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I'm looking for some help to pick the best traits for my PC in a Rise of the Runelords campaign.

The GM's allowed my tetori monk to take three traits. I want to use them to ramp up my PC's Combat Maneuver Bonus and Defense, with a core objective being to help him grapple better. I already picked the racial trait Bred for War for my first trait. What other traits would be best to make my tetori monk become a wrestling / grappling machine?

Other PCs include a fighter, a wizard, and a rogue.

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Considering that Bred for War grants a trait bonus on your CMB and CMD already, most traits that will either improve your CMB, CMD or grapple checks will not stack with it.

That leaves only untyped bonuses, and traits that grant a higher bonus, or traits that grant a bonus to your AC, which indirectly increases your CMD.

  • Equality for All - +2 CMB/CMD versus opponents that are two (or more) size categories larger than your character. (does not stack)

  • Bent Body (Tiefling) - +2 to CMD when resisting grapple attempts. (does not stack)

  • Final Embrace (Damphir) - +2 grapple checks to pin your target. (does not stack)

  • Traits similar to Reckless Luck (there are quite a few) - +2 to AC on the first round of combat when you make a charge. This will indirectly increase your CMD against grapple checks since you gained a bonus to your AC. (stacks)

  • Heirloom weapon will not stack, but since it grants a higher bonus, you take the +2. However, you cannot grapple with weapons (in fact, you take a penalty if you don't have two free hands, and you are not an outsider) unless you use a weapon with the Grapple quality (Grappling Hook, Mancatcher, Kumade, etc), or the weapon has a special ability that allows you to, such as the Blade of Binding.

As far as i know, there are no traits that grant untyped bonus to grapple checks.

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This is slightly tricky with trait bonuses stacking.

However, your Bred for War trait directly increases your CMB, which is one kind of bonus.

Then, if you have access to the particular religion (or DM fiat so it doesn't matter), you can try for Serpentine Squeeze, which gives you a trait bonus directly to your grapple checks, for both attack and defence. As written, this is not a +1 to CMB while Grappling, but a +1 to Grapple Checks, so these two traits should stack.

Perhaps less clear if it would work with the above, or even if legal because you're choosing to focus on Grapple checks, is the trait Heirloom Weapon. As written, there are no restrictions on how you can choose which combat maneuver you get a +2 bonus for, and although it states a trait bonus it also doesn't state specifically on what the bonus applies.

So, potentially, you would be looking at:

  • A neat +4 bonus to Grapple checks
  • and +1 to CMD versus Grapple.

Again, this is all reliant on how your DM will allow you to stack together your trait bonuses. But even in the worst case, you can drop Serpentine Squeeze and still keep hold of a reasonable +3 bonus to grapple checks.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Unrelated, but this question now makes me think about how I could achieve the same thing with trips. \$\endgroup\$ – royalmurder Apr 25 '17 at 10:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ The two traits don't stack because trait bonuses don't stack, even though the rules text language is slightly different. For any given roll, you can't add two trait bonuses. So if you roll CMB to grapple a foe, you can't first add a trait bonus and then add a different trait bonus. For comparison: Suppose you had +4 luck bonus "to Charisma checks made with wild empathy" and a +3 luck bonus "on all wild empathy checks". Could you combine them for a +7 luck bonus when rolling Charisma for wild empathy? \$\endgroup\$ – MGlacier Apr 25 '17 at 11:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ ... with a lenient DM? Okay, essentially not, you are right. This is a tricky question to answer when you take into account all aspects of it. The two traits you say don't stack are Serpentine Squeeze and Heirloom Weapon? \$\endgroup\$ – royalmurder Apr 25 '17 at 11:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ I want to point out that none of these traits should stack: You gain a +1 trait bonus on combat maneuver checks to grapple a foe. Serpentine squeeze also works as a bonus on CMB checks to grapple, which shouldn't stack with any other bonus on CMB checks that are of the same type (here, trait bonuses). \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Apr 25 '17 at 11:53

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