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?

  • 4
    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. – SevenSidedDie Aug 2 '16 at 15:10
  • Now I want to make a thri kreen barbarian with a bespoke four-handed sword. Imagine the penalties for trying to one-hand that. – Blue Footed Booby Aug 4 '16 at 16:32
up vote 21 down vote accepted

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.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – mxyzplk Aug 21 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 posess 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 dtop 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 meelee 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 meelee combat and anything else. A character race with more than two hands could obviate this problem.

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