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If a creature becomes blinded while grappling, what effects does that have on its grapple checks? From blinded:

The character cannot see. He takes a -2 penalty to Armor Class, loses his Dexterity bonus to AC (if any), moves at half speed, and takes a -4 penalty on Search checks and on most Strength- and Dexterity-based skill checks. All checks and activities that rely on vision (such as reading and Spot checks) automatically fail. All opponents are considered to have total concealment (50% miss chance) to the blinded character. Characters who remain blinded for a long time grow accustomed to these drawbacks and can overcome some of them.

It appears that there might actually be no effect on grapple checks. Is that the case? Or it could be that it is extremely powerful with grappling, even moreso than with regular attacking. I am not asking for clarification on attacking, casting spells, etc. while grappling, as I feel those are already quite self-explanatory. Where I am confused is when it comes to activities that require a grapple check only:

  • Does grappling rely on vision and thus automatically fail, making the act of blinding your opponent in a grapple an automatic "I win" setup?
  • Does concealment affect grapple results in any way (i.e. can it miss?)
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A grapple check is none of the things that the 'blinded' condition affects, so grapple checks are consequently unaffected by said condition. Grapple checks don't "rely on vision" any more than any other ability that doesn't say it relies on vision, at least as far as the rules are concerned, so blinding an opponent in a grapple where each character is solely making opposed grapple checks won't have any effect on that grapple.


(The following section is only relevant if you feel like arguing with the above. If not, feel free to ignore it; nothing changes the above blanket non-application)

One might initially think otherwise, should they misinterpret:

A grapple check is like an attack roll.

But only if they ignore the next sentence:

Your attack bonus on a grapple check is: Base attack bonus + Strength modifier + special size modifier

The game is (badly an inaccurately) trying to tell you that a grapple roll is a d20 roll you add similar stuff to as an attack roll. When the game uses 'is like' to make something a copy of something else, dependent on that other thing for its own description, it uses 'is like... except'. That's important because 'is like' doesn't at all imply that two things are exactly the same, only that they have at least one trait in common. 'is like... except' implies that the list of exceptions is exhaustive.

If one were to ignore the rules text and rule otherwise, as e.g. the Sage does in the following exchange:

[Q] Earlier, you talked about Bob the fighter, who was unconscious and later woke up, prone, to find Grog the orc standing in his space. You said Bob has to stay prone so long as he remained in Grog's space, and that Bob would provoke an attack of opportunity upon leaving that space. Suppose Bob made a grapple attack on Grog? He can grapple Grog, can't he? Bob would be at a negative for being prone but would not provoke an attack of opportunity, would he? Assuming Bob establishes a hold on Grog, how long does the prone penalty last?

[A] Sure, Bob can grapple Grog. Bob's initial grab attack provokes an attack of opportunity from Grog unless Bob has the Improved Grapple feat or some other circumstance prevents Grog from threatening Bob. (For example, Grog would not threaten Bob if Grog were wielding a reach weapon.) If Grog deals damage to Bob with an attack of opportunity, Bob's grapple attempt is over.

If Grog doesn't damage Bob, Bob's initial touch attack would suffer a –4 penalty for being prone. If the grab succeeds, Bob is still prone and still suffers the –4 penalty for being prone for the ensuing opposed grapple check.

Then one is making a grave precedential error: the same language is used all over 3.5 for things that are even more dissimilar! For example, ruling this way may render Saving Throws subject to True Strike:

Generally, when you are subject to an unusual or magical attack, you get a saving throw to avoid or reduce the effect. Like an attack roll, a saving throw is a d20 roll plus a bonus based on your class, level, and an ability score. Your saving throw modifier is:

Base save bonus + ability modifier

And certainly makes spell resistance weird:

The defender’s spell resistance is like an Armor Class against magical attacks

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure what to cite here, if things need citing. Suggestions welcome. Reproducing the entirety of the grapple rules just to be like "see? Not there" seems like overkill. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Jul 19 at 7:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ You could cite the basic grapple check formula and description I suppose, so it is more easily seen that it is none of the things that blinded refers to: " A grapple check is like a melee attack roll. Your attack bonus on a grapple check is: Base attack bonus + Strength modifier + special size modifier " \$\endgroup\$ – Sdjz Jul 19 at 10:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think you're correct, but I also think a reader could infer the opposite: Grapple says, "A grapple check is like a melee attack roll," but it could be clearer if a grapple check is like a melee attack roll only for determining the modifier or if it's also like a melee attack roll in other ways (e.g. needing to roll a miss chance). \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jul 19 at 12:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @heyicanchan I actually think that might be the correct way to interpret it since 1) grappling while blind would mean you couldn't counter your opponent based on anything but touch, and 2) if its "like an attack roll except..." and there isn't anything else mentioned, then it must have all other properties and rules of the attack roll. I'm curious how the answer evolves. \$\endgroup\$ – Wannabe Warlock Jul 19 at 16:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @WannabeWarlock That would be true if it said that. Instead it says "is like an attack roll." There isn't an 'except', just a thing that I would argue is a textually implied "in that". It would be clearer with a semicolon, of course, but Hey I Can Chan is correct that both readings are kind of possible there-- 'like' is a very weak and very ambiguous linking without some kind of qualification. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Jul 19 at 23:00
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The description of grapple states:

Repeatedly in a grapple, you need to make opposed grapple checks against an opponent. A grapple check is like a melee attack roll. Your attack bonus on a grapple check is:

Base attack bonus + Strength modifier + special size modifier

Much as the spell polymorph is like alter self, a grapple check is like a melee attack roll. This means that it behaves as a melee attack roll except for any listed exceptions. In this case, the difference is that the attack bonus for a grapple is given by the formula listed instead of by the formula for ordinary melee attacks, and that the target number for a grapple check is determined by am opposed grapple check attack roll.

Since interaction with concealment is not listed as a difference between ordinary attack rolls and grapple check attack rolls, they are treated identically. As such, a blinded creature would suffer the standard 50% miss chance. Note that since grapple checks are always opposed checks, the -2 penalty to armor class as well as the loss of dexterity bonus to AC do not affect the outcome of the opposed grapple check.

Some scenarios:

Blinded creature "A" tries to affect creature "B" with a grapple check:

  • "A" makes a grapple check to damage "B"
  • "A" fails the concealment check made due to blindness
  • "B" never needs to make an opposed check because the attempt was automatically a miss (e.g. "A" reached for an arm but no arm was there!)

Creature "B" attempts to affect blinded creature "A" with a grapple check:

  • "B" makes a grapple check to damage "A"
  • "A" fails the concealment check
  • "B" is able to damage "A" because "A" missed it's grapple check (e.g. "A" never even saw it coming!)
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