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A monk uses his Flurry of Blows feature and tries to snatch a wand from an enemy caster.

We model this using the Disarm rules (DMG, p. 271):

A creature can use a weapon attack to knock a weapon or another item from a target's grasp. The attacker makes an attack roll contested by the target's Strength (Athletics) check or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check. If the attacker wins the contest, the attack causes no damage or other ill effect, but the defender drops the item.

We noticed the text says "A creature can use a weapon attack...". Does a monk's unarmed strike count as a weapon attack for this purpose?

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2 Answers 2

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Yes, you can

This is addressed explicitly in the Sage Advice Compendium:

Can a monk use Stunning Strike with an unarmed strike, even though unarmed strikes aren’t weapons?
Yes. Stunning Strike works with melee weapon attacks, and an unarmed strike is a special type of melee weapon attack.
The game often makes exceptions to general rules, and this is an important exception: that unarmed strikes count as melee weapon attacks despite not being weapons.

Whether Stunning Strike or Disarm, if the requirement is a melee weapon attack, you can use unarmed strikes, as they count as a melee weapon attack. And a melee weapon attack is a weapon attack.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ IIRC, it's been explained elsewhere that "melee weapon attack" is 5e's standard technical terminology for "melee non-spell attack", despite the literal meaning. They say "attack with a melee weapon" when they mean that instead. (But that would include thrown daggers and hand-axes, etc. So to I guess "melee attack with a melee weapon" if you really wanted to be specific about requiring a melee weapon and it being a melee attack?) \$\endgroup\$ Jul 4, 2023 at 23:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ can they do it twice? \$\endgroup\$
    – Tiger Guy
    Jul 5, 2023 at 16:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TigerGuy Flurry gives you two unarmed strikes, and you can use a weapon attack to disarm, so yes, they can use neither, either or both attacks to attempt a disarm \$\endgroup\$ Jul 5, 2023 at 16:38
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No you can not

Unarmed strikes are indeed "weapon attacks", and you don't need to hold a weapon to use a Disarm attack. The issue is that Flurry of Blows specifically states that it lets you perform Unarmed Strikes, not just any weapon attack. Disarm as described in the DMG is not an Unarmed Strike, even if you don't hold a weapon; It's a special weapon attack similar to Grapple and Shove, which you also can't do with Flurry of Blows. An Unarmed Strike is a specific type of melee weapon attack that doesn't use weapons.

PHB pg. 78 (emphasis mine):

Flurry of Blows Immediately after you take the Attack action on your turn, you can spend 1 ki point to make two unarmed strikes as a bonus action

PHB pg. 195:

Instead of using a weapon to make a melee weapon attack, you can use an unarmed strike [..]. On a hit, an unarmed strike deals bludgeoning damage equal to 1 + your strength modifier.

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Just to rephrase this in another way because apparently the point isn’t getting across: All Flurry of Blows allows you to do is make 2 Unarmed Strikes. Unarmed strikes are very specifically attacking with your body to do damage. It’s a specific type of attack, not a generic description. Disarming someone is never an Unarmed Strike regardless of whether or not you hold a weapon, so you can’t do it with the attacks Flurry Of Blows gives you.


For some official-sounding back up for this, SAC doesn't have a QA on this issue exactly (although it's really not ambiguous), but it has this to say about the (somewhat) similar situation with Attacks of Opportunities:

Can an opportunity attack be used to make a grapple or a shove? Grappling and shoving are special melee attacks that require the Attack action. An opportunity attack is a special reaction. Take the Ready action if you want to attempt a grapple or a shove as a reaction.


PS: Regardless of the RAW, I personally would allow it at my tables because it’s flavourful and not really a concern from a game balance perspective because disarm is a pretty niche option compared to just straightforwardly hitting people.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm having trouble understanding your answer's stance. If unarmed strikes are weapon attacks, why are they not valid for Disarm? Nothing in the rules for Disarm state that you need a specific kind of weapon attack, or from a specific action. \$\endgroup\$
    – Matthieu
    Jul 6, 2023 at 14:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Matthieu you don't need a specific kind of weapon attack to disarm, disarm is a specific kind of weapon attack. It's clearly not an unarmed strike. Unarmed Strike is a specific game term, I've laid out the definition above, the text for disarm is in the question body. Can you go into more detail what's unclear about that? \$\endgroup\$
    – Cubic
    Jul 6, 2023 at 14:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Cubic is correct. The Disarm action option quoted in the question is a new action option, not just something you can do anytime you can make a weapon attack. If that's what you decide to do as your action for the turn, you make a single weapon attack (making an attack roll) that is contested by the target's Athletics or Acrobatics check: "If the attacker wins the contest, the attack causes no damage or other ill effect, but the defender drops the item." (Basically: it's not something you can replace a weapon attack with – you just make a weapon attack as part of it, as described there..) \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jul 6, 2023 at 16:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast I don’t think the DMG ever specifies if Disarm is supposed to be its own action or if it can replace an attack – I’d personally read it as the latter – but it’s not really relevant because either way a disarm is not an unarmed strike and that’s the only thing that flurry of blows allows you to do. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cubic
    Jul 6, 2023 at 16:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast You're right: Disarm is an action option, it does not substitute an attack, indeed the first paragraph says "This section provides new action options for combat." But the way in which "Disarm" is written naturally suggests that you can substitute one of your attacks, imho, it is simply poorly written. Anyway, it remains the fact that this answer is wrong, as stated. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Jul 6, 2023 at 16:44

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