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Various creatures such as lycanthropes and golems are listed as being immune to damage from weapons not of a particular type. As unarmed strikes are not counted as weapons, but can be used as weapon attacks, do they ignore these immunities?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I rephrased the final sentence to match the title question because they were opposing, so a Yes to one would have been No to the other. \$\endgroup\$ – Zso Apr 5 '16 at 13:59
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Unarmed strikes are negated by the immunities listed

According to the errata for the monster manual, the immunities in question have been changed from immunity to weapons to immunity to attacks. The exact quote is:

Throughout the book, instances of “nonmagical weapons” in Damage Resistances/Immunities entries have been replaced with “nonmagical attacks.”

Note that this had always been the case. Before any errata, unarmed strikes were listed as weapons, and the immunities referenced the weapons. Unarmed strikes were corrected to not be weapons, and the immunities were corrected to reference attacks instead of weapons.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you, I had checked through the PHB errata but didn't think to check the MM errata. \$\endgroup\$ – Zso Apr 5 '16 at 14:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Zso please note that the Monk has a special feature beginning at level 6 that by channeling Ki a monk's unarmed strikes (including weapons that qualify as monk's weapons) ignore resistance and immunity for non-magical attacks. If a magic weapon can hit and do damage, so can a 6th lvl monk's bare hands and weapons. \$\endgroup\$ – Escoce Apr 5 '16 at 15:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think rather than changed we should say it was "corrected" or is that not the case? \$\endgroup\$ – Javelin Apr 6 '16 at 7:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @javelin Does it make a difference to the meaning? Is the way I've written it unclear? \$\endgroup\$ – xanderh Apr 6 '16 at 11:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @xanderh It's not unclear, it's that saying "changed" implies to me that it was meant to be the way it was written before, and "corrected" implies to me that it was in error before and they are merely fixing it. \$\endgroup\$ – Javelin Apr 6 '16 at 15:55
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No. Errata (as per xander's answer) aside, the intent of the rules is very clear in this regard. Unarmed strikes are not intended to ignore immunities.

E.g. for Lycanthropes
Damage Immunities: bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from nonmagical weapons that aren't silvered.

Note that unarmed strikes are used like weapons (even though they're not really weapons) to deal bludgeoning damage. And since your fists, feet etc. are neither magical nor silvered, lycanthropes are generally immune to that damage.

A 6th level monk gains the ability Ki-empowered Strikes.

unarmed strikes count as magical for the purpose of overcoming immunity to nonmagical attacks and damage.

This benefit would obviously be meaningless if not for the fact that unarmed strikes are also generally affected by immunities.

Anyone trying to quibble about the letter-of-the-rule meaning unarmed strikes aren't affected is clearly on shaky ground.


On a related note, the important point about unarmed strikes not being weapons, is that: if you have an ability/spell to make a weapon magical, you cannot apply that benefit to your fists in order to bypass the immunities.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ RAW, you'd be wrong if they didn't change it in the errata. Falling damage also deals bludgeoning damage, but aren't weapons. If a lycanthrope (assuming unchanged immunity text) would be immune to unarmed strikes, it would also be immune to falling damage. Or being crushed by a falling mountain. The "nonmagical weapons that aren't silvered" is a very important clause, because without it, the immunities expand to cover any damage that isn't caused by either magic, silver, or some type of elemental damage. \$\endgroup\$ – xanderh Apr 5 '16 at 14:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @xanderh RAW: yes (MM errata aside) someone might try to quibble about "... from nonmagical weapons that ...". However, such an interpretation so obviously goes against RAI (especially considering Ki-empowered strikes) that it would be simply absurd to try argue the point. However, without the errata, RAI concerning other bludgeoning damage is less clear. \$\endgroup\$ – Disillusioned Apr 5 '16 at 14:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @xanderh I've updated my answer to emphasise that it's about the obvious intent of the rule. \$\endgroup\$ – Disillusioned Apr 5 '16 at 14:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ My point with the comment was that your emphasis on the damage type, while completely ignoring the "weapons" clause, would expand it to mean all bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage, including falling damage or being crushed by a mountain. \$\endgroup\$ – xanderh Apr 6 '16 at 11:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @xanderh I concede that RAW allows for falling or avalanches to ignore immunity and deal damage. But please don't be mistaken in thinking this makes anything clear. E.g. A bear's claw attacks are clearly nonmagical/non-silver so they suffer immunity and do 0 damage. But because falling damage ignores immunity, the bear can instead try to lift and throw the target or shove it down stairs or over a balcony. And suddenly the nonmagical claws "do damage". \$\endgroup\$ – Disillusioned Apr 6 '16 at 13:36

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