I'm trying to get some clarity on how to maximize what I have and what is possible with it. Assuming I have a Druid (level 12) with Improved Unarmed Strike, Greater Grapple, Rapid Grappler and the Grab ability while wild shaped. Assuming I start combat wild shaped, what's the most effective strategy (in terms of damage and controlling my target) I can do assuming I start within reach of my enemy.

What does Round 1 look like? What does Round 2 look like?

Thank you for your input.


2 Answers 2


Most effective is subjective, but it's fairly easy to make excellent use of your grapple feats and wild shape.

To really pull this off, you need to select a form with grab and constrict, such as a hangman tree, a huge anaconda (14 HD Huge variant of the listed constrictor snake, per the last sentence in the description), or in aquatic environments, the giant squid. If you want to include the Vermin Shape spell in your arsenal, you get access to the very excellent Giant Scorpion, albeit only for a few minutes.

Constrict lets you effectively double the damage you deal on each grapple check, which will outpace added attacks from rake or other similar abilities. Grab is vital because it lets you attack normally and make a free grapple check if you hit. This is most important on the first round because you've got a one-round setup time for your tricks.

The per-round flow looks like this:

Round 1

Since you started in your wild shape form, either close with the opponent and attack once or start in range and full attack. Because your attack has the grab special ability, make a free grapple check. If the check fails, repeat this next round until it's successful. If it succeeds, deal constrict damage in addition to the damage that attack deals.

NB: Because you're just starting the grapple, Greater Grapple (and consequently Rapid Grappler) doesn't apply.

We'll assume your opponent doesn't escape on their turn. If they do, start over.

Round 2

Because of Greater Grapple, make a grapple check as a move action to maintain the grapple. If successful, deal damage with your highest-damage natural attack plus your constrict damage. Then, make a grapple check as a standard action, either to maintain the grapple or just inflict damage.

If either of these checks succeed, your Rapid Grappler feat triggers and you can make a third grapple check to deal damage.

In huge anaconda form, you can deal up to 12d6 plus 9 times your Strength bonus per round (3 grapple checks per round, dealing 2d6 + 1 1/2 Strength for the bite and an equal amount for constrict). Giant squid form roughly doubles this damage.

Round 3+

Basically the same as Round 2 until your opponent escapes or dies.

You can choose the natural attack which deals damage explicitly in the Grapple rules:

Damage: You can inflict damage to your target equal to your unarmed strike, a natural attack, or an attack made with armor spikes or a light or one-handed weapon. This damage can be either lethal or nonlethal.

This does mean that if your form has a natural attack which inflicts poison, you can use that attack on successful grapple checks and still inflict constrict damage.

I caution against pinning an opponent in lieu of dealing damage because it will cause you to lose your Dex bonus to AC, which opens you up to a whole world of pain from your opponents. The increased damage you'll take is unlikely to be a good trade off for keeping your victim from doing much of anything.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The giant anaconda is a size Gargantuan which I believe I cannot wild shape into, what would the numbers look like for a standard Large size Anaconda obviously with Powerful shape essentially be Huge size. I'm confused how you got the 12D6 plus 9 times Str bonus, could you be explain how you got to that. That sounds quite powerful and exactly what I was looking for. \$\endgroup\$
    – Atalius
    Mar 22, 2017 at 20:56
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I've clarified that part a little more. Hopefully, you can see where that's coming from now. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 22, 2017 at 21:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ The numbers work out to 100+ damage a round, very efficient! I'm assuming this would work at the higher levels also 15+ as long as I kept increasing my CMB along the way? \$\endgroup\$
    – Atalius
    Mar 23, 2017 at 1:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ It should. For this build, Strength is your friend, as is anything that increases your attack bonus because that also increases your CMB. Fortunately, non-activated gear with constant bonuses continues to work while wild shaped. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 23, 2017 at 3:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Where did you get the dice size from for the snake's attack/constrict? Advancing it two sizes makes it 1d8, not 2d6, and I double checked with a random Monster Advancer on the internet. Am I missing something? \$\endgroup\$
    – WeirdFrog
    Mar 23, 2017 at 12:36

Unfortunately, the best approach here is... really dumb.

You need grab for this, and you want constrict.

The approach to full-attack, hitting someone (dealing attack damage), grab them (dealing constrict damage)... and then let go (a free action) so you can hit them again (dealing attack damage), grab them (dealing contrict damage), and rinse and repeat. Don’t let go on your last attack, obviously, so they’re grappled on their turn. Don’t bother maintaining the grapple when you turn starts again, so you can do the whole thing over again.

Basically, grab makes a mockery of Paizo’s attempts to nerf grapple by making it a standard action instead of an attack replacement (as it was in 3.5). There is always the risk that you’ll miss and/or fail to grab on subsequent attacks, so it’s not pure upside, but it definitely is the best way to deal damage.

Make sure you clear it with your GM first. And if you do it, you might as well lose Rapid Grapple, possibly Greater Grapple as well if you don’t need the +2.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Worth noting that the number of free actions available in a single round are limited by GM Fiat. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Mar 22, 2017 at 21:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ If I retrain greater grappling what would you suggest I replace it with? Wouldn't I want to keep it because of the +2 to CMB. CMB is quite difficult to come by. I could see dropping Rapid grappling because in your scenario it would be useless. \$\endgroup\$
    – Atalius
    Mar 22, 2017 at 21:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras The whole thing is questionable, and should be discussed with the GM. Already say as much in the answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Mar 22, 2017 at 21:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Atalius As a medium-BAB class, you may well be right, but it is worth considering since you are missing out on the most significant (usually) part of the feat. You may need the +2 badly enough but really, usually, that would not be remotely worth a feat. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Mar 22, 2017 at 21:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Atalius And that’s entirely reasonable. I’m not really recommending this approach. I only provided it because, well, you asked what “the most effective strategy (in terms of damage and controlling my target)” (which I took as prioritized in that order) is, and this is it. As for shapes, anything with constrict, grab, and is the largest size you’re capable of using is going to be best for this purpose. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Mar 22, 2017 at 23:05

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