Grapple and Grab (Ex) Question

Rules Questions

Does a Feral Gnasher (Goblin Archetype) using his Lockjaw ability via his bite attack suffer a -4 penalty if both hands aren't free?

Grapple wrote:
Humanoid creatures without two free hands attempting to grapple a foe take a –4 penalty on the combat maneuver roll.
Feral Gnasher wrote:

Lockjaw (Ex): At 3rd level, a feral gnasher gains the grab ability with her bite attack. A feral gnasher can use this ability on a creature up to one size category larger than she is. This replaces trap sense +1.

Improved Lockjaw (Ex): At 6th level, as long as a feral gnasher is controlling the grapple with her lockjaw attack, she does not gain the grappled condition, but is unable to move or use her mouth for anything other than grappling. This ability replaces trap sense +2.

Seems that by the letter of the law he would, however, given that it's clearly his mouth that's responsible for the grab attack, it doesn't make a lot of sense. Thoughts?

It has Grab, so no it would not get the penalty.

I would say yes. The mouth is the anchor to hold on, but that doesn't mean hands aren't involved in the grapple. They're just not so involved in grappling that they can't make jabs or take other actions in the meantime.

This may be a case where the RAW fails but the RAI is extremely obvious, but it takes a bit of analysis.

Grapple says you take a penalty of -4 if you're humanoid and you do not have two free hands. Strictly by RAW, it seems that if a Feral Gnasher tries to use Lockjaw without two free hands, she would take this penalty as there is nothing in the Lockjaw or Grab abilities that overrides this, unless I missed a FAQ/Errata somewhere.


The REASON humanoid creatures need two free hands to grapple without a penalty is because we actually USE those hands, both of them, to grapple. Chokes, pins, locks, full nelson, whatever, they almost all require using two hands (and the ones that don't require lots of training, represented by gaining feats that make grappling easier).

A feral gnasher is humanoid, but it is not grappling like a humanoid - it is biting and locking onto the victim with its jaws. Furthermore, the Grab ability says "If a creature with this special attack hits with the indicated attack (usually a claw or bite attack)..." so clearly the feral gnasher only needs to bite to use its Grab ability with Lockjaw (which specifies the Grab is only with the bite attack).

Now, while Grab doesn't remove the -4 penalty for humanoids without two free hands, it does clearly apply only to the attack type that has Grab (the feral gnasher's bite).

Now for the RAI part: The feral gnasher does not need any free hands to make a bite attack. The Grab only applies to the bite. Therefore, it stands to reason that the Lockjaw ability also does not need any free hands.

Unfortunately, that only seems to be RAI rather than RAW, but I cannot find any logical reason to rule it otherwise.

It's actually a PFS question, so I'll have to present this to GM's before each session (never really thought about it before today and sitting at 7th level). I'm just looking for any insight or other opinions. If Mr. Random GM says yes, I do take the -4 penalty, then I'll just deal with it.

I hate grab because so many people do it differently. As well as I can parse the rules...
Before 6th level:
You attack with your mouth and then initiate a grapple check as a free action. If both hands are not free to grapple you take a -4 penalty. You also gain the grappled condition.
Alternatively, if you decide to use your mouth to grapple and keep your hands free, you can follow the grab rules. You take a -20 to your grapple maneuver but you can keep your hands free AND don't gain the grapple condition.

6th level and up:
You have improved lockjaw. You make an attack and get a free grab attempt. If you do not have two hands free you take a -4 penalty. You DO NOT gain the grappled condition. There is no need to use the grab rules since improved lockjaw gives you the benefits.

Lab_Rat's answer is RAW, but it seems unreasonable.

A bulldog doesn't need two free hands to lock its jaws onto the neck of a bull, a lioness doesn't need two free hands to lock its jaws onto the neck of a gazelle, a crocodile doesn't need two hands free to lock its jaws onto, well, anything.

OK, none of those are humanoid. The grapple rules about two free hands are only for humanoids. But this Lockjaw ability seems to give a lizard-ish humanoid (kobold) a lizardish bite attack with the ability to lock its jaws onto its target, just like other non-humanoids and lizards.

Logically, the feral gnasher should not require any hands to use this ability and should be able to do so without penalty. As I said before, that's RAI, not RAW.

It would be good if the feral gnasher's Lockjaw ability got an errata for it, or alternatively (if the devs see it differently than I do), just a clarification that it's working as intended.

But wait! I forgot that creatures with the grab ability get a +4 to start and maintain grapples. Don't know if you had included that in your CMB but if you had not, it will negate that -4 penalty.

The other argument is that non-humanoids don't have non-free limbs (they don't hold swords or bows) and use their limbs in grabbing on to things. That's RAI as I see them.

There's also the whole jaw to body size ratio thing messing with all the logic. At any rate I'd think it logical that a goblinoid with free hands would be better at grappling something than a goblinoid without free hands.

Lab_Rat wrote:
But wait! I forgot that creatures with the grab ability get a +4 to start and maintain grapples. Don't know if you had included that in your CMB but if you had not, it will negate that -4 penalty.

Of course i had ;-)

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