Natural attacks & ranged weapons dealing non-lethal damage?

Rules Questions

Liberty's Edge

I just want to make sure I have the rules-as-written right on one point. (I don’t care to discuss RAI.) From my understanding of the rules as written, natural attacks can’t deal non-lethal damage (even with a -4 attack penalty). Is that right?

My reasoning to get to that conclusion is that (a) natural attacks are attacks made without weapons, (b) you can’t deal non-lethal damage unless that possibility is specifically called out, and (c) that possibility is never called out for attacks without weapons in general.

Notice that (b) can be used to generate the conclusion that ranged weapons also cannot deal non-lethal damage, because (d) the possibility of dealing non-lethal damage is never called out for ranged weapons too. Does that seem right too?

Anyway, I suspect this is an oversight for natural attacks (but probably not for ranged weapons?), but again I’m just interested in RAW at this point, not RAI.

If I’m wrong, maybe it’s because (b) is false, and something like its opposite is true:

(Anti-b) you can always deal non-lethal damage with no penalty unless that possibility is specifically restricted.

If (anti-b) is correct, then both natural attacks and ranged weapons can deal non-lethal damage with no penalty.

Which one is correct, or do the written rules fail to cover this issue? Thanks!


Nonlethal Damage with a Weapon that Deals Lethal Damage

You can use a melee weapon that deals lethal damage to deal nonlethal damage instead, but you take a –4 penalty on your attack roll.

Lethal Damage with a Weapon that Deals Nonlethal Damage

You can use a weapon that deals nonlethal damage, including an unarmed strike, to deal lethal damage instead, but you take a –4 penalty on your attack roll.

The only question here is are natural attacks considered melee weapons. Certainly some natural attacks are melee attacks, but does that also make them melee weapons.

As far as I know, melee weapon isn't clearly defined.

Ranged weapons/attacks are a clear no, because there isn't a rule that says you can deal non-lethal with them.

That said, there are blunt arrows which allow you to deal nonlethal damage.

Natural Weapons are weapons. Not only is weapon called out right in the name, but they are also explicitly considered 'light weapons,' as stated in Weapon Finesse. When an effect only targets manufactured weapons, it must specify manufactured, as opposed to natural (For example, the Disguise Weapon spell)m, because simply using the term "weapon" would include both.

There is the statement that natural attacks are attacks made without weapons (wouldn't that be an unarmed strike, which is not a natural weapon?). And when discussing when creature's attacks are considered magical based on their DR, it is stated that natural weapons (but not attacks with weapons) are counted as magic. So there is certainly room to rule either way, but it seems much more reasonable a ruling to say natural weapons are weapons, they just aren't manufactured weapons.

Most natural weapons are melee weapons. You can verify this by locating them in the melee section of every monster that has them. Any attacks that are not ranged are melee.

So I would say you could deal nonlethal by taking a -4 on the attack.

And as Claxon stated, blunt arrows are a good way to do nonlethal damage at range, and without that (or the Merciful weapon abiity), there is no general allowance for doing nonlethal damage at range.

It seems like natural attacks are treated as weapons by specific feats (eg weapon finesse). But I don't know if these are just clarifications or exceptions. And you can even make all of your natural attacks deal non-lethal damage with a merciful amulet of mighty fists.

Power attack seems to call out natural attacks as being melee attacks by the way it's worded, but it comes short of calling them weapons.

I would lean towards saying you can make it deal non-lethal damage with a natural attack by taking a -4 penalty. But I can't find any place where the term "natural weapon" is clearly defined. It seems to get used interchangeably with natural attack but only the term natural attack is used when defining what it is.

interestingly, the rules do say that if you are firing a blunt arrow, you can take a -4 penalty to hit to make the arrow deal lethal instead of non-lethal damage.

Liberty's Edge

Thanks for the two replies.

Natural attacks are specifically mentioned as *not* being weapons. See the first sentence for the universal monster rules entry for natural attacks (bottom of the right column of page 301 of Bestiary 1).

The frustrating thing is that sometimes ‘natural weapon’ is used apparently to mean the same as ‘natural attack’, as in the Weapon Finesse entry.

EDIT: A third reply snuck in while I was distracted—it seems to agree with me. Thanks!

I wouldn't count that as strong evidence that they don't count as melee weapons, it's merely poor word usage trying to indicate the difference between manufactured weapons and natural attacks.

Unfortunately, consistent wording is not used in all locations.

Don't try to run this by "RAW". That way lies madness.

They're weapons. Things that affect weapons (as opposed to "manufactured weapons" or "carried weapons" or "held weapons") affect natural attacks. You can attack nonlethally with a claw attack just as well as you can with an iron claw.

You can also make nonlethal ranged attacks with bolas.

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