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    Thurbane's Avatar

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    Default [3.5] Monsters and grappling

    I've been DMing a campaign for the better part of the last year, and the adventure I'm using has quite a number of monsters that grapple as part of their tactics.

    However, what I'm finding is that when a monster grapples, it loses DEX and AoO, which means the rest of the party step up and beat it senseless. Sure, for monsters who get a bucketload of speacial damage on a grapple (i.e. Behirs) it's worthwhile, but so far I've grappled with a Chilcera and Shadow Demon (among others), and found that the monster just ends up getting curbstomped before it can inflict serious damage on it's victim. I suspect a large part of it is that I have a 6 player party, with 3 solid melee types (Barbarian, Duskblade and Charging Smite Paladin/KoTR), and the encounters have been outnumbered by the party.

    So how about it? Am I doing it wrong? Is there tips to making monsters grapple more effectively? Is it only worthwhile for creatures with really nasty abilities they can use in a grapple?

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    Default Re: [3.5] Monsters and grappling

    From Improved Grab:
    "Unless otherwise noted, improved grab works only against opponents at least one size category smaller than the creature. The creature has the option to conduct the grapple normally, or simply use the part of its body it used in the improved grab to hold the opponent. If it chooses to do the latter, it takes a -20 penalty on grapple checks, but is not considered grappled itself; the creature does not lose its Dexterity bonus to AC, still threatens an area, and can use its remaining attacks against other opponents."

    If its grapple check is considerably higher than its opponent's, it should conduct the grapple at a -20 so it's not considered to be grappled itself. Its opponent cannot take any special grapple actions, because he doesn't have the monster grappled, but he is still in the monster's grips and subject to its special grapple-based attacks.

    There's a feat in the Draconomicon called Multisnatch that reduces that penalty to a -10, which makes it extremely good for monsters who have a high grapple bonus and improved grab on multiple different natural weapons.

    Edit: Also note that if it attacks the grabbed opponent with a different weapon than the one holding it, it would be considered an attack from outside the grapple and the grabbed opponent would lose his Dex bonus to AC against it.
    Last edited by Biffoniacus_Furiou; 2011-02-06 at 08:45 PM.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: [3.5] Monsters and grappling

    Grappling is, quite simply, a helmet-wearingly retarded tactic if you're out-numbered. Your enemies will mince you and there won't be anything you can do about it because you've hindered yourself as much as you've hindered your enemy.

    Unless a monster has special rules regarding its abilities in a grapple, it's better off staying mobile.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Monsters and grappling

    @ Biffoniacus_Furiou

    Good advice - unfortuntely, though, none of the monsters had a good enough grapple mod to make a -20 check worth it. Good to know about the Multisnatch feat, though.
    Quote Originally Posted by Kuma Kode View Post
    Grappling is, quite simply, a helmet-wearingly retarded tactic if you're out-numbered. Your enemies will mince you and there won't be anything you can do about it because you've hindered yourself as much as you've hindered your enemy.

    Unless a monster has special rules regarding its abilities in a grapple, it's better off staying mobile.
    Yeah, pretty much what I figured. The monsters I grappled with did have special grapple based attacks, but the payoff just wasn't worth it.

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    Titan in the Playground
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    Default Re: [3.5] Monsters and grappling

    If a monster can fly, it should try to carry away its victim. I don't even think you need to make a grapple check to do that, just check its encumbrance against the victim's total weight. Grappling doesn't prevent it from using its wings after all, and if it can use magical flight or Levitate then that's just as good.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Monsters and grappling

    You'd still have to make a Grapple check to move the grapple, and if your fly speed isn't good enough, have to do so every round or you stall, and hit the ground. Of course, that leads to amusing half-hops and regular falling damage, which amuses me anyway.
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    Default Re: [3.5] Monsters and grappling

    Grappling is definitely not a good idea if the entire party is free to just gang up on it. Ideally, the party should be busy with stuff on one side of them while something sneaks up and grapples a weaker PC from the other side. Or grapple anyone foolish enough to charge past the monsters and isolate themselves. Either way, when the enemy tanks are gone the grappling monster should probably try to flee (or at least stop grappling) and probably try to take a hostage along for the ride.
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    Default Re: [3.5] Monsters and grappling

    Stupid Grappling Trick, assuming your monster is at least BAB +6 (and so gets 2 grapple actions) and has Constrict, which most grapple specialist monsters do:

    Make the initial grapple. As part of this process, Constrict, because you have to make a grapple check. Now, for your second grapple action- attempt to Escape From The Grapple. When you succeed that opposed grapple check, you Constrict again, along with anything else the particular monster may do on a successful grapple. Now your monster has taken its target, done its damage, and is not in a grapple. Repeat until you run out of BAB/natural weapons with Improved Grab.

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    ElfRangerGuy

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    Default Re: [3.5] Monsters and grappling

    Quote Originally Posted by tyckspoon View Post
    Stupid Grappling Trick, assuming your monster is at least BAB +6 (and so gets 2 grapple actions) and has Constrict, which most grapple specialist monsters do:

    Make the initial grapple. As part of this process, Constrict, because you have to make a grapple check. Now, for your second grapple action- attempt to Escape From The Grapple. When you succeed that opposed grapple check, you Constrict again, along with anything else the particular monster may do on a successful grapple. Now your monster has taken its target, done its damage, and is not in a grapple. Repeat until you run out of BAB/natural weapons with Improved Grab.
    I'm not going to question the RAW legality of that maneuver. I'm only going to point out that using a constrict ability while attempting to escape the grapple makes no sense.
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    Default Re: [3.5] Monsters and grappling

    Well, yeah. I did say it was a Stupid Trick. And I wouldn't suggest it, except that 'voluntarily quit grappling' doesn't actually seem to be an option- you can only do that if you pin the dude first (although that works too, since releasing from a pin is a free action- you can go Start Grapple+Constrict ->Attempt Pin+Constrict->let target go from Pin, GOTO 1.)

    Edit: Mind, a lot of grapple monsters are not especially smart and should not be attempting these kinds of shenanigans, as they require an unusual awareness of the vulnerabilities you create for yourself when you grapple something else.
    Last edited by tyckspoon; 2011-02-06 at 11:07 PM.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Monsters and grappling

    My party recently fought purple worms and a shadow spider, and yeah, their grapple abilities work well enough with a -20 penalty that it's worthwhile. Unless their target is an enlarged CoDzilla/psychic warrior, there's no chance of winning against their massive grapple mods. Size is a big part of it (especially since that also determines what the monster can swallow). Since there are more humongous creatures in the upper CRs, you're likely to find grappling to be more and more effective against the party (or at least make them more and more paranoid about keeping freedom of movement running).

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    Default Re: [3.5] Monsters and grappling


    CONSTRICT DOESN'T WORK THAT WAY!
    Quote Originally Posted by Rules Compendium
    Constrict
    A creature that has this extraordinary special attack can crush
    an opponent, dealing bludgeoning damage, after making
    a successful grapple check to deal damage. The amount of
    damage is given in the creature’s entry. If the creature also
    has the improved grab ability, it deals damage from the
    constrict attack in addition to damage dealt by the weapon
    used to grab.
    Hit with improved grab natural weapon, succeed at improved grab grapple check, deal constrict damage. Spend an action in combat to damage your opponent, deal natural weapon damage with what you used to improved grab them, plus constrict damage. These are the only successful grapple checks which deal constrict damage, it does not occur on every_single_check you beat your opponent on.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Monsters and grappling

    Quote Originally Posted by Biffoniacus_Furiou View Post
    Hit with improved grab natural weapon, succeed at improved grab grapple check, deal constrict damage. Spend an action in combat to damage your opponent, deal natural weapon damage with what you used to improved grab them, plus constrict damage. These are the only successful grapple checks which deal constrict damage, it does not occur on every_single_check you beat your opponent on.
    While that does make more sense, I hate having to refer to the Rules Compendium for things. Errata that you have to pay for completely destroys the purpose of errata. Which is to say, Constrict *did* work that way, and does work that way if you don't have a copy of the Rules Compendium in play.
    Last edited by tyckspoon; 2011-02-06 at 11:21 PM.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Monsters and grappling

    Note however that making a grapple check to damage an opponent, whether with a natural weapon or with unarmed strike damage, is considered melee damage.

    Power Attack takes a penalty on attack rolls to gain a bonus on melee damage rolls. You can Power Attack for your full BAB, then make grapple checks (which aren't attack rolls) to damage your opponent, and benefit from the Power Attack bonus damage. The Frost Giant Mauler in Frostburn is designed around doing this exact trick, although WotC has officially stated that something-for-nothing tricks like this should not be permitted.

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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: [3.5] Monsters and grappling

    It's also amusing to utilize the Fling Enemy feat from Races of Stone. If your monster is getting annoyed by one of the players initiate your grapple and do your damage, then next round toss him off a cliff or something.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Monsters and grappling

    Quote Originally Posted by Waker View Post
    It's also amusing to utilize the Fling Enemy feat from Races of Stone. If your monster is getting annoyed by one of the players initiate your grapple and do your damage, then next round toss him off a cliff or something.
    Horribly inefficient. Rather than blow a feat on Fling Enemy, just grapple, and assuming your opponent's weight is under your Max Press, just throw them as an improvised weapon on your next iterative attack. It's not like you care whether the -4 nonproficieny penalty causes you to miss... it's not that hard to hit a square, anyway.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Monsters and grappling

    Quote Originally Posted by Darrin View Post
    Horribly inefficient. Rather than blow a feat on Fling Enemy, just grapple, and assuming your opponent's weight is under your Max Press, just throw them as an improvised weapon on your next iterative attack. It's not like you care whether the -4 nonproficieny penalty causes you to miss... it's not that hard to hit a square, anyway.
    Just make sure you don't fumble, no one wants to die like that.
    Or is it only the Drunken Master that break improvised weapons on a '1'?

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    Default Re: [3.5] Monsters and grappling

    Grapple would be a good way for a creature with multiple natural attacks to quickly and efficiently disable 1-2 PCs. For example, a dragon can snatch a PC in its jaws and hold him there, while possibly constricting another PC with its tail, leaving it free to still rend another player with its claws+rapidstrike routine. With its high bab, large size and superior strength, it can easily take the -20 grapple penalty.
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    AssassinGuy

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    Default Re: [3.5] Monsters and grappling

    There's a straightforward solution here: grapple all the PCs. Use more grappling enemies, or enemies capable of getting multiple PCs into the grapple, or some combination.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Monsters and grappling

    Quote Originally Posted by Curmudgeon View Post
    There's a straightforward solution here: grapple all the PCs. Use more grappling enemies, or enemies capable of getting multiple PCs into the grapple, or some combination.
    A Hydra with Snatch, Improved Snatch, and Multisnatch is awesome for this.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Monsters and grappling

    OK...seems most of my problems come from 2 issues: the party outnumbering the monsters in the encounters, and the monsters in the module not being particularly great grapplers.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Monsters and grappling

    Yeah, if the monster isn't great at grappling, just run it differently. We've encountered this too in a few situations. A large monster will grab someone, and we all promptly beat it into submission. The DM has since stopped trying to grapple us with anything but the nastiest of grapplers.
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    Default Re: [3.5] Monsters and grappling

    Quote Originally Posted by tyckspoon View Post
    Stupid Grappling Trick, assuming your monster is at least BAB +6 (and so gets 2 grapple actions) and has Constrict, which most grapple specialist monsters do:

    Make the initial grapple. As part of this process, Constrict, because you have to make a grapple check. Now, for your second grapple action- attempt to Escape From The Grapple. When you succeed that opposed grapple check, you Constrict again, along with anything else the particular monster may do on a successful grapple. Now your monster has taken its target, done its damage, and is not in a grapple. Repeat until you run out of BAB/natural weapons with Improved Grab.
    That would be neat with several of That Damned Crab which have each been advanced by 1 HD to get a BAB of 6.
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