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Improved Grab from The MM, page 310 states:

When a creature gets a hold after an improved grab attack, it pulls the opponent into its space. This act does not provoke attacks of opportunity. It can even move (possibly carrying away the opponent), provided it can drag the opponent's weight.

The Rules of the Game article “All About Grappling (Part Four)” states (emphasis mine):

A creature with the improved grab special attack can move without making an opposed grapple check, provided it can drag the opponent's weight. The creature's movement and the involuntary movement by anyone it drags along provokes attacks of opportunity normally.

The Rules Compendium, page 101 states:

When a creature gets a hold after an improved grab attack, it pulls the opponent into its space.

In conclusion, The RC completely leaves out any mention of being able to move a creature (as being related to the Improved Grab ability). Therefore, we would have to go back to the grapple rules (RC, page 61), which state:

Move: You can move half your speed, bringing all others engaged in the grapple with you, by winning an opposed grapple check. Doing this requires a standard action, and you must beat all the other grapplers’ individual grapple check results to move the grapple. You get a +4 bonus on your grapple check to move a pinned opponent, but only if no one else is involved in the grapple.

At this point, I am uncertain which option is true:

  1. Improved Grab does not offer anything in regards to moving an enemy (normal grapple rules apply), as by the Rules Compendium.

  2. Improved Grab does allow a creature to move an enemy without a grapple check (as based on the Rules of the Game article).

Aside, where did the ruling (regarding moving without grapple check) from the Rules of the Game even come from?

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    \$\begingroup\$ The RC isn't an errata, and it's not a good source for rule checking. \$\endgroup\$ – David Reeve Jul 20 '15 at 13:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ I do not really agree on that statement. However, let's not discuss that subject considering that entire books could be written about the 'value' of the RC (for instance, see rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/37466/… \$\endgroup\$ – Bas Jansen Jul 20 '15 at 13:50
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The Improved Grab description is making the distinction between "normal" grappling and the special case with "Improved Grab" where the grabber is not grappling, but the grabbed opponent is.

Normally, after an opponent succesfully starts a grapple,

If you succeed, you and your target are now grappling

But with Improved Grab,

The creature has the option to conduct the grapple normally, or simply use the part of its body it used in the improved grab to hold the opponent.

With "normal" 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.

But, with special case of "Improved Grab"

If a creature with this special attack hits with a melee weapon (usually a claw or bite attack), it deals normal damage and attempts to start a grapple as a free action without provoking an attack of opportunity. No initial touch attack is required.

Unless otherwise noted, improved grab works only against opponents at least one size category smaller than the creature. The creature has the option to conduct the grapple normally, or simply use the part of its body it used in the improved grab to hold the opponent. If it chooses to do the latter, it takes a -20 penalty on grapple checks, but is not considered grappled itself; the creature does not lose its Dexterity bonus to AC, still threatens an area, and can use its remaining attacks against other opponents.

A successful hold does not deal any extra damage unless the creature also has the constrict special attack. If the creature does not constrict, each successful grapple check it makes during successive rounds automatically deals the damage indicated for the attack that established the hold. Otherwise, it deals constriction damage as well (the amount is given in the creature’s descriptive text).

When a creature gets a hold after an improved grab attack, it pulls the opponent into its space. This act does not provoke attacks of opportunity. It can even move (possibly carrying away the opponent), provided it can drag the opponent’s weight.

Since we already have rules for "normal" grappling and movement, and if the creature is taking the penalty, it is not considered grappling thus it's movement is not otherwise restricted to a grapple check/standard action.

And since

A character can generally push or drag along the ground as much as five times his or her maximum load.

And

A larger bipedal creature can carry more weight depending on its size category, as follows: Large ×2, Huge ×4, Gargantuan ×8, Colossal ×16. Quadrupeds can carry heavier loads than characters can. [...] Large ×3, Huge ×6, Gargantuan ×12, Colossal ×24

If the creature is one or more size categories larger, your weight is going to fall well under it's dragging capacity, meaning, although it's taking a hefty penalty on grappling checks with respect to you, it otherwise can carry you around without having to make a grapple check.

Many creatures with Improved Grab/Constrict are large or larger and have more than one appendage that can "grab".

Since

A light horse can drag 2,250 pounds.

A large or larger monstrous scorpion can easily drag a couple of opponents around.

A creature like leopard is medium and thus can't use Improved Grab against a medium opponent, and only its bite qualifies for Improved Grab. But a leopard could use it's Improved Grab bite against a small opponent like a gnome or halfling. With a 16 Str and as a quadruped, a leopard has a 1725# dragging limit. It is likely the small creature will fall under the leopard's light load limit (112#) and the leopard could run off with the prey.

I agree it isn't spelled out that well, but each item follows directly from the rules.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I had not considered that train of thought, cheers! \$\endgroup\$ – Bas Jansen Jul 21 '15 at 8:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Might be worth noting that the -20 and not being considered grappling is if a single claw/jaw/appendage is used to grab as an option; the way the quote is cropped makes it erroneously seem like this is always the case for grabs. \$\endgroup\$ – mike32 Jul 21 '15 at 9:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ I upvoted this not because I think it's correct but because I think it's useful. I think interpreting It can even move as It can even move if it grapples with only one appendage despite a list of ways in which a creature that grapples with one appendage is not considered grappling is too far to leap, but I appreciate the attempt to reconcile (Skip Williams'?) perceived intent with text. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jul 21 '15 at 9:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan While the description of IG don't strictly and undoubtedly supports that, this interpretation is quite logical. There also is Scorpion's Grasp feat which looks like it is inspired by IG and it totaly supports that answer. +1 to Wyrmwood from me. \$\endgroup\$ – annoying imp Jul 21 '15 at 13:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ The leap is what the semicolon means in this sentence: If it chooses to do the latter, it takes a -20 penalty on grapple checks, but is not considered grappled itself; the creature does not lose its Dexterity bonus to AC, still threatens an area, and can use its remaining attacks against other opponents. It's up to the DM whether that list is clarifying (making other options available) or defining (making other options unavailable). But it's deeply silly to argue over a semicolon, so I upvoted anyway because either way's a valid read. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jul 21 '15 at 13:20
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Despite what the article says, a creature with the special ability improved grab does not also have the unique ability to simultaneously drag away a grappled foe

As mentioned, the Monster Manual (even the most recent 2012 premium edition) includes in the special ability improved grab a section saying that

When a creature gets a hold after an improved grab attack, it pulls the opponent into its space. This act does not provoke attacks of opportunity. It can even move (possibly carrying away the opponent), provided it can drag the opponent’s weight. (310)

Emphasis mine. That a creature can move after having grappled another creature is true as per the Player's Handbook rules on grapple, but

You [the grappler] 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. (156)

The Monster Manual's mention of a creature being able to move after having used or while using the special ability improved grab can be safely ignored. It is mentioned in improved grab, but the rules for doing so are never made clear for the specific case of the special ability improved grab so, instead, the general rules for moving a creature during a grapple are used. It is likely just leftover text from rules that were considered and abandoned.

Just in case this is worrisome, there are at least two other places wherein similar unplayable rules persist in the text. I know that it's really difficult to let go of such troublesome artifacts, but the system isn't perfect, and letting some things go is okay. (See this question about the spell major image and this question about accidentally activating magic items.)

On those Rules of the Game columns...

Those columns aren't errata and can't make changes to the text. They carry the same or less weight as the FAQ (and the FAQ's authority is dubious). Use them with caution, confirming that any strangeness you perceive in the columns also exists within the text. Then go with the text.

...And on the Rules Compendium

The Rules Compendium presents the special ability improved grab as follows:

When a creature gets a hold after an improved grab attack, it pulls the opponent into its space. This act doesn’t provoke attacks of opportunity. The creature has the option to conduct the grapple normally or simply use the part of its body it used in the improved grab to hold the opponent. (101)

Thus, the RC omits the disturbing sentence entirely. (Note that the Rules Compendium is not without issues.)

"But I want monsters to do this!"

That's cool. From Sandstorm the general feat Scorpion's Grasp mimics much of the special ability improved grab, including giving the DM specific rules he can choose to use if he wants to implement the It can even move sentence as originally presented in the special ability improved grab:

You have the option to conduct the grapple normally, or you may hold a creature one or more sizes smaller than you with your off hand. If you choose to do the latter, you take a −20 penalty on grapple checks against that creature and you cannot deal damage with your grapple checks, but you are not considered grappled yourself. You don’t lose your Dexterity bonus to AC, you still threaten an area, and you can use remaining attacks against other opponents. While maintaining this latter type of hold, you can move normally (possibly carrying your opponent away), provided you can drag the opponent’s weight. (52-3)

Were I a player, however, I would want the DM to make such house rules clear before, for example, being attacked by an ankheg (which can, in the same turn, make such an off-hand grapple then burrow away, my character in its mandibles).1


1 The phrase house rules is not in any way used pejoratively here (nor do I use it pejoratively elsewhere ever), but, instead, as an indication that the DM must essentially tell the players, "We're deviating from the text a bit: When a creature has the special ability improved grab, we're using some of the rules from the feat Scorpion's Grasp to complement that special ability."

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That is what I was thinking already (hence the part between the 3rd and 4th quote block). I am happy that it is a reading/interpretation that is shared ;) \$\endgroup\$ – Bas Jansen Jul 20 '15 at 20:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BasJansen As an aside, a small conspiracy believes that in those columns Skip Williams subtly (?) tries to insert rules he likes but that were cut from the game. (Proof, of course, is absent.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jul 20 '15 at 21:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ I can see why people might think that, given how some completely new segments randomly appear in those columns. \$\endgroup\$ – Bas Jansen Jul 20 '15 at 21:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ When you called Skip Williams Subtle I nearly lost it there Chan. \$\endgroup\$ – Sandwich Jul 20 '15 at 21:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is an interesting answer. Is the part about leftover rules just speculation, filling in the gaps, or is there some historical source for that? It sounds like it would be an interesting read. \$\endgroup\$ – Wyrmwood Jul 21 '15 at 12:48
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Q1 : If you have the improved grab special ability, you don't have to make the grapple check to move the opponent, but you do need the check if you don't have the SA.

Improved Grab

[...]

When a creature gets a hold after an improved grab attack, it pulls the opponent into its space. This act does not provoke attacks of opportunity. It can even move (possibly carrying away the opponent), provided it can drag the opponent’s weight.

The grappled get a grapple check every round anyway, so if the grappler moves on his turn the grappled can't do much.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The question already mentions this text, so this answer isn't providing anything that isn't already known to the question-asker. This could be improved by including more editorial discussion and reasoning outside the quote, instead of just repeating what it says. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 20 '15 at 15:55
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When an ability states that it supersedes a rule, its normally a good indication that said creature is meant to function as written. Enemies off hand that have the ability normally do it as part of their primary attack pattern.

The improved grab rules on the SRD can be found here they state:

If a creature with this special attack hits with a melee weapon (usually a claw or bite attack), it deals normal damage and attempts to start a grapple as a free action without provoking an attack of opportunity. No initial touch attack is required.

Unless otherwise noted, improved grab works only against opponents at least one size category smaller than the creature. The creature has the option to conduct the grapple normally, or simply use the part of its body it used in the improved grab to hold the opponent. If it chooses to do the latter, it takes a -20 penalty on grapple checks, but is not considered grappled itself; the creature does not lose its Dexterity bonus to AC, still threatens an area, and can use its remaining attacks against other opponents.

A successful hold does not deal any extra damage unless the creature also has the constrict special attack. If the creature does not constrict, each successful grapple check it makes during successive rounds automatically deals the damage indicated for the attack that established the hold. Otherwise, it deals constriction damage as well (the amount is given in the creature’s descriptive text).

When a creature gets a hold after an improved grab attack, it pulls the opponent into its space. This act does not provoke attacks of opportunity. It can even move (possibly carrying away the opponent), provided it can drag the opponent’s weight.

So the grapple will work like this:

  1. The attacker lands an attack, and as a free action starts a grapple.
  2. If the grapple attempt is successful, the monster pulls the person hit by the initial attack into his space. If the grapple attempt fails, the attempt ends.
  3. If the creature successfully grapples and has the constrict special ability, it deals the amount of damage specified under the constrict special condition. If he does not have the constrict special condition, the creature deals grapple damage as normal.

Keep in mind when you pair Improved grab and Constrict things can get pretty hairy. You could end up with "That Damn Crab", which is a CR3 monster that could TPK any group of level 3 characters.

And to answer your second question, I'm pretty sure the rules for Improved Grab were inspired by creatures in real life that naturally attempt to wrap themselves around something and strangle it to death, Like Boa constrictors, Octopi, etc. The giant crab I mentioned earlier normally grabs an enemy, pulls someone into its space, and then retreats underwater to consume its food.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The question was not about the sequence itself but rather which is now correct, being able to move with a creature without making a grapple check (as the rules of the game says) or that you need to make a grapple check to move the creature (as per the rules compendium). The problem with trying to use the MM block is that "It can even move (possibly carrying away the opponent), provided it can drag the opponent’s weight." sounds rather generic and I do not think that WoTC meant it so that a bear can just drag a creature past all of it's allies in order to trigger as many AoO as possible. \$\endgroup\$ – Bas Jansen Jul 20 '15 at 20:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ The sequence starts, the creature lands an attack, starts a grapple as a free action, and if successful pulls the creature into its space freely. From that point on the creature has to roll grapple to move the creature any further. \$\endgroup\$ – Sandwich Jul 20 '15 at 20:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ That is what the question was about, because the rules of the game article and the rules compendium contradict each other as far as I can tell. \$\endgroup\$ – Bas Jansen Jul 20 '15 at 20:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Pulling a creature through threatened spaces with Improved grab does not provoke attacks of opportunity however. \$\endgroup\$ – Sandwich Jul 20 '15 at 20:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ Well that makes sense I suppose. I guess it would be akin to getting a headlock on someone and then dragging them into a crowd to beat him up. \$\endgroup\$ – Sandwich Jul 20 '15 at 20:53

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