DnD 5e guide to grappling: Rules, tips and tricks

Grapple for glory! Grappling can be an incredibly useful skill to have within your party. This guide will let you get to grips with the rules and best ways to optimise your grappler build.

Two burly men are captured in a moment of intense action inside a bustling tavern. The man on the left is shouting aggressively, his face contorted in a roar, as he grapples with the other man. He is adorned with a variety of leather straps and belts, indicative of a rugged lifestyle, possibly that of a warrior or adventurer. The man on the right is being pushed backwards, a mug of ale in his hand sloshing its contents due to the altercation. The background is filled with the silhouettes of onlookers, blurred and out of focus, which suggests a chaotic atmosphere common in a bar fight scene. The painting style is realistic with a strong attention to detail, particularly in the expressions and clothing of the characters, immersing the viewer in the raw emotion of the scene.


Often overlooked by newer players, grappling can offer some excellent strategic support opportunities for the astute 5e player.

What does the grappled condition do?

The grappled condition reduces the speed of the grappled creature to 0 and stops them using any speed bonuses.

How does grapple work in 5e?

In DnD 5e, grappling is a way for a creature to physically hold onto another creature in order to restrict its movement and prevent it from taking certain actions. The grappled creature’s speed is reduced to 0 and it can’t benefit from any speed increases. The condition is automatically broken if the grappled creature moves out of the reach of the grappler, or the grappler becomes incapacitated.

What are the rules for grappling?

To initiate a grapple, a creature must have a free hand and the target must be no more than one size category larger than the grappler. The grappler makes a special attack using the Attack action, rolling an Athletics check contested by the target’s Athletics or Acrobatics check (the target chooses which to use). Grappling consumes one attack from the Attack action. Once a creature is grappled, the grappler can move them at half their own speed.

Is grappling strength or dex?

An attempted grapple is made by a strength (Athletics) check by the grappler and the target chooses to resist with either a Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check.

In general, grappling is a strength-based skill and it does not give advantage as part of the grappling process. However, as explained above, there are a variety of class features, spells, and other abilities that can grant advantage on grapple checks. Breaking a grapple is done through a variety of ways like escaping, moving out of reach or incapacitating the grappler.

Do you have disadvantage when grappling?

In general, a standard grapple offers no disadvantage to the grappler or opponent. There are no specific restrictions on who you can attack while in a grapple.

Can you get advantage while grappling?

There is a “Grappler” feat in the Player’s Handbook, requiring strength 13 or higher, which if taken provides advantages on attack rolls against creatures you are grappling. The feat also provides the ability to use your action to try and pin the creature you grappled putting you both in the restrained state.

How effective is grappling?

Grappling can be an effective tactic in DnD, as it can restrict the movement and actions of an enemy. The condition can be used to set up other forms of control or to prevent an enemy from attacking.

While the grappled creature’s speed is 0, the grappler also has battlefield control benefits: You can move the grappled creature where you like at half movement speed. This means you could potentially move creatures:

  • Into or out of spell effect areas
  • Into or out of environmental hazards

Importantly, if you are a melee fighter, grappling is a good way to stop enemies from moving away from you, leaving you free to attack.  However, it also has some limitations, such as limiting the grappler’s own movement and requiring a free hand.

Grapple and restrain

Taking the grappler feat and restraining a creature you are grappling means on top of their movement speed being reduced to 0 and not being able to benefit from any bonus, the creature:

  • Has disadvantage on attack rolls
  • Has disadvantage on dexterity saving throws
  • Gives attacking creatures advantage on attack rolls against it

Grapple and shove combo

While neither grapple nor shove on their own are particularly potent, combining them opens up new possibilities. Shoving a creature prone can prevent them from standing when grappled. This is commonly known as the “grapple and shove combo”, and it allows you to force enemies to remain prone, giving you advantage on attack rolls.

Characters proficient in grappling already have the skills required to shove. However, it’s important to note that shoving can also affect your allies, making it harder for ranged attackers to hit the target. To mitigate this, suggest that your allies use spells like Create Bonfire or switch targets.

Preventing a grapple

To avoid being grappled, the most important thing to do is to increase your Athletics or Acrobatics which can help give the edge against grappling attempts by humanoid enemies.

Other options include making yourself larger, such as by using an Enlarge spell or finding ways to become immune to the Grappled condition.

Escaping a grapple

There are a few ways to get out of a grapple:

  • Escape the grapple
  • Be released from the grapple
  • Become immune to the grapple condition
  • Moving the grappler and the target apart

Escape the grapple

The action economy heavily favours the offensive grappler, as attempting to escape a grapple takes an Action. You make a Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check opposed by the grappler’s Strength (Athletics) check (the same as the start of the grapple) to see if you can free yourself.

Be released from the grapple

The rules as written state that the grappler can “release the target whenever you like (no action required)”, which most DMs would translate as not even having to be your turn to do so.

Become immune to the grapple condition

There are not many ways to become immune to the grapple condition. One way to achieve this is by using a spell such as Polymorph.

Moving the grappler and the target apart

Forcing the grappler and opponent apart is another option to need the grapple. Teleportion spells, the Telekinetic feat, or any other option to force distance between the creatures will work.

Can you escape a grapple with Misty Step spell?

Yes, the Misty Step spell requires only verbal components, so it is possible to teleport out of range of the grapple.

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First introduced to D&D by the cRPG Baldur's Gate after borrowing it from a friend in 1998, Mark is currently experiencing repeated bouts of unconsciousness trying to take his melee Wizard through a 5e campaign.