Slinging a fireball or swinging a sword at an oncoming monster is all very well and good, but sometimes you’d rather get up close and personal. When you need your DnD character to restrain an owlbear or are itching to put a beholder in a bear hug, the move you’re looking for is the 5e grapple.
Your common, everyday grapple in 5e is a type of attack move that deals no damage, but when successful it prevents an enemy from moving around. They now have the grappled condition, essentially removing their speed. Grappling can therefore be super useful in a number of D&D scenarios, from catching a fleeing Rogue, to preventing a minion from performing a detrimental action like sounding an alarm, or activating the snake pit trapdoor.
You don’t need pages upon pages to understand grappling because the grapple 5e rules are far simpler than the ones you’d find in previous editions of the game. That said, grappling is still one of the more niche combat moves. If you’re looking for a recap, here’s everything you need to know about how to grapple in D&D 5e. We’ll have you all filled in and ready to rumble in a jiffy.
Grapple 5e rules
When you attempt to grapple, you’re taking a special kind of melee attack action. The rules are very similar to those used when trying to shove an enemy prone. You can only target creatures up to one size larger than you, and instead of an attack roll, you make a strength check contested by your target’s strength or dexterity stats.
Once you’re grappling a creature, they have the grappled condition (makes sense) which means their speed goes to zero, and they can’t move. They can still attack you though, so you may want to be careful who or what you grapple with. Before trying to force a dangerous monster into a headlock with a grapple, consider finding a way to restrain your foe, or just running away.
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A creature can attempt to escape a grapple and end the grappled condition by using up their action. Essentially when doing this, the original grapple check is rolled again – the grapple-ee tests their strength or dexterity against the strength of the grappler.
You might think that with an enemy held in place, it’d be easier to hit them, but in fact you and the rest of your party don’t normally get any bonus to attacks made against a grappled foe. (Unless you knock them prone, which is a great idea as they’ll then have to break the grapple before they can stand back up.)
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However, there are also few downsides to the DnD 5e grapple. You can still attack or cast spells as normal with an opponent grappled – in fact you can pretty much take any action that doesn’t require two hands. You can also still move around while keeping hold of your grappled target. However, lugging a struggling bad guy around the battlefield isn’t easy, so your speed will be halved unless you’re two sizes (or more) bigger than the guy you’re holding onto.
Grappler 5e feat
If grappling is something you’re super keen on, it could be worth taking the Grappler feat. The only prerequisite for this feat is that you have a strength stat of at least 13. While Grappler is certainly not among the best 5e feats, it still has its uses.
Basically the Grappler feat means you have advantage against your grappled foe. Grappler also gives you the chance to pin a creature you have grappled, giving both you and it the restrained condition.
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But, unfortunately, that latter move probably isn’t worth doing most of the time, unless you don’t mind dramatically lowering your own damage output to give your party a chance to wail on a guy. If you’re really trying to go for a highly optimised D&D character build, it’s probably not worth taking Grappler over an ability score increase. But it could be fun on a character who’s like… a pro wrestler or something.