How to build a grapple master


Advice


I was looking at the Mi-Go in the Bestiary 4, and loved its grappling ability. I got to thinking about the feasibility of building a beast of a grappler as a PC. I've never built one and I don't know what it would take to pull off something great, or even if it's worth it. Thoughts?

J


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Yes, grapplers are crazy good at shutting someone down. As far as feats, obviously you'll want Imp/Greater Grapple, but Dirty Fighting is a solid choice for a feat here too. If you perform a flanking grapple attempt, you'll get a +4 to the CMB with Dirty Fighting. Another solid choice is Rapid Grappler to make an additional grapple attempt as a swift whenever you successfully Greater Grapple as a move action. Improved Strangle is also a good choice because if you successfully use the Strangle combat maneuver, the target is treated as if they're drowning.

Drowning wrote:

Drowning

Any character can hold her breath for a number of rounds equal to twice her Constitution score. If a character takes a standard or full-round action, the remaining duration that the character can hold her breath is reduced by 1 round. After this period of time, the character must make a DC 10 Constitution check every round in order to continue holding her breath. Each round, the DC increases by 1.

When the character finally fails her Constitution check, she begins to drown. In the first round, she falls unconscious (0 hp). In the following round, she drops to –1 hit points and is dying. In the third round, she drowns.

Unconscious characters must begin making Constitution checks immediately upon being submerged (or upon becoming unconscious if the character was conscious when submerged). Once she fails one of these checks, she immediately drops to –1 (or loses 1 additional hit point, if her total is below –1). On the following round, she drowns.

It is possible to drown in substances other than water, such as sand, quicksand, fine dust, and silos full of grain.

As far as classes, Monk and Brawler are automatic shoe-ins because they get Imp Unarmed Strike for free. Monks are even more of a solid choice because they can use their Stunning Fist for Jawbreaker, Bonebreaker, or Neckbreaker feats. Oddly enough, Rogues do well as grapplers too, especially if they get the Strangler feat.

Neckbreaker wrote:

Neckbreaker (Combat)

With a quick jerk, you snap an enemy’s neck.

Prerequisite: Bonebreaker, Greater Grapple, Improved Grapple, Improved Unarmed Strike, Jawbreaker, Stunning Fist, Heal 12 ranks.

Benefit: If you have an opponent your size or smaller helpless or pinned, after you initiate or maintain a grapple, you can make a Stunning Fist attempt at a –5 penalty on the attack roll. If you succeed, you wrench that opponent’s neck, dealing 2d6 Strength or Dexterity damage. If the targeted ability score is reduced to 0, any remaining damage is dealt to that opponent’s Constitution score. A creature that is immune to critical hits or that has no discernible head and neck is immune to the effects of this feat.

Bonebreaker wrote:

Bonebreaker (Combat)

When your opponent is unable to adequately defend against them, your precise unarmed strikes break bone and tear tissue.

Prerequisites: Dex 13, Improved Grapple, Improved Unarmed Strike, Jawbreaker, Stunning Fist, Heal 9 ranks.

Benefit: When you make a successful Stunning Fist attempt against an opponent that is grappled, helpless, or stunned, you can forgo any other Stunning Fist effect to deal 1d6 Strengthor Dexterity damage to that opponent.

Jawbreaker wrote:

Jawbreaker (Combat)

You deliver a powerful strike to the mouth, breaking teeth and bone.

Prerequisite: Improved Unarmed Strike, Stunning Fist, Heal 6 ranks.

Benefit: When you make a successful Stunning Fist attempt against an opponent that is grappled, helpless, or stunned, instead of imparting any other Stunning Fist effect, you can cripple that opponent’s mouth, dealing normal unarmed strike damage and 1d4 points of bleed damage. Until the bleed damage ends, the target is unable to use its mouth to attack, speak clearly, and employ verbal spell components. A creature that is immune to critical hits or that has no discernible mouth is immune to the effects of this feat.

Strangler wrote:

Strangler (Combat)

Throttling the life out of enemies is second nature to you.

Prerequisite: Dex 13, sneak attack +1d6, Improved Grapple, Improved Unarmed Strike.

Benefit: Whenever you successfully maintain a grapple and choose to deal damage, you can spend a swift action to deal your sneak attack damage to the creature you are grappling.


Tetori monk pretty much wins.


I don't exactly remember what it is, but I think there was a feat that allowed you to use grappled opponents as a literal meat shield.

Barbarian rage power Body Bludgeon lets you weaponize enemies against other enemies.

Those may not be optimal, but certainly fun and niche.


MageHunter wrote:

I don't exactly remember what it is, but I think there was a feat that allowed you to use grappled opponents as a literal meat shield.

Barbarian rage power Body Bludgeon lets you weaponize enemies against other enemies.

Those may not be optimal, but certainly fun and niche.

Body Shield (Combat)

With a sly maneuver, you force a grappled opponent into the path of an incoming attack.

Prerequisites: Dex 13, Improved Grapple, Improved Unarmed Strike, base attack bonus +6.

Benefit: As an immediate action while you are grappling an adjacent creature, you can make a grapple combat maneuver check against that creature to gain cover against a single attack. If you are successful and the attack misses you, that attack targets the creature you used as cover, using the same attack roll. You cannot use this feat against a creature grappling you, and the cover you gain ends after the attack you gained cover against is resolved.


Body shield is the feat you're thinking of MageHunter.

A tetori monk gets everything you need to be a successful grappler including counters to annoying things like freedom of movement. There may be ways of getting bigger numbers e.g. on a barbarian, but a tetori can use their grappling specialty on more targets with less hassle. Admittedly there's a constable cavalier build or two using order of the penitent who can grapple and tie up their enemies in double-quick time.

There are a few style feat chains which are useful to grappling. Snapping turtle lets you grab someone when they attack you and miss, kraken adds damage, electric eel makes grappling someone you're hit with elemental fist easier (& later on has a chance of staggering the enemy or messing with their spells.)


I'm not a fan of Tetori Monk (I know they're really good) just because you lose everything that makes a Monk a Monk. You lose Abundant Step, Flurry of Blows, Diamond Soul, and Imp Evasion, which for me is too much. You can do all the grappling shenanigans you want with feats while still retaining everything that makes a Monk a Monk. If they teleport out of your grapple, so be it.


the only thing that only tetori get that can't be done by others is the ability to negate freedom of movement and such things.
since now anyone can get freedom of movement (all you need is 3 ranks in knowledge planes and a feat) and freedom basically auto kill grappling. tetori is still the way to go if you are going to build only on grappling (you don't want to get the nurf after investing everything you have on one shtick,do you?)

that said. don't forget to improve your cmb as much as you can. i like the 'bred for war' human(shoanti) trait and the human alt racial ability of 'Giant Ancestory' (replaces 'skilled'). also there are many many cheap magical items to add up the bonus and make it high as hell.('Armbands of the Brawler' only cot 500 gp for start).


zza ni wrote:
don't forget to improve your cmb as much as you can.

And your CMD---it takes CMB to get your foe into a grapple, but it takes CMD to keep them there.


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zza ni wrote:

the only thing that only tetori get that can't be done by others is the ability to negate freedom of movement and such things.

since now anyone can get freedom of movement (all you need is 3 ranks in knowledge planes and a feat) and freedom basically auto kill grappling. tetori is still the way to go if you are going to build only on grappling (you don't want to get the nurf after investing everything you have on one shtick,do you?)

that said. don't forget to improve your cmb as much as you can. i like the 'bred for war' human(shoanti) trait and the human alt racial ability of 'Giant Ancestory' (replaces 'skilled'). also there are many many cheap magical items to add up the bonus and make it high as hell.('Armbands of the Brawler' only cot 500 gp for start).

Negate freedom of movement, grapple incorporeal things, HAVE CONSTRICT, have grab, negate polymorph.

Basically a whole array of things that negate grapple completely and render your grapple based character useless are countered by class abilities in tetori you can't actually get anywhere else.

Other classes/archetypes don't even really come close in the grappling department.


As others have said tetori is King. I have played both a Tetori and a grapple spec'd Druid. Both are excellent, the many bonus feats Tetoris get towards grappling helps a lot plus there CMD is superior to the Druids. However the druids CMB can be bumped up just as high as a Tetori if not higher with spells and certain forms give it Grab with reach to boot (Giant Octopus 30ft with 8 attempts to grab certainly one will land despite being a secondary attack). Some forms even have constrict which is what your really after.


Atalius wrote:
As others have said tetori is King. I have played both a Tetori and a grapple spec'd Druid. Both are excellent, the many bonus feats Tetoris get towards grappling helps a lot plus there CMD is superior to the Druids. However the druids CMB can be bumped up just as high as a Tetori if not higher with spells and certain forms give it Grab with reach to boot (Giant Octopus 30ft with 8 attempts to grab certainly one will land despite being a secondary attack). Some forms even have constrict which is what your really after.

Hmm, so is constrict the holy grail of grappling, much like pounce is for melee characters?

J


I would say so. A focused tetori grappler can make 3 checks per round IIRC

Round1 Punch + grab for 2X unarmed damage via the hit and constrict

Round 2
Maintain with move from greater grapple + unarmed damage from constrict
Pin from standard action + unarmed damage from constrict
Check for damage from rapid grapler = 2X unarmed damage from constrict

If they're still alive round 3 will finish them

Maintain as a move for unarmed damage
Grapple for damage as a standard for 2X unarmed damage
Grapple for damage from rapid grappler for 2X unarmed damage.

I really want to make an Oni-spawn Tetori grappler, maybe as a pc, maybe just as an absolute f++# you of a villain. Take kraken style to add wis + 4 to each bit of grapple damage. Alter self for a +2 size to str, be all huge shiny obsidian skinned dude with ogre mage horns just grabbin and crushin everything in his path.


JDawg75 wrote:
Atalius wrote:
As others have said tetori is King. I have played both a Tetori and a grapple spec'd Druid. Both are excellent, the many bonus feats Tetoris get towards grappling helps a lot plus there CMD is superior to the Druids. However the druids CMB can be bumped up just as high as a Tetori if not higher with spells and certain forms give it Grab with reach to boot (Giant Octopus 30ft with 8 attempts to grab certainly one will land despite being a secondary attack). Some forms even have constrict which is what your really after.

Hmm, so is constrict the holy grail of grappling, much like pounce is for melee characters?

J

Absolutely. You can also do other things, the legendary Bruno Breakbone once told me when playing a Tetori once Pinning Knockout comes online at level 10 anything not immune to non lethal will go down. The damage is massive when spec'd properly, with rapid grapple at level 9 you will be a force to be wreckoned with.

Grand Lodge

A few other notes Raging Grappler increase damage allow you to combine the pinning steps with damaging and making people prone.

Strictly speaking, the tetori is the king of grappling but I will put this out there as an interesting alternative.

Battle Oracle can use there level as bab for CMB, have a ton of long-lasting buff that make their bonuses (eagle soul, hunters blessing), short-term buff (divine favour/power, bestow grace of the champion), that also help, and they have dispel magic.

Though dispel or casting force anchor are not as efficient they still work and come online a little sooner. Quicken spell can help at really high levels.

The tetori does have a slow down as Inescapable Grasp is a swift and thus can't be used with rappid grappler.


Its slightly less damage compared to no damage at all since freedom of movement pretty much ends the grapple for every other grapple build.

Grand Lodge

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I don't know to what you are referencing.

Rage power can be accessed by most builds by dipping, tetori included, and it dramatically increases damage. One level dip with Ulfen guard.

The battle oracle can over come freedom of movement. That was the point it is one of the only other grapplers that can overcome the issue. They can also be dual cursed. The tetori fails 5% of the time because of nat 20s. The battle oracle fails 1/400.

Using your swift to overcome freedom of movement means an extra round before tying the enemy up which is the fastest way to subdue an enemy with grapple not damage.

Comparing damage when someone can't grapple because of freedom of movement and saying they do nothing is a silly comparison. Someone in the group at high levels should be making a knowledge arcana check (monk should too other wise how did they know to use their ability) which means you have to compare to what they would otherwise do I bet those builds are still good a punching.


ho would knowladge arcane help knowing they got a feat from ranks with knowladge planes? (see link in my post above)


How does the battle oracle gain grab or constrict?


Hmm. So a tetori monk, dipping a level of Ulfen Guard should be beautiful. Recommended races? Any traps to avoid?

Second q: is it possible to get the Mi-Go's eviscerate ability?

Evisceration(Ex): A mi-go’s claws are capable of swiftly and painfully performing surgical operations upon helpless creatures or those it has grappled. When a mi-go makes a successful grapple check, in addition to any other effects caused by a successful grapple, it deals sneak attack damage to the victim. A creature that takes this damage must succeed at a DC 18 Fortitude save or take 1d4 points of ability damage from the invasive surgery (the type of ability damage dealt is chosen by the mi-go at the time the evisceration occurs). The save DC is Dexterity-based.

Third q: is the escape artist skill worth taking for a grapple-type such he will be?

J


race? Trox IF the gm let you get away with it.
his low mental abilities is backed up by the monk's superior saves and abilities (empty mind etc). he get to grapple and keep attacking. free improved grapple,frenzy and borrow. also large, 10 ft reach and +6 str.


zza ni wrote:

race? Trox IF the gm let you get away with it.

his low mental abilities is backed up by the monk's superior saves and abilities (empty mind etc). he get to grapple and keep attacking. free improved grapple,frenzy and borrow. also large, 10 ft reach and +6 str.

lol, total agreement here, but I doubt my DM would agree. A 28 rp race like that would be unlikely. I can ask but it's like asking for a gargoyle, everyone else may want races like that too, and if they don't it might unbalance the party.

How about other than Trox? Half-orc? Hobgoblin? Oread? Oreads get fleshgems which can be useful.

J


JDawg75 wrote:

Hmm. So a tetori monk, dipping a level of Ulfen Guard should be beautiful. Recommended races? Any traps to avoid?

Troglodyte+ the feat Pungent Stench can be devastating as a grappler since the nauseated condition prevents creatures from getting a chance to breakfree (breaking free requires a standard action, nauseated limits them to a single move action).

It's possible to pick it up as a human but it takes 5 feats instead of 3 which may or may not be worth it.

A dan bong can give you a +2 to checks, but only if you take the grabbing style feat (or some way to use it while leaving 2 hands free). Otherwise trying to use one nets you a -2 instead of the +2 you were going for.

JDawg75 wrote:

Second q: is it possible to get the Mi-Go's eviscerate ability?

Evisceration(Ex): A mi-go’s claws are capable of swiftly and painfully performing surgical operations upon helpless creatures or those it has grappled. When a mi-go makes a successful grapple check, in addition to any other effects caused by a successful grapple, it deals sneak attack damage to the victim. A creature that takes this damage must succeed at a DC 18 Fortitude save or take 1d4 points of ability damage from the invasive surgery (the type of ability damage dealt is chosen by the mi-go at the time the evisceration occurs). The save DC is Dexterity-based.

It would be a different build from tetori but you can get sneak attack and sneak attack related feats taking levels in snakebite striker brawler + the strangler feat. Which would allow to to semi-replicate the evisceration ability. However, you'd have to choose between rapid grappler and the sneak attack damage, which may not be worth it.

JDawg75 wrote:

Third q: is the escape artist skill worth taking for a grapple-type such he will be?

Possibly, since it applies in non-grapple situations like squeezing. Unless the only time your characters ever use the skill is to escape being grappled it's not a terrible skill to have points in. But, it's not really a must have skill either. So, if something else seems better it probably is.


Is it my imagination, or do the rules stack it against a PC grappling successfully? CMB is just Str + BAB + size. CMD is 10+BAB+Str+Dex+ size. I mean, does anyone have experience with grapple-heavy PCs?

J


You get other bonuses to attack to CMB too; a grappling master is going to succeed pretty regularly. CMD misses out armor & natural armor compared to AC.

Scarab Sages

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A normal attack's bonus is Str+BAB+size. A normal AC is 10+armor+dodge+etc. But you are adding a die roll to the attack/CMB. The +10 to AC/CMD is just to make it so if your attack bonus equals their armor bonus, then you need to roll a 10 to hit. Sure, CMD gets Strength and Dex, but most creatures will have one or the other at a high number, not both.

Monks, on the other hand, get STR, DEX, and WIS, which is why they are so hard to grapple.

In my experience, against a lot of medium or smaller creatures, grappling is much easier than hitting them with an attack. There are lots of ways to boost grapple checks. Bred for War trait +1, Deific Obedience (Falayna) +4, Improved Grapple +2, Greater Grapple +2, Armbands of the Brawler +1, etc.

Grand Lodge

Any grappler I have attempted to optimize gets can trivially grapple even high cmb creatures like iron golems and dragons.

Some of the creatures have a change to break out due to high cmbs, though that is rare. That is why rapid grappler is so important.

Grab>pin>tie up on turn is key. Very little chance to escape to escape.

Quick catch manacles also work well for this.

Scarab Sages

There is some table variation about whether or not you can maintain a grapple in the same round that you initiate a grapple, even with Greater and Rapid Grappler. Mark Seifter said no unofficially, but implied that if a grapple FAQ were ever to be issued, that would be the official stance. Of course, a grapple FAQ seems unlikely to ever be issued at this point.

LINK

Mark Seifter wrote:

Even if the enemy moved up to the tetori, you can't maintain during the same round you established. The only way I can think of to pull it off is with Snapping Turtle Clutch to establish off turn and then maintain on your own next turn for the pin and tie up.

... <snipped>

@FAQ timing--smaller grapple ambiguities will probably wait for a big ol' grapple FAQ blog that covers many edge cases, so while that will take longer, it will also be a nice bigger juicier FAQ to grapple with hugs of joy and friendship for handsome tetori like Bruno.

I snipped some of the back and forth from the thread.

Grand Lodge

I went back and looked at it. I will take it under advisement but this was a case where Mark provided no explanation for his view usually their is a bit more meat that helps me see the other side.

There are defiantly some subtitles either way like not getting the +5 bonus that have to be remembered.

Scarab Sages

Yeah, I was surprised when I found out about that post. I’m pretty sure there’s a PFS scenario with some monks with greater grapple, and their tactics are to grapple/pin in the same round. Here it looks like Mark is deferring a lengthier explanation to the (at the time) expected FAQ. Anyway, it’s enough that I wouldn’t expect to grapple and maintain in the same round at a PFS table. Elsewhere, just ask the GM how they think it works.

It does make Snapping Turtle Clutch more valuable. If you initiate the grapple on someone else’s turn, then maintain on yours.


Thanks for the feedback, it restores my faith! My thought right now is that I'll go with human, because while Oread is tempting, I don't want a movement of 20 with my Tetori. Hobgoblin is a possibility too I suppose, but the extra feat for being human is nice. Not sure how feat-starved Tetori grapple builds are?

J


If all you're planning to do with your tetori is grapple you won't be especially feat-starved. You want to pick up rapid grappler and probably a style (snapping turtle or otherwise), but that's doable with the general feats.


JDawg75 wrote:

Thanks for the feedback, it restores my faith! My thought right now is that I'll go with human, because while Oread is tempting, I don't want a movement of 20 with my Tetori. Hobgoblin is a possibility too I suppose, but the extra feat for being human is nice. Not sure how feat-starved Tetori grapple builds are?

J

Oni blooded (hungerseed) tiefling. +2 str/wis Alter self as a spell like.

Also has the benefit of theme, there are a number of myths where Oni are challenged to wrestle.


avr wrote:
If all you're planning to do with your tetori is grapple you won't be especially feat-starved. You want to pick up rapid grappler and probably a style (snapping turtle or otherwise), but that's doable with the general feats.

Good point, I hadn't even considered styles. I've never played a monk before so I don't know much about them. I'll check out snapping turtle! And of course rapid grappler makes sense.

J


Ryan Freire wrote:
JDawg75 wrote:

Thanks for the feedback, it restores my faith! My thought right now is that I'll go with human, because while Oread is tempting, I don't want a movement of 20 with my Tetori. Hobgoblin is a possibility too I suppose, but the extra feat for being human is nice. Not sure how feat-starved Tetori grapple builds are?

J

Oni blooded (hungerseed) tiefling. +2 str/wis Alter self as a spell like.

Also has the benefit of theme, there are a number of myths where Oni are challenged to wrestle.

Ah, beautiful! I feel more free to take this, since it doesn't look like the character I'm looking to build is feat-starved.

J


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snapping turtle and kraken style are both solid grappling choices.

I personally really like kraken style with the hungerseed option because you can kind of low key stack wis to up stunning fist DC's, and AC, and CMD and then damage with the kraken style.


Okay, here's my first shot at a Tetori grappler. The one thing I wasn't sure about (never played a monk or grappler) is which feats to take first. The ones you see are the ones automatically granted to me.

Grappler monk
Female Tiefling (Oni-Spawn)

Hit Points: 10
Initiative: +3
Speed: Walk 30 ft.
AC: 13 (touch 13, flatfooted 12)

Vision: Darkvision (60 ft.)

Special Attacks: Stunning Fist

Special Qualities:
AC Bonus, Bonus Feat, Bonus Ki, Darkvision, Fiendish Language, Fiendish Resistance, Graceful Grappler, Oni-Spawn Spell-Like Ability, Prehensile Tail, Resistance to Cold, Resistance to Electricity, Resistance to Fire, Unarmed Strike
Saves: Fortitude: +4, Reflex: +3, Will: +4

STR 18 (+4), DEX 13 (+1), CON 14 (+2), INT 10 (+0), WIS 14 (+2), CHA 8 (-1)

Feats:
Improved Grapple, Improved Unarmed Strike, Stunning Fist


If you're going for snapping turtle style then you can start that immediately. If not (if kraken style is more to your taste perhaps) you have a free feat. There are tiefling racial feats, or you might get explosive escape in case you get jumped by too many others, or, I don't know, you could get skill focus or something.


I decided to take Armor of the Pit, to help out his AC a bit. Couldn't think of anything else to take, except maybe Improved Initiative.

J

Grand Lodge

Off the top of my head, a Brawler (Strangler)/Rogue multiclass would fit a bit more of the style of the Mi-Go. You're getting a bit more than 1/2 level in extra damage dice from the abilities, and remember that despite Strangler giving up Unarmed Strike, Dirty Fighting feat counts as Improved Unarmed Strike for Improved maneuver feats and other feats that require those improved feats

Human, Brawler/Unchained Rogue build, just off the top of my head:
Str 12
Dex 16+2
Con 14
Int 10
Wis 14
Cha 8

B1: Agile Maneuvers, Dirty Fighting
B1,R2: Talent: Ninja Trick (Redirect Force), Improved Grapple
B2, R3: Accomplished Sneak Attacker, Strangler [UC, Combat]

-At level 5, you can tank an AoO (if you want to) to gain the damage taken as a bonus to a grapple check. Next turn, any time you maintain a grapple to deal damage, you deal 2d6 precision from the two levels in Strangler brawler,1d6+Dex from Spiked Armor, 3d6 precision from sneak attack, and as a swift action using the Strangler feat, deal an additional 3d6 sneak attack damage. Because of the Strangler archetype you are always considered flanking your grappled target. On the 2nd round of combat that's 9d6+Dex mod in dmg at 5th level.
Maintaining a grapple is stupid easy for you, too. BAB 4, Dex +5, Imp. Grapple +2, Dirty Fighting +4, maintaining +5, and you're at a +20 on that alone to maintain.

You'll eventually want to retrain the Strangler feat for Rapid Grappler when you qualify for it, but otherwise just take the standard grappling feats as you level up in Rogue.

*Edit: Forgot maintaining grapples give a +5 bonus, not a +4.

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