Grappling Rules detailed review

After the thread raised by @rgrove0172 (Breaking Free From Grapple), and by the fact that today is weekend and I have time for my hobby, I recalled some interesting discussions around the grapple I had with my players.
I want to check with you how you use Grappling in your games and whether I am interpreting it in a wrong on inappropriate way :slight_smile:
There is no TL:DR, sorry.

So, first things first - how you start a grapple?

  • By doing unarmed attack with Grappler talent. This allows you to pay momentum and get Grappling quality to your unarmed strike.
  • By using weapon with Grappling quality such as the Whip
  • By using Improvised weapon and swap qualities/pay Doom to add Grappling quality to it.

Now, there is one question that suddenly appears - Why you would spend XP for Grappler talent and later on Momentum to trigger it, when there is a way to add Grappling quality to improvised weapon for free?

I think the answer is not very clear, but reading the rules I think it is because the unarmed attacks are not considered improvised weapon from system perspective, but basic attack (p.124). This is further strengthened by the Improvised Weapons sidebar on page 152:

The basic form of attack — Melee and Ranged — is an improvised attack, covering unarmed strikes as well as whatever small objects come to hand, such as throwing small rocks or tankards. However, larger, heavier, or sharper improvised weapons require additional consideration.

The section continues and explain the quality switching mechanics. It is worth nothing that Improvised quality does not allow you the “quality switching”, as it is quality itself. Only Improvised weapons have this possibility by the rules of the sidebar. Therefore basic attacks are not improvised weapon…

So there is another question then - Why you can’t start a grapple without a talent or weapon with Grappling quality?
After all, this is one of the standard ways humans and animals fight and we have prime examples of martial arts related to grappling and etc. Even untrained individual can try and grab you and put you down.

In my games, we used combination of Melee and Athletics to initiate a grapple and the difficulty of the struggle was modified according to the situation. I was taking into account the opponent sizes, weapons, how trained they are in such combat and etc. to make the combat more fun but also realistic. I was always taking into account the Grappler talent, either reducing or increasing the difficulty of the struggle checks and/or not allowing certain maneuver to happen during the struggle (such as freeing from grapple and counter-grappling the opponent using momentum/fortune).
This resulted to people being thrown out of the window, over board, catwalks and slammed into the ground in spectacular ways.

PS: The Grappling rules are not detailed as in D&D for example, leaving much of the “fun” part to the GM. And I actually like this more and more, as it allows me to paint more engaging scenes of struggle between combatants. This provides much more opportunities to the players to be creative in the use momentum spends and fortune points.

I dont believe the Improvised Weapons window on page 152 is referring to an unarmed attack with the added Doom for additional Qualities section. This seems to be referring to a player upgrading an improvised weapon instead. It makes no sense at all to require a character to add to the GMs Doom pool just to be permitted to tackle a foe. Im working up a quick House Rule for this in my game, Ill post it momentarily for feedback.

Heres a preliminary House Rule on Grappling for your review. Opinions welcome of course.

A Melee attack made Unarmed or with only a knife or other small, one-handed weapon may be declared an attempt to ‘Grapple’ whereupon it gains the “Grapple” quality but loses the “Stun” quality.

A character that is Ensnared by a Grapple effect may perform one of three actions during their turn.
• Escape (Standard Action) – Athletics/Acrobatics test against the number of Grapple Effects to end the Grapple.
• Counter (Standard Action) – Athletics/Acrobatics Struggle between opponents, winner claims Grapple status over the other.
• Scuffle (Standard Action) – Unarmed or Knife Melee attack against opponent (Difficulty = Grapple Effects) If opponent elects to Parry, they lose the Grapple.

Damaged While Grappling - Any character currently holding the Ensnared condition over a foe must test Resistance when taking damage from any source or lose the Grapple. Difficulty = ½ the amount of damage inflicted (round up) with any Harm automatically ending the Grapple.

Attacking into a Grapple - A character attacking a foe that is Grappled with an ally will hit that ally for regular damage on a Complication. In addition any attack into such a situation increases in difficulty by +1.

Grappler Talent – Awards an additional d20 to any test performed while attempting to Grapple or while Grappled. (Initial Melee Attack, Escape, Counter or Scuffle) and permits a Parry while holding a Grapple.

The main one: the Grappler talent is additive, not a replacement. That is, when you buy the Grappler talent and add Grappling to your unarmed strike, you keep the Stun quality as well (and the two in combination can be quite handy). Also, by and large, spending from Momentum is safer than buying with Doom, and Grappler allows you make the attack, then spend momentum to add Grappling if you want to, while changing up an improvised weapon needs to be done before the attack (define the attack before you make the attack). The talent gives you flexibility, as befits a character with training over someone just scrambling to wrestle with a foe.


Agree on that, it is really great talent! :slight_smile: I agree that Momentum spend > Doom, but if I just remove one quality from improvised weapon for the Grappling, then it is completely “safe” as well. Unless you want more qualities, then the remark is valid.

One question - how would you deal with people wrestling without weapons and the talent?

For example - there is wresting competition, people fight in pit with oil on their bodies (turkish wrestling or whatever is called in English, the original word is pehlivan fight). You have to pin the opponent. Quite fun. The only way is to grapple, but games do not provide out of the box rules for that, unless you have this talent.

For me as a GM it doesn’t make a difference whether an Improvised Attack is with an Improvised weapon or literally unarmed. Qualities and such need only make narrative sense: Stun is acceptable for a held or thrown object, Grapple for an arm lock or a curtain cord just appropriated.