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Today I was playing D&D5e with a group of friends. We all played D&D in the past, the 3.5 edition, and so far we found the new 5e rules a very well-done simplification of the rules.

However, today I tried for the first time to grapple a character. Essentially, all the rules I could find were:

  • How to grapple a character: you make, as your action, an opposed Strength VS Strength/Dexterity check, [...]. Okay, very similar to the previous mechanic, although it now is much easier to start.

  • If you succeed, the character is grappled. This means that its speed is reduced to zero. He can break free by doing [...] and the effect also ends if [...]

That's it. A grappled character can essentially do any other action (hit me with his full attack, cast a spell, whatever) without any opportunity attack or even disadvantage.

Now, obviously the ability lost a lot of its power (and flavour), but I was wondering: is there any way of effectively restraining the possibilities and the movements of an enemy in 5e, in a similar way to what grapple did in 3.5e?

Just for comparison, remember that in 3.5e the character had to win an opposed grapple check or had significant penalties to what he was trying to do, like being unable to use non-light weapons, having -4 on all other attacks, having to make a Concentration check to cast spells (and not all of them were available in a grapple either). However, a grapple attempt was harder to start, and once started it didn't distinguish between the grappler and the grappled anymore.

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While it's not an exact analogue to 3.5e grappling, I believe the closest thing to what you're looking for is the Grappler feat. It gives you advantage on attack rolls against any creature you have grappled. It also allows you to give your grappled opponent the Restrained condition as well as the Grappled condition when you grapple them. This inflicts the following penalties:

  • A restrained creature’s speed becomes 0, and it can’t benefit from any bonus to its speed.

  • Attack rolls against the creature have advantage, and the creature’s attack rolls have disadvantage.

  • The creature has disadvantage on Dexterity saving throws.

Note that when you give your grappled opponent the Restrained condition, you also give it to yourself.

I should point out that, just like in 3.5e, if you want to be good at grappling, the best way to do it is just to be a Druid and turn into something that is inherently good at grappling. Many monsters automatically grapple and restrain on attack, without restraining themselves.

Good, early available forms for this include the Giant Constrictor Snake, the Giant Octopus, and the Giant Toad. Later on, the Giant Crocodile or the Water Elemental is probably your best bet. Using polymorph, the T-Rex is particularly nice, but it's not ideal to use polymorph on yourself, because of concentration.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh, this is exactly the kind of thing I hoped to find. So it's not as bad as it looks, I just need a feat... Out of curiosity (since I loved monsters that used the grapple action back then), how many monsters have this feat? \$\endgroup\$ – AnalysisStudent0414 Mar 16 '17 at 1:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AnalysisStudent0414 Sorry, I was just writing up a section on monsters. None of them have the feat, but many are better at grappling without the feat than a player with the feat is. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Mar 16 '17 at 1:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AnalysisStudent0414 Glad you like it! I'd be remiss not to link to the Grappler's Handbook, which includes a bunch more info about making grappling effective. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Mar 16 '17 at 1:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Miniman: Would be worth editing the book reference into your answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Matthieu M. Mar 16 '17 at 9:51
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Yes and No

Grappling in 5e is very different from 3.5e but for a character customised for it, much more powerful. I refer you to the Grappler's Manual.

A character (or beast for those who polymorph before grappling - the T. Rex is an awesome grappler) with proficiency or, even better, expertise in Athletics is going to win 90% of grappling checks over a creature, even a strong or dexterous creature who doesn't.

Starting the grapple is step 1. Step 2 is knocking the opponent prone:

  • A prone creature’s only movement option is to crawl, unless it stands up and thereby ends the condition.

  • The creature has disadvantage on attack rolls.

  • An attack roll against the creature has advantage if the attacker is within 5 feet of the creature. Otherwise, the attack roll has disadvantage.

If you take the Shield Master feat you can do step 2 as a bonus action - its much better than the Grappler feat. In fact, the Grappler feat sucks, it takes away the best thing about being a grappler: your mobility.

You give yourself (and any of your companions within 5 feet) advantage on attacks, give them disadvantage on attacks and lock them in melee because "Standing up takes more effort; doing so costs an amount of movement equal to half your speed" except they don't have any movement so the can't stand up. They can either fight at disadvantage against your advantage or waste all their actions trying to break free - which they won't do because you have Strength (Athletics) at +11 against their feeble +4.

Throw in some nice environmental effects like dragging them to the edge of a cliff and throwing them off, holding them in the fire or underwater, or jumping up and throwing them to the ground, or spell effects like holding them in a Sorcerer's Wall of Fire or a Cleric's Spirit Guardians and you can see how awesome this is.

Did I mention that because you have 2 hands you can do this to 2 creatures at once?

A recent encounter of a party I DM for against an adult Green Dragon illustrates:

  • The Barbarian/Rogue with expertise in Athletics (proficiency doubled to +8) is raging so has resistance to the dragon's natural attacks.
  • The Bard Polymorphs the Barbarian into a T. Rex (Strengh +7) - Strength (Athletics) +15. The dragon has no proficieny in Athletics or Acrobatics so is relying on its raw strength modifier or +6. The bard then ducks out of the dragon's sight to maintain concentration.
  • This give the T. Rex barbarian an 85.25% chance of initiating a grapple (twice due to Extra Attack) and the dragon a measly 11.25% chance of breaking it.
  • The Sorcerer casts Wall of Fire which the Barbarian holds the dragon in
  • The Cleric cast Spirit Guardians which kept tearing at the dragon
  • The dragon used its breath weapon as often as possible and attacked as much as it could but it missed a lot with the disadvantage. Anyway a T. Rex has 136 hp and a raging barbarian is resistant to the dragon's non-breath attacks.
  • The dragon got away once due to its Suggestion legendary action but what with getting up from prone and Disengaging the T. Rex caught it and dragged it back to the fire.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ I see. This is less straightforward but maybe more powerful. I like it, it's just as most things are in 5e then. It is somewhat "hidden" in the rules though! \$\endgroup\$ – AnalysisStudent0414 Mar 16 '17 at 2:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh and the comment above is about the first part of your answer. For the second part, gg to your party! \$\endgroup\$ – AnalysisStudent0414 Mar 16 '17 at 2:05

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