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One of my player's and I differed on how we interpreted the Chuul's multiattack the other night. Below is the MM text:

Multiattack. The chuul makes two pincer attacks. If the chuul is grappling a creature, the chuul can also use its tentacles once.

The situation was as follows:

The chuul attacked player A with its first pincer and missed. It attacked A with its second pincer and hit, thus grappling A. I ruled that the tentacle attack could occur on the chuul's next turn if A were still grappled. The other possible ruling is that the tentacle attack can now occur on the chuul's current turn.

My thinking is that a Multiattack is one action, and that the "If the chuul is grappling..." is a prerequisite condition to the action that must be met to grant the tentacle attack. The wording of "grappling" as opposed to "grapples" means that the chuul must be currently grappling the target before the Multiattack action is taken.

Is my interpretation correct?

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Questionable, but yes, it can.

As far as I can tell there is not a rule or ruling that decides this situation in either direction. The answer depends on whether the creature needs to meet all conditions for the targets of the attack action when using Multiattack when declaring the action.

There is no ruling stating that all the conditions of the Multiattack have to be met at the start of the Attack action.

Since there are no rules declaring this specifically, I would apply a similar ruling for the Extra Attack feature.

According to a tweet by Jeremy Crawford about Extra Attack, you can pick your target before each attack. If we suppose the same rule applies for Multiattack, then the creature can choose to use its tentacle attack because it has a valid target at that point and the condition is met.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Perhaps it would be useful to draw a comparison to moving between attacks, target B wasn't valid when the attack started as they were out of range. \$\endgroup\$ – Baergren May 27 at 15:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ I can see the value in that and considered mentioning it when writing the answer. I decided not to mention it in the end. I think the core of the problem is deciding whether it's reasonable to assume both features work the same way regarding the time of target selection. I didn't want to get too specific regarding Extra Attack. \$\endgroup\$ – Deeps May 27 at 15:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ "This is an unofficial D&D site made by Zoltar to collect designer tweets and help players of the best game ever created." Please state that the basis of your argument is an unofficial source, as it currently looks one could easily get the impression that this is from the Sage Advice Compendium which is an official source. \$\endgroup\$ – Akixkisu May 27 at 16:19
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The Chuul makes a single-action Multiattack; the tentacle use is part of that action.

From the Sage Advice Compendium V.2.3 (11):

Is the grappling rule in the Player’s Handbook usable by a handless creature?
The grappling rule (PH, 195) was written for a grappler with at least one hand, but a DM can easily adapt the rule for a handless creature that has a bite or an appendage, such as a tentacle, that could reasonably seize someone. A wolf, for example, could plausibly try to seize a person with its bite, and the animal wouldn’t be able to use its bite attack as long as it held onto the person. Keep in mind that the grappling rule in the Player’s Handbook requires the Attack action, so a creature must take that action—rather than Multiattack or another action in the creature’s stat block—when it uses that rule. A monster, such as a roper, that has a special grappling attack doesn’t follow that rule when using its special attack.

The special grappling attack of the Chuul is the Multiattack with pincers and its tentacles. If the condition is met it does not have to spend an extra action. It does not follow the PHB's grappling rules.

Multiattack. The chuul makes two pincer attacks. If the chuul is grappling a creature, the chuul can also use its tentacles once.

The creature can choose to use its tentacle because it has a valid target at that point and the condition is met. The Multiattack is a single action.

Also see MM (10) on Actions, more specifically MM (11) on Multiattack and Grapple Rules for Monsters.


We also have some insight into design intent, albeit unofficial, in this tweet sequence and in particular the answer by Jeremy Crawford, who says:

The DM decides the order of a creature's attacks using Multiattack, unless the creature's stat block mandates a particular order.


This ruling is supported by Simultaneous Effects (XGtE, chapter 2)

Most effects in the game happen in succession, following an order set by the rules or the DM. In rare cases, effects can happen at the same time, especially at the start or end of a creature’s turn. If two or more things happen at the same time on a character or monster’s turn, the person at the game table — whether player or DM — who controls that creature decides the order in which those things happen. For example, if two effects occur at the end of a player character’s turn, the player decides which of the two effects happens first.

So what are effects?

DMG errata version 2.0 (1):

Combining Game Effects (p. 252). This is a new subsection at the end of the “Combat” section:

Different game features can affect a target at the same time. But when two or more game features have the same name, only the effects of one of them—the most potent one—apply while the durations of the effects overlap. For example, if a target is ignited by a fire elemental’s Fire Form trait, the ongoing fire damage doesn’t increase if the burning target is subjected to that trait again. Game features include spells, class features, feats, racial traits, monster abilities, and magic items. See the related rule in the “Combining Magical Effects” section of chapter 10 in the Player’s Handbook.

So we can safely gather that monster abilities are indeed effects and that either way the controller of the creature decides the order of the effect. In this case, it is most likely the DM who may choose either way.

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Based on English grammar I would argue that it can't tentacle attack on this turn. The form used in the sentence "if it is grappling a creature" is the present continuous. This form is used for two cases (source):

  • activities at the moment of speaking. This means when declaring the attack action, something is already grappled. You also wouldn't say "I am attacking" if you are not right now doing it but declaring the intent to do so in the near future.

  • future plans or arrangements. There is no arrangement to grappel someone. Also from my understanding this usage of present continuous would require specifying the time when you plan on doing it. "if at the end of the attacks it is grappling someone, it may use its tentacle as well".

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  • \$\begingroup\$ There is also no "if at the start of the attacks it is grappling someone, it may use its tentacle as well." \$\endgroup\$ – Akixkisu May 27 at 16:15
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No, it can't.

The Player's Handbook explains on page 189 "On your turn, you can move a distance up to your speed and take one action." There is no mention of this being any different for monsters, therefore Multiattack is still a single action, even though it can target multiple targets and cause different effects.

To get the 2 Pincers + 1 Tentacle attacks as part of its Multiattack action, the condition must be met before the action begins.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "To get the 2 Pincers + 1 Tentacle attacks as part of its Multiattack action, the condition must be met before the action begins." What do you base this assertion on? Is there support in the rules for this claim, one way or the other? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast May 27 at 7:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ I love your answer because it's the same as my ruling but I agree with V2 and haven't found anything to specifically support it. :( \$\endgroup\$ – VIP3Rss May 27 at 7:56

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