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If lets say... an Owlbear which has the multiattack trait wants to knock someone down and grapple them. Can the owlbear replace the 2 attack actions covered under the multiattack with a grapple and a shove?

The MM says...

When a monster takes its action, it can choose from the options in the Actions section of its stat block or use one of the actions available to all creatures, such as the Dash or Hide action, as described in the Players Handbook.

So at this point it looks like monsters can indeed replace an attack action with something like a grapple.

Multiattack says...

A creature that can make multiple attacks on its turn has the Multiattack ability. A creature can't use Multiattack when making an opportunity attack, which must be a single melee attack

This seems to imply that some creatures can make more than one attack action per turn. Its worded similar to the player version...

Beginning at 5th level, you can attack twice, instead of once, whenever you take the Attack action on your turn

The snag for me comes up when reading the grapple action text that says..

If you’re able to make multiple attacks with the Attack action, this attack replaces one of them.

The key word being "attack action". Does this mean that since multiattack seems to be a special feature and not the normal "attack action" that monsters may only replace their normal attack action (which they only have 1 of) with a alternate action type instead of replacing both attacks like a PC would be able to? ( Or at least I think PC's can)

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No, even monsters only get one action per turn, and actions should not be confused with attacks. in the case of monsters that can attack multiple times, that's because Multiattack is one action, that just happens to result in attacking more than once. Each attack is not an attack action! Multiattack is also very specific about which attacks the action results in.

So an owlbear can indeed grapple or shove, but that grapple or shove is done by taking a normal Attack action, not a Multiattack action. The Attack action is general purpose and more flexible than Multiattack, but doesn't allow the owlbear to make more than one attack during the action.

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I personally found the distinction between Multiattack and multiple attacks confusing, and have appreciated the discussion both for and against using grapples as substitutes for part of a Multiattack.

I reached out to Mike Mearls to get a better sense of how the rule was intended, and he was very kind to reply. It would seem Mike sides mostly with the accepted answer here, which is that generally you should not replace any part of a Multiattack with a grapple (and a shove, though I hadn't discussed that action specifically in the tweet).

@mikemearls A question: PCs with multiple attacks can replace an attack with grapple. Can monsters with Multiattack do the same?

@kbrimington i'd say no - might have some unintended effects. OK on a case-by-case basis, but be wary about it.

It's the second part of his response that prompted me to provide my own answer.

We sometimes forget that RAW not only provides us with more than 100 creatures and their stat blocks, but also provides guidelines for creating your own creatures. A custom creature that follows these guidelines is RAW as far as your campaign is concerned.

It is not unreasonable to imagine a variant species of owlbear that live in aggressive packs renowned for their grappling tactics, or evolved to have a claw designed for grasping rather than raking or piercing. Such a species might not have Multiattack at all, but instead have an ability that permits a beak and a grapple but not a claw (since the claw is being used to grapple). For consistency, you might also replace the regular claw attack with grapple.

Does such a creature violate RAW? Perhaps, but I think not. And, if so, it is not by much.

This, at least, is the solution that comes to my mind when Mearls replied: "OK on a case-by-case basis, but be wary about it."

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Generally, no. The monster's Multiattack entry will specify not just the number of attacks they can take, but which of their attacks (defined in the same section of their statblock) they are allowed to take. They can't just swap any of those out with grapple or shove or any other attacks they might have.

Now, if any of those attacks happen to be grapples or shoves, then sure, you'll be multi-shoving or multi-grappling.

And don't worry if it looks similar to the rules for some classes that can make multiple attacks with one action; those rules don't have anything to do with monsters.

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Based on the quotes you provided, my answer would be absolutely.

It's pretty clear that Multiattack is intended to be the equivalent of the PC version. And if you read the various monsters who have their ability, their write-ups are inconsistent.

  • Storm Giant: Multiattack. The giant makes two greatsword attacks.
  • Bugbear Chief: Multiattack. The bugbear makes two melee attacks.
  • Owlbear: Multiattack. The owlbear makes two attack: one with its beak and one with its claws.
  • Centaur: Multiattack. The centaur makes two attacks: one with its pike and one with its hooves or two with its longbow.

If you want to read that all as RAW, it's going to drive you crazy.

  • Apparently a Storm Giant can attack twice with a Greatsword, but give it a Club and it can only attack once. In fact, RAW it can't attack at all because "club" isn't listed in the stat block.
  • Give the Centaur a sword (like it has the in MM artwork) and it can't use the Sword and hooves in the same turn because that's not specified. As above, it's also not listed in the stat block which apparently means it can't use it at all?
  • The Bugbear Chief can use two Javelins in a turn, but only for melee attacks and not for throwing.
  • Put a muzzle on the Owlbear and it loses Multiattack.

That's a lot of silly stuff that makes rulings needlessly complex for no good reason.

I think it's safe to interpret Multiattack as being equivalent to the PC ability that grants multiple attacks. With the odd exception for monsters that spread out their attacks across a couple of limbs.

In that vein, I think it's safe to allow an Owlbear or a Bugbear or a Storm Giant to substitute an Attack for a Shove/Grapple just like you would a PC.

Note: enabling grapple and shove as part of multi-attack does not change the CR of the monster according to the DMG. Allowing a monster to pick up and use a different weapon that it could normally use (sword instead of spear), also does not change the CR.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Actually, that seems pretty simple, and seems to be exactly how the rules are supposed to work: the monster gets bonus attacks, but only with the right weapons. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 22 '15 at 0:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ Unless those monsters are NPCs with classes. Oh except the stat blocks for the NPCs include the same silliness. So the Assassin from the MM can only multi-attack with a Shortsword, but not a Dagger. In fact the Assassin doesn't list "Dagger" in the stat block. So if we follow your logic and I give the Assassin a dagger, he can't use it anyways. \$\endgroup\$ – Gates VP Mar 22 '15 at 2:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Correct. And of course. If you're thinking of them as 3.x-style NPCs that may seem silly, but this is a different game. NPCs are built on monster rules. If you want to give an assassin a dagger, you built it a new attack block using the normal monster rules (which is trivial). \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 22 '15 at 2:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ Trivial, perhaps, but silly. It just makes simple sense that NPCs can pick up a different weapon and use it without having to file a "change of stat block" form in triplicate and get it notarized by the DM. OTOH, grapple requires a hand to grasp, so I would not generally allow a monster to grapple (whether with a Multi-attack or normal Attack action), unless it had hands or a limb that can grasp. Shove, I'd let the owlbear do as part of its multiattack. \$\endgroup\$ – Phil Boncer Mar 9 '18 at 20:25
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pg 11 of MM "A creature can't use Multi-attack when making an opportunity attack, which must be a single attack."

Therefore a grapple unless stated in the Multi-attack is likewise a single attack.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ A grapple is definitely a single attack, but how does that support your answer that a creature cannot use a Multiattack to grapple? Can you elaborate a bit more? \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Apr 11 '18 at 0:15

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