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Grappled in 5e – A Fun and Useful Mechanic in DND

The official description of grappled is as follows: (Source – Roll20)

  • A grappled creature’s speed becomes 0, and it cannot benefit from any bonus to its speed
    • Author’s note for clarification on what this means: Prevents flying, swimming, burrowing, crawling, climbing, standing up from prone.
    • If you are currently flying when the grappling condition is applied, you begin to fall.
  • The condition ends if the grappler becomes incapacitated
  • The condition also ends if an effect removes the grappled creature from the reach of the grappler or grappling effect. Example: Telekinetic Shove pushing A grappled person or the grappler out of range.

Traditional Causes of Grappled:

Grappling is one of the simplest conditions to inflict and understand. There is really only three things you need to know to be able to grapple:

  1. Whenever you go to make a melee attack, you can choose to use one of your actions to instead grapple them. (full actions, not bonus.)
  2. You need at least one free hand available to do the grappling.
  3. You can’t grapple somebody 2 sizes larger than yourself
    • Example, a Halfling can’t grapple a Ogre, which is a large creature, since it’s size is small. But a Human can, because their size is medium.

Spells that Grapple

  • Bigby’s Hand (5th level) {Grasping Hand} [Player’s Handbook Pg 218]
    • Allows you to grapple up to Huge Sized creatures

Restrictions while Grappling

Moving a Grappled Creature Rules 5e
PHB Pg 195

If you are the grappler, you still have the ability to move, and can drag or carry your grappled creature half your movement speed in distance. This movement speed restriction is lifted if the creature you are grappling is two or more sizes smaller than you are. (Source: Player’s Handbook Pg 195)

However, you cannot use any action that requires the use of your free hand that you used to initiate the grapple, to begin with.

How Grappled Can Be Used for Storytelling:

One of the most common uses of grappling for storytelling is to act as a medium to kidnap a player or an NPC that the party cares about. Repeated failures against the attempt to break out of it can be flavored in such a way that you eventually lose consciousness – you aren’t actually taking damage, but it’s a sleeper hold, essentially.

This is a great use for storytelling and will drive a party to act in a certain way. In other words, it is a great tool for trying to get the party back on track that decided to go off to find a home for their adopted goblin, or whatever the case may be. The perpetrator could simply not like goblins as a motive for the kidnapping. Just expect a not-so-pleasant end for the perp once the party catches up with them.

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What Counters Grappled?

Counters to Grappled
Pushing the grappler away works.

There are a few ways that you can counter the grappled condition. The first is by using an action to roll an Athletics or Acrobatics check. Additionally, the grappled condition doesn’t actually prevent you from being able to cast spells, so you can also cast a number of spells that can blow the grappler away from you.

The final way is that one of your teammates can incapacitate, or diplomatically convince the grappler to release you, provided they have the intelligence and capability of understanding a spoken language, and cares enough to listen.

Player Actions

  • A 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. [Choose Either one]

External Influence

  • The Grappler gets incapacitated
  • The The Grappler is shoved 5 feet out of the range of their grappled target by another.


Noteworthy Things

  • If you are grappling a creature one size larger than yourself, they automatically succeed checks to escape your grapple, unless you pick up the Grappler Feat.
  • The Tavern Brawler Feat allows you to use a bonus action to attempt to grapple a target.

How Bad is the Grappled Condition?

In certain situations, the grappled condition can be very bad. For example, if you are fighting near a cliff, or on a boat, a grappler can drag you to the edge and shove you off the side into the ocean, or ground below. It goes without saying that either of those situations is not good for your well-being.

However, in most cases, conditions for lethal use of grappling aren’t very common, so at most, it is just a hindrance. It is commonly used by DM’s to act as a method of kidnapping a party member (Grapple, then restrain) or NPC the party cares about and often inspires violent tendencies in a party. Be prepared for a gruesome scene to play out once they finally catch up.

Devon Kubacki

Devon Kubacki

Hi there, I'm Devon, nice to meet you! I am the founder of Notes of Yore, and I'm an avid fan of tabletop games, particularly Dungeons and Dragons. I've been playing for just under two years now, and can say that I am hooked...or rather grappled by it. I hope you find my work here on NoYo helpful, and thank you for reading!View Author posts

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