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The description of the prone condition says:

  • A prone creature's only movement option is to crawl, unless it stands up and thereby ends the condition.
  • The creature has disadvantage on attack rolls.
  • An attack roll against the creature has advantage if the attacker is within 5 feet of the creature. Otherwise, the attack roll has disadvantage.

The description of the restrained condition says:

  • A restrained creature's speed becomes 0, and it can't benefit from any bonus to its speed.
  • Attack rolls against the creature have advantage, and the creature's attack rolls have disadvantage.
  • The creature has disadvantage on Dexterity saving throws.

A grapple is described as a replacement for an Attack action:

When you want to grab a creature or wrestle with it, you can use the Attack action to make a special melee attack, a grapple. If you're able to make multiple attacks with the Attack action, this attack replaces one of them.

...but it doesn't say a grapple is an "attack roll".

Should we be interpreting attack rolls and Attack actions as separate things? Does that effectively mean that grapples (and other special melee attacks) get no advantage when trying to attack restrained or prone opponents?

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Grapples don't involve attack rolls, so the prone and restrained conditions don't give enemies advantage on the ability check

Grapples are a special type of attack, but use an ability check in place of an attack roll. This is clear from the description of grappling in the rules - specifically, the paragraph after the one you quoted:

When you want to grab a creature or wrestle with it, you can use the Attack action to make a special melee attack, a grapple. If you're able to make multiple attacks with the Attack action, this attack replaces one of them.

[...] Using at least one free hand, you try to seize the target by making a grapple check instead of an attack roll: a Strength (Athletics) check contested by the target's Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check (the target chooses the ability to use). [...]

This distinction is reiterated in an official ruling in the Sage Advice Compendium:

When you make a Strength (Athletics) check to grapple or shove someone, are you making an attack roll?

No. That check is an ability check, so game effects tied to attack rolls don’t apply to it. Going back to an earlier question, the hex spell could be used to diminish a grappler’s effectiveness. And if the grappler’s target is under the effect of the Dodge action, that action doesn’t inhibit the grapple, since Dodge doesn’t affect ability checks.

The prone and restrained conditions specifically refer to "attack rolls" being affected. Ability checks, such as Strength (Athletics) checks or Dexterity (Acrobatics) checks, are totally unaffected by these conditions - barring DM fiat.


Rules designer Jeremy Crawford also unofficially confirmed this distinction in a 2015 tweet:

The grapple option in the Player's Handbook is an attack, but it uses an ability check in place of an attack roll.

Does the sage advice on ability checks contradict this? It states that shove & grapple are not attacks?

There's no contradiction. They are unusual attacks that lack attack rolls.

And again in a 2016 tweet that references the official Sage Advice Compendium ruling:

The ruling is correct. Grapple is an odd attack that doesn't use an attack roll.

So no, a prone or restrained creature doesn't cause other creatures to have advantage on an attempt to grapple it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ While the answer (which I up voted) is counterintuitive, I see the mechanics of the answer fitting a purely mechanical approach. Any DM can, as needed, apply a circumstantial advantage for such a grapple attempt on a prone opponent if to them this just doesn't make sense. What's good for the PC's is good for the monsters, of course ... \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 7 at 3:56
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RAW, no, those conditions don't give advantage to a grapple attempt.

The prone and restrained conditions do not say that skill rolls for grappling are given an advantage, just attack rolls.

Grapples are implemented using the Athletics skill, which (like any skill roll) can be made at advantage if the DM deems the situation to be advantageous. Those conditions do not say that such a roll gets an advantage against them, but that seems reasonable to me, and I would be likely to rule it that way. Check with your DM to see if he agrees with that.

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I’ve read up on this. A Grapple is simply using a free hand to prevent an opponent from moving and/or reposition an opponent using 2x of your movement per 5’ square. It uses Athletics skill roll. opponent may try to slap it away DC(characters athletics skill roll+1) Athletics, or dodge it, Acrobatics. Failure indicates grappled condition if opponent is no more than one size larger than grappler. Grappled condition basically means your move is zero. That’s it. You fight normally but your move is gone. It also means your opponent can use their move to reposition you. They must maintain a free hand to keep the grapple.

The bigger move is shove. It is the same as above but allows you to grant the prone condition. You can then follow up with a 1 handed melee attack with advantage or grapple the creature - pinning it to the ground.

The creature has no movement to end the prone condition. It must use its action to escape. The DC is Athletics (no +1 bonus) and you can roll Athletics or Acrobatics to escape. If you fail your turn is done!

Prone creatures can still attack with disadvantage, but all melee attacks get advantage. Watch that monster crumble!

Don’t forget, Raging Barbarians get advantage on both the above attacks so use them!

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    \$\begingroup\$ This... doesn't seem to answer the question, at all. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast May 7 at 6:20
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I know this thread hasn't been used in about a year, but I found a series of tweets by Mike Mearls that contradicts the conclusion people seem to have reached, so I thought it'd be best to post it.

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  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. Mike Mearls' tweets are unofficial, and often have nothing to do with what the rules actually state - he's frequently wrong. (As of the 2019 Sage Advice Compendium, Crawford's tweets are also unofficial rulings, but as the rules designer, he at least seems to check the rules before answering.) Also, you should avoid link-only answers; you should quote the relevant portions of the linked page. That way, if the link breaks, the answer still retains the necessary information. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast May 7 at 0:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hey Doomcard, I am not sure why the downvotes because I believe your answer actually does contribute to our original post so I am upvoting it. Although Mearls is sometimes wrong, he is also sometimes right. As a designer of the game, his opinion at least puts the issue on the map. It certainly makes real world sense that being prone would make grappling easier. To improve your post, consider listing the actual tweets he said, like this one, "yes, grappling is a melee attack and IIRC those have advantage vs. prone targets" \$\endgroup\$ – Praxiteles May 7 at 14:40

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