By "grabby monsters," I'm referring to those with multiple Grab attacks, particularly those that also have the Constrict special attack, and which are thematically all about grabbing at things: giant squids, krakens, shoggoths, there's a tendency for these creatures to be tentacular horrors but I'm sure there are other examples out there too, including a particular Adventure Path-specific monster/encounter that my players aren't so many weeks away from.
Premise: The visual of something like a kraken sweeping up half-a-dozen squirming sailors in its tentacles is a powerful one, but as-written, the rules for grappling make this difficult to achieve; feats like Greater Grapple and Rapid Grappler only address this to a limited extent and are designed first and foremost as options for humanoid PCs.
I believe there's been disagreement in the past over whether a greater with multiple Grab attacks can attempt to start a grapple against a creature already grappled via an earlier attack with Grab, if it's beneficial for the creature to do so (e.g. if it has Constrict); I believe it has been agreed that because the Grab ability specifies that because the Grab ability specifically allows a creature to attempt to start a grapple, additional attacks with Grab don't functionary as 'ordinary' subsequent successful grab attacks (i.e. additional successful Grabs can't be used to damage, move, or pin an opponent).
Grab also offers the Grabbing creature to "hold" an opponent with the Grabbing body part, taking a -20 penalty to its CMB to make and maintain the grapple in exchange for not becoming grappled itself, but I feel as though there's a bit of a blank spot in the rules as far as the further benefits of "grappling a creature without being grappled yourself," go. For example, Tom Flock's grapple flowcharts are about the clearest (linked at d20PFSRD here for the curious) illustration of how to proceed through a grapple I've found, but they don't cover the situation in which a creatures used Grab and chooses to "hold" its opponent rather than grapple it conventionally; there is no guidance as to how "Round 3: Attacker's turn, attacker controlling, defender grappled but attacker not grappled," ought to proceed.
Barring Greater Grapple and/or Rapid Grappler, no matter how many Grab attacks were used to make successful grapple attempts on multiple targets in the previous round, the attacking Grabbing/grappling creature doesn't have much of a choice except to let all but one of its grappled creatures go in order to use a standard action to maintain the grapple on the single remaining grappled opponent.
I feel there ought to be a way for a creature with multiple Grab attacks, using those attacks to "hold" multiple creatures rathern than engage in an ordinary grapple with any of them, ought to be able to use a full-attack or full-round action to maintain those holds, but there doesn't appear to be one. Greater Grapple and Rapid Grappler potentially extend that to three concurrent grapples, but that's still far short of the number of creatures a kraken can potentially grapple, and the fact that the shoggoth has an extraordinary ability specifically designed to let it do horrible things if it starts a turn grappling multiple creatures suggests that this is something of a blank spot in the rules otherwise, and it's one I'd like to close.
As an aside: It's already a house rule at my table that creatures with Grab can't use attacks with Grab to start a grapple against a creature they've already Grappled. A further house rule I apply is that if a creature with Grab chooses to release the grapple as a free action, its sequence of attacks (if making a full-attack action) ends and it can make no subsequent attacks, Grab or otherwise; this is a result of a horrible encounter involving a Mi-Go which has the ability to inflict on an average round of successful attacks 50 points of damage and 10 points of ability damage, which had me reeling and thinking "this can't possibly be the rules working as intended." In other situations where a creature has multiple Grab attacks with damaging "riders" on them, the effectiveness of the Attack > Grab > Rider > Release sequence creates a situation where the optimal way of conducting attacks seems to run counter to what the fiction and themes suggest a creature's behaviour ought to be.
Proposal: As a house rule, a creature which is holding multiple opponents through the use of multiple natural weapons with the Grab ability, having chosen to hold those opponents rather than engage in a standard grapple, can, as part of a full-attack action, make grapple attempts against each of the creatures it is holding. The natural weapons originally used to Grab and hold those creatures are engaged in maintaining the holds and cannot be used to perform other attacks as part of the full-attack action. These attempts to maintain the grapples against held creatures are made at a -20 penalty to the attacker's CMB, and if successful, each deals the damage indicated for the attack that established the hold, as described under the Grab universal monster rule. Natural weapons not engaged in maintaing the holds can be used to attack held creatures or other opponents as the attacker wishes. A creature that possesses the ability to grapple opponents without gaining the grappled condition itself, such as a kraken's Tenacious Grapple extraordinary ability, does not take the -20 penalty to maintain a hold on creatures provided the limitations of its ability are otherwise adhered to.
Thoughts, opinions, unexpected consequences, anyone?
God, I hate grappling. Normally I'm all for complex rules, as they add depth and diversity of choices to the game, but grappling is just... gross.
I thought that at the start of an attacker's turn, it makes a grapple check- as a mandatory free action- to maintain the grapple (or one for each creature it's grappling) and then its turn goes about as normal, save that it has the grappled condition and its grappling limbs can't be used for anything else. The standard action, I assumed, was for doing things other than simply grappling the creature you're attacking- moving it, trying to pin it, whatever.
Is this not the case? Sorry if I'm missing something. Grapple rules are the worst. If your house rule does indeed fix them, I'll gladly steal it.
Edit: I am dumb. You're suggesting that a creature with multiple grab attacks should be able to do grabby stuff to multiple creatures in a turn. Ok. Yes, I'm going to steal this. :p
- as a mandatory free action-
Nope, it's a voluntary standard action. The grappler can forgo it by releasing the grapple as a free action. This is why creature with multiple grab attacks such as kraken don't seem to work right in Pathfinder--they can't actually do the whole "grab ALL the characters!" thing expected of the archetype, or at least they can't maintain the configuration long enough to matter.
Yes, I'm going to steal this. :p
I'm glad you like it, and I hope you get an opportunity to throw a suitably grabby or be-tentacled monster at your players soon - I hope it turns out entertainingly!
This is why creature with multiple grab attacks such as kraken don't seem to work right in Pathfinder--they can't actually do the whole "grab ALL the characters!" thing expected of the archetype, or at least they can't maintain the configuration long enough to matter.
This is exactly the problem I'm trying to solve here and I'm hoping that my proposed house rule represents a reasonably balanced way of doing so - I should probably include "when a creature begins its turn..." wording in the rule for clarity's sake.