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Some context: during our last game a hidden creature (not the BBEG, but kind of a mini-boss, CR23) charged and grappled (with improved grab) one of the PCs (a 20th-level Sha-ir/Cleric/Dweomerkeeper) during the surprise round, leaving him quite wounded (under half hp). After that this PC won initiative and the first thing he did was casting time stop. We decided to end the game there for several reasons: it was already late, one other player had left, and this is an important encounter that he didn't want to miss, and I wasn't sure how to rule on this situation yet.

So regarding the question itself, say you're in a grapple with another creature, and during your turn you cast time stop (since it only has verbal components you can cast it while grappling with a DC 29 Concentration check), but you're inside the area of a forbiddance spell, so you can't just teleport out.

Could you escape the grapple while time is stopped using the normal method (by making a grapple or escape artist check)? I'm guessing that since the opponent can't move or be moved he can't make a grapple check either so you can't even try the opposed check.

Would casting freedom of movement be of any help at all? You automatically succeed on the grapple check to free yourself, but I don't think you can make that check to begin with.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelDorf Do please flesh that argument into a full answer, that way you have enough space to clarify it fully. (And we try not to answer in comments here) \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Jan 8 at 13:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just out of curiosity: have you decided how will you rule now? Will the PC be able to escape from the grapple? :) \$\endgroup\$ Jan 9 at 16:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PeregrinTook We played the combat today, since this is a very specific situation I decided to rule it in a case by case basis instead of defining a general rule. As the creature in question had grappled the player using just the mouth, I ruled that escaping by making a grapple/escape artist check was impossible since he couldn't open the creature's mouth while time was stopped. He escaped anyway by casting Whispercast and Gaseous Form, which was pretty clever. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yopi Lapi
    Jan 9 at 22:08
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This going to have to be a pure DM call.

No commentary, much less any rule, covers this. There isn’t even a community consensus. Play at levels where time stop is possible is rare, and actually using grapple seems, if anything, to be rarer. I’m sure you’re not the first to deal with it, but it very much is not a “frequently asked” question.

And you basically have two options (shocking, when dealing with a “yes” or “no” question). Those two options are basically divided between the gamist “yes, you can,” and the simulationist “no, you can’t.”

  • A gamist perspective would look at the rules, and the spirit of the rules, and determine that this is the kind of thing time stop is for. It isn’t an offensive action, it doesn’t directly “affect” another creature, and extricating yourself from dicey situations is part of what you want the spell for. A gamist perspective would likely also note that the rules don’t explicitly bar grapple escapes, and be more comfortable taking the game rules as the physical reality you’re working with. A gamist might also shy away from the potential complications here that are ordinarily below the game’s abstraction threshold—suddenly, we might be wondering how the hold is being established, and whether it could be slipped out of while the other creature is frozen, and so on, where normally the game would have us ignore such complications.

  • A simulationist perspective is much more likely to look at the grapple as something that you just couldn’t physically do anything about while time is frozen. At least some of the time, depending on the hold. Probably, though since time stop doesn’t actually freeze time, maybe you could make an argument that the hold isn’t actually unbreakable (but then that looks a lot more like affecting another creature in a way that time stop would not allow). If you imagine being held by a literal immovable object, it’s hard to imagine escaping: a simulationist perspective would care a lot about that.

There isn't any objective measure by which we can declare one of these right. Traditional “gamist–narrativist–simulationist” theory also includes a third option, that I could see going either way, and potentially not even consistently but on an ad hoc basis (effectively, as dictated by the “rule of cool”). Any of these approaches is valid, and honestly I think everyone should give consideration to all three in making a decision because all the perspective have something of value here. But the final determination is up to the DM.

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I totally agree with KRyan that it‘s up to the DM to decide how to deal with this situation. My answer is just a way/suggestion how a DM could rule.

The Time Stop spell says "you speed up so greatly that all other creatures seem frozen" (emphasis mine). So I think, the DM could decide that the state all other creatures are in (in relation to the caster) is similar, though not identical, to the paralyzed condition – as if a Mass Hold Person/Hold Monster was cast on everybody else.

The paralized condition says (in part):

A paralyzed character is frozen in place and unable to move or act. A paralyzed character has effective Dexterity and Strength scores of 0 (…)

If you ruled this way it would mean that under the effect of Time Stop you would still be grappling but your chance to win an opposed grapple check in order to escape from the grapple would be, of course, much higher due to your opponents dramatically reduced strength score. Your opponent cannot act, but making an opposed roll isn't an action.


The only spell I found - with only verbal components - that would help in this situation is the 3rd level Sorcerer/Wizard spell Permeable Form from Lords of Madness, which lets you become incorporeal for one round.

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Can you escape a grapple during a time stop (without teleporting or similar effects)?

Yes.

Let's break this down:

This spell seems to make time cease to flow for everyone but you. In fact, you speed up so greatly that all other creatures seem frozen, though they are actually still moving at their normal speeds.

Describing relative time, two time frames occurring at the same time. Just that one time frame is happening much faster than the other.

You are free to act for 1d4+1 rounds of apparent time.

So essentially what this means is you're being allotted X amount of actions for 'free' in between your casting of Time Stop and the opponent's next turn.

While the time stop is in effect, other creatures are invulnerable to your attacks and spells; you cannot target such creatures with any attack or spell.

So really it doesn't say I can't attack or target the opponent with spells just that the results of the attack or spell would be irrelevant.

Taken from Grapple 'If you're grappling':

Some of these actions take the place of an attack (rather than being a standard action or a move action).

And under the 'Escape a Grapple' option:

You can escape a grapple by winning an opposed grapple check in place of making an attack. You can make an Escape Artist check in place of your grapple check if you so desire, but this requires a standard action.

So it's not considered an attack? Though if you take the position that it is an attack for the purpose of Time Stop then there's no way to escape a grapple by making an opposed grapple check because your action is irrelevant to the opponent under the invulnerability clause noted above. So how about Escape Artist, that's definitely not an attack it's a skill check that takes a standard action.

Further support for the postulation making a grapple is not an attack taken from 'Grapple checks':

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

So 'like' a melee attack roll not 'is'.

Now I'm picking up some impression from the commentary that there's some issue about the opponent's ability to make the opposed grapple roll. However the opponent is not taking actions, not attacks, not doing things that take the place of attacks. The opponent is responding to the player's actions necessary to resolving the grapple by making an opposed roll. Under normal circumstances he would be required to do this for however many grapple check that require resolution, the only upper limit is dictated by how many characters can be involved in a legal grapple and exercise the option to grapple the opponent.

In addition taken from the spell description and reproduced above 'In fact, you speed up so greatly that all other creatures seem frozen, though they are actually still moving'. So it's not as if the opponent is 'frozen in time' simply that that the opponent is opposing the grapple at a different time frame reference to that of the character.

Finally, as a standard of comparison, the haste spell somewhat mimics time stop in the effect it exhibits but to a much lesser degree in that a character is acting slightly faster than opponents in the same time frame of reference. Under normal circumstances with a character under the effect of a haste spell would an opponent be required to make an opposed grapple roll in response to the character's grapple attempt? The answer is yes.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm nitpicky about this solution because there will be times where to escape a grapple it will be necessary to move your opponent, for example, what if a creature with a tentacle attack grapples you by coiling it around your neck and choking you, if you time stop there, there's no way you can get out of the grapple without moving your opponent. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yopi Lapi
    Jan 9 at 10:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @YopiLapi Can you clarify how you think according to RAW moving the grapple enables you to escape the grapple? Winning a grapple check to move by RAW brings the grappling opponent along with you. 'You cannot move or harm items held, carried, or worn by a creature stuck in normal time' whether moving a creature is considered an attack is the DM's call, by inference we can speculate moving a creature is also not possible. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 9 at 11:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Two things, first, I'm in agreement with you that moving a creature during time stop isn't possible, that's precisely my point, since escaping the grapple requires you to move your opponent, you can't escape. Second, what I mean by moving your opponent isn't about making a grapple check to move your opponent with you to a different square. What I mean is that if you have a tentacle coiled around your neck choking you, you can't escape that grapple without loosening the tentacle in the process, it's not a separate action, it's something assumed to happen during the grapple check to escape. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yopi Lapi
    Jan 9 at 12:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @YopiLapi Right I see, well my answers to questions are always formulated by a strict definition of RAW and word precision, so the interplay between narrative interpretations if you want to term them that or mental impressions of what is occurring when game mechanics are applied are never a factor when I address a question, as you will no doubt have gathered from my above response. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 9 at 13:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @YopiLapi It is people who decide how to describe a particular scene. You may just say, that in that particular case there is a gap in a hold (monster has moved a bit in an instant, the time became "frozen", or similar). I agree it may begin to seem odd if the above happens in each encounter... but, it is unlikely to happen, I believe. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 11 at 18:05

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