The Ankheg has one single attack action (aside from its acid spray):

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 10 (2d6 + 3) slashing damage plus 3 (1d6) acid damage. If the target is a Large or smaller creature, it is grappled (escape DC 13). Until this grapple ends, the ankheg can bite only the grappled creature and has advantage on attack rolls to do so.

So if it attacks someone with a bite and hits, it grapples them and can't bite anyone else.

What happens if someone else moves out of its attack range? Can it not make an opportunity attack because it can't use its Bite ability? Or does it make an "unarmed" attack?


2 Answers 2


It can:

  1. Choose to end the grapple and make a Bite
  2. Maintain the grapple and make an Unarmed Attack
  3. Let the opportunity attack trigger slide.
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ While correct, you should support this answer by citing the relevant rules or clarifications (e.g. something that supports that any creature can make an unarmed strike). \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented May 28, 2019 at 23:40

The ankheg can make an unarmed attack that deals 4 damage.

Any creature can make an unarmed attack dealing damage equal to 1 + its Strength modifier.

From page 17 of version 2.3 of the Sage Advice Compendium, which are considered official rulings:

What actions can monsters use to make opportunity attacks? Are Multiattack and breath weapon actions allowed?

A monster follows the normal opportunity attack rules (PH, 195), which specify that an attack of opportunity is one melee attack. That means a monster must choose a single melee attack to make, either an attack in its stat block or a generic attack, like an unarmed strike. Multi-attack doesn’t qualify, not only because it’s more than one attack, but also because the rule on Multiattack (MM, 11) states that this action can’t be used for opportunity attacks. An action, such as a breath weapon, that doesn’t include an attack roll is also not eligible.

The ankheg can arguably drop the grapple to make a bite.

Technically, an opportunity attack triggers right before the opponent moves out of range, and must be taken at that point, no matter what state the ankheg is in. If they're still grappling when it happens, as I read it, the letter and intent of the rules are both clear: no bitey.

However, a grapple can be ended at any time, "no action required", which in Jeremy Crawford's opinion, refers to something which can be done even on an opponent's turn. Since it requires no action, doing so does not consume a reaction, which is handy because the ankheg needs to use a reaction to make an opportunity attack.

But the ankheg could, in theory, drop the grapple in response to "a character starts to move away from me" and the opportunity attack would still trigger in response to "a character is about to move out of reach".

For reference, monsters can in general make unarmed strikes

Monster Manual p. 11 states, under "Actions":

When a monster takes its action, it can choose from the options in the Actions section of its stat block or use one of the actions available to all creatures, such as the Dash or Hide action, as described in the Player's Handbook.

"Actions in Combat", PHB p. 192-193, includes Attack as one of those options:

The most common action to take in combat is the Attack action, whether you are singing a sword, firing an arrow from a bow, or brawling with your fists.

Rules for unarmed attacks appear on page 195, and per the errata, the rules for this are as follows:

Instead of using a weapon to make a melee weapon attack, you can use an unarmed strike: a punch, kick, head-butt, or similar forceful blow (none of which count as weapons). On a hit, an unarmed strike deals bludgeoning damage equal to 1 + your Strength modifier. You are proficient with your unarmed strikes.


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