So what, exactly, are the mechanical benefits of a PC race having extra hands in 5e without houseruling anything?

Would a house rule be necessary to even make the extra hands make sense in combat, or are the rules flexible enough to allow it as-is?

Would a monster with four hands (such as the Thri Kreen) operate by the same rules and have the same advantages?

Could a player emulate some of these benefits by using other grasping anatomy of their race's anatomy, such as their mouth?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I've removed the comments as they were becoming heated and circular. It is fine to ask about whether the existing rules would grant any benefit for a homebrewed being with extra hands. Not every rule has to be “here is The Rule About Extra Hands for Races With Extra Hands” for a game system to provide a benefit. Perhaps emergently or incidentally, a game system can simply happen to have rules that would extend a benefit to something like this. At the same time, not every system will explicitly or emergently provide any such benefit. It is also OK for a question to have “no” as an answer. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 2, 2016 at 15:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Now I want to make a thri kreen barbarian with a bespoke four-handed sword. Imagine the penalties for trying to one-hand that. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 4, 2016 at 16:32

5 Answers 5


The Thri-Kreen in the Monsters Manual (page 288) have four arms. The benefit they seem to gain from this is the ability to use a two-handed weapon while wielding another weapon.

Without houseruling anything, a creature with extra hands would just get more hands wherever the rules call for hands. For example, a weapon with the Two-Handed property "requires two hands to use", so you could potentially wield two of those (although, depending on the configuration of the arms, this may not make any physical sense). Grappling and some spellcasting require a character to have a "free hand". A four-handed character would have a free hand even while wielding a two-handed weapon, or even two light weapons and a shield. In fact, it's perfectly within RAW for a Thri-Kreen to grapple an enemy using its free hands while wielding a two-handed polearm.

An obvious question is whether the character would be able to wield four weapons and make four attacks. RAW says no. The rule on Two-Weapon Fighting would still apply as written, and both weapons need to have the Light property, unless you have the Dual Wielder feat.

This rule from the Dual Wielder feat becomes interesting:

You gain a +1 bonus to AC while you are wielding a separate melee weapon in each hand.

Does that mean you need to wield melee weapons in all of your hands to gain the benefit? As written, it's not clear, but from context (it's dual wielding after all), you'd just need to have weapons in at least two of your hands. The intent is likely that you gain the benefit because you cannot use a shield, so perhaps the rule should be that you have a weapon in two hands and no shield.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Aug 21, 2018 at 0:06

The entry for Thri-Kreen does not have any additional benefit for having multiple limbs short of possibly being applicable to their multi-attack action and the fact that the attack with "claws" is plural thus implying they would use all 4 or at least 2 of them to obtain their 2d4+1 (MM P288). As noted in the Dragon entries it is singular but indicates in the multi-attack entry that they would get 2 claw attacks.

Since your example was the thri-kreen that is what I am using and shying away from examples from previous editions however just as a perspective I will mention the Spellweaver whose brain allowed for multiple actions and was noted.

There are no apparent RAW to allow multiple limbed creatures to break the conventions of the existing combat rules even within a monster entry, if it did it would be noted there. That is to say they get a single action, bonus action, reaction and move in a given turn, not to get confused with legendary and lair actions which explicitly break that convention. Any such ruling would require a DM decision but should be carefully considered for balance. In the example of the thri-kreen the camouflage, jumping and natural armor seem to already put them on par with existing races. Add in the feat that would likely be required to gain the psionic component (comparing it to the svirfneblin feat for their spell ability).

All that said it would not necessarily be game breaking to allow an additional interaction with an item, which everyone gets one during their turn as a free action (limitations listed in the PHB obviously). DM ruling should take into account other similar things like the Monk gaining an extra attack as a bonus action during their turn to maintain balance.

Apocalisp's answer indicates the passive benefits I don't cover here, multiple weapons equals multiple options in damage not necessarily more attacks. As he states a thri-kreen could feasibly use a greatsword and shield and still possibly have the option of grappling.


The big thing here, it seems to me, would be the ability to simultaneously possess multiple objects. When I DM for my players, they must be physically able to do anything they attempt to do in combat with an object, and this comes up more often than one would think.

Thus, a character with a sword and a shield must drop or stow at least one of them to first retrieve and then drink a potion. A ranger who casts a spell doesn't have to stow his bow to retrieve a spellcasting implement or material components.

In more rational situations, would a player dual wielding melee weapons be able to attack, open a door (manipulate object) and still have that second weapon back up to parry or Dual Wield for the AC bonus at the end of his/her turn?

Depending on how strictly the DM interprets the stow/retrieve objects free action, this could seriously limit the utility of changing between melee combat and anything else. A character race with more than two hands could obviate this problem.


I know this post is old, but I'll leave my two copper pieces here for anyone who stumbles upon it. I won't talk rules, since I think they have been well covered by my predecessors; I'll simply talk narrative. A big concern with a multi-armed race, for the DM at least, will probbaly be action economy. Do multiple arms instanlty grant multiple attacks? Simplistic logic might say 'yes', it makes sense after all. That poses a problem to balance, for obvious reasons. So, how do you justify 'nerfing' that trait? Well, the ability to make distinct use of many limbs at once implies great dexterity and accuracy, which the race in discussion might not really possess: even for us, real humans, doing entirely different things with 3 of our 4 limbs at once would be tricky. Another option is that the limitations come from timing. The multi-armed race doesn't get extra actions not because of a phisyiological limit, but because extra actions require extra thought: the round is still 6 seconds long after all. As said in Bioshock by a cientist developing telekinesis, on why it wasn't good to stop bullets: "Problem not with (power), but with reaction time"

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE. Do take the tour and visit the help center some time. While these are useful things to think about when making rules for multiple arms or describing multi-armed creatures (and justifying to your players why their 4-armed character doesn't get extra attacks), this answer could be improved by making a clearer statement of what you think the effects of having multiple arms are and linking that to your in-universe justifications. Answers are better when they are at least somewhat self-contained. \$\endgroup\$
    – BBeast
    Apr 8, 2021 at 7:52

What I would say is the logical implications of what you can actually do at the same time with four arms. For example, using a spear and daggers simultaneously would probably weaken your overall attack, with exception if you have the Dual Wield feat. However, throwing weapons which could be used as a bonus action, somatic elements that are useable even while wielding a two-handed weapon, and the ability to, let's say, use a reaction to Ready an action would be interesting to see in play.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi Friendo, welcome to rpg.se! Take the tour and visit the help center for more information. When talking rpgs, what is "logical" and what the rules say and not always the same thing. Can you support your opinion with evidence from rules or experience with characters with extra hands? If you can please edit it into your answer. Good luck and happy gaming! \$\endgroup\$
    – linksassin
    Nov 19, 2019 at 4:24

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