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I came up with the idea of a "grappling hook" (just a 30-foot length of rope, and a hook on the end - not sharp, just to hook onto things), and was wondering about its use in combat.

The tricky part is that my character is Dex-based, not Str. My character has 14 Dex and 10 Str. So its use would be to simply attempt to throw an enemy off balance, or impose disadvantage on their next roll, for example.

The use in this situation would have to be finesse-based, potentially, or the goal would be an opposed check vs. the target's Dex (and my Dex, hopefully).

Is there anything in the rules about something like this? Or is it entirely homebrew?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you describe your character a little more ? Maybe some class / subclass options may be relevant. \$\endgroup\$ – Bash Aug 30 at 14:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you asking about the grappling hook item listed in the PHB, or some sort of homebrew item? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Aug 31 at 0:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast yes, didn't realise it was actually a thing haha \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Aug 31 at 2:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ben what do you want to achieve by using it in combat? \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Aug 31 at 16:54
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Anything you could do to an enemy with a grappling hook would probably require a strength check

As far as I know, there are no specific rules for using a grappling hook against an enemy in the way you describe, which means that you would be improvising an action, as described in the rule for actions in combat:

When you describe an action not detailed elsewhere in the rules, the DM tells you whether that action is possible and what kind of roll you need to make, if any, to determine success or failure.

The introduction to the DMG gives some guidance on how the DM should adjudicate improvised actions (note: because this is the DMG, "you" refers to the DM):

The rules don’t account for every possible situation that might arise during a typical D&D session. For example, a player might want his or her character to hurl a brazier full of hot coals into a monster’s face. How you determine the outcome of this action is up to you. You might tell the player to make a Strength check, while mentally setting the Difficulty Class (DC) at 15. If the Strength check is successful, you then determine how a face full of hot coals affects the monster. You might decide that it deals 1d4 fire damage and imposes disadvantage on the monster’s attack rolls until the end of its next turn. You roll the damage die (or let the player do it), and the game continues.

The example given is in fact very similar to what you're asking about: improvising the use of something that's not a weapon to interfere with an enemy in some way. You can reasonably expect the DM to either ask you for an attack roll (without proficiency) or some kind of ability check in order to use the grappling hook against an enemy in the way you describe, assuming they decide it's even possible.

Unfortunately for your character, if we look in the rules for the kind of things you could conceivably do to an enemy using a grappling hook, we see that they all require rolling some kind of strength check. The most likely candidates are grappling the creature, pulling it toward you, or tripping it to knock it prone. For grappling (emphasis added):

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. [...] 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).

For pulling or tripping, the relevant attack is a shove (emphasis added):

Using the Attack action, you can make a special melee attack to shove a creature, either to knock it prone or push it away from you. [...] 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).

Of course, pulling isn't covered by this, but it's obviously mechanically similar to pushing, with the only difference being the direction of movement. It stands to reason that if pushing is strength-based, then pulling ought to be as well.

In summary, if you try to use of a grappling hook in combat to grab, pull, or trip an enemy, your DM may allow this and make a ruling about how to resolve the action. Based on the similarity to existing attack types that are defined in the rules (grapple and shove), it is mostly likely that your use of the grappling hook will require a strength check.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @Bash I've edited my answer to make it more clear that I'm describing the normal process of resolving of an improvised action, not a homebrew mechanic. \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan C. Thompson Aug 31 at 15:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ In fact, your answer was already fine ; it is now crystal clear, +1 :). About pulling a grappled ennemy : you might want to mention the "standard" pulling mechanics, which rely on movement instead of opposed ability checks (you can move half your movement with a grappled creature) \$\endgroup\$ – Bash Aug 31 at 17:34
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Rules are rarely that specific

You may suggest homebrew mechanics to your DM to do it... Or you could simply add flavor to existing ones. Here are 2 options, using existing rules/mechanics, that may be relevant to your specific scenario.

Consider using the Help action

You say it "would be an attempt to throw an enemy off balance"; it looks like an effective distraction to me, and could grant your ally advantage on its next attack.
The Help action lets you do this, as long as you are within 5 feet of the creature you try to distract: just describe it as using the hook in doing so.

Customize a Whip instead of a rope ?

You may either ask your DM if your grappling hook can be treated as an improvised whip (of course with a standard 10-foot reach) ; or try to customize an actual whip so that it allows you to displace levitated objects.
It would open standard, finesse-based attack rolls - but might prevent your from using your proficiency bonus (if you have no proficiency, or if considered improvised).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you ever allowed an improvised-weapon whip that has a reach significantly longer? That seems like a pretty big give and would like to hear if you felt it was balanced to allow it. You also need to be within 5' of the enemy target for Help. Only one class has an ability (I think) that grants otherwise. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 30 at 13:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch : my intent was not to allow a 20-foot reach, only use "standard" actions / weapon, and describe it as using the hook. Edited the answer so that it appears more clearly. \$\endgroup\$ – Bash Aug 30 at 13:53

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