Similar to the this question, I've been trying to find a balanced way to improve the effectiveness of the whip. Instead of a feat, however, this homebrew feature is a Fighting Style. As such, the trade-offs and balancing criteria are somewhat modified. The feature is as follows:
Whip Specialist Fighting Style: You gain a +1 bonus to damage rolls you make with a whip. Additionally, when you hit a creature that is Large or smaller in size with a whip, instead of dealing damage you can choose to grapple the target (escape DC 8 + your proficiency bonus + Dexterity or Strength modifier) and you can pull the target 5 feet closer to you. While the target is grappled in this way, you cannot attack with the whip.
The following classes have access to this Fighting Style: Paladin, Fighter, Ranger.
Does this seem balanced? Specifically, would a whip user want to take this Fighting Style over the Duelist Fighting Style?
Here's a general list of considerations for this feature:
- Most whip users opt towards the Duelist Fighting style, as the +2 bonus to damage rolls helps mitigate the low base damage of the whip (1d4).
- The whip is a finesse (Dexterity-based) weapon, while grappling is normally a Strength (Athletics) based attack. This opens up the possibility of a Dexterity-based grappler.
- The grapple is uncontested, meaning that the whip user simply needs to beat the target's AC. The flip side of this is that escape DC is also uncontested, meaning that the target need only beat the escape DC.
- Unlike normal grappling, however, a whip grappler cannot attack with the whip while they are grappling a target, so they sacrifice damage for utility, unless they choose to attack with whatever they are holding in their free hand. This means that if they want to attack a grappled target, they must give up a "hand slot" to wield another weapon, instead of, say, a shield.
- The pull only works on the initial hit. Perhaps, instead, it should require a bonus action that can be used any turn? I've also considered adding the option of instead tripping the target, making them fall prone.
- Thematic: this fighting style invokes imagery of Indiana Jones, a suave, whip-wielder that uses his weapon to trip and capture his opponents.