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Suggestions on building a Grappler



Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

I am wanting a play a grappler. I'm unsure whether I'm wanting to play the character as a barbarian or a monk.

I would love any suggestions on class, race, feats, traits, etc.

What I have so far for monk-dwarf

Str 16
dex 14
con 14
int 10
wis 16
Cha 8

Feats-improved unarmed, improved grapple


Str 18
Con 14
Int 10
Wis 12
Cha 10

Feats-improved unarmed, improved grapple

I would mix it up , go 5 levels of Brutal pugilist/Urban barbarian then go Teotori all of the way. or unarmed fighter I had a barb unarmed fighter that was the king of the ring.

If you are willing to be more general than just grappling you could go with the Maneuver Master archetype (Ultimate Combat) for monk.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

The brutal pugilist and tetori combination will not work, due to alignment requirements.

it will if you go monk first, then barbarian.

I suggest being a Synthesist Summoner. The evolutions, str, and size will be unmatched, and you'll have enlarge person to cast on yourself, along with other spells.

The problem with using combat maneuvers of any kind as a PC is that monster STR scores frequently outclass anything your PC can get by a big margin, and combined with the size bonuses involved, that makes it a very uphill battle even if you have every grapple feat ever. If I was going to try to grapple as a PC I would try a STR-based druid build to wild shape into something as big (or bigger) as whatever I'm trying to grapple. Need to grapple a giant? Be a giant snake.

Druid works too, I just liked Synthesist for the greater flexibility of being still humanoid-shaped and all the various evolution options.

Definitely a caster type with decent BAB that can turn into something very big and strong, though, not a martial class. It's not just about the bonus; being medium limits the amount of creatures you can attempt to grapple in the first place. Size and strength (and reach, which comes with size, doesn't hurt either) are king.

From what I can tell, a grapple build benefits a lot from 1 of - Tetori 4, Unarmed Fighter 7, or Brutal Pugilist 5(think it's 5)

Maybe not technically necessary, but I'm partial to reducing penalties

Tetori is a great archetype for getting a bunch of grapple related feats, Grab(8th, costs ki), and constrict(15). They get some other good stuff too.

A dip into Unarmed Fighter will get you a Style feat if you're interested in that.
Otherwise, a dip into Lore Warden(fighter) can net you a boost to CMB/CMD.

Haven't really looked at barb in terms of grapple, but Body Bludgeon(rage power) seems amusing.

Um, feats...
a few should be pretty straight forward, like Imp Grapple->Greater->Rapid
others, there's a couple of feats with "pinning" in the title that do interesting things.
Body Shield is fun
Ki Throw(and successors) isn't out of the question, but then you build around that
Jawbreaker chain has uses (tetori get the last feat in the chain for free at 18)

look at Snapping Turtle Style early though, specifically Turtle Clutch, it gives you an immediate grapple attempt whenever a melee opponent misses you; I'm a fan of the last feat as well, but it's easily excluded if you want to fit in others.

Final Embrace is nice, especially if you can finish the chain (but it has a feat tax - Ability Focus(constrict))
Tetori can qualify(at 15) or Synthesist(serpentine + grab/constrict evolutions)
It's usefulness also depends on how many grapple checks you can get per round. (synthesist clearly wins here -- BUT being serpentine, you give up pounce and rake, and eidolon rake is just broken)

best grappler in the game is a tetori, only problem is that you get feats the dont exsist. seeing asthough its been almost a year and they still havent fixed it, i think you should go barbarian/fighter. they get pretty nasty pretty quick.

Danny Kessler wrote:
The problem with using combat maneuvers of any kind as a PC is that monster STR scores frequently outclass anything your PC can get by a big margin, and combined with the size bonuses involved, that makes it a very uphill battle even if you have every grapple feat ever. If I was going to try to grapple as a PC I would try a STR-based druid build to wild shape into something as big (or bigger) as whatever I'm trying to grapple. Need to grapple a giant? Be a giant snake.

there is a feat that makes dex your primary grapple stat, strength is not necessary for a grappler like it was in 3.5.

and thank you Archaeik for showing me that eratta now i can play my tetori in my PFS game.

ok after a quick look at potential feats i thik this would be the character i would play

dwarf tetori(or if PFS i would choose a vanara)

str 10
dex 16
con 15
int 10
wis 18
cha 5

feats (including monk feats) :
(Lv1)agile manuvers,improved grapple,(Lv2)stunning pin,(Lv3)weapon finesse,(Lv5)havent picked this one yet , (Lv6)greater grapple,(Lv7) jaw breaker

i would use cestus or brass knuckles with agile weapon enchants on both, stack my dex as high as i can then by 8th level your CMB would be as high as 20.

not game breakingly broken like some builds, but it would be more then enough to grapple the biggest thing in the book thats a cr 10 or lower with a large sucess rate

They errata'd the correct list of feats


look at the box on the side

I'd just make an Unarmed Fighter. It's an archetype in Ultimate Combat; the Reference Doc page is here:
UC Fighter Archetypes

Basically, it's a fighter, but trade most of the weapon and armor stuff for a bunch of grapple and trip abilities. Like others have said, though, the size/str bonuses are your biggest problem, literally. Still, Enlarge Person can help, and you'd be the bane of spellcasters everywhere.

The brutal pugalist allows you to be treated as one size category larger so you can be a large creature and grapple a large or giant creature.

Lobolusk wrote:
The brutal pugalist allows you to be treated as one size category larger so you can be a large creature and grapple a large or giant creature.

I don't see in the grapple rules where size categories relate to grappling other than the CMB/CMD bonuses they provide. What am I missing?

Yep. No size limit on grapple. It just gets infeasible through CMB/CMD bonuses as you get further apart in size. The size bonus given by Brutal Pugilist doesn't do anything as written. I'd probably rule it as giving the +1 size bonus to CMB/CMD that you get from going from medium to large.

Barbarian (Brutal Pugilist+Urban Barbarian) is probably the "easiest" and doesn't fall to one trick pony trap even when going heavily to grappling. The key Rage Powers are Strength Surge and Reckless Abandon. The Strenght Surge obviously makes you much, much better at key grapple rolls (but if time calls any manouver roll, just take the opportinity attack). With human trait Heart of the Fields you can use the Strength Surge twice in a key encounter (not totally necesary I think). The Reckless Abandon momentarily raises the CMB at the cost of CMD, which is great especially against casters (as the concentration checks depend on CMB). Its also of course better to succeed in the grapple in the first place than hold onto it as enemy is forced to take action anyway to break it.
I would probably change Dex & Con in you human barbarian build (dwarf is also good, but your dwarf is 22 point buy :D), since this is meant to be more striker than tank.
Lets see at level 8 (without items):
Str: 20
Dex: 14
Con: 13
Int: 10
Wis: 12
Cha: 10
CMB = 8 (Bab) + 5 (str) + 2 (rage) + 4 (Greater Grapple) + 1 (Brutal Pugilist) + 3 (Reckless abandon)= 23 which becomes 31 is you use Strength Surge and 32 if you get Urban Barbarian bonus. And actually goes another 1 up, if you loose armor.
What I mean not one trick pony? It means that if enemy can't be grappled the attack bonus & damage is still respectable:

Melee: 8 (bab) + 5 (Str) + 2 (rage) +3 (Reckless abandon) = 18

Ranged: 8(bab) + 2 (dex) +2 (rage) +3 (Reckless abandon)=15 ... yes the Urban Ranger Rage & Reckless Abandon work here too. And the damage is gonna be good, because of strength.

That was all without any magic. From magic department (in addition to normal things) I would strongly suggest you to buy a LOT of potions of Enlarge Self. That is what makes STR builds so great.
The tactics would be shoot first, then reach weapon, then grapple. AC isn't gonna be great , so I would prefer reach to get past it. Of course the high HP count kind of lowers that weakness.
On totally unrelated thing: Magus can also be built as an awesome grappler, but it takes a bit more (and multiclassing)

...Huh. I think that may be an oversight. In 3E, Bull Rush, Grapple, Overrun, and Trip could all only be used on a creature up to one size larger than you. PF kept the restriction on the other 3 maneuvers, but left it out for grapple. I really don't know if that was an intentional change or not.

"You can only bull rush an opponent who is no more than on size category larger than you."

"You can only overrun an opponent who is no more than one size category larger than you."

"You can only trip an opponent who is no more than one size category larger than you."


As a standard action, you can attempt to grapple a foe, hindering his combat options. If you do not have Improved Grapple, grab, or a similar ability, attempting to grapple a foe provokes an attack of opportunity from the target of your maneuver. Humanoid creatures without two free hands attempting to grapple a foe take a –4 penalty on the combat maneuver roll. If successful, both you and the target gain the grappled condition (see the Appendices). If you successfully grapple a creature that is not adjacent to you, move that creature to an adjacent open space (if no space is available, your grapple fails). Although both creatures have the grappled condition, you can, as the creature that initiated the grapple, release the grapple as a free action, removing the condition from both you and the target. If you do not release the grapple, you must continue to make a check each round, as a standard action, to maintain the hold. If your target does not break the grapple, you get a +5 circumstance bonus on grapple checks made against the same target in subsequent rounds. Once you are grappling an opponent, a successful check allows you to continue grappling the foe, and also allows you to perform one of the following actions (as part of the standard action spent to maintain the grapple).

Move: You can move both yourself and your target up to half your speed. At the end of your movement, you can place your target in any square adjacent to you. If you attempt to place your foe in a hazardous location, such as in a wall of fire or over a pit, the target receives a free attempt to break your grapple with a +4 bonus.

Damage: You can inflict damage to your target equal to your unarmed strike, a natural attack, or an attack made with armor spikes or a light or one-handed weapon. This damage can be either lethal or nonlethal.

Pin: You can give your opponent the pinned condition (see Conditions). Despite pinning your opponent, you still only have the grappled condition, but you lose your Dexterity bonus to AC.

Tie Up: If you have your target pinned, otherwise restrained, or unconscious, you can use rope to tie him up. This works like a pin effect, but the DC to escape the bonds is equal to 20 + your Combat Maneuver Bonus (instead of your CMD). The ropes do not need to make a check every round to maintain the pin. If you are grappling the target, you can attempt to tie him up in ropes, but doing so requires a combat maneuver check at a –10 penalty. If the DC to escape from these bindings is higher than 20 + the target's CMB, the target cannot escape from the bonds, even with a natural 20 on the check.

If You Are Grappled: If you are grappled, you can attempt to break the grapple as a standard action by making a combat maneuver check (DC equal to your opponent's CMD; this does not provoke an attack of opportunity) or Escape Artist check (with a DC equal to your opponent's CMD). If you succeed, you break the grapple and can act normally. Alternatively, if you succeed, you can become the grappler, grappling the other creature (meaning that the other creature cannot freely release the grapple without making a combat maneuver check, while you can). Instead of attempting to break or reverse the grapple, you can take any action that doesn't require two hands to perform, such as cast a spell or make an attack or full attack with a light or one-handed weapon against any creature within your reach, including the creature that is grappling you. See the grappled condition for additional details. If you are pinned, your actions are very limited. See the pinned condition in Conditions for additional details.

Multiple Creatures: Multiple creatures can attempt to grapple one target. The creature that first initiates the grapple is the only one that makes a check, with a +2 bonus for each creature that assists in the grapple (using the Aid Another action). Multiple creatures can also assist another creature in breaking free from a grapple, with each creature that assists (using the Aid Another action) granting a +2 bonus on the grappled creature's combat maneuver check."

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