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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 '19 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 found a tweet by Mike Mearls that contradicts the conclusion the other answers seem to have reached:

When grappling a prone creature, is the grappler able to do so still standing with all the advantages that entails?

yes, grappling is a melee attack and IIRC those have advantage vs. prone targets

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  • 3
    \$\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 '19 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 '19 at 14:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ While the answer relates to the question, Mearls is definitely wrong on this one based on the rules. The user that asked him the question also realized Mearls was wrong after rereading the rules: "just reread the prone condition and it specifies "attack roll" has advantage, not the "ability check" of the grapple attack." \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jan 1 at 0:22

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