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There you are, in melee combat. You're 5 feet away from your opponent. The swords go snicker-snack. You decide to grapple. You succeed! Are you still 5 feet away? I had always assumed the grappler and grapplee were in the same space. Tête–à–tête, as it were.

However, this question made me realize not everyone sees it the same way. I reviewed the RAW, and it seems to imply you're still 5 feet away. That just doesn't seem to make much sense. What am I missing?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Keeping in mind that a grapple in this case isn't a full-on grab. The initial grapple is getting a hand on someone and controlling their movement, not getting locked into it yet. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sawyer
    Apr 1 '16 at 22:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Sawyer At least RAW there's only grappled and not grappled, there's no locked on. And grappled requires "at least one hand". \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Apr 1 '16 at 22:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ Indeed, I was portraying it in terms of real life. Some people get caught up in the iconic image of grappling and don't realize what is the nature of grappling as portrayed by the book. The "locked on" state would be represented in the Grappler feat, where one inflicts the restrained condition. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sawyer
    Apr 1 '16 at 22:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Sawyer Ooo, that is a very good point. That implies that for someone without the grappler feat, it would be even much harder to restrain an opponent. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Apr 1 '16 at 22:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh yeah. Restrained is a very difficult condition to inflict if one isn't a druid. On the GitP forums, it took a long series of posts with lots of pictures of different grappling martial arts to prove to someone how one can stand while grappling a prone opponent. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sawyer
    Apr 1 '16 at 23:09
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Keep in mind that the 5-foot squares are an abstraction. Per PHB p. 191:

Space: A creature's space is the area in feet that it effectively controls in combat, not an expression of its physical dimensions. A typical Medium creature isn't 5 feet wide, for example, but it does control a space that wide.

So you can be grappling (not so much wrestling on the ground as grabbing at each other's arms from a standing position) at the shared edge of your respective 5-foot squares and still have a certain influence over the rest of the area. You aren't literally 5 feet away from each other, but you are in "different squares" which, in a game where distance is measured only in 5' increments, makes you effectively 5 feet away. It's about the same distance you'd be for an unarmed or dagger strike, also notionally performed "from five feet away." There are systems like GURPS where grappling involves moving into the same space, but DND isn't quite that granular about space.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @SirTechSpec So you're saying that it's abstracted to the level that you're standing at the edge of your 5' square and you're grappling them at the edge of their 5' square. Not that that is the literal interpretation, but that that is the abstraction. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Apr 1 '16 at 22:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Pretty much, yep. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 1 '16 at 22:33
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Nothing in the grapple rules indicates that the grappled creature or the grappler change spaces.

The rules for grappling state:

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.

The target of your grapple must be no more than one size larger than you and must be within your reach. Using at least one free hand, you try to seize the target by making a grapple check instead of an attack roll: a Strength (Athletics) check contested by the target's Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check (the target chooses the ability to use). You succeed automatically if the target is incapacitated. If you succeed, you subject the target to the grappled condition. The condition specifies the things that end it, and you can release the target whenever you like (no action required).

The grappled condition says:

  • A grappled creature's speed becomes 0, and it can't benefit from any bonus to its speed.
  • The condition ends if the grappler is incapacitated (see the condition).
  • The condition also ends if an effect removes the grappled creature from the reach of the grappler or grappling effect, such as when a creature is hurled away by the thunderwave spell.

Nothing here indicates that the grappled target changes the space it occupies (unless, of course, the grappler attempts to move the creature somewhere else), and nothing indicates that the grappler changes space. So after a successful grapple, each creature is in the space they were in prior to the grapple attempt. If just grappling (and not dragging) affected positioning, the rules would tell us.

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