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I seem to remember in previous versions of D&D, Grappling would grant bonuses to attackers and make grappling creatures harder to attack and such things.

However, I'm reading the rules for grappling in the D&D 5 Basic Rules, and I'm not seeing anything like that. It appears that grappling simply prevents movement, and not much else.

From the conditions appendix:


  • A grappled creature's speed becomes 0, and it can't benefit from any bonus to its speed.

  • (etc., how to end the condition)

Is that all grappling does? It doesn't hamper attacking or anything else? Or am I missing something?

If that's all, in what situations would I really want to grapple someone?

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up vote 15 down vote accepted

You are correct, however there is one extra benefit you gain from having someone grappled and that is to forcefully move someone. You mainly want to grapple someone when their movement is giving you problems or you want them to be elsewhere, and shoving them is not good enough.

In addition to normal grappling, there is a feat in the player's handbook called Grappler, which allows you to restrain your target at the cost of retraining yourself as well.

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Since the original answer, a WotC forums user posted The Grappler's Manual. It's a very detailed analysis of the pros and cons of grappling. – sadaqah Jan 1 '15 at 16:30
Note: The link in @sadaqah's comment above no longer works. The Wayback Machine has an archived copy of the page at… – Ilmari Karonen Dec 7 '15 at 16:37

Grappling in previous editions was... troublesome. The rule is considerably simplified in 5th edition, and is both easier to apply and less cumbersome in its effects.

You are correct that the only effect of the Grappled condition is an inability to move, but that alone is enough to allow the rogue in your party to utilize their sneak attack ability each round -- and while you have someone grappled, they move automatically when you move. In addition, if a character has the Grappler feat, they can attempt to pin their opponent, which renders both characters restrained, which grants all attacks advantage.

So, when should you grapple in 5th edition? Whenever you are strong enough to achieve the grapple any of the following four conditions apply:

  1. You want to force an opponent to move, either to open a path for your allies or force them into a hazard.
  2. You are facing an opponent who continuously moves out of melee range, and wish to preserve them close for your allies to attack.
  3. You have a Rogue in your party whose Sneak Attack damage exceeds your per-round damage, and wish to allow them to apply it each round.
  4. You have the Grappler feat and outnumber your opponent.
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I'd add: you want to prevent an opponent from moving (to reach a lever that would set off a trap, to untie an ally, etc.) – PurpleVermont Mar 8 '15 at 7:10

One other option you can use grappling for: Grapple a person, then use your action to knock him prone. Everyone now has advantage on attacks against him; he has disadvantage on attacks; and he can't get up unless he escapes your grapple, since grappling costs movement.

A fighter or a monk could grapple a person, knock him prone, then go to town on someone who can do nothing except ineffectually flail as they are pummeled into unconsciousness.

I like this, since it's what people tend to do in grapples anyway: get on top and attack.

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I think it's important to note that knocking someone prone isn't part of the grapple rules (which is what this question asks about). It's a separate attack action (Shoving a Creature — You make a Strength (athletics) check contested by Strength (athletics) or Dexterity (acrobatics), and if you win, you knock the target prone or push it 5 feet.) and the two certainly do combine nicely. – mattdm Aug 26 '14 at 21:25
I think I will be doing this quite a bit when I get my extra attack action. Though would it make more sense to knock prone first, then grapple? I wonder if you'd get advantage on the grapple check. – Mag Roader Aug 27 '14 at 0:39
@MagRoader I don't think you get advantage, since it's an opposed roll rather than an attack roll. Possibly a good question all on its own? – mattdm Aug 27 '14 at 3:11

That's it by the rules. Be aware, though, that there are follow-on consequences, since some things can't be done with a speed of zero. For example, you can't get the benefit of the Dodge action, and if prone, you can't stand up. (Therefore, grappling a prone creature keeps them down.)

Also, when I DM a 5e game and grappling comes up, I intend to make it very clear that being grappled (and in some cases, doing the grappling) probably triggers the "DM can decide that circumstances ... impose disadvantage" on many actions. There doesn't need to be a legalistic table of all such actions — I think it's generally obvious when being held might make some things hard.

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