Last Updated on January 22, 2023
Becoming a lich is hard. Sometimes, wizards can mess it up and become something else they didn’t intend. Of the many things they can turn into, Boneclaws are quite possibly the nastiest, deadliest, and most violent thing of all.
Created when a wizard’s soul doesn’t quite make it to a phylactery, boneclaws are what happens when that soul gets caught into the vortex of a truly evil creature. The soul manifests as a boneclaw intent on serving that evil creature as a serial assassin whether that creature knows it or not.
10-12 feet tall with a 19 Strength and predatory cunning to match, the Boneclaw is foe you do not want to meet in a dark alley. Or anywhere else.
This post is all about the boneclaw: where you’ll find them and how to fight them. Afterward, we have a little gift for the DMs out there who may want to feature boneclaws in their next adventure or campaign.
What Is a Boneclaw in DnD 5e?
A boneclaw is a Large, CR 12 undead with unmatched stealth abilities and a vicious melee claw attack.
Boneclaws tend to be rare enemies to find. While they are certainly intelligent and dangerous enough to be featured, their creation requires them to be in service to a nearby master.
Therefore, you won’t see boneclaws very often as they will tend to be overshadowed by their master. Boneclaws are the perfect assassin, bodyguard, and lieutenant.
Let’s check out the stat block.
Large Undead, Typically Chaotic Evil
- Armor Class: 16 (natural armor)
- Hit Points: 150 (20dl0 + 40)
- Speed: 40 ft.
- STR 19 (+4), DEX 16 (+3), CON 15 (+2), INT 13 (+l), WIS 15 (+2), CHA 9 (-1)
- Saving Throws: Dex +7, Con +6, Wis +6
- Skills: Perception +6, Stealth +7
- Damage Resistances: Cold, necrotic
- Condition Immunities: Charmed, exhaustion, frightened, paralyzed, poisoned
- Senses: Darkvision 60 ft., Passive Perception 16
- Languages: Common plus one language spoken by its master
- Challenge: 12 (8 ,400 XP) Proficiency Bonus +4
Rejuvenation. While its master lives, a destroyed boneclaw gains a new body in l dl0 hours with all its hit points. The new body appears within a mile of the bone claws master.
Unusual Nature. The boneclaw doesn’t require air, food, drink, or sleep.
Multiattack. The boneclaw makes two Piercing Claw attacks.
Piercing Claw. Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 15 ft., one target. Hit: 20 (3d l0 + 4) piercing damage plus 11 (2dl0) necrotic damage. If the target is a creature, the boneclaw can pull the target up to lO feet toward itself, and the target is grappled (escape DC 14). The boneclaw has two claws. While a claw grapples a target, the claw can attack only that target.
Shadow Jump (Recharge 5-6). If the boneclaw is in dim light or darkness, each creature of the boneclaw’s choice within 15 feet of it must succeed on a DC 14 Constitution saving throw or take 34 (5d l 2 + 2) necrotic damage. The boneclaw then teleports up to 60 feet to an unoccupied space it can see. It can bring one creature it’s grappling, teleporting that creature to an unoccupied space it can see within 5 feet of its destination. The destination spaces of this teleportation must be in dim light or darkness.
Shadow Stealth. While in dim light or darkness, the boneclaw takes the Hide action.
Deadly Reach. In response to a creature entering a space within 15 feet of it, the boneclaw makes one Piercing Claw attack against that creature.
From the top:
The first thing we see is that the boneclaw is a Large undead. Large creatures tend to be difficult to grapple but more susceptible to area effects. They also tend not to fit very well into small spaces; so, remember that if you want to Sparta it up and make the boneclaw have to squeeze in order to reach you.
Also, as an undead, some PCs may have special bonuses or equipment in fighting them. Obviously, clerics and paladins get the gold star here, but rangers and a few arcane casters can sometimes have a slight advantage.
The armor class is respectable. At a 16, it is harder to hit than many large creatures, and it has a boatload of Hit Points just in case you do hit it! Furthermore, its speed is 40 feet, so running away may prove difficult.
We are barely into the stat block, and already the boneclaw is giving me chills.
All of its ability scores, with the sole exception of Charisma, are positive, meaning forcing this thing to make saving throws may not be a sure way to bring it down. With a 19 strength, you can depend on it being a melee combatant, but a 16 Dexterity means it might find a way to go into range if given the resources. It has proficiency in Dexterity, Constitution, and Wisdom saving throws as well as a handful of resistances and immunities common to many undead.
Defensively, this monster is solid. It will be hard to overcome, so expect it to show up as a last obstacle between you and a boss. On the offensive, the boneclaw is a one-trick pony. It will teleport within range and try to stab you repeatedly with its giant claws. If successful, it will grapple you on those claws and then teleport away so your friends can’t help you escape.
A Bone Claws Tactics
This monster has one strategy in three words: ambush, snatch, escape. Afterward, it will pick you apart while your friends run in circles trying to save you.
While its defense means it can stay for a prolonged melee battle, it will more than likely try to find the person with the least HP, grapple them from ambush, and then teleport around the room until that PC dies. Then the boneclaw will simply do it again to the next most vulnerable PC.
Clever (and evil) DMs may give the boneclaw the ability to throw a bone javelin in order to give it some variation, but in general, you can trust the monster to keep it simple.
He just wants to reach out and touch someone. Deeply. In the chest.
Your Tactics Against a Boneclaw
The boneclaw moves around by teleporting from dark space to dark space. That is the first thing it does.
So, get rid of all the dark spaces! Cast Light on your head. Cast Produce Flame or even Create Bonfire. If the monster can’t jump around, then it will have a more difficult time ambushing and escaping.
Secondly, once it grapples someone, it can only attack that person with that particular claw. Consider readying an action to dive in front of the attack!
If you are a big, tough barbarian or paladin with a decent grapple, stick near the puny wizard. When the boneclaw attacks, jump in front, and take the attack and damage. After that, let it grapple you so that you can control the grapple on subsequent turns.
If you are in control of the grapple and someone was smart enough to cut off its escape with a light source, then you and your friends can jump this creepy monster and make it regret its life choices.
However, you can not actually kill a boneclaw until its master either dies or changes their alignment. So, killing the boneclaw once isn’t enough. Unless you can stop the master within 1d10 hours, you’ll just have to fight it again.
Either make sure you learn your lessons from your first battle with it or hope you can take out both it and the master in the same run.
Finally, you should guard your own emotions about this evil master you are slaying. If too much hatred or vengeance fills your heart, the boneclaw might just come back with you as its new master and kill everyone you have ever been annoyed at.
A DM’s Guide to Boneclaws
So, you like horror. Like, really like horror. You’d have to if you wanted to feature a boneclaw in your next game because these guys are big, scary, undead predators par none.
A Boneclaw’s Environment
There is no official recommendation for where a boneclaw will manifest. Given that they are found in the employ of a random evil master, they could literally be anywhere.
Since the boneclaw has a light-based teleportation, it is best if that master has a few shadowy corridors to exploit. So, it goes rather easily that boneclaws are great for urban environments.
But it need not stop there! They could just as easily be out in the woods, jumping from tree to tree in the shadows cast by the moonlight. If a boneclaw were underground or in the Shadowfell, it wouldn’t need to find a shadow from which to flit at all.
If, for example, a boneclaw were invading the celestial fields in the plane of ever-present daylight, it would need a way to create shadows and darkness. The more the boneclaw has to hide behind, the more it can teleport and hide in order to pick the PCs off one by one.
Boneclaw Manifestations That You Can Use To Create Adventures
Obviously, a boneclaw would manifest in the service of a different, successful lich or any other type of evil overlord. That’s simple, enough. If you need another encounter before your PCs fight the BBEG, throw in a boneclaw!
However, below we have given you a list of places and situations that can manifest a boneclaw. My hope is that these ideas will be enough to spur your imagination into running a horrifyingly memorable game for your friends.
3 Masters That Could Manifest Boneclaws
A serial killer has been arrested and is currently awaiting execution while in prison. On the night before they are due for the noose, a boneclaw manifests in their cell and helps their master escape, leaving behind a bloody trail that the PCs must investigate and track.
Can the PCs find out how the serial killer escaped, track their whereabouts, and not be killed by their new pet assassin?
A child has been prophesied to become a great dark lord in the future. For that child’s protection, a boneclaw has manifested nearby and is now killing anyone who angers the child. The child, of course, is a traumatized mess who wonders why their imaginary friend is now killing people. If the child doesn’t get control over his emotions, the boneclaw will strike again.
Can the PCs discover the identity of this imaginary friend, help the child control himself, and then maybe talk him into NOT becoming an evil overlord?
Wizards in a regional guild have been disappearing in record numbers. Somehow, the PCs are sent to investigate. They uncover a small club within the guild of wizards that is fascinated with necromancy. The one thing they have in common is that the lowest-level member of the guild has been working as an assistant for every wizard at one point or another. While investigating him, they discover that he has been helping the other wizards to become liches, except that the ritual goes wrong in every case. In this manner, this so-called assistant has been collecting a cadre of boneclaws to serve him while he works out the glitches in his own ritual.
Every step of the way, the PCs are attacked by another boneclaw. Give the boneclaw identifying features, gear, or tendencies to reveal that the boneclaw is one of the dead and missing wizards.
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Rich is an avid D&D player and DM. He has been playing since the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st and 2nd editions. He has run campaigns of various editions with family and friends for over 20 years. Playing DnD 5th Edition in person at local game stores and online with VTT’s over the past 10 years has provided a consistent connection to how the game has grown. He strongly believes in understanding the source material, but catering the games to your individual players. Feel free to ask anything in the comments or drop him an email: [email protected].