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If you grapple a creature, then the creature swallows you, is the creature still grappled or does it end the grappled condition?

Scenario: A creature (say, a giant toad) grapples me, then I grapple back on my turn, then the creature swallows me.

I think by RAW, nothing about me being swallowed ends the grappled condition on the target unless being swallowed makes me unconcious. Maybe RAI the grapple ends?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The answer you are looking for has to do with having a free hand. Is see that enkryptor has covered that. Interesting question. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 11, 2023 at 12:49

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The toad's grapple on you ends, yours on it does not by RAW, but the DM should probably adjudicate that

Being swallowed is not a condition, but it is described with its own effects, here from the Giant Toad (but the language is essentially the same for the Behir, the Remorhaz, the Tarrasque, and the Giant Frog, except that some of them do not need to grapple first, and except that the damage differs in amount):

If the attack hits, the target is swallowed, and the grapple ends. The swallowed target is blinded and restrained, it has total cover against attacks and other effects outside the toad, and it takes 10 (3d6) acid damage at the start of each of the toad's turns.

This tells you that when you are swallowed, the grapple of the toad grappling you from its bite attack ends. Instead, you are blinded and restrained, and have total cover. Restrained among other effects has the same functional effect as the first bullet of grappeled: A restrained creature’s speed becomes 0, and it can’t benefit from any bonus to its speed., just as if it was grappled, so for practial purposes of movement, there is no change for the swallowed creature.

Does your grapple on the toad end?

The Grappled condition (p. 290, PHB) says:

  • A grappled creature’s speed becomes 0, and it can't benefit from any bonus to its speed.
  • The condition ends if the grappler is incapacitated
  • 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.

You are not incapacitated by being swallowed. Is the toad still within your reach? Reach is not formally defined, but the combat rules on p. 195, PHB tell us:

Most creatures have a 5-foot reach and can thus attack targets within 5 feet of them when making a melee attack.

Reach is described as the distance within which a creature can attack a target with a melee attack. While the toad cannot attack you any more, you can attack the toad, from the inside, so it is still within your reach, and none of the conditions ending the grapple is fullfilled. So, strictly as written, when you are inside the toad, the toad is still grappled.

Adjudicating the rules

If the toad is grappled, it's speed is reduced to 0 by the condition. However, you have no leverage point against which to stop the toad from moving, so based on common sense, this outcome is nonsensical. (For example, in the "Never give up" image in Dale's answer, the stork could still move.) This would be an area where it would not be surprising for the DM to overrule the mechancial effect, and allow the toad to move with you inside.

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Your grapple ends if you were swallowed, but not by RAW

Here's the Swallow action of a Giant Toad:

Swallow. The toad makes one bite attack against a Medium or smaller target it is grappling. If the attack hits, the target is swallowed, and the grapple ends. The swallowed target is blinded and restrained, it has total cover against attacks and other effects outside the toad, and it takes 10 (3d6) acid damage at the start of each of the toad's turns. The toad can have only one target swallowed at a time. If the toad dies, a swallowed creature is no longer restrained by it and can escape from the corpse using 5 feet of movement, exiting prone.

This description is incomplete. For instance, it doesn't say the swallowed creature is being moved with the toad. Strictly RAW its speed becomes 0, so it should stay inplace when the toad moves.

However, we all understand this is not the case because of this phrase:

If the attack hits, the target is swallowed

"The target is swallowed" is not a "fluff" text, it's literally what happened in the game world. It means you're now inside the toad. So the question is — provided you are inside a creature, can you do what Grapple allows you to do in normal circumstances?

Let's use common sense:

Using at least one free hand, you try to seize the target

When you move, you can drag or carry the grappled creature with you

Clearly, this describes a situation when one creature moves (or halts) another one by grabbing it and staying near. You can't "drag the grappled creature with you" being inside of it. It's quite the opposite — the Toad carries you in its stomach. So even if RAW allows you to Grapple or Shove the Toad from inside of it, it looks like Munchausen is pulling himself out of a mire by his own hair — ridicoulus and suitable for some genres, but not very plausible.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can a character that is restrained grapple? i.e. does being restrained mean the character does not have one free hand? and thus the ruling is RAW? \$\endgroup\$
    – Dave
    Dec 11, 2023 at 18:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Dave that's a valid observation, worth its own question. For me conditions have always been pure mechanics. Restrained condition doesn't mean the target is restrained in the game world, it does only what it say it does: speed becomes 0, disadvantage on Dex saves and attacks, advantage on attacks against the target. \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Dec 12, 2023 at 9:51
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The DM must make a ruling.

The rules don’t account for every possible situation that might arise during a typical D&D session. For example, a player might want his or her character to hurl a brazier full of hot coals into a monster’s face. How you determine the outcome of this action is up to you.

Or a grappled creature is swallowed whole. The grappling rules are clearly not written to account for one combatant swallowing the other whole. The DM needs to make a ruling. And to me, ending the grapple seems like a pretty obvious outcome. There is, of course, room for the DM to observe the strict rules-as-written ruling here, and that may be desirable depending on the sort of creature doing the swallowing, but I won’t get specific on that point.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I certainly would rule as you suggest myself, but I think to claim the rules demand that the DM must overrule is going to far. The rules do not mandate the DM overrules them in such cases, they only give the DM the liberty to do so. Its "up to you", not "your duty to". \$\endgroup\$ Dec 11, 2023 at 7:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NobodytheHobgoblin “to claim the rules demand that the DM must overrule is going to far” I made no such claim. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 11, 2023 at 8:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ I must somehow then misunderstand the title that says "The DM must make a ruling"? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 11, 2023 at 9:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NobodytheHobgoblin Strictly observing the rules as written is a type of ruling. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 11, 2023 at 9:35
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No

https://www.dndbeyond.com/sources/basic-rules/combat#Grappling

The condition specifies the things that end it, and you can release the target whenever you like (no action required).

https://www.dndbeyond.com/sources/basic-rules/appendix-a-conditions#Grappled

  • 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, such as when a creature is hurled away by the thunderwave spell.

Neither of the conditions for ending a grapple has happened, so being swallowed doesn't end the grapple. Perhaps, you initially grabbed the thing's tongue, perhaps your arm is sticking out grimly holding on to the outside, perhaps youv'e dragged one of its arms with it so its swallowing its own fist, perhaps this:

Frog and Stork

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this is too clearly an answer that highlights raw not covering a situation, so "raw says" answers just don't seem helpful. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Dec 11, 2023 at 7:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think it is valuable to have the RAW clearly spelled out, even if that is not how most people (me included) would run it. It is certainly not wrong as answer to a question about what RAW says, even if it omits how to handle it. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 11, 2023 at 22:38

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