This came up in a game I was in the other day, so I'm curious as to know how this works.

A gnome was attempting to flee past us up the stairs and I declared that I'd like to try and stop him, by using my reaction to make a grapple - opportunity attack. My DM declared that I wasn't able to use grapple as an Opportunity Attack (obviously what the DM says is fine, but I want to know what RAW/RAI says). Instead I had to "attack" the gnome with non-lethal force (which scared the gnome into running more).

Can you grapple as an Opportunity Attack?


When you want to grab a creature or wrestle with it, you can use the Attack action to make a special melee attack, a grapple. If you’re able to make multiple attacks with the Attack action, this attack replaces one of them. (PHB pg.195)

Opportunity Attack:

You can make an opportunity attack when a hostile creature that you can see moves out of your reach. To make the opportunity attack, you use your reaction to make one melee attack against the provoking creature. The attack interrupts the provoking creature’s movement, occurring right before the creature leaves your reach. (ibid)

My thoughts on this are that

  • RAW: You need to use the Attack action to make a grapple.
  • RAI: Grapple is a melee attack and can be used as an opportunity attack.
  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ Good question. The same one can be asked for Tripping. I'd be highly disappointed if my DM wouldn't allow a Trip attempt when someone suddenly decides to run past me. Related, I'd be mildly disappointed if the rules wouldn't allow me to do so. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jeroen
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 14:52
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ That was kind of my thoughts on it. Not being able to trip/grapple as a reaction seems counterintuitive to the spirit of 5e rules. \$\endgroup\$
    – ChrisD
    Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 6:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm with you, @ChrisD. The accepted answer seems totally wrong-headed to me. You're allowed a melee attack as an Attack of Opportunity. A grapple is a kind of melee attack. AoO allows you to take a swipe at someone passing by or running away from you. Seems eminently reasonable that that be with a weapon, a foot (trip or unarmed strike), a hand (grapple or unarmed strike), or some other monstrous appendage or special power that makes sense. I totally allow it as a DM. \$\endgroup\$
    – lunatamis
    Commented Feb 10, 2018 at 15:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related: Can some monsters grapple as an opportunity attack? \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Feb 1, 2020 at 12:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ The edit was to make the terminology conform to the edition. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 17, 2020 at 20:00

4 Answers 4


As Miniman's answer points out, you cannot grapple as an opportunity attack because an opportunity attack does not give you an Attack action. However, your situation doesn't actually call for an opportunity attack. Instead, it sounds like you had readied an action. From Basic Rules page 72:

Sometimes you want to get the jump on a foe or wait for a particular circumstance before you act. To do so, you can take the Ready action on your turn so that you can act later in the round using your reaction.

First, you decide what perceivable circumstance will trigger your reaction. Then, you choose the action you will take in response to that trigger, or you choose to move up to your speed in response to it...

When the trigger occurs, you can either take your reaction right after the trigger finishes or ignore the trigger. Remember that you can take only one reaction per round.

When you ready an action, you declare that you intend to do something out of your turn in response to something specific happening. For example, you can ready an action by saying "If an enemy comes through that door, I will fire an arrow at them." If an enemy does come through the door, you can then immediately use the readied action and shoot them.

Therefore, if you state on your turn, "I want to grapple the gnome if he tries to get past me," and you have not taken another action on your turn, you would be able to grapple the gnome as he moves past you. If the gnome doesn't try to get by you, the action is wasted. You can also choose to ignore the trigger and take an attack of opportunity as your reaction instead.

Keep in mind that you must declare a Ready action on your turn. Ready actions are actions, like attacks or casting spells. If your turn had already passed when you declared you'd grapple the gnome, your DM would be right in ruling that you can only make an attack. However, if you declared it on your turn, and hadn't already attacked or acted, your DM should have allowed you to grab the gnome.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks David. In this case I hadn't readied an action as there was other combat going on at the time. \$\endgroup\$
    – ChrisD
    Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 6:39

You've already quoted the important distinction. A grapple requires you to use the Attack action, which an opportunity attack does not give you. Your DM is free to rule that you can do this, but they have already ruled that you can't, so that seems unlikely.

As far as RAI are concerned, we can only speculate, but the writers of 5e have been extremely careful about things requiring an Attack action vs an attack. It doesn't seem at all probable that they meant for grappling to merely require a melee attack and accidentally wrote that it required the Attack action.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Some would argue that by the plain reading of the rule 'can use X' does not imply 'must use X'. However the rules goes on to state 'If you’re able to make multiple attacks with the Attack action, this attack replaces one of them.' In my view this makes your interpretation the correct one. As grappling has special limitation over and above other types of melee attacks. \$\endgroup\$
    – RS Conley
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 16:55
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Actually I'd interpret that to mean a grapple is like a single attack and as a reaction lets you do a single attack that it lends support to that side of things. \$\endgroup\$
    – ChrisD
    Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 6:41
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Jeremy Crawford has ruled as you have in the official Rules Answers: June 2016. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 2, 2016 at 10:16

Though the ability to do as you wished is available. it requires a character to devote the time and training necessary to be ready for such a situation. This level of muscle memory is developed by taking the SENTINEL feat

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Hi, welcome to rpg.se! As far as I can tell the feat Sentinel in 5th edition does not allow anything related to grappling. Could you cite the source for your answer? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 12:50
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Presumably the answerer is referencing the fact that Sentinel allows you to reduce a creature's speed to 0 when making an opportunity attack - thus it occupies a similar use case than the questioner's grapple-as-opportunity attack, that of denying an enemy in melee the ability to move away. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vigil
    Commented Dec 12, 2018 at 10:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sentinel can stop them from leaving, but you do not have them grappled; you can't later move and drag them with you, or anything else the grappled condition implies. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 2, 2022 at 0:17

One solution:

On your turn, take an attack action, declare you "want to grab a creature or wrestle with it" this allows you to make special melee attacks called grapples. Now your melee attacks are grapples if you replace the melee attack with the grapple. Since it does not declare you can grapple only once per turn, nothing prevents you from making each of your melee attack as a grapple.

Make a grapple attack, if you miss, you can now can use your bonus actions and reactions to grapple instead of make a melee attack since you choose the Attack action and declared you "want to grab a creature or wrestle with it" which enables the special melee attacks.

TLDR: As long as your last action was an Attack action and you "want" to grapple during that action, you are able to make grapples instead of melee attacks for your attack actions, bonus actions, and reactions.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you use your Attack of Opportunity to Shove? quotes the actual rules, and a Sage Advice confirmation of their reading. Shove/Grapple can only replace attacks that are part of an Attack Action, not others that follow it. You can't grapple/shove outside of your turn unless you spend your action on your last turn to ready and action to do so. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 2, 2022 at 0:20

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