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The totem bind of the Girallon Arms soulmeld gives you four claw attacks. Can you use weapons with those claws?

It's not given any info on this other then that you gain claw attacks so I reason that you can not use natural attacks to attack with manufactured weapons.

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Usually, effects that grant natural attacks don’t grant extra limbs—so if, say, you have two different effects that gives you a bite attack, but you only have one head, you can only use one of those bite attacks in a round.

So when you get a claw attack, you don’t get another arm with which to use it. The claw goes on an existing limb. If you have no limbs left over for it, you can’t use it (or can’t use the claw or weapon in one of the existing hands).

This means the general rules of natural attacks aren’t going to help with this question. This question revolves primarily around girallon arms, an unusual case as far as these things go as it adds four claw attacks.

The thing about girallon arms is that it doesn’t just say that it grants you four claw attacks, as things similar effects granting a pair of claw attacks might. It goes through the entire process of describing how those four attacks are used—and makes no mention of limbs being needed for them. As such, girallon arms is an exception to the rule that you need limbs to make your attacks. Mechanically, it doesn’t give you four arms or four hands at all—but what it does give you is four claw attacks that don’t require their own limbs (though they do use up limbs that you do have). So all four claw attacks can be used, even with fewer than four arms or hands, but they can be used only for the claw attacks described in girallon arms.

It would be nice if Magic of Incarnum came out and said this explicitly, instead of requiring the reader to make these connections. But what it does do is set up the expectation of how it’s supposed to work in the italicized “fluff text” above the actual effect of the soulmeld:

Incarnum forms two additional, powerful arms that spring out from your ribs. These spirit arms mirror the movements of your real arms. All four of your arms are tipped with long claws that no longer seem ghostly, but quite real—and quite sharp.

So girallon arms gives you the two additional limbs you need to use the extra claw attacks. However, these arms are “spirit” and “ghostly” aside from the claws themselves, and in any event, mirror the movements of your real arms (implying an inability to perform independent actions). So it both seems the likely intent, and more keeping with the themes of the class, not to allow it. Personally, because I rather like the themes of the totemist class and because totemist is right around the right level of power for my games, I would not allow it.

You can, of course, use your real limbs to wield weapons, replacing up to two of the claw attacks from girallon arms in this fashion. The remaining two claw attacks, performed with the spirit arms, would be secondary attacks at the end of your full-attack.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ RE: "[A]s a DM I certainly wouldn’t let the extra limbs wield weapons or really do anything aside from make those claw attacks." Because that would be unbalanced or because the fluff text says mirror? The latter I can understand, but the former seems like a needless slap to an already tier 3 character. He's not conquering the Material Plane because of the longswords in his ghost arms! \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Sep 8 '16 at 23:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Both, to an extent? But bear in mind that I typically ban classes that are appreciably more powerful than that, so protecting that T3 status is one of the goals. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Sep 8 '16 at 23:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've been trying to puzzle out the math, and I can't. Why would it be bad--besides it going against the class's perceived flavor--to have the totemist wield four swords? Seeing as how he'd have to blow feats climbing the Multiweapon Fighting tree and chase sneak attack to do real damage, this doesn't seem, on the surface, crazy powerful. What am I missing? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Sep 9 '16 at 2:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Does flavor text affect mechanics though? Mechanically you only gain 2 claw attacks. \$\endgroup\$ – Simon Sep 9 '16 at 9:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Simon You meant four claw attacks, right? ("You gain four claws that you can use as natural weapons" (MoI 68).) Likewise, claws are typically manipulators by creatures smart enough to use them as such (e.g. lizardfolk, troglodytes, sahuagin). (I"m not sure if your comment's only modifies how many claw attacks or that they're claw attacks.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Sep 9 '16 at 12:45
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No

The Girallon Arms soulmeld only grants two additional arms when it is bound to your Totem Chakra. The description of this effect says:

These spirit arms mirror the movements of your real arms.

I would interpret "mirror the movements" to mean that they can't be moved independently. This would make wielding weapons in these extra arms highly immpractical if not flat-out impossible.


I will say that while researching an answer for this question I came across quite a bit of controversy across several forums. It seems that there is quite a debate among the community as to whether or not this ability allows you to wield manufactured weapons, but considering just how insane a Totemist can be without those manufactured weapons, I don't think allowing them would be wise.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Hmm, how about the RAW with claws? You can claw attacks not normal attacks. Also if the mirror hands thing is the problem, then a dualwield two handel weapons would work? \$\endgroup\$ – Simon Sep 8 '16 at 20:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure I understand what you are asking. The type of weapon is not the problem. If you wield any weapon at all you cannot use your natural attack with that same hand. The way they describe these extra claws/arms makes it sound as though they copy your movements with your two main arms. This is what would make holding a sword with them impossible. \$\endgroup\$ – GreedyRadish Sep 8 '16 at 21:01

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