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The grappling rules state, in part:

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 it must be within your reach.

[...]

Escaping a Grapple. A grappled creature can use its action to escape. To do so, it must succeed on a Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check contested by your Strength (Athletics) check.

Does attempting to escape a grapple require a whole action (distinct from the Attack action)? Or does it just cost a single attack (as part of the Attack action)?

It says very clearly that a character can attempt to grapple a target using an Attack action, and if they have multiple attacks with the Attack action, this [grappling] attack replaces one of them. Shouldn't it be the case that escaping a grapple could also be one of those "multiple attacks?" I can't see the distinction with ruling it otherwise.

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    \$\begingroup\$ For clarity, there are no "full-turn actions" in 5e: there are actions, bonus actions and reactions. Similarly one of the choices you can make for your action is the Attack action which will give you one (or more) attacks, you can also make an attack using some bonus actions and reactions: an "attack" and an "attack action" are very different things. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Apr 17, 2016 at 7:08

3 Answers 3

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A grappled creature can use its action to escape.

It says an action, so it requires an action. If it could be done as one of several attacks, it would say so, just like it says for making a grapple.

If you're the DM, you can houserule this, of course, but think carefully before doing so, because allowing one attack of Extra Attack to escape grapples vastly favours the players. There are some monsters that are only dangerous because of grappling, so making it easier to escape a grapple is fairly crippling for them. Also, due to the way Multiattack works, this will only make it easier for players to escape monster grapples, not for monsters to escape player grapples.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I felt that it might the case. It is just that it was embedded under the subheading of "Melee Attacks" under the subheading for "Grapple," and the text "Escaping a Grapple" was bold making me think that it might be yet another "attack action" action. I'm ruled it that way in the game, but I wanted to confirm other's interpretations. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 17, 2016 at 0:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GamingUnplugged I think it's there because when someone starts a grapple, the next thing someone will probably want to check is how to escape. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Apr 17, 2016 at 0:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ It can favours grappler specced players without the houserule though, think how many monsters don't have acrobatics/athletics points, those contests would always lean towards the player grappler; the monster trapped and forced to use one action instead of one attack to escape. Happened to me with a dragon being grappled by a 18str warrior with just one of his attacks and double proficiency in athletics, the dragon could not move/fly and could not forfeit his 3 attacks or breath just to use an action to break free with a contest of +4 str against the +9 of the warrior! \$\endgroup\$
    – Ghilteras
    Mar 1, 2017 at 23:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Ghilteras was the dragon not too big to be grappled? I thought you can't even attempt a grapple if the target is more than 1 size cat larger than you. \$\endgroup\$
    – Graham
    May 17, 2018 at 19:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Graham it was young so "only" large \$\endgroup\$
    – Ghilteras
    May 17, 2018 at 21:32
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There is a way to break the grapple with a "shove"

I know this thread is old but the answers are missing something useful.

The condition also ends if an effect removes the grappled creature from the reach of the grappler or grappling effect

However, if a creature can make multiple attacks it can just Shove the creature 5ft away from them, if possible.

Using the Attack action, you can make a spec⁠ia⁠l melee atta⁠ck to shove a creature, either to knock it prone or push it away from you. If you’re able to make multiple attacks with the Att⁠ack action, this atta⁠ck replaces one of them.

This changes how the grapple is being broken. When breaking out of the grapple using an action, a creature...

must succeed on a Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check contested by [the grappler's] Streng⁠th (Athletics) check.

When breaking out of the grapple by shoving the grappler 5ft away from you...

The [grappler] must be no more than one size larger than you. You make a Strength (Athletics) check contested by the target’s Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check (the [grappler] chooses the ability to use).

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The grappling rules you've quoted seems to indicate that an attacker is allowed to use Extra Attack in conjunction with grappling – but that a defender (a creature escaping a grapple) "can use its action to escape", meaning its entire action, not an Extra Attack. Extra Attack is a separate "Action" from the Escaping a Grapple "action". "Attack" and "action" are two separate but related things (that both have six letters and start with "A").

The Grappled condition does not prevent a creature from attacking, however:

  • 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.

So you could use Extra Attack while grappled, even rolling your own counter-grapples against your wrestling opponent. But you would still be Grappled until these attacks cause whatever is holding onto you to become incapacitated, or force it to move out of reach.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that Extra Attack isn't an action itself; it's just a feature that lets you make multiple attacks as part of the Attack action. (It also isn't the only feature that allow multiple attacks as part of the Attack action – there's also, for example, the Pact of the Blade warlock's Thirsting Blade invocation.) \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Mar 15 at 21:30

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