The [grappled] condition also ends if an effect removes the grappled creature from the reach of the grappler...

What's stopping the grapplee from shoving the grappler?

I've read that you can shove a grappled opponent to make them prone. Can the grapplee shove the grappler prone?


5 Answers 5


Default play: gridless.

Nothing stops a grappled creature from shoving.

"Grappled" zeroes out your speed, and that's it. (PHB p.290, "Appendix A: Conditions")

However, this may not break the grapple.

As you've quoted, the effect ends if the grappler's reach is exceeded. On a successful shove you can either knock your target prone or push them 5' away (PHB pp.195-196, "Shoving a Creature").

Knocking the grappler prone doesn't--by itself--move you out of the grappler's reach. Shoving the grappler 5' is... uncertain.

  • If you contend (as I would) that while grappled there is a functional distance of 0', then shoving 5' extends the distance to 5' and doesn't exceed the grappler's reach: grapple not broken. See also When you grapple an enemy, where are they?.
  • If you contend (as at least one or two others do) that there's no room in D&D for 0' separation, then a 5' shove would exceed the grappler's reach: grapple broken. Factors in favor of this interpretation: "whether a creature is a friend or an enemy you can't willingly end your move in its space" (PHB p.XX) plus the notion that one's "space" in gridless-world is larger than one's physical extent.

The one definite case I can think of (just for fun):

  1. You have the Charger feat.
  2. On your turn you Dash at least 10' into the 5' reach of an opponent...
  3. ... who had previously Readied a Grapple.
  4. Your GM rules that the Grapple (attempt) fires off before you can take your bonus-action Shove (from Charger).
  5. The grapple against you is successful. You're grappled.
  6. Now you get your shove, which is successful.
  7. Your grappler is shoved 10' away (per Charger), breaking the grapple.

Summary: this sounds like an excellent space for a ruling, leading to a house rule.

Variant play: grid.

Nothing stops a grappled creature from shoving.

same as above

This will break the grapple of a 5' reach.

In grid-world even when grappled creatures are at a 5' "distance" because, as @daze413 rightly points out, grappling doesn't move one into the same square.

The shove then moves the grappler 5' farther away, exceeding a 5' reach. So: yes, in grid-world the equation is

grappled + 5' shove = 10' separation

  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ Given that you'll generally be 5' away from the grappler to begin with, shoving them another 5' should put you out of their reach. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Commented May 13, 2016 at 13:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ Succeeding on a Grapple check does not change your positions to be on the same square. \$\endgroup\$
    – daze413
    Commented May 13, 2016 at 13:21
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @daze I agree completely with your last comment, except for the last word. If the distance is 5' after the shove, and the reach is 5', then how has the grapple been broken? \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Commented May 13, 2016 at 13:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ even in the gridless variant, grappling a creature does not magically make you share the same space <insert PHB reference to creatures not being allowed to share the same space here>, so there still is a distance between the two \$\endgroup\$
    – Olorin
    Commented May 13, 2016 at 13:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 a creature's size and control space (PHB p. 191) is clearly defined regardless of playing gridless or not, as is the rule that you can't end your move in the same space with it (PHB 191). Granted, you can't end your turn 'willingly' in the same space, so there might be some leeway there. Even so, assuming a core mechanic of the game (grappling) behaves differently depending on whether you play gridless or not is a bad idea. \$\endgroup\$
    – Olorin
    Commented May 13, 2016 at 15:03

Yes, you can generally shove your way out of a grapple

If a grappler can't reach their target, the grapple ends. If you shove someone 5' away, they won't be able to reach you anymore and the grapple will end. However, if their reach is larger than 5' they may be able to maintain the grapple on you (e.g. larger creatures).

I'm not aware of any rules RAW that would cause being prone to break a grapple. In fact, you might want to shove someone you've grappled prone so that he can't get up. This is more powerful for the grappler than the grapplee, since the grapplee has 0 movement and can't get up, but either character can do it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ By this answer, I infer that you mean that a shove is an alternative way of breaking a grapple, beyond the usual ability check. Do I understand your answer correctly? \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 13, 2016 at 15:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Yes \$\endgroup\$
    – Kyle W
    Commented May 13, 2016 at 15:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast given that shoving is an Athletics check contested by the grappler's Acrobatics/Athletics, there isn't much difference mechanically between the normal way to break the grapple and this. While shoving is less effective than attempting to escape (as you are forced to use Athletics instead of Acrobatics/Athletics, and the grappler gets to choose between Acrobatics/Athletics instead of being forced to use Athletics), it has the large advantage that it can be used in place of an attack - so it's a lot stronger for classes with the Extra Attack feature. \$\endgroup\$
    – Olorin
    Commented May 13, 2016 at 15:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Olorin I addressed that in my answer, and I agree that the differences are slight, and that doing this might encroach on the action economy? It's a very good question, for a lot of reasons. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 13, 2016 at 16:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Olorin: shoving your way out of a grapple also means you can run away without taking an opportunity attack (at least from that creature, unless they have a Reach weapon but not grapple reach.) Re: action economy, taking the Attack Action (even when you replace an attack with a shove) also triggers some things for some feats / classes, like Monk bonus-action attack / flurry of blows. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 21, 2021 at 19:23

Opposed Strength/Dexterity Checks: does a Shove give you two for one?

From a game mechanics perspective, the question asks whether a creature can get a "two for one" outcome from the same opposed Strength/Dexterity check (a single die roll): does that one roll both accomplish the Shove and Escape from the Grapple action? This might run afoul of the action economy (which is slightly skewed in favor of the grappler).

The Rules

The Grapple and the Shove are both considered a special melee attack, a subset of the Attack Action. Escaping a Grapple requires an action. (Basic Rules p. 74). Taking an action replaces using the attack action in most cases. Shove, Grapple, and Escape Grapple are opposed Strength/Dexterity checks.

The Rules Problem

  • The rules on Grappling and Escaping Grapples were not written symmetrically. Grapple is a special attack action, but breaking a grapple is not a special attack action, it is an action. (Note: a ruling could be to make the escape a special attack action as well, but that may not resolve the other issues involved).

  • Opposed Strength/Dexterity Check 1: Escape Grapple. (Basic Rules p. 74)

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.

  • Opposed Strength/Dextrity Check 2: Shove (Basic Rules p. 74)

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. The target must be no more than one size larger than you and must be within your reach. Instead of making an attack roll, you make a Strength (Athletics) check contested by the target’s Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check (the target chooses the ability to use). If you win the contest, you either knock the target prone or push it 5 feet away from you. Shoving a Creature.

Ruling Required

If the distance between combatants is assumed to be some number greater than zero, then adding 5' to that makes the distance greater than 5' and the conditions for breaking the Grapple have been met for creatures with a reach of 5' or less. For creatures with a reach of 10' or more, it would not appear to suffice.

If the distance between grappled combatants is assumed to be zero, since they are in physical contact, then the shove by itself cannot generate enough space to break the grapple.

Recommended Ruling: Conservative

Because the rules as they stand now demand slightly more to break the grapple -- requiring an action versus a special attack action -- then the opposed strength check necessary to break a grapple is the Escape Grapple Action.

Recommended Ruling: Permissive

Make the Grapple Escape the equivalent of Grapple or Shove, a special attack action, and fit it into the action economy. If the attendant ruling on distance is that the two creatures begin at a distance greater than 0 from each other you'd get the two for one feature as a byproduct of the rules overlapping.

Alternative Ruling

Use a Shove to break a grapple as a special attack action in lieu of Escape Grapple (they are both opposed strength checks) so that it does not impose the same penalty on the grapplee of using an action. (Creatures having multiple attack actions would be more able to exploit escaping a grapple). This could be substituted in for the "prone" option of a Shove. A house rule along these lines should be closer to a balanced action economy.

Update: I have adopted this alternate approach in the shared world my brother and I DM in; this adds a slight benefit to martial characters like Fighters, Barbarians, Paladins, Monks, and Rangers for getting out of a grapple once they get to level 5 (and the College of Valor Bard at 6).

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Nice analysis. This definitely strikes me as not a cut-and-dry rule-question, and this sort of nuance seems necessary for proper understanding. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Commented May 13, 2016 at 20:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ The question was a very good one, and IMO exposes a boo boo on WoTC's part regarding the symmetry between grappler and grapplee. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 14, 2016 at 0:13

I'm surprised no one suggested that the shove action while grappled would move both of you 5ft in the direction shoved.

Since they are holding onto you and you shove them they simply bring you with them into their new space and it's technically not your movement but a side effect of your action and their hold on you. Not having movement doesn't make you immovable.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This is not correct at all. Moving the grappler does not automatically move the grappler. One of the examples of situations that can break a grapple is exactly forcing the grappler away from the grappled creature with a thunderwave. If forced movement by a thunderwave can break a grapple, there is no reason to believe a shove couldn't also do the same. In any case, shoving the grappler does not move the grappled creature along. \$\endgroup\$
    – Lucas Lima
    Commented Sep 22, 2021 at 19:33

To address all of your points

(1) What's stopping the grapplee from shoving the grappler?
(2) I've read that you can shove a grappled opponent to make them prone. Can the grapplee shove the grappler prone?

Question 1: Nothing is stopping them.

Question 2: Yes but that won't end the grapple. There is no indication that the creature being grappled goes prone per RaW too, but I'd probably call for some sort of contest to remain standing in my game.

Implied question 3: "Does shoving them 5 ft away break the grapple?" Yes but only as RaI, not necessarily RaW. Shoving a creature is clearly meant to move a character out of reach. Otherwise it's not really useful at all.

... you can make a special melee attack to shove a creature, either to knock it prone or push it away from you... you either knock the target prone or push it 5 feet away from you. (Shoving a Creature, Basic Rules)

It says you move them "5 feet away from you", so a strict reading could say if they were 3ft away, you only move them 2ft and if they were 6 inches, you move them 4ft 6 in. Instead I believe that it's intended to be read as "5ft {from their previous position} away from you." As such even if they were right on top of you there would be some space, perhaps just millimeters, from you and so 5ft plus that space would put them out of reach.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I like the way you addressed this, and find myself nodding in agreement. Not sure why all of those people down voted, so I dropped in the rules citation for the point you are making about distance and added a +1. Only took me five years. 🤣 \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 18, 2021 at 15:21

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