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This happened last night in our session and we couldn't find a conclusive answer:

An NPC is grappling a polymorphed PC in the air (the PC polymorphed into a Quetzalcoatlus, and we didn't at the time realize the NPC couldn't have grappled the PC due to size differences), and through some trickery the NPC has haste cast on it by a hostile PC, accepts it, and then the hostile PC immediately breaks concentration to cause the negative effects of haste on the NPC.

What happens to the grapple initiated by the NPC? Does the grapple end when haste ends (the NPC can end a grapple instantly), or does the PC have to still actively break out of it? Does the grappled PC stop falling when the haste spell ends on on their turn if they break out of the grapple? Can the NPC maintain the grapple if the PC doesn't even try to break out (for whatever reason)?

The language around the haste ending effect is kind of ambiguous and doesn't use the keywords you'd expect, and I'm wondering if that's on purpose, or what that means.

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2 Answers 2

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The grapple does not end, unless that grappled creature can fly.

Here are the effects of haste's lethargy:

  • the target can't move
  • the target can't take actions

Here are the things that can end a grapple:

  • The condition ends if the grappler is incapacitated (see the condition).
  • The condition also ends if an effect removes the grappled creature from the reach of the grappler or grappling effect
  • The grappled creature successfully escapes

None of these things happen when the lethargy sets in, so for a typical grapple occurring on the ground, the grapple does not end.

However, if the grappler is flying when lethargy sets in, this happens:

If a flying creature is knocked prone, has its speed reduced to 0, or is otherwise deprived of the ability to move, the creature falls, unless it has the ability to hover or it is being held aloft by magic, such as by the fly spell.

Case #1: Both creatures can fly.

Rules as written, the grappler falls, which removes the grappled creature from the reach of the grappler, ending the grapple. Since the grapplee can fly, there is no rule that the grapplee must fall with the grappler, and there is no rule preventing the grappler from falling, so the grappled creature is not moved, and the grappler falls out of reach.

Case #2: The grappled creature cannot fly.

In this case, both the grappler and the grapplee would fall, as there is nothing keeping either of them aloft. Since they both fall at the same time, unless something else strange happens, they land next to each other, and the grapple does not end.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is awesome thanks, though what do you think would change here if the NPC didn't have any ability to fly on its own, and had only been maintaining itself in the air through the grapple (by hanging onto the Quetzalcoatlus)? I can edit the question to clarify that if necessary. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 9 at 16:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @CharlesDimino That would be the grappler holding them both aloft, ergo when the grappler falls, they would both fall, but the timing is weird, I’ll add some more about that situation when I finish lunch. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 9 at 16:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry, other way around -- the Quetzalcoatlus PC is holding them both up with its wings, the NPC is just a medium humanoid who fell onto the Quetzalcoatlus to attack and decided to grapple to bring the Quetzalcoatlus to the ground. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 9 at 16:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @CharlesDimino I’ll break this up into a few different scenarios in a little bit. The short version is simply that the grapples rules and flying rules really don’t play with together. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 9 at 16:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @CharlesDimino I think that revision should cover the relevant scenarios. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 9 at 17:22
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The rules are unclear.

Moving a Grappled 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.

Grappled

  • The condition also ends if an Effect removes the grappled creature from the reach of the Grappler or Grappling Effect, such as when a creature is hurled away by the Thunderwave spell.

Either you count forced movement (when something 'moves you', rather than 'when you move') for the first entry, which would cause the grappler to fall at half speed but bring the grappled creature with them, or you decide that the second statement also covers grapplers being moved, not just the grappled creature(s), and the fall's forced movement would end the grapple.

From a purely common sense perspective, the idea that having your movement set to zero (such as by.. being grappled, say) stops a grappler from grabbing something is kind of silly. Narratively, someone who just lost their ability to fly (such as by having conentration disrupted on a Fly spell) clinging onto someone they'd been grappling with who can still fly, is entirely on-theme and in fact a classic trope.

However, RAW, the DM will have to make the call as to which way this goes, as the rules text is not clear as written, and houserules, or as many 5e forum-users seem to like to call them 'interpretations', would be required for it to not be a DM call as to the outcome.

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