Sunday, December 19, 2010

Grappling Rules Suck - Playtest These!

I understand why grappling rules are complicated. A successful grapple can take someone out of the game much too easily.

But honestly, I'm looking at the LotFP grappling rules and they suck. There's too much of them for a game that abstracts so much else (including yearly finance for crying out loud!).

I think I've come up with something better. But I don't think I'm going to run any games before this all goes to press. So take a look at this, tell me if it sucks worse than what's there, and then use it if you can and report back.


A character may attempt to wrestle another to either immobilize or take something out of the opponent's hands.

The attacker must have both hands free. The defender, if he is armed and has not yet acted during the round, may immediately make an attack against the aggressor before the wrestling is resolved.

Wrestling is resolved with a contested roll. Both parties roll d20 and apply both their melee Attack Bonus and Strength modifier. Ties are decided by Dexterity modifier, or a die roll if both are still tied. The winner decides whether the loser is immobilized, if he will attempt to disarm the loser of the contest, or if he releases the loser.

An immobilized opponent may take no action other than attempting to escape on his next action. Resolve this with another wrestling roll. Any character immobilized in three successive wrestling contests is considered pinned and helpless - no further attempts to escape may be made.

If disarmament is attempted (and this includes snatching any held object, not just taking away weapons), the defender must make a save vs. paralyzation to keep hold of the object.

While wrestling, attacks are made against all involved as if they were surprised.

If there are multiple opponents attempting to wrestle a single defender, all attackers add their wrestling rolls together and then compare the total against the defender.

Creatures whose physiology or special abilities suggest grappling (tentacles, adhesive, multiple limbs) gain a further +1 bonus to its wrestling roll per hit die.


  1. I like it. Very similar to some houserules I used to use, and it worked well in play. I added Strength instead of Strength modifier - I like making attributes mean more, not less, but that is a matter of personal taste.

  2. It's groovy, but I noticed it destabilizes when multiple opponents gang up. I was going into some detail about it, but the comment was getting huge, so I moved it over to my own blog. If you want to see the problems I spotted, it's at

    Short version: Adding the dice rolls for multiple opponents makes ordinary combat tactics obsolete when the party outnumbers even very powerful foes (even a giant tentacle monster!). Proposed solution: instead of adding +d20+bonuses for allies, add +4+bonuses for allies. Results: ganging up is still a significant advantage, but not a ridiculous one.

  3. I agree with Odrook. Adding rolls and modifiers for everyone involved makes wrestling the tactic of choice every time the PC outnumber the NPC.

    d20+bonuses for primary combatant (for instance, the one with the biggest bonuses, ergo usually the fighter) and +bonuses for all the assisting combatants +4/difference in number of combatants might work. This is almost the same as Odrook's suggestion, except it adds the difference, not number of assisting combatants times +4.

    Oh, the attack the armed defender gets to make against the grappler: Is it simply acting out of turn or is it an extra attack?

  4. If adding rolls are too powerful roll for each attacker, use the highest result.

  5. I think a combination of Odrook and graham's ideas would work best.

    If three people are grappling, you take the best d20 roll of the three, then add the combined bonuses of the three of them.

    That's how I think I'd handle that.

    Otherwise, I think it's a great rule and much more streamlined than before.

  6. Not sure what the "best of" would actually do to the math & averages, but it feels good instinctively. I guess it keeps the minimum and maximum results a little lower, more likely to be within reach of an opponent with decent modifiers, but reduces how much of a roll luck plays - at least on the attackers' side. I'd have to see how each method actually plays out to determine which has the right feel.

    @navdi: the thing is, the text as-is specifies multiple attackers against a single defender, not group vs group. Visualizing a large brawl with multiple participants on each side, I'm seeing it break into a bunch of smaller wrestling matches, many being one-on-one, but with a few pockets where a group of aggressors are attempting to dog-pile one defender. If someone else comes to the defender's aid, I'd say the new guy has to grab one opponent and yank him off the pile - starting his own one-on-one wrestle.

    Er, my point is that I'm not sure how three guys can team up against two guys except that one takes on one and two team up against the other. I interpret as treating these as two separate grapples, not as a single big grapple, that's why I present the bonus the way I do. I'm assuming it's more similar to standard D&D combat, where one or more characters will target a given creature, than to T&T-style combat, where the whole party rolls against all the monsters. See what I mean?

  7. I had to go and calculate the odds for myself and best of 2d20 gives you an average of 13.825 and best of 3d20 gives you 15.4875.

    The more I think about this the more I like it.
    A man with 18 strength and a +3 modifier will roll an average of 13.5, making him a roughly equal match for two ordinary men.
    And an ogre or something with a +5 modifier will be able to wrestle pretty evenly with three normal men.
    I didn't calculate beyond 3d20 because the maths get increasingly shitty but there will be diminishing returns which also makes sense to me because more and more guys will start to get in each others' way.

    I think cumulative bonuses would be okay because no matter how high the average gets the range will still be limited to 1+bonus to 20+bonus.

  8. Does the grapple automatically fail if the attack of opportunity hits?

    (excuse 3.5 language)

  9. How's this for multiple grapplers -

    All of the attackers roll, use only the best roll of the bunch (+ 1 per extra attacker).

    However, immobilized (NOT pinned) opponents may still attack those grappling them if they have a minor or natural weapon - so it's still a bad idea to gang-tackle a werewolf or especially a dragon.

    Makes grappling a valid strategy against certain targets and a truly stupid idea against others.

    (the grapple would not automatically fail if the "AoO" hits)

  10. You shouldn't have to have both hands free to wrestle.. What if you're forced to wrestle with one hand (one hand tied behind your back, e.g., you only HAVE one hand, or you're holding something you absolutely CANNOT drop like a hand grenade!)? You should still have a chance, albeit perhaps at a large penalty.

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  12. I used a Higgipedia's variation on the grapple rules above. 2 fighters and a henchman wrestling a possessed straight-jacket. After 3 rounds they had it pinned and bound up.

    The rules were intuitive and in no way bogged down play. Its the bogging down play thing I have an issue with, curse you 3.5, so I would call this rules variant a success.

  13. Graham, thanks for the calculation. I hadn't considered the issue of diminishing returns, although I think it's fair to leave it to the referee (with perhaps a reminder) to say when enough is enough.

    Mr Raggi, I think you've synthesized the ideas pretty well there. I'll try to put this to use in the next few sessions, if my players piss off the goblins or something, and see what happens.

  14. Problem with grappling rules comes from the fact, that combat rules are made for swordplay and everything else has to be hacked together whatever remains are left on the table.

    Say, the use of saving throws to avoid being disarmed or HD as a wrestling bonus for tentacle monsters have different effect depending on the level of play; At lower levels it is easier to disarm and fight tentacle monsters. Higher levels Evil Knights tend to have their swords glued to their gauntlets and tentacles go everywhere.

    I'd probably avoid using opposed checks, and use AC or Wrestling Class (WC) or alike to keep combat rules as coherent as possible (fuck realism!).

    On succesfull wrestling hit, there would be either a lose of next action for target, or control of his next action. On failure, you lose your next action or lose control of your next action to the target who just handed your ass over to you.

    Either degree of success or requirement of target already lost his action would allow the control.

    So disarming or forced movement or whatever would be, as an action, be taken by the victim, but controlled by the succesful wrestlée.

    I'd also give opportunity to take wrestling even when armed, during normal course of combat fighting. It would be funnier that way, and it would not give any benefit of wielding weapons anyway, since they have no effect in wrestling.