Grappling in DnD 5E explained

It had been a pleasant evening at the tavern, had been that is, before the ogre came bursting through the door in a torrent of wind-propelled body odor. In slurred common, and amongst the regular interruption of cheek-rippling belches, the ogre began to yell and demand a tithe of ale, lest it destroy the entire tavern. Some patrons started to panic, others tried to reason with the muscular creature, and some bold members eyed the door ambitiously. The Barbarian lounging in the corner, however, responded with a heavy sigh and eye roll, downing her drink and standing up tall. The ogre was too busy pointing at the barman to see her walking until it was too late, one quick jab to the face was rewarded with a broken nose, her arms snaking around its own before it could react. After a few seconds of frantic struggle and the Barbarian was in control, dragging the ogre out of the building and across the square, easily maneuvering the much larger creature. Luckily, the Barbarian was in a rare mood to scold that night, the ogre chose not to return to the tavern.

Grappling in 5E can be a confusing topic, but it can be an enjoyable and effective tactic and is surprisingly accessible. So fear not, as this article will tell you all you need to know to lucha with the best of them, stylish mask optional.

How grappling works

Grappling revolves around the Grappled condition, which reduces the affected creature’s speed to 0 and prevents them from benefiting from any speed increases. This condition is automatically broken if the grappled creature is moved out of the reach of what is grappling it, or the grappler becomes Incapacitated.

Any creature can grapple another creature by making a special attack with the Attack action, doing so requires a free hand and for the targeted creature to be no more than one size category larger than you. Instead of an attack roll, you roll an Athletics check contested by the target’s Athletics or Acrobatics check, the target decides which to use. 

A grapple attempt consumes a single attack as part of your Attack action, so if you can make multiple attacks with that action, such as with the Extra Attack feature, you can still make an attack, shove, or try to grapple again. Once you have a creature grappled, you can drag it around as you wish, but you can only move at half your speed when doing so.

The most common way a PC may experience the Grappled condition is as a rider attached to a monster attack or a spell effect, such as Bigby’s Hand. However, any creature is capable of attempting to grapple, should the DM wish to do so.

How to be better at grappling

With grappling tied directly to Athletics checks, any enhancements to skills, or Athletics specifically, will greatly improve your chances of locking down the bad guys. Here is a sample list of ways to improve your grappling game:

  • Rage (Barbarian class feature) – This gives you advantage on all Strength-based checks and being a Barbarian means you’ll likely have a high Strength score to boot.
  • Expertise (Rogue and Bard class feature) – Doubling your proficiency modifier in Athletics is an excellent way to make your grapple attempts more reliable and naturally scales as you gain levels.
  • Enlarge/Reduce (2nd level spell) – The Enlarge portion of this spell is the best option from a grappling point of view, as you don’t need the monster to fail a saving throw. Whilst buffed by this spell you will be able to grapple monsters one size larger than you normally would be able to and you would have advantage on the Athletics checks required. Allies can cast this on you, or duergar characters can cast it on themselves innately.
  • Hippo Build (Giff racial feature) – Similar to Rage, this gives giff characters advantage on strength-based checks, Athletics included.
  • Bardic Inspiration (Bard class feature) – If inspired by a Bard, you can add a die to your grapple check to boost the result. This die starts as a d6 and progresses to a d12, dependent on the Bard’s level.
  • Cutting Words (College of Lore Bard subclass feature) – Lore Bards can use this feature to reduce the total of a monster’s check to avoid/escape a grapple.
  • Unarmed Fighting (Fighting Style) – This optional style from TCoE allows you to automatically deal 1d4 bludgeoning damage to one creature you’re grappling at the start of your turn.
  • Battlerager Armor (Path of the Battlerager Barbarian subclass feature) – One of the more obscure Barbarian subclasses, this feature deals 3 piercing damage to a creature when you succeed on a check to initiate a grapple.
  • Secondary Arms (Thri-kreen racial feature) – This feature allows you to grapple with your primary arms, whilst still being able to use two-weapon fighting to dispense a flurry of attacks.
  • Grappling Appendage (Simic Hybrid racial feature) – This feature is a 5th level option for the simic hybrid’s Animal Enhancement feature and allows you to grapple a creature whilst still having two hands available for two-handed weapons and two-weapon fighting.

We hope that this article has helped coach you for your next world championship pay-per-view. If you’re a new player learning the game, then check out our how to play section, or if you’re here because you want to build a grappling Barbarian, check out our Barbarian guide. Until next time, may your entrance music be epic, and may your enemies smell what you’re cookin’.

How to improve grappling in DnD 5E?

Anything that improves your Athletics checks would help, such as a Rogue’s Expertise or a Barbarian’s advantage from Rage.

What is grappling in DnD 5E?

Grappling is a mechanic that allows you to hold a creature still or drag it around with you. See the article above for full details.

What can you do while grappling in 5E?

You can do anything that doesn’t require two hands, although moving must be done at half speed as you drag the grappled creature with you.

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