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In creating a minor villain who uses feather fall to escape, I considered the possibility that a PC might try to tackle(grapple) them as they descended. It wasn't clear that this situation is addressed by the descriptions of grappling, or Feather Fall, and I didn't find a reference here, or in errata/sage advice entries. I figured three possible interpretations based on the available rules.

  1. Overly RAW reading of Grapple rules(half serious): Grappled targets are reduced to zero speed, thus the feather fall speed of 60'/round would become zero, and they would both hover in the air as long as the grapple was held.

  2. The grappler does not alter the spell effect, and may float down along with the caster (the negative extrapolation from this option being that a caster can allow anyone hanging on to them to also float down)

  3. The grapple attack or extra weight disrupts the spell, and both fall the remaining distance.

Is there a reference regarding grapple or feather fall that I have missed that would indicate the correct resolution?

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The grappler just hangs onto the falling character

It's definitely not option (1) because grappling only reduces the Speed attribute of a character to zero, and feather fall's falling movement is not derived from a character's Speed. Even a very, very strict RAW reading doesn't make the grappler and grapplee hang mid-air.

If a weight increase affected the spell it would be noted in the spell's effect, so it's not (3).

I think you've covered all possibilities, so by a process of elimination that leaves option (2): that someone can dangle off a feather falling character. This is also the result of least weirdness, and D&D 5e's rules are written predicated on them being read naturally, with the least weirdness.

I also think this option is fine.

  1. As the spell says, the targeted creature's fall rate is reduced.
  2. This doesn't prevent them from carrying things while they're falling, but anything, if dropped, isn't suspended by the spell's effect on the targeted creature and would fall as normal.
  3. Someone grappling a feather falling character neither breaks the spell, nor is a subject of feather fall themself. Nor does feather fall say that they're magically slippery and can't be held onto.
  4. Therefore, the grappler benefits from the reduced rate… at least, so long as they maintain the grapple.

So in other words: go for it, jump onto that falling character and you'll slow down with them, so long as you managed to hang on. Just beware that you're one successful check to break the grapple away from plummeting at full speed away from them.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I guess a clever use of this would be if you have more party members than 5 one can cling to the back of a party member with featherfall and still effectively benefit. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Jan 31 '18 at 22:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose As a cliff-descent method, it sounds doable but decidedly risky. One bad roll and it could be all over. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 31 '18 at 22:55
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I believe you've confused the terms here. Grappling states the following:

Grappled

  • A grappled creature’s speed becomes 0, and it can't benefit from any bonus to its speed.
  • The condition ends if the grappler is incapacitated (see the condition).
  • The condition also ends if an effect removes the grappled creature from the reach of the grappler or grappling effect, such as when a creature is hurled away by the thunderwave spell.

So yes, being grappled does reduce your speed to 0.

However, feather fall has the following description (emphasis mine):

Choose up to five falling creatures within range. A falling creature’s rate of descent slows to 60 feet per round until the spell ends. If the creature lands before the spell ends, it takes no falling damage and can land on its feet, and the spell ends for that creature.

The spell says nothing about speed, it only mentions that the rate of descent is slowed to 60 feet per round and that the creature takes no damage upon landing while the spell persists.

There is no correlation between rate of descent (or falling "speed") and your movement speed. You use your movement more or less willingly (unless a spell forces you to move away from creature X, for example), while falling is involuntary and also a lot higher than your movement. By default, you fall instantly, and while there's an optional rule in Xanathar's Guide To Everything (p. 77) to make falling more realistic, that gives you a rate of descent of 500 feet per round. Still a lot higher than any movement speed you will ever have.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That optional rule for falling is found in Xanathar's Guide to Everything by the way. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Jan 31 '18 at 22:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ thanks @Rubiksmoose, I added that reference to my question. I knew it was somewhere in the official rules, but I didn't find it in the DMG (for obvious reasons, since it's not there. As I know now ^^) \$\endgroup\$ – PixelMaster Jan 31 '18 at 23:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ While your response is entirely correct, it doesn't answer OP's question (besides ruling out possibility #1). \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Feb 1 '18 at 5:00

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