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A new player told me he wants to use the Great Weapon Master feat and choose 'Unarmed Strikes' as his weapon. I told him no because Unarmed Strikes are not considered weapons. He argued with me and I told him I would ask here and let this be the ruling.

Can you use this feat with an unarmed strike?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Could you please explain more? What are they trying to accomplish? \$\endgroup\$ – goodguy5 Apr 2 at 19:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ Not necessarily required, but what race/class is the PC and do they have tavern brawler? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Apr 2 at 19:52
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RAW: The Great Weapon Master feat does not apply to unarmed strikes.

(nor RAI, nor any other acronym I can think of)

The two benefits from the feat occur when:

  • when you score a critical hit with a melee weapon or reduce a creature to 0 hit points with one
  • Before you make a melee attack with a heavy weapon that you are proficient with

and unarmed strikes are neither of those.

I don't see any ambiguity in this and I'd be reluctant to allow it as a house rule. Scratch that, I wouldn't consider it at all; +10 damage to 3 attacks is a catastrophic increase in efficacy that would catapult the monk into super human early game levels and make it nearly impossible for you to balance any creature used against the party.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 I thought that unarmed attacks didn't count as "melee weapon"s? \$\endgroup\$ – goodguy5 Apr 2 at 20:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @goodguy5 would you mind to expand about the balance issue of allowing this? Any human variant melee centric class can do it two times at 4 and three times at 5. The ki feature of the monk won't kick until level 2, with a maximum of 3 times per short rest at level 3. And it has lower accuracy than it's counterpart, the sharpshooter feat, with a well placed fighting style. I think that the balance issue at low levels is not that troublesome given the the previously mentioned legal options (with variant and feats allowed). \$\endgroup\$ – Chepelink Apr 2 at 20:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 not to be pedantic, but that points out that unarmed strikes count as "melee weapon attacks" and the verbiage on the feat is distinctly different. I'm not sold that it counts. \$\endgroup\$ – goodguy5 Apr 3 at 12:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ no, I'm saying that an unarmed strike counts as a "melee weapon attack", but not "a critical hit with a melee weapon" \$\endgroup\$ – goodguy5 Apr 3 at 15:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @goodguy5 Ah yes I agree with that. I just meant the part of the first bullet you didn't include... well, comments now removed \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Apr 3 at 16:08
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Unarmed Strikes are not weapons

As per the PHB errata:

Weapons (p. 149). Unarmed strike has been removed from the Weapons table.

If it’s not on the weapon table (or specifically called out as a weapon) it isn’t one and things that affect weapons don’t affect unarmed strikes.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Natural weapons are a bit of a grey area... \$\endgroup\$ – Adeptus Apr 3 at 5:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Adeptus not really. All natural weapons are weapons, some can be used to deliver unarmed strikes. \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Apr 3 at 21:05

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