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D&D 5E The Grappler's Manual (2.0) - Grappling in 5th Edition


First Post

~The Grappler's Manual~

Taking 5th Edition Combat to the Ground (2.0)

It's hard to cast a spell when you are pinned to the ground in a zone of Silence. Good luck to any mobile, dual-wielding assassins when they are held in place by their collars. And even the toughest great-sword wielder might as well just be packing a dagger when he's dragged to the ground with a Grizzly Bear on top of him. The D&D 5.0 grappling mechanic lets you do all that and more, denying your opponent's their strengths, controlling the battlefield, and generally exerting your will over any enemy you meet. Both from a rules perspective (grappling acts on an axis that most enemies are unprepared for) and a flavor one (ever wanted to put a Dragon in a chokehold?), grappling is one of the most interesting and useful mechanics in the core rulebook. This guide will teach you how to grapple in D&D, how to build your character, and how to get the most out of different grappler optimizations.

If you doubt the power of grappling, you are going to feel like everyone not named Royce Gracie at UFC 1. If you're already a believer, this guide will give you new tips and tricks on how to bring your favorite mechanic into your games. The goal of this guide is simple: To get you to love grappling, and to get your DM and his monsters to hate it.

NOTE: This guide originally appeared on the Wizards Community forums, but was migrated over to EN World and updated in September 2015.

  1. Why Grappling?
  2. Grappling Rules
  3. Wrestling Races
  4. Class Overview
  5. Feats
  6. Magic and Spells: Cantrips - Level 3
  7. Magic and Spells: Level 4 - Level 9
  8. The Dojo: Grappling Tactics
  9. Build 1: Herculean Wrestler (Fighter/Rogue/Wizard)
  10. Build 2: The Mage Slayer (Bard/Fighter)
  11. Build 3: Grizzlyman - (Druid/Barbarian/Rogue)
  12. Build 4: BJJ Master - Battlefield Jujitsu - (Monk/Rogue/Fighter)
When rating different class features, races, mechanics, etc., I will use the following color coding system.

  • Gold: Mandatory. It's a rare rating that denotes something that is so good that you must take it, or you can't call yourself optimized.
  • Green: Conditional choice. In the right build, or if you build around it, it can be incredibly strong. Otherwise, best to stay away from it.
  • Sky Blue: A fantastic choice. An option you should strongly consider above most others.
  • Blue: A good choice. It definitely helps your character in the majority of cases.
  • Black: Solidly average. You're not hurting your character by taking this, and it might even help in some situations, but there are better choices.
  • Purple: A substandard choice. It might be useful in corner-case situations, but overall it's not worth the investment.
  • Red: Red is dead. A trap that you will want to avoid at all costs, either because it's ineffective or because it's thoroughly outclassed by another option that accomplishes something similar.
[anchor="whygrappling"]1. [/anchor]Why grappling?
Ever wanted to armlock an ogre? Drag that cowardly, bow-sniping Ranger over a cliff? Hold down two orcs while kicking the third? Grappling can help you do all this and more.

Why grapple? Easy; Grappling is mechanically unfair. To start, most enemies in D&D derive their strengths from unrestricted movement, free reign to cast spells, ability to target certain PCs in the party, high ACs, etc. All this is totally shut down by a good grappler. Although it looks like an innocuous condition, being "Grappled" (and/or Prone/Restrained on top of that) is a serious hindrance for most enemies. If you can impose these conditions at will, you will dominate the battlefield.

When thinking about mechanics, I like to think about their axis of interaction. Attack rolls are opposed by AC. Spells are opposed by saving throws. High damage is opposed by high HP. Looking over the Monster Manual, most enemies are generally well prepared to fight attack rolls/spells/damage, by virtue of high AC, high saves, and/or high HP. Not every monster has those traits (bless your soul, little goblin), but over the course of your travels, you will often encounter monsters that directly counter these angles of interaction.

Then there's grappling. Grappling is a skill contest (not an attack roll!) based on the Athletics skill. Most monsters, even those with high strength scores, have the Athletics/Acrobatics checks of a 1st level commoner. Sure, you will fight monsters that can't get grappled (Ghosts...why did it have to be ghosts...), but the vast majority of monsters will be crying uncle against a good grappler. That lets you dictate how the enemy moves, who they attack, how they take hits, etc. That is a degree of battlefield control most classes can't boast.

Overall, here are the pros and cons of grappling in 5.0.

Grappling Strengths
  • Very hard to interact with. Most monsters are about as good at Athletics/Acrobatics as a first level character.
  • Negates mobility. It's amazing how many opponents rely on movement and how many can't do anything once that speed hits 0.
  • Makes monsters easier for your party to hit. Grapple them, knock them prone, don't let them stand up, don't let the run around: it's "I hold, you punch" at its finest.
  • Cripples offensive capabilities. Grappled monsters already don't get free reign to choose targets or use their weapons. Now give them disadvantage on top of that, or even take their weapons away.
  • Combo potential; Grapple a spellcaster in a zone of Silence and no one will hear him tap. Hold two guys in place while your Wizard rains Fireball on their heads. Plant the badguy on the ground as your rogue stabs away. Jump out of a window while holding your targets. The possibilities are endless!
Grappling Weaknesses
  • Weak against large numbers of opponents. As in real life (for those martial artists in the audience), grappling is not particularly effective against multiple attackers. You can only meaningfully engage with as many attackers as you have hands, which is often just going to be two.
  • Relatively low damage. Most grappling builds don't deal too much damage on their own, and will have to rely on either allies for massive damage output.
  • Low mobility. You will often find yourself in situations where you can't dart around the battlefield without releasing your grappled targets back into the fight. This can be a problem in chaotic battles.
  • When you get shut down, you get shut down HARD. Come up against a monster that's immune to shove and grapple? Have fun poking him for the rest of the encounter. Run into that one spellcaster who pre-cast Freedom of Movement? Better hope someone has Dispel Magic. Dragon won't land from the sky? Grow wings or throw insults at him.
  • Not for the faint of heart: Don't all guides have some ridiculous weakness like this? Seriously though; if you don't want to get in the face of something two size categories larger than you, a frenzied enemy with a greatsword, or a wizard casting damage-maximized evocation spells, this isn't the class for you.
[anchor="rules"]2. [/anchor]Grappling Rules
Before we can start bringing our jujitsu to the battlefield, we need to know exactly how D&D 5.0 grappling works. Ever since I started playing in 3rd Edition, grappling has always been regarded as one of the most complicated and unintuitive mechanics in the game. Thankfully, 5.0 has done a great job at cleaning up the old issues with the rules, while still preserving a lot of its power level.

Let's start with the basics: What exactly is a grapple? (The complete grappling rules can be found on page 195 of the PHB). Here's the rule broken down into steps, with quotes pulled out where needed.

  1. Grappling is a "special melee attack".
  2. To grapple a target, you must "use the Attack action" to then make your special melee attack (the grapple).
    • From an RAW perspective, the "Multiattack" ability of monsters cannot enable multiple grapples because it is its own action type.
    • If you have multiple attacks for the Attack action, you can replace as many of them as you want with grapple checks.
    • You cannot replace bonus action attacks (e.g. from the Monk or a Barbarian's Frenzy) with grapples.
  3. A grapple check is an Ability check contested by a target's ability check. It is NOT an attack roll!
  4. Your grapple target "must be no more than one size larger than you". It must also be within your reach.
  5. You need at least one free hand to initiate a grapple.
  6. If you or your target are subject to any involuntary movement, the grapple ends immediately.
  7. Unlike in previous D&D editions, there is no penalty for grappling multiple targets. You can grapple as many targets as you have hands (typically two).
The biggest thing to remember is that grapple checks are not attack rolls. Repeat after me: Grappling is NOT an attack roll. So stuff like True Strike or the Barbarian's Reckless Attack feature will not give you advantage on the roll (because, remember, it is not an attack roll). But grappling IS an ability check, so it interacts with all sorts of effects and features that function on ability checks (e.g. the Enhance Ability spell).

Enough basics. Time to start wrestling.

  1. Start by using your Attack action to make a grapple check. If you have "multiple attacks with the Attack action, this attack replaces one of them."
  2. Make a grapple check, a Strength (Athletics) check, as contested by the target's Strength (Athletics) OR Dexterity (Acrobatics) check. They get to choose what they contest with.
  3. If you fail the ability check contest, nothing happens. There are no consequences for you or your target for failing a grapple check.
    • If you have multiple attacks using the Attack action, commonly from the Extra Attack class feature, you can replace another one with another grapple check.
  4. If you succeed at an ability check contest, the target is instantly subjected to the grappled condition.
    • You do not move into the target's square: both of you stay right where you were when you started the grapple.
The important point to remember here is that grappling replaces an attack as part of your attack action. Because it uses the attack action, you ordinarily won't be able to use it as part of a reaction. You also won't be able to grapple if you used that action to do something else, like cast a spell. This shouldn't come up a lot because if you are doing stuff other than grappling, you aren't doing your job.

  1. While grappled, the grappled creature has the "Grappled" condition (PHB 290).
  2. The grappler himself does NOT have the grappled condition.
  3. As a result of the grappled condition, the target's movement speed drops to 0. It also "can't benefit from any bonus to its speed" during that time.
  4. "A grappled creature can use its action to escape". This will require them to make a Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check as contested by your own Strength (Athletics) check.
    • If they succeed, they are immediately free of the grapple, but they have used their action.
    • If they fail, they are still grappled and have still used their action.
  5. If a grappled creature does not try to escape, you automatically maintain the grapple from turn to turn.
  6. Because escaping isn't very action-efficient, some opponents might try to shove you instead (remember that shove replaces Extra Attacks). This forced movement would also break the grapple. Indeed, any involuntary movement on either of your parts would break it.
  7. A grappled creature can also grapple the grappler himself! This will set both grapplers' speeds at 0 and neither will be able to move.
This is where the 5.0 rules really start to deviate from earlier editions. The grappler isn't grappled himself, and you can move the creature with no check. Unfortunately, you can't pin the target as per 3.0/3.5 rules (at least, not without a sub optimal feat we will discuss later), but we'll discuss other options for the grapple initiator.

As they say in the grappling arts, this style of fighting is all about position before submission. Up until now, we've been setting up our position. Now it's time for the submissions.

  1. Move an opponent. You can move grappled creatures without any check. When you use your movement, they will simply be dragged with you, but your speed will be halved (unless the target is 2 or more sizes smaller than you).
  2. Keep an opponent in place. If you don't move, they don't move either.
  3. Attack with a weapon. You can make an attack roll with any weapon in your free hand. It's a normal attack roll, except your target is subjected to the grappled condition (so they couldn't use the Dodge action, amongst other penalties).
  4. Attack with an unarmed strike: If you don't have a weapon in your free hand, or you don't have a free hand, you can punch/kick/headbutt instead.
  5. Cast a spell: Unlike with previous editions, you CAN cast a spell while grappling a single target. If you don't have a free hand, however, you won't be able to cast spells with somatic components, or many material components.
  6. Release an opponent: At any time, you can always let go of your target.
In the 3.5 rules, the grappling section listed all the things you could do while grappling. Because 5.0 simplified this system, it doesn't explicitly list all those options. Don't worry: they are still all RAW and all available to you from level 1 onward. Some feats and class features might give you better options, as will some of the "Black Belt" techniques below, but these are good places to start on your grappling journey. These mechanics are also at play in the more advanced grappling techniques, so you need to know them before you can do more complicated/fun combat sequences.

Speaking of fun combat sequences..

  1. Shove an opponent prone: Using the "shove" special melee attack, you can add the "Prone" condition to your enemy. Just make another Strength (Athletics) contest as opposed by their Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check. If they fail, they are now also prone and STILL grappled. That's a huge problem for most opponents because standing up from prone costs movement, and grappled sets their movement to 0.
    • While Prone (PHB 292), an opponent suffers disadvantage on attack rolls, and all attack rolls against the creature have advantage if the attacker is within 5 feet. This includes your attacks. All attack rolls made from further away have disadvantage.
    • Normally, the prone creature can just stand for half their movement, but if they are grappled, their speed is set to 0. Prone explicitly states that creatures with 0 speed can't stand, which means they are stuck in that position.
    • IMPORTANT: Shoving + Grappling is one of the best things you can do as a grappler, so make sure you are using it frequently.
  2. Shove an opponent away: You can also use the shove option to move someone 5 feet. Very useful if you grapple them over to an edge or some other hazard and then just push them over/in. Note that this will automatically end the grapple.
  3. Grapple someone else! As long as you have at least one free hand, you can initiate another grapple. So go find another enemy and repeat the whole process from step 1.
    • Once the second enemy is grappled, you won't be able to do actions that require a free hand.
    • Thankfully, you WILL be able to knock either of them prone; shoving does not require a free hand.
There are endless combinations of these more advanced and creative grappling techniques, but these are my favorite. The first option, shoving an enemy prone, is easily the most important grappling combination you can execute, and also one of the most powerful. Shoving uses the exact same modifiers and bonuses as the grapple check (Athletics), so you are already positioned to use it. This shoving/grappling combo comes up in almost every good grappling build I know of, and it's the main reason grapplers are so valuable in combat.

While talking about dragging prone opponents in the comments, an interesting point on encumbrance came up. Although moving a prone creature while grappling them is totally RAW, there are also some RAW entries on dragging, lifting, carrying capacity, and encumbrance we need to account for. Here are the most important rules in that category:

  1. While prone, a creatures move speed is 0. This suggests that they are unable to move themselves even though you can move them.
  2. More importantly, under the "Moving a Grappled Creature" subsection, the PHB states "you can drag or carry a grappled creature with you" (PHB, 195). This suggests you need to account for the rules on "Lifting and Carrying" and the "Push, Drag, or Lift" options when moving grappled opponents (PHB, 176).
  3. If these "Lifting and Carrying" rules are at play, grapplers moving a prone creature have additional limitations.
    • Your "carrying capacity" is equal to your Strength score multiplied by 15.
    • You can push, drag, or lift up to twice your "carrying capacity", but your speed drops to 5 feet when you are exceeding that baseline capacity.
    • While grappling an enemy, your speed is halved if you move them.
    • Therefore, if you are trying to move an enemy that weighs greater than your carrying capacity, you can't move at all: your speed drops to 5 and is then halved (rounded down) to 0.
    • At 16 Strength, your maximum carrying capacity (and, by extension, your maximum drag capacity) is 240 lbs. That goes up to 255 at 17 Strength, 280 at 18 Strength, etc.
    • If you are size large (and/or have the Goliath's powerful build trait!), those capacities are all doubled. A Goliath benefitting from Enlarge Person would actually have their base carrying capacity quadrupled!

This is not an exhaustive discussion of grappling rules, and weird situations WILL come up in your sessions. So keep the PHB ready to handle rules questions, and feel free to post any new ideas to the thread. We'll go over these techniques again, and add in some new ones, in the later "Grappling Tactics" section.

[anchor="races"]3. [/anchor]Wrestling Races
For the most part, any race that looks good at grappling is probably pretty good at grappling. Bruiser dwarves, brutish half-orcs, and brawling humans all make tough wrestlers. Similarly, all the races that look like they suck at grappling probably suck at grappling. The only thing that Elves grapple with is their trees.

Mechanically, grappling is all about Strength (for your ability checks), Constitution (so you don't die when 1-2 attackers focus on you exclusively), and Dexterity (you retain your dex bonus to AC while grappling). Depending on what type of grappler you are playing, other ability scores might come into play as well, but they generally aren't as important as those main ones. This makes race selection fairly easy. On the subject of ability scores, Wisdom is also important if you want to avoid the aptly named "frightened" condition. When frightened, you'll have disadvantage on all ability checks, and Wisdom is the main ability score governing saves against fear.

There's one big exception to these ability score guidelines: Grapplers that use Wild Shape or Shapechange (Polymorph and True Polymorph work too but are generally worse). These spells replace your physical attributes with those of the new form, which totally changes how race selection works. I will try and talk about those possibilities as they come up with the different races. As a general rule, you want transformation grapplers to have higher mental stats and lower physical ones: avoid races that need to transform to grapple and also have Str/Dex/Con bonuses.

  • Mountain Dwarf
    When it comes to grapplers, it doesn't get any more simple or solid than the Mountain Dwarf. Bonus Str and Con are excellent, freeing up other ability points into Dex. This ensure a well-rounded combat ability set. That movement speed penalty stings, but you won't notice it much with the added attributes.
  • Hill Dwarf
    Some of the hardiest grapplers around, with bonus hit points on top of the inherent +2 to Con. The Wisdom increase is something you will have to build around if you are playing this class; Monk is a natural choice for the added AC from unarmored defense. The 5 foot speed reduction isn't great but again, if you are playing a Monk Hill Dwarf, you can easily offset that bonus Monk movement speed.
  • High Elf
    Elves are about as good at grappling as dwarves are at playing harp, but High Elves get a bonus cantrip which can give some interesting combat options. Chill Touch is nice here if you are playing a grappler that grinds down a single target. If they are already prone, you will get advantage on the spell, which will hit for damage and shut down healing for a whole turn. Blade Ward is also useful if you anticipate taking a lot of damage. Unfortunately for the High Elf, you can get those spells elsewhere, which makes the race a subpar choice.
  • Wood Elf
    Stick to hugging trees, not trolls. The only redeeming quality of this race is the Fleet of Foot feature, which gives you a bit more speed to drag enemies around the battlefield.
  • Dark Elf
    Darkness at level 5 is strong, but you can get the same bonuses (better. in fact) from Tiefling. Between the light sensitivity and the useless base Elf bonuses, the Drow subrace makes for a terrible, although flavorful, grappler.
  • Lightfoot Halfling
    Remember White Belt Grappling Rules? Your target can't be more than one size larger than you? When you're small like a Halfling, that means you can't grapple anything bigger than a human. That means you can't grapple in a fantasy world at all. Add to that a lower base speed, irrelevant ability scores, and no valuable racial features, and you have a subrace that might be the worst grappler in the PHB.
  • Stout Halfling
    To review, Small + low speed + irrelevant ability mods = Bad grappler.
  • Human
    No matter what grappler you play, there are a few feats you want to pick up. This includes Tavern Brawler for extra damage, Mage Slayer for shutting down spellcasters, Warcaster for anyone using Concentration, etc. Human gets these earlier than any other race, which ensure you are relevant at lower levels and helps you race to that coveted 20 Strength. You even get a Str/Con bonus to boot!
  • Dragonborn
    Strength bonus alone is reason to consider the Dragonborn, but it's the breath weapon that is more interesting. When using the Grappler feat, you can "restrain" a target to give them disadvantage on dexterity saves. The save against your breath weapon is itself Dexterity based. That's an awesome image (holding down two guys as you breathe acid on them), but not particularly powerful from a damage perspective. But coupled with the Str bonus, it's enough to make Dragonborn a viable, interesting, and mega flavorful option.
  • Rock Gnome
    If you are going to be a transformation grappler, Gnomes aren't bad choices. They have advantage on a lot of different saves against magic (important for tanking spells), and that +2 Int makes them great Wizards. Their small size and low move speed won't matter when you transform, especially if your crafted Panacea gives you +10 move speed on top of the +10 from Longstrider.
  • Forest Gnome
    Avoid physical bonuses on transformation grapplers. Just stick with Rock Gnome if you want to go the Polymorph Wizard route.
  • Half-Elf
    Even if you are a Bard or Sorcerer Polymorph grappler, this race isn't really doing you a lot of favors. Gnome make good Polymorph grappler due to their ridiculous advantage on saves against spells. Half-Elves just have a bad ability score bonus and no relevant features.
  • Half-Orc
    Along with Humans and Mountain Dwarves, this is the third PHB grappling race. Compared to Human, you lose the bonus feat but get to 20 Strength faster. Compared to Dwarf, you lose a bit of HP but gain full move speed. The added tankiness from Relentless Endurance is also nice. Generally speaking, when playing a grappler you'll be picking between these three races.
  • Tiefling
    Just like Dark Elves (can cast Darkness), but slightly better because of the improved features: fire resistance is decent, bonus Charisma helps out a Bard Polymorph grappler, and you don't have that ridiculous vulnerability to light. Even so, there are better options out there.
  • Aarakocra
    The birdmen don't get the best ability score bonuses, and they even suffer from a 25 foot base speed instead of the usual 30. They make up for this in their 1d4 unarmed strikes and, more importantly, the 50 foot fly speed. You'll need to get your Strength a lot higher to make use of this in a grapple (your carrying capacity definitely affects your fly speed), but if you can pump enough iron you can easily carry enemies into the sky before dropping them. You can even use flying to close the gap on hard-to-reach enemies! Overarakocra's have a unique grappling playstyle but it's a very rewarding one if done right.
  • Deep Gnome
    Just as bad as the other gnomes. Still not better than Rock Gnome even if you want to play a transformation grappler.
  • Genasi
    You can do worse than the Earth Genasi and it's +1 Strength, +2 Constitution from the base Genasi race, and ability to ignore rock/stone difficult terrain. Spike Growth grappling is a cute combination, and Earth Genasi's do it better than most. All the other versions are generally worse than other options out there, although you could consider a deep-sea grappler in the Water Genasi, depending on your campaign setting.
  • Goliath
    If you don't need the bonus feat from Humans, this is the best grappling race around. You'll get the +2 Strength of a Half-Orc and Mountain Dwarf along with the +1 Constitution bonus. Stone's Endurance is a rock-solid tanking skill that doesn't even interfere with your other actions. But the real reason to play Goliath is for the Powerful Build trait, which dramatically increases your dragging/carrying capacity when moving around the battlefield. Prone enemies can't move on their own which means you have to pull them along for the ride, like Joy dragging Sadness in Inside Out. As an 18 Strength Human, your carrying capacity is a mere 270 pounds. For Goliaths, that jumps up to 540 just on Powerful Build alone, which is more than enough to drag any one (even two!) medium humanoids around the battlefield. Add Enhance Ability to the mix and you effectively quadruple the capacity up to 1080. That's enough to drag all but the largest bear around the battlefield.
  • Minotaur
    If your DM lets you use the Waterborne Unearthed Arcana, Minotaurs make ferocious grapplers. Like Half-Orc, you get a +2 to Strength and a full 30 feet of movement speed. You lose the Human's bonus feat and the Dwarf's constitution, but you gain an insane 1d10 unarmed strike damage die: a lot of grapplers use their feat to pick up Tavern Brawler anyway, and the horns are just plain better. That said, you'll rarely use Goring Rush or Hammering Horns (the latter can't shove enemies prone), and the advantage on Horns shove attempts won't often matter (you are getting advantage from other abilities already). Even so, the Minotaur is a excellent grappling race for those with UA's allowed in their adventures.
  • Shifter
    Shifters come out of the Eberron Unearthed Arcana, and although they are no Minotaur, they still have decent grappling options. Shifting itself gives bonus hit points, and both the Longtooth and Beasthide options have grappling applications. Longtooth is a weird one because, as written, it's not clear how it interacts with regular Attack actions. Avoid Razorclaw: you can get bonus attack actions elsewhere.
  • Warforged
    Solid but boring, which is kind of what you have to expect from Eberron's Warforged race. The AC and ability score increases are relevant, but there are better options out there. A+ for flavor though.
  • Duergar
    As a Duergar, you retain the +2 Constitution from Dwarf and add a nice +1 Strength to the mix. Duergar Resilience gives some relevant save bonuses, and the Darkvision isn't bad. But the real reason to take Duergar is a free Enlarge spell starting at level 3. Enlarge is already one of the best spells in the PHB for grapplers, particularly at low level, but only Wizards and Sorcerers get access to it. Duergar's are the only race which can allow Valor Bards, Clerics, Druids, etc. to get this spell without a 3+ level multiclass into the arcane spellcasters. I'm overvaluing this trait a little because you can derive the same benefit with Potions of Enlarge, but it's still an innate spell usable even without fancy gear.
  • Aquatic Half-Elf
    Here's a weird one. Half-elves are normally not worth it, but this is an RAW way to pick up a swim speed for your nautical campaign. Underwater grappling is definitely a thing, and having a swim speed makes it significantly easier than having to do it with all those underwater movement penalties.
  • Winged Tiefling
    A less conditional Aarakocra! You lose 20 feet of airborne movement but gain +5 to your groundspeed and the ability to use medium or heavy armor as long as you have proficiency. The ability scores aren't much better than the avian alternative, but darkvision is nifty and the extra armor makes up for the lost speed.

[anchor="classes"]4. [/anchor]Class Overview
There is no single best way to grapple. Almost every class has its own strengths and weaknesses, and many grappler builds will require at least a few levels of multiclassing anyway. To get you started on your own grappling optimizations, here's a feature-by-feature evaluation of each class and its grappling abilities.

It should come as no surprise that Barbarians make outstanding grapplers. Rage really is just as good as it sounds. In fact, it's probably better than it sounds, because until you play a Barbarian grappler, you won't realize quite how often advantage lets you win grapple rolls and fights. Add strong tanking features, a ton of HP, extra damage, and a bunch of other useful abilities, and you have what is probably easily one of the top three best grappling classes in the game.

[sblock="Barbarian Ability Review"]
  • HD - D12: Doesn't get any better than this for frontline bruising.
  • Rage: No matter what grapplign build you are playing, you will need to get advantage on your Athletics check in some way. Rage is the best nonmagical way to do that. The bonus damage is also nothing to sneeze at, as is the damage resistance for your frontline fighter.
    • Both Grapple and Shove are "special melee attacks", so you don't need to worry about rage ending prematurely for lack of attacking.
    • Remember: you can't cast spells OR concentrate on them while raging. A Rage-based grappler will almost always be a nonmagical grappler (Wildshaping Druids are an exception)
  • Unarmored Defense: There aren't a lot of good reasons to avoid armor as a grappler, unless you are changing shapes (where Unarmored Defense won't help anyway because your stats get replaced), or you are a Monk. If you do end up going Monk, you'll want the Barbarian's Unarmored Defense before picking up the Monk's. Grappler constitution scores will generally be higher than their Wisdom scores.
  • Reckless Attack: Some grappling builds won't make a lot of attacks, which means Reckless Attack is farily useless. Other builds rely on attacks, and that's where Reckless Attack will shine. It works great with natural weapon attacks made while Wild Shaped or Polymorphed, and it's unfair when you are using Fighter maneuvers in tandem with grappling.
  • Danger Sense: It feels like cheating that Danger Sense works, while you are grappling a single enemy, let alone 2 of them. Great when you are holding badguys in place while your team rains down area spells on their/your heads.
  • Fast Movement: More speed to drag people around with? Sign me up.
  • Extra Attack: Mandatory for any nonmagical grappler build. You can only make extra grapple/shove attempts as part of the Attack action, and Extra Attack is the only way to pick those up. Even magical/transformative grapplers should seriously consider the ability: most of their forms will be better grapplers with two attacks instead of one (remember: Multiattack is not an Attack action).
  • Feral Instinct: If you can grapple an enemy before their turn, you can completely lock them out of the fight. Instinct really helps you take that initiative.
  • Brutal Critical: Grapplers aren't really about damage. If they are, it's probably through a feature that isn't helped by this ability (e.g. Sneak Attack).
  • Relentless Rage: Strong ability for any frontline tank, even if it has no particular synergy with grappling.
  • Persistent Rage: Gives you more tactical options during the battle because you don't always need to be attacking. Most importantly, lets you Rage in advance of an encounter so you don't need to waste that valuable first bonus action by raging.
  • Indomitable Might: This isn't a bad ability: a guaranteed 20+ on an Athletics check means you don't have to worry abotu unlucky rolls. The problem is, even if you rolled a 2 for your check as a 20 Strength Barbarian with Expertise from Bard/Rogue, your minimum roll would still be a 19 (2 + 5 Strength + 12 Proficiency). But then you'd have all the Bard/Rogue benefits too, as opposed to an 18 level investment in Barbarian. This option becomes significantly better if your DM doesn't like multiclassing. Otherwise get out of Barbiarn earlier.
  • Primal Champion:: For 20 levels of Barbarian, you get a +2 bonus to grapple that you can't get elsewhere. Unless, of course, you just bought a Belt of Stone Giant Strength and settle for a +1 instead of a +2. As with Indomitable Might, this isn't a bad ability: it's just worth the opportunity costs of the 20 level investment.
  • Path of the Berserker: When I first wrote this guide on the Wizards forums, I severely underrated the Berserker archetype. Then I figured out how this archetype interacts with Fighter and the Battlemaster maneuvers, and I haven't looked back since. When it comes to nonmagical grapplers, there's no one more versatile and flexible than a Battlemaster/Berserker grappler, and it all begins with the Frenzy skill.
    • Frenzy: At first glance, this ability doesn't seem too special. Lots of other classes pick up a bonus action attack, and we can't even use that action to make a grapple check. We can, however, use that bonus action attack to deliver a Battlemaster maneuver. We also benefit from the bonus action attack while Raging and en route to the powerful Mindless Rage feature. You'll need to wait until the Fighter section to see how the maneuvers synergize with grappling, but know for now that Frenzy is one of the best ways to perform them.
    • Mindless Rage: If you're a grappler, being frightened sucks. Being charmed isn't much better. Unconditional, nonmagical immunity to these conditions is awesome, especially as your DM throws more anti-grappling monsters at you.
    • Intimidating Presence: Frightened opponents are worse grapplers (they get disadvantage on ability checks), but Charisma-based abilities are not what we want to be doing as a grappler. We also don't want to sacrifice our action just to scare someone. If you want to make someone afraid, just stick with the Fighter's Menacing Attack and get out of Barbarian before you pick this up.
  • Path of the Totem Warrior: If you're playing a damage-dealing grapple with flexible battefield control options, you're playing a Berserker. If you're just holding bad guys and tanking damage, you're playing a Totem Warrior. You can also play a Totem Warrior for some flashy Eagle-based flight builds, or to combine the durability of a Bear totem Barbarian with a Tripping Attack-style feature from the Wolf.
    • Totem Spirit: In most cases, you'll pick up the Bear totem at this level. Resistance against all damage, even all those weird magical and elemental types, is invauable on the front lines. The Eagle option is a great way to pick up an equivalent ability to the Rogue's Cunning Action feature, although you'll miss out on Expertise. Going Wolf Totem is another frontline option, emphasing team damage-dealing instead of solo damage-absoprtion.
    • Aspect of the Beast: It's Bear or bust for this feature; the added carrying capacity gives you more dragging power after you shove enemies prone (plus hilarious options for lifting characters up walls/into the air once they are grappled). Once you get a climb and/or fly speed, the possibilities are limited only by your evil imagination and the terrain. Eagle and Wolf don't do anything at all for grappling.
    • Totemic Attunement: Although not grappling-specific, Bear is a great culmination to your Barbarian tanking features. Be aware that it can be a bit redundant if you already knocked two of the enemies prone. The Eagle route gives you some hilarious options of picking up characters, flying away while holding them, and then dropping them to the ground. Or over a cliff. You can also pick up Wolf for the free trip attack, but this will generally be worse than either a direct shove attempt or tacking a maneuver onto a bonus action attack.

Wait a moment... aren't Bards support characters or something? Isn't their main stat Charisma? Don't they play flutes and harps and stuff? That's all true, and it doesn't mean that they can't wrestle you straight into the dirt. Along with Barbarians, Bards are some of the best grapplers in 5th Edition. If it helps, think of them as gladiators or cagefightesr. Or WWE wrestling champs. Between Cutting Words, Expertise, and some excellent spells in their list, Bard is one of the best dips or even mainclasses you can pursue.

[sblock="Bard Ability Review"]

  • HD - D8: Well, at least it's not a D6.
  • Bardic Inspiration: Unless you are playing some crazy summoner grappler who grapples through his minions, don't waste your bonus action to help your team. That's the Cleric's job.
  • Jack of All Trades: Seems unimportant, until you remember that Initiative is actually a dexterity check. Random, untyped initiative bonuses are awesome, especially when your combat style is most effective if you act first.
  • Expertise: Because there are so many ways to build grapplers, there aren't a lot of mandatory abilities you need to be viable. Except, that is, for Expertise. This feature gives you a huge, untyped bonus to grapple/shove you can't get anywhere else. And unlike Rage, it works with basically every possible build you might use, especially the magical ones. If you aren't going Bard 3 or Rogue 1 for that Expertise bonus, you are either playing a bad grappler, or a really weird one. There is just no reason to skip this ability because the bonus just keeps growing and easily outpaces the opposed skill checks of other creatures.
  • Font of Inspiration: More Cutting Words throughout the day? Works for me!
  • Magical Secret: There's this thing called class balance. Wizards designs different class with certain spell lists to keep them balanced: things stay fair that way. Pick up Magical Secret? No more class balance in the spell list.Bards were never meant to have Enlarge Person on their spell list, and Magical Secret ensures you get it without losing your class progression.
  • Countercharm: Why are you using your turn to sing? Stop that. If you want to be a lover, spread those hugs to your enemies.
  • Superior Inspiration: Nifty ability, but you shouldn't be going straight Bard 20 as a grappler anyway.
  • College of Lore: If you want to get the highest single grapple check in 5th Edition, College of Lore is the path for you. You can get an effective +2d12 to grapple checks by level 15, although you won't have as many Attack actions to use it with (assuming no multiclassing). Lore Bards make the best single-target grapplers in the game, although they'll lose some of their utility if denied rests in between combat.
    • Bonus Proficiencies: It never hurts to have more skills under your belt.
    • Cutting Words: Let me get this straight. I can give all my enemies a -D6 penalty to their opposed grapple/shove checks? One that scales up to D8/D10/D12 as I level? And I can do this multiple times per combat? Very cool, sounds like a great way to use my bonus action. Wait, what's that? It's actually a REACTION?? Yikes. Cutting words is insane. It's one of the rare optimization features that is both strong and flavorful; it's literally a mechanic for smack talking.
    • Additional Magical Secrets: As if the regular Magical Secrets weren't strong enough, College of Lore gives you two more to play with. This is critical for picking up Enlarge at a reasonable level, which is a big improvement over Enhance Ability.
    • Peerless Skills: The only reason this isn't rated higher is because it's overkill. Between Cutting Words, Expertise, and advantage from Enlarge Person, you don't need yet another +D6/D8/D10/D12 to your grapple check. It's not even a separate action! You can just get the bonus as part of your Athletics check itself. This capstone skill is the reason your Lore Bard is the best single-target grappler in the game, especially if you hang in there until True Polymorph at level 17.
  • College of Valor: Magical Secrets breaks one aspect of class balance in opening up spell lists. College of Valor breaks another by giving a spellcasting Bard access to armor and Extra Attack. College of Lore Bards are going to become relevant at earlier levels, but once you hit level 10 and get Enlarge Person via Magical Secrets, the Extra Attacking Valor Bard becomes a battlefield terror.
    • Bonus Proficiencies: The added AC is nice, but the real win here is in picking up shield proficiency. This lets you use the mighty Shield Master feat to make bonus action shove attempts. You can theoretically get these proficiencies from a level 1 start in Fighter, Paladin, or a similar class, but this delays your Bard and spell progression.
    • Combat Inspiration: As with Countercharm and Bardic Inspiration, don't help your allies with your valuable Bardic Inspiration dice. Help them by grappling.
    • Extra Attack: Spellcasters shouldn't get access to this. Valor Bards aren't going to have the same 2d12 swing that we see in the Lore Bard builds, but you will have more grapple attempts per turn to tangle with more enemies.
    • Battle Magic: You can cast spells while grappling so long as you have a free hand (or if the spell lacks somatic components), which makes Battle Magic a neat tool for a mid-combat spell. Very strong when combined with Battlemaster maneuvers, either picked up from Fighter or from the Martial Adept feat.

What do the following spells have in common? Guardian of the Faith, Flame Strike, Blade Barrier, Fire Storm. They are all Cleric spells, and they are all Dexterity-saved based. The Grappler feat lets you restrain targets at will and, once Restrained, they will suffer disadvantage on their saves. You will too but you can negate that through smart optimization. Unfortunately, that optimization is often very resource and level intensive, and it often ends up being worse thanother options. Clerics do have a lot of AC/HP to handle the front lines, and a strong spell list to keep them alive. But other classes can just do things a bit better. The only reason this gets an average rating instead of falling lower is that unique combination of a strong spell list on top of innate tankiness.

[sblock="Cleric Ability Review"]

  • HD - D8: Slightly better for a Cleric than for a Bard because you automatically get medium armor.
  • Channel Divinity - Turn Undead: Grapple the undead; don't make them run away. Useful against ghosts and other grapple-immune monsters, but otherwise a bad use of your entire action. Also, a bad use of your limited Channel Divinity pool.
  • Destroy Undead: See above - good agains ghosts, bad against other undeads, and an inefficient use of your resources.
  • Divine Intervention: Depending on your DM, this feature will range from broken (a Level 10 Cleric invoking an Antimagic Field) to underwhelming (free Healing Word!) to downright harmful (EARTHQUAKE ON THE WHOLE PARTY). Mechanically, Intervention has a lot of interesting interactions with grappling, because your God is casting the spell and you aren't. That means you can hold down two attackers when asking for a spell; it's just not a very reliable option.
  • Knowledge Domain: Why is it that the priests of knowledge are worse at skill checks than a hippy who parties his way through college (see: Bard at College of Lore)? The abilities and spells in this domain have nothing to do with grappling so they aren't even worth reviewing.
  • Life Domain: Heavy Armor proficiency is nice, but thats where the domain's utility ends (you can also get the proficiency from the War domain). Remember: you don't help your party by casting spells to heal them. You help them by grappling enemies. Healing, and by extension all the healing-related features here, is a poor allocation of your actions.
  • Light Domain: Solid but not particulary inspired choice for a grappling cleric. The Light spell list is packed with dexterity-based saving throw spells, including Fireball and Wall of Fire which you otherwise wouldn't normally get as a Cleric. Warding Flare is also a strong feature both for defending yourself and, at level 6, for protecting allies. If you go this route, you'll be casting Wall of Fire, restraining enemies with the Grappler feat, and holding them in the Wall for repeated dexterity save failures.
  • Nature Domain: There are some decent survivability options here, including heavy armor proficiency and an elemental damage resistance feature you can use at will. This is one way to pick up the Spike Growth spell for Spikedragging, a grappling technique involving dragging an enemy back and forth through an affected area. Master of Nature also lets you command animals to perform the Assist action, giving you advantage on all your grapple attempts, or just bite/claw/peck away at your pinned opponents.
  • Tempest Domain: Similar to Light Domain, but heavier on the damage and lighter on the survivability. The flavor of this domain is just electrifying (sorry) with grappling. First, you grab a guy and restrain him with Grappler. Then you power up some lightning-based spell with Destructive Wrath (Note that RAW, you can use this with spells from other classes; hello Wizard/Cleric Lightning Bolt Grappler!). Then you blast the bejesus out of him and hurl him 10 feet away towards some unpleasant end. Awesome. Makes for a great dip if you are going with the dex-save-based spellcaster and don't mind sticking with zappy spells.
  • Trickery Domain: Polymorph is interesting here, largely because it's a spell Clerics can't otherwise access. Indeed, Cleric Polymorphing is slightly better than in other classes because you have more no-concentration buff spells you can keep around. Unfortunately, Polymorph grappling isn't that great to begin with: it's mostly just a placeholder until you get Shapechange or True Polymorph at level 17 in other classes. Cloak of Shadows is a noteworthy gap closer, as is Improved Duplicity at level 17, but there are way better things you could be doing as a grappler.
  • War Domain: At early levels, these features can be quite strong for grapplers. The bonus action attack overlaps with Fighter maneuvers, although it draws from your Channel Divinity pool as opposed to a more at-will option like Frenzy or Monk Martial Arts. Guided Strike also helps the Fighter maneuver option, although again, it's probably worse than Barbarian with Frenzy and Reckless Attack. War Domain Clerics also pick up heavy armor proficiency, even if you're probably better off getting it from Tempest Domain.

If you've ever wanted to be a crocodile dragging their prey underwater, a python crushing the life out of a target, or an ape hurling his enemies from the treetops, then the Druid grappler is for you. Deriving their grappling powers from the Wild Shape ability and concentration spells (typically Enhance Ability), the Druid is one of the more formidable grapplers in the PHB, although you'll need to learn how Wild Shape works to have success with the Druid. Druid grapplers also get a lot of non-grappling utility with all their other spells and class features, which can't be said of more narrow builds in Barbarian, Fighter, Rogue, etc.

[sblock="Druid Ability Review"]

  • HD - D8: Normally a D8 would be purple, but you'll adopt the Beast's HP while Wild Shaping so it's less of a problem for Druids.
  • Wild Shape: Anyone remember Wild Shape Druids from 3.5? I remember them both as a player and as a DM, and holy crap those guys were broken. 5.0 Wild Shape is a lot more balanced than the 3.5 nuttiness, but Wild Shaping Druids still make powerful grapplers. One could write a whole guide on Wild Shape grapplers alone, but here are the most important mechanical and rules points to consider when assessing whether this playstyle is right for you.
    • You can only Wild Shape into the "beast" type of monster from the Monster Manual, and "your ability to...take any actions that requires hands is limited to the capabilities of your beast form." Per RAW, grappling requires "a free hand", so this places some limitations on your beast form.
    • When Wild Shaping, you gain the beast's phyical ability scores and all of its other game statistics.
    • When Wild Shaping, you keep your mental ability scores and any features "from your class, race, or other source and can use them if the new form is physically capable of doing so."
    • There are level and movement mode limitations on your beast form. Circle of the Moon Druids can mitigate those limitations.
    • You can concentrate on spells while grappling. This will almost always be Enhance Ability unless you are getting advantage on ability checks from another source.
    • Multiattack is itself an action. It is not actually part of the Attack action, so you can't replace multiattacks with grapple/shove attempts. Because of this, most Druid grapplers will want to pick up Extra Attack elsewhere.
  • Timeless Body: They say martial arts, particularly grappling, can sustain you into old age. I guess the Druids agree!
  • Beast Spells: Back in 3.5, this was a broken feat that your broken Druid could get as early as level 3. The ability is still just as strong in 5th as it was back then: you just have to wait a lot longer to get it.
  • Archdruid: Most players underestimate how important short rest/long rest abilities are in a real adventures. Unlimited Wild Shape rocks, even if it's probably better to dip into Rogue for Expertise instead of go straight Druid 20.
  • Circle of the Land: The different spell lists aren't necessarily bad for Druid grapplers; they are just worse than the Circle of the Moon options. Things like Spike Growth, Misty Step, Silence, Cone of Cold, haste, and other spells are all highly synergistic with grappling classes, but you are wasting your Druid levels by getting them here instead of improving Wild Shape.
  • Circle of the Moon: If you're grappling as a Druid, you're almost always grappling as a member of the Circle of the Moon. Later in this guide, I'll dedicate an entire build to all the different beast-forms in your arsenal, but for now here's a quick discussion of all the Moon abilities and how they improve your grappling.
    • Combat Wild Shape: Action economy is critical in fights, and the difference between Wild Shaping as an action and as a bonus action is enormous. The healing is also useful, freeing up your party's Cleric to heal other targets. Between this healing ability and re-Wild Shaping, Druid grapplers can be surprisingly durable.
    • Circle Forms: From levels two through five, you are still going to be stuck with CR 1 monsters. Starting at level 6, your options expand dramatically, By level 17, you'll be able to Wild Shape into CR 6 monsters, but there are plenty of strong CR 2-5 monsters in between. As a general rule when picking forms, you want to avoid the grapple-on-hit monsters once you hit level 6. They are fine at early levels when your Athletics check isn't that high, but a grapple-on-hit is based on a static DC, not a skill contest. When you finally reach 6+, stick with high-strength forms that have hands to grapple, or at least forms that have appendages reasonably close to hands: only the most humorless DMs wouldn't let you grapple as a mighty Polar Bear.
    • Primal Strike: Even though grappling isn't about big damage numbers, you don't want to be totally useless in a fight against higher-CR monsters. This guarantees you can dish it out as enemies get tougher.
    • Elemental Wild Shape: Or, should I say, Earth Elemental Wild Shape, because that's basically what this will be for Druid grapplers once you hit level 10. With 126 HP, 17 AC, 20 Strength, and a ton of resistances/immunities, Earth Elementals make terrifying grapplers. Earth Elementals are also some of the best damage-dealing grapplers out there, especially if you can pick up a way to do bonus attack actions. Just grapple and prone an enemy and then clobber him with three 2d8+5 Slam attacks per turn.
      Air Elementals are also excellent forms for closing the gap on a flying monster.
    • Thousand Forms: Not necessary with all the Wild Shape goodness, and you'll almost never want to concentrate on this instead of something like Enhance Ability.

Two words: Action Surge. This ability alone makes Fighters one of the best dips you can take for grappling, along with Rogue for Expertise. Add in the maneuvers at level 3, a bonus feat/ability score increase at 4, extra attack at 5, and another bonus feat/score at 6 and you have one of the best base classes for grapplers around. Fighter is also the only class that gives you a third attack courtesy of Extra Attack, which encourages you to stick in the class until at least level 11. Fighters will still need to pick up Enlarge Person or some other way of getting grapple advantage (Eldritch Knight can do it at level 8), but the attacks alone make this an excellent all-around class.

[sblock="Fighter Ability Review"]

  • HD - D10: Grapplers are tough. Fighters are tough. It's a good match.
  • Fighting Style: Three of these options don't actually work while grappling, and the fourth (Protection) is a poor substitution for just shoving a target. That leaves you with Defense, a handy but not particularly interesting +1 to AC, or Dueling for a small damage bonus. You won't benefit from Dueling if you are holding two opponents, but it still works if you are grappling a single enemy and have a weapon in the other hand.
  • Second Wind: Random bonus healing? We'll take
  • Action Surge: This gets my vote for most broken low-level ability in 5th Edition, especially because you only need a two-level dip to pick it up. In the early game, Action Surge is a perfect substitute for Extra Attack, allowing you to grapple/shove an opponent in the same turn. By level five and Extra Attack, Action Surge lets you grapple/shove not one but two opponents in one turn. Things get really crazy if you pick up Extra Attack (2) at level 11. As long as you can take semi-frequent short rests, Action Surge is an awesome way to open up fights and unload on a major badguy.
  • Ability Score Improvement: I mention this as a class-specific bonus because Fighter gives you an extra score increase/feat at evel 6. In feat-intensive builds with Alert, Mage Slayer, Grappler, Tavern Brawler, etc., this really helps you reach your optimized potential.
  • Extra Attack: Another place to pick up your more-or-less mandatory ability. Most optimizations will get Extra Attack through Fighter, just because they are already going to be three levels deep in the class for maneuvers. If you stick in Fighter until level 11, you'll get up to Extra Attack (2), which will give you more attacks, grapples, and shoves than you will know what to do with.
  • Indomitable: Just like Second Wind, random bonus saves never hurt anyone! Particularly strong if you are going to be facing down a lot of spellcasters or enemies with fear effects.
  • Martial Artchetype - Champion: By far the weakest of the Fighter archetypes, especially for grapplers. We just don't care enough about damage for the critical ranges to matter, mostly because we don't make enough attacks with a weapon (we spend more actions grappling/shoving than actually dealing damage). Abilities like Remarkable Athlete and Survivor are significantly weaker than other options at level 7 and 18 respectively.
  • Martial Archetype - Eldritch Knight: Surprisingly useful as a grappler. Knight is one of the best ways to pick up Enlarge Person, because you get it en route to Extra Attack (2) at level 11. You'll take Enlarge Person at level 8, which is a little later than most classes get it, but you'll be getting it as part of your valuable Extra Attack progression. You'll even have more feat pickup opportunities in Fighter, which synergizes nicely with the concentration-based Enlarge Person (you'll definitely need War Caster). Eldritch Strike is also more powerful than a lot of grapplers might give credit. As long as you have a free hand (i.e. grappling only one target), you can hit them with advantage on the attack and then bestow disadvantage on their next saving throw. Ater that, they are at the mercy of your evocation spells. Arcane Charge is also nothing to sneeze at, but unless you are going Fighter 20 to get Extra Attack (3), you can probably do better with a multiclass.
  • Martial Archetype - Battle Master: Grapplers get a lot of their power from flexibility and battlefield control. Battle Master maneuvers give you a wealth of options to mix and match with your grappling routine. Although none of the strikes directly interact with a shove/grapple attempt, you can easily stick them on bonus action attacks (e.g. from Frenzy or Martial Arts) and use them as part of your combat sequences. The only reason this isn't rated higher is that you can get maneuvers from the Martial Adept feat, which means you are often better off pursuing an Eldritch Knight and its level 8 Enlarge Person. Whether you use the maneuvers while progressing in Battle Master or from the Martial Adept feat, look for ways to stick them on bonus action attacks so you don't give up your valuable grapple/shove attempts.
    • Commander's Strike: Normally, you don't want to give up your action. But if you have two people prone and grappled, it might be better to just give the attacks to your stabby assassin friend than to save them for yourself. Make sure your party can take advantage of this before you invest in it.
    • Disarming Strike: One of the best abilities on the list, especially with grappling. If your opponent fails that strength check and drops the weapon, you can just drag them away and they will never touch it again. This is devastating for most enemies that rely on weapon attacks, and will completely end their contributions to the fight. Unfortunately, many people you disarm are going to have very high Strength saves, so this isn't always going to work. It's a bit redundant with the DMG Disarm variant, but a) your DM might not allow that and b) Disarm has some conditions around two-handed weapons and size categories that might make it worse.
    • Distracting Strike: Useless. Just knock them prone and you'll give all your allies advantage, at least those in melee range.
    • Evasive Footwork: Handy for darting around a battlefield, or for dragging your victims through threatend squares. Footwork requires no action at all (no bonus action, no reaction, no nothing) which makes it a great way to maximize action economy.
    • Feinting Attack: Use shove to get advantage and don't waste your valuable superiority dice.
    • Goading Attack: They'll have disadvantage anyway once you knock them flat on the ground.
    • Lunging Attack: This maneuver has some weird synergy with Tavern Brawler grapple attempts or other grapples made as part of an attack roll (not the normal Athletics check grapple roll). Depending on how you and your DM interpret it, it's either very good or very bad. At its best, you'll extend your reach, hit and start the grapple, and then either pull the opponent one square towards you or pull yourself one square towards them. At its worst, you lose the reach after the attack and then the grapple automatically ends.
    • Maneuvering Attack: In most situations, it's better to spend resources on grappling/shoving/being proactive. Maneuvering Attack is a bit of an exception because it helps your allies get closer to grappled/prone enemies. Particularly strong if you have a melee Rogue or other close-range damage-dealer that needs to join the action.
    • Menacing Attack: If you can chain Menacing Attacks together from turn to turn on a bonus action attack, it will be almost impossible for an enemy to escape a grapple. You'll have advantage on your own, plus your innately high check. They'll have their crappy check and disadvantage from the frightened condition. Only works against enemies with lower Wisdom saving throws, but as most monsters only have a +0 to +2, you'll succeed more often than not.
    • Parry: Can't go wrong with more tankiness! Good for grapplers who are mostly absorbing damage and clogging up the battlefield.
    • Precision Attack: This ability gets a lot better if you have attacks which impose effects when they hit. The Tavern Braweler bonus action attack would fall in this category. You're generally better off spending your superiority die elsewhere, and/or just getting Reckless Attack from Barbarian.
    • Pushing Attack: This is a really monstrous push distance, and grapple puts you in a great position for making that 15 feet of push into something much more lethal. It's a Strength-based save, so avoid using it against big strong fighters and save it for flimsy Wizards and archers and other creatures that don't want to get thrown off cliffs.
    • Rally: Don't heal your allies. There are much better things you can do with your bonus action.
    • Riposte: Doesn't work with your normal Attack action-based grappling, and doesn't even work with Tavern Brawler (the attack isn't made on your turn). You can still take advantage of the extra damage, which is the only thing saving this from red status.
    • Sweeping Attack: Even if you are using grapple-on-hit attacks, this doesn't actually trigger grapples on the followup attack. The second attack doesn't "hit" the target. It just deals damage to them. That terminological distinction makes this useless for even creatures that can grapple on a successful attack
    • Trip Attack: Strong at early levels when you have fewer actions and want to use your bonus action attack in place of a shove attempt. This is still a Strength saving throw, so not all creatures are going to be knocked down so easily, but it's an added layer of insurance to guarantee you get a target to the ground.
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First Post
4. Class Overview (continued)

It always surprises me that Monk, the martial arts class, don't make the best grapplers in 5th Edition. Monks have some of the better damage output among grapplers, as well as a lot of tactical flexibility. Unfortunately, Monk has no in-class feature to grant advantage on ability checks, or abilities that directly relate to grappling at all. As an added issue, many of your better abilities don't work in armor. This makes Monk a worthwhile multiclass option, but not necessarily a core grappling advancement. That said, grappling builds focusing on damage, versatility, and/or mobility will enjoy the unarmed attack options in a Monk's arsenal. Its spell-like abilities in Way of Shadow and Way of the Four Elements also give you unique options other classes can't access.

[sblock="Monk Ability Review"]

  • HD - D8: The D8 HD is more painful for Monk than for other classes - you don't have the armor to make up for lower HP.
  • Unarmored Defense: Armor is just better, but because the majority of your abilities don't work in armor, you need to rely on this to stay alive. Unfortunately, this unarmored variant depends on a we would rather ignore. If you are playing a Monk grappler, get a Barbarian's Unarmored Defense first: they won't stack and you only keep the first one you level into.
  • Martial Arts: It's too bad that when Wizards thinks of martial arts, they only think of Bruce Lee/Bill Wallace and not Kano Jigoro/Royce Gracie. The feature is still strong, even if not suited for a lot of grappling situations. The first ability is one you can completely ignore as a Strength-based grappler. The second ability is much better, scaling as you level and pumping up your damage output. As for the third ability, think of it like a more consistent Frenzy from Barbarian (it doesn't bestow exhaustion). Use your bonus action attack with Fighter maneuvers for maximum battlefield control.
  • Ki - Flurry of Blows: If you follow the Way of the Open Hand archetype, you can use both Flurry attacks to deliver not one but TWO Dex-based trip attacks. Think of it like a better Tripping Attack from Fighter. You can also use Flurry to get four unarmed strikes as early as level five. Great for damage and for your grappling/shoving combat sequence.
  • Ki - Patient Defense: When most people think of Dodge, they think of the disadvantage to attack rolls (which you get from shoving anyway). They often forget the advantage on Dexterity saves piece, which is very useful if you are going for the "I hold, you cast spells" approach. Dodge is also one of the best ways to compensate for your low AC, keeping you alive while you lockdown 1-2 targets.
  • Ki - Step of the Wind: On the one hand, this is basically Cunning Action (plus bonus jump distance)! On the other, Step ends up being worse than Cunning Action because it functions off Ki , and because it competes with so many other bonus actions Monk needs to take. Excellent for mobile grappling builds or for those that want to jump into the air/climb cliffs/fly with their grappled targets.
  • Unarmored Movement: Dragging opponents across the battlefield costs a lot of movement, and Monk is one of the best ways to pick up additional squares. Unlike a Barbarian's Fast Movement, however, you can't wear armor while using it.
  • Deflect Missiles: Grapplers tend to make range attack magnets, and Deflect Missiles can keep you alive for a few extra rounds if the enemy decides to turn you into a crossbow-pin-cushion.
  • Slow Fall: In most Monk builds, Slow Fall is a noncombat ability you use when you fail an Athletics check to jump a chasm. In grappler builds, it's a way to mitigate damage to yourself after you jump off ledges with your hapless targets. At level 5 alone, you would prevent 25 damage from the fall, which is the average damage of a 7d6-8d6 fall from 70-80 ft.
  • Extra Attack: Yet another place to pick up the best all-round ability for grappling.
  • Stunning Strike: Don't think of this as yet another save-or-condition ability in the Monk's already extensive arsenal. Think of this as a no-action setup for other abilities in your class, because Stunned means automatic failure (automatic, 100%, guaranteed failure) on all Str/Dex saves. Open Hand Technique prone save? Fail. Way of the Four Elements spell-like abilities? Fails. And don't forget any abilities/spells you pick up from other classes along the way. This does require Ki, but it also doesn't require an action, and you can get as many as four attempts at this per turn (with Extra Attack).
  • Ki-Empowered Strikes: If you are playing an unarmed grappler, especially one who is grabbing two enemies, this is mandatory for keeping your damage output at pace with better monsters.
  • Evasion: If you or your allies are casting any Dex-based damage spells, Evasion keeps you alive to hold the enemy down for another round.
  • Stillness of the Mind: Being charmed is bad. Being frightened is worse. Stillness is a decent cleanse that ends either condition, although investing an action to do it is hardly optimal.
  • Purity of the Body: Won't come into play often, but when it does you will be very grateful. Any disease that gives strength disadvantage is a big problem, and this guarantees that never happens.
  • Diamond Soul: Given your small HP pool, and your presence on the dangerous front lines, this is invaluable in a lot of situations. Particularly strong if your teammates are casting AOE spells at you and your grappled foes (or you are casting them yourself).
  • Timeless Body: Just in case your parents/spouse thought that martial arts was bad for you, just point them to Monk 15.
  • Empty Body: At first glance, this looks like Invisibility that you need to wait 18 levels to cast. Then you realize that you don't have to concentrate on it, it lasts for 10 rounds, and at imparts resistance to ALL DAMAGE (but force damage...who uses force damage anyway). This gets really crazy with Silence, a spell given to you through the Way of the Shadow tradition; concentrate on Silence, keep invisiblity up, and just go to town on a pair of spellcasters.
  • Perfect Self: Terrible level 20 ability. Even in the most harrowing boss battles or gauntlet-style encounters, it would be a real challenge to burn through 20 ki points without a short rest before your next fight.
  • Way of the Open Hand: You get the best Monk unarmed striking options in level 3 of Way of the Open Hand. Unfortunately, the archetype quickly falls off after level 6. If you plan on progressing deep into Monk for better unarmed damage, fast movement, and Ki abilities, this archetype is too shallow to justify. If you just want a 3-5 level dip, however, then Way of the Open Hand is an excellent pickup.
    • Open Hand Technique: It's a better Fighter Tripping Attack, especially with Monk's Flurry of Blows. For one extra Ki per round and your bonus action, you get two extra prone attempts on one or two targets. Action economy doesn't get much better than that. The 15 foot push is also a valuable grappling ability, effectively increasing your move speed by 30 feet if you are dragging an opponent to an edge.
    • Wholeness of Body: If you go 3 levels into Monk, you might as well go to 5 to get Extra Attack. And if you go to 5, it can't hurt to go up to 6 to get +5 extra move speed, another Ki point, Ki-Empowered Strikes, and this underwhelming self-heal. Not the most efficient use of an action, but sometimes you need the HP.
    • Tranquility: Even grapple will break it (it's a special attack) so the ability is useful only as an inconsistent gap-closerat the start of a fight. .
    • Quivering Palm: It's a true save or die that you can easily add into your grappling routine: even a successful save leads to massive necrotic damage. Not particularly action-efficient in battle, but not a bad addition to your damage output.
  • Way of Shadows: If you want to play an anti-spellcaster grappler, Way of Shadows is by far one of the best options. You get Silence at level 3, an at-will gap closer at level 6, and a no-concentration Invisibility at level 18 from the Monk base progression. You even get another at-will ability, an Invisibility, starting at 11. Way of Shadows Monks are some of the slipperiest fighters in 5th Edition and, as a grappler, you are an absolute nightmare for mages.Classes like Bard also get Silence and high grapple checks, but they lack the damage output of Monks to finish the fight: most spellcasters have terrible Athletics/Acrobatics checks anyway.
    • Shadow Arts: Darkvision is a no-concentration way to gain the spell's namesake ability, but the real gain here is Silence. Spellcasters can't cast any spells with verbal components while in a Silence-affected area. That's normally not an issue if they have unrestricted movement, but becomes a huge problem if your Monk grapples them and holds them in the area of effect. Your high damage ensures you finish the job before they get out or get help.
    • Shadow Step: One of the best gap-closers I've seen in 5th Edition. At will (repeat: AT WILL) you can teleport 60 feet as a bonus action as long as both your starting and ending locations are in "dim light or darkness". You can take a move action even after the teleport, not to mention all your different grapple checks. Insane combinations abound with a Warlock's "Edlritch Sight" and the Darkness spell you already get at level 3, and you only need a 2 level Warlock dip to do them!
    • Cloak of Shadows: More at-will gap-closers! Even the least creative PCs can figure out a way to turn off the lights (or just fight at night), which means you can initiate every fight from invisibility. Your first attack after the grapple will even have advantage (combine with Fighter maneuvers for the best results).
    • Opportunist: As long as you have someone attacking your grappled spellcaster, you can now deal damage using a reaction too. Small damage boost but it all adds up.
  • Way of the Four Elements - Tradition: The big problem with Four Elements is that most of the spells are seriously overvalued from a progression standpoint. Fly at level 11? Cone of Cold at level 17? Even with the combo potential there (Fly up to drop enemies, Cone of Cold while restraining your target), it just isn't worth it because of how much investment you have to make. This is true of most abilities in the subclass, with only a a few exceptions. Water Whip is very interesting with the Grappler feat because the opponent's save will be made at disadvantage, and you can pull the target UP TO 25 feet closer. If they are next to you, just don't pull them at all and they stay grappled. If they are far away, pull them into you as a bonus action and then grab them on your attack. Fangs of the Fire Snake also has potential, depending on how you and your DM interpret the rules on dragging an opponent from reach into your square when the reach expires. But overall, all these options are weaker than both the other archetypes and comparable abilities in other classes.

All things considered, there are some redeeming qualities of Paladin grapplers. For one, they can deal a ton of damage to their grappled target with all those radiant bonuses. Vow of Emnity is also significantly better than something like Reckless Attack. None of the Paladin's spells are particularly crazy with grappling, but many of them aren't bad either. Paladin's are also pretty tanky, which is another quality in their favor. So why rate it so low? The reason this class gets a substandard, purple rank instead of an average one is that this damage is mostly worse than Monk without any sizeable benefits in exchange. Clerics will do most things Paladins do, but with better spell selection. Overall, Paladins CAN grapple, but most classes can just do it a bit better.

[sblock="Paladin Ability Review"]

  • HD-D10: Not a Barbarian's D12, but we'll be happy with second-best.
  • Lay on Hands: Free healing is nice, but using an action to do it is not. One nice perk of this feature is that it doesn't appear to require a free hand if you are using it on yourself (the RAW is admittedly ambiguous there), which means you might be able to do it while grappling two opponents at once.
  • Fighting Style: Of the different Fighter fighting styles, Paladin gets the only two that are good for grapplers. Seems easy enough; Defense for tanking, Dueling for a bit more damage.
  • Divine Smite: This no-action-required damage boost is nice for a low damage playstyle. Not particularly synergistic with grappling, but always nice to have the added stopping power.
  • Divine Health: Strength-based diseases are scary, and Divine Health keeps them away.
  • Extra Attack: Extra Attack is not always created equally between classes. The only reason this is slightly lower rated than other Extra Attacks is that you will rarely be dipping 2-3 levels into Paladin in the first place. Barbarian, Bard, Fighter, and Monk are all much better progressions to picking up a second attack.
  • Aura of Protection: Everyone, you included, gets a little save bonus. We'll take it, but we aren't rushing level 6 to get it.
  • Aura of Courage: Other classes get fear immunity or ways to remove the condition, but only Paladin gets flat out immunity to it. Doesn't make up for the other mediocre class features, but it's a welcome addition.
  • Improved Divine Smite: More damage, but Monks are probably a better option for damage-dealing grapplers. Rogue Paladins make strong damage-dealers, at least those with the auto-critting Assassinate feature, but there are better ways to build your grappler.
  • Cleansing Touch: Strong ability that can really get you back in a fight if you fail on a key save.
  • Oath of Devotion: I'm a big fan of Freedom of Movement on grapplers, so it's nice to see Oath Spells add it to the Paladin's spell list: Freedom helps you get out of stcky situations if you grapple more than you can hold. Sadly, that's where my fandom of Oath of Devotion ends. Sacred Weapon is fine but not worth enough damage to justify the investment, and Turn the Unholy is just another bad take on the already bad Turn Undead Cleric ability. The rest of the abilities are each worse than the one that comes before. Aura of Devotion is a worse Aura of Courage that you already get. All the benefits of Purity of Spirit are already accomplished through your Auras and your grappling. Then there's Holy Nimbus, which turns you into a human floorlamp and is easily the worst of the capstone Paladin archetype features.
  • Oath of the Ancients: Significantly better than Oath of Devotion, with stronger Oath Spells (Misty Step, Stoneskin) and a big tanking boost in damage resistance from Aura of Warding. Neither Nature's Wrath nor Turn the Faithless are much better than the Cleric turning abilities, but that's made up for again in the added durability from Undying Sentinel. On the other hand, Elder Champion is a monster capstone ability, turning you into a save-or-die machine that can cast Dispel Magic as a bonus action and imparts disadvantage on all the saves against your Smite spells.
  • Oath of Vengeance: If you absolutely must play a Paladin grappler, play an Oath of Vengeance one. Although the Oath Spells aren't that interesting beyond Misty Step (Haste is fine but you really want to concentrate on Enlarge Person/Enhance Ability from another class), the two Channel Divinity options are much better than those of other archetypes. Abjure Enemy imposes a frightened condition that lasts until damage is dealt (which you never need to crack because grappling doesn't have to deal damage) and Vow of Emnity grants advantage on your attack rolls if you are dealing damage. Both options make for strong control and damage options if you are a grappler. You won't get much use from Relentless Avenger, but at least Soul of Vengeance gives you more damage output in a scrap. Your capstone ability, Avenging Angel, gives you a fly speed and an AOE frightened effect that synergizes nicely with grapple: just scary opponents, grab them, and then fly into the air for a giant drop.

There is only one build that grapples as a ranger. The Tag Team Wrestler. This optimization uses a beast companion and a familiar (courtesy of the Magic Initiate feat) to repeatedly take the "Help" action to bestow advantage on your skill checks. But unlike the Raging Barbarian or the spellcasting Bard, Rangers can actually cast and even concentrate on spells while gaining that advantage. This is a very niche style of grappling that is totally dependent on your companion, but it does open the door to other concentration spells you otherwise couldn't access. Unfortunately, this takes a 7 level investment and still only bestows two instances of advantage per turn. Cool? Absolutely. Efficient leveling? Not quite.

[sblock="Ranger Ability Review"]

  • HD-D10: At least you get the second-best HD to start.
  • Favored Enemy: I had to read through the ability a few times before I realized this doesn't actually help you in combat. Useless for grapplers and one of the reasons Rangers are overall a weak class.
  • Natural Explorer: Between this and Favored Enemy, we aren't off to a good start for grappling skills.
  • Fighting Style: Hey, it's our old friends Dueling and Defense! At least this is a step up from the last two class features.
  • Primeval Awareness: One step forward with Fighting Style, two steps back with Primeval Awareness. I will never understand why the Rangers have so many non-combat abilities within the first three levels.
  • Extra Attack: Extra Attack is still Extra Attack, but as with Paladin, there are better entry points for this feature.
  • Land's Stride / Hide in Plain Sight / Vanish: I give up. I'm just combining all the useless Ranger features into one block of red. We could probably make a Hide-based grappler if we really tried, but there are so many better optimizations out there that we shouldn't even bother.
  • Feral Senses: Great synergy with Darkness, and seeing invisibility is very strong against some monsters and spellcasters. Doesn't actually affect your Athletics check directly, but you still need to see an enemy to wrestle it.
  • Foe Slayer: It baffles me that a level 20 ability is somehow worse than a level 1 ability (Rage) in almost all situations. Then again, it is a Ranger ability, so maybe I shouldn't be too surprised.
  • Hunter: More quality abilities from Ranger! Hunter is whole sublcass full of subpar grappling abilities. Like with Foe Slayer, I can't wrap my head around how Ranger gets Evasion at level 15 and Rogue/Monk get it at level 7. Rogues also get Uncanny Dodge at level 5 (not 15), and that's on top of the Evasion they are getting a few levels later. Flavorwise, Hunter has a lot of potential. Game stats wise, this is one of the more embarassing designs in the book.
  • Beast Master: The "Tag Team Wrestler" grappling style involves beast companions, familiars, summoned animals, and really anything that can take the Help action and give you advantage on skill checks. It's simultaneously one of the more flavorful grappling builds, because you are getting help from a bunch of snakes, cats, and frogs, and one of the cheesiest, because Help seems unfair as worded. You'll want to get Magic Initiate or Ritual Caster feat for the Find Familiar spell, and perhaps Mage Slayer for some anti-caster action (you can concentrate on Silence while commanding your animals). Overall, this isn't the most optimal grappling build, but it's fun and flavorful enough to be worth a try. Here are some general tips on playing this optimization:
    • Get an Animal Companion that can use some of its move to leave your backpack and the rest of its move to slither/fly/jump/crawl back in. We don't actually want our companion in harm's way, even if we will be giving the enemy disadvantage on his attack rolls. Poisonous Snake is a decent option here, and it deals a decent amount of damage for a tiny creature.
    • At level 7 you'll pick up Exceptional Training, which lets you command the beast to Help you using only your bonus action. That gives you the rest of your turn to do whatever you want, and what you want to do is intiate a grapple with advantage on the roll. Note that you can't get advantage on BOTH the check to grapple and to shove. You need to pick one.
    • Add in another creature via Find Familiar for another instance of advantage every turn.
    • You're now getting advantage on checks and haven't concentrated on anything. So cast some spells! Worried that the Ranger spell list sucks? Just multiclass to something else; you get all you need out of Ranger by level 7 (or level 8 if you want that bonus feat/ability score increase). Heck: some of those Ranger spells (Longstrider, Silence, Conjure Animals) are actually quite strong, especially Conjure Animals.
    • Be aware that this is the sort of RAW optimization many DMs will balk at, so be prepared to justify your build to your skeptical playgroup. It's not necessarily the best use of the animal companion/Find Familar Help playstyle (because remember; anyone can get Find Familiar), but it's a really cool and hilariously flavorful build that is sure to please and delight at least a few PCs.

Like Fighters, Rogues are by far one of the best 2 level dip that a grappler can take. Unlike Fighter, there isn't much reason to stay in Rogue after that, which is why the class is overall rated a bit lower. A single level gives you both the respectable Sneak Attack (used in tandem with shove to deal additional damage per turn) and the almighty Expertise. One more level gives you Cunning Action, which lets you dash as a bonus action (real grapplers don't disengage or hide). Know what happens when you Dash as a bonus action while grappling? More move speed to cover distance while dragging your target! The vast majority of decent grappling builds, except those using Bards which already gets Expertise, are going to take at least a 1 level dip into Rogue if not 2. Of course, there are also some scary Sneak Attack-oriented builds you can put together, which you can consider as an alternate damage-dealing option to the Monk's unarmed playstyle.

[sblock="Rogue Ability Review"]

  • HD-D8: Not great, but not as bad as the Bard D8 HD because many builds will just take 2 levels in Rogue.
  • Expertise: The only place to get this for a mere 1 level investment. The vast majority of builds will get at least a 1 level toe-in-the-water to get this core ability.
  • Sneak Attack: For most builds, this will just be a small but welcome damage boost you can get on prone opponens. For the dedicated grappling Rogue, this damage can get completely out of hand as you gain levels and focus on grabbing opponents and slitting their throats. Just be aware that you need to use a finesse weapon to benefit from the damage, and RAW you can't use an unarmed strike to accomplish that. Grab your opponent in one hand, take a dagger in the other, and finish the job from there.
  • Cunning Action: Like Expertise, this is another ability that makes you feel a bit like you are cheating. Dashing as a bonus action will give you significantly more speed to spring around the battlefield with dragged enemies, or just to close the distance on a target. Just remember that your move speed is halved by virtue of the grapple, so Dash is effectively going to "double" your halved move speed, not your full one. Even so, being able to move the full 30+ feet in a turn makes a big difference for battlefield control.
  • Uncanny Dodge: More action economy with those awesome reactions! Helps compensate for the low HD. The fact that you can use it every turn makes Rogues surprisingly tanky in frontline scenarios.
  • Evasion: I hold. You cast Fireball. Everybody (but the badguys) wins! Just pin two enemies using the Grappler feat and give them both disadvantage on their Dex saves. Then just sit there while dire/ice/Lightning rains down on your heads. At worst, you take half damage. At best, you won't take any at all.
  • Reliable Talent: It's like the Barbarians Indomitable Might, but you get it 7 levels earlier and despite getting it earlier, it's often better depending on your stats. Barbarians get an automatic 20 on Indomitable Might at level 18, assuming a 20 Strength score. Rogues get to treat the roll as a 10 and then add bonuses. That would be at absolute minimum +8 from proficiency (doubled from Expertise), and probably +4 from Strength (you should definitely have 18 strength by level 11). That's a 22 MINIMUM on any Athletics check you make. Oh, and did I mention it applies to all your skills, not just those combat ones? Features like these make the straight Rogue grappler look way more viable than it does at first glance. The only reason this isn't gold is because you get it a bit late so the other class features (low HP, no Extra Attack, no advantage on checks) make it a little worse.
  • Blindsense: Nice perk for handling invisible foes. Even though grappling and shoving ignore the disadvantage from invisibility, you still need to find your enemies to wrestle them.
  • Slippery Mind: More saves can only help, although it's a bit late to be replicating a feat (Resilient) you can just get at level 1. .
  • Elusive: If you proceed with the Grappler build, this negates one of the many disadvantages of that terribly-designed feat. Not a bad ability, but just not very strong for an 18 level investment.
  • Stroke of Luck: Once per encounter, you will win one grapple/shove check no matter what. I wouldn't invest 20 levels in Rogue just to get that perk (for all intents and purposes, your grappling should already be "automatically" succeeding), but if you were playing in a campaign that didn't allow multiclassing, there are worse capstones you can get.
  • Thief: The power of this archetype hinges on what magical (and nonmagical) items you can use as part of the Use An Object action, but even those options are generally weaker than what you can pick up in other classes. It's also hard to obtain magical items in D&D 5th Edition, so I wouldn't rely too heavily on features that require them.
    • Fast Hands: There are some nifty Sleight of Hand and Use an Object actions you can do to a grappled opponent, but "nifty" isn't exactly where you want to be with this combat style. Almost anything you can do with Fast Hands you can also do after you've beaten your opponent into the ground. The main exception to this is disarming an opponent and then using a bonus action to pick up their dropped weapon, but you can do that just as easily by dragging them away.
    • Second-Story Work: I can think of a few grappling builds that rely on climb speeds or jumps, but even there, you'll find better ways to get more athleticism. The Athlete feat alone accomplishes most of this feature's benefits!
    • Supreme Sneak: Grapplers normally don't sneak, but if you have a Sneak Attack damage build, it makes sense to close the distance on an enemy in the shadows before jumping out to strike. Monks do a better job at this, however, so it's not worth a big investment.
    • Use Magic Device: Wands alone give you a lot of combat options to play around with, effectively allowing you to "cast spells" as a bonus action. Sorcerers get to do that with their Quicken Spell metamagic, but we get to do it without spending resources and we can effectively cast outside of our level by ignoring level requirments. This even plays nicely with grappling, particularly if you are casting attack roll-based spells or Dexterity save-based spells on restrained targets. There are cool optimization ideas here, but I don't particularly want to spend 13 levels to get them. There's some RAW ambiguity on whether or not this works in tandem with Rage: the feature gets a lot better if it does, because then Barbarian 5/Rogue 13/Fighter 2 becomes a viable magic item build with access to both Rage and Extra Attack/Action Surge.
    • Thief's Reflexes: There are few reasons to invest 17 levels into Rogue to get this ability when you can just get Action Surge and Extra Attack from Fighter at levels 2 and 5 respectively. You can't even overlap this with Extra Attack because the 17-level investment is too steep to allow you to get Extra Attack elsewhere.
  • Assassin: Nothing about this feature really relates to grappling, but everytime you see an ability that give automatic critical hits or that double damage, you should pay attention.
    • Assassinate: In the right build, this can lead to some very nasty surprise rounds, even if it's not really a grappling-specific ability. You can still grapple and deal damage after you've pinned the enemy: not grappling specific but still dangerous.
    • Death Strike: This worse-Assassinate can also play into a damage-based grappling approach, but the save-based ability is generally going to be pretty bad at level 17 when enemies all have Legendary Resistance and similar stats. It also only works in that first round of combat.
  • Arcane Trickster Archetype: Don't evaluate Arcane Trickster as a subpar Rogue archetype with slow spell progression. Think of it as a series of magical perks on the way to your best class feature at level 11 (Reliable Talent). You can even pick up Enlarge Person!
    • Spellcasting: Enchantment and illusion spells aren't very exciting, but a spell of your choice at level 8 is. Grab Enlarge Person and go to work. I recommend snagging Longstrider as your level 3 non-Enchantment/Illusion spell. You'll still get mileage out of your non-Enlarge Person options, but you're mostly getting this to pick up grappling advantage without breaking your level progression. Once you get both it and Reliable Talent, you can easily multiclass back to a fighting class to get Extra Attack.
    • Mage Hand Legerdemain: There are some cute things you can do with the Hand while grappling opponents, including picking up dropped weapons, but you shouldn't be doing "cute" to begin with.
    • Magical Ambush: Imposing some adverse conditions on an opponent is good, but most require concentration. You can still use this to popen with a damage burst, but it's probably worse than just grappling: save you actions.
    • Versatile Trickster: Useless when we are already knocking our opponents prone.
    • Spell Thief: Slick ability that doubles as improved survivability against spellcasters. Unfortunately, if you're grappling spellcasters, it's probably in a zone of Silence where they aren't casting spells anyway. You also can't concentrate on anything beyond Enlarge Person. Not at all worth a 17 level Rogue progression, but there are some campaigns where multiclassing is discouraged or disallowed.

If you treat Sorcerer as a 3-4 level dip to pick up a few Metamagic abilities, Enlarge Person, Constitution-save proficiency, and some random spells, then this class isn't that terrible. There are better ways to get all those abilities, but in the right build a 3-4 Sorcerer sample can really shine. Unfortunately, the class loses a lot of power beyond level 5. It suffers from mediocre spells relative to a Wizard (not even Shapechange or True Polymorph!) and bad class features relative to a Bard. I can envision some builds taking advantage of excess sorcery points to cast spells while grappling (via either Subtle or Quicken Spell). I also think those builds are probably worse than other options, which is why this class gets a purple overall rating instead of maybe a black or blue.

[sblock="Sorcerer Ability Review"]

  • HD-D6: It doesn't get any worse. Polymorph minimizes the HD, but unlike a Wizard, you don't even get to take Shapechange at the end of the progression.
  • Flexible Casting: Mostly a bad use for valuable sorcery points, but there are times where you'll want to keep casting a spell like Shield throughout a fight. If you're only investing in Sorcerer for a few spells, this becomes a bit better as it converts "worse" spells into points for metamagic.
  • Metamagic: I'm giving these an overall blue rating because at least a few of them are highly synergistic with grappling (although not necessarily "good"). I may think Sorcerers overall make bad grapplers, but no other class lets you cast spells so easily while you are grappling one or even two opponents. Better yet: Metamagic applies to any spells, not just Sorcerer ones. This makes the class a much better dip than it first appears.
    • Careful Spell: If this protected you, it would be a lot better for the wrestling mage. Without the self-protection, you're just wasting sorcery points: simply drag the creatures away from allies before detonating AOE spells instead.
    • Distant Spell: You want to have less distance between you and your enemies, not more. Can be helpful if you need to throw down a heal or another spell while you are too far away, but that's generally a bad use of your valuable actions.
    • Empowered Spell: One of the better features in the metamagic list for no other reason than that it can be applied on top of other metamagic. At just 1 point, it's a great way to get a little more damage out of your spells. It's decent with grappling because it pumps your damage output with very little investment.
    • Extended Spell: Not a bad feature, but not one that is very helpful for most of your longer duration spells. It's not like Enlarge Person is wearing off in mid-combat, and you can't extend it to last through multiple combats.
    • Heightened Spelll: It isn't cheap in terms of expended Sorcery Points, but unconditional save disadvantage is huge on many spells. Redundant if you are just using restrained anyway (at least, with dex-based saves), but very strong if you want to impose other, non-damaging conditions on opponents. Fear, for example, imposes one of the worst conditions you can have while grappled, and one of the few condition-imposing spells that doesn't get rerolls every turn. They fail once, they are stuck as frightened for the rest of the battle, and they will drop all their held items immediately. Heightened Spell helps you set up that combo.
    • Quickened Spell: Great for action economy. Let's you grapple with all your attacks and then cast a spell to finish up the round. Also a great way to start the fight if you are surprised: just Enlarge Person as a bonus action to get things going.
    • Subtle Spell: Somatic component spells require a free hand. Grappling two targets occupy all your free hands. Subtle Spell solves that problem and many more, making it by far the best metamagic option with grappling. You can also use Subtle Spell to cast while in a zone of Silence, which is the perfect finisher after you've grappled an enemy caster in there. The build-around possibilities are endless and I encourage you to experiment with all the grappling/metamagic combinations out there.
    • Twinned Spell: There are generally better things you can do than casting single-target spells as a grappler. Besides, if you are holding two enemies, you won't have the free hands to cast most spells anyway.
  • Sorcerous Restoration: Wizards must have a lot of playtests/experiences where high level characters go for hours on end without a rest. If you are participating in those marathon encounter sequences, features like this become decent. For most of us, we just take rests after every fight, making this one of the least useful capstone features in 5th Edition.
  • Draconic Bloodline: The flavor may be strong with this feature, but the mechanics mostly fall flat with regard to grappling. Most of the archetype's abilities are very weak or not at all synergistic with grappling. The only good features don't come online until too late.
    • Dragon Ancestor: Useless on its own, even if it is an entry-requirement for other features.
    • Draconic Resilience: I'm not going to sneeze at a little extra HP, but the bonus AC isn't worth it. The Barbarian and even Monk Unarmed Defense options are significantly better for grapplers.
    • Elemental Affinity: Unless you are playing a damage-based build trying to squeeze every single point of damage out of spells, the first part of this ability isn't worth it. Resistance is a nicer, especially given the minimal investment you'll need every encounter cycle.
    • Dragon Wings: Getting a permanent fly speed is excellent as a grappler. Getting it for a 14 level investment in Sorcerer is less excellent. Just play an Aarakocra. The only reason this is blue is because Aarakocra's have armor limitations with their flight. Dragon Wings works with any armor, as long as it's custom designed to accommodate those wings.
    • Draconic Presence: In terms of level investment, this ability is solidly purple: not enough benefit for a steep progression. On its own merits, however, it's a blue feature and one of the only fear auras that imposes "frightened" without concentration and without cracking on damage. If you have to stick in Sorcerer for 18 levels, you can do worse than Draconic Presence.
  • Wild Magic: It's crazy, it's fun, and it's pretty darn good with grappling. You'll need a combination of luck and DM help to really make Wild Mage work for you, but if you can get it going, this can be a powerful grappling feature for either a straight Sorcerer or a multiclassed one.
    • Wild Magic Surge: I don't know if many of these options are "good" for grappling, but they sure are hilarious. If you get really lucky (and get a little RAI love from your DM) you might even be able to roll into a permanent size increase. You can also Polymorph yourself before you would ordinarily get the spell.
    • Tides of Chaos: Random advantage on checks is good, but it's a bit redundant with Enlarge Person. Saving Throw and Attack Roll advantage is a bit better. If your DM allows you to regain the feature every time you cast a spell, however, then this becomes quite a bit better.
    • Bend Luck: It's a mini Cutting Words! The penalty isn't as severe and the base class isn't as strong, but you do get more Bend Luck uses than you would from Bard's limited Cutting Words pool. It's weaker at level 6 than it was at level 3, but still a respectable way to pump up your grappling.
    • Controlled Chaos: Even more ways to get taller or ensure a favorable Wild Magic outcome! Again, I'm not sure if this is really good with grappling. I just find the abilities fun and interesting with the upside of random grappling application.
    • Spell Bombardment: We won't say no to a damage boost, but we also shouldn't be too excited to dump 18 levels into this class just to get better damage. This would be a lot better if Sorcerers picked up Shapechange, but without the capstone transformation spell, Bombardment doesn't cut it alone.

Warlock is not red because it's a bad class overall. It's red because it makes the worst grappler. Almost anything you do as a Warlock another class does better. Warlock gets Find Familiar at level 3, but other classes get it at level 1 or via a feat. Warlocks get True Polymorph but not Shapeschange. Warlock casts the powerful Hex spell, but doesn't get Enlarge Person/Enhance Ability: other classes can even get Hex with a feat! Although there are some unique, even worthwhile, abilities scattered around the class, you are generally better making your level investments elsewhere unless you are trying out some niche build.

[sblock="Warlock Ability Review"]
  • HD - D8: Hardy for a spellcaster (and with Light Armor proficiency!) but not hardy enough to make up for the other deficiencies with the class.
  • Mystic Arcanum: We're starting with a level 11 feature because all the other Warlock abilities are lists (Invocations) or archetypes. Arcanum adds to your spells-per-day, which is good, but doesn't change the fact that you have low spells-per-day in the first place. Also doesn't address the lack of Enlarge Person or Enhance Ability.
  • Eldritch Master: Another capstone ability that only helps if you run marathon, gauntlet-style encounter sequences. Doesn't address the in-encounter lack of spells, and still doesn't get us Enlarge Person, Enhance Ability, or Shapechange.
  • Eldritch Invocations: Evaluated as a whole, the Invocations are probably purple or even red. Evaluated for their best options, however, the Invocations become a lot more useful to grapplers. At least a handful of these features help out grappling in some way, and some are so unique and powerful you can't get them anywhere else. As a quick dip, Warlock is a decent option on the strengths of some Invocations alone. Just avoid the bad ones. In the interest of space and saving time, I'm not bothering to review all of them. If one isn't listed, it's clearly unrelated to grappling and clearly a to-be-avoided red option.
    • Agonizing Blast: Improves our damage output, which isn't necessarily bad, but doesn't directly synergize with grappling. Also improves damage output on a spell we can't cast while grapping two opponents.
    • Armor of Shadows: There are few reasons to get this instead of just wearing your armor. Unarmored Defense options are also better.
    • Ascendant Step: Levitate is a cute spell with grappling, and at-will levitation is a neat substitute for a real fly speed. Just make sure you plus your targets don't weigh 500+ pounds collectively: they won't get a saving throw because you are levitating yourself, but you do need to carry them.
    • Bewitching Whispers: Compulsion opens up a few tricks, but nothing you want to concentrate on or waste a class feature for.
    • Book of Ancient Secrets: It's another way to pick up Find Familiar without using a "real" spell slot, but there are way better ways to pick up the spell, and way better options for your Incantation selection.
    • Chains of Carceri: Don't be a Warlock 15 to begin with. If you are, don't invest a class feature into a conditional Hold Monster that other classes get many levels earlier. Easily one of the weakest features in any class, let alone Warlock, and let alone again for grapplers.
    • Devil's Sight: Now we're talking! There is no other feature in the game, at least not one readily accessible to players, that lets you see enemies in a zone of Darkness. As a grappler, you can cast Darkness on enemies and then keep them locked down in the zone. While stuck there, they won't be able to see outside of the area of effect and enemies won't be able to see in. You can even combine this with a Monk's Shadow Step ability for easy, on-command gap-closing!
    • Dreadful Word: Back to the Warlock abilities we know and loathe. Confusion itself isn't horrible with grapping, but you don't want to be the one concentrating on this spell.
    • Eldritch Spear: As with most range attack abilities, Spear works at cross-purposes with close-range grappling.
    • Fiendish Vigor: Here's a decent invocation. False Life doesn't require concentration and has a respectable 1 hour duration. This is effectively a 1d4+5 "permanent" boost to your HP. It's not huge but that can be the difference between life and death at lower levels especially. It's also a quasi-heal you can repeatedly cast.
    • Gaze of Two Minds: Now I remember why my original guide didn't review all these abilities...
    • Lifedrinker: Pact Weapon grappling isn't really a thing, but if you want to make it a thing then Lifedrinker gives you a small damage boost to all your attacks. Although more relevant than garbage like Eldritch Spear, Lifedrinker still requires a ridiculous 12 level commitment and is rarely going to be worth it.
    • Master of Myriad Forms: You can do worse than an at-will Alter Self, even if Alter Self isn't great for grappling (requires concentration and doesn't give you grappling advantage). But you can't do much worse than a level 15 at-will Alter Self. Seriously: that's a level 2 spell you are investing a level 15 class feature to get.
    • Minions of Chaos: Summoner grapplers are a thing, but Conjure Elementals doesn't give you enough help actions to justify a 9th level feature .
    • Mire the Mind: There are way better spells to concentrate on out there, including the buff version of this spell (Haste).
    • One with Shadows: Not a great ability, but it has some interesting synergy with grappling. Just grab someone in a dark area and stop doing anything. As long as you don't move and don't make grapple checks, your opponent will stay locked down and you'll be invisible from other enemies. You can definitely do worse as a Warlock.
    • Otherworldly Leap: There are lots of grappling uses for Jump, especially if you are getting high in the air and then dropping opponents for damage. Unfortunately, you don't really want to expend a 9th level feature to get the 1st level spell, even if it is at-will.
    • Repelling Blast: Remember what we said about gap-closing and not gap-widening? It's at play in this useless feature too.
    • Sculptor of Flesh: Polymorph grappling isn't as good as Wild Shape grappling, but it's still feasible provided you have someone else buffing you to get advantage on the grapple checks. Warlocks won't get the spell otherwise, so if you want to be a transformational Warlock grappler, this is the feature you need.
    • Sign of Ill Omen: It's generally better to give your grapple checks advantage than to give opposing ones disadvantage, but this is a way to get a quasi-Enhance Ability on Warlock. There are better options out there but this is a feasible solution to the class's lack of other advantage-granting spells.
    • Thief of Five Fates Once you look up Bane and see it doesn't affect ability checks, you'll understand why this feature is useless.
    • Thirsting Blade: It's Extra Attack for Warlock, but doesn't seem to work, as per RAW, with grappling. Grappling requires you to replace attacks, but Thirsting Blade only lets you take them with your pact weapon (which can't itself grapple). This is significantly better if you can rules-lawyer your way into getting it to work with a grapple, but if not, skip it unless you want to deal more damage.
  • The Archfey: Most of these features could have been better for grappling with a few wording tweaks. As they are, however, there are way better options within Warlock if you absolutely need to dip or progress in the class. The archetype imposes some relevant conditions (Frightened) and has decent abilities (teleport), but all with limitations that make them pretty bad for grappling.
    • Spell List: Greater Invisibility is a great spell, but that's as deep as this list goes. Amusingly, this spell list would be bad even if your job was to seduce the duchess or bluff your way into the king's court, so I don't even understand it in the context of the archetype's flavor.
    • Fey Presence: Every time you see the "Frightened" condition, you should pay attention. But every time you see that the condition only lasts a turn and can't be used again until after a short rest, you should go elsewhere. This also costs an action, which makes it even worse than it already was.
    • Misty Step: If you can get creative with taking damage (damge yourself, take damage from a fall, have an ally damage you, etc.) then this feature isn't awful. It's a 60 foot teleport with invisibility tacked on, which is a great way to close a gap. This would be blue if it were easier to trigger and, more importantly, if you could do it more than once per rest.
    • Beguiling Defenses: Charm immunity isn't bad but it's not worth a level 10 feature. Barbarians get the same much earlier and as part of a better progression.
    • Dark Delirium: Better than Fey Presence because it lasts for multiple rounds. You can even keep it going while grappling, so long as you aren't also dealing damage. It's still better to concentrate on giving yourself advantage than giving an opponent disadvantage, but there are worse fear-based features out there.
  • The Fiend: A huge improvement over the Archfey, The Fiend patron isn't better than other grappling classes but it's the best Warlock option out there. Every single ability has some direct or indirect benefit to grappling and although there are better ways to pick them up, it's the best the Warlock has to offer. The capstone ability even borders on "good"!
    • Spell List: There are a fair number of decent spells here, even if Wizards also get most of them with better features along the way. Fireball, Flame Strike, and Wall of Fire all have great synergy with the restrained condition. Fire Shield is a passable frontline tanking spell, although there are better options out there. Solid B+ spell list; it only works with a certain style of grappling, but it's at least a viable style.
    • Dark One's Blessing: It's a bit of extra HP every time you kill an enemy, which can be useful in mob situations where grapplers might otherwise struggle. Remember that temporary HP doesn't stack, so you can't just farm little creatures to accumulate a massive temp HP pool.
    • Dark One's Own Luck: Huge boost to a single grapple check, but only usable once per rest. Would be better-rated if you could use it more (and honestly, the once-per-rest restriction could bump it lower), but it's rare to see a Warlock ability so explicitly tied to grappling.
    • Fiendish Resilience: True, it's no Rage or Bear Totem Rage, but as far as spellcasting tank abilities go, this one is quite strong. Fire is obviously a good choice if you plan on using your spell list to hold enemies in fire damage, but you can easily tailor this to fit an adventure's needs.
    • Hurl Through Hell: At first glance, this just looks like a no-save, high-damage burst ability. It also appears anti-synergistic with grappling, because it breaks the hold. So how do you use Hurl? Fly up in the air and then Hurl them Through Hell. When they reappear in mid air, they will instantly take 10d10 damage plus damage from the fall. Now THAT'S getting hurled through hell. It might not KO a monster in one shot, but it will be hard for them to heal up through that quick damage burst. You can land underneath the creature (move action) and then grapple the creature when it lands. RAW, it will be landing Prone anyway after the fall, so you just have to grab it there and start all over again. Hey, maybe Warlocks can grapple after all!
  • The Great Old One: Warlocks make bad grapplers. Cthulhu worshipping grapplers make even worse grapplers, which is really too bad because that would be the coolest and most flavorful build in the PHB. The combination of completely irrelevant class features and a mediocre spell list dooms this as a viable grappling build. Bonus points for flavor and backstory, but none for mechanics. Well, maybe one bonus point for one mechanic, but it's a bit of a weird one and doesn't come into play until level 14.
    • Spell List: C'mon, Wizards. Where are the spells that frighten things? Aren't those Great Old Ones supposed to be scary? The ones worshipped by these Warlocks seem more like the ET-Phone-Home variety than the eat-your-mind-and-planet one, which sucks both for flavor and for grappling. The only interesting spell on the list is Telekinesis, a spell which opens up grappling ideas all on its own but is still better used by a Wizard than a Warlock.
    • Awakened Mind: A unique and undeniably powerful ability, Awakened Mind still doesn't do much for grappling.
    • Entropic Shield: Too narrow as a tanking ability, even if it has strong action economy in using reactions. It's better to impose disadvantage on attack rolls by knocking enemies prone. Don't spend a feature on it.
    • Thought Shield: Strong in a roleplaying context, but very weak in combat. Maybe better if you are a full-time Mind Flayer slayer.
    • Create Thrall: Find Familiar and Animal Companion do the same thing (not to mention Conjure spells), and you don't need to invest 14 levels into those. Then again, those are animals and little Imps/Rats/Snakes. They're also not permanent. Create Thrall never goes away and works on ANY incapcitated creature. It also doesn't allow a saving throw. The big bad guy? Oh yeah, he's fair game. Some master assassin who can sneak attack your grappled bad guys? All yours - literally. The king of the whole dang kingdom? You're now his best buddy. With the right access to the right people, there are probably endless synergies you could work with this ability and grappling, but it would be something you would have to completely build the optimization around.


The skinny, bookish Wizard, despite some serious survivability issues, makes a very good grappler. To start, Wizards make some of the best mage slaying grapplers around. Antimagic Field plus grappling is virtually unbeatable for most magic-based opponents, especially if you use magic to close the gap. Second, Wizards are excellent at the restrain-target, cast-spell model of combat. They can sculpt spells around themselves to avoid making the save. Cook off a Delayed Blast Fireball for a few rounds and then drag the bad guy into it. It's just as fun as it sounds. Finally, Wizards make strong Shapechange grapplers, mostly because their spell list is the most extensive (no one else gets Shapechange but Druids), and because their class features have such strong synergy with those spells.

[sblock="Wizard Ability Review"]

  • HD-D6: D6 HD sucks, but because Wizards get the almighty Shapechange, it's not as big a deal as with Sorcerers who are stuck on Polymorph.
  • Arcane Recovery: Useless in a battle, but quite useful over the course of a day. You get it so early anyway that it's not like you have made any investment for an otherwise average feature.
  • Spell Mastery: More spell slots are always nice, especially if you are always casting a few go-to buffs anyway.
  • Signature Spells: See above. Even while Shapechanged, there are a few spells you are still going to cast on yourself and your enemies no matter what. If you can cast those at-will, that's great in long engagements.
  • School of Abjuration: Enemy mages beware! Part of the School of Abjuration curriculum is about protecting others. The other part? Smashing the faces of opposing spellcasters. Every single ability in this archetype has some relevance to grapplers, with many of them directly applicable to either tanking or ruining enemy spellcasters' days. On top of that, every single ability also functions while Shapechanged. Easily one of the best schools you can pick.
    • Arcane Ward: The first time you cast this, probably off of Shield, you get a nice bonus HP pool that will probably negate at least one attack. Then every other time you proc this, probably with even more Shield, you get 2 more of that HP back. Ward requires no concentration and no investment beyond casting spells you are already casting anyway.
    • Projected Ward: You probably won't spread the Ward love to your allies, but it's nice to have that option.
    • Improved Abjuration: A great ability that helps you win any Dispel Magc or Counterspell battle. Mage-slaying grappling is all about Dispel Magic and Counterspell anyway (what's up, Freedom of Movement?), and getting an added +3 or +4 to the check will almost guarantee you succeed on those contests.
    • Spell Resistance: You can pick up magic saving throw advantage from other features, but spell-damage resistance is excellent. Works while Shapechanged, while restraining an enemy in an ongoing spell effect, and while just hunting down enemy mages.
  • School of Conjuration: There are a few ways to be a summoner grappler, but this archetype isn't one of them. The only ability affecting your summoned creatures, Durable Summons, comes online far too late and with far too little impact to be worth it. Focused Conjuration is a nice way to keep your animal horde from falling apart, but between save proficiency and War Caster you shouldn't have trouble concentrating to begin with. As for Minor Conjuration and Benign Transposition, the first has no grappling application at all, and the second is a bad and action-inefficient Misty Step.
  • School of Divination: Surprisingly useful as a grappler, although not quite as strong as the anti-spellcaster options under Abjuration. Divination School features are excellent on a more generic Wizard grappler that isn't focused too heavily on either Shapechanging or on mage-murdering.
    • Portent: If you roll high, you can use these to all but guarantee success on your own grapple/shove checks. If you roll low, you can seal your enemy's failure. Sure, you can only use the feature twice before a rest, but you will be surprised how much mileage you can get out of those two uses.
    • Expert Divination: This gets you a lot of extra spells per day, especially if you start with a level 5 spell and then keep casting until you have regained the level 1 slot off the level 2 cast. These spells won't be useful for grappling in most cases, but that doesn't mean grapplers are never out of combat and never trying to divine out of combat knowledge.
    • The Third Eye: Invisibility can be a big problem for grapplers, and this is a no-concentration-required way to combat that. The other modes are just added perks.
    • Greater Portent: Portent is good at two uses. Portent is better at three uses.
  • School of Enchantment: In case it was unclear over the course of this guide, charmed is not a condition grappler should care much about: most charms are broken on damage or hostile action. All of the abilities in this school either charm in exactly that kind of break-on-contact way, or provide another benefit that is entirely unrelated to our style of combat in the first place.
  • School of Evocation: If you are taking this feature, you are mostly doing it for the level 14 ability which guarantees that your spells deal a LOT of serious damage when your opponents fail their saves. The other features are fine but not great, which is okay given how strong that level 14 ability is.
    • Sculpt Spells: It's too bad that this and the Sorcerer's Careful Spell don't allow you to sculpt around yourself. That said, this iis a little better than Careful Spell because it costs no sorcery points to use, and because it doesn't occupy the metamagic slot for a spell that you would rather quicken or heighten.
    • Potent Cantrip: More damage is always good, even if only on Cantrips. There will be times where you use this and it isn't bad, but there will more often be times where you just don't use it at all.
    • Empowered Evocation: A little more damage never hurt anyone. Except, of course, the bad guys grappled in the Wall of Fire.
    • Overchannel:There are really two spells you want to use with this. The first is the nuke itself: Fireball. Cast that for 10d6 as a level 5 spell and just deal a flat 60 damage to everyone nearby. The second, and I actually like this one a lot better, is Wall of Fire. Get fire resistance somehow and then cast Wall as a 5th level spell for 6d8 maximized damage. That's 48 damage right away and another 48 damage every single turn that you hold the bad guys in that wall. Because you can just cast Wall and let it cook, you can do that before you even grapple the enemy, which lets you grapple two badguys instead of one and then restrain them both right in front of the oven.
  • School of Illusion: Every feature in this school is about as useful to grappling as those in the Enchantment school. Except the last one. Illusory Reality is one of those features like Warlock's Create Thrall. The only limitations are your imagination. I'm not saying you should play a School of Illusion grappler with all the other options available. But I'm also not saying it's not awesome and potentially very powerful to try. Brainstorm ways to rapidly gain altitude (illusory stairs), open up giant holes to throw people through (illusory doors in tower/castle walls), or create confined areas (illusory cage matches). You are only limited by your creativity and the parameters of the feature; the illusion can't move and can't be magical.
  • School of Necromancy: Not quite as bad as School of Enchantment but still a subpar choice. True, you can use Animate Dead to make a shambling horde of grapple/shove helpers. Then again, you don't actually need School of Necromancy to do that. The walking dead will just be a tiny bit more durable; 20 HP at absolute most, which is maybe 1-2 more hits of damage. The Animate Dead route to gaining "Help" is perfectly operable without this feature, even if it's slightly less flavorful.
  • School of Transmutation: I was expecting a lot more of the school that gives you the best grappling spell in your arsenal, Shapechange, but the options here are still strong. The final ability is particularly nutty, but only on the highest level Wizards.
    • Minor Alchemy: Focus on grappling, not duping poor salesmen at the market.
    • Transmuter's Stone: For grapplers, the move speed increase is the best of the different options, especially if you stack it on top of Longstrider and any other natural move speed increases and modes.
    • Shapechange: The feature with the highest-potential name has, of course, the lowest-impact benefit.
    • Master Transmuter: Power Word Heal is a 9th level spell that heals a target of all HP and removes a bunch of conditions. Panacea is a 14th level class feature that, for all intents and purposes, does the same thing, but three levels before you would ordinarily get it. And remember: class-balance-wise, Wizards shouldn't even be able to have this ability. Because when you are a 250 HP Adult Red Dragon, it's not very fair that you can also heal yourself to full. This concept of class balance is what makes this feature so crazy.

Overall, there are a lot of classes that can get you into the grappling action, and I encourage you to try out different options. If you are still feeling overwhelmed and need some more general rules, here are the overarching guidelines you want to keep in mind when picking your class.

  • Athletics advantage: The biggest grappler prerequisite is getting advantage on your checks. This typically means Barbarian Rage, Enlarge Person, or Enhance Ability, although there are other ways to do it and different levels you can get it.
  • Extra Attack: If Athletics-advantage is the first prerequisite, Extra Attack is the second. This is the only way to make two grapple/shove checks per round. Avoid the bonus action ripoffs, unless you are using them to deliver maneuvers.
  • Remember survivability: You can't grapple two enemies if you are dying by the third round. Enemies will often have friends that can help them, especially magical friends. Don't sacrifice HP, AC, or saving throw bonuses too much. Your DM and his/her monsters will happily exploit those holes.
Later in the guide, we'll go over some builds that bring all this action together. For now, this is a great starting point on your path to become All-Faerun Wrestling Champion.

[anchor="feats"]5. [/anchor]Feats
As a grappler, you might choose to play a raging mountain-man wrestler, a tactical lockdown artist, a murderous get-em-from-behind assassin, or a hungry crocodile who just "wants to play". No matter your path, feats are probably going to be an important consideration. In most cases, and unlike in previous editions, you don't actually need a lot of feats to grapple. Heck, you don't need any really; the basic combat rules let you do almost everything without any serious feat investment. That doesn't mean you shouldn't consider the PHB feats for your character, especially given you will be progressing well past 4th or even 8th level for a few classes.

This section will review all the feats in the PHB, rating them according to how useful they are for the aspiring grappler. If there's a feat that doesn't show up on the list, like Actor, it's just because it's irrelevant for in-combat grappling mechanics.

  • Alert
    Most characters have an initiative bonus based on dexterity and nothing else, so +5 is massive. Grappling, moreso than other playstyles, really wants to go first in combat because the earlier you wrangle people to the ground, the earlier you can shut them out of the fight. Surprise immunity and extra anti-invisibility is gravy.

  • Athlete
    The cornerstone of the powerbomb suplex grapple technique (see builds later). Athlete lets you jump really high with your grappled target(s), throw them to the ground, and then land, stand, and re-grapple. All in one turn. Without Athlete, your jumps will be shorter, your standing will be slower, and the combat style will be much less efficient.

  • Charger
    The rare triple trap feature. First, it costs a bonus action, which should already make you leery if you've been paying attention to all the other stuff we can do with our valuable bonus action. Second, Charger makes a melee weapon attack, which can't be replaced with a grapple check. Third, and most problematically, the shove action doesn't actually knock the enemy prone. It just moves them. This feat is important if for no other reason than underscoring grappling rules and reminding you to read carefully.

  • Crossbow Expert
    Some readers might be surprised to see this ranked so highly. Turn your attention to the second bullet point which, RAW-wise, does not actually require you to wield a crossbow to benefit from. If you are playing a spellcasting grappler, you will need this to cast your ranged attack roll-based spells without disadvantage. You can knock an opponent prone to negate that disadvantage, but then you lose the subsequent advantage from attacking within 5 feet of the prone enemy (the two instances cancel each other out). Crossbow Expert returns advantage to your court, so fire away with whatever spell or weapon you want.

  • Defensive Duelist
    Not great, but it is usable by the grappler Rogue (or Fighter) who might wield a weapon in one hand while grappling with the other. Reactions make for great action economy, and extra survivability is always welcome. If you pursue a Sneak Attack-based grappler who is hurting for more AC or HP, Defensive Duelist isn't a bad option.

  • Dual Wielder
    You derive basically zero benefit from any of Dual Wielder's bullet points while grappling even one enemy, let alone two (grappling occupies a hand). And no, grappled enemies don't count as improvised weapons unless they are also dead (only "objects", not "creatures", can be used in this way).

  • Elemental Adept
    If you plan on grappling/restraining enemies and blasting them with magic, Elemental Adept is a solid way to increase your damage. I strongly recommend "fire" as your element of choice, given the power of Fireball, Wall of Fire and Delayed Blast Fireball against restrained targets.

  • Grappler / Grappler
    The hands-down most disappointing entry in the PHB, Grappler is the ultimate trap ability. Its first ability is a worse version of the shove-to-prone combat option grapplers already have. Why invest in a feat for advantage when you can do it with basic combat actions? The second ability is what earns Grappler its green status. A restrained target suffers from disadvantage to all Dexterity saving throws, which works nicely with grapplers who use Dexterity-based spell damage. Or grapplers who have allies using that magic. This is a niche way to grapple but a fun one, so I leave it out there as an option for grapplers looking for new ways to enjoy the combat style. As for the last bullet point, it's a leftover of an earlier edition. As the PHB Errata clarifies, " Ignore the third benefit; it refers to a nonexistent rule". All told, this is the feat that should have made us tick and instead it's one of the first you'll ignore.

  • Great Weapon Master
    At first glance, it looks like you can't use these benefits while grappling because they appear to require two-handed weapons. On the plus side of the feat, you don't actually need a two-handed weapon to use GWM. You just need a "heavy" weapon, and only for the second benefit. On the negative side, neither of the benefits are particularly powerful, although the added damage is nice for a low-damage combat style. A prone/grappled enemy is easier to hit, so you can freely trade -5 on the hit to +10 on the damage as long as you have a heavy weapon in your non-grappling hand. This means you can't grapple a second enemy, but it gives you more damage against one target. GWM gets better if combined with a heavy weapon-wielding Mage Slayer, but that's such a niche build that I can't evaluate the feat on its merits alone.

  • Heavily Armored
    Survivability is important for grapplers and, In many cases, multiclassing is the best way to get heavy armor. Just take the highest armor proficiency class at level 1 (like Fighter) and then multiclass out at later levels (to Bard/Rogue/Wizard/etc.). That said, there are some instances where a heavy armor class isn't part of your build. In those cases, this feat becomes a lot better. It even buffs your most important ability score as an added bonus! So if you are a College of Valor Bard going straight Bard with only a Rogue multiclass, pick this up right after you get medium armor proficiency. This is also a decent starting proficiency to work towards with the Human bonus feat.

  • Heavy Armor Master
    You don't want to die in combat, but you don't want to invest too many features into staying alive. +1 Strength is nice, but the flat 3-point damage reduction is underwhelming at best. It doesn't even affect magical weapons or spells.

  • Lightly Armored
    I can't think of a decent optimization that wouldn't get this from a level 1 dip into some class, whether Bard, Rogue, Fighter, Barbarian, etc. Probably the least useful combat feat in the PHB, let alone for grapplers.

  • Lucky
    Remember the Wizard's Portent ability? Lucky is a worse version of Portent, but it's one that any class can get. You generally won't use it against opponents (it only affects attack rolls which we probably don't care about), but you will frequently use it on your own checks. Think of it like triple advantage on Athletics, usable three times per day in between long rests. As far as luxury feats go (stuff like Alert), this one is probably the highest on the list because it's incredibly versatile (it even helps your saving throws) and is relevant in almost all fights at almost every level. Fighters will often get this if they stay in their class for long, just because they get so many feats.

  • Mage Slayer
    Back in 3.0 and 3.5, it was a nightmare to cast spells in threatened squares, especially against grapplers. 5th Edition took a lot of bite from that strategy, but Mage Slayer returns some of our former glory. Slayer doesn't prevent spellcasting, but it does put you in a strong enough position that it won't matter. Once grappled, enemy casters will always be within five feet of you, so you can smack them every time they try to cast a spell to get free. If they are concentrating on a spell, that's yet another attack they need to make to a save on. Oh yeah, and they make all their concentration checks at disadvantage, both against your normal attacks and the free reaction attack every single round. As if that weren't enough, you also get advantage on all saving throws against spells cast within five feet of you. Assuming you are holding down 1-2 mages, that's the only range spells will be inbound from. An overall excellent feat for campaigns with lots of spellcasting enemies.

  • Magic Initiate
    In most cases, grapplers are better off just multiclassing into a class with the spell than taking this feat. There aren't a lot of good cantrips for grappling anyway (Guidance is the big one), and although there are a bunch of decent level 1 spells, casting the spell only once limits their usefulness. One solid combination is Guidance, Resistance, and Longstrider from the Druid list (Longstrider lasts an hour and doesn't require concentration). Another is Blade Ward, True Strike, and Hex from Warlock. Hex is a great dip into a spell list you ordinarily wouldn't touch, a bonus-action-casttime, no-save-allowed way to screw an opponent's checks. Although savvy opponents can just switch from Athletics to Acrobatics (or vice versa), this will still leave them making the worse of two checks, or just accepting disadvantage on the roll. Either way, that's a great investment for the grappler. You can also pick up Find Familiar with Magic Initiate, but it's more efficient to get your helpful familiar off Ritual Caster than it is to lock yourself out of the level 1 bonus spell.

  • Martial Adept
    This feat is much better on paper than in a real game. Maneuvers are strong and it seems great to get a free one without a three level investment into Fighter. Unfortunately, getting that maneuver only once per long rest is terrible once you get into real fights. At least with spells, something like Hex or Longstrider from Magic Initiate, your once-per-long-rest magic lasts multiple rounds or through multiple enemies. The one-shot Martial Adept maneuver doesn't, which makes this a weak feat that is only good in white room style optimizations. It's a little better (black rating) if you are a Fighter who just wants more maneuvers.

  • Medium Armor Master
    Stealth doesn't really help grappling, and the +1 AC isn't worth a feat. Just bite the bullet and upgrade to heavy armor.

  • Mobile
    +10 to your speed is all you need to know about this feat. That's two extra squares with a dash. Or two extra vertical squares with flying. Remember that dragging creatures is one of the best parts of grappling, so any way you can buff that speed is a great way to enhance your combat utility. Difficult terrain is also a big problem for grapplers who drag enemies, and Mobile addresses that too. Just combine this with Monk or Rogue class features to get a bonus Dash and you'll be bounding around the battlefield in no time.

  • Moderately Armored
    See Lightly Armored. It's so easy to pick up these proficiencies just by virtue of multiclassing or picking a different level 1 class. Don't waste a feat here.

  • Mounted Combat
    Is mounted grappling a thing? RAW it is, and you can actually do some cool things by using your mount's move speed in place of your own. The horse's (or dragon's!) speed isn't halved when you as a rider are grappling, but a DM could reasonable impose penalties on that whole operation. If you convince your DM to allow mounted grappling (it really does work, RAW-wise), then this feat is a decent way to keep your valiant steed alive while you grab people around the battlefield.

  • Polearm Master
    Both feat abilities require a two-handed weapon, and grappling prohibits you from using these effectively. You can only replace Attack actions with grapple/shove checks too, so you can't even abuse the free AOO when enemies enter your reach.

  • Resilient
    This is one of the better saving throw bonuses in recent editions, especially if you are a spellcaster who needs to pick up Constitution save proficiency to maintain concentration. The ideal spellcasting grappler will have save-proficiency in Constitution (concentration), Wisdom (fear effects), and Dexterity (most common saving throw), and Resilient is a solid way to pick up that third proficiency.

  • Ritual Caster
    If you want Find Familiar but don't want to a) waste your Magic Initiate feat or b) go into a spellcasting class, then Ritual Caster is the best way to get it. Familiars are a bit limited as grappling helpers (they'll just confer one instance of advantage per round), but they work independently of size, concentration, magic ability, etc.

  • Savage Attacker
    More damage is nice, but more grappling is better. I suppose you could use this as part of a single-target grappling build, but the difference in damage output won't be big. Remember that Savage Attacker just rerolls the weapon damage di(c)e, not any bonuses (sorry, Sneak Attack).

  • Sentinel
    If you could grapple/shove as part of that provoked reaction, this would be an EASY sky blue rating, if not gold. Unfortunatly, those pesky RAW don't allow you to do that. You can only replace Attack actions with grapple/shove, and all the reaction-based AOOs in Sentinel don't qualify.

  • Sharpshooter
    Only included here for the -5 to hit, +10 to damage, which synergizes nicely with a prone opponent within 5 feet of you. Dump em down and then shoot em point blank. There are better ways to attack a prone opponent, but I leave this as an option if you're a big hand crossbow fan.

  • Shield Master
    One of two gold-rated feat in the PHB, although this one is admittedly limited to single-target grappler builds. But if you do pursue the single-target grappler build, Shield Master is easily one of the beats features in the book. Master gives you a free, bonus action-based shove attempt on your target, which frees up your valuable Extra Attack actions to deal more damage or keep an attacker locked down. Simply walk up to your target, grapple them, shove them prone, and then attack them for damage, all as early as level five. Or, even better, grapple them and then shove them prone as early as level one, provided you are a Human getting this feat at creation. The other benefits are just gravy, giving you a bunch of survivability against the most common saving throw effects in the game. You can theoretically drop a shield to use this against multiple opponents, but dropping takes a full action (PHB, 146), so your target might run away. Against a single enemy, however, there's really nothing better.

  • Tavern Brawler
    After Grappler, this is the second grappler feat in the PHB. To start, a big thanks to Wizards for putting not just one but two of these feats in the book; that's a big investment for a combat style that isn't always in the spotlight. It's also significantly better than Grappler, even if it still isn't quite the awesome feat we are hoping for. The Strength/Con bonus is a nice bone, but the second point is largely irrelevant (RAW, everyone is proficient in unarmed strikes) unless you are using lots of improvised weapons. Things get better again with the third benefit, a big unarmed damage increase for grapplers who aren't going into Monk but still need to grapple multiple enemies and deal damage from round to round. Going up from a flat 1 damage to 1d4 damage is big over a long battle, and you'll welcome it if your hands are full. As for the fourth bullet point, it's an Improved Grab lite ala 3rd Edition, but it forces us to commit our opening attack to a melee hit, not a grapple check. It also consumes a valuable bonus action. This gets a lot better when you are fighting spellcasters and need to disrupt their concentration, but it's still often weaker than just walking up to them, grabbing them, and then smacking them after the grapple gets started. Overall, there are a number of builds which will pick up Brawler as a luxury feat, but few that will rely on it as a core feature.

  • Tough
    There are some builds that want to invest a feat for +2 to +40 HP over time, but most builds don't need it. This gets a little better with Wild Shape or Shapechange, both of which give you new HP totals while also allowing you to retain the benefits of your class features. A DM might rule that the layering doesn't work to your favor, but I think there's a strong case to be made that it does. This synergy is the only reason Tough is listed at black rating, as it gives you compounding HP advantage for every form you shift into. Otherwise, there are much better survival-focused features to take.

  • War Caster
    If you are a spellcasting grappler, you need this feat. Enhance Ability? Enlarge Person? Shapechange? All of that grappling goodness is concentration-based, and War Caster is the best way to make sure you keep your buffs up in real combat. Grapplers take a lot of damage on the front lines, which means lots of concentration checks to avoid losing your spells. If these break mid-combat, you are going to be in a really bad situation, which makes War Caster indispensable for anyone serious about magic-based grappling.
    Modes 2 and 3 serve a different sort of grappler, the kind who restrains things with Grappler and then lets them bake in a Wall of Fire or Flame Strike. That second benefit doesn't let you use somatic spells with two enemies in your hands, so you won't be restraining two guys and then casting your spell. But if you are rocking the Shield Master build, that's another story entirely. As for that third benefit, you'll get some reactions out of this, but most enemies won't be moving enough to provoke the AOO. As usual with War Caster, it's the first ability that drives the feat, and you'll need to get this if you want to stay relevant throughout your progression.

When picking feats, just be careful that your build and grappling style fits the feats you are selecting. For example, Monks don't make good Tavern Brawlers because they have too many competing bonus actions and they don't benefit from the unarmed damage die increase. Also, be mindful of how you want your character to play at ALL levels, not just level 20. You might need that heavy armor at level 4. You might need that saving throw bonus at level 8 when it turns out that your entire campaign is against scary (read: bestowing Frightened condition) undead.

More importantly, know when you don't actually need to pick a feat as a grappler! Many builds don't need it and will get more mileage out of a +2 Strength or +1 Str/+1 Con bonus than they will from some cool looking feats. This is often one of the hardest decisions to make (we D&D players love to pack on the features and abilities), but sometimes simpler is better when you're a grappler.

Overall, be flexible and critical with your feat selection and you will be guaranteed to have a powerhouse wrestler on the battelfield.

[anchor="magic03"]6. [/anchor]Magic and Spells: Cantrips - Level 3

When I was first working on this guide, I had a distinction between magical and nonmagical grappling. I still have that distinction, to some extent. But having played grapplers before and written on them extensively, I now think that distinction is a bit artificial. Because of feats like Magic Initiate, the ease of multiclassing, and the relative availability of spells even in "nonmagical" classes, there isn't really a hard line between magical and nonmagical grapplers. Instead, it's better to think of grappling magic on a continuum. On one end, you have spells that only dedicated spellcasters can use; True Polymorph, Shapechange, Foresight, etc. In the middle, you have spells that require some commitment to spellcasting classes, but still give you a lot of flexibility in multiclassing: Wall of Fire, Polymorph, Conjure Animals, etc. And then at the other end of the spectrum, you have spells that require no more than a 3 level dip, or even just a Magic Initiate investmnt, stuff like Hex, Find Familiar, Enlarge/Reduce, Enhance Ability, and so on. Even Barbarians, who can't concentrate on spells while raging, can still benefit from something like Longstrider!

Because multiclassing is so easy, because spell lists overlap so freely in 5.0, and because I don't want the spell section to be as long as the rest of the guide, I am only going to list a few spells per level and give a quick explanation of them. I'll highlight the best spells at each level and also some obvious (and less obvious) traps. If a spell isn't listed, it might not be bad with grappling, but it just didn't merit its own entry.


[sblock="Cantrip review"]
  • Chill Touch: If you have already grappled/shoved an opponent and just want to stop them from healing every turn, keep recasting Chill Touch and they'll slowly expire. Also strong against regenerating enemies.
  • Create Bonfire: The first spell you can hold enemies in while grappling them. If restrained, they'll take 1d8 damage per turn on top of any other damage you're outputting. Not a good spell, but I add it here because it's where the restraining fun begins.
  • Guidance: Free +1d4 to grapple at the beginning of the fight, as long as you pre-buff with it. Guidance has a one action cast time, so it's much worse in the fight itself, but the cantrip has so much non-combat utility that it's okay.
  • True Strike: More like canTRAP amirite??? Remember - grappling and shoving aren't attack rolls, so True Strike doesn't help them.
  • Vicious Mockery: This isn't a good spell for grappling, but it is a Verbal-only spell you can cast while grappling two enemies and otherwise locked out of somatic components. Keep an eye out for better spells like this at later levels.

Level 1

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  • Absorb Elements: Along with Shield, this is the best defensive spell on the level 1 list. It gives you resistance to the most common damage types and only costs a reaction. Would be rated higher if it didn't require a pesky somatic component.
  • Animal Friendship / Speak with Animals: This pair of spells, depending on your DM, MIGHT let you command (for 10 minutes at a time) a small Help-action-squad of squirrels/rats/snakes. Friendship makes them friendly. Speak lets you ask them to do things for you. Low intelligence means that they are probably too dumb to disobey. Think of this combo as the level 1 equivalent of Dominate Animal, although with less RAW backing.
  • Bless: I'm putting this here to illustrate a common spell trap - spells that buff your attack rolls. Remember that these don't help grappling, which means you need to rethink which buffs are worth it and which you can leave at home.
  • Expeditious Retreat: A more limited, spell-based version of Cunning Action. There are better spells to concentrate on at this level.
  • Feather Fall: If your plan is to grab people and jump off tall structures, don't forget your level 1 spell parachute.
  • Find Familiar: Say hello to your little friend. This will get you a permanent helper to take the Help action every round and guarantee advantage on one check. No concentration required. Unfortunately, a single instance of advantage isn't that great, so it's not worth the investment unless you are getting a familiar as an incidental to your main progression.
  • Healing Word: Bonus action cast time means you can still grapple in the same round you heal. 60 foot range means you can heal yourself or a needy friend. Verbal component only means you can heal even if both hands are occupied. Accept no substitutes for action economy healing!
  • Hex: Bonus action cast time? Check. Huge range? Check. No saving throw?! Check. Add bonus damage, transferability if the target dies, and "virtual" disadvantage on enemy grapple checks and you have the best offensive grappling spell on any level 1 list. Sure, monsters can just switch their grapple check from Athletics to Acrobatics (or vice versa), but most monsters suck at one to begin with, let alone the other. The only reason this isn't rated higher is that it requires concentration, so it's quicly surpassed by Enlarge Person or Enhance Ability.
  • Longstrider: Best level 1 grappler buff in the PHB. Free 10 bonus feet to your movement, it lasts an hour, and it doesn't require concentration. Also affects all movement modes!
  • Mage Armor: Just multiclass and use real armor. Or polymorph yourself into something with a higher AC. Or play a Monk/Barbarian. If you have to rely on this as a grappler, you're doing something wrong.
  • Shield: +5 AC as a reaction is the nuts, especially for low AC grapplers. It's too bad this has somatic components required or it would be gold-rated.

Level 2

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  • Alter Self: Plus side - if you are going to grapple two enemies and aren't a Monk, this will give you a better damage die than Tavern Brawler. Minus side - Enlarge also requires concentration, but then gives you a +1d4 to damage, a size increase, and advantage. Dont waste your time here.
  • Cloud of Daggers: Decent low-level AOE spells to hold people in while you grab them: 4d4 damage, no save. Unfortunately, this requires concentration and there are better things you can focus on.
  • Darkness: Cast Darkness on your armor (it targets objects!), grab people, and roll your little ball of blindness around the battlefield. Note that you need the Warlock's Devil Sight feature to do this, otherwise your DM could easily rule that you can't actually see anything to grapple in the first place.
  • Enhance Ability: Second-best level 2 spell in the game. Flat advantage to Strength checks is mandatory for most grapplers, and this spell is only outclassed by the next entry on our list. It even doubles your carrying capacity for more dragging and lifting! If you don't have access to Enlarge/Reduce (Druids don't, for example), this is your go-to buff.
  • Enlarge/Reduce: Hands down the single best low-level spell for grapplers. It gives advantage on your Strength checks (plus a random but welcome advantage to Strength saves!), and imparts a +1d4 damage bonus to all attacks made in the larger form. It doesn't double your carrying capacity, unlike Enhance Ability, but it does increase your size category, and that's what makes this spell so nuts (on top of advantage, of course). Medium characters can't grapple anything bigger than size large, but that restriction doesn't exist for Enlarged grapplers. If you can get this spell, get it and don't look back. If you can't, try to get it. If you can't do that, settle with Enhance Ability, but know that Enlarge is the better of the two.
  • Heat Metal: It might be surprising that a spell that threatens disadvantage to ability checks gets such a low rating. Unfortunately, the disadvantage is conditional on a failed save. Making matters worse, the save is Con-based, and most opponents wearing a lot of metal probably have decent Con-saves. Another problem is that this wastes your bonus action AND your concentration every round. That's terrible action economy on top of low base damage.
  • Mirror Image: This has always been one of the better level 2 buffs in D&D and 5th Edition continues the trend. It doesn't even require concentration! Great for magical grapplers because images hit by enemy attacks won't trigger a concentration check on your other buffs.
  • Misty Step: Strong low-level gap closer once the fight actually starts. Note that this teleportation does not count against your movement for the turn, and only costs a bonus action. You can also do this while grappling (it only requires verbal components), but forced movement will end the grapple.
  • Silence: After Antimagic Field, this is the gold standard for ruining a spellcaster's day. The vast majority of spells, especially good combat spells, require verbal components. Grappling mages in a zone of Silence completely shuts down these options, forcing them to poke you with their dagger or try to beat your monstrous Athletics checks. You'll need to concentrate on Silence to keep it going, which means you'll need to persuade someone else in your party to give you Enhance Ability or Enlarge for the advantage.
  • Spike Growth: Drag people through the spikes to cause 2d4 damage per 5 feet of movement. More dragging? More damage! Just be careful that you avoid killing yourself as you do it; strong with builds that can stack movement speed to get ton of squares covered in a turn.

Level 3

[sblock="Level 3 spell review"]

  • Animate Dead: THE ARMY OF THE DEAD GRAPPLER IS REAL! Get a squad of 8 or so Zombies (they are hardier than Skeletons, and all you really need is durability on these dudes). Then every round, have 4 of them Help you on grapples/shoves, and have the other 4 ready an action to Help you on opposed grapples/shoves from your victims. Just remember that commanding them to Help costs your bonus action. But it doesn't cost concentration, so it's a no-concentration, non-Rage way of getting advantage on all checks. Don't forget to re-cast Animate Dead every day to reassert control.
  • Bestow Curse / Bestow Curse: If you have to cast this as a level 3 or 4 spell, just use Hex instead. Better to cast Hex as a bonus action with no save allowed than use Curse as an action, give them a chance to save it, and have to concentrate on the spell. But once you can cast this at level 5 and no longer need to concentrate on it, it becomes a LOT better. If they save, no big deal; action surge another attack. If they don't save, they are screwed for the fight and you can still concentrate on Enlarge or something similar!
  • Conjure Animals: All the Conjure spells are decent with grappling; use the monsters to Help you and to damage your grappled/proned target.
  • Counterspell: Freedom of Movement, Misty Step, Blink, and a variety of other spells are not your friends. If these are cast mid-fight, Counterspell is your out.
  • Dispel Magic: See above, but with an emphasis on spells that are already in effect at the beginning of the fight. Best in tandem with Action Surge, so you can dispel as one action and then grab in your next. I'm pumping this up to a gold rating because it's your only low-level answer to enemy casters who already have certain spells in place, notably Freedom of Movement.
  • Fear: Most saving throw spells aren't very good for grapplers because they allow re-saves every turn, or because they just aren't much more powerful than just grappling/shoving. Fear is different because it can be a complete fight ender for any monster that fails the save. First, they drop all their items, which you will capitalize on by grappling them and moving them away from those dangerous objects. Second, all affected creatures have flat disadvantage to ALL ability checks (Dexterity and Strength!) while you are in their line of sight. Given that you are grappling them, you aren't going anywhere anytime soon. Finally, they only get a re-save if you leave their sight. And you just want to hug them, so that's not happening either.
  • Fireball: Your level 3 spell of choice if you want to restrain targets and cast things on their head.
  • Fly: What do you do with a Fly speed? You go straight into the air carrying as many people as you can. What do you do once you are up there? Drop them. They take damage, they land Prone, they don't get a save, and if they escape on the way up, all that happens anyway.
  • Haste: Depending on your build, this will compete with Enlarge for your concentration spell of choice. But many builds either won't advance that far into their spell list, or would prefer advantage over multiple checks. Extra actions are still strong, particularly if you use the Ready action and have Sneak Attack, but Enlarge and Enhance Ability will typically be better.
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[anchor="magic49"]7. [/anchor]Magic and Spells: Level 4 - Level 9

Level 4

[sblock="Level 4 spell review"]
  • Conjure spells: All of these require concentration, but they give you a non-Rage/Enlarge/Enhance-Ability way to grant advantage on most of your checks. Conjure Minor Elementals isn't great because it takes a full minute to cast, but Woodland Beings is a bit better at a single action. None of the conjured critters need an action to command them, which saves your valuable actions for more grappling-themed abilities. These are outclassed by Giant Insect just because they only produce 8 monsters. Insect will get you 10.
  • Fire Shield: A no-concentration buff! Technically, your enemies won't trigger the fire damage just by being grappled, but every time they try to hit you they'll take the damage. Most monsters won't have any other options, so it's a nice way to pump your damage. Bonus points for giving you resistance to a damage-type you might use in AOE spells!
  • Freedom of Movement: A decent buff when cast on grapplers and one of the scariest spells when cast on their enemies. It doesn't cost concentration and it gives the target free rein to escape any grapple. Beware this on enemies! When cast on yourself, Freedom lets you more effectively drag enemies and perform underwater grappling. (Note: RAW, the spell actually doesn't work at all with grappling because the condition sets your speed to 0, giving you no movement to spend to escape. This is clearly a typo or rules conflict that 95% of DMs would probably rule against).
  • Giant Insect: The best of the low-level conjuration spells (although this one is technically transmutation) because it instantly gives you the most allies. With ten giant centipedes, you should have no issue getting advantage on all your checks (don't forget to command half to Help on your own checks and the other half to Help on opposed checks).
  • Greater Invisibility: At first glance, this seems like a decent spell, but it has a lot of redundancy with grappling. For one, it requires concentration, so no Enlarge/Enhance/conjuring shenanigans allowed. Two, the advantage it gives you and disadvantage it bestows opponents is already happening through the prone condition. Non-grappled enemies will also know where you are, just by the presence of their pinned allies. Skip this spell; there are better things to commit to.
  • Guardian of Faith: A no-concentration way to output 60 damage over three to six rounds. Even if you aren't using the Grappler restrained option, that's still a nice damage output, even if it's a finite source at its best when used against a single target and not multiples.
  • Mordenakainen's Faithful Hound: Mathematically, this spell is almost always going to be better than Guardian. You're dealing an average of 18 damage per round as opposed to 10 or 20, and it's based on an attack roll with advantage (remember: the target is prone) as opposed to a Dexterity save. The Hound damage ceiling is also much higher over those three rounds. Of course, once the fight hits round four then this gets really crazy. This is easily one of the best ways to pump your damage output through spells, and it requires zero action or concentration investment from you.
  • Polymorph: It might surprise some of you that this is a blue and not a gold. One big issue is concentration, which immediately means you can't use Enlarge/Enhance/Conjure to get that sweet grappling advantage. Another issue surrounds grappling rules ambiguities: the rules let you grapple with a free hand, and a DM could rule against this kind of grappling by handless forms. Things like Apes can get around this, but a Bear might be a different story.
  • Wall of Fire: Get the Wall going, drag two enemies into it, and let them bake. This is one of the best lower-level spell to combine with the Grappler feat and the restrained condition, even if its damage output is somewhat eclipsed by a much more involved Spike Growth build we'll talk about later.

Level 5

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  • Animate Objects: Seems like a decent summoning spell, until you realize it requires a bonus action to command your "Be Our Guest"-style horde. There's some ambiguous phrasing around "Once given an order, the creature continues to follow it until its task is complete", but it seems like "order" corresponds to a specifically directed "action", as opposed to a longer "Perform Help with me until the fight is over". If you are using summoned creatures, stick with Raise Dead or the Conjure spells.
  • Bigby's Hand: Ever wanted to grapple at range? With Bigby's (Grasping) Hand, now you can! The Hand has a +8 grapple bonus and gets advantage if grappling a medium or smaller target. You can even continue to cast spells on the target while the Hand is squeezing the life out of it. You won't need things like Expertise and Enlarge to work with the Hand, which makes this a different take on grappling that can be no less potent in the right build. Big drawback: you can't grapple multiple targets.
  • Contagion: At its best, this is a no-concentration debuff that disadvantages grappling checks. At its worst, it takes 6 rounds to take effect and it still might not work. Although flavorful in the right build, Contagion will almost always be worse than Bestow Curse cast with a higher level spell slot.
  • Telekinesis: Here's a weirdy but a goody. Like Bigby's Hand, Telekinesis lets you control enemies at range. Unlike the Hand, you aren't really grappling them per RAW. Instead, you use your spellcasting ability to initiate a contest against their Strength check (not Athletics or Acrobatics!) to attempt controlling their movement. Success imposes the powerful "restrained" condition on your opponent, which is typically reserved only for players using the bad Grappler feat. The condition lasts until your next turn, so you can theoretically Telekinesis someone on one turn and then blast them on the next turn to take advantage of their disadvantage. Probably less optimal than other grappling styles, but worth a mention because it's so cool.
  • Wall of Force: WELCOME TO THUNDERDOME! Two (to three) men/women/creatures enter, one grappler leaves! Drag two creatures into an area and then release one as a free action. Then cast the spell, trapping all of you in the hemispherical (THUNDER)dome. Your enemies will be trapped, their allies won't be able to help, and you can re-grapple them at your leisure. Concentration is a bummer here, but if you can get Enlarge cast on you through different means then it won't matter.

Level 6

[sblock="Level 6 spell review"]

  • Blade Barrier: Solid Grappler combo that hits harder than Wall of Flame. Drag enemies into the are, restrain them, and then enjoy the 6d10 damage per turn with disadvantage on the save.
  • Contingency: An expensive but powerful way to maximize your first round of grappling. Typically, you will choose Enlarge or Enhance Ability as the spell and some easily-fulfilled condition as the trigger. Such as "Contingency triggers when I shout HULK SMASH". When you're next in combat, charge towards an opponent and yell HULK SMASH as you get there. This will give you your full action to grapple and attack but you'll still get Enlarged/Enhanced without otherwise casting the spell. Great action economy at a relatively steep 1,500 GP cost! You can also do cool stuff with Contingency and Wall of Force ("When I shout WELCOME TO THUNDERDOME) cast Wall of Force in a hemisphere centered on me").
  • Eyebite: One of the better ways to impose constant disadvantage on an enemy's checks, Eyebite is a concentration spell that can totally shut down at least two targets. Cast it and then choose the "Panicked" condition, targeting one of your grappled enemies. If he fails the save, he'll be unable to run and will effectively be frightened for the rest of the fight. From an RAW standpoint, the "unless there is nowhere to move" doesn't count grappling: that would be phrased as "unless they can't move" or something similar. This might mean the Panicked targets are permanently stuck dashing and running away while grappled. Even if your DM rules against this, you can still Eyebite before the grapple starts and keep using it for the duration of the fight.

Level 7

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  • Delayed Blast Fireball: Blade Barrier will deal more damage over time, but the 21d6 burst of a Fireball cooked for 9 rounds is at the top of its game for damage spiking. Combine with the Grappler feat to make sure your targets get disadvantage on the Dexterity check.
  • Divine Word: There are better magical options out there, but Divine Word is one of the few high-level, bonus action, Verbal-only, no-concentration spells in the PHB. If you're a Cleric grappler, it's something else to do if you're swarmed by enemies or want an added edge towards the tail-end of a fight against grappled targets.
  • Forcecage: TIME FOR A CAGE MATCH. Did I already say WELCOME TO THUNDERDOME with Wall of Force? Let's rephrase for this spell: WELCOME TO THUNDERDOME!!! Unlike Wall, Forcecage requires no concentration, allows no spells to enter or leave, and forbids magical travel in and out of the cage. As a martial artist, I'm unreasonably excited about this spell but it's mostly for good reason. Drag two creatures into an area, while concentrating on Enlarge or something similar, release one, and drop the cage. Your victims will be completely trapped and cut off from help, with no external ways of breaking the Cage (not even Dispel Magic or Disintegrate does it). You'll need to chill in the cage for about an hour after the fight is over, but the in-combat benefits are worth the wait.
  • Symbol: If you can determine the fight terms, Symbol can be a very powerful set up before a battle begins. It doesn't require concentration to maintain as a Symbol, and the "Fear" effect doesn't require concentration either. This lets you maintain Enlarge or Enhance (even Rage!) while still putting your opponents into a frightened state. They only get one save against the effect and their terrified for a full minute, which is more than enough time to close the fight.

Level 8

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  • Antimagic Field: Accept no substitutes to completely shut down magical enemies. Neither Freedom of Movement, Misty Step, Teleportation, magic items, nor any of the other supernatural escape mechanisms will help an opponent locked down in an Antimagic Field. Because the Field moves with you, you also retain the mobility grapplers covet when darting around a battlefield. In many cases, Silence is good enough to stop enemies, but you will always come across that one high-level monster the DM has designed specifically to beat grapplers. There are lots of magical ways to beat Silence, the easiest of which is to cast a spell beforehand. Field laughs at all those countermeasures, making this the best way to keep magical enemies out of a fight. Remember you can't benefit from Enhance Ability or Enlarge while in a Field (nor Rage because Field requires concentration), but a naturally high Athletics check plus something like the Luck feat should more than suffice.
  • Antipathy/Sympathy: Antipathy is the only no-concentration, high-duration, no-resave-allowed "frightened" effect in the game. Once a creature fails that Antipathy save, they are permanently frightened with no concentration required, at least until they get 60 feet away from you. Because of the spell's harsh targeting restrictions, this effect is best used against major Big Bad Evil Guys when you can prepare with 60 minute advance notice. These restrictions make the spell green instead of gold, but it's still a great bullet to have in your arsenal.
  • Incendiary Cloud: Here's your solid 10d8 Dexterity saving throw spell for high levels. Cloud also grants heavy obscurity to everyone in the area and covered by the cloud, so with good positioning you can pin two enemies in the Cloud and use the cover to avoid drawing attention from their enemies.

Level 9

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  • Foresight: The capstone buff for both College of Valor Bards and, much more terrifyingly, Shapechanging Wizards. Foresight lasts 8 hours, requires no concentration, bestows advantage on all your ability checks and, as if those three benefits weren't enough, also bestows advantage on saving throws and disadvantage on all attacks against you. There's not much more to say on the spell other than that it's the best single-target grappler buff in the PHB.
  • Gate: Here's a weird one. As long as you're okay losing an enemy's body, you can open a portal to somewhere suitably nasty (Elemental Plane of Fire/Water, some horrible plane of the Abyss), drag the creature to the entrance, shove them through, and then close the Gate.
  • Shapechange: Who designed this spell? Unlike Polymorph or True Polymorph, Shapechange gives you a new form but lets you keep all your class features and other character abilities. And you can also cast spells? Yeah, it really does feel like cheating. This spell is Broken with a capital B, but for grapplers we are generally just looking for big monsters with high strength scores, ideally with high Athletics checks (unless yours is somehow higher). Storm Giant (Athletics +14) is a great place to start, as are the CR 20 dragons (Ancient Brass/White).
  • Time Stop: Your setup spell as a Shapechanger. Cast Time Stop. Use rounds to place non-concentration buffs. Caste Shapechange. One moment you were a gnome. Opponent blinks and you are a Longstriding Dragon with Mirror Images hovering around it.
  • True Polymorph: It's like Shapechange... but really bad because you can't use any of your other abilities or features. I'm probably under-rating this out of bitterness that Warlocks are stuck with TP while Wizards get Shapechange, but losing all your hard-earned feats and other class benefits really stinks. You're also picking up TP in a class that doesn't get Foresight too, so the max-level Wizard grappler is just going to be flat out better than the max-level Warlock one. This spell becomes SIGNIFICANTLY better if you somehow get someone to cast it on you at a lower level and you become a Storm Giant forever. Consult with your DM about how this bizarre situation would work with leveling.

In general, your biggest limitation in picking spells is concentration. This is followed closely by somatic components, which you can't perform if grappling two enemies. Outside of Rage, spells are the best ways to pick up flat grappling advantage, which means you are going to need either Enlarge or Enhance Ability as early as possible. You can also concentrate on fear spells as a pseudo-advantage, but enemy disadvantage will generally be worse than your own advantage because your bonuses will be so big. A big exception to this is if you need a specific effect for a certain opponent, such as Silence for mages or Wall of Force for mobile enemies. In those instances, be flexible with your concentration and understand you might need to sacrifice the vaunted advantage for something more targeted at the encounter.

[anchor="dojo"]8. [/anchor]The Dojo: Grappling Tactics

We already went over some of the more common grappling sequences in the "Grappling Rules" section. Now that these basics are out of the way, we can look at a few combinations that are a little more involved, either from a rules perspective (drawing from the Dungeon Master's Guide or on some heavy RAW readings), or from a setup and encounter perspective. I'll also quickly summarize those basic mechanics from "Grappling Rules", just so all your options are in one place.

I used the Brazilian Jujitsu belt system in the "Grappling Rules" section in an earlier version of the guide, but I've since moved that ranking here because it makes more sense. It doesn't quite correspond to how I would expect BJJ practitioners to progress in the real world (if your academy teaches weapon attacks from mount to white belts, it's time to find a new gym), but it makes much more sense in the context of the game and how characters level up.

White Belts: Basic Techniques
These are the moves all D&D grapplers need to know. If you forget everything else in a session, just remember these seven options. Mechanically, White Belt techniques are all strict RAW options the PHB already makes available to you. The only exception to this is shoving after a grapple, which feels more Blue Belt-like but is so fundamental to effective D&D grappling that you need to learn it first.

  1. Initiate a grapple: Gotta start somewhere! Remember that grappling (and shoving) use the Attack action and that Extra Attack gives you multiple grapple/shove attempts.
  2. Shove an opponent prone: If they fail the Shove contest, they will be prone, unable to stand, suffer from disadvantage on their own attack rolls, and attack rolls against them will receive advantage.
  3. Move an opponent with you: Drag an opponent at half speed. Note that the rules on dragging and weights will likely apply here, depending on your DM.
  4. Keep an opponent in place: Prevent an opponent from moving at all.
  5. Release an opponent: Let go of your opponent. Useful if the grapple is happening over a ledge, on a cliffwall, or in midair.
  6. Attack with a weapon or unarmed strike: Make an attack roll against your target to damage. Will gain advantage if they are prone.
  7. Cast a spell: As long as you have a free hand, you can still cast with Somatic components. If you lose that hand for whatever reason, you're stuck on Verbal.

Blue Belts: Developing Techniques
You've figured out the basics and you're ready to be more effective on the offensive and the defensive. From a rules perspective, the common theme of Blue Bel techniques is overlapping two different RAW mechanics to create an outcome the PHB doesn't explicitly discuss. Blue Belt moves also include action options presented in the DMG (p. 271), which your DM may choose to allow or disallow at their discretion.

  1. Grapple a second opponent: Use a free hand to grapple another target. This will restrict your options later as you lose a free hand. Shoving does not require a free hand, so you can still shove enemies prone after you grapple them, even if you are grappling two at once.
  2. Shove out of an enemy grapple: If an enemy grapples you and you want to get out, don't waste an action with an Athletics or Acrobatics check. Use the Shove action instead: it replaces your Attack so you might get more chances! The forced movement ends the unwanted grapple and also creates 5 feet of separation, which could be valuable in some situations.
  3. Counter-grapple an enemy grappler: If your opponent is exceptionally sturdy or the encounter won't let you shove them away (maybe you are in a narrow tunnel), you can also initiate your own grapple check on an opponent. You will both be considered "grappled" until either you or the opponent ends it.
  4. Climb onto Huge or Gargantuan creatures: The DMG lets you use an action, not an Attack, to make your Athletics check to clamber aboard big enemies. You won't be grappling them and you won't be able to shove them prone, but you'll still get advantage on attack rolls and it's something for you to do with your high skill check in battles against otherwise un-grappleable enemies.
  5. Disarm an opponent: This DMG action requires you to make a weapon attack, so it won't work if you have two enemies grappled and no free hand to wield a weapon. You'll make an attack roll contested by the enemy's Athletics/Acrobatics check, and if you succeed they'll drop the item. Not quite as good as the Battlemaster maneuver but anyone can do it and you can still drag them away from their dropped item after you win the contest.
  6. Shove away: Grapple an enemy, drag them somewhere unsafe, and then give them a push. If they lose the contest, they'll move 5 feet back into whatever hazard you lined them up with. Note this breaks the grapple (forced movement).
  7. Shove aside: The last DMG action is probably the best. Unlike shoving away, which breaks the grapple, shoving aside keeps a target within reach. You just reposition them 5 feet in a different direction. Very useful for certain Purple Belt and higher techniques and for different battlefield configurations.

Purple Belts: Intermediate Techniques
Now that you have all the fundamentals in place, it's time to start attacking and moving in creative ways. Purple Belt techniques combine multiple RAW options into elaborate setups and situations. Unlike some of the later techniques, however, they don't generally require any additional spells, class features, movement modes, or other conditions.

  1. The long drop: An oldy but a goody. Drag one or two enemies over to a ledge or some other hazardous drop and then shove them off. They'll take 1d6 damage per ten feet traveled. You can even jump with them, hauling them into the air with no shove required. Bonus points for trying to land on top of at least one of them for some amount of damage (your DM will determine using the "Improvising Damage" table on DMG 249).
  2. Human shields: If an enemy is blocking at least half of your body, you'll get +2 to AC and Dexterity saving throws from half cover (PHB, 196). If you're grappling enemies, you have at least one, possibly two, enemies who will be more than happy to stand between you and danger. Simply grapple enemies and use the shove aside option from Blue Belt techniques to relocate them into harm's way.
  3. Take it to the ground: If you are attacking prone enemies, you need to be standing so you don't suffer from disadvantage yourself. But if you are under fire from ranged attackers (or monsters with 10+ foot reach), you might need to improve your odds. Dropping prone (no action required) gives enemies greater than 5 feet away disadvantage on those attacks. As long as you maintain your grapple and keep your enemies prone, their prone disadvantage cancels out the advantage they'd gain from attacking you while prone. This is a useful sacrifice maneuver if you aren't worried about your two enemies and are more scared of their far-off friends. Combine with human shields to get bonuses on AC and saves!

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First Post
Thanks for porting this over ktkenshinx. I'm a big fan of grappler builds, and was basing a lot of my plans on your guide. Good to know it's being kept up here!


First Post
Thanks for porting this over ktkenshinx. I'm a big fan of grappler builds, and was basing a lot of my plans on your guide. Good to know it's being kept up here!
Glad to hear you like the guide and the playstyle! I've actually revisited some of my old conclusions and have some new takes on the different features, abilities, and options out there. When the new guide is done, it will include all those updates.

Currently finished with the first post through Fighter. Lots left to go after that, but it's a great start.


First time poster here. Thanks for updating this guide, I was thinking about making a grappling build from some time ago, but until I saw all the options and uses It had in combat I wasn't convinced it would be worthwhile, keep up the good work. :D


Frenzy shouldn't be rated nearly that high, especially for Grapplers. No-one wants exhaustion, limiting Frezny to 1/day, but for Grapplers every level of exhaustion is a negative for them. Either they're losing speed, or getting disadvantage on their grapple/shove checks, or they're dead.

Grappling has some cool specific uses but it isn't all that. There is nothing preventing a great sword fighter that you have grappled from chopping you to bits will all of his attacks every round until you let go or die.

Knocking someone prone is nice but YOU are prone too unless you let go. No- you cannot maintain a grapple while standing AND hold a foe prone with one hand-that is stupid.

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