top of page
In Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), a grapple is a special melee attack used to wrestle and hold an opponent. Grappling can be used to immobilize a creature, preventing it from moving or performing certain actions.
To initiate a grapple, a player must first make a melee attack. If the attack hits, the player can then use their free hand to try to grapple the target. The player and the target then make an opposed Strength (Athletics) check or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check, the target choosing which ability to use. If the player's check is equal to or higher than the target's, the grapple is successful.
While grappled, a creature's speed becomes 0, and it can't benefit from any bonus to its speed. The condition ends if the grappler is incapacitated or if an effect removes the grappled creature from the reach of the grappler.
Grapples can be used strategically in various situations. For example, a player could grapple an enemy spellcaster to prevent them from moving out of melee range or casting certain spells. Alternatively, a player could grapple a powerful melee enemy to prevent them from reaching more vulnerable party members.
Shove: Another special melee attack that can be used in conjunction with grapple is to shove a creature, either to knock it prone or push it away from you. This can be especially helpful when trying to control the battlefield.
Escape: The 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.
Example in Play
In play, a grapple might look like this:
The barbarian decides to grapple the orc to stop him from reaching the wizard. The barbarian makes a melee attack and hits.
The barbarian and the orc both roll a Strength (Athletics) check. The barbarian rolls a 17, and the orc rolls a 15.
The barbarian's check is higher, so the orc is now grappled. Its speed is 0, and it cannot move away until it breaks the grapple.
Q: Can you grapple a creature that is bigger than you?
A: Yes, but there are restrictions. According to the Player's Handbook, you can grapple a creature if it is no more than one size larger than you.
Q: Does a grapple provoke an opportunity attack?
A: No, grappling does not provoke an opportunity attack. Only voluntary movement out of an enemy's reach triggers an opportunity attack.
Q: Can you grapple multiple creatures at once?
A: Yes, provided you have a free hand for each creature you want to grapple. But remember, each grapple uses one of your attacks.
Q: Does grappling deal damage?
A: No, a standard grapple does not deal damage. However, certain class features, feats or abilities may allow damage to be dealt during a grapple.
Q: Can a grappled creature still attack?
A: Yes, being grappled does not prevent a creature from attacking. It only reduces its speed to 0 and prevents it from moving away without breaking the grapple.
Q: Does a successful grapple count as a hit for the purposes of concentration spells?
A: No, a grapple does not count as a hit for concentration checks as it does not deal damage.
Q: Can you use a weapon while grappling?
A: Yes, you can use a weapon while grappling as long as it is a one-handed weapon. Remember, you need at least one free hand to maintain a grapple.
Q: How can you end a grapple?
A: A grapple can be ended by the grappler releasing it (no action required), the grappled creature breaking free using an action (via a successful Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check), or an effect forcing the grappled creature to move out of reach, such as the Thunderwave spell.
Q: Can you force move a grappled creature?
A: Yes, you can move a grappled creature. When you move, you can drag or carry the grappled creature with you, but your speed is halved, unless the creature is two or more sizes smaller than you.
Q: Can you grapple a creature that is not on the ground?
A: Yes, as long as the creature is within your reach and no more than one size larger than you. For example, a player could theoretically grapple a flying creature if they could reach it, holding it in place in the air.
Making the Most of Grapple Rules in Encounters: An Essay for Dungeon Masters
The art of Dungeon Mastering is much like conducting a symphony of chaos and creativity, and every rule and mechanic in your repertoire is an instrument you can use to create a grand adventure. One such instrument is the grapple rule, a potent but often overlooked mechanic that can add depth and dynamism to your encounters.
Grapple, at its core, is about control. When used effectively, it can completely change the course of a battle, immobilizing foes, protecting allies, and offering strategic advantages. As a Dungeon Master, how can you make the most of this rule in your encounters? Here are some tips to consider.
1. Think Beyond 'Attack': Combat in D&D isn't always about dealing the most damage; it's about tactics, strategy, and making the best use of your abilities. Grappling can be a great way for your creatures to disrupt the players, control the battlefield, or protect themselves. An enemy who grapples the party's high-damage melee fighter can effectively neutralize a major threat.
2. Use the Environment: Grappling can become significantly more interesting when combined with a dangerous environment. Grappling near a cliff, lava, a pool of acid, or a magical trap can quickly raise the stakes. Your creatures can threaten to drag grappled players into these hazards, forcing the party to quickly devise a rescue strategy.
3. Mix in Shoves and Prone: A grappled creature's speed becomes zero, which means they cannot stand up from prone until the grapple ends (as standing up requires half movement speed). A creature with multiple attacks could first grapple and then shove a character prone, rendering them unable to move and giving attacks against them advantage.
4. Use Grappling Monsters: Some creatures, like the Roper or Kraken, are designed to grapple players, and using these monsters in your encounters can create memorable and challenging fights. It can also expose your players to the grapple rules in a high-stakes situation, teaching them through experience.
5. It's Not All About Combat: Grapple doesn't always have to be used in a fight. It can be used in a variety of non-combat situations, like a contest of strength at a festival, restraining a possessed ally, or catching someone falling from a great height.
When utilized creatively, the grapple rules can lead to some of the most memorable moments in your campaign, forcing your players to think on their feet and use their abilities in new ways. As a Dungeon Master, never underestimate the power of this simple mechanic to bring a layer of depth to your encounters.
bottom of page