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A situation came up in my session where a fighter used his Shield Master Shove feature to shove a Giant Crocodile that was currently restraining another PC using it's bite+grapple ability.

I did a quick check at the time and did not find anything related to shove, although in the grappled condition description it states:

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.

I ruled at the time that a shove would count in a similar way to being "hurled away" however I wasn't sure and said I would find more concrete information for the future.

I have searched high and low for somebody else asking this specific question but have yet to find it. I saw some reference to a Jeremy Crawford tweet about involuntary movement and grappling however I am unable to find it.

If a third party "shoves" a creature that is grappling another, does it only shove the grappler away, or does it move both the grappler and grappled?

I drew a diagram: Third party shoves grappler

(A related question is about the grappled creature shoving their grappler; this question relates to if a third party shoves the grappler instead, so it's not a duplicate.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Possible duplicate of Can you shove your way out of a grapple? \$\endgroup\$
    – Vigil
    Oct 18, 2018 at 17:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ Just a reminder that duplicate answers are not duplicate questions. The linked question is about the grappled trying to shove the grappler. This question is about a 3rd party shoving the grappler. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Oct 18, 2018 at 17:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch I agree with you, i've updated my question with a diagram and further explination \$\endgroup\$
    – GPPK
    Oct 18, 2018 at 18:04

2 Answers 2

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Yes, it does break the grapple (if you end up outside of its reach)

Thunderwave says:

a creature takes 2d8 thunder damage and is pushed 10 feet away from you

Shoving uses a similar wording:

If you win the contest, you either knock the target prone or push it 5 feet away from you

Assuming you opponent only has a reach of 5 foot (and did not start in your space), shoving should fulfill the clause in the Grappled condition in the same way as Thunderwave would:

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.

It's fine if a third party does the shoving (assuming they can shove in the right direction). The above quote does not state that the grappled creature must cause the effect, only that the effect must remove "the grappled creature from the reach of the grappler or grappling effect".

Also note, moving either the grappler or the grappled creature can count as an effect that "removes the grappled creature from the reach of the grappler or grappling effect" (i.e. in the same way that you can remove someone from danger by eliminating the danger instead of actually moving them). Also see this answer here about the graplee taking the shoving action.

In the querent's diagram, if the character taking shoving action pushed the Crocodile down and to the left (which is technically also 'away' from himself, but check with your DM), it should be enough to separate the two opponents (assuming you are using a grid and/or don't charge extra for the diagonal movement - again, check with your DM)

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    \$\begingroup\$ The problem I have with suggesting that shoving the grappler puts him out of reach of the grappled is that it transfers the shover's effort to the grappled's resistance implicitly. Unless the shover is also pulling the grappled back, he's in effect pushing them both. Any effort to separate them in this case is applied by the grappled. In the economy of actions allowed by characters this is giving the grappled a free action to break the grapple instead of the standard action required by the rules as written. Hence, my argument below. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tuorg
    Oct 18, 2018 at 22:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Tuorg Ya rules seem flawed here. Good reason for a dm to homebrew. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 10, 2020 at 1:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ How would this interact with this part of the PHB section on Grappling? "Moving a Grappled Creature. When you move, you can drag or carry the grappled creature with you, but your speed is halved, unless the creature is two or more sizes smaller than you." \$\endgroup\$
    – StarHawk
    Sep 18, 2021 at 16:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @starhawk my take is that "when you move" should be "whenever you take the move action or dash etc" because it doesn't make sense to say that your speed is halved otherwise. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 19, 2021 at 9:07
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No, because the grappled creature is not removed from the reach of the grappler or grappling effect.

AncientSwordRage predicates their answer on an assertion made in the second to last paragraph of their answer. This assertion, that moving the grappler or grappling effect in such a manner that the grappled creature would be outside the reach of the grappler or grappling effect is equivalent to removing the grappled creature from the reach of the grappler or grappling effect, is not supported by the text or by the precedent set in the Sage Advice Compendium.

First, let's examine the rule in question:

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.

The rule states that the condition ends when an effect removes the grappled creature from the reach of the grappler or grappling effect. It doesn't say when either the grappled creature or the grappler or grappling effect are removed. It does not mention the movement of the grappler or grappling effect at all.

The logical interpretation would thus be that the movement of the grappler or grappling effect does not cause the grappled condition to end, since the rule does not say that it does.

AncientSwordRage bases their alternate interpretation on the example sentence that "in the same way that you can remove someone from danger by eliminating the danger instead of actually moving them". I challenge the veracity of the sentence. If you eliminate the danger, the person is no longer "in danger", but you at no point removed them from the danger. You removed the danger. To demonstrate this, imagine a Bard standing in a pool of water. If your pick the Bard up and put them on the ground next to the pool of water, you have removed the Bard from the water. If you cast Create or Destroy Water and destroy the water, sure, the Bard is not in the water anymore, but at no point was the Bard ever removed from the water, the water was removed from the Bard.

This natural language argument is, I'll admit, not rock solid and some would continue to interpret that it doesn't matter whether the grappled creature or the grappler or grappling effect is the one that moves. People certainly had differing opinions on whether an area of effect moving into a creature constituted a creature moving into the area, and until the Sage Advice Compendium clarified that language, it remained open to intepretation.

Luckily, this Sage Advice Compendium enrty on area effects offers a precedent that it does matter which half of an interaction does the moving. From the Sage Advice Compendium(pp.19-20):

Some spells and other game features create an area of effect that does something when a creature enters that area for the first time on a turn or when a creature starts its turn in that area. Reading the description of any of those spells, you might wonder whether a creature is considered to be entering the spell’s area of effect if the area is created on the creature’s space. And if the area of effect can be moved—as the beam of moonbeam can—does moving it into a creature’s space count as the creature entering the area? Our design intent for such spells is this: a creature enters the area of effect when the creature passes into it. Creating the area of effect on the creature or moving it onto the creature doesn’t count.

Because we now know that it matters whether a creature moves into an effect or the effect moves onto the creature, we can extrapolate that natural language arguments that moving one side of the interaction is equivalent to moving the other half defy this precedent. In the absence of other evidences, the examination of the text of both the grappled condition and the Sage Advice Compendium would indicate it does matter, and that the grappled condition ends only when the grappled creature is removed from the reach of the grappler or grappling effect and is not ended when the grappler or grappling effect is moved.

So, what happens when I shove the crocodile?

When you shove the crocodile, you use the "Shoving a Creature" rules:

Instead of making an attack roll, you make a Strength (Athletics) check contested by the target’s Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check (the target chooses the ability to use). If you win the contest, you either knock the target prone or push it 5 feet away from you.

Assuming you succeed in the contest and choose to push the creature 5 feet away from you, the creature moves 5 feet away from you. Whatever that direction is, the grappled creature will never be removed from the reach of the grappler or grappling effect because the grappled creature is not the one moving. Therefore, the grappled condition does not end. Since the grappled condition does not end, when the crocodile moves 5 feet, the "Moving a Grappled Creature" rules apply:

When you move, you can drag or carry the grappled creature with you, but your speed is halved, unless the creature is two or more sizes smaller than you.

The crocodile thus drag the grappled creature with it. Speed does not affect the distance a creature moves when it is shoved, so the crocodile is pushed 5 feet away from you grappled creature is dragged or carried with it.

A list of things you can do to remove the grappled creature from the reach of the grappler or grappling effect and thereby end the grappled condition:

  • shove the grappled creature into a space that is not within the reach of the grappler or grappling effect
  • grapple the grappled creature and use the "Moving a Grappled Creature" rules to move the grappled creature to a space that is not within the reach of the grappler or grappling effect. -using a spell or other ability that moves the grappled creature to move it into a space that is not within the reach of the grappler or grappling effect, examples include dimension door, thunderwave, or eldritch blast with the Repelling Blast invocation.

The first two options will almost certainly be easier to pull off anyway, considering the grappled creature in your example likely has a much lower Athletics or Acrobatics than that of the Crocodile, otherwise you wouldn't feel you need to save them. This means shoving or grappling the grappled creature would be easier than shoving the crocodile.

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