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A very similar situation came up in a game I am DMing. The players captured and tied down a wererat and tried to execute him with a greataxe. I initially ruled that this does not work, since the wererat is immune to weapons that are not silvered. One of my players brought up the scenario in the question. The MM says a wererat is immune to (my emphasis)

Bludgeoning, Piercing, And Slashing Damage From Nonmagical Weapons That Aren't Silvered

So, one would argue that the guillotine would work since it is not a weapon. (Or is it?)

But how about a guillotine that looks like a greataxe? It also makes little sense to me that a helpless wererat can be harmed by dropping a stone on it (can it?), but not by hitting it with a stone maul.

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Yes, because a guillotine is not a “weapon”

Jeremy Crawford specifically calls out that creatures can be crushed even if they are immune to nonmagical weapons

Jeremy Crawford
@pukunui81

Immunity to nonmagical weapons intentionally leaves the door open for a monster to take damage from falling, being crushed, etc.

So, if you throw a wererat off a ledge, it takes the damage from falling. That is, the floor it falls on is not considered a “bludgeoning weapon.”

If you threw a wererat into a spiked pit trap, it could also take damage from the spikes. The spikes are part of the trap, trap damage covered in the "etc" of the “door intentionally left open” that JC mentions.

We know how to make a weapon attack — the character reaches for a weapon and the player reaches for a d20. A guillotine doesn’t work that way. In game terms, a guillotine is not a weapon. It’s too big to wield and I think we can agree it will not miss the victim inside it (so, there is no weapon attack roll).

Effectively, the guillotine is an (obvious) trap. It’s an apparatus that can damage you, if you are in a specified place when it is sprung. Trap damage falls into the expansive category of non-weapon damage that can hurt the lycanthrope.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The question says that it's also immune to Bludgeoning damage. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nat
    Apr 1, 2017 at 5:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Nat that is made moot by Crawford's tweet \$\endgroup\$
    – daze413
    Apr 1, 2017 at 8:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ The twitter exchange in the link is very useful. "Wielding" = "rolling d20 using a character's/creature's attack bonus" seems like a good rule of thumb. \$\endgroup\$
    – Solanacea
    Apr 3, 2017 at 14:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Do Improvised Weapons and Unarmed Attacks count as weapons for the purpose of the Wererat's immunity to non-magical weapons? I would think not, but I'm not in a position to post this as an official question. EDIT: Just remembered that the errata changed the immunity to non-magical attacks, not weapons, which also affects the question above. \$\endgroup\$
    – Taxi4Dave
    Aug 9, 2019 at 9:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @tim-grant: you likely should update this (great) answer to reflect the changed wording of the wererat immunity \$\endgroup\$ May 22 at 11:47
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RAW: Probably not.

From a RAW standpoint I think the wererat is immune but that is not how I would rule it in my game.

Critical Thinking: Depends.

This gets into that argument about what hit points are and if we want to define them as an abstraction to how much physical punishment you can take etc. so take it with a handful of salt.

I see the immunity to "weapon attacks" (per errata) as a general supernatural resistance to combat damage from enemy combatants and not complete immunity to something causing massive damage, such as that of a guillotine (or executioners axe for that matter).

Suppose you have a subdued Ogre on the chopping block instead of a Wererat. Using RAW you couldn't use a guillotine as it would not kill the creature outright. (1d12 + whatever + autocrit < 59hp). I think this violates some level of common sense and demonstrates more that it should be a combat guideline and not used in all circumstances.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Being immune to weapons made of substances other than silver is itself rather unrealistic; Carrying your reasoning to its logical conclusion, wererats should actually be as vulnerable to ordinary weapon attacks as any creature made of flesh and blood is. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Mar 31, 2017 at 23:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ Regarding "not complete immunity", there's historical precedent for reinterpreting "immunity" as a large-but-finite resistance in extreme circumstances. For example, in 3.5e, deities could use mind-affecting powers against targets who were normally immune, but those targets got +10 on their saving. Similar rules modifications are used for epic skills, where normally impossible things are reinterpreted as merely being very difficult. Seems like that'd be the approach here; "immunity" could be house-ruled as a high damage resistance. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nat
    Apr 1, 2017 at 5:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Nat That's not a bad point, if it holds true in 5e. Do you have any 5e examples to support it? \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Apr 1, 2017 at 22:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ I can't find a source now, (and it may be folklore more than D&D lore), but I saw it mentioned that the reason Lycanthropes needed a silvered weapon was because they had extremely fast regeneration for normal cuts. They were not Immune, but Regeneration++ for normal attacks that made it look like immunity. Obviously D&D has very specific rules around both, but this is from a folklore based argument. \$\endgroup\$
    – Guy
    Apr 1, 2017 at 23:53
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So this has been asked of Crawford but only indicating such things as falling and being crushed by a collapsing roof etc.

What will have to happen is that the DM will need to decide if a guillotine is a weapon. The PHB gives a bit of guidance but not much. p146

Every weapon is classified as either melee or ranged. A melee weapon is used to attack a target within 5 feet of you, whereas a ranged weapon is used to attack a target at a distance.

A guillotine is definitely not a ranged weapon nor would I argue it is a melee weapon. Now, the catch here is that if you rule that a guillotine is not a weapon, that could leave traps to affect the lycathrope as well, which is totally fine.

Bottom line is that as Crawford states in that series of Tweets:

Yeah, I would emphasize that it's supernatural. It doesn't obey the physical laws of our world.

It would seem rather weird that you could not execute a lycanthrope with a guillotine but instead drop a big rock on his head or push it off a cliff.


Given the errata to the MM that the term "weapon" in the entries should be replaced with "attack", the preceding tweets are a bit weird.

The DM will have to decide on whether a guillotine is an attack and by extension traps; if they are attacks and are silvered or magical, they would affect lycanthropes.

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The basic answer is, like everything else, it's up to you as the DM to decide. There are no explicit rules for extending immunities to general actions or conditions, nor is there any specific description about what being immune to some kind of damage looks like.

In a game I was running, I would rule that a lycanthrope can't be harmed by a guillotine.

Crawford summed it up perfectly:

A lycanthrope's immunity is a supernatural resilience against the attacks of regular mortals.

I would discourage the characters from any kind of methodical experimentation to determine the limits of lycanthropic immunities. Tonally it's not the kind of story I want to tell; I run D&D games to tell fantasy stories, and determining how a wererat's immunity to weapons interacts with physics is science fiction. Likewise, in-game, it's not how inhabitants of the world, including the player characters, would interact with magical things.

Consequently, I would adopt the general principle that without the aid of magic or divine forces, the tools of ordinary mortals cannot harm a lycanthrope. The lycanthropic aversion to silver is a matter of divine edict, and part of the nature of were-creatures.

Consequences of this would be that a guillotine blade doesn't cut or crush a lycanthrope. A great stone lifted by mortals will bounce off it; driving a wagon over it will leave it tumbled and dusty but unharmed. And so on. Lycanthropes are horrific, unnatural things that are beyond the reach of ordinary mortals. It shouldn't be possible to truss them up and butcher them as if they were just brigands wearing masks.

I would, however, rule that the natural world can harm and kill a lycanthrope. So if mortals can throw it over a cliff, or into a volcano, or immolate it in a bonfire, or manacle it to a pier as the tide comes in -- those things might kill it. There, it is the world itself that's harming the lycanthrope, not the artifice of mortal beings.

I would also make lycanthropes difficult or impossible to capture and imprison without use of magical or silvered restraints. Remember that all lycanthropes are shapechangers — any bindings that would secure a wererat in human or hybrid form would fall harmlessly away when it assumed rat form!

However, your campaign, players, and style may be very different.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I disagree with this re: massive damage sources, mainly because a guillotine is merely the starting point. Are lycanthropes immune to being crushed between the couplers of 150+ton loaded coal gondolas, or shredded by several dozen hits per second from the sword-sized titanium fan blades on a high-bypass turbofan engine for that matter? \$\endgroup\$
    – Shalvenay
    Apr 1, 2017 at 14:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Shalvenay Since those things don't exist alongside lycanthropes in any D&D world I would run, the question (for me) is meaningless. Obviously, the games you run or play in may be very different. \$\endgroup\$
    – Marq
    Apr 1, 2017 at 16:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ I was trying to emphasize how world/tonally-specific your ruling is -- other types of settings have equally massive damage sources in them, too, but I used the RL examples to be relatable to what we know about this world we live in. (It's not a good fit for a question that doesn't specify/emphasize the tone of game you're talking about.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Shalvenay
    Apr 1, 2017 at 16:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ah, I see. I thought I had framed my answer such that it was clear that beyond the first paragraph, it was how I personally would handle things, and that it was motivated by general genre/tone choices (per the final paragraph). Is there some specific change you think I should make to improve the clarity of the answer? \$\endgroup\$
    – Marq
    Apr 1, 2017 at 16:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think that the final paragraph could be far better integrated with the body of the text rather than being a sidebar or aside. As it is, you kind of buried the lede regarding how much this is motivated by a "supernatural things are different and scary" tone in your games. \$\endgroup\$
    – Shalvenay
    Apr 1, 2017 at 17:11
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That's a judgment call. I would rule that putting a blade in a frame does not turn it into a non-weapon. He might have to spend a few extra days on death row, while the guillotine blade (or greataxe) gets silvered.

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Yes, but maybe it needs to be silvered

The wererat's Damage Immunities line has been errataed to say:

Bludgeoning, Piercing, and Slashing from Nonmagical Attacks that aren't Silvered

Any non-attack damage, any magical attack and any mundane attack that is delivered with a silvered object or deals energy damage like fire will work to damage the wererat.

What's an attack?

The question then is if using a guillotine to behead a creature counts as an attack. For this the PHB, p. 194 says:

If there’s ever any question whether something you’re doing counts as an attack, the rule is simple: if you’re making an attack roll, you’re making an attack.1

Would you need to make an attack roll for a guillotine, which is designed to always hit? It seems unlikely, because there is no outcome that could go either way.

The wererat would not be immune to the guillotine, because it is not damage from an attack. If you consider it to be an attack that automatically hits, then the wererat would be immune, unless the blade was silvered.

Narrative perspective

Beyond the pure rules mechanics, I think this essentially is a judgment call for the DM about how powerful they want the curse of lycanthropy to be in their world:

  • is it just enough to negate normal attacks, but not to overcome more massive sources of normal damage like being crushed? (This is RAW.) Or

  • is it a more powerful curse, that will allow them to survive any kind of mundane physical damage, and only can be vanquished with magic, silver, fire, suffocation, and similar unusual means?

If its the second, also non-attack damage from guillotines, spear traps and cave-ins would not work. That’s not RAW, but within the DMs power to rule for their world.


1 Strictly speaking, the PHB on p. 195 also defines Grappling or Shoving a Creature as attacks, both of which use Strength (Athletics) checks instead of an attack roll. So there can be more ways to make an attack than attack rolls, but anytime you make an attack roll, it is an attack. Also, these still require a roll to attack, because there is a chance to succeed or fail. For the purpose of this discussion, we are concerned with a situation that requires no such roll.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Recall that an attacks may not require an attack roll. For example, Shove and Grapple are attacks but no attack roll is required. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    May 22 at 18:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Eddymage, thank you for pointing this out. Interesting -- that then is in direct contradiction to the criteria the PHB itself provides. I'll add a footnote about it. I think for this discussion it is fine as it is focusd on attacks to deal damage, which those do not do. \$\endgroup\$ May 22 at 18:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ There is no contradiction: if you are making an attack roll, then you are making an attack. But if you are making an attack (e.g., a Shove) then an attack roll may not be required. There is no if and only if. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    May 22 at 19:37
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What it ultimately comes down to is GM option.

The basis of the silvered weapons is that the silver is pure and causes bad reactions to "impure" lycanthropes and undead. So with that as a starting point, you have to determine the effect of the guillotine metal. There are 3 ways to handle it.

  1. A subdued creature (any creature) which is beheaded in one go is dead (period). This will mean that the "wolverine effect" is overwhelmed and the separation of the brain from the body causes death.
  2. You could let him be beheaded and then make it so that they have to burn the body or something or it will come back together when in proximity and heal.
  3. You can make it so that the guillotine just bounces off the neck...

So it is up to you, ultimately, to make the call as to either or... Decide how you want it to go and make it so.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for taking time to answer. However this answer is not very helpful to me since I am already familiar with the role of the DM. I did make a ruling and moved the story along. It would be much more helpful if you could offer an analysis of these three options based on RAW, RAI, or your house rules. \$\endgroup\$
    – Solanacea
    Apr 1, 2017 at 19:54
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I will add another view: what does the adventure need/require?

(a) If your adventure involve a surprise reveal that the wererat cannot be harmed by it, then that's it.

(b) If the adventure requires the PCs to find a way to rid themselves of the wererats, then go with it.

Do not let such details get in the way of a good plot. If you need to ret-con, then the blade of town

(a) had no silver while

(b) had "just barely enough"...

I am always a fan of keeping options open and going where the plot flows.

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