Friday, August 7, 2009

Grappling with Grappling

Ugh. Ha. I'm sure every single DM who's played D&D/AD&D has come to terms with this very issue at some point, so I am walking on long-treaded roads here.

So the insanity from last game's grapple-fest had me comparing the rules on grappling in OSRIC to how I used Philotomy's rules on Combat Sequence. I wanted to simplify it down so that it's 1) clear who can do what/when and 2) make it reflect some realities (size of opponents).

Here's the OSRIC rules on Grappling/Overbearing:
Two other unarmed attack forms are possible: Grappling attacks and Overbearing attacks. A successful grappling attack inflicts 0-1 (1d2-1) points of damage, but also restrains the target and prevents him or her from fi ghting. The chance of breaking a successful grapple should be determined according to the relative strengths of the creatures concerned. (An ogre could restrain a kobold almost indefinitely, and would be able to break free of the kobold’s grasp at will.)

Overbearing attacks are Grappling attacks exercised at the end of a Charge (see “Charge” above). If successful, the opponent is prone rather than restrained. Otherwise the attack is treated as a grapple.

Simple, right? For one on one, yes. The situation Sunday was that we had several opponents (goblins) trying to take down a human. It was not fun to roll through this, and I didn't like trying to roll each individual attack and determine it on an attacker by attacker basis. Now 1E's grappling rules are non-existant in the PHB, while DMG and UA has insane grappling rules.

I proposed the following rules to my group and there was no consensus on whether this was a Good Thing or not - so I'm going to at least try them on for size and see how it goes. A trial post at Knights & Knaves got a couple of questions, but the only real feedback I got was "It's close to UA" so I'm guessing at least I'm not way off base. I don't think I've made a fantastic rule that will change RPG-dom, but I like it and it's stood up to most questioning.

Chgowiz's OSRIC Grappling rules

I want to make attacks and freeing attempts as a simple attack vs. AC roll. I want to keep the max # of modifiers to 3 - Number of opponents involved, size and any STR modifiers available.

Grappling attacks are made against an opponent using the standard modifiers applicable to melee combat (including attribute and magical effects.) If an grapple attack is successful, the opponent is now held. Any future attacks by the held combatant are at -2 for each grappler holding. A grapple attack results in 0-1 (1d2-1) points of damage.

Multiple opponents may attempt to grapple one opponent. For each additional grappler, +2 is added to attack roll. If the grapple attack is successful, then all grapplers are said to have a hold. Only dice once for damage. For mixed level groups, designate a primary attacker (would usually be the highest level.)

A held combatant may attempt to free themselves the next attack (this round if they lost initiative, next round if they've already attacked this round) by rolling a successful attack roll. They suffer a -2 penalty per grappler having a hold. If they are prone, they also suffer the normal -4 to the attack. A held combatant may not perform any other combat action or movement.

In the round following a successful grapple, the grappler(s) may attempt to force them prone (pin) with a successful attack. The multiple opponents bonus applies.

Alternatively, rather than forcing a pin, the grappler(s) may choose to pummel the held opponent (think sucker shots here...). Roll an attack normally, with +2 bonus to the attacker. Damage is 1d2 with normal bonuses/penalties.

Size matters in grappling attacks or freeing attempts. Any penalty is applied ONCE to a single die roll, and multiple attackers vs a larger being may end up negating the penalty. Bonuses are cumulative.
If an attacker is Small, they have +0 versus other Small, -2 versus Medium, -4 versus Large.
If an attacker is Medium, they have +2 versus Small, +0 versus Medium, -2 versus Large
If an attacker is Large, they have +4 versus Small, +2 versus Medium, +0 versus Large

Aramin faces 4 snarling goblins who wish to force him down. They win initiave and attack first. Aramin's AC is 3. The goblins gain a +6 for 3 additional grapplers, and a -2 for the small size penalty, for a total bonus of +4. They roll a 15 (+4) for 19 total, a successful attack. Aramin has now been grappled. The goblins dice a 0 for damage. This ruins the attack that Aramin had planned for that round, but he can try to free himself. Unfortunately, he rolls a 14 which is penalized a -8 (-2 per attacker) although he gets a +2 for STR and +2 for size difference. His total attack is an 10. He cannot free himself.

In the next round, the goblins win intiative (again) and attempt to force Aramin prone. They have the same bonus (+6 for 3 additional grapplers, -2 for small size) of +4. This time, they roll a 3. Aramin is proving too strong for them to pull down!

Aramin will now attempt to free himself. He has a +2 for strength of 17 (example), a +2 for the size difference, and a -8 for 4 grapplers, for a total penalty for -4. The goblins' AC is 7. Aramin dices a 16, which is enough for a successful attack. He throws off the grapplers and frees himself!

Now, this is not perfect, but it serves to abstract the inclusion of multiple attackers and the size differences enough without being too cumbersome. We can also run through this and tweak it if it works. I should also note that group vs. group grapples, I would resolve singly or however the party wanted to divide up the attacks.

(Edited to update that I will allow an attempt to free oneself if they still have their attack to perform that round.)

Also, as an edit addendum, someone asked me about AC and the fact that AC would actually hinder someone. Well, I says, this is abstract D&D combat and I'm thinking that while someone might be easier to pull down in plate, I'm also thinking that if I'm trying to grapple someone in armor and he smacks me in the head... well, then I wouldn't care so much about AC, I'd just have a lump. I may go to ignoring AC for grapples, but since the grapple-fest previously mentioned, it hasn't come up again. We'll see.


christian said...

Grappling rules are so important to get right, well, at least as right as you can. Because the goal of grappling is to disable a foe without hacking him to pieces, it is always a rather involved process. But I guess it needs to be.

I've played a ton of D&D 3.5 and your grappling rules remind me of that system in a few ways. This is good, I think, because you want a fair system.

Gabriel said...

I find the proposed grappling system easy to use and fair. If the design is open to suggestions I'd like to make a couple: 1) include a list of how many attackers of size X can grapple somneone of size Y, and 2)if the victim has a weapon ready the bonus for every extra attacker could be +1 instead of +2.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this, I've always found the 1e version a nightmare, but have never got up off my bum to come up with something better. I'll give this a whirl.

Michael S/Chgowiz said...

Thank you for the feedback!

@Gabriel - suggestions are always welcome. That's a good point about numbers - I was going to leave it to each DM to decide - I like leaving some of the rules for DMs to tweak. I also don't get into weapon speed and reach in 1st edition AD&D, so "weapon ready" is assumed if one is in melee. I probably wouldn't be inclined to give a bonus, but that's a neat option if you think it's valid for your campaign. Certainly can see why one might use that if they track those weapon details.

@David - I probably wouldn't have either, but I wanted the players to experience a combat where the monsters had different ideas than "KILLEMALL" but it turned into a NIGHTMARE.

Guy Fullerton said...

Normal combat in O/AD&D is make an attack roll, and if successful, you inflict damage (as rolled on a single die, usually) to your target.

What if you extend those mechanics to grappling:

Grappling is: Make an attack roll. If successful, you inhibit your target in some way, as rolled on the following table:

Grapple Result Table (d8):
1. target loses any action/attacks this round
2. target can't move for 1-2 rounds
3. target can move only half rate for 1-2 rounds
4. target can only attack you for 1-2 rounds
5. target attacks at -4 for 1-2 rounds
6. target can't attack for 1-2 rounds
7. target knocked prone and takes 1-3 damage
8. target pinned and can't move or attack for 1-2 rounds

No preconditions prior to attacking, special AC modifiers, or enumeration of the sorts of actions that are required to break free.

If you want to get complex, you could give grapplers who are notably smaller than their target a -1 or -2 penalty on that table roll, and vice-versa for a larger grappler.

And it's easy to re-populate the table with whatever consequences of grappling you think are better or more appropriate for your game.

Michael S/Chgowiz said...

@Guy - That's another interesting way of doing it. I'd end up tinkering with it to reflect multiple attackers. I do like the concept of an "ongoing grapple" where your table is X does the grapple, then ... ? But I'm sure we could come to a pretty interesting system using that table. Thanks for the suggestion!

Chris said...

I've been using Sham's "WPG" OD&D grappling rules in my Labyrinth Lord game for a while now. With the base damage modified down to 1d3+LL mods from 1d6+OD&D mods they seem to work nicely.

I learned the hard way (the D&D3E kabuki grapple nightmare dance) that simple mechanics = better.

Michael S/Chgowiz said...

@Chris - do you have a link to Sham's rules?

Chris said...

WGP part 3
The grapple rules are section 15 at the bottom.

Guy Fullerton said...

@Chgowiz: I've been ruminating on that grapple table idea since you originally posted the query at K&K, but I only just put it into concrete form for the first time up above.

The line of thinking is that players (including DMs) desire grappling rules because there's some non-damage effects (hindering movement, preventing attacks, pinning, etc.) they think ought to be achievable in the game, if all the conditions are right. Or in other words, they think a character ought to have a chance of achieving one of those effects. That's all great, but why does the process need to be detailed?

Sure, you can build a relatively detailed set of rules that attempt to more-or-less realistically model the step-by-step process of pinning, precluding attacks, or what have you. And maybe that's appropriate for a Grecian campaign where grappling/wrestling is a key feature.

But if you do all the math permutations of a detailed system in a fairly even situation, those rules can be condensed down to x% chance of pinning, y% chance of knocking the foe out, z% chance of something else.

So if you don't need all the complexity of the detailed rules (perhaps because the detailed rules are harder to remember) why not just simplify the process down to a single table?

If a single table still gives something roughly close to x% chance of pinning, y% chance of knocking the foe out, and z% chance of that other thing, then it's probably done it's job well enough.

And even a table gives a great deal of DM flexibility. You don't need to have explicit special cases for multiple attackers, or creatures of radically different sizes. You just offer a single guideline that DMs can apply modifiers to the table roll as appropriate for things like multiple attackers, especially high strength, or what have you. +1/-1 for minor advantages/disadvantages up to +4/-4 for overpowering advantages/disadvantages.

And you can always go to larger table if you want more varied results, or a multiple dice table (2d6, 2d10, 3d6, whatever) if you want more clustered results.

Michael S/Chgowiz said...

@Guy - I think you and I are thinking along the same lines, we just get to different destinations.

I agree - one roll to determine if the attempt is successful or a failure. Apply modifiers based on situation, size, number of opponents and the usual "to-hit in melee" modifiers.

Where we split is that I have 3 possible outcomes: grappled, prone/pinned or freed. Once grappled/prone, a target can be pummelled. You have the outcome as a table of results.

I think in both approaches, we've abstracted the method to get there "the to hit" and just applied favorable modifiers. I think I'm a bit more detailed than you on the modifiers, but I think I could downshift if needs be.

I think that's kinda awesome that an approach can be modular to have multiple determinants of outcomes.