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Considering a lvl 1 monk with improved grapple, can he perform a Grapple only until the step 3?

For example, a small size creature against a medium size human with improved grapple, the monk would have a +4 bonus on the grapple roll against a -4 penalty of the small size creature, being able to deal damage in the process.
A touch attack roll followed by an easy opposed grapple seems a lot better to me than having to deal with natural armor/normal armor.

Thing is, on step 4, the one attemping to grapple moves and provokes attacks of opportunity, which is the part that I want to avoid.

SRD says that:

Step 4
Maintain Grapple. To maintain the grapple for later rounds, you must move into the target’s space. (This movement is free and doesn’t count as part of your movement in the round.)
Moving, as normal, provokes attacks of opportunity from threatening opponents, but not from your target.
If you can’t move into your target’s space, you can’t maintain the grapple and must immediately let go of the target. To grapple again, you must begin at Step 1.

It doesn't explicity says that you can just stop at will at that point but, if you can fail with no more consequences than having to restart the grapple, can I use grapple like that without breaking the rules?

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Maintaining the grapple is optional

To maintain the grapple for later rounds…

Everything in Step 4 is what you need to do to maintain the grapple. To not maintain the grapple you just don't maintain it, and therefore don't need to do any of the things necessary to maintain the grapple.

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A creature shouldn't gain options because it's impaired

While the rules for a grapple assume the attacker wants to maintain a grapple, you've found a reason for the attacker not to want to maintain the grapple: the movement into the opponent's space'll provoke attacks of opportunity from other foes.

In such a case, the attacker is free not to maintain the grapple. That is, just because the attacker must move into the opponent's space to maintain the grapple doesn't mean the attacker must move into the creature's space even if it doesn't want to maintain the grapple. For example, to avoid having to enter a grappled opponent's space despite the attacker's desires, an attacker shouldn't have to somehow acquire the condition immobilized (Rules Compendium 35).

Although this may sound like a slightly cheesy way for the attacker to deal unarmed strike damage, doing so requires both a successful touch attack and winning an opposed grapple check, while a standard attack requires only an attack roll. A chance to roll is a chance to fail, and a chance to roll twice is a chance to fail twice.

Keep in mind that the grappled opponent is prevented from making attacks of opportunity against the grappling attacker for the attacker's movement into the opponent's space, both because step 4 says so ("Moving, as normal, provokes attacks of opportunity... but not from your target") and because the opponent doesn't threaten an area while grappling (because he is grappling as per step 3 even though the grapple won't be maintained).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It's really not even that cheesy a way to land unarmed damage. At best, it gives you two chances instead of one for a nat-1 to ruin the shot, in exchange for effectively a better atk modifier, which is decent, but hardly overwhelming. \$\endgroup\$ – Matthew Najmon Jun 28 at 16:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ However, it's also only applicable to a very narrow range of enemies. Most very big enemies have grapple modifiers a monk can't feasibly match without extreme optimization, and most smaller enemies don't have enough natural or manufactured armor for it to matter much. Most enemies littler than Medium don't have Touch AC any lower than regular, nor do most mages or enemy monks, and rogues and the like will be only a little lower, not enough to be worth the extra chance of nat-1. The main thing this is good against is humanoids who wear heavy armor. \$\endgroup\$ – Matthew Najmon Jun 28 at 16:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ While "humanoids who wear heavy armor" may well be nearly every enemy in some campaigns, with some DMs (and, perhaps not coincidentally, players who turn out to have such DMs seem to correlate significantly with players who don't think the monk is complete garbage), most campaigns I've seen have such enemies in the distinct minority, and feature lots of big guys, little guys, and guys whose protection comes from something other than wearing steel plates \$\endgroup\$ – Matthew Najmon Jun 28 at 16:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MatthewNajmon I honestly didn't mean to overlook these comments—my apologies for a tardy reply. Here it is: "Dude, even I said it only may sound… slightly cheesy!" That was an attempt to imply that it isn't cheesy. :-) Seriously, though, I did take a whole 'graph on saying how it was pretty okay because of the risk. Still, your comments make me think I should emphasize that even more; do you think the answer needs that? (And, by the way, I don't think an opposed grapple check autofails on a nat 1.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jul 4 at 14:06

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