I'm relatively new to dnd and this is my second character build so I'm still trying to understand the mechanics for different classes and how to efficiently stack them.

Character Inspiration

My build is heavily inspired by los luchadores from the movie Mutafukaz. In MFKZ, the luchadores grew up in a long lineage of hero luchadores who protect the world from evil by wrestling (Barbarian) them. But these particular luchadores have doubts because their generation hasn't ever seen any meaningful combat. So they just practice their skills and make money wrestling on TV (Bard) until their patron sends them a sign. When they finally found a sign, they had to sneak (Rogue) into a high security alien military compound to rescue a kidnapped scientist. Since my character is inspired by that movie, that led me to the following 3 classes...


At level 9 I'd have: Human Bard1/Bear Totem3/Assassin Rogue5

18STR, 15 DEX, 13CON, 9INT, 11WIS, 14CHA, 57HP, 13AC

Vicious mockery, Cure Wounds, Thunderwave (not sure I care about the other cantrips/spells)

Expertise in Athletics gets me +12 for Grapples and shoves. Stealth will probably be the other expertise.

Bardic Inspiration, +3d6 for sneak attacks, advantage during rage and assassinate, +2dmg during rage, and my meat shield combo Danger sense, Bear Totem & Uncanny Dodge.


I should note that Im definitely not opposed to using weapons. But I'd prefer if they were either unique or smaller. For example, a whip, daggers, a net, or improvised weapons.

At level 10 Ive considered taking: Bear Totem4 for +1CON+1DEX, or buffing my attacks with Tavern Brawler or Fighter1 for the Unarmed Fighting variant.

Thoughts? Is this build a viable option in mid-high level combat? If not, is it possible do to improve my survivability without just starting from scratch?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Viable in combat in what regard? \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Mar 21 '20 at 22:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well in the way I have it currently built, I feel like its most useful as a meat shield. Dodging and absorbing most of the damage with Uncanny/Bear Totem/Danger Sense. So in that sense, I'm asking if there's any way to increase my meatyness. But if I could somehow change it into an unarmed glass tank I'd be open to that too. But Im not sure if that's possible lol. As for a more balanced AC/DPR build, I have my doubts about making a balanced unarmored grappler that can survive high level encounters. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 21 '20 at 23:22


First, you have to work very hard to build a character that’s not viable in combat. Not as good as others? Sure. Not viable? Hardly possible.

Second, the barbarian/rogue is a great grappler. Barbarian rage gives you advantage on grappling and shoving and damage resistance, rogue gives you expertise on them and sneak attack. What’s not to love?

Bard doesn’t add a lot as a dip and your spell choice is ... weird. As a grappler you want to keep your enemies close and you’ve chosen spells that move them away. Hideous Laughter and Longstrider are better choices.

As a grappler, your main objective is to buff your Strength (Athletics) check so you can grapple, keep grappling, knock your target prone so you have advantage on attacks and then you and you party wails on them until they are dead.

Check out The Grappler’s Manual for all your grappling needs.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Great read! Yeah lol I misread Thunderwave and assumed it forced monsters prone. I have a couple of follow up questions if that's okay. First, My current plan for class levels is exactly as above. After reading Im thinking of taking Rogue1 after Barb1 for Expertise instead of just focusing on 1 class at a time. So it would be Bard1>Barb1>Rogue1>Barb2-3>Rogue2-5. Second, Im also considering taking Human Variant instead of standard for the Tavern Brawlers bonus action. In that case, my AS at 9 would be 16/13/16/8/10/13. But Im not sure about whether Tavern is worth the AS sacrifice, thoughts? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 22 '20 at 2:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @I_Eat_Chalk Attempting to guess what DaleM might say based on this answer, "As a grappler, your main objective is to buff your Strength (Athletics) check", so I'd say anything that results in worse STR probably isn't worth it. Based on that link at the end of the answer, the grappler isn't so interested in dealing damage themselves, but rather on getting that grapple on as soon as possible. I'd personally recommand aiming Barbarian 5 fairly early on (after Rogue 1 for expertise) to get Extra Attack so you can attempt a grapple twice (on two different targets if both attempts succeed). \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Mar 22 '20 at 10:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS no, grapple, then shove prone - next round you target someone else or wail on the one you have. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Mar 22 '20 at 11:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ah, of course; that would be the better use of Extra Attack, my mistake. Still, I think Extra Attack would be my priority besides the rogue 1 dip, to get Extra Attack by level 6 for the grabbing and the shoving... \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Mar 22 '20 at 12:14

Viable? Sure. Optimum? Probably not.


I suggest that grappling is fun but hardly optimal. You take two rounds to render a single enemy restrained, and it takes two more rounds to do it again. On round 1 there is no advantage to anyone. On rounds 2+ melee characters in your party have advantage, but ranged attacks will all be at disadvantage, so this tactic will negate your ranged builds (Dex fighters, ranged rogues, Blastlocks).

What's good about your build

  • You will be a grappling monster.
  • Great way to get advantage for sneak attacks
  • You will have a blast playing your chosen character (this is actually the most important thing, but your question is about combat)

What's not so good about your build

  • You sneak attacks come 2 rounds late. You have missed 2 rounds of sneak attack dice before you even do damage.
  • The Bard level, while cool for flavor (entertainers, right?), reduces your combat effectiveness by delaying your extra sneak attack die. It will be hard if not impossible to get spells off while grappling,
  • You are MAD (multi-attribute dependent). To do damage, you will need to build both Dex and Strength. Sneak attack is finesse or ranged only.
  • Assassin Rogue doesn't mesh well with grappling. Are you planning on critting on your surprise and then moving to grapple?
  • Grappling nerfs your Rogue Cunning Action, since you can't hide, disengage, or dash while grappling.


Grapple if you want, but think about just attacking instead of being a rogue. A single level of Rogue for Expertise then max your melee martial class.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Before I set myself the task of changing this build, would you still hold the same opinion if this built wasn't intended to be solely used as a grappler? I definitely intend to take advantage athletics, but combat wouldn't be much fun if my only move set was grapple>shove>punch until dead. After reading the grapplers guide, I also decided on dual wielding daggers. Grappling would only come into play if it made sense to in the moment so grappling 2 of the 5 minions while my party of 3 is also focused on a monster sorcerer wouldn't be very effective. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 25 '20 at 1:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ As for spells I can use in a grapple, I can always use Diss Whispers or Vicious. Plus, Diss Whis provokes OoA from my party in case Im approached during a grapple. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 25 '20 at 1:45

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