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I came across an interesting guide to combat grapplers. At the second-to-last paragraph, it says this:

This particular build is just an introduction to all the other terrible things you can do to an opponent while grappling: jumping into the air while holding them [...]

The point of jumping during a grapple is clearly to cause fall damage on the enemy, knocking them prone on landing. This is a jumping stunner move, and is very cool, especially performed without any magic.

I'm sure a character probably needs to meet a minimum height, movement speed, and Strength score to be able to pull this off, though, and perhaps other stat scores/rules I haven't thought of yet.

What are the relevant stats and their minimum values to make this possible?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Keep in mind that your movement speed is halved while grappling. I'm not sure if/how this impacts jumping. Also I'm not sure how encumbrance impacts jumping, if you would be encumbered by the weight of the grappled creature. \$\endgroup\$ – PurpleVermont Mar 17 '16 at 22:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ related: How high can a PC jump given the following constraints? \$\endgroup\$ – daze413 Mar 18 '16 at 0:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @daze413 I've updated my answer in response to the info to that question \$\endgroup\$ – user27327 Mar 18 '16 at 1:08
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Consideration Of Tactical Utility

Firstly, consider why this is useful: a grappler-based character is probably not going to be doing a lot of damage. Grappling is more about battlefield control and shutting down a single target. A grappler's primary strategy is to hold the enemy, while the rest of the party hits them. That's not to say they can't pick up a sword when they don't feel like grappling, of course.

That said, 1d6 damage is quite more than a 1d2 unarmed strike if the grappler is unarmed. Also note jumping is movement, not an action, so you still get to attack when you're done.

To get at least 10' of jump height (dealing damage and knocking them prone), we can play with different Strength scores and heights.

Below are the minimum calculations, which a character can do right from level 1.

Minimum Stats At Str 10

If you do a standing high jump, you get half of 3 + Str Mod. Assuming a Str of 10, a standing high jump can reach 1.5'. This leaves 8.5' left that we must gain by a character's reach. A character's reach is 1.5 * height: 8.5' / 1.5 = 5'8"

Amusingly, a lanky 5'8" human with Str 10 can already pull this off. They would need to use only 6' of movement, too: 1.5' (jump height) * 2 (for jumping) * 2 (for grappling) = 6'.

So the minimum is:

Strength: 10, Movement: 6', Height: 5'8"

Jumping Higher

With a higher Strength score, you can afford to be shorter. You don't have to, though. You can break up your movement. If you're at least 5'8", you could theoretically spam powerbomb suplexes by spending all your movement doing this, but jumping only 2' of the time, eating 6' of movement per try. If you have 30' of movement, you can do five suplexes -- 5d6 for movement. This sounds a little ridiculous though.

Anyway, with higher strength means you can afford to be shorter by jumping higher. Below would be the min stats for higher values of Strength.

Minimum Stats At Str 12

Standing high jump height: 0.5 * (3' + 1') = 2'

Minimum Needed Height: (10' - 2') / 1.5 = 5'4"

Minimum Movement Needed: 2' * 2 (for jumping) * 2 (for grappling) = 8'

A short human can pull this off.

Minimum Stats At Str 14

Standing high jump height: 0.5 * (3' + 2') = 2.5'

Minimum Needed Height: (10' - 2.5') / 1.5 = 5'

Minimum Movement Needed: 2.5' * 2 (for jumping) * 2 (for grappling) = 10'

A tall dwarf with Str 14 could do this.

Minimum Stats At Str 16

Standing high jump height: 0.5 * (3' + 3') = 3'

Minimum Needed Height: (10' - 3') / 1.5 = 4'8"

Minimum Movement Needed: 3' * 2 (for jumping) * 2 (for grappling) = 12'

A strong, average-height dwarf can do this

Maximizing Damage

Below, I try to maximize the damage through this strategy with a playable character. This is no longer useful/sustainable, so it's just for fun now.

Choosing Race For An 8' Height

A tall goliath will be 8'. With the Enlarge spell, they're 16' tall. A high jump lets them add 1.5 * 16' = 24' to their height. Their base speed is 30'.

Strength of 24

A level 20 Barbarian will have Str 24, move speed +10'. A standing long jump will be 0.5 * (3' + 7') = 5'. This requires 5' * 2 * 2 = 20' of movement. You also have +10' of movement, total 40'.

Maximizing Jump Height With Spells, Feats, And Items

A running high jump will get up to 10' but it will need 20' of movement for a running start (10' * 2 for the grapple) on top of that, for 60' total (10' base * 2 jump * 2 grapple, plus the 20' running start).

With the Athlete feat to halve your running long jump distance, you only need 50' of movement for the whole jump. With the Mobile feat, you get +10' of movement for a total of 50'. The Longstrider spell can also give you +10' for a total of 60'.

With the Jump spell, you get thrice your jump height -- 30' from 10'. With the Boots of Striding and Springing stacking with Jump, you can jump up to 90' if you have that much movement. This is because 10' base jump * 3 Jump spell * 3 Boots = 90'.

With the Haste spell, your max jump height is at least not cancelled out by grappling someone while jumping. So your 60' of base movement is doubled to 120', but the grapple reduces it back down to 60'. So you can jump up to 60' while grappling someone.

Jumping And Dashing

Your initial jump movement would bring you up to 50' (effectively 60' movement, minus the initial 10' running start). Assuming you start the turn already having grappled the target, you can take a Dash on your regular action, an extra 60' of movement. Also, with the Haste spell, you can Dash -- affording you an extra 60' jump height.

In total, with spells and magic boots, you can jump up to 170' (movement plus two dashes).

At the DM's discretion, you can try to jump an extra 6' with a successful Strength (Athletics) check. If successful, your total jump is 176'.

Conclusion

Your Enlarged Goliath adds 24' to his reach, and you can jump 176' due to magic.

You can bring the opponent up to 200' with the help of spells, with yourself having jumped 176'. Target takes 20d6 maximum fall damage and ends prone. You take 17d6 fall damage and fall prone, too. The Athlete feat lets you stand up with only 5 feet of movement instead of half your movement, though. A teammate can cast Feather Fall on you to prevent damage.

Without spells, you might be able to bring the target up to 50' (10' jump + 24' reach + 6' athletics check + 10' dash), with yourself having jumped 26'. Your target gets 5d6 damage, falls prone. You get 2d6 damage, fall prone as well.

Max Stats

Strength: Level 20 Barbarian. Str 24

Movement: 100' (Mobile feat, Haste and Longstrider, Barbarian's Fast Movement)

Height: 8' Goliath

Spells: Jump, Longstrider, Haste, Enlarge, Feather Fall

Items: Boots of Striding and Springing

Max Damage

With Spells: 19d6 or 20d6 max fall damage with a nice DM; you take 17d6 (or none with Feather Fall)

Without Spells: 4d6 or 5d6 with a nice DM; you take 2d6

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Funnily, my answer to my own question has a down vote. I'm curious why. \$\endgroup\$ – user27327 Mar 18 '16 at 1:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ I +1'd this, because I think the analysis is useful. But somewhere along the line this doesn't make sense. For instance, it just doesn't make sense that a 10 strong person would be able to lift a 300 lb weight above their heads and then jump with it. At least not without significant ability checks. And if I understand it correctly, as you jump with the opponent over your head, you are somehow then going to land so that they hit the ground, rather than your head. Seems like another check there. \$\endgroup\$ – Jack Mar 18 '16 at 11:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jack You're right, there are two rules I didn't mention here, largely because at the time I wrote this, I hadn't found them yet. Specifically, it's the rules for Push, Drag, and Lift (PHB pg 176) specifying what a character can lift, which addresses how much a 10 strong character can carry; and the rules for Athletics checks (PHB pg 175) which gives an example of how a minjump maneuver would require an Athletics check. I go into more detail on this related question: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/77355/… \$\endgroup\$ – user27327 Mar 18 '16 at 11:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ An then there's the opponent. You've just grappled 250 lbs of armed and armored orc. Yeah, you won the grapple contest, but that doesn't incapacitate them. They are writhing, biting, clawing, trying to kill you, or perhaps get away. It seems like an opportunity attack might happen somewhere along the line, such as when you lift them up. \$\endgroup\$ – Jack Mar 18 '16 at 11:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jack Incidentally, someone with 10 Strength can carry 300lbs. The rules say you can lift up to 30 times your strength score (which is a little ridiculous), and if you lift more than that your speed drops to 5'. Otherwise, no issues. And yes, a grappled opponent can still attack you on their turn, which is why you want them prone after the grapple to impose disadvantage on their attacks. Finally, just by RAW, lifting them up will not let you leave their reach, so I don't think that should trigger an opportunity attack. \$\endgroup\$ – user27327 Mar 18 '16 at 12:04
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I don't know if this is a feasible tactic without magic items. You can't seem to jump high enough to do enough damage. Best I could come up with without magic items was 3d6, which doesn't seem that great for the amount of work (although it sounds like awesome fun for narrative). Keep in mind I haven't taken class features or spells into consideration for this answer.

Per the rules on High Jumps:

High Jump. When you make a high jump, you leap into the air a number of feet equal to 3 + your Strength modifier if you move at least 10 feet on foot immediately before the jump. When you make a standing high jump, you can jump only half that distance. Either way, each foot you clear on the jump costs a foot of movement

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You can extend your arms half your height above yourself during the jump. Thus, you can reach above you a distance equal to the height of the jump plus 1½ times your height.

We also know that falling damage begins at 10', and the damage is 1d6 per 10'.

Taking this into account, we know you would need to jump vertically at least 20'. Per the rules on jumping, each foot you clear costs a foot of movement. If we want maximum height you also need a 10' running start. Right off the bat, we're looking at 30' movement minimum. Now we factor in that to move an opponent while grappling, it costs double movement. Now we're at 60' (unless the creature is two or more sizes smaller than you).

Now let's look at strength. High jumping with a strength of 20 (+5) and a 10' running start gives you 5 + 3 feet of vertical height. We're a little less than halfway to 20'.

If we also say that you can lift your grappled target above your head with arms outstretched (not unreasonable given the grappler outlined in the linked article), that you can reach 8' + (1½ x your height). Let's assume a human with a height of 6'. This gives an additional 9'. We're up to 17' now, almost there. If you want to do minimum damage, we're already past 10' so now you're doing 1d6.

Above, in the rules for high jump, I left out an important section:

In some circumstances, your GM might allow you to make a Strength (Athletics) check to jump higher than you normally can.

This is going to be DM-dependent, but I'd say a barbarian who is raging and whose focus is on grappling would be able to attempt this check in this circumstance. I'd say STR check with Athletics proficiency, DC 15.

Of course, if you can't convince your DM to give you the check for the extra three feet, you could always find some uneven ground, a table (hey, great for bar brawls), a big rock, or some other 3' object to jump from.

To sum it up at a minimum you need:

  • 54' of movement
  • 20 Strength

This gives you 1d6.

Add in another factor:

  • 60' of movement
  • 20 Strength
  • A DM who will play along OR a 3' tall object

This gets you 2d6 damage.

We can augment this:

  • Enlarge yourself (removes half-speed penalty for movement while grappling a small creature)
  • 40' of movement (10' running start to get max vertical leap + 30' for max jump height)
  • Enemy is a halfling or other small creature
  • 20 Strength
  • High jump = 5 + 3 + (1½ x your height) = 26' minimum

If you make a STR check to jump higher and your DM is nice you could get 3d6 damage.

Add in a jump spell and your damage could be even higher.

Also keep in mind that without something such as the monk's slow falling class feature or the effect of a feather fall spell or some other item, the grappler in these circumstances may also suffer the falling damage.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Worth noting that technically the grappler also takes the fall damage. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Mar 17 '16 at 23:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Miniman Noted and updated. I also corrected some of the math in my answer. \$\endgroup\$ – LegendaryDude Mar 17 '16 at 23:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Miniman Would he really take falling damage? The grappler jumped up, and was strong enough to jump up. Outside a grapple, would you take falling damage if you jumped really high? See: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/57271/… \$\endgroup\$ – user27327 Mar 17 '16 at 23:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Edited my answer to consider the possibility and linked to that question -- it's not entirely relevant to the outcome of this question but is worth mentioning. \$\endgroup\$ – LegendaryDude Mar 17 '16 at 23:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Another way to increase the height -- be a Goliath, 8' tall, for an extra +12' before Enlarge (and +24' after Enlarge). Also, Enlarge should increase your height to twice your current size, so in your example, a 6' human should be 12', for an extra +18' when you high jump. \$\endgroup\$ – user27327 Mar 17 '16 at 23:26

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