Natural Weapons and You: A Mini-Guide

Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love My Claws
By Keld Denar and Solo

This guide is dedicated to Aelrynth, who was instrumental in developing my understanding of the natural weapon rules through his sheer, stubborn ignorance of how they function.

So, why do we need to have a guide to the usage of natural weapons, you ask? BECAUSE WE LIVE HERE!!!

Though primitive and crude to the untrained eye, the world of natural weapons offer much to melee characters. The main attraction of natural weapons is, of course, the ability to use them following your regular iterative attacks such as manufactured weapons and unarmed strikes.

What is a natural weapon?

I know what you're thinkin', punk. Question is: 'Can I get Wolverine before he turns me into shish kabob with those claws?' Now bub, seein' that those claws are adamantium, the strongest metal known, and can slice through vanadium steel like a hot knife through butter, buddy, you gotta ask yourself: do I feel lucky?

To begin, let us first start look to the Natural Weapon rules

Natural weapons are weapons that are physically a part of a creature. A creature making a melee attack with a natural weapon is considered armed and does not provoke attacks of opportunity. Likewise, it threatens any space it can reach. Creatures do not receive additional attacks from a high base attack bonus when using natural weapons. The number of attacks a creature can make with its natural weapons depends on the type of the attack: generally, a creature can make one bite attack, one attack per claw or tentacle, one gore attack, one sting attack, or one slam attack (although Large creatures with arms or arm-like limbs can make a slam attack with each arm). Refer to the individual monster descriptions.

Unless otherwise noted, a natural weapon threatens a critical hit on a natural attack roll of 20.

When a creature has more than one natural weapon, one of them (or sometimes a pair or set of them) is the primary weapon. All the creature's remaining natural weapons are secondary.

The primary weapon is given in the creature's Attack entry, and the primary weapon or weapons is given first in the creature's Full Attack entry. A creature's primary natural weapon is its most effective natural attack, usually by virtue of the creature's physiology, training, or innate talent with the weapon. An attack with a primary natural weapon uses the creature's full attack bonus. Attacks with secondary natural weapons are less effective and are made with a -5 penalty on the attack roll, no matter how many there are. (Creatures with the Multiattack feat take only a -2 penalty on secondary attacks.) This penalty applies even when the creature makes a single attack with the secondary weapon as part of the attack action or as an attack of opportunity.

Natural weapons have types just as other weapons do. The most common are summarized below.
  • Bite
    • The creature attacks with its mouth, dealing piercing, slashing, and bludgeoning damage.
  • Claw or Talon
    • The creature rips with a sharp appendage, dealing piercing and slashing damage.
  • Gore
    • The creature spears the opponent with an antler, horn, or similar appendage, dealing piercing damage.
  • Slap or Slam
    • The creature batters opponents with an appendage, dealing bludgeoning damage.
  • Sting
    • The creature stabs with a stinger, dealing piercing damage. Sting attacks usually deal damage from poison in addition to hit point damage.
  • Tentacle
    • The creature flails at opponents with a powerful tentacle, dealing bludgeoning (and sometimes slashing) damage.

How Fighting With Natural Weapons Works

Haven't met anybody who's invulnerable to a well planted elbow in the groin.

Main hand weapons are weapons you get your iterative attacks with. This is NOT required to be a single weapon. You could make main hand attacks with 3 different weapons, so long as you have enough BAB to make 3 attacks. Main hand attacks typically get 1x +str, unless you wield them in both hands. Note: You don't actually have to wield a weapon in any hands, provided its description allows it.

Offhand weapons are weapons who's attacks are derived from the two weapon fighting (henceforth to be referred to as TWFing) combat option, or through the higher tier TWFing feats. You don't need TWFing to TWF, but it helps reduce the penalties. You DO need Improved TWF and Greater TWF to make more than one offhand attack. All offhand attacks have to be with the same weapon, and it can't be with any weapon you used as part of your iterative attacks. Offhand attacks only ever recieve .5x +str damage, regardless of how many hands you wield them with. If you aren't TWFing, you don't have an offhand.

Primary natural attacks are a creature's main mode of attack. This is typically an attack with either the highest damage, or a combat ability such as Improved Grab. Its also typically the attack a creature makes AoOs and standard action attacks with. Primary natural attacks almost always get 1x Str, although some creatures, especially those with only a single natural weapon, may get 1.5x. There is no hard rule for this though, so consult a stat block for more details. In the presence of a weapon capable of making iteratives (manufactured weapon or UAS), all primary weapons are converted to secondary natural weapons. A natural attack that is full (such as carrying gear or a manufactured weapon) can not make attacks.

Secondary natural attacks are a creature's alternate modes of attack. During a full attack, each other natural weapon the creature possesses may make 1 attack at -5 from highest AB (-2 with Multiattack). Secondary natural weapons always only receive .5x+Str regardless of whether or not they dealt 1x or 1.5x as primary weapons. A natural attack that is full (such as carrying gear or a manufactured weapon) can not make attacks.

Obtaining Natural Weapons


Now, how do we get natural weapons? There are several routes, such as race, template, spells, and etc that can grant them, a full list of which can be found here.

Naturally, even the best natural weapons are useless without a means of reliably achieving full attacks. Fortunately, there is also a list of ways to obtain pounce or free movement here.

The best natural weapons to get are ones that will not be occupied when you make your regular attacks. For example, a fighter who uses a greatsword would be better off with tails, bites, and tentacles rather than claws. A monk, on the other hand, is capable of making an unarmed strike with any part of his body so he can take on as many natural weapons as he feels like.

There are several classes that get natural weapons, but the best are probably the Totemist and the Psychic Warrior. And Druid, of course, but that kind of goes without saying. The Thayan Gladiator PrC from Champions of Ruin can potentially triple the number of natural attacks you can make; check the fine print for details.

Enchanting Natural Weapons

You're the one who oughtta be shakin' 'cause I'm about to carve you up into sushi.

The Amulet of Mighty Fists is three times as expensive as it should be, so it is only worthwhile if you have 3 or more natural weapons. The Necklace of Natural Weapons from Savage Species is cheaper to enchant and offers more options than just enhancement bonuses, but only applies to one natural weapon unless you pay a straight multiplier.  The break even point between the two is at 3 weapons or more when the AoMF becomes cheaper.  The NoNA does have the advantage of allowing +equivalent enhancements (like Wounding) and can reach a +10 total enhancement like a manufactured weapon, which the AoMF does not offer, if you are willing to pay the extra cash.

The Fanged Ring (Dragon Magic) grants INA and deals 1 Con damage on a critical hit, which is a pretty useful property to have. Only costs 10,000 gp.

The Ring of Adamant Touch (MIC) makes all your weapons overcome DR as if they were Adamantine for 6,000 gp.

Bracers of the Arcane (MIC) allow you to overcome DR silver and magic.

Jaws of the Dragon (Draconomicon) grants a bite attack as a creature one size larger for 40,000 gp.

Wyrmfang Amulet from the MIC is 1350 vs the 2500 for the one in Draconomicon.

Bands of Blood Rage from the MIC will boost all of your natural attacks for 2600 gp.

A Ghost Shroud from the MiC costs 5,000 gp and will grant you a +1 deflection bonus to AC and give your attacks the Ghost Touch property, allowing you to bust ghosts.

Gauntlets of Ghost Fighting from the MIC cost  4,000 gp and allow you to attack ghosts without penalty, as well as deal an extra 1d6 damage against them.

The best method for enchanting is probably the Kensai, which can enchant all of its natural weapons for XP. It�s not even a bad class for melee types. Failing that, if you're a Druid or have access to a Druid, casting Superior Magic Fang will give an enhancement bonus to all of your natural weapons.