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In the Unearthed Arcana version of the Way of the Astral Self, the monk's Astral Arms were treated as monk weapons.

Under that wording, the monk probably couldn't grapple/shove with them because weapon reach and the reach of the character's hand that could make the grapple/shove are different things.

That is, it's hard to see how you could grapple with the end of a polearm, for example (through a lenient DM might allow a shove).

However, in the official release, the wording was changed then from monk weapons to unarmed strikes:

  • You can use the spectral arms to make unarmed strikes.

  • When you make an unarmed strike with the arms on your turn, your reach for it is 5 feet greater than normal.

Under this revised wording, it seems like the monk could grapple/shove with its Astral Arms.

But can it?

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An unarmed strike is not a grapple or shove.

The Astral Arms ability says:

When you make an unarmed strike with the arms on your turn, your reach for it is 5 feet greater than normal.

An unarmed strike is defined as:

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.

This is the only time your reach is extended. Grapple and Shove are not unarmed strikes, so your reach is not extended for a grapple or shove.

The ability description tells us everything we can do.

Having established that an unarmed strike is not a shove, nor is it a grapple, we review what we are able to do with the Astral Arms. The ability description says:

While the spectral arms are present, you gain the following benefits:

  • You can use your Wisdom modifier in place of your Strength modifier when making Strength checks and Strength saving throws.
  • You can use the spectral arms to make unarmed strikes.
  • When you make an unarmed strike with the arms on your turn, your reach for it is 5 feet greater than normal.
  • The unarmed strikes you make with the arms can use your Wisdom modifier in place of your Strength or Dexterity modifier for the attack and damage rolls, and their damage type is force.

Nowhere is it stated that we may grapple or shove, only that we may make unarmed strikes with the arms, which is not grappling or shoving.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Could the monk grapple with the arms within 5 feet then? \$\endgroup\$ – Jon Aristotle Nov 21 '20 at 17:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JonAristotle The monk can already grapple within 5 feet. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Nov 21 '20 at 17:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ with his astral arms could he grapple 4 targets? \$\endgroup\$ – Jon Aristotle Nov 21 '20 at 20:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JonAristotle Theability description tells you everything you can do with the arms: "While the spectral arms are present, you gain the following benefits: [...] You can use the spectral arms to make unarmed strikes." It doesn't say you gain the benefits of grappling with the arms or more creatures, so you don't gain those benefits. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Nov 21 '20 at 20:45
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Technically, it's a yes, but the +5-foot reach doesn't apply.

The answer is a yes, if we simply look and disregard the benefits that you've shown. If we try to look at the other benefit of the feature, other than those two, one of which says:

• You can use your Wisdom modifier in place of your Strength modifier when making Strength checks and Strength saving throws.

Grapple and shove use Strength checks (specifically, Athletics). This benefit assumes that we can freely do it with the Astral Arms.


But,

if you asked that with respect to the wording, then the answer is using your Astral Arms for anything other than unarmed strike won't give you the bonus 5 feet range.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I disagree with this. Rules are generally 'as is' and the only thing specified you can do with the arms is 'make an unarmed strike'. The quote you posted applies to the Monk's strength checks and saving throws in general. \$\endgroup\$ – ChiMo Nov 26 '20 at 4:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ChiMo ...And grapple and shove are still under those Strength checks. Your "applies to...in general" seems like you're only referring to out-of-combat ability checks. Grapple and shove is under the Attack chapter of PHB instead of Strength Checks chapter, and this is because they are assumed to appear more in combat, but that doesn't mean they can't be done on non-combat roleplays. \$\endgroup\$ – Tren Nov 26 '20 at 23:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Of course grappling can be done in combat. What I'm saying is the astral arms can only make unarmed strikes. Grappling and shoving are not unarmed strikes but 'special melee attacks' that use the attack action. \$\endgroup\$ – ChiMo Nov 28 '20 at 23:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ Then why did they bother pointing out the Strength checks and saves? Grapples and shoves uses Strength checks even though they take up the attack action. They are part of the attack action but they don't use attack rolls, and if they do, then that's the time they can't use Astral Arms for grappling. And it says right on PHB that they make checks, and also they would specify it if they can't be used for grappling and shoving. \$\endgroup\$ – Tren Nov 29 '20 at 8:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ And to quote sage advice on ability checks on dnd.wizards.com/articles/sage-advice/ability-check: "When you make a Strength (Athletics) check to grapple or shove someone, are you making an attack roll? Again, the answer is no. That check is an ability check, so game effects tied to attack rolls don’t apply to it. Going back to an earlier question, the hex spell could be used to diminish a grappler’s effectiveness. And if the grappler’s target is under the effect of the Dodge action, that action doesn’t inhibit the grapple, since Dodge doesn’t affect ability checks." \$\endgroup\$ – Tren Nov 29 '20 at 8:30

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