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I would like to toss a gargantuan behir at my PC's, but I am wondering how fast it could swallow whole. This takes place after an improved grab (free action after bite) that successfully starts a grapple. The next successful grapple check could be swallow whole. Now I wonder if such a thing could happen without the PC's being able to react. That would be bad, indeed, maybe too bad.

The grappling rules go:

Step 1: Attack of Opportunity. You provoke an attack of opportunity from the target you are trying to grapple. If the attack of opportunity deals damage, the grapple attempt fails. (Certain monsters do not provoke attacks of opportunity when they attempt to grapple, nor do characters with the Improved Grapple feat.) If the attack of opportunity misses or fails to deal damage, proceed to Step 2.

Step 2: Grab. You make a melee touch attack to grab the target. If you fail to hit the target, the grapple attempt fails. If you succeed, proceed to Step 3.

Step 3: Hold. Make an opposed grapple check as a free action. If you succeed, you and your target are now grappling, and you deal damage to the target as if with an unarmed strike. If you lose, you fail to start the grapple. You automatically lose an attempt to hold if the target is two or more size categories larger than you are. In case of a tie, the combatant with the higher grapple check modifier wins. If this is a tie, roll again to break the tie.

Step 4: Maintain Grapple. To maintain the grapple for later rounds, you must move into the target’s space. (This movement is free and doesn’t count as part of your movement in the round.) Moving, as normal, provokes attacks of opportunity from threatening opponents, but not from your target. If you can’t move into your target’s space, you can’t maintain the grapple and must immediately let go of the target. To grapple again, you must begin at Step 1.

The phrase "for later rounds" seems to imply that once the grapple has started, subsequent grapple attempts take place no sooner than the next round.

Concerning my question that would mean: The behir bites, improved grab, successful opposed grapple check, constrict damage. End of round. PC's can react.

But the FAQ say:

Can you, in one attack, go all the way to pinned or is it based on the number of attacks you have?

It’s the latter. You can grab someone and establish a hold with one attack, but pinning an opponent is an option only when you can make an attack and you already have a foe in your grasp (see If You’re Grappling in Chapter 8 of the PH). To grab and pin someone in one turn, you have to have at least two attacks available that turn.

The problem is: The behir has only the bite attack, but by virtue of its high base attack it would get several grapple checks.

The PHB on p.156:

If your base attack bonus allows you multiple attacks, you can attempt one of these actions in place of each of your attacks, but at successively lower base attack bonuses.

The advanced behir has a BAB of +16 which would allow him no less than 4 attacks, or in this case grappling attempts. (Not with his bite as attacks with natural weapons do not iterate, but grappling is not attacking with a natural weapon.)

I am inclined to rule out another grapple check directly after starting the grapple, but the FAQ seem to imply you can do so. What is correct?

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The behir only gets the one attack listed on its stat block. It does not get multiple attacks for having a high base attack bonus. This question has some more context on how BAB interacts with natural weapons.

The "Improved Grab" ability says:

Improved Grab (Ex)

To use this ability, a behir must hit a creature of any size with its bite attack. It can then attempt to start a grapple as a free action without provoking an attack of opportunity.

If it wins the grapple check, it it establishes a hold and can attempt to constrict the opponent or swallow the opponent in the following round.

So: during the first round, it makes an attack, and if the attack hits it can make a grapple check to start a grapple. Then the behir is out of attacks, and it has to wait for the second round to attempt to swallow whole.

If the behir did somehow get a second bite attack in the first round (for example because a wizard used haste on it), then it would be able to use that second bite attack to attempt to swallow whole.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for your good answer which follows the lines of the FAQ - but I got two issues left: First, your quote explicitly says in the following round. That strongly supports the idea that after establishing a hold no more grappling attempts are allowed. If more grappling attempts are allowed I would not think that the number of melee attacks allowed to the behir is decisive, (which is 1) but the number of grappling attempts (which is 4, edited in above). \$\endgroup\$ – Giorin Nov 24 '16 at 7:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ Oh, sorry, my fault! You are perfectly right. You did not quote the section on improved grab in the annex of MM, but the behir section, right? And the behir section has already taken into account that the behir has only one attack with his bite. And if he uses his improved grab only the bite attack is taken into account. He would get 4 grapple attempts only if he'd go into a normal grapple. \$\endgroup\$ – Giorin Nov 24 '16 at 8:09

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