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Grapple Rules

By Shamus
on Thursday Mar 26, 2009
Filed under:
Tabletop Games


I tend to archive binge on Darths & Droids instead of reading it as it comes out. Unlike my shooting gallery for common tropes, Darths & Droids is far more intricate and lends itself more to binge-style reading.

Last week Darths & Droids took on the Dungeons & Dragons (or the fictional equivalent being used in their world) system of grappling, and linked back to my own lampooning of Attacks of Opportunity. (The thread on that comic is one of my favorites. Every post insisting that AoO are simple is refuted by the simple fact of its existence. Then there were counter-arguments based on that fact. There were some posts that went on for paragraphs trying to sum up the rules, and I suspected they were actually just provocateurs on the other side of the argument. The layers of irony stacked on until I couldn’t tell which side people were on anymore. It was brilliant. Then there was a secondary discussion about archery. If you read the comic and not the comments, you missed out on at least half the fun.)

For you non-tabletop players:

Attacks of Opportunity is a system that lets combatants take an extra attack out of order to prevent people from exploiting the inherent turn-based nature of the game. You can’t just run between the guards and take a swipe at the king without them getting the chance to act.

The grapple rules deal with people grabbing, shoving, pushing, and wrestling in a fight. If you want to pry the golden chalice away from someone or knock the driver off the stagecoach, then you’re probably going to need to turn to the grapple rules. Those rules are, as the Comic Irregulars point out, many times more complex than AoO.

It is odd that I went after AoO instead of the grapple rules. Aragorn is even doing a grapple while they argue over AoO! This is mostly due to the fact that I’d never bothered with the grapple rules. In the games I ran, on the occasions that someone did want to grapple I always glossed over it with such vigorous handwaving that it probably looked like I was trying to fly.

Comments (48)

  1. Lain says:

    WOW, first mail.

    Reminds me of the pathetic translation into German.. Even more awful then the original, instead of trying to make it better.

  2. Derek K. says:

    I love both the AoO rules and the grappling rules. But I also play D&D as a series of interactive cut scenes interspersed with a turn based game.

    Hell, I have characters whose entire reasons for existence rely on one or both of those rulesets!

  3. B.J. says:

    I never thought AoO’s were too complicated (or rather, I believe their complexity is necessary for the tactical addition it brings to the game) but I will agree that grappling is a nightmare. It doesn’t help that every other monster in the book has Improved Grab on its special abilities list. Every time I think I have a handle on the grapple rules some new crap comes up and I have to throw it all out the window. Did you know that Rake attacks are grapples if they are initiated from an Improved Grab, but not if they are used as part of a Pounce? Ack. What if two people are part of a grapple? Can a grappler drag his grapple-ee around? Can you pull someone out of a grapple?

    I had a player tell me he wanted to play a monk who specialized in grappling. When I could do nothing to dissuade him from this build, I finally told him he would only get an awesome magic item for his character if he never grappled.

  4. Rutskarn says:

    I don’t know if you saw the 4th Edition trailer, but in the part where they were mocking 3.5, they had a part where a guy declares he’s going to grapple the troll.

    All the players react with shock and horror, but the player insists. The DM spends a few minutes leafing through, then finds the rules. He reads off step one:

    “Step one. There’s an attack of opportunity…”

    At which point, the player immediately interrupts with, “Yeah, forget it. I use my sword.”

    I never ended up using 4E, but I thought that was clever.

  5. Graham says:

    @Rutskarn –

    I think you’d enjoy what they did in 4e.

    Make an attack roll, Strength vs Reflex. Success: the opponent is Grabbed. The End.

    As for 3e, if you were grappling between two human-sized characters with no special abilities, it was easy. Touch Attack (provokes AoO), followed by opposed Strength checks. Want to do anything? Opposed Strength check. I could run that on the fly easily enough.

    But when you added in all the special abilities, the size modifiers nobody every remembered (normal size mod squared), and the corner cases like B.J. mentioned, stuff got fucked up.

    But personally, it was the Turn Undead rules I could never remember.

  6. 4E is *so* much better with respect to grappling. Oh God, I hated grappling in 3ed.

  7. B.J. says:

    Ah ha Graham, but it’s supposed to be opposed Grapple checks, not just strength. I.E. BA+Strength mod+Size mod+Any other special mod (-20 for improved grab if they want to not be considered grappled)


  8. Robyrt says:

    So if an Attack of Opportunity prevents you from running past the guards and smacking the King, does that mean that an anime-based RPG would eliminate the system? I’ve been watching Fullmetal Alchemist, where people routinely charge up an attack, run 50 feet forward, and let loose – without anybody noticing except the intended target. It’s like nobody has ever thought of tripping someone as they run by.

  9. Graham says:

    @ B.J. –

    Hence why I said it’s easy with two normal human types. Though I forgot the BAB. Okay, unarmed attack rolls, not strength checks. All the other mods come into play and complicate things, but two normal human types are opposed melee attack rolls.

    In any case, it’s still one of the reasons I was eager for 4e. Not the main reason, as I could avoid it most of the time and fudge it the rest, but one of them.

  10. Graham says:

    @Robyrt –

    Anime violates most rules of RPGs.

    …and physics.

    So yeah.

  11. food4worms says:

    Way back in my misspent youth I played 1st edition AD&D. Once (once) we pulled out the grapple rules when my halfling, in frustration, tried to punch out this giant 6’14” ripped human fighter. A combination of my halfling’s 19 Dex and a whole lot of luck from my dice saw the human unconscious on the floor (about six days after we started ploughing through the rules). Good times. Though not good enough to ever try it again.

  12. K says:

    I find it hilarious (and a bit embarassing) how people defend “their” system with so much zeal. Especially anyone playing an old system which has been greatly overhauled (usually for the better, since the authors also knew how impractical AoO was). See all the people sticking with 3.5 over 4E (/tg/ has great flame-threads on this subject), or 1.0 elitists claiming how an utterly insane system (“which dice do I roll on this?”) produces better and more role-playing. Yeah. Right. Improvising rules is not the same as role-playing.

    I can understand when people complain that Vampire is too abstract and one cannot demonstrate the differences between an iron long sword and a steel broad sword, but the system runs decently fast. Or that HERO is incredibly complex but you get comparatively realistic acceleration/deceleration rules in exchange.

    That makes sense, because both are true and are a matter of taste.

    It is just like console wars. Or operating systems.

  13. Inquisitor says:

    I don’t know why grapple rules can’t be simple. Though, one DM I had used rules completely different from the default ones. It was DEX vs reflex followed by opposed STR checks each round.

    This led to an amusing situation where, in our quest to retrieve it, my character had difficulty holding onto a sword that had sprouted wings and flown away. I made a successful DEX check, followed by a failed STR check, and then another successful DEX check, then another failed STR check… This went on about four times, until I finally failed to grab it and someone else managed to hold onto it.

    The rapid-fire checks gave it a hilarious pacing, which would have been painfully slow with 3.5e’s default grapple rules.

  14. Derek K. says:

    K: It would be better if people couldn’t care less about what they played? If you don’t like the system you’re using, why play it? Why spend so much time doing something you aren’t keen on?

    Now insulting other systems is something else. But I’m pleased to see people passionate about things, not embarassed.

  15. Lluewhyn says:

    Attacks of Opportunity were a great addition to 3.0, but probably got a little too unwieldy. They started out initially as a means to make formation and placement in a battle matter, and prevented PCs or NPCs from abusing the turn-based system as you said. However, a lot more got thrown on there, like getting free attacks against casters and bowyers in melee, people attempting to wrestle you or attack you with their fists against your swords, etc.

    While not bad ideas, it did go beyond the initial plan. I’d also have to opine that having the ability to easily nullify most attacks of opportunity made the system almost pointless at times. You’re an archer in melee? Just take a 5′ step back. You’re a caster, you can take a 5′ step too. Don’t have room, well how about casting defensively- just make a roll that’s absurdly easy after 5th level or so.

    4.0 did get back to the basics with this. First, for easier nomenclature, it calls them Opportunity Attacks now, not Attacks of Opportunity. Now, they’re also only triggered by using a ranged attack next to someone or moving through their threatened squares. Also, they’re not as easy to avoid. Finally, you don’t have to keep track of how many of these attacks you get a round- you get one per enemy trigger the attack. Three guys run past you, three guys get attacked, but only once each. So, opportunity attacks are much easier to keep track of the rules and they’re not as much a joke.

    As far as grappling, I believe there’s a more complex reason why it sucked so bad in 3.5. If you sit down and read how it works, it’s a somewhat interesting idea that has some thought and consideration, and I can easily see them attempting to replicate the cinematic experience of two guys wrestling around on the ground, one with a knife attempting to stab his opponent, the other trying not to get stabbed and even attempting to push the knife back against the first guy.

    The grapple system included such ideas as:
    1. Having to use your fists or a small weapon like a dagger(giving PCs a reason to carry them).
    2. Preventing spellcasters from not casting spells requiring somatic components, and encouraging the use of Still Spell memorizations.
    3. Turning a weapon against your opponent.
    4. Restraining your opponent and taking them down without killing them.
    5. Allowing a free attack of opportunity so you just couldn’t attempt to wrestle down the guy with the big axe without him stopping you in your tracks with a well-placed swing. Weapons would certainly have reach, after all.

    So, what was the problem? There just wasn’t really much point to the system. PCs seldom cared about taking someone down without killing them, and if they had to, it was actually just MUCH easier to do non-lethal damage with their actual weapons. So, with PCs seldom having a reason to use the system, few became familiar or comfortable with it.

    The number one reason it DID come into play was with monsters who used grappling abilities, and they ALWAYS
    had Improved Grab and huge Grapple Bonuses. Basically, you have to roll a 18 or higher and the monster needs to roll less than a 5.

    So, you have a system that seems complicated because it had a full page of rules but was so seldom used, and when it was used it was mostly just to spank the PCs. No wonder people don’t like it.

    It’s like developing an elaborate system for storing and organizing gear in PCs’ backpacks versus haphazardly throwing all their crap in them- it may be a balanced system that encompasses a whole variety of situations, but players are mostly going to remember it as a complicated mechanic that brings a stop to the gameplay and is used to screw them over.

  16. MRL says:

    If I remember correctly, Jadeclaw has fairly simple grapple rules…then again, the system as a whole is slightly bizarre. Though I do love it to bits.

  17. B.J. says:

    The talk of “Rushing past the guards to get to the King” reminds me of something that happened in my campaign once. A PC had some important information to give to the King but the castle guards were (naturally) skeptical.

    He wasn’t having any luck convincing them he was trustworthy so he said “I’m just going to run past them all and head for the throne room.” I told him he would get a bunch of AoO’s but he said he didn’t care. I proceeded to make a ton of touch attacks for the guards to try to grapple him, all of which missed. He wasn’t even a high level character. He made it to the throne room and got to the king shortly before he was tackled by a dozen guards. The incident soon became legendary within our group.

    In a later campaign in the same kingdom, the PCs were now playing noble knights in service to the Queen. One time during some normal castle business I told them they heard guards shouting about an intruder, then a very fast NPC came running in shouting he had a message for the Queen, before being tackled by guards. The NPC ended up being the grandson of the previous PC who had done the same thing. ^_^

  18. Jabor says:

    3.5 4eva!

    No, seriously. I like the concept behind the 4e changes (well, most of them), but there’s one thing that I just can’t stomach.

    4e characters start out with a whacking great chunk of hitpoints (I mean, enough to get stabbed, burned, and shot with an arrow and still keep on coming), a lot more abilities – essentially, the equivalent of 4th or 5th-level 3.5 characters.

    Given that the first few levels are really where your character’s personality a style is settled down, playing 4e is roughly equivalent to playing someone who is physically 25 yet has the mental age of a 10 year old.

    Arguing that 4e is better than 3.5 is like saying that Vista is better than XP. Yes, there’s some good spirit and motivation behind the changes, but it’s just not quite there. Wait until next time around and they’ll get it right, but stick with the old stuff for the meantime.

  19. Graham says:


    And of course someone has to make this an edition war.

    @Jabor –

    Yeah, power-wise level 1 in 4e is equivalent to level 4-ish in 3e. Nobody has disputed that.

    But groups like mine were always asking to start at level 5 or so, where they “actually felt like they could do stuff”.

    And yet they had no problem fleshing our a character and personality, somehow.

    3.5e is a fine game, and some groups love it. 4e is a fine game, and other groups love it.

    But let me make myself clear:

    Neither of these groups are wrong, and it makes you look like an idiot to sit there insulting the other camp.

    Now, then. Can we get back to bitching about grapple? :P

  20. Neil D says:

    @food4worms #11: “this giant 6″²14″³ ripped human”… 6’14”? Isn’t that kind of like saying “3 months and 7 weeks ago”?

    More and more I find myself missing 2nd edition. When people tried to do something like run past the guards, the DM would just say “they’re going to get a free swing at you… that’s what they’re there for, after all”. Likewise if an NPC did something that left them particularly vulnerable and we weren’t otherwise occupied, we were generally able to take a free swing if we thought to ask for it.

    But 2nd edition in general was much more about trusting the DM to make impartial on-the-fly decisions such as that. 3rd edition is all about handing power over to the players and codifying everything because the DM can’t be trusted.

  21. BarGamer says:

    Ahhhh, the Grapple Rules. I had so much fun with those in my final session with my Troll Barbarian. We were running a 3.5/3.0 hybrid session with some House Rules tossed in for fun. In one fight, I ran up (while Hasted), grappled and pinned a Wizard, then took a full round of attacks with my Bite attack, Called Shot: Head. He ducked the first one, then died on my second attack.

    Epic win.

  22. Attorney At Chaos says:

    As far as I’m concerned, the game rules should hopefully fade into the background so they are automatic and you can concentrate on playing your character, not looking up rules. The rules that really got in the way tended to get tossed. Every 1E group I ever knew tossed out Psionics (10 Psionic combat rounds per 1 melee round really slowed down participation in the game of every non-psionic). SPEED FACTORS and ARMOR TYPE ADJUSTMENTS for weapons were likewise tossed. The result may have been less realistic but it was a lot quicker to play. 2E only required minor mods from 1E, but 3E (and attacks of opportunity and grappling/bull rushing/overrunning/sundering became the new things where the game slowed down to a crawl – until people learned them (if they ever did). 3.5 made minor changes that mostly smoothed things out a bit. Having played it for a while, I at least know how to look things up fast if I don’t recall details. So now there’s 4E, which I’ve only played a little (my main group is sticking with 3.5E, the other group I play with several times a year is still on 2E). My 4E games have been pickup games, just as an experiment.

    Whatever the system, it does NOT interfere with Roleplaying. It can sure mess up your Rollplaying, though (at least until you learn the new system).

    The 2E group seldom needs to refer to the rulebooks. It’s a lot of fun to roleplay in that group.

    In our 3.5 group, even though we have only experienced players (5+ years in 3E) there’s a standing rule to “Have your book open to the page that applies to the action you are going to do.” If you’re casting a spell, your book is open to the page that has the spell. If you’re going to grapple, your book is open to the page on grapples. That way, if either you or the DM is uncertain you can get the answer immediately. There’s not nearly as much roleplaying as the 2E group. And in 4E the game is so new that people don’t even know exactly where the rules are in the books most of the time. (This will change as more 4E games are played.)

  23. ngthagg says:

    My gaming group has found playing 4e to be a fairly interruption free process. Most of the times we have to refer to the PHB are when we mix up a 4e rule with a 3.5e rule. I’ve never even read any 4e sourcebooks, but I was able to fit into my gaming group without a fuss. Although, I can’t really speak to how 4e affects roleplaying, since most of our enjoyment comes out of combat tactics, and there isn’t a great deal of roleplaying in the first place.

  24. Felblood says:

    I personally expect that the point of the AoO rules is to prevent people from performing any of the actions that relate to them in any way.

    It’s essentially the game designer saying, “Oh, you can do that, but it would be stupid, and I hope it gets you killed.

    This just opens up a whole world of stupid, where you can build your character to take advantage of these rules, or even develop tactics to work around or mitigate them.

    It’s that, one per turn, unless you have certain feats, deal that makes them really bad. The whole game would be a lot better, it everyone got infinite AoOs per turn, so they weren’t such a pain when they do come up.

    If you are a DM and a player takes combat reflexes, VETO HIS BUILD. Seriously, either he doesn’t know what he’s doing, or he’s up to something that’s going to imbalance the game.

    Grappling on the other hand is just bland, poorly documented, and impossible to be good at with a playable race.

  25. thark says:

    The phrase “it’s just _one_ AoO, I’ll survive” has become a running gag in our group–after an occassion when this confident statement turned out to be less than accurate–repeated as an harbinger of doom whenever anyone decides the benifit of getting into a better position or whatever it may be is worth the tanking the potiential hit. :-)

    I disagree with above poster about CR being unbalanced though; it’s easy to miss the clause that you still only get one AoO _per opponent_ and thus only benefit if you get AoO opportunities from multiple discrete opponents. Yes, it allows some cute builds (such as the tripping-specialist with the spiked chain), but they have their own drawbacks (including but not limited having to dictating the choice of feats) and mostly tend to be balanced (eg, good enough to be a good and valid choice, but not obviously better than any number of other choices) unless you venture into Crazy Splatbook territory (where nothing is guaranteed as far as game balance goes).

  26. Zaxares says:

    I’ll admit that Grapple checks are probably needlessly complex, but after being a DM for so long, I pretty much know the Grapple rules in, out, sidewise and Ethereal Plane-wise. Used properly, they can be utterly game-wrecking.

    Case in point: Any of you ever played that Wrath of the Lich Queen adventure released in Dungeon about, oh, 2 or so years ago? My party got to the big climatic showdown with Vlaakith, and I was readying to unleash all her big, nasty, epic-level spells on them.

    Monk: Hey Cleric, cast Antimagic Field on me.
    (Cleric does so.)
    Monk: DM, I’m charging and Grappling Vlaakith.
    Me: (Realising what the monk has planned) Uh oh…

    To make a long story short, the Monk grappled Vlaakith, an NPC spellcaster almost 10 levels higher than he was, and because of the Antimagic Field, she couldn’t cast any spells or do ANYTHING to get away. And being a spellcaster, her Grapple check was a few points short of pitiful. The Monk ended up just Grappling the Legendary-and-Insanely-Feared Lich Queen of the Githyanki and punching her in the face to death.

    Of course, she just fled to her phylactery afterwards, so I managed to salvage some dignity from the whole affair, but that was one tactic I always kept an eye out for in the future.

  27. Scipio says:

    Ah, the joys of grappling. Brings back fond memories of my barbarian/fighter/frenzied berserker/bear warrior/warshaper character… and of course therein lies one of the problems with 3.5.

    Playing a dedicated grappler, I actually figured out most of the grapple rules. Really, they were actually fine for two humanoids. The problem was that there was one set of rules for PC’s and one set of rules for monsters, and they just didn’t mesh well. Just try and figure out what’s supposed to happen when a owlbear hits with it’s second claw attack and starts a grapple.

    4th edition solved the problem by simply eviscerating the whole rule set. Now all you can do is hold onto a guy and stop him from running away. No rules for wrestling away a weapon or most of the cinematic things a player might want to do.

  28. Attorney At Chaos says:

    Felblood said:

    “If you are a DM and a player takes combat reflexes, VETO HIS BUILD. Seriously, either he doesn't know what he's doing, or he's up to something that's going to imbalance the game.”

    You may not want to hear about this, but – I joined a game at 15th level. When I joined the DM said flat out “This is a Power Game. Design your characters accordingly.” I got my Ascetic Monk/Kensai up to Epic levels. He had both the Epic Feat Improved Combat Reflexes (unlimited AoOs/round, i.e. not limited by dex bonus) and the Robilar’s Gambit Feat (Players Handbook II). The enemy gets +4 to hit you and +4 on damage when he connects – but you get to make an AoO every time he attacks (though AFTER his attack, not before like most AoOs).

    Note that the original wording of ICR in the book version of the Epic Level Handbook said “no more than once per person”, but the corrected version in the SRD changed that to “no more than once per opportunity.” Each time you are attacked is a new opportunity with Robilar’s Gambit. So you get all your normal attacks and you get a new attack (at full BAB) each time they swing at you. Yes, they hit you more often and do more damage than they used to – but they don’t last long enough to cash in on that.

    He was originally a Diplomat and Peacemaker when he entered the game. He was not even a power character at 15th level – but by the time he got to 25th level (using the Rebuilding Characters Rules in PH2, one change per level) he was a Power Character.

    But as I said – the DM specifically ASKED for Power Characters. I just complied with his guidelines.

  29. Itse says:

    AoO:s are like many other “difficult” rules in rpg’s.

    Rules are mostly difficult when you wing it and look it up after the game, if ever. The next time you need the rule you remember bits of the previous times you needed them and bits of what the rules actually say, and that gets very confusing.
    When you consistently play as right as you can, you learn the rules pretty quick.

    I looked up the comments you mentioned and basicly all the complicated stuff people are claiming is just wrong. Many of the weird feats they are mentioning are not even in the splatbooks but something taken out of Dragon Magazines, and left out of the actual rules for a good reason. But oh yeah, if you use tons of obscure feats and prestige class special abilites, you can have a very complicated game.

    That’s the whole point.

    D&D 3.5 is tons of fun if you like rules, because it has lots and lots of rules that you can use but MOSTLY DON’T HAVE TO. So essentially the game keeps changing a little, which is cool. If you don’t like rules don’t use anything on the rules labeled SPECIAL, use splatbooks with caution and don’t make characters that need the parts of the rules that seem complicated to you.

    I never figured out why so many people are adamant on using every damned rule they can find in any book.

  30. Syndic says:

    For our gaming group, grappling isn’t a problem at all… because we started from nothing by having me (the GM almost all the time) studying the rulebooks like I usually study electronics, physics and math books at the university. So basically what happens isn’t “I want to grapple… uh, on what page was that again?” but rather “I want to grapple. You know the rules, what do I have to roll?”

    And quite frankly, I don’t understand the hassle about the modifiers to grappling rolls – after all, every player has his character sheet, where the grappling bonus is noted right next to the bab. Every monster in the handbooks has its grappling bonus noted down in the stats block. And every monster I modify or create myself has… you get the idea ;)

    Oh, and let me add that our group LOVES grappling. Ever since the… second or third gaming session, when they encountered a tribe of kobolds led by a sorcerer. The sorcerer, having heard the noise of the PCs fighting their way through the other kobolds (and quite a few traps) was well prepared of course, and between mage armor, shield and some other spells he would’ve been almost impossible for them to hit until at least one of the spells wore off… so after 3 frustrating rounds of combat, the paladin went “ok, so this guy is small, right? I want to GRAB HIM AND SMASH HIS HEAD AGAINST THE WALL!”, with the barbarian (yeah, we have some quite brutish guys^^) agreeing. When it turned out they could do just that, and quite easily (low-level sorcerer spells do little for the touch AC), they rejoiced… and even more when the barbarian’s half-annoyed “well, now HE’s grabbing him and pushing him to the floor… what about me? Can I grab his leg and pull or something?” was answered with a “yeah, says here that up to 4 people can grapple with the same opponent. So, drop your sword (or spend a move action sheathing it) and give me a touch attack”.

    They pummeled the small guy to death (while the paladin’s stick in the behind WAS a source of disagreement sometimes he never was of the “let’s all get along” type), and a lot of laughs came from it. The barbarian/sorceress decided NOT to join in the “testosterone-pile” and instead spent the time petting the ranger’s animal companion while making more-or-less obscene comments ;)

  31. Kyrionus says:

    There’s a player in my D&D game who is a “Master of Many Forms”, like a super shapeshifting version of druid, and he has so many different things he can turn into that it’s just a mess.

    Example: First round of combat he wild shapes (as a swift action, due to a feat) into a tendriculos http://www.iwozhere.com/SRD/images/MM35_PG241.jpg
    grabs someone with his tendril, he’s then allowed to transfer them to his mouth as a free action and bite them automatically, but he hasn’t had his bite attack yet, can he do that too?
    Second round he makes a grapple check to swallow them, then wild shapes into something else. Where does the swallowed person go? Who knows! He picks a Giant Bat thing and then flies across the battlefield, how do AoEs work? He can fly above some of it, but he starts and ends at ground level…
    He then lands next to a wizard and uses his Belt of Battle (with a wilding clasp) to get a full round action, he then wild shapes again into a 12 headed cryohydra (stupid Frostfell with it’s cold wildshape feat, gah) and makes an attack with all 12 of his heads, making grapple attempts with each one (using improved grapple).

    And people say D&D 3.5 was complicated! /end sarcasm

  32. krellen says:

    I wish all instances of grapple could be solved by “the car crashes and explodes”.

  33. Chuk says:

    Grappling is a lot easier in GURPS.

  34. Itse says:

    If you want to play a somewhat detailed turn-based action game where you can fly, shapeshift, swallow enemies, and all that with other characters who propably teleport, climb walls, shoot arrows like Legolas on speed, summon weapons of pure energy that have their own will, turn invisible and occasionally actually punch someone, not to mention the actually weird stuff, what do you expect? It’s what’s so great about D&D, it has rules for thousands kinds of weirdness at very different power levels from grunts to demigods.

    Nowhere does it say that you actually have to use everything you find.

    That said, shapeshifting characters are about the biggest pain in the backside, because basicly you should know everything about every monster in every book that a character can turn into, and you the amount of odd creatures in the monster manuals is pretty staggering. (Or you can just come to your senses and limit it with houserules.)

  35. Jeff says:

    The AoO system has really been improved in its transition to OAs for 4e.
    However, I agree with the earlier poster. I never had a problem with AoOs or Grapple, but I could never remember how to Turn Undead. The new Turn Undead is much better. :)

  36. Mari says:

    I solve most of my D&D issues like AoOs and grapples by ignoring the rules or making up my own (vastly superior, she said modestly). But yeah, turning was a witch in 3.x and I never could convince anybody that my rules for turning were better. So naturally I have one player who always plays a cleric and I’m forced to look it up every blasted time. I suppose I could just stop sticking undead in the game but what’s the point of playing D&D without undead hordes everywhere you turn? ;-)

  37. Squire James says:

    One of my pet peeves was the people who wanted Called Shot systems in my games, and then always chose “head”, “heart”, “eyes”, or some other presumably-lethal location. I kept telling them, “that’s called combat”. I mean, if you’re trying to kill something, you’re obviously already aiming for some lethal location, right? Just roll the darn-blasted d20!

    That being said, I had no objection to called shots to arms to hamper actions, legs to hamper movement, etc. I generally used a “-4 for -2 rule”. Take a -4 to hit, and if you hit the enemy suffers a -2 to something until the end of combat.

  38. Attorney At Chaos says:

    Zaxares said

    “Monk: Hey Cleric, cast Antimagic Field on me.
    (Cleric does so.)
    Monk: DM, I'm charging and Grappling Vlaakith.
    Me: (Realising what the monk has planned) Uh oh…”

    I’m a bit puzzled by this one. Normally you can’t cast Antimagic Field on someone else in 3.5 – it radiates from the caster.

    Of course, to get the same result the cleric could cast Antimagic Field on himself and stand nearby while the monk grappled the opponent. We used that trick with the Power Character Monk I mentioned above.

  39. Derek K. says:

    A@C: Hence the statement that most “issues” are not, seen above. :)

    The problem is that there are levels and levels of rules sanctity, from “whatever makes it go faster ” to “the Word is the Law.”

    Trying to make one game for the whole continuum is gonna make someone upset every time.

    For instance, I see “If you are a DM and a player takes combat reflexes, VETO HIS BUILD.” and say “oh hell no. If you’re going to decide what I can and can’t play based on whether you think I’ll be effective at, you know, KILLING THINGS you can shove right off.” Then people look at me disdainfully and throw out words like “munchkin.”

  40. Kyrionus says:

    @ Attorney At Chaos:
    There’s a metamagic feat somewhere that allows you to cast personal spells as touch spells, or something ridiculous like that, he could use that?

    Or, you know, cheating works too. ;)

  41. K says:

    As for the edition war:

    As soon as you read Polymorph in 1E/2E, it’s over. A single spell to break any game. Free action shapechange into any monster in the book.

  42. roxysteve says:

    Inquisitor:I don't know why grapple rules can't be simple.

    I can sum that up in two words: the players. Once you get grappled with any simple opposed check you start the bargaining phase as the player reels off a list of things he now wants to do to his opponent, each item grumpily replacing a previous rejected idea because the DM has a different version of reality running in his brain than the player does. D&D, always a “table heavy” game from the get-go leads designers to resort to tabular cascades of rules to adjudicate the options.

    I seriously wonder about the mental capacities of people who cannot grasp the AOO rules though. Actually I don’t. They tend to be the same nitwit who yells “I cleave” every time an opponent falls no matter what the tactical situation, and the reason is pretty much what Shamus implies up top: They don’t read the rules. I suspect that the attention span involved doesn’t allow for a paragraph-length rule.Now if you were talking about the ECM rules from Star Fleet Battles, I could understand the confusion, but D20 AOOs? Seriously? And Turning the Undead? Even I know how they work and I’ve never played a Cleric in a D20 game in my life.

    I’m currently involved in a Conan campaign and was subject to a summary ruling on firing into melee a couple of weeks ago. Post game, I found the ruling was not what the rulebook said, which wasn’t a problem for me, but it also invalidated a string of feats, which was. I talked it over with the DM who saw the problem and was happy to use the rulebook version from then on, and who said “Sorry, I screwed up”. I told him he hadn’t, and that if a player couldn’t be bothered to check on how little-used rules that specifically impacted his or her player character worked, the DM shouldn’t be expected to pick up the slack*. It occurs to me that this philosophy works admirably with the grapple or Turning rules of D20.
    * – Unless the DM wants to use them on behalf of NPCs of course.

  43. Andrew says:

    I don’t play DnD any more, just GURPS and WoD so grapple rules are ease for my group.

  44. Ertwin says:

    my dm just simplified the grapple rules to opposed strength checks.

  45. Shao Shei says:

    the thing that never made sense to me about grappling in 3.5 was that the attack of opportunity completely prevents a grapple or bull rush, if it hits.


    so an ogre (one of the few monsters without improved grapple) bearing down on a halfling attempts to scoop him up for some noogies,knock him off his pony, or otherwise bodily collide and engage in some highly imbalanced wrassling is completely stopped in his tracks if the halfling succeeds with his AoO (even if he fails to do damage).

    On a dramatic level, i can see this working occasionally, but really, how does a halfling stop a 600 pound line backer in a full charge on the spot with a dagger, and not at least have to deal with momentum?

  46. Gabe says:

    Shamus, I don’t see any problem with grapple rules. There are a lot of rules, but they are all necessary in certain situations, most of them only in those few situations. Now that I think about it, I have no problem with AoOs either, other than the fact that I often simply forget to use them when I am DMing, especially in conjunction with grapples. Maybe it was just easier for me to learn them at the age of 15, when you can take things in easier.

  47. Kromodor says:

    The post from 2 years later ;)

    Grapple and AoO were not tough rules. They were just explained badly. The Sage and the articles gave it way more clear. As it should be in first place.

    Problem with Grapple was that it was unbalanced and had poor integration wit the rest of the rules. A lot of “if’s” were in the place. Pathfinder does good job at unifying those rules.

    AoO’s were a system penalty for ‘exposing your guard’. They work pretty well if you ask me. The problem was with the free 5 ft rule, which lead to a lot of abuses. Unless you ‘ready action-ed’ counter 5ft step, AoO were useless 90% of the time (except in other situations).

    The major problem I see with people complaining of DnD is – the wrong system.

    Guys, there are hundreds of systems out there – from the most abstract and simple, like 5×5 to uber detailed like Riddles of Steel.

    Just pick and try a new system. No need in masochists attempts. I like complex systems, where I know actions are well balanced and support heavy meta-game and character builds. Other like exactly the opposite – single check systems with max 5 modifiers.

  48. WarbrightMD says:

    I concur with Chuk. It was so easy and effective that it lead to some pretty undramatic victories in the most awesome rpg campaign I’ve ever been a part of. (I know I ended that with a preposition, but thats totally cool in the midwest. You can trust me this on.)

    For example, we corner a sort of demonic creature (no idea what it was, it was a low fantasy campaign where monster were rare and odd) and it leaps and flys around kicking our butts. So my character grabs it, and then so does one of the other players, we successfully pin it, the third character cuts its throat. Yep…glorious victory.

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