I'll be DMing an encounter in a couple of weeks that involves the party of PCs invading a den full of Asabi. The PCs are lvl 9-10, and the Asabi commander is similar level (RHD 3 / Rogue 3 / Hexblade 4).

I've dropped hints to the party that the Asabi chieftain is a ruthless combatant. Since Asabi have a burrow speed, one horrible tactic that I have planned is to grapple one of the smaller party members, beat them to an opposed grapple check, and then use the Asabi's 20 ft burrow speed to drag someone underground.

From the SRD:

A creature with a burrow speed can tunnel through dirt, but not through rock unless the descriptive text says otherwise. Creatures cannot charge or run while burrowing. Most burrowing creatures do not leave behind tunnels other creatures can use (either because the material they tunnel through fills in behind them or because they do not actually dislocate any material when burrowing); see the individual creature descriptions for details.

And Moving while Grappling:

You can move half your speed (bringing all others engaged in the grapple with you) by winning an opposed grapple check. This requires a standard action, and you must beat all the other individual check results to move the grapple.

I would think this combination allows an asabi to grapple the party wizard and drag her underground. What are the consequences for a kobold wizard who's buried 10 feet underground? And could I have my boss monster move away, effectively "closing" the underground tunnel and tombing the wizard in to result in a suffocation effect? Is this a rules-legal strategy?

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    \$\begingroup\$ A 10th level wizard who, having been grappled, is still in the grapple a round later when it comes time to do this, deserves to get buried alive. High level wizards can trivially become more or less immune to grappling, in dozens of ways, and ignoring one's own weaknesses when shoring them up would be trivial, should have tactical repercussions. \$\endgroup\$ – Matthew Najmon Feb 6 '15 at 17:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MatthewNajmon Agreed, and related. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Feb 6 '15 at 19:30

That sounds like an entirely legal (and evil) strategy. I like it.

The kobold wizard, buried 10 feet underground, would begin suffocating, though the chamber would plausibly have a minute's worth of air.

Since the Asabi wouldn't leave behind a tunnel, the wizard would have a great deal of difficulty in casting any spells with a somatic component. A generous GM might allow a concentration check as if grappled (ie., DC 20 + spell level) to cast such a spell. Similarly, a generous GM might allow the kobold some kind of check to avoid being buried alive (perhaps Grapple to hold on to the Asabi, perhaps Climb to scramble up in its wake).

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It's a winning strategy but dirty and difficult

The asabi commander must...

  1. Identify the wizard. He's probably the one not wearing armor with the raven on his shoulder, but that's no guarantee given the proliferation of base and prestige classes that function optimally in light or no armor.
  2. Make the initial touch attack. This means either beating the foe's initiative on the first round of combat, hoping his foe doesn't have the feat Combat Reflexes, or provoking an attack of opportunity from his foe when the commander makes the touch attack to start the grapple, hoping the foe doesn't hit therefore spoiling the grapple attempt, or having the feat Improved Grapple which requires a Dexterity score of 13 and the feat Improved Unarmed Strike; this latter is most likely but devotes 2 of the creature's precious 4 feats to this tactic.
  3. Wait until next round after the grapple succeeds. After succeeding on the initial touch attack, make the opposed grapple check. If the commander wins, he can move the foe, but

    You can move half your speed (bringing all others engaged in the grapple with you) by winning an opposed grapple check. This requires a standard action, and you must beat all the other individual check results to move the grapple.

    So the commander's there, grappling his foe at least until his next round, likely making him vulnerable to the other party members' attacks in the meantime, having lost his Dexterity bonus to Armor Class against their attacks while grappling.

Finally, then the commander drags his grappled foe 10 ft. underground. From there, because both creatures are grappling, on his next turn the commander can take a standard action to use at least one of his attacks to make an opposed grapple check to escape the grapple. Then, if successful, on that same turn, the commander can take a move action to burrow up back to the battle. It's unclear whether his relinquished foe--now underground and, presumably, lacking a burrow speed--gets an attack of opportunity due to the commander's departure.

This extra round, if the commander's strategy is well known, likely gives his remaining aboveground foes opportunities to ready actions for his reappearance, and a brutal game of Whac-A-Abasi ensues.

Keep in mind that the commander has no natural means of navigation while burrowing. Abasi, even after their update in the Player's Guide to Faerûn Web enhancement, lack, for example, tremorsense. If the commander attempts to maneuver underground he'll have no idea of surface conditions, including the locations of his remaining foes.

A buried foe is likely pretty severely impaired by his predicament. It's unclear exactly what happens in this precise situation, but my instinct is to use the rules for being buried by a cave-in:

Characters take 1d6 points of nonlethal damage per minute while buried. If such a character falls unconscious, he must make a DC 15 Constitution check. If it fails, he takes 1d6 points of lethal damage each minute thereafter until freed or dead.

Characters who aren’t buried can dig out their friends. In 1 minute, using only her hands, a character can clear rocks and debris equal to five times her heavy load limit. The amount of loose stone that fills a 5-foot-by-5-foot area weighs one ton (2,000 pounds). Armed with an appropriate tool, such as a pick, crowbar, or shovel, a digger can clear loose stone twice as quickly as by hand. You may allow a buried character to free himself with a DC 25 Strength check.

(More precise mining rules are covered by the skill Profession (miner) (Races of the Dragon 98) in case the commander traps the poor foe way beneath the ground.)

Such a tactic is, obviously, best used either against a lone creature or by a creature who hopes to make of the foe a snack instead of by a boss monster who hopes to win by cocooning his foes, one at a time, beneath the earth.

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Since there is no rule that states otherwise, i'd say yes it is.

Burrow is a natural movement speed, which can be used with the "move while grappling" special action. As opposed to Special Qualities like Earth Glide, not usable in such case.

If the creature closes the tunnel instantly after it burrows than the grappled opponent will be entombed and so start suffocating.

But I'd read carefully the burrowing creature description before starting such a maneuver: as an example the Ankheg is having both burrowing speed and improved grapple. But the description of the creature states: "An ankheg burrows with legs and mandibles.". The only attack the Ankheg has is the bite, so as a master i'll state that it can't burrow while grappling, because it holds the grapple with its mandibles.

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