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RPGs: Grappling With Grappling

posted Aug 7, 2012, 11:54 PM by Douglas Sun   [ updated Aug 7, 2012, 11:54 PM ]
Originally posted: April 3, 2009

Just quickly, to note that my colleague jim pinto has a sound and sensible post up on his blog about reforming the grappling rules in D&D. I agree with his basic premise, which is that grappling is a means to prevent an opponent from acting, not so much a combat action meant to injure.

My main grouch about grappling rules is a little different from his, though, in that I tend to wonder why they exist at all. They’re kind of like the appendix of any system in which they appear....

Well, scratch that. Grappling is not entirely useless. I was once in a D&D 3.0 campaign in which we, as a party of low-level characters, killed a young black dragon without any incurring any serious damage because our paladin jumped on its back and pinioned it; thus restrained, it couldn’t strike at us while we had opportunities to strike at it. He also had a pretty impressive run of luck in rolling to maintain the grapple. But that’s really the only occasion I can ever recall grappling playing a significant role in a D&D game. So elaborate grappling rules are, as far as I’m concerned, a lot of heat and light shed to no great purpose.

Unfortunately, I can say the same about the grappling rules in L5R 3E, even though wrestling (sumai) is a peripheral part of the setting and I incorporated the grappling into mechanics for resolving sumai matches in Art of the Duel. In general, though, they have always struck me as bit cumbersome and something of a drag on what should be the core activity of an L5R RPG campaign — telling stories about Rokugan, and keeping those stories moving along.