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In our group, we are having problems with D&D 3.5's grappling rules (no wonder), so I tried to find out how Pathfinder handles that situation. The rules are much better and more clear, yet I still have problems understanding the "multiple grapplers" situation.

If I understand it correctly, in Pathfinder the normal rule is that one creature can only be grappling with one other during a round — only those two have the "grappled" status. Others could "join" the grapple, but they won't get the "grappled" status. All they can do is add to one party or the other by boosting their CBM bonuses with an aid-another action.

Is that correct?

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2 Answers

Well, let's look at the fully errataed Grappling Combat Maneuver rules and Grappled condition.

Multiple Creatures

Multiple creatures can attempt to grapple one target. The creature that first initiates the grapple is the only one that makes a check, with a +2 bonus for each creature that assists in the grapple (using the Aid Another action). Multiple creatures can also assist another creature in breaking free from a grapple, with each creature that assists (using the Aid Another action) granting a +2 bonus on the grappled creature's combat maneuver check.

You are making an Aid Another but it's not totally clear if you are grappled or not. Letter of the law seems like the answer is no, since you are using AA and not the grapple CM per se you do not gain the grappled condition. As a Pathfinder DM I would call shenanigans on that interpretation and everyone involved gains the condition. (As I would with someone to AA in melee trying to weasel "not being in melee" or the like.)

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mmmh but your interpretation raises other problems. if everyone gets the condition... how do you handle the break free or escape artist action? who has the advantage and can let go as a free action etc etc. –  Egi Jun 8 '12 at 14:28
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All problems easily solved by a GM instead of a computer running the game. Each participant raises the difficulty of a break free by +2. Everyone on the initiator's side has advantage. Unless something else makes sense (like tossing yourself into a kraken's tentacles). –  mxyzplk Jun 9 '12 at 20:17
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Logically speaking, while multiple people can grapple one person easily, one person is going to have problems getting a hold on more than a couple without feats. People aiding in a grapple are presumably grappling the target themselves, while people aiding in breaking free are presumably trying to pry the attackers off, not grapple the attackers themselves. (If they were trying to grapple the attackers themselves, that's a separate thing.)

Looking at the rules for a second, it says that

Multiple creatures can attempt to grapple one target. [. . .] Multiple creatures can also assist another creature in breaking free from a grapple [. . .].

Just going from the rules, it would seem to be that attack aides are grappling and the defense aids are not, which is pretty much what I said. (The "also" is referring to the ability to assist, not the method.) However, as the person being grappled is unlikely to have a counter-hold on anyone but the primary attacker, and the defensive aides aren't grappling anyone, the aides might be able to freely end their assist.

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