Woo boy. There are not many feats that seem to fire up such passionate response from both sides of the aisle on whether the feat is great or terrible, underpowered or overpowered, misunderstood or just poorly written. There are a lot of passionate opinions on this feat, and one thing that is safe to say: there is probably no other feat more controversial or cause for argument around the table than this one.
So what does the grappler feat actually provide?
The grappler feat provides a PC with advantage of grappling checks along with the ability to restrain themselves along with the target being grappled, thus inflicting them with the restrained condition, which gives attacks against the target advantage, among other benefits.
So we’re going to break down this unusual feat by exploring what the book says, what it doesn’t say, what’s implied, what’s often home ruled and what all of this means when looking at the 5E grappler feat.
Breaking Down the Grappler Feat
The only way to start with navigating the incredibly wide array of opinions on this feat is to look at how it is written in the book, look at how grappling is written (the strangeness of this mechanic is where a lot of the disagreements come from, IMO) and how that applies to your average game.
Directly from the Player’s Handbook:
Prerequisite: Strength 13 or higher
You’ve developed the skills necessary to hold your own in close-quarters grappling. You gain the following benefits:
- You have advantage on attack rolls against a creature you are grappling.
- You can use your action to try to pin a creature grappled by you. To do so, make another grapple check. If you succeed, you and the creature are both restrained until the grapple ends.
So how do these benefits break down into an actual table game?
Benefit #1: You have advantage on attack rolls against a creature you are grappling.
Whoa – that is a spicy way to start out a feat. Advantage is incredibly strong, and there are a few classes (rogue, cough) where this could be abused in some pretty interesting ways.
Not to mention the amazing boost to attack that having advantage will give you with extra hits that would otherwise have been misses as well as those extra crits that come from rolling more dice.
This is an outstanding benefit. It does have the disadvantage of forcing you to move into very close combat, but if you’re willing to take the turn to do this then it could definitely be worth it.
Benefit #2: You may use your action on a creature grappled by you to pin it. Make a second grapple check, on a pass both you and the creature are restrained until the grapple ends.
This is interesting because you’re basically sacrificing your attacks and movement to allow your entire team to just tee up on the enemy who is now restrained.
From a flavor perspective I imagine the barbarian falling backwards with a giant orc berserker chieftain in a bear hug while the party gathers round and just starts hacking on the restrained enemy. “Watch the forearms!” The barbarian roars in rage.
Is this practical from an in-game perspective, though? Possibly – especially if this is in the form of a “your party vs. a single big bad guy” type of fight or scenario.
In a group fight it makes less sense as you are taking yourself out of combat to focus fire on the restrained enemy.
Grappled Vs. Restrained 5E: Understanding the Difference
One of the hardest things to deal with the grappler feat is understanding how the DM at the table handles grappling vs restrained conditions. There are many players and DMs who don’t understand the difference between the two, and many of us have been guilty of rolling them together as one at one time or another.
If the DM runs the rules for grappled and mechanically as written in the Player’s Handbook, then it’s crucial to understand the difference
Grappled Condition 5E Explained
The Grappled Condition in 5E can be found in Appendix A of the PHB. The grappled creature has one thing happen to it when it fails resisting a grapple check.
- Speed falling to 0
That’s it. A grappled creature can’t move until the grapple is broken. They can still cast spells, attack (somehow without disadvantage), and do everything else, they simply can’t move at all.
If you’re first thought is that doesn’t make sense – congratulations, you are among the many DMs, players, and others who have smeared the lines between grappled and restrained or just rolled them into one condition.
But as it is written, grappling = gateway to restrained.
Restrained Condition 5E Explained
The restrained condition is much more severe than grappled, and is what many relatively new D&D players or DMs expect when then run into grappling for the first time.
There are four major ways a restrained creature is affected when restrained.
- The speed of the restrained creature falls to 0
- Attack rolls against the restrained creature has advantage
- The creature’s attacks all have disadvantage
- The creature has disadvantage on Dexterity saving throws
A creature must be grappled before it can be restrained, which can make the “have advantage on grapple checks” part of the grappler feat so important and/or powerful.
5E Classes That Should Take the Grappler Feat
The classes that should consider the grappler feat in 5E DnD are a combination of melee heavy and some classes who have interesting mechanics that can make grappling and restraining a more viable option to what many DMs have come to refer to as “Shane’s bullsh***ery.”
For classes that make sense: barbarian, fighter, and monk are near the top of the list. Barbarians are absolute tanks so they aren’t too worried about having other enemies attack them as they grab and then restrain an opponent in the middle of battle. This also prevents the fighter from losing two turns to set up action surge at advantage with their sometimes seemingly endless number of attacks.
Fighters have plenty of ability score improvements that can be swapped out for feats. They also get a lot of attacks, which for any fighter class that isn’t the unarmed brawler can make it a little less appealing unless the DM home rules that attack = grapple vs grapple = action. That’s a homebrew, but it allows the fighter to lose less agency with his/her actions.
Monks have incredible movement, special attacks, and while their class features might make more sense at first, if they run out of ki points or want to act right before the barbarian and fighter go nuts – it can work. It’s certainly thematic!
Getting Creative with Grappling: Rogue & Druid Edition
Then there are the two classes who can do some really interesting mechanical things with grappling. First there’s rogue. While you don’t think of “grapple” when you think of rogue, if you want to steal that Pathfinder Half-Orc intimidation enforcer rogue build this is how to do it. Put points in strength and dexterity instead of wisdom and dexterity.
Then grapple, restrain, and now every attack is at advantage…which means for rogues that EVERY attack is sneak attack at that point.
So yeah, there is a world where that extra ability score should go to the grappler feat, and that’s the 5E Dungeons & Dragons world 🙂
Finally, there’s Druid. Druid is an interesting class for so many reasons, and wild shape is a major part of that. So I’ll just put this out there: wild shape + advantage grappling.
Go through the monster manual and enjoy yet another layer of “Druid bullshit.”
5th Ed Classes that should always consider taking the Grappler Feat:
- Druid (hello wild shape shenanigans!)
5E Classes That Can Think About Taking the Grappler Feat
While not as natural a fit, clerics and paladins can tank and hit, which makes them two classes that can also consider taking the grappler feat because they are set up to use it effectively.
This isn’t going to be high priority for most builds, and clerics often need all their stats and all their feats so there aren’t many who would look at this feat as a natural fit, but they can make it work.
This will more often be a combination you see when you play at tables where the DM treats grappling like restraining. In those cases it makes more sense to shoehorn this feat in with the build than for conventional builds as the mechanics and classes are written.
5th Ed Classes that should consider taking the Grappler Feat:
5E Classes That Should NEVER Take the Grappler Feat
It’s pretty obvious that in 5E the grappler feat is for certain classes and not the others. Casters and distance fighters need not apply as they should keep their distance behind the front line and do their thing.
If your first thought is there’s no situation they’d want to be grappled with someone, other than the rogue, then chances are you’re right and this is a feat worth skipping for something more in line with their specialties.
5th Ed classes that should never take the Grappler Feat:
How Do Homebrew Rules Change the Grappler Feat?
The short answer is: a lot. Since DMs often add to grappling or don’t understand the difference between grappling are strained, or don’t like having the two separated, this heavily affects how good this feat is and can make it much stronger as a result, or can make it worthless.
If you are considering a build that uses this feat, it can be a lot of fun, but make sure to consult with the DM ahead of time a
Final Grade for 5E Grappler Feat
Grappler Feat Grade: B
Is the 5E Grappler Feat Worth It?
The argument is going to continue on this one. In certain situations it can be strong, and having a rogue grapple a wizard before your bard casts silence on that area, thus letting the rogue sneak attack over and over again against the impotent wizard is great. In some situations it’s good, but having to use two turns to set up a restrain can be rough, and many times extra attacks or tanking damage just makes more sense.
The common practice of re-writing the grapple/restrained rules also means that this feat might be pointless. Or stronger. Or need re-writing to work with the homebrew rules at the table.
So despite the potential strength of this feat, the specific situations where it can be broken strong, and the hilarious b.s. certain classes can pull off with this feat, and the relative class versatility, it gets a middle of the road grade because there’s just too much uncertainty. In practicality, it should probably rated lower because of how many DMs adjust grappling/restraint rules.
But mechanically, it’s not only “not bad” but it’s pretty good with situational chances be great.
Grappler Feat FAQ
Does grappling take an action in 5E?
Grappling does take a full action. This doesn’t matter if you have 2 or more attacks per action at that point, grappling takes the full action.
What feat works best with the grappler feat?
Probably the tavern brawler feat since that not only works thematically but also makes it easier for you to get an opponent into a grappling situation.
Can I attack while grappling in 5E?
Yes, players are allowed to attack while grappling a creature or opponent. The player does not get advantage until the creature is considered restrained, which takes another check after the creature is already grappled.
What is the point of grappling in D&D?
To stop the movement of an enemy is the top priority, and it can also set up for being restrained, which offers a host of advantages to the party.
What is the best homebrew rule for grappling in 5E DnD?
Depends on your definition of “best.” I’m personally a fan of homebrew rules that are a bit more realistic like a grappled wizard can mutter a spell but a grabbled fighter is at disadvantage to stab you.
Others just like grapple = restrained. Because of this things can get pretty complex very quickly so unfortunately it very much is a “To each their own” type of thing.
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Proud to embrace the locally created moniker of “Corrupt Overlord” from one of the all time great Lords of Waterdeep runs, Shane is one member of the Assorted Meeples crew and will be hard at work creating awesome content for the website. He is a long-time player of board games, one time semi-professional poker player, and tends to run to the quirky or RPG side of things when it comes to playing video games. He loves tabletop roleplaying systems like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Werewolf, Fate, and others, and not only has been a player but has run games as DM for years. You can find his other work in publications like Level Skip or Hobby Lark.