The question: My friend's character is helpless underwater (a sea hag reduced his STR to 0), and is being dragged away by an octopus (that just inked the area) and has him grappled.

Can my character grapple my friend's character, and pull him in the opposite direction?

Would it be a simple STR check? Or do I have to grapple my friend, and pin him away?

Note: I would just try to murder-stab with my dagger, but the DM is the kind that would roll a chance to hit my friend in the total concealment.

Also: My STR is 14, I assume the octopus's is 12. I am medium, octopus is small. I have two arms and two legs, octopus has 8 tentacles.

More background: Can a Helpless Warlock Activate Fell Flight to Move Underwater?

  • \$\begingroup\$ alright, I'll edit. and no others that I can think of. \$\endgroup\$ May 30, 2017 at 18:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Given the inking, this question might also be of interest. \$\endgroup\$ May 30, 2017 at 19:34

2 Answers 2


According to Joining a Grapple, if the PC wants to help his ally during the octopus wrestling contest, the PC can just (ahem) dive right in:

If your target is already grappling someone else, you can use an attack to start a grapple, as above, except that the target doesn’t get an attack of opportunity against you, and your grab automatically succeeds. You still have to make a successful opposed grapple check to become part of the grapple. (Player's Handbook 157)

That the grab automatically succeeds is crucial here, as that should let the PC who wants to join the grapple do so without the 50% miss chance and other effects resultant from the octopus's ink cloud. However, the DM does have house rules for accidentally striking the wrong foe if they share spaces and have concealment, so, depending on those house rules, the PC may find himself accidentally grappling with his ally rather than the octopus! Fortunately, this, too, should be inconsequential as Joining a Grapple continues, saying, "If there are multiple opponents involved in the grapple, you pick one to make the opposed grapple check against" (ibid.), and that should leave the PC in the thick of things, part of an ally-octopus-PC grapple ball.1

Assuming the PC successfully joins the grapple, for the remainder of his turn and while he continues grappling the PC has all the standard grapple options, but pinning the ally will be of little help (except to the octopus!): a pinned creature is "held immobile" (PH 157), that does not mean the ally cannot be moved but that the ally can't himself move! The octopus can, for example, take a standard action to make opposed grapple checks against both the PC's ally (likely pretty easy) and PC (likely a little more difficult) and, if both checks turn out in the octopus's favor, move them both!

The better option is—if the PC insists on joining the grapple—for the PC to make opposed grapple checks against the octopus (it's grapple check bonus a whopping +2!) to Damage Your Opponent and—in true action hero fashion—simply squeeze the octopus into unconsciousness, therefore freeing the PC's ally.

There's no D&D 3.5e rule that I'm aware of for yanking free an ally that's been grappled, the game seeming to assume such rescues will be facilitated through either base violence (slaying the octopus does, indeed, free the ally from the grapple, after all) or magic (e.g. the 1st-level Sor/Wiz spell benign transposition [conj] (SpC 27)) rather than tug-of-war.

A house rule alternative: bull rush one of them!

Because the grapple rules so favor the monsters, this DM allows a creature not in a grapple to make a bull rush attempt against any creature in a grapple. Success allows the bull rush to end the grapple for the target if the result's sufficient to shove the targeted creature out of the grappled creature's space (that is, the space of the creature whose sspace was entered by the creature starting the grapple). While the octopus may be able to grab again the PC's ally next turn (especially with a low bull rush result), it's also possible the PC ends up between the octopus and the ally, ready to defend his helpless friend.

1 A hyperlegalistic DM may rule that the attempt to join the grapple fails if his house rules make it so the PC would have accidentally ended up making the opposed grapple check against the PC's ally (rather than against—as the sentence mandates—the PC's octopus opponent). This, however, is so pedantic that this player would be sorely tempted to buy from the local market some octopus and, next session, yell, "Grapple check!" and throw it at the DM.

  • \$\begingroup\$ What if I wanted to grapple my ally and just pull him out of the ink? \$\endgroup\$ May 30, 2017 at 20:25
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @FrancisJohn Unfortunately, while the ally is still grappled by the octopus, yanking the ally from the grapple isn't an option available using the 3.5e rules so far as I'm aware. That is, no such option exists, and the nearest—taking a standard action to attempt to move one creature in a grapple—means attempting to move all the creatures in the grapple—no picking allowed! (It's why I suggested the bull rush attempt.) The game seems to want creatures to rescue their friends by destroying enemies or with magic (e.g. the 1st-level Sor/Wiz spell benign transposition [conj] (SpC 27)). \$\endgroup\$ May 30, 2017 at 21:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Dive right in? +1 \$\endgroup\$
    – JWT
    May 31, 2017 at 18:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Don't forget that you need to be able to brace against something in order to provide sufficient reverse leverage... otherwise your swim speed will have to exceed that of the otcopi. \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Jun 1, 2017 at 23:00

According to the SRD rules of grappling here, you should perform an opposed grapple check versus the octopus and succeed to free your friend from the pin, but this does not free him from the "grappling" state.

To break the grapple, the originally pinned character, now no longer immobile, has to perform an opposed grapple check versus the octopus and succeed.

In this case, as the character is helpless through a third party, he cannot free himself, requiring the slaying of the octopus or a successful Disarm attempt by another character (considering any given character an Object, a helpless one fitting more easily in the definition outlined by the books). A pinned character is considered well secured and cannot be normally disarmed, requiring the succesful grapple actions first and the octopus still gains a +4 bonus to resist "disarming".

Addendum: SRD defines grappling as "Engaged in wrestling or some other form of hand-to-hand struggle with one or more attackers." This is particularly ambiguous but you can argue that a helpless character cannot engage on any sort of fisticuffs by nature of being, well, helpless. Thus, the moment the octopus is grappled, it releases the character from pinned state, transitioned to grappling and automatically to freed since it cannot engage actively.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Please note that if you're engaging in more than one back-and-forth with the same person in comments, you may actually be chatting instead. (This is not to say the chatter might not be constructive, just that comments may not be the best medium for whatever needs doing.) \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    May 30, 2017 at 20:10

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