Can I move a grappled creature so that they precede me towards a destination, rather than following behind?

Background

In a comment on this answer, user V2Blast suggests that you could circumnavigate* a creature, then push them into a hazard. This would enable moving a grappled creature into a hazard without first moving through the hazard yourself.

Technical detail

The basic combat rules explain that, if you are grappling another creature:

When you move, you can drag or carry the grappled creature with you, but your speed is halved, unless the creature is two or more sizes smaller than you.

Drag is very specific, and implies that the target follows you. Carry, however, imposes no such restraint. Can 'carrying' include movement in which the grapple-target is adjacent to you, but is 'in front' of you relative to the direction of movement?

Visualisation

Two simple diagrams for visual thinkers

Tar = Target; Gra = Grappler; --> = movement direction

## I know you can do this:
Tar|Gra|-->|

## I want to know if this is possible:
Gra|Tar|-->|


* The need for circumnavigation is brought about by the fact that moving a grappled creature can only occur 'when you move' according to RAW, which implies that moving a creature relative to oneself is impossible. This is outside of the scope of this question, please answer that question there and this one here.

• Not sure I totally understand the situation. Can you clarify the positioning? Commented Jun 14, 2021 at 17:01
• I don't feel like positioning at the onset of the grapple is particularly important. OP seems to want to know if a character can move an opponent they have Grappled (up to half the character's speed) and end up with the enemy in some kind of hazard, such as over a cliff or in a wall of fire. The circumnavigation seems ancillary; it's just establishing that the character moves such that they are opposite the hazard. Commented Jun 14, 2021 at 17:09
• Thanks @NautArch. I've restated the main point of the question for clarity - it's about whether the the grappled creature can precede me as I move it. Commented Jun 14, 2021 at 17:24
• @Ifusaso not quite - the motivation is about the possibility of doing what you've described, but the question is narrow - it's just about whether I can push (rather than pull/drag) a grappled creature. Can they precede me as I move them, such that they 'get there' first? Commented Jun 14, 2021 at 17:27
• Related: How can I move an enemy?
– Kirt
Commented Jan 5, 2023 at 20:09

If you want to push a creature into a hazard, you should use the Shove attack action

There's a whole action for this:

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. If you’re able to make multiple attacks with the attack action, this attack replaces one of them. The target must be no more than one size larger than you and must be within your reach. 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). If you win the contest, you either knock the target prone or push it 5 feet away from you.

You've asked if you could use the grapple "drag or carry" ability to push a creature. Personally I think that the meaning of "drag or carry" is pretty clear, and it does not include pushing or even lateral movement. The only way to "drag or carry" someone into a hazard is if you're in the hazard too.

It's true that this gets a little bit fuzzier when you consider that everyone is on a grid and occupying separate squares. I can imagine that a DM could make a series of rulings, intended to simplify grid movement, which might effectively allow you to move a creature into a hazard with a grapple movement.

The final ruling is, as always, up to the DM. But I think there are strong arguments for requiring a character to do this with the Shove rules.

• Can you justify your assertion that 'drag or carry' does not include lateral movement? Commented Jun 14, 2021 at 21:16

A character can drag a creature into hazards without entering themselves.

Drag means the grappler can't push the target to precede them.

To drag is a kind of pull which is the opposite of pushing. In short, a grappler cannot push their target.

with object and adverbial of direction Pull (someone or something) along forcefully, roughly, or with difficulty.

Pushing and pulling on a grid.

On a grid, a push is the situation where the pusher enters the square of the target and the target it forced into to square in the direction of motion.

A pull on a grid is where the target is forced to move in the direction of the puller by entering the vacated space or moving parallel to the puller.

Use lateral movement to take a target into a hazard

A character can drag a creature laterally. You can drag a creature along with you. Moving parallel to a hazard avoids entering it while pulling the grappled creature over the coals.

E.g. Bob dragging their target (Tgt) over a hazzard (Haz) in four steps.

1.               2.
___|___|___|___  Bob|___|___|___
Bob|___|Haz|___  Tgt|___|Haz|___
Tgt|___|___|___  ___|___|___|___

3.               4.
___|Bob|___|___  ___|___|Bob|___
___|Tgt|Haz|___  ___|___|Tgt|___
___|___|___|___  ___|___|___|___

• You've talked about how 'drag' cannot include 'pull'. I've acknowledged this in my question, but also noted that it's possible to 'carry' a grappled creature. Can you show how carrying excludes pushing (or movement equivalent thereto)? Commented Jun 14, 2021 at 18:02
• @Lovell the question of, "Can you carry a grappled creature ahead of you while moving?" is a good question. That seems related yet separate from this question. The focus on push and pull in addition with the premise of "Carry, however, imposes no such restraint" implies that this question was about dragging and pushing.
– GcL
Commented Jun 14, 2021 at 18:38
• @Lovell if you ask that question, specifically request answers to address if carrying while grappling respects the encumbrance carry/lift/drag rules for strength or ignores them. If it's the latter, you can get a gnome grappling and carrying a knight whose armor alone would be more than the gnome could carry.
– GcL
Commented Jun 14, 2021 at 18:50
• that's another very good question. My current understanding is that the grappling rules respect the carry/lift/drag/encumbrance rules Commented Jun 14, 2021 at 20:40
• Thank you for your critique of this question. I've updated it for technical clarity - reference to 'pushing' is gone. It's all about the position of the target relative to you relative to the direction of movement. Commented Jun 14, 2021 at 20:52

I agree, RAW is not very clear about whether this works. However, falling back to "what could a character do in real life?", a couple of answers come to mind.

First, @GcL's answer of the lateral drag is a good point. If it's a hazard you can walk around, like a pit or a pool of lava, drag them sideways into it and you're golden.

Now thinking about the carry option - if you were to carry someone in front of you into, say, a fire, your arms around them would also end up in the fire. I think in that case you could certainly do it, but you'd end up taking the same damage they do.

The other option (while carrying them in front) would be to stop short and use the Shove action (maybe with them at disadvantage, since their feet are off the ground, but that's getting into house rule territory). Realistically, it's really hard to carry someone in front of you, and if you get close enough to a hazard to drop someone into it (or carry them to a ledge and try to drop them over it), there's a good chance you'd go with them. (Another house rule idea for that: make a DEX/Acrobatics/Athletics save to keep your balance.)