Let us take a tiger as an example of a creature having solid chances of making full attack with multiple Natural Weapons each of which may be used to trigger Improved Grab. Let us also assume it hits on each attack for simplicity.
How exactly whole attack sequence will look like if given tiger wins grapple check on its first (or second) claw attack? Would it be than entitled to its remaining attacks? 1
In extension, how about Rake attacks?
From one hand if a tiger attacks with a Charge, he would be entitled to two Rake attacks all tigers have thanks to Pounce ability. From the other hand, Rake says it can't be done in the same round as a hold 2. So if there is a hold during full attack it should cancel Rakes for that particular turn. Am I right, or hold cancels only Rakes "obtained" through that hold?

1* As I see it, if a creature allowed only single Natural Weapon attack in a grapple per turn, a successful hold should ruin subsequent attacks because that creature is now in a grapple. And it have attacked at least once already.
2* Improved Grab (but strangely only in stat blocks) states: "If it [monster] wins the grapple check, it establishes a hold and can rake." It seems "... in the subsequent rounds" clause is missing there, as there is almost no chance that Rake would be used not through Improved Grab but through regular grapple. So why even bother to add this "it [monster] can’t begin a grapple and rake in the same turn" clause in Rake description, if most common way to use Rake cancels that clause anyway?


1 Answer 1


The Setup

Abe, a human Clr4 of Nobanion, has been tasked by his superiors to apprehend a man-eating tiger. He expended his spells traveling to the tiger's lair. The tiger, smelling the meat juice Abe bathed in before his trip, thinks Abe a potentially tasty snack. (Note: The tiger is correct.)

Round 1

Abe is between 10 ft. and 80 ft. from the tiger, which has an unimpeded route to him.

  1. Abe and the tiger make initiative checks. The tiger goes first.
  2. The tiger takes a full-round action to make a charge.
  3. Due to its special ability pounce, at the end of the charge the tiger makes a full attack.1
  4. The tiger makes an attack with its claw, hitting and dealing damage.
  5. Due to its special ability improved grab, the tiger attempts to start a grapple without provoking an attack of opportunity and without needing to make a touch attack, hence advancing immediately to Step 3: Hold.
  6. The tiger and Abe make opposed grapple checks.
  7. The tiger wins, getting a hold on Abe. Due to the tiger's special ability improved grab, the tiger does not deal its unarmed strike damage, and the tiger moves Abe into its space.
  8. Because If You're Grappling says

    If your base attack bonus allows you multiple attacks, you can attempt one of these actions in place of each of your attacks, but at successively lower base attack bonuses.

    the tiger's base attack bonus means it can't make more attacks this way and is unable to use immediately, for example, the options Attack Your Opponent or Damage Your Opponent.

  9. The tiger makes two rake attacks against Abe. The tiger's special ability pounce says that

    If a tiger charges a foe, it can make a full attack, including two rake attacks.

    Normally, rake attacks have all kinds of restrictions placed on them, but when a tiger charges and makes a full attack, that full attack includes the two rake attacks, no matter the usual limitations of rake, specific overriding general. The tiger, despite having grappled its foe this turn, has charged and made a full attack, so it makes its rake attacks.2

    Note: This is where the argument starts. A player whose character gets raked in the first round by a tiger grappling him will undoubtedly, if allowed, flip to the Monster Manual on rake, read that, and argue in favor of not getting raked. It's up to the DM if general should instead override specific here, but doing so substantially weakens the tiger as a threat, and the tiger's pounce is awfully specific. The only comparison I can make is that if the tiger's pounce said the tiger could instead, for example, breathe fire or sting a creature after that including, would the player be okay with that? The specific rules would be overridden in those cases, too. But I can easily imagine a dispirited player whose character was just tiger-mauled taking exception to the printed text, claiming the DM made a bad call, and departing the table in a huff. In a tigercentric campaign, the DM should establish early whether the pouncing-raking tiger reading is the correct one for his table, and, if it is, the DM should make sure the players know ahead of time that, perhaps, tigers are not to be trifled with by low-level characters.

On his turn, Abe takes a standard action to attempt to escape the tiger's grapple. He and the tiger make opposed grapple checks. The tiger wins.3

Round 2

The tiger decides it wants to beef up its reputation as a man-killer and tries to kill Abe.

  1. The tiger and Abe make opposed grapple checks, the tiger taking the option Damage Your Opponent.
  2. The tiger wins. According to the special ability improved grab, as the tiger has made a successful grapple check, it deals its claw damage as that's the attack that established the hold. Because of its successful grapple check, it also deals Abe 1d4+6 nonlethal damage, equivalent to its unarmed strike damage. Note that the tiger still lacks a base attack bonus sufficient to make multiple attacks this way during a grapple. Further, the tiger could've gotten cocky and suffered a -4 penalty to the opposed grapple check when it took the Damage Your Opponent option to deal Abe lethal damage instead of nonlethal damage.
  3. As this is the second round of grappling, the tiger can now make two rake attacks normally.

The tiger will likely continue this process until Abe or it is unconscious, dead, or something (possibly divine) intervenes.

1 Most DMs rule that the full attack replaces instead of supplements the attack at the end of the pounce.
2 This exception was slightly clearer in the Monster Manual for Dungeons and Dragons, Third Edition: "If the tiger pounces on an opponent, it can also rake," but this really only clarifies things a little bit.
3 Note that the tiger made a grapple check, and, according to the special ability improved grab, "each successful grapple check [the creature] makes during successive rounds automatically deals the damage indicated for the attack that established the hold" (emphasis mine). Luckily for Abe, it's still the same round in which the hold was established.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for detailed and well-arranged answer. However I disagree with some statements, so let us wait for another answers or comments/upvotes that approve your point. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 18, 2015 at 18:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @annoyingimp Seriously, I welcome your dissent. The writing is sloppy enough on the topic that we can both seem right yet still disagree. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 18, 2015 at 18:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ Would you not have the Tiger only start the grapple on it's second claw attack or would you argue that, that is too 'tactical' of thinking for an animal? However, I will give you a +1 for pointing out that grappling 'interrupts' the normal attack flow. For example, it is very common for druids at my table to do all their attacks and afterwards grapple, even if the grapple is initiated by the 'primary' attacks (I never thought about it before). \$\endgroup\$
    – Bas Jansen
    Jul 20, 2015 at 8:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BasJansen Against a lone foe, the tiger wins by getting into a grapple as fast as it can, and it may miss with that second claw attack. (There's an argument for letting the tiger bite first then make its claw attacks (technically allowed because the tiger's not getting multiple attacks due to its base attack bonus), but that's not what real tigers do and seems to be violating the spirit of the tiger's Monster Manual entry.) (Also, with those house rules, your druids' turns must take forever!) \$\endgroup\$ Jul 20, 2015 at 9:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BasJansen The Rules of the Game articles are notorious for their subtle errors. The the phrase "When you begin your turn involved in a grapple (no matter who started the grapple), you have several options" (emphasis mine) is, for example, in the PH, "When you are grappling (regardless of who started the grapple), you can perform any of the following actions..." (PH 156). It's totally cool if you want to start another question, though. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 20, 2015 at 10:13

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