremy Crawford himself often reminds people that he doesn't tell anyone how to play D&D - what works best for each table is fine for them. And here he even clarifies "this is our intent, but you can rule otherwise and not break anything in the system", allowing people to rule otherwise without worrying about unintended consequences. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jan 28 '19 at 23:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ ...I don't disagree that calling the category "weapon attacks" instead of "physical attacks" or something is confusing, but Crawford tweets are not errata. (And given how many different features across many different books refer to "weapon attacks", it's a bit late to make that change now...) Just as with the confusing terminology of "Attack action" vs. "attack", they might make different decisions if they were designing the game anew now, but they can't really retroactively change the terminology used in basically every single D&D book up to this point. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jan 28 '19 at 23:52

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