In the 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons, there are four grappling rules to contend with: being grappled by another creature, attempting to grapple another creature, escaping from being grappled by another creature, and avoiding being grappled by another creature in the first place. This article will help you sort out these different rules and determine how your character interacts with them.
What happens when you are grappling
Your attacker can use their action to try to move you, including forcing you into an occupied space. If they choose to do so, you must make Strength (Athletics) checks as opposed to each other’s Dexterity (Acrobatics). If your opponent successfully moves you, they have moved 5 feet for every point your check beats theirs. While grappling, neither of you can be targeted by spells or effects. Grappling in 5e happens very differently than before; now, many more rules and stipulations determine how and when a character can escape from being grappled. For example, if one character has another pinned down with a grapple attack, they cannot be hit with any weapon attacks until they escape from that grapple.
Step 1: Attack and Damage
When grappling with another creature, you also have an advantage on attack rolls against that creature. At the 11th level, your advantage becomes greater; at that point, you are granted a +4 bonus to hit instead of +2. A grappled creature is restrained by you and can’t move without first succeeding on an ability check contested by your Strength (Athletics) check. A creature has a disadvantage in any attempts to break free while grappling. If you don’t maintain your grapple through one round, it automatically ends after that period. To maintain a grapple during subsequent rounds, you must again succeed in a contest of Strength before each round begins.
Step 2: Maneuvers
If you’re grappled, your options are limited. If you’re grappling with someone else, you can use a maneuver. Each maneuver is quick action and has a target of one creature. Make an attack roll with a –2 penalty (unless otherwise stated). If you succeed, your foe is affected by one of several conditions detailed below. If you fail to hit, nothing happens. If you grapple a foe using more than one arm, apply only one –2 penalty for having multiple arms; when making a combat maneuver, check for each additional arm part of that grapple. For example, if you have four arms and attempt to grapple two foes at once, you apply only a single –2 penalty when making combat maneuver checks against both opponents during your turn.
Step 3:D&D Grappling Tactics
Most grapples last until an escape check is made, though a creature can attempt to break free as a move action. A grappled creature must spend one or more movement points to escape on its turn. A pinned character receives a +4 bonus on his Strength check to escape from a grapple. Being grappled does not grant you any special defenses against other kinds of attacks, such as grabs or being swallowed whole. In addition, some creatures have abilities that let them deal automatic damage on a successful grapple attack. When grappling a foe with multiple arms, such as a giant squid, use only one hand when making your attack roll and apply all bonuses (such as those granted by feats) to that roll. If you succeed, apply all penalties (such as those for attacking with two weapons) to your combat maneuver check.
D&D’s Grappling Rules
To grapple a foe, you need to make an attack roll contested by your target’s Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check. If you win, you move into its space and get to do something with it. That something is pretty simple: spend your next turn doing nothing else but trying to pin it; if you succeed, you’ve pinned that creature for up to 1 minute. While you’re grappling, your target has a disadvantage on all attacks against targets other than you, and you have an advantage on all attacks against it. The two of you can be in any position imaginable—from both standing on top of each other to tangled together like a pair of cheap earbuds—but as long as no one escapes from the grapple, everyone stays locked in place until someone breaks free.
How to Grapple in 5e
Roll 1d20 + your melee attack bonus—the DC for the grapple check is 10 + your opponent’s CMB + your opponent’s size modifier. You move into your opponent’s square and grapple him if you win. The two of you can make opposed Strength checks to see who comes out on top. If he wins, he breaks free from your grapple and moves to a space of his choice adjacent to you (see below). Note that all movement is considered rugged terrain while grappling. While grappled, both opponents take a –4 penalty to Dexterity and can’t use reactions. A grappler has several options when it comes to moving (or being moved) by his opponent: He can remain stationary if he so chooses; he can attempt to break free by making an opposed Strength check against his foe, or he can use one of several special actions detailed here. For example, if two medium humanoids are grappling and one decides to lift his foe off her feet, she must succeed at a combat maneuver check (in addition to any required Strength checks) against a DC equal to her opponent’s CMD. If she succeeds, she lifts her foe off her feet and holds her aloft for as long as she maintains her hold. She can move anywhere she likes so long as she remains upright—carrying her enemy with her.
What You Can Do While Grappling
Just some thoughts! Once you’re grappled, your options are limited. If you have freedom of movement, you can spend an action to wriggle free from an opponent’s grapple by making a successful Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check against that opponent’s Athletics skill check. Some creatures—usually larger ones—also have options for escaping a grapple at no cost once per turn as a bonus action. This is pretty interesting, but it doesn’t seem too complex; I would’ve expected something more. Maybe one should consider breaking down what happens if one is held vs. grappled.
The Benefits of Grappling in 5e
In 5e, if you’re grappled, and your turn comes up, you either spend your action trying to escape or continue grappling. Being grappled also reduces your movement speed by 10 feet. The benefits of being grappled aren’t too shabby, however. Constricting an opponent is pretty advantageous when it comes to combat and controlling your enemies. For example, when grappling with a target smaller than you, at least one of your hands must be free (though not necessarily both). If one hand isn’t free, then a creature can use its action to try to break the grapple by succeeding on a Strength (Athletics) check contested by your Strength (Athletics) check.
The Grappler Feat
To resolve a grapple, both grapplers make Strength (Athletics) checks instead of each other. On success, grappling continues; on failure, one of two things happen: if it’s your turn to grapple, you can attempt to maintain or secure your position; if it’s your opponent’s turn to grapple, they can make a Strength (Athletics) check opposed by yours as well. If neither succeeds, no action is taken, and combat continues as normal. If either succeeds, however, he has successfully maintained or secured his position and takes action against his opponent. In most cases, maintaining a grapple means that your opponent is now pinned down—you have him where you want him!
D&D 5e Grappling Build
The following build is designed for you to use when grappling or being grappled by an opponent. It should be used alongside a normal character build so you can see how to optimize your character when grappling an opponent. The table below shows which ability scores affect grapple checks and damage rolls. A dash (-) indicates that no stat modifier applies to that roll. For example, if there’s a dash (-) in Strength’s column for Grapple damage roll, Strength doesn’t modify that roll. If you have an advantage on an attack roll using Strength while grappling with someone else (see below), add ten instead of your Strength modifier. If you are grappling a creature, it has a disadvantage on attack rolls against targets other than you. You can make opportunity attacks against any creature within reach of you and your target without having a disadvantage on those attacks.