Friday, February 3, 2017

Some Experiences of Technical Grappling in DF

Douglas Cole mentioned my use of GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling in my Dungeon Fantasy game in a comment on G+. Basically, the question I'd like to address here is, how much work is a more nuanced grappling system?

It's worth noting that I use a stripped-down version of Technical Grappling. The full-on system is more than a game that uses a simplified set of combat rules needs. But I do use the central aspects of the system:

- Control Points (CP).

- Sliding penalties for having CP on you that depend on your ST.

- Grapples are mutual.

- CP are a cap on some effects.

- Skill affecting Trained ST.

So it's the essential elements of the system.


Yes, it involves some bookkeeping. Since it is a point-based system, you do need to keep track of who has points on who.

Generally I do this on the same scratch pad I use to track time in the dungeon, HP and status of bad guys, mana points of enemy casters, and so on. The CPs go up and down more than most of the others, but nonetheless, it's not a new problem or a unique addition of work. Instead of "Grappled" it's "7 CP = -3 ST -3 DX" or something like that.

It's not negligible, but it's a lot less onerous than it sounds. Generally you don't have a huge amount of grapples going on. Also, they're temporary and often go away suddenly (hey, the orc grabbing my arm was decapitated) so they're just notes so you don't lose track.


Yes, it involves more complexity.

But it's generally positive complexity. Instead of yes/no grappling, lots of Contests of ST where you are very unlikely to succeed because the ST levels being so high, and binary results in general, you have nuance. All of that nuance is both hopeful (hey, I can possibly escape, and I'm making progress!) and terrifying (holy heck, that ape-demon has 32 CP on me! I'm dooooooooooooomed!)

Where you'd think the complexity would slow us down, it actually speed us up. CP limits on damage mean you can eyeball a lot of capped damage - and people feel a lot better about having such limits. A single grab doesn't mean 4d to the neck a second later, not until more CP have been built up. The limits on what you can effectively do being tied to a sliding scale of CP makes grappling more effective but not a save-or-suck roll.

It also means that cumulative grapples totaling up more CP means grappling monsters are not just latching on, inflicting -4 DX, and then that's that. They've got something to do - and PCs have a reasonable shot at undoing that directly ("I attack to break free" or "I slice the arm that's grabbed me") or indirectly ("I punch him in the skull, maybe I'll stun him.")


Our experience overall with CP-based grappling has been positive. Not a lot of bookkeeping, all of which is both temporary and inherently interesting to all involved. More complexity that spells more nuanced effects. More utility to grappling overall while also making attempts to break free more interesting.

The bookkeeping can be overblown. Yes, it's more than zero, but it's not a lot. The complexity, too - especially since CP-based grappling is tied to the same systems you use for strikes, so it's not forcing you to deal with parallel systems, only parallel effects paths.

If you're thinking of using TG or Dungeon Grappling, I'd say give it a go. It generally adds more than it costs to add it, and it's worth actually trying out before you decide yes or no.


  1. I wrote my own evaluation of Technical Grappling, which was more luke-warm.

    1. Interesting. I disagree in that I find it's not 100% of the time more complex and 10% of the time more interesting. I'm finding it's much even - it's always more bookkeeping (but not much) and always more interesting. I should have mentioned the last time someone complained about the grappling rules, even in a perfunctory "I just don't like how grapples work" or "my guy should be able to do thus-and-so" fashion, was just prior to putting in TG. After TG, we've had zero complains. A number of "I'm just differently screwed!" comments, but not actually complaints.

  2. I reread Technical Grappling last night.

    I think (finally) I'm ready to integrate it in my Discworld Demo games.

  3. I definitely want to try Dungeon Grappling for my next D&D game, probably Zeitgeist by Enworld. Unfortunately, my next gurps game will likely be DFRPG for gurps newbs and it probably wouldn't go over well. Maybe once they are familiar with the rest of the system.


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