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I was looking at the slow spell and realized its description states:

Regardless of the creature's abilities or magic items, it can't make more than one melee or ranged attack during its turn...

I was confused why it says "melee or ranged attack" instead of just "attack", and thought perhaps there exists an attack that counts as neither melee nor ranged.

I realize it's not exactly possible to prove a negative if there are no such attacks, but I still wonder:

Does such an attack exist?

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No

All attacks are melee or ranged. They might additionally be spell attacks, weapon attacks, improvised attacks, or something else, but they're always melee or ranged.

The reason for calling out both is not to imply a third category, but to specify that all attacks are forbidden. Sometimes "attack" tends to read as "melee attack" or "weapon attack", so calling out both ranged and melee is just meant to make it more clear that it's affecting everything. (For example, slow would prevent you from using scorching ray to its full effect, because while you would theoretically get three or more rays to fire, you can only roll one ranged spell attack due to the slow effect.)

In one of Jeremy Crawford's appearances on Dragon+, he commented that there are several examples of confusing "reminder text" in the Player's Handbook that they regret in retrospect for exactly this reason. They added what were meant as reminders of rules printed elsewhere that inadvertently feel like they imply something that wasn't intended.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Interesting. Do you have a link or transcript of that issue of Dragon+? \$\endgroup\$ – Rykara Jul 29 at 19:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Of note, there are plenty of things which do say "attacks", slow is, in fact, the exception for calling it out as it does \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Jul 29 at 19:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rykara I think it was in one of the YouTube "Dragon+ Q&A with Jeremy Crawford" videos, but there's dozens of those so I have no idea which one it was actually in. And it could've been one of the others, the "Jeremy Crawford on Design" ones, the "...on the Artificer Returns" ones... he does a "reader questions Q&A" at the end of almost every one of his appearances on the youtube channel. If anyone knows which particular video it was, feel free to edit my answer to add that information. \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Jul 29 at 19:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 Yes, I know there are plenty of places they say "attacks". Not claiming there aren't. I'm saying the designers have admitted that their attempts at preempting questions have, in certain places, made things more confusing. I also clarified my answer a little, hope it helps. \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Jul 29 at 19:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ Shove and grapple are "special", but, despite being a contest, they are still "special melee attacks". \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Jul 30 at 9:19

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