Do you need a free hand to MAINTAIN a grapple in 5e?


I'm trying to find the RAW definition for this but so far I can't find any confirmation.

I found that in the link above it is stated that a free hand is needed to initiate a grapple but not to maintain it. Thus, a player grappling an enemy can still attack with a two-handed weapon.


1 Answer 1


You need a hand to maintain your grapple

RPGBots claims

Strangely, after you start the grapple, there’s no requirement to keep that hand free. You’re free to use that hand to go back to attacking with a two-handed weapon or to grapple a different creature.

This is right on the first sentence in as far as there is no explicit, written requirement.

The relevant rules text for grapple is:

Using at least one free hand, you try to seize the target by making a grapple check, a Strength (Athletics) check contested by the target’s Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check (the target chooses the ability to use). If you succeed, you subject the target to the grappled condition (see appendix A). The condition specifies the things that end it, and you can release the target whenever you like (no action required).

RPGbot argues, as there is no text about needing a hand to continue grappling someone, you don't. But grappling is not a magic effect that defies the rules of how normal things behave. There is also no text that you cannot walk through solid walls, or that you need your feet to use your walking speed. Everyday things behave as you would expect them to.1

Because of this, if you grapple an opponent with your free hand, you need that hand to hold on to them in the grapple. It does not make any sense that you would be able to continue holding them, while freely using both your hands to do something else like swinging a greatsword.

The hand is not a "free" hand anymore, when you use it to grapple, as it is occupied in the grapple. It therefore is not available to wield a greatsword.

So I think RPGbot is entirely wrong in the conclusion it draws, due to the overall, rules light nature of 5e, that requires the DM and players to apply common sense.

1 If you like, there is further evidence in the wording of "releasing" the target, which suggests you are still holding it more than a more technical description of just saying you can end the condition at any time would, but I think that is neither sufficient (as it does not mention a hand either), nor necessary.

  • \$\begingroup\$ "The hand is not a "free" hand any more, when you use it to grapple, as it is occupied in the grapple." This is the crux of it in my reading. +1 \$\endgroup\$
    – Ty Hayes
    Commented Feb 24 at 12:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd move the 'RPG argues" part to after the quote from RPGbot itself, or at least say 'RPGbot argues below'. Or perhaps say 'RPGbot argues, in the link provided by OP'... Something to establish why you are responding to this particular line of reasoning. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Feb 24 at 15:50

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