February 2008

"She's beautiful, and therefore to be woo'd;
She is a woman, and therefore to be won."

- Suffolk, Henry VI Part 1

February 13th, 2008


I should have posted this last week, but Theatre in the Round's production of Henry V, in which I portray the Constable of France, opened on the 8th. It runs through March 2nd.

You should come and see it. One out of two parents and all of my girlfriends think my performance is amazing. (The other parent is coming next weekend. I'm pretty confident he'll like me, too.)

If you're looking for slightly less biased reviews, you can find them at the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press. (But they don't mention me at all, so I dunno how much faith you should put in such rags.)

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February 16th, 2008


DM: With a leering grin, the orc turns towards Eldath the Arcane!

Peter: Shit! That axe will kill me quicker than spit!

Bob: I grab him!

Peter: NO!

Bob: What's wrong? You want to stop the orc, right?

DM: Okay, what page were the grappling rules on, again?

What do you call a rule that people don't use because it's too much hassle to use it?


Which is the fate of the grappling rules in many, many gaming tables. Action movies are full of heroes and villains grabbing each other, throwing each other around, and generally wrestling of all kinds. When we see Indiana Jones grab a Nazi and throw him off a zeppelin we cheer. But if Bob's character tries to leap on the back of the dragon and hurl the dragonrider to the ground, we cringe at the thought of looking up all those rules.

What's the problem here? Why are so many people leery of the grappling rules?

The rules for actually initiating a grapple are relatively simply (being largely similar to the rules for bull rushing, disarming, and the like). The problem is that, once you're in a grapple, there's a whole slew of new rules to determine what you can and cannot do in the grapple.

If you look at any one of these rules, you can easily see the logic of why the rule works that way. But the system, as a whole, doesn't follow any kind of consistent pattern: You can't just take what you know about Action A in normal combat, apply the "when in grappling" rule, and know what happens when you attempt Action A while grappling.

Sometimes you can't attempt the action. Sometimes you have to make an opposed grapple check in addition to the normal check. Sometimes you make an opposed grapple check instead of the normal check. Sometimes the scope of the action is limited (attack, but only with a light weapon; cast a spell, but only if the action is no more than 1 standard action). Sometimes the rules aren't changed at all.

And then, on top of all that, there's pinning... which introduces a completely different set of conditional rules. These aren't as complicated as the rules in a non-pinned grapple, but they're kind of a cherry on top of it all.

The net result of all this is to, effectively, double the complexity of the combat system. It's essentially a completely new combat system which is just similar enough to the combat system you already know to add a little extra confusion to the mix.

This set of optional rules tries to fix that problem by applying a simple, consistent rule to actions attempted in grappling. You'll find that, despite the streamlining to make them easy-to-use, they play very similarly to the existing rules for grappling.


GRAB: A character can attempt to grab another character by making a successful melee touch attack. This provokes an attack of opportunity from the target. If the attack of opportunity deals damage, the grappling attempt fails.

STARTING A GRAPPLE: Once they have grabbed an opponent, a character can immediately attempt to start a grapple by taking a free action and making an opposed grapple check. If the character fails, their grab is broken and the attempt fails. If the character succeeds, they move into their opponent's space and begin grappling.


  • Characters in a grapple do not threaten opponents they are not grappling.

  • Characters in a grapple lose their Dexterity bonus to AC (if any) against opponents they are not grappling.

  • When attempting any action, a character in a grapple must first succeed at an opposed grapple check against everyone else in the grapple. This check is a free action. Opposing characters can choose to automatically fail their checks. (Note: When making a full attack you must make an opposed grapple check before each attack.)

ESCAPING A GRAPPLE: Escaping a grapple requires an attack action. As with any action in a grapple, the character must succeed at an opposed grapple check against everyone in the grapple.

MULTIPLE GRAPPLERS: Up to five combatants of the same size can grapple each other at the same time. Creatures smaller than the largest creature involved in the grapple count for half.


A character in a grapple can attempt to pin their opponent for 1 round by making an opposed grapple check as an attack action. If the check is successful, the opponent cannot take any action except trying to escape the pin (by making an opposed grapple check as an attack action).

A character performing a pin can take additional actions normally (although they are considered to be in a grapple and must succeed at an opposed grapple check).

The character performing a pin can release it as a free action.


When initiating a grapple, a character can attempt to grab an opponent without holding them. They (but not the opponent they are grabbing) are considered to be grappled: They do not threaten other opponents, gain no Dexterity bonus to AC against opponents they are not grabbing, and can't move normally.

Each round, the character performing the grab must either release the grab (as a free action), use an attack action and make an opposed grapple check to maintain the grab, or use an attack action and an opposed grapple check to initiate a grapple.

Characters being grabbed can attempt to break the grab by making an opposed grapple check as an attack action. If the character being grabbed moves, they must carry the character grabbing them.

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