One of my players is a large creature with a 10 ft reach who is also using a lucerne hammer (10ft reach).

He mentioned grappling with it and I was hoping for verification.

How would grappling with a reach weapon on a reach character work?

Would he have to drop the weapon, is he unable to initiate grapples at adjacent squares?

Edit: I wanted to clarify, it isn't that he wishes to pull an enemy to him, I k ow during a grapple you move into your opponents square.

My concern is whether or not he can initiate a grapple while holding a reach weapon and being a large creature as well as what ranges he would be able to do so at and whether he can do so while still holding it or does he have to drop the weapon.

For reference: reach weapons state you cannot attack someone adjacent to you while using it.

Initiating a grapple is considered a melee attack action that deals no damage.

The players has a feat called shortened grip that allows the adjacent attacks with reach weapons.


3 Answers 3


Complete Warrior includes a mancatcher, an exotic weapon that can automatically grapple targets and has special rules for grappling at a distance (since it has reach).

It has always been my impression that, the mancatcher aside as a special exception, grappling required an unarmed strike, and could not be performed without a free hand. The definition of handedness notes that

A light weapon [...] can be used while grappling,

which strongly suggests that other weapons, like a lucerne hammer, cannot be. This is referring to the rule under grappling for attacking an opponent, which says

You can make an attack with an unarmed strike, natural weapon, or light weapon against another character you are grappling.

It also says

You can’t attack with two weapons while grappling, even if both are light weapons,

which again suggests what I was saying earlier about unarmed strikes, as does the simple fact that successfully grappling deals damage as if you had performed an unarmed strike.

Nonetheless, I cannot find any explicit mentions of a free hand being required for grappling, despite being fairly confident they existed. I will continue searching for that, but in the meantime, I only have this circumstantial evidence. After all, the mancatcher does more than just allow you to grapple with it, since it has automatic grappling and a fancy trip-like grapple option, and the “can be used in grappling” might just refer to attacking with the weapon, rather than just starting the grapple. So all this evidence is circumstantial, and could be explained a different way.

But if you are convinced, please note (as @HeyICanChan reminds me) that a character can perform an unarmed strike without necessarily using their arms or hands, so they can do it despite having weapons in hand. As @WannabeWarlock points out, this isn’t at all unusual in real life, either—leg-based takedowns while pummeling with arms and fists is a pretty typical move in mixed martial arts, for example. Doing it with armor and a big weapon in hand, okay, that’s harder, but these are fantasy heroes, so whatever. But the big, important thing here is, even if you do this, you are still using an unarmed strike. That means none of your weapon’s properties—like reach—apply.

If you are unconvinced, then the rules basically don’t really cover grappling-at-a-distance, so you’ll still have to houserule something. I suppose you could use the mancatcher rules, if you want, but that would seriously dilute the mancatcher’s value in my mind. Or you could just use the rules as-is, and ignore the weirdness where, for example, your character just instantly moves into the target’s space regardless of the distance between them.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't think the rules for attacking with a weapon while grappling should be considered for initiating a grapple. For example, consider grappling with a sword-n-board. You could be simply arm/bear-hugging the opponent and getting damage in with armor spikes and headbutts. You can't attack with your sword because too close, but it wouldn't necessarily stop the grapple attempt per se. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 1:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @WannabeWarlock I’m not saying they do, I’m just saying that it’s circumstantial evidence that suggests that I’m not crazy and this rule really exists... I don’t really buy grappling with a sword and board, sorry. I mean, if a player really wanted to do it I’d probably allow it because sword and board needs all the help it can get, but... grappling is not typically the sort of help anyone wants. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 1:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Aw, c'mon, man, a dude can make an unarmed strike while swording-and-boarding, so he can make a grapple. He just totally uses his legs. These are adventurers! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 1:38
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Actually, @WannabeWarlock, you and HeyICanChan have convinced me that you could start the grapple with an unarmed strike even while armed—but it would be with the unarmed strike, so the weapon’s properties wouldn’t come into play, including reach. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 2:12
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ (In addition to the mancatcher, the entangling pole, grasping pole, pincer staff, sasumata, scissors sword, sharktooth staff, snap-tong, and sodegarami mention specifically that they allow their wielders to start grapples with them; this leads me to believe that other weapons can't. All of these are exotic, and all of them slow the game to a crawl! By the way, Pathfinder mentions that humanoids needs to use hands to grapple. So, go, Team Outsider, I guess?) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 6:55

Per the rules:

To start a grapple, you need to grab and hold your target. Starting a grapple requires a successful melee attack roll. If you get multiple attacks, you can attempt to start a grapple multiple times (at successively lower base attack bonuses).

Since it does not mention the need to attack an adjacent target, a reach weapon works normally.

Note that per Step 4 rules: to maintain the grapple for later rounds, you must move into the target's space. With a reach weapon, this might pull you through multiple squares and could trigger additional attacks of opportunity.

Otherwise, it is treated as a standard grapple attempt. If your reach weapon is not a light weapon, you will not be able to attack with it during the grapple. If you play League of Legends, I'd basically view it as a Thresh hook -- you hook someone with your reached weapon and yank yourself over to them.

Sorry I misread the question. He would not be able to grapple adjacent squares with a reach weapon since that weapon is incapable of attacking adjacent squares. If he wants to grapple, he while need to at least free up one hand to attack with or drop the reach weapon.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I’m about 80% sure there’s a core rule somewhere that says only unarmed strikes can be used for grappling. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 0:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @kryan it's not anywhere in the special attacks rules that I've been able to find. But if you can find it, please do quote them. As far as I can tell, you are allowed to grape with a sword and shield without dropping either one, and you even retain your shield bonus to AC. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 0:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ I’m still looking; I’ll let you know if I find it. A number of things imply it, but nothing seems to actually say it. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 1:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @WannabeWarlock: Note that Adjacent specifically means on the next square: 5 ft. reach. A Large (or larger) creature has 10+ ft. Reach, and can therefore initiate a grapple within its reach even if the other creature is not Adjacent. I would really NOT hold the lack of Adjacent to mean that the authors thought of using reach weapons for this. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 11:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MatthieuM. Reach weapons have minimum ranges, regardless of the size of the weilder. The question has since been edited to remove that limitation, though. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 16:44

It depends on the weapon being used. For a typical Lucerne Hammer, there isn't an arm large enough to 'hook' a creature and pull it to you.

Lucerne Hammer
(source: myarmoury.com)

I would allow it with a weapon similar to a scythe:


However after pulling the creature to you, you'd have to make a physical grapple to restrain it. You only need one hand free to attempt a grapple, so he would not have to drop the weapon, but would be unable to use it effectively in one hand.

Since the character has a 10 ft reach he could grapple any creature within 10 ft with a free hand.


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