A Huge reptile bit my Medium character and started a grapple using Improved Grab.

My character activated a Polymorph item and transformed into an elefant - which is Huge. Improved Grab says:

"Unless otherwise noted, Improved Grab works only against creatures at least one size category smaller. 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 -20 on grapple checks, but it is not considered grappled itself (...)" (MM, p. 310)

The reptile did not use the option of grappling with the stiff -20 penalty - because its bite was its only attack.

My DM decided that transforming to an elefant ended the grapple in this case. He decided the reptile had to start a new grapple without improved grab. I am happy about this, because otherwise my character would have been dead. But was that correct or DM's grace?


1 Answer 1


Your DM was wrong by Rules as Written

The text of what Improved Grab actually does is:

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.


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.


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

Two of those three things (the bolded ones) are relevant to you.

Effect of Improved Grab on the initial attack

When the reptile grappled you, it checked - are you one size smaller? You were, so Improved Grab triggered. The reptile chose to enter a normal grapple. Since your size change did not violate the terms of a normal grapple, the grapple was not broken.

Effect of Improved Grab on the grapple

Improved Grab does have an effect on later rounds, but it's not "maintain the grapple." It deals extra damage on grapple checks. Since you became too big to be Improved Grabbed, this extra damage would no longer apply.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ That is what I suspected. But I did not feel like insisting. In the end the DM is always right, isn't he? \$\endgroup\$
    – Giorin
    Commented Apr 16, 2016 at 1:20
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ If you are in doubt about a rule, "the GM makes a call and let's look it up after the session" is a great way to get things moving quickly. \$\endgroup\$
    – SPavel
    Commented Apr 16, 2016 at 1:39

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