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Any number of monsters in D&D 5e (and previous editions, but 5e is my concern) have attacks labeled Slam. What, descriptively, does an attack of this kind entail?

For example, doppelgangers have a Slam attack. Does this mean the doppelganger bodyslams the character, rugby style?

I would be happy to have an answer based on a reference from a previous edition.

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Since previous edition references are OK, this is what the 3.5e Monster Manual has to say (page 312, under natural attacks):

Slap or Slam: The creature batters opponents with an appendage, dealing bludgeoning damage.

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A slam attack is basically a very forceful, blunt, body attack.

Picture a zombie attacking, it's not going to punch you. It's going to slowly and methodically hit you with it's arms, or headbutt.

With something that moves a bit quicker, like a doppleganger, this is representative of the fact that it can attack in numerous different humanoid forms. So it's likely to be a headbutt or an appendage attack. Rugby might be a good thought, an American Football tackle might be another solid example.

Basically, when you are thinking about describing these attacks in your game, think about the ways in which an unarmed combatant of the type you are dealing with might hit someone. A zombie's slam should be described much differently than a doppleganger's even though they are the same attack.

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Basically a Slam or Slap description is given to a creature's attack to establish that the damage type it deals with it's natural weapon is blunt damage, the same way a horn is described as Gore since any attack made with it would inherently be piercing damage. This in no way determines how the monster actually performs the attack or what it looks like to perform it, so that aspect is completely up to the DM.

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Though I'm pretty sure it's not described in official rules, slam could probably be any kind of unarmed bludgeoning attack. Personally, I think of it as a two-handed, close-fisted bash with the arms brought from above the attacker's own head, forcefully down onto its enemy's body. Like swinging an axe down to chop wood, but without an axe.

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Ultimately I'd say it would come down to DM fiat/fluff.

If you look up the definition of slam you get "shut (a door, window, or lid) forcefully and loudly". Though it can be a very generalised term.

It could be a full body slam as you suggest i.e "the zombie sort of trips and slams into you, dealing X damage" or some form of graceful, acrobatic attempt, it could be an "amateur trying to break through a door" shoulder slam, it could be an unarmed, two-handed, closed-fist bash as @Key suggests or a kick for that matter, if the monster is actually holding a weapon they could slam the pummel into you, they could just pick up a rock and slam that into the side of your head.

It really kind of depends on the situation, the monster and how the DM wants to describe it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the asker here is searching for some hint as to what the developers were imagining when labelling the attacks 'Slam', probably from official sources or whatever will do. Naturally, it can come down to DM fiat, but it's not useful to suggest that straight away. "There's no indication of what the developers mean, nobody has any idea, the developers looked at us stunned when we asked them, then closed the doors and shouted that nobody was there when we knocked on them. You'll just have to use DM fiat." would be useful because it establishes there's nothing before recommending fiat. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Sep 16 '14 at 5:45
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When I read about a slam attack, I picture something akin to the following picture: Amazing Slam Attack

It could be one hand, or two hands, but it's basically a top down motion, not necessarily a "body slam", but just a regular, "slam".

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