The Alexandrian

For the past 6 hours I’ve been agonizing about whether or not to cut this rule from Legends & Labyrinths:

Grappling: A combatant can grapple an opponent by making an opposed grapple check, which is a type of action check:

1d20 + grapple attack bonus vs. opponent’s grapple check

If the check is successful, the combatants enter a grapple. Combatants in a grapple can escape by taking an attack action.

When attempting any action (including escaping the grapple), a grappling combatant must first succeed at an opposed grapple check against everyone else in the grapple. This check is a free action. Opposing characters can choose to automatically fail their checks. (Note: When making a  full attack, a combatant must make an opposed grapple check for each attack action.)

These would be the entirety of the rules for grappling. They take my Super Simple Grappling rules and boil them down even further to their core essence. I’m also playing with the idea of embracing the Pathfinder method of a grapple check vs. a static defense score (CMB vs. CMD).

Either way, though, it means including an extra set of rules, at least one extra stat for every character, and extra information cluttering up the Creature Size table.

To put this in perspective, the only other combat maneuver you’d currently find in Legends & Labyrinths is a stripped-down version of a partial charge. (And that’s only there because it was the easiest way to make surprise rounds work. The other option was to give everyone a full set of actions on the surprise round, and that seems to be too powerful in playtesting.) The goal is to make the game as simple as absolutely possible, but not to the point of crippling its utility.

This grappling rule obviously adds complexity and a little bit of extra baggage to the rules. The question I can’t quite answer is this: How essential is the ability to grab somebody else and wrestle with them? If this rule doesn’t exist, is every DM running the game going to end up needing to figure out how to adjudicate it?

What do you think? Keep it or cut it?

Share on TumblrTweet about this on TwitterShare on StumbleUponShare on FacebookShare on RedditShare on Google+Digg this

13 Responses to “L&L Design Check: Grappling”

  1. Runjikol says:

    A grapple is just a melee attack with different results. Usually to restrict the target’s movement & thus their ability to attack. This can be as extreme as choking them out or as prosaic as holding their wrists so they can’t attack.

    There’s some logical requirements. Like what is being held and really big size differences. Other than that it ought to be part of anyone’s basic combat abilities.

    It really doesn’t need much more than that. Personally I love the direct contest attack rolls. Both opponents roll a normal melee attack. Highest wins: attacker gets the grapple (and pins, or seizes a limb, or whatever they were trying), or if it was the defender they get out of it. Next opportunity for a contest roll the same again. Melee already has everything accounted for (size, armour, dex, str). Even slings don’t have their own rules. :-)

  2. rorschachhamster says:

    I think the rules as streamlined above are easy enough to implement.
    Pathfinder worked great for me, too. You just can boil it down to one throw of a die per combatant. If that’s not easy enough…

  3. Hautamaki says:

    I think you need to leave grappling in. Even if characters aren’t interested in grappling, monsters should be given that option.

    Grappling is also by far the best way to make large numbers of mook opponents dangerous to PCs. A 6th level fighter laughs at a group of goblins, knowing with his armor and their poor attack rolls they practically need a natural 20 just to hit while he can be guaranteed to kill one or two of them every round–until suddenly 3 goblins grapple him at once and hold him down rendering him helpless while a 4th starts administering coup de gras on him that is!

  4. -C says:

    I think I would house rule what your rule is above essentially. Stuff like grappling is a pretty random result, so roll a D20 and add statistic modifiers (either dexterity or strength, depending on armor and how to escape and such). Unless one were specifically trained or some such – and since I use Skills: The Middle Road system, that would be fairly easy to adjudicate.

    The idea is to not slow down combat, and to get a resolution.

  5. Leland J. Tankersley says:

    I agree with Hautamaki; some monsters may have grapple or grapple-like abilities as their schtick, and it seems more efficient to just define that once rather than per monster. Plus it is an occasionally-interesting tactical option for players and NPCs.

  6. Confanity says:

    My campaigns have grappling on a relatively consistent basis — it’s actually the go-to tool for subduing opponents when you don’t want to kill them; it’s quicker to recover from than beating them unconscious, and doesn’t require any -4 penalties to attack. And any good DM will have some situations that call for nonlethal subduing of foes in their bags of tricks, so I agree that there should be some explicitly stated mechanic for grappling.

    If you want a simple system that avoids stat proliferation, though, why not just have any grapple check be an unarmed touch attack penalized by the armor the character is wearing and modified (for the initiator only) by the size difference between the two combatants?

  7. A. Valarian says:

    Before I played Pathfinder I would have said “get rid of grapples.” I never used them and whenever I tried to use them everyone would throw a fit because they were so complicated.

    When I explained the Pathfinder system of grappling, tripping, etc. I actually found that my players started using combat maneuvers a lot. I’ve got one player for whom they have become his “thing.” He regularly tosses monsters impeding his path aside, grabs people and starts slamming them against the walls, pushes people of ledges, etc. because all it takes is one roll and a bit of tactics.

    Then of course, I discovered what everyone else has said: some monsters were just more interesting with grapple rules and I started making my 3.5 group suffer through the rules. In both cases the rules have added a fun bit of depth and roleplaying to combat.

    My advice would be to keep the rules a simplified opposed check like in 3.5, but broaden them out like in pathfinder, so that you get the most mileage out of that extra box.

  8. Justin Alexander says:

    @Runjikol: I actually thought about defaulting to melee attack rolls. It’s what I house-ruled for my OD&D campaign when the issue came up. But the size modifiers need to be inverted. (It’s easier to hit big creatures; harder to grapple them.)

    @Hautmaki: Good call on monsters needing the ability.

    From what everyone is saying, sounds like I should definitely include it.

    Thanks everybody!

  9. stm says:

    I’d like to add to the choir: Grappling is cool and it is a thing people’ll just want to do. Name one action or adventure movie that doesn’t include a grappling scene. See? ‘Cause there is none. So you should have a rule for it.

    Maybe this goes without saying, but your rules (or at least your original simplified rules) should allow purely mental actions while grappling. It’s also kind of silly to allow attacking with your greatsword while grappling. Cool, yes. Simple, yes. But kind of silly. So the PHB’s restriction to light weapons and unarmed attacks makes sense. True, that wouldn’t be super simple anymore. But I’d immediately feel the urge to houserule it.

  10. stm says:

    P.S. Did I say I like your rule? I do. I’m going to test them.

  11. Justin Alexander says:

    @stm: Yup. The rules are definitely an attempt to strip out all the little, niggling details and guidelines that make the rules complicated. A lot of those guidelines, of course, do make a lot of sense, so its stuff that DMs might add back in or handle through “common sense” ruling if it seems important.

    But, just to play devil’s advocate:

    (1) If somebody’s got their hands around my throat or is grinding their elbow into my eye socket, is it really all that easy to focus on “purely mental” tasks? Might make sense to exempt free actions (and maybe even swift and immediate actions) from the rule, though.

    (2) Re: The greatsword. In a lot of cases you might be right. But imagine an ogre that’s been grabbed around the legs by a halfling. Is it really impossible to imagine a scenario where the ogre could get the greatsword free and take a swing?

    Lemme know how the playtest goes!

  12. stm says:

    You’re right, of course. You might allow Concentration checks (with size modifier??) for mental actions in place of a grapple check.

    >Is it really impossible to imagine a scenario where the ogre could get the greatsword free and take a swing?

    At the halfling? This could be interesting… 😉

    A lot of confusion stems from the fact that it’s never really clear what grappling actually means. Do you grab your opponent by the wrists? By the throat? All at the same time? Can you really prevent someone from speaking and using their hands at the same time? Without having tripped them first?

    It seems near impossible to design a satisfying, yet simple set of rules to cover all of this even if you wanted to. The ad hoc ruling method seems to be best. Tell me what you’re trying to do and I tell you the DC!

  13. Danny says:

    On the subject of how relevant is grappling and is there a need for grappling rules in combat, consider that a large percentage of period swordsmanship manuals (now that we have good access to translations) devote a significant amount of their content to grappling, regardless of whether we are talking german longsword (2-handed) or italian rapier and buckler or many other weapon styles. Many of these will gloss over things like charging with a quick admonition that it will get you killed, but spend pages on when to initiate a grapple and how to win when it happens. This is from people who fought for a living. There’s no question it’s an important part of combat, and should be treated as such in RPGs.
    Note also that most manuals warn against it if you’re facing a significantly stronger opponent.

Leave a Reply



Recent Posts

Recent Comments