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

Colder

First Post
Huge fan of your guide! I studied it intensively on the wizards forum before it got closed. It's thanks to your guide my party was able to take down a young green dragon at lvl 3 without a single casualty. Can't wait to see what amazing combinations will show up next. Have you considered using true polymorphs secondary effect? That being that if the duration of an hour passes the transformation becomes permanent. Perhaps one could use this to shapeshift into an adult dragon for keeps and use the natural shapeshift ability of its new form/race to maintain its old class abilities and skills?
It won't work for two reasons. The first is because True Polymorph states "The target's game statistics, including mental ability scores, are replaced by the statistics of the new form." That means that all the target's old statistics (its HP, its class levels, its features, its proficiencies, etc.) are replaced by (not added to) the statistics (AKA the stat block, which includes skills, MM 6-8) of the new form.

The second is because, as Change Shape for Adult Gold Dragon states, "In a new form, the dragon retains its alignment, hit points, Hit Dice, ability to speak, proficiencies, Legendary Resistance, lair actions, and Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores, as well as this action. Its statistics and capabilities are otherwise replaced by those of the new form , except any class features or legendary actions of that form ." So no matter what a dragon may shapechange into, it doesn't gain new proficiencies, since those would have to replace the old proficiencies. That's not to mention that the Strength score is not among the unaffected Ability Scores when you change shape, meaning that if your interpretation's more liberal than mine, you still have to choose between the Adult Gold Dragon's 29 Strength score and proficiency in Athletics with your new form's Strength score.

So, since it's not possible to become a creature with athletics proficiency unless it already has it, the best Athletics score you're ever going to get by using True Polymorph is that of the CR 13 Storm Giant (+14) which can be matched by a level 13 character with 18 STR and expertise in Athletics.

With the holiday season here and more time-off on my horizon, I'm getting back to the editing process! Finished up the level 3 and 4 spells today and will keep working at this as the month goes on. Let me know if there's anything people want added or addressed!
I'd really like to see your thoughts on the new SCAG content, specifically the Path of the Battlerager for Barbarians. It's got all the bits you seem to like for your grappling builds, what with the 1d4 bonus action attack from Battle Rager Armor and the mobility bonus from Battlerager Charge.
 

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DreadPirateJace

First Post
Alright so I'm joining a new campaign tomorrow and I've decided to create a level 1 human barbarian. I've been trying to wrap my brain around something that is said in this guide but I can't work it out. For the shield master feat you said:

"Simply walk up to your target, grapple them, shove them prone (with your shield), and then attack them for damage."

I'm not entirely sure how this can be done.

In order to grapple we need a free hand. As far as I know a hand holding a shield is NOT a free hand. Therefor we must be going into this with a shield in one hand and nothing in the other. So we grapple someone with one hand then shove them with the shield. So now we're holding the target down with one hand and we're still holding the shield in the other. So how exactly can we attack from this point?

Are we using our shield as an improvised weapon (1d4 or 1d4+str if proficient) or am I missing something and it's assumed we're holding a one-handed weapon?
 
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Vileo Sufora

First Post
Alright so I'm joining a new campaign tomorrow and I've decided to create a level 1 human barbarian. I've been trying to wrap my brain around something that is said in this guide but I can't work it out. For the shield master feat you said:

"Simply walk up to your target, grapple them, shove them prone (with your shield), and then attack them for damage."

I'm not entirely sure how this can be done.

In order to grapple we need a free hand. As far as I know a hand holding a shield is NOT a free hand. Therefor we must be going into this with a shield in one hand and nothing in the other. So we grapple someone with one hand then shove them with the shield. So now we're holding the target down with one hand and we're still holding the shield in the other. So how exactly can we attack from this point?

Are we using our shield as an improvised weapon (1d4 or 1d4+str if proficient) or am I missing something and it's assumed we're holding a one-handed weapon?
When you make any sort of attack, the game assumes you've either got the weapon drawn, or are drawing it as a part of the attack. So you can pin the creature with your shield and then start hacking away with a sword/handaxe/what have you.
 

Solandros

First Post
From what I gather from the PHB you wouldn't be able to use a weapon, you need a free hand to grapple though a DM might be nice and decide you can grapple with your shield (This is an exception to the rules if they do! be grateful to DMs that allow out of the box thinking). RAW though, free hand required. Meaning you'd grapple with your hand and either use your shield as an improvised weapon, or make unarmed attacks with your head/knee/leg etc.
 


Vileo Sufora

First Post
From what I gather from the PHB you wouldn't be able to use a weapon, you need a free hand to grapple though a DM might be nice and decide you can grapple with your shield (This is an exception to the rules if they do! be grateful to DMs that allow out of the box thinking). RAW though, free hand required. Meaning you'd grapple with your hand and either use your shield as an improvised weapon, or make unarmed attacks with your head/knee/leg etc.
I feel like as long as you can describe the actions believably, then it's fine. Like since you're shoving the dude with your shield, you could just have you shield pinning him to the ground, then you're golden.
 

Solandros

First Post
It won't work for two reasons. The first is because True Polymorph states "The target's game statistics, including mental ability scores, are replaced by the statistics of the new form." That means that all the target's old statistics (its HP, its class levels, its features, its proficiencies, etc.) are replaced by (not added to) the statistics (AKA the stat block, which includes skills, MM 6-8) of the new form.
Kinda depends on your interpretation of replaced, the way you seem to see it (if I understand correctly) is that everything you have gets tossed aside and replaced with the new form. The interpretation I have is that those specific parts get tossed aside and replaced, meaning the parts that don't specifically get mentioned are left untouched. This would mean stuff like skills (that don't get mentioned in the creatures statblock), class levels, abilities, spells etc are still available.

EDIT:
The reason I see it this way is because of the following part of the True Polymorph spell desc:
"The creature is limited in actions it can perform by the nature of its new form, and it can't speak, cast spells, or take any other action that requires hands or speech unless its new form is capable of such actions."

This seems to suggest the creatures original capabilities (abilities, spells etc) are all left intact as long as the new form allows them to use it. (a wolf cant talk or use somantic components for example)
 
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Colder

First Post
Kinda depends on your interpretation of replaced, the way you seem to see it (if I understand correctly) is that everything you have gets tossed aside and replaced with the new form. The interpretation I have is that those specific parts get tossed aside and replaced, meaning the parts that don't specifically get mentioned are left untouched. This would mean stuff like skills (that don't get mentioned in the creatures statblock), class levels, abilities, spells etc are still available.
Player's Handbook said:
The target's game statistics, including mental ability scores, are replaced by the statistics of the new form. It retains its alignment and personality.
The target assumes the hit points of its new form...
The only statistics that are specifically mentioned in the spell description are mental ability scores, alignment, and HP, so if the statistics that aren't mentioned are untouched, that means that the only things that change are the target's mental ability scores and HP.
 

Solandros

First Post
The only statistics that are specifically mentioned in the spell description are mental ability scores, alignment, and HP, so if the statistics that aren't mentioned are untouched, that means that the only things that change are the target's mental ability scores and HP.
The only parts that get mentioned in the spell desc that are replaced with the new forms are the ability scores including mental ability scores(int/wis/cha, which normally don't change with similar spells I believe), and hp (alignment gets mentioned but it says the creature retains his original alignment, not that it changes because of the new form) Of course, in addition to this the creature gains whatever physical traits the new form has to offer (size, speed, flying etc). One could argue that the polymorphed target wouldn't get access to the supernatural abilities of a form like a breath attack or poison because it's not specifically mentioned though I think that'd take a lot of fun out of the spell.

Though, looking at the draconomicon from v3/v3.5 it's mentioned that the breath attack originates from an organ of the dragon, as such it could be argued it's part of the 'form'. The new Erata actually goes into this matter a bit by mentioning that changing your shape into that of a legendary creature does not provide you with legendary actions, this would seem to imply that other abilities of a new form are actually available to a PC while in that form
 

Colder

First Post
Of course, in addition to this the creature gains whatever physical traits the new form has to offer (size, speed, flying etc).
I don't see where it says that. Unless those are the game statistics that are replacing the target's. If you're just adding new speeds, saving throws, skills, vulnerabilities, resistances, immunities, senses, languages, special traits, actions, reactions, and limited usage abilities that the target doesn't have to their game statistics, those game statistics aren't being replaced. They're being added to. You can't have your cake and eat it, too.
 

Solandros

First Post
I don't see where it says that. Unless those are the game statistics that are replacing the target's. If you're just adding new speeds, saving throws, skills, vulnerabilities, resistances, immunities, senses, languages, special traits, actions, reactions, and limited usage abilities that the target doesn't have to their game statistics, those game statistics aren't being replaced. They're being added to. You can't have your cake and eat it, too.
I'll admit I have to start by playing the common sense card here, if I use a lvl 9 spell to take the form of a bird; I better be able to fly. If I turn into a big bad dragon, I better have a claw and bite attack, saying they can't do that removes the entire point of shape changing. After all: the spell says you take the form of a creature who's CR is 20 or less, a CR 17 adult gold dragon is Huge sized, can fly, has a breath attack (2 options even), can change shape and breathe underwater. Taking any of those away undeniably lowers the creatures CR. I'd also like to point out that the new DM errata (http://media.wizards.com/2015/downloads/dnd/MM_Errata.pdf) specifically mentions under the 'legendary creatures' section (and I quote):

“If a creature
assumes the form of a legendary creature, such as through a
spell, it doesn’t gain that form’s legendary actions, lair actions,
or regional effects.”

There is no other limitation placed regarding this on shapeshifting and abilities in any of the books or errata's, this would strongly imply that ALL other abilities do become available.

It would be replacing because you'd be removing the old factors mentioned (ability scores for example, new scores might be lower then your old ones, they don't add together, they get replaced.) Monsters rarely have skills though in the cases that they'd do I'd say they'd replace the old ones, regardless of if the original scores were higher or lower. The part where the PhB says that actions such as casting spells might be limited in this new form also implies they still know their spells, meaning they retain all knowledge from their previous form (meaning spells, class abilities etc are all fair game).

I could imagine a DM confronting their players and tell them this play is too strong and he doesn't want to use it, which is completely fair and his or her right as a DM, but judging exclusively on the rules in the book, I'd say it's very much possible.

An interesting idea could be that the DM decides the players have to spend a significant amount of time in their new form before they become able to do certain things, effectively 'creating' imaginary lvls over 20 in order to get their unique abilities like flying and a breath attack; it'd make sense you'd have to get used to a new form before you can use it effectively in my opinion. (looking at you captain ginyu, cheating in db super >.>)
 

Colder

First Post
After all: the spell says you take the form of a creature who's CR is 20 or less, a CR 17 adult gold dragon is Huge sized, can fly, has a breath attack (2 options even), can change shape and breathe underwater. Taking any of those away undeniably lowers the creatures CR.
The spell says you take the form of a creature who's CR is less than or equal to the target's CR or level if it doesn't have one. But you say it's not the CR of the form you choose to transform into, but the CR of the form after you transform into it? If that's the case, and you don't replace the entire character sheet with a stat block like how I say the spell should work, then it's impossible to transform into a creature who's base CR is anywhere near your own since all those extra skills, class features, and whatnot all add to the CR of the new form. To know for sure, the DM would have to calculate the polymorphed form's CR from scratch and that significantly slows down gameplay at the table.

There is no other limitation placed regarding this on shapeshifting and abilities in any of the books or errata's, this would strongly imply that ALL other abilities do become available.
That rule only applies to transforming into legendary creatures. There are still limits that are applied to transforming into all kinds of creatures.

The limits are implied by the rules of other methods of shapeshifting. Take a look at the rules for Wildshape: there's a lot more than there are for polymorph, and many of them are exceptions to the rule that "Your game statistics are replaced by the statistics of the beast." The most notable ones are "You rtain all of your skill and saving throw proficiencies, in addition to gaining those of the creature" and "You retain the benefit of any features from your class, race, or other source and can use them if the new form is physically capable of doing so."

Also, the Shapechange spell. "You also retain all your skill and saving throw proficiencies, in addition to gaining those of the creatur. If the creature has the same proficiency as you and the bonus listed in its statistics is higher than yours, use the creature's bonus in place of yours" and "You retain the benefit of any features from your class, race, or other source and can use them, provided that your new form is physicially capable of doing so."

So Wildshape and Shapechange actually work the way you imagine True Polymorph to work. Since True Polymorph's description doesn't have the same exceptions, then "the target's game statistics... are replaced by the statistics of the new form" must mean that the spell works by taking away the player's character sheet and giving them a stat block from the Monster Manual.

But we've hijacked this thread for long enough. I think I've at least made it clear that you can't become a dragon with proficiency in athletics.
 

ktkenshinx

First Post
Added more spells to the section. I forgot how awesome Forcecage (aka THE OCTAGON) is with grapplers. More spells, builds, and guide-updates to come by the end of the month!

As for the shapeshifting questions, Polymorph and True Polymorph are much more limited than both Wild Shape and Shapechange. As a general rule, you need to be using the latter two instead of the former, otherwise you lose all sorts of features like Expertise, proficiency bonuses, spellcasting, feats, etc.
 

the_move

First Post
It is written in the guide that the Enhance Ability spell changes the carrying capacity, while Enlarge/Reduce is only supposed to change the size category, but not the carrying capacity.
Now my question is, does the change in size not automatically change the carrying capacity as well, as it is mentioned in the Player's Handbook, page 176?
I quote: "Larger creatures can bear more weight,...for each size category above Medium, double the creatures carrying capacity and the amount it can push, drag, or lift...."

It is unclear to me, why this rule should not be applied to a magical increase/decrease in size caused by the enlarge/reduce spell. It also is nowhere mentioned in the spell description, that this rule is to be ignored.
I would say you get the increase in size as well as the increase in carrying capacity along with all the other goodies...


...but I could be wrong, of course...
 
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ktkenshinx

First Post
It is written in the guide that the Enhance Ability spell changes the carrying capacity, while Enlarge/Reduce is only supposed to change the size category, but not the carrying capacity.
Now my question is, does the change in size not automatically change the carrying capacity as well, as it is mentioned in the Player's Handbook, page 176?
I quote: "Larger creatures can bear more weight,...for each size category above Medium, double the creatures carrying capacity and the amount it can push, drag, or lift...."

It is unclear to me, why this rule should not be applied to a magical increase/decrease in size caused by the enlarge/reduce spell. It also is nowhere mentioned in the spell description, that this rule is to be ignored.
I would say you get the increase in size as well as the increase in carrying capacity along with all the other goodies...


...but I could be wrong, of course...
Enlarge definitely increases the carrying capacity. Just by virtue of being large, the size increase rule would apply to the carrying capacity. There's no specific rule in the spell description that overrides the general rule about size increases leading to carrying capacity increases, so it's pretty clear to me that your capacity would grow with the size.
 

the_move

First Post
Enlarge definitely increases the carrying capacity. Just by virtue of being large, the size increase rule would apply to the carrying capacity. There's no specific rule in the spell description that overrides the general rule about size increases leading to carrying capacity increases, so it's pretty clear to me that your capacity would grow with the size.
Then this phrase is misleading:
"Enlarge/Reduce: ... It doesn't double your carrying capacity, unlike Enhance Ability, but it does increase your size category,...."

This could somehow be misunderstood, letting people think that you get the increase in size, but for some reason your carring capacity remains the same. Better would be: "..It does increase your size category, which also leads to an increase of your carrying capacity..."

Further Enlarge only seems to increase weapon damage by 1d4, excluding unarmed attacks.
"The target’s weapons also grow to match its new size. While these weapons are enlarged, the target’s attacks with them deal 1d4 extra damage."

Tavern Brawler might be worth a go then, especially for grapplers with shields...
 
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Goken100

First Post
I'd really like to see your thoughts on the new SCAG content, specifically the Path of the Battlerager for Barbarians. It's got all the bits you seem to like for your grappling builds, what with the 1d4 bonus action attack from Battle Rager Armor and the mobility bonus from Battlerager Charge.
I second this request. I have seen many people using the Bladesinger and some of the other new builds, but exactly zero Battleragers. Surely ktkenshinx can show us how it's done!

I also have two other questions:
  1. On the old WOTC boards (that I read with this link), build #8 is designed around the concept of making an "Improvised Short Sword Sneak Attack" in order to gain both good damage and a bonus action grapple from Tavern Brawler. You indicate that "it shouldn't take too much DM convincing to improvise a short sword." How do you figure? Making a sneak attack that requires a special kind of weapon (finesse or range) seems diametrically opposed to using an improvised weapon a la a tavern brawl. If there is a bulletproof argument for this to be legal, I'd love to hear it.
  2. I'm working on a build for a He-Man inspired character. The character will have a mighty magical sword that he largely ignores in favor of grabbing his enemies and throwing them around, as was the case in the 80s cartoon. The mighty magic sword, by the way, will hopefully be a Sun Sword, which has the finesse property, so sneak attacks damage is possible (if slightly outside of the heroic idiom). I know I need to incorporate at least one level of Barbarian to get rage, which will representing transforming into "the most powerful man in the universe". I'm considering incorporating a shield and getting Shield Master (toy He-Man had a signature shield, but cartoon He-Man almost never used one). Any thoughts?
 

Istbor

Dances with Gnolls
I like the guide a lot and it certainly makes for some thought provoking builds that I now must try out... the next time I can actually play that is.

I however am a little confused over grappler builds while you have the shield. How exactly that works where you can grapple, have the shield and attack escapes me. Unless it is built to attack with the shield as some form so improvised weapon through tavern brawler feat. Maybe I am just having a dumb moment, but clarification would be nice.
 

Goken100

First Post
I like the guide a lot and it certainly makes for some thought provoking builds that I now must try out... the next time I can actually play that is.

I however am a little confused over grappler builds while you have the shield. How exactly that works where you can grapple, have the shield and attack escapes me. Unless it is built to attack with the shield as some form so improvised weapon through tavern brawler feat. Maybe I am just having a dumb moment, but clarification would be nice.
There are two answers to this question.
For one, damage is not the primary goal of the grapple. So one hand to grapple and one hand to shield shove gets the grapple's job done. Then you can hold him while others unload damage with advantage, or drag him off a cliff, or whatever.
The second answer is that unarmed strikes do not require a free hand, so that's what you'd do if you don't have a better option after locking down an opponent. You knee or head butt or whatever. If you have the Tavern Brawler feat or a level in Monk, it will even do base 1d4 damage instead of 1.
 
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