Saturday, September 12, 2020

Lyonlab's AD&D Grappling House Rules - A Review

Since we're running AD&D on Sunday, I decided to spend some time looking into more AD&D sources online to see how others have implemented ambiguously written rules. In the process, I stumbled upon a set of house rules that include something I co-wrote rules for - grappling!

So I tagged in my fellow grappling-happy author and tag-team partner Doug and separately we are taking a look at the rules I found.


Grappling rules in vanilla AD&D exist, but they're pretty hard to use and it seems clear that they weren't used often. They're a classic example of the weird subsystem approach to gaming of AD&D - when you come up with a new rule, don't base it on an existing one, make a whole set unrelated set.

The author of this blog made his own. Here is an excerpt from his page:

AD&D 1e House Rules Grappling:
Grappling: I use custom rules for this.

* Bear in mind that some monsters (e.g. oozes, jellies, gelatinous cubes) cannot be grappled.

* If the attacking character must sheathe or drop his weapon, there is a one-segment initiative penalty.

* Initiative applies normally. More than one character or monster can grapple a target at once.

* Both sides make a "grapple roll" to determine the outcome: each side rolls their hit dice, adding strength bonus on each die. For example, a 3rd-level fighter with a "to hit" bonus of two would roll 3d10+6; a 4HD monster would roll 4d8. Multi-classed characters use the hit dice for their most favorable class; multiple attackers total their hit dice. If the attacking roll is higher, the grapple is successful and the victim can take no action until the grapple is broken. The attacker can take no action other than continuing to hold the victim.

* On a tie, both sides are struggling, and another grapple roll must be made in the following round.

* Each round a grappled character struggles to escape, the grapple roll must be made again.

Seems pretty straightforward. Roll your HD + to hit rolls, winner immobilizes the foe. Re-roll whenever the victim wants to escape - which is certainly every turn in most circumstances.

I'm pretty sure Doug and I looked at a HD-based system before we realized that making it more like an attack was better.

What do I think?

I think this is a workable base mechanic, but one that brings up some questions:

- I'm not sure why you roll your "to hit" bonus for effect except that it's a way of merging "to hit" and effect into one thing. Is there any way for a monster to get that, I wonder? I'm betting no, just because they rarely have "to hit" that is superior to their HD anyway.

- Monks have poor HD, but theoretically should be good at martial arts. I wonder if they'd get an exception?

- Are there any other things you can do here besides grab and struggle to keep the foe from doing things? Any benefits? Any issues - like, I'm grappling the ogre, and my friends want to hit it.

To me, the real issue here is that grappling only immobolizes a foe. It takes 100% of your action and, at best, reduces a foe to 0% of its . . . and you could lose it at any time. So you can't really do much with it. You can't drag someone around, pin a foe completely, cause any damage. In other words, it's a start but it's not complete for the needs of my own games.

The system really needs some kind of cumulative approach to inflicting grappling. If you can subdue (the write has some subdual rules) over time, then you certainly should be able to grapple someone into submission over time. It's a little odd that you can't choke someone, break a limb, pin someone, etc. - the kind of things people grapple you and do, in general. It seems like it's solely a system for keeping someone from getting away until the dice turn in their favor.

I'm curious how it has played in the website author's campaigns . . . but at the moment I'm thinking it's an incomplete system for fulfilling the needs of my AD&D games.

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