Help on Grab (Ex)'s "hold" option


Rules Questions


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Hello everybody,

I would really appreciate some help in understanding the Grab (Ex) Universal Monster Rule, specifically the "...simply use the part of its body it used in the grab to hold the opponent" part.

I can't understand what this "hold" entails, and what use it has.

A) is "held" a (non-clearly-defined) condition, different from "grappled"? or is just another way of saying "in a grapple", with the difference that the creature that used the Grab (Ex) is not considered grappled, only its victim is?

B) what use has this "hold" option? Take for example the constrictor snake... Is there any case in which it would make sense to use the "hold" option, giving that it occupies its only "body part", and leaves him without other attacks?

C) speaking of this, i would imagine a constrictor snake would be able to constrict one opponent with its "spires body part", while biting another one (or the same) with its bite attacks... But this does not seem modeled in the game. The snake has only one "body part" (bite)

D) even a kraken, it seems like he is not able to grab 5 PCs and keep them "grappled" (or "held", for that matter), because - even if it has enough body parts - maintaining a grapple/"hold" is a standard action, and he can do only one such action on its round. So it can mantain a grapple/"hold" on one PC, but must release the others. I see no way for a kraken for grapple/"hold"-lock PCs round over round, so that they are constantly grappled (except if they break free, of course).

E) in concluding, i cannot see the use of the "hold" option, since it entails a hefty -20 penalty which practically renders it useless. I would imagine that this mysterious (to me) "hold" option is used to model those monster (like the kraken or the snake) that can grapple one or multiple targets without needing to devote their full attention to it, and keep them "locked" and held in their grasp. But the -20 makes it almost impossible to pull off, and the standard action requirement makes it inapplicable to multiple targets.

As for the rest of the grapple/grab/constrict rules, i believe i have them nailed down, thanks to some useful resources: http://www.d20pfsrd.com/gamemastering/combat#TOC-Grapple and http://www.dorkistan.com/dorkistan/PFRPG/misc/grapple.htm - but these do not spend much words on the "hold" option.

Thanks to anyone who takes the time to clarify this for me, or at least point me to a helpful thread!


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A) no, "held" is not a condition. It's not even a game term. For example, the Grapple rules say "If you do not release the grapple, you must continue to make a check each round, as a standard action, to maintain the hold." Here, it is obvious that they are really saying "to maintain the grapple" but I guess they remembered their Creative Writing teachers telling them not to use the same word over and over - good advice for a novel, bad advice for a rulebook.

As for the grabbing creature not being grappled, that is a special ability of the Grab rule that normally would not apply to other grapple checks - it is not related to using the word "held", although maybe the authors did intend that, in which case, "held" might mean "I'm Grappled but the thing that is holding me is not, itself, Grappled". But they don't seem to be inventing a game term and defining it, and if they had, it would make more sense to use the same term that defines the attack, in which case a Grab attack at -20 would make the victim "Grabbed", not "Held" - but the writers didn't seem to name the special attack at all.

If the grabbing creature wishes, it can ignore the usual rules for Grapple, it still causes the target to acquire the Grappled condition but the attacker does not acquire the Grappled condition. This is not easy, so there is a -20 penalty to the roll. If the grabber doesn't want that penalty, it should consider allowing itself to become Grappled, as per the Grapple rules.

B) For us humans, maintaining a hold/grapple is a standard action that takes both our hands, or we suffer a penalty of -4 if we only use one hand, and either way, we are Grappled too. For creatures with the Grab ability, it can try to initiate and maintain the Grapple without becoming Grappled if it takes the -20 penalty. Good news, because it is not Grappled, it is not limited or penalized in making other attacks with body parts it is not using for the Grapple/Hold.

C) It can already bite any enemny within reach while Grappling. The Grapple rules say this under "If you are Grappled": " 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". So, you, me, the snake, the kraken, whoever, can try to make attacks against foes they can reach. This is, of course, a problem if they're using their standard action to maintain the Grapple - it really only matters when something else is Grappling you.

In other words, since the constrictor snake is maintaining the Grapple as a standard action, it doesn't matter if it wants to bite someone else - it can't (but it can still bite the guy it Grappled).

D) Yes, the Kraken can only Grapple one enemy at a time, but it gets ugly when that guy tries to break free, just about impossible. And then the Kraken goes deep, far away from surface attacks, gobbles up the helpless (drowning) guy, then comes back up for more.

E) No, "held" is not a condition, it's just a synonym for "Grabbed" or "grappled without the attacker being grappled". There are penalties for being "Grappled" so, if a critter has a high enough CMB, it might be more than happy to take that penalty on the Grapple check to avoid becoming Grappled. Most things, however, just do the normal Grapple.


DM_Blake wrote:


C) It can already bite any enemny within reach while Grappling. The Grapple rules say this under "If you are Grappled": " 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". So, you, me, the snake, the kraken, whoever, can try to make attacks against foes they can reach. This is, of course, a problem if they're using their standard action to maintain the Grapple - it really only matters when something else is Grappling you.

Wait, if the creature chooses to continue 'grabbing' (at a -20 penalty), it can do a full attack? Is it minus the attack it used to grapple?


The -20 option lets the Grabber take AoOs, which is rather useful, especially as extra free attacks if they are using the Standard Grapple Maintain action. (if they are Maintaining then they are pretty much getting a +5 bonus anyways, if it was established on previous round, and not trying to Establish+Maintain in one round via Greater Grapple or the like)

Another major feature of the -20 option is being able to MOVE. This can mean moving outside the victims' reach after the Grapple check (so they can't counter-attack back, although they can apparently always try to escape either via CMB or Escape Artist), or moving first and then doing a Grapple check to take advantage of the automatic 'grapple moves target adjacent to you' rule without needing the Maintain/Move option - A Kraken could 5' step and Full Attack/Grab multiple targets, moving them 5' each round.

It seems plausible that the victim cannot 'Reverse' a Grapple with an attacker using the -20 option, since the attacker is not Grappled to begin with... That isn't quite clear, but it seems reasonable to me.

Creatures like Kraken, whether using -20 option or not, probably don't want to use the Maintain option. If their aim is only to keep the targets Grappled, then Maintain is un-needed for that, since Maintain is really about the option to Pin (or Move, Tie-Up, or extra damage but Full Attack probably does that better). If their aim is only to keep the targets Grappled, that is equally met by simply Full-Attacking+Grab and Re-Initiating Grab/Grapple vs. all targets. They don't get the +5 bonus to CMB for Maintaining, but if the Grapple doesn't actually drop until the end of their turn (if they don't Maintain it) then the targets' AC/CMD still would suffer the DEX penalty from Grappled Condition. The -20 option isn't changing the actions to Maintain in any way, and you can Full Attack with or without using it, doing so just means you probably can't officially Maintain the Grapple (although you could re-initiate one). I don't really see any basis in RAW for why the limb used for the Grapple can't be used for other actions.


Thanks everybody for the replies.

OK, so i think i am starting to understand the matter subject, but there are still some grey areas for me.

The way to model a kraken grabbing and holding a handful of PCs is to (each round) do: full attack + grab + grapple each one + release them as a free action on the next round. Rinse, repeat.

Is this the way to achieve a "grapple-lock"? I guess it did not occur to me, because, strictly speaking, each round the monster is actually releasing and re-grabbing the PCs. But this strict narration of the underlying mechanic can be just as easily described as the kraken still holding you (of course, only if he chooses to full attack and re-grab them each round).

Am i getting close?

With this interpretation, maybe the "Maintain grapple" option might be more appropriately phrased as "Improve your grapple" (to pin, move, damage, etc), and the "hold" phrasing in the grab ability is what really models the fact that the monster is, well, keeping you grasped you in its clutches. Even if strictly rules-wise, he is "releasing and re-grabbing" you each round.

Quandary wrote:
They don't get the +5 bonus to CMB for Maintaining, but if the Grapple doesn't actually drop until the end of their turn (if they don't Maintain it) then the targets' AC/CMD still would suffer the DEX penalty from Grappled Condition.

Quandary, i'm trying to understand the bolded sentence there, which seems to be at the core of the "release-full attack-grab-grapple" round-by-round routine.

As per CRB200, "...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.", which gives the kraken only this option each round:

A) release the PCs (free), full attack+grab+grapple: in this case, the PCs are not grappled when the full attack begins (since they have just been released), so they do not suffer the AC/CMD penalty

I see no other way of handling it, because if it does not free the PCs, it must use a standard action to maintain them, but if there are five of them then this clearly cannot be done.

So, while i get that the release/full attack+grab+grapple can be used to simulate a constant grasp on the PCs, it seems to me that - mechanically - this is not happening, because in the subsequent turns the PCs must be released (thereby losing the grappling condition) and then re-grabbed. Making each round essentially a repetition of the first one, and imposing no penalties in the subsequent rounds to simulate the PCs being constantly grabbed.

Sovereign Court

It sounds more like juggling PCs from tentacle to tentacle, than like holding on.


Yes, that's exactly my point. I would really like to understand how to "keep" multiple PCs grabbed/grapple/held (whatever's it's called) round over round (assuming it makes sense for the monster, like in the kraken's case).


So, Kraken fighting 4 PCs:

Round 1, Kraken: Kraken makes attacks against every PC. These attacks hit and automatic grab attempts take place. With the Kraken's amazing CMB he usually succeeds on those grabs, so now every PC is Grappled.

Round 1, PCs: They're all grappled so they must try to escape or suffer the penalty of being grappled (one-handed actions, spell failure, etc.). Breaking free is hard because the Kraken is good at grappling. Let's say they all fail, or they choose to remain grappled and make limited actions.

Round 2, Kraken: Maintaining grapple is a Standard action. You cannot make multiple attacks as a Standard action, so at most, the Kraken can maintain hold on 1 PC, so he must let the rest go as a free action. If he maintains on one PC, he has no way to even attack the others because he uses his Standard action to maintain the grapple. Instead, the Kraken lets go of them as a free action at the beginning of his round, then takes a Full-Round action to repeat what he did last round, attack them all and automatically attempt to grab them all again.

Repeat.

Is it a "Grapple-lock"? that keeps them grappled every round? No. The Kraken could miss, for example. But as long as the Kraken keeps hitting and grappling every round, it's basically the same thing.

Note that, assuming the Kraken hits & grapples every round, we could describe it as if the Kraken continued holding them. This would be fluff rather than what really happened. But since it's logically the same - either way the Kraken applies squeezing damage every round on its turn and the PCs are grappled every round on their turn - we could just pretend the Kraken simply never really let go as long as it keeps hitting each round and keeps succeeding on the grapple checks.


DM_Blake wrote:
we could just pretend the Kraken simply never really let go as long as it keeps hitting each round and keeps succeeding on the grapple checks.

Except for the fact that if the PC's saw that they were being dropped as a free action at the start of each of the Kraken's turns then they could all ready an action to move out of range as soon as that happened. This would interrupt the Kraken from being able to re-establish a lock and would break the last part of your statement :)


Gamuniga wrote:

With this interpretation, maybe the "Maintain grapple" option might be more appropriately phrased as "Improve your grapple" (to pin, move, damage, etc)

Quandary wrote:
They don't get the +5 bonus to CMB for Maintaining, but if the Grapple doesn't actually drop until the end of their turn (if they don't Maintain it) then the targets' AC/CMD still would suffer the DEX penalty from Grappled Condition.
Quandary, i'm trying to understand the bolded sentence there, which seems to be at the core of the "release-full attack-grab-grapple" round-by-round routine.

It sounds like you're getting the gist of it now...

Of course, Kraken may want to use the Maintain option sometimes, even if it won't allow the same number of targets as Full Attack+Grab.

Firstly, dropping the Grapple(s) as Free Action(s) and then Full Attacking/Grabbing/re-initiating Grapple is an option.
Although as the above poster points out, this allows a tiny 'window' of non-Grappled-ness that anybody can Ready to act during.

But notice that dropping the Grapple is a Free Action, nothing is making you take that action, and you can take that action at any point in your turn.
Maintaining the Grapple is a Standard Action (or Move via Greater Grapple),
but nothing is forcing you to take that action at the beginning of your turn,
it only says "you must continue to make a check each round, as a standard action, to maintain the hold"
with no mention of WHEN in that round (turn) you need to do so...
If your intent IS to Maintain, there's no reason you can't first cast a Swift Spell, pick your nose as a Move Action, and THEN Maintain as the very last action of your turn... With the Grapple condition continuing during your entire turn (until the Maintain check, which may succeed or fail).

Taking that into account, the Kraken (or whoever) has no limitation preventing them from Full Attacking
on the round after they Grabbed a bunch of targets (Grappled Condition doesn't prevent Full Attack),
so I just don't see anything preventing the Kraken from Full Attacking the Grappled targets at the beginning of their turn,
and the Grapple is only automatically dropped if/when they don't Maintain it that round.
But the Full Attack/Grab combo initiates NEW Grapples which don't expire until the next round after.
As I said, this IS forgoing the +5 bonus for Maintaining Grapples, which is a signifigant difference vs. Maintain.


Thank you all for the great debate!

DM_Blake wrote:
Note that, assuming the Kraken hits & grapples every round, we could describe it as if the Kraken continued holding them. This would be fluff rather than what really happened. But since it's logically the same - either way the Kraken applies squeezing damage every round on its turn and the PCs are grappled every round on their turn - we could just pretend the Kraken simply never really let go as long as it keeps hitting each round and keeps succeeding on the grapple checks.

Yes, that is exactly my point: the "release+re-grab" could be simply described as "he keeps you all in its clutches", and this could work well.

The thing that bothers me is that - mechanically - it is just a brand-new attack for the kraken, so the kraken on the subsequent rounds would not have the +5 for maintaining and the PCs would not have the grappled condition at the time of the kraken's attack. It's first round grapple all over again!

Also, this:

Roanark wrote:
Except for the fact that if the PC's saw that they were being dropped as a free action at the start of each of the Kraken's turns then they could all ready an action to move out of range as soon as that happened. This would interrupt the Kraken from being able to re-establish a lock and would break the last part of your statement :)

To be fair, the DM should actually tell the PCs that they are being dropped and re-grabbed, because not describing/telling them so would prevent them from readying such actions, which is unfair. And this revelation breaks the "illusion" of being constantly grappled, and reveals the ruse for what it is: a drop&re-grab

Quandary wrote:

Taking that into account, the Kraken (or whoever) has no limitation preventing them from Full Attacking

on the round after they Grabbed a bunch of targets (Grappled Condition doesn't prevent Full Attack),
so I just don't see anything preventing the Kraken from Full Attacking the Grappled targets at the beginning of their turn,
and the Grapple is only automatically dropped if/when they don't Maintain it that round.
But the Full Attack/Grab combo initiates NEW Grapples which don't expire until the next round after.
As I said, this IS forgoing the +5 bonus for Maintaining Grapples, which is a signifigant difference vs. Maintain.

Yes, nothing prevents this, and it seems that this is the "only" way the rules (as i understand them, which might not be the correct way) allow to achieve something similar to a constant multiple grapple.

But then again, it's not really constant: it has not the +5, the PCs haven't got the "grappled" condition, and they flow could be broken by readying an action to trigger when they are released.

It's the only way i see it can be played out, but it leaves me a very sour taste in my mouth.

Is there another way to handle it? What are the experiences of others GMs on this?


I think you mis-read my post, while dropping the Grapple and re-Grabbing is AN OPTION, there is another one:
DON'T DROP IT, and re-Grab while they are still Grappled (continually) and thus suffer DEX penalty (which penalizes AC/CMD)
(the original Grapple should end after your turn for not Maintaining, but you started a new one that lasts thru your next turn: rinse and repeat)
no +5 bonus, but that's the trade-off of multi-target Grab vs. Maintaining.
but you don't have to worry about mechanics or flavor of 'dropping the Grapple' momentarily.


Quandary, what you're proposing is quite interesting... but is really even possible?

The SRD says:

SRD wrote:
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.

This reads to me as clearly cut: either release as a free action, or mantain as a standard action.


Maybe I'll quote what I wrote, which specifically addressed that point from the beginning:

Quote:

But notice that dropping the Grapple is a Free Action, nothing is making you take that action, and you can take that action at any point in your turn.

Maintaining the Grapple is a Standard Action (or Move via Greater Grapple),
but nothing is forcing you to take that action at the beginning of your turn,
it only says "you must continue to make a check each round, as a standard action, to maintain the hold"
with no mention of WHEN in that round (turn) you need to do so...
If your intent IS to Maintain, there's no reason you can't first cast a Swift Spell, pick your nose as a Move Action, and THEN Maintain as the very last action of your turn... With the Grapple condition continuing during your entire turn (until the Maintain check, which may succeed or fail).

If there's no reason why doing the Maintain at the very end of your turn isn't legit, then the Grappled condition must necessarily persist for your entire turn, only ending if you haven't maintained the grapple on your turn (or on the end of the Init count you established it on, in case of grapples started off-turn via grab/AoO)

Maintain Option is still hands-down superior if your prime concern is progressing the grapple for one target.
Although with Greater/Rapid Grapple you can Maintain vs. 2 or possibly 3 targets... The 3rd from Rapid Grappler only kicks in when the Move Action Maintain from Grt Grapple succeeds, you don't get another chance to trigger it from the normal Standard Action Maintain/Grapple.
I don't think I've seen any Grab monster built with those Feats though, they would perhaps become 'too good'.


Of course, per RAW, Grab doesn't work on AoO's because Free Actions are supposed to happen on your own turn, unless given an exception (like Talking).

Paizo (or at least James Jacobs, I'm not sure who) even issued a ruling to enable off-turn reloading of arrows (once a Feat allowed Ranged AoOs), even though that Feat WAS always usable (with 1 AoO, using arrow loaded at end of your turn). Per RAW, things like Rock Catching (an explicitly reactive ability, unlike Grab or Trip) are just unusable (unless somebody readies to throw a rock at you ON YOUR TURN).

Nobody really plays by the RAW in my experience, including PFS, but "full disclosure" as they say.


Oh, i see now.

Let me try to re-phrase, so that i see if i really get it:

Yes, the rules says you must choose free/release or standard/maintain, true. But i will choose later in my round - for now i'll just do a full attack. Next, i will choose free/release, since i will have only free actions available. But - lo and behold - with my full attack i just re-grappled them all, so there is no need to free/release them - it's first grapple round all over again!

Something like this, right?

I would wonder if the free/release consequence still applies to the newly-re-grappled PCs, but we could say no. As far as the rules "see it" they (the PCs) are just victims of the "first" grapple round, so the maintaining concept does not apply at all.

The kraken still loses the +5, but at least he can take advantage of the PC's grapple condition, and there are no "gaps" in the grapple - they are effectively constantly grappled.

It could work. Thanks!

Does anyone else has any other insights? Thank you all for a great discussion :)


Right. And you never have to Free Action 'Release', if you don't Maintain during your turn (/the round), the Grapple is just dropped by itself. The Free Action 'Release' is for when you want that to happen before it would naturally. But nothing is forcing a choice of 'Spend Action to Maintain OR Spend Action to Release at the very beginning of your turn' (or at any point in your turn).

The benefit of them suffering Grapple condition vs. your Grab attacks is pretty minimal in fact, only -2 AC/CMD (if their DEX is below 4 then the effect is reduced to -1 or zero change in AC/CMD, as the max DEX penalty to AC is -5 @ DEX 1). So the difference is mostly that tiny 'window' of non-Grappled-ness (if you dropped it at beginning of turn before re-Grabbing).

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