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Keep a Campaign Website!

posted Thursday, August 30th 2007 by Jonathan Drain
Dungeon Mastering Advice

It was once the sole domain of nerds and academics, but now just about anyone can have their own website. If you’re also a dungeon master, you may not only enjoy maintaining a website detailing your game world and rules, but find it a practical addition to your game. Modern web-based content management systems exist which, once installed, allow you and your players to collaboratively edit pages with surprising ease.

Roleplaying gamers have been keeping websites for some time now. One dungeon master keeps a website to publish his house rules, along with new game material (in this case, new rules for fencing). You might also use a campaign website to keep a log of the game’s storyline, session synopses and character sheets, or to collect information on your homebrew campaign setting. I know of one DM who offers his players bonus XP for contributing. A campaign website can also be a useful way of publishing homebrew game material, from feats to entire prestige classes.

Modern open source web software makes a website like this quite straigforward to set up. One such piece of software is PmWiki. PmWiki is more modest than Mediawiki, the software used to run Wikipedia, but is simpler and better suited to sites with a small number of editors, like a D&D site. You will, however, need to be comfortable with uploading files, and require a webhost that supports PHP.

If that’s too hi-tech for you, Google Page Creator offers webhosting and page editing. However, it doesn’t offer the functionality to let your players edit your pages – you may want to look for a friend who knows web stuff to assist you with the setup of your wiki software.

The important thing, as is it often said about dungeon mastering as a whole, is to make sure that your campaign website is something enjoyable, not a chore.

Doom Your Game

posted Monday, August 27th 2007 by Jonathan Drain
None of the AbovePlayer Advice

No, not fourth edition – bundle over to Enworld if you’re expecting the news on that. Lately I’ve availed of Steam’s id Games pack and I’m munching through the entire back catalogue of classic first person shooters in roughly chronological order. Right now, I’m halfway into original Doom. It’s got me thinking about the similarities between the game and D&D, which I’d be hard pressed to believe is fully a coincidence.

You, a lone soldier of unusual toughness, must traverse enclosed mazelike buildings, looting weapons, armour and supernatural enhancements to fight monsters and make it to the exit while negotiating locked doors, secret rooms, and the occasional trap. Sound familiar? Don’t expect me to cry “plagiarism!”, though – after all D&D itself can hardly claim it didn’t carve huge swathes of inspiration from the fantasy sources before it. What’s interesting about Doom is how, despite being over a decade old, its lessons can be applied to the D&D game.

Doom’s weapons are interesting in that different weapons actually work better against certain opponents. The shotgun is Doom’s equivalent to D&D’s greatsword – offensively powerful, downs weaker foes in one hit, but leaves your defences open if you miss. Naturally, just like in D&D, players use it regardless, relying on hit points, armour and defences to avoid damage. In Doom’s case an experienced player learns the monsters’ patterns and dodges carefully, something easily represented by a “defense roll” system as in Iron Heroes. In a first-person shooter, unlike an RPG, player skill traditionally substitutes for character skill.

You later acquire the chainsaw, a weapon designed as a more powerful “out of ammo” backup but which became popular in its own right. Surprisingly, it’s actually defensively superior against individual opponents since many can’t attack you when you use it – careful use of the chainsaw becomes a point of strategy, allowing you to conserve valuable ammunition. The similarly fast chaingun, which in an elegant design move uses the same bullet pool as the game’s otherwise obsoleted handgun, is of similar effect at longer range but spends bullets frivolously. Surviving when resources is depleted in this manner is likewise an interesting tactical part of D&D.

Unfortunately, the offensive/defensive weapon dichotomy doesn’t apply very much to players, at least in the current edition. Ignoring historical realism, the game doesn’t give much benefit to offensive/defensive choices. A shield’s bonus is rarely worth the reduced damage of wielding a two-handed weapon, so like shotgun-wielding Doom players, most D&D players decide that the best defence is a good offence.

What other lessons can be learned? For one, players don’t always know what lies around the next corner, and that’s interesting. It adds risk, and risk is exciting. Players may over-reach themselves or wander into an ambush. However, this can work against you if overused. Players begin to expect the unexpected, can leave them over-cautious.

Darkness is occasionally used to good effect in the first Doom, which can be interesting. Stumbling around, you suddenly see a massive pink demon inches from your face! Even with Doom’s now primitive graphics, it still makes me jump – perhaps because you know it didn’t just teleport in, it’s been here all along, and was watching you intently since you stepped into the room. Players have no time to prepare, and even switching to a more specialized weapon can take too long. Again, risk is exciting.

I mentioned secret rooms. These work just like in D&D and reward players for being perceptive. Usually – perhaps originally as a graphical limitation – the sliding panel is visible if you look carefully, or it’s in an obvious place. Nothing stops players in a D&D game from taking the time to search everywhere, however – a laborious and painstaking search attempt is reduced to convenient d20 roll. This is another spot where D&D and first-person shooters diverge. One interesting game feature, however, is the inclusion of a complete level map as “treasure” – In D&D, this can clue players into secret doors they didn’t bother finding. Even if you only describe the locations to your players rather than give a complete map handout, the dungeon map is as valuable a treasure as whatever you hid in secret compartments.

My top tactics for Quake 2 also work in Doom: Trick monsters into fighting each other, and lure monsters into traps meant for you. Monsters in D&D tend to be too clever to fall for either of these, but a clever plan should warrant a fair chance of success. More like D&D, however, is Doom’s enjoyably exploitable capacity for jamming monsters in narrow passageways in order to take them on one at a time. Creatures without ranged attacks are effectively taken out of the fight for several rounds, and even the ones who do risk firing on their own allies.

Living Greyhawk Moving to Faerun

posted Sunday, August 19th 2007 by Jonathan Drain
Fourth EditionNews, Reviews & Culture

Welcome, Slashdot readers! If you’re new to this blog, feel free to bookmark and sift through the previous material.

It’s been announced that the RPGA’s global Living Greyhawk campaign will not be carried over to fourth edition, and is to be replaced with a Living campaign set in the Forgotten Realms. Living Greyhawk players seem to be taking the news well. The move to a thirty level standard should fit well into the setting, which is famous for its high-powered NPCs. Assuming that each nation or province is assigned to one US state or real-world nation or province as Living Greyhawk did, it’ll be interesting to see if they let anyone have the big-name areas like Cormyr, Neverwinter and Baldur’s Gate.

A new blog called Breeyark’s D&D4e News is tracking announcements made by the Wizards of the Coast staff, including message board posts. Here are some tidbits I haven’t already covered:

April 2008 sees the release of the new miniatures starter pack and the Dungeons of Dread series of monster minis. I think this could potentially bring in a lot of new roleplayers via the more traditional games, although I suspect that well-marketed hypothetical boxed set would do even better with all-new players who can treat it like a traditional board game, and DMs who can kick-start their miniatures collection and want to know up-front what they’re getting. We’ll see. What we can already see is that the third edition monster appearances are no longer canon in 4e, giving collectors a reason to buy the new minis – that said, there’s nothing stopping you using your old troll mini.

The gametable software will use a true 3D engine and in all likelihood will be able to offer the full range of D&D miniatures, although whether the miniatures will have an additional cost remains to be annouced. We can fully expect that it will tie into the character sheet software, allowing you to create your own miniature in an MMO-style character visualizer. This isn’t Neverwinter Nights: rule adjudicating is still the Dungeon Master’s job, while the software will simply recreate the benefits of a real-world gaming table.

As I mentioned before, “Vancian” spellcasting (preparing spells per-day) is changing – according to a post by Mike Mearls, it’s “mostly” gone. I think we can assume that we won’t see a mana points system like psionics or Final Fantasy, but that spells will continue to take up spell slots, which as previously announced will be divided into per-day (as in 3e), per-encounter, and at-will (as with reserve feats). This is a big change, but I think it’s for the better.

Wizards R&D Seminar at GenCon 2007

posted Saturday, August 18th 2007 by Jonathan Drain
Fourth EditionNews, Reviews & Culture

EN World and the official site are back up, so you can all bundle over there for the latest news and preliminary pictures of the core rulebooks.

Wizards Research & Development held a press conference. Reports from the conference are out from EN World user ashockney and EN World admin Michael Morris. You can read the reports for yourself at those links, so let me give my (epic length) commentary:

As I’d suspected, Mike Mearls of Iron Heroes fame is working on 4e, and it seems he’s been lead developer since April. If you do the maths and count back, you can find Mike’s response to when he found out he was working on 4th edition.

There are some other blog posts of his which are suddenly interesting in retrospect: discussing the RPG industry downturn [1] [2], PDF publishing, and the Open Gaming License [1] [2] and freelancing, while carefully deflecting fourth edition rumours and perhaps hinting at Gencon 2007.

Some more information has been revealed. The number of core races and character classes has been cut down, with some classes merged – ranger will merge with scout, and rumour suggests the same with wizard and sorcerer. D&D’s historic Vancian spellcasting system (spell preparation) will be retained, although a spellcaster’s magic will be split between at-will, per-counter or a per-day basis. Magic item creation finally returns to second edition simplicity – no item creation feats or XP costs, and even magic item pricing guidelines are getting the axe. Creating a new magic item is once again a special occurrence that any spellcaster can attempt.

Preliminary covers are out for the core books, with 3e’s pseudo-constructed finish superceded the fantastic art of Wayne Reynolds. The Player’s Handbook features an old male tiefling mage and what I think is a female elven fighter, while the Dungeon Master’s Guide has a red dragon and the Monster Manual an epic-level encounter, Orcus.

Setting-wise, Greyhawk fans will find that their special status as the implied setting of 3e has not carried over into this one. D&D’s default setting is now an unnamed setting, and the Greyhawk pantheon is replaced with the DM’s choice of homebrewed religions or popular mythologies. I like this. You will meet clerics of Lugh, or warriors who revere Thor, or encounter the worship of the DM’s own Nalost, The Sharp Hunter. However, the named spells (Bigby’s, Mordenkainen’s, Tenser’s) and the big name powers (Vecna, Tiamat, Asmodeus) will still make appearances.

If we didn’t know it already, it’s now official that huge improvements from Star Wars: Saga Edition and Mearls’ Iron Heroes/Tome of Battle will become core rules in the new edition of D&D. We can surmise from Saga Edition that feats and class abilities are replaced by flexible Diablo II style talent trees, and Skills have been consolidated into straightforward groups – finally, Hide and Move Silently are a single skill, while rubbish like Profession and Use Rope has been discarded. Double-fistfuls of dice are no longer required to roll attacks at high level, critical threats automatically confirm. From Iron Heroes, we can expect to see an emphasis on “action fantasy”: melee fighters who can learn special combat techniques, emphasis on cool character abilities instead of magic items and buff spells, much more tactical management, and a simpler XP system.

Even basics like class and race have been overhauled. Prestige classing is out, flexible talent trees are in. Multiclassing is much more feasible than the previous edition, and a dual-classed character is now balanced for his level. Even more significant is the new race system, and how this interacts with monsters, monster advancement and monster characters. You unlock new racial abilities as you level up, making a dwarf fighter very different to an elf fighter. Humans will no longer be the dominant race in all fields, and in a return to earlier editions, races will be more strongly suited to their favoured classes.

An excellent side-effect of this racial bonuses is that level adjustments have been eliminated in favour of simply granting the racial abilities gradually as the character levels up in his normal class. Interestingly, this paves the way for creatures who advance by class level to have their own racial abilities! I fully expect that when you open the Monster Manual at “orc” or “hobgoblin” you won’t see a statblock for a “typical orc”. It’s entirely feasible that the “orc” entry will read more like the twenty-level NPC listings Dungeon Master’s Guide. This is a good move, especially since it means you’re going to get much more use out of your standard humanoid miniatures. I also wouldn’t be surprised to find the majority of monsters featuring some sort of advancement options, such that you can run an advanced minotaur or troll straight from the manual without preparation. Again, good for variety, and you get a lot more value out of your miniatures.

If you really want to play your kobold sorcerer, we’ve been assured that this will be an option presented in the Monster Manual. For the moment, at least, monster player characters like beholders are right out. This is no big loss – as well as a lack of variety in many monsters’ abilities, the level adjustment required to balance most monsters made them unplayably weak and left no advancement options. We may see a book on playing monster characters later, but in the meantime, DMs can ad-hoc monster PCs like they used to in second edition.

Wizards will be announcing more tidbits later, and will hopefully confirm my monster advancement theory, otherwise I’ll just look stupid.

D&D Insider Launched; Fourth Edition is Official

posted Friday, August 17th 2007 by Jonathan Drain
Fourth EditionNews, Reviews & Culture

So the Gencon announcement has been made. EN World has the scoop, but you’ll be lucky if you can reach it: both EN World and the Wizards of the Coast have been completely overloaded with unexpected flood of users. This really is the biggest news in years.

When I can get through, here’s what we can glean:

A few particularly big changes have been mentioned. First up, the game will include thirty levels instead of twenty. A big move for D&D, but this might be what epic level fans have been after for a long time. Next, it seems that race will have a much more defining role that it currently has, with characters gaining racial abilities as well as class abilities as they level up. Finally, weapon choice becomes much more interesting, and it looks like the sword-and-shield fullplate fighter will finally become a viable option again.

Covers and preliminary information are out for the core books. Orcus makes an appearance on the 4e Monster Manual, which contains monsters as high as CR30 – I’m going to make an utterly unsubstantiated guess here and say that the tarrasque will be scaled up to the high end too. Each book will come with a registration code which you can use to unlock online web enhancements – I’m not entirely happy that there’s talk of actually charging for this service, but we shall wait and see.

I’ll say it again: I’m optimistic. Ignore the munchkin hordes who run around complaining that their splatbooks. Wizards has had the top people in the industry working on this for two years already, and it’ll be a year of development, playtesting and early releases before the new edition comes into force. Aside from the 3.5 PHB hiccup, players have had a good eight-year run of their current edition, and even so a great deal of old material will likely be convertable over. How many books or videogames have last as long or given as much value for money? Unlike 3.5, all the changes this time around sound like they’re definitely for the better.

If nothing else, at least they have the opportunity to get rid of Mialee.

Even More on Fourth Edition

posted Thursday, August 16th 2007 by Jonathan Drain
Fourth EditionNews, Reviews & Culture

With two hours until the official announcement, there’s a thread over at EN World cataloguing a lot of what’s been let slip ahead of time. Meanwhile, a couple of hours ago Wizard Entertainment put up some official information from Bill Slavicsek.

It seems that my theory in April was spot-on: Wizards’ digital initiative is going to be a subscription-based service, to bring in the sort of continuous revenue that World of Warcraft has enjoyed but D&D, which sells the core books once only, has sorely lacked. I’m guessing $5 or $10 per month. Hopefully, this will put an end to the mentality of rushing out splatbooks and new editions just to keep afloat, and the game can progress at its natural pace. Downloadable content and stronger RPGA involvement also seem to be on the cards, along with a move to make it easier to meet up and form groups in real life.

Just as expected, 4e will be released under a version of the OGL, with the difference that a licensing fee will be charged to publishers. I actually consider this a good thing – it should split the current miasma of unpredictable-quality third party material into two distinct categories: professionally produced sourcebooks, and freely-distributable fan material (distributed free via Gleemax).

Over to Mr Slavicsek’s announcement at Wizard Entertainment’s site, and there are a lot of things that I like the sound of. Sleeping every two encounters in dungeons is being solved. Overcomplicated guff like grappling is being simplified. Fighters get more options along the lines of Tome of Battle or Book of Iron Heroes – a sure sign that our favourite Mr Mearls is having his hand in the game.

Quite surprisingly, it seems that tiefling has been promoted to a core race, at the cost of one of the less popular races – my guess is half-elf. It should be interesting to see what the final game manages.

More on 4e

posted Thursday, August 16th 2007 by Jonathan Drain
Fourth EditionNews, Reviews & Culture

An official-looking announcement over at TMP has dropped a few advance hints about fourth edition. Here’s what we can glean.

Wizards has certainly been listening to its players. As I’ve said before, finding groups is much more difficult in D&D than MMOs, and a centralized method of online play is one solution. Wizards is hoping that this new online initiative “lowers the barriers of entry for new players” by offering “a digital game table that lets you play 24/7 on the internet — the perfect option for anyone who can’t find time to get together.” As someone who runs games online this is interesting, although I’m skeptical about the quality of games run online, which compete with MMOs for a hack-and-slash playerbase and tend to run slower than games in real life.

Thankfully, Wizards intends 4th edition to be faster, more streamlined, and easier on the Dungeon Master, again reducing the entry barrier on the role of running a game, which has always been a limiting factor. Another issue with third edition has been that certain rules have been overcomplicated, which thankfully they’re also paying attention to. Quoting Bill Slavicsek: “Fourth Edition streamlines parts of the D&D game that are too complex, while enhancing the overall play experience.”

In other news, Israeli 4e publisher Silver Stars has announced seven books, three of which we already know are the core PHB, MM and DMG. Since the article at TMP talks about core books, miniatures and adventures, we can assume that at least one of the remaining four will be an adventure module. My stray guess is that one of the other books will be a Forgotten Realms hardcover campaign setting book.

My own predictions are that 4e will not ship with Greyhawk’s deities as standard, although the named spells and magic items (Mordenkainen’s, Heward’s et al) will still be there. Rather, a campaign setting will be considered a standard book in any DM’s collection. Eberron and Forgotten Realms will be the launch settings, but Greyhawk will receive a campaign setting book later on if there is sufficient demand.

The official announcement happens in just under four hours. If you’re not in contact with someone at Gencon, keep abreast of the Wizards official site, where if I read the site’s Javascript correctly, an official announcement will appear on the page itself.

Unconfirmed: 4th Edition Due For 2008 Release

posted Thursday, August 16th 2007 by Jonathan Drain
Fourth EditionNews, Reviews & Culture

One of our Israeli friends claims to have some advance notice of D&D release dates. It’s entirely unconfirmed, but it seems that the 4th edition Player’s Handbook will be released in May 2008, followed in June and July by the Monster Manual and Dungeon Master’s Guide, respectively.

One can only conjecture as to what the players are going to do for two months until they have monsters to fight and rules for fighting them.

4th Edition: Early Indications

posted Thursday, August 16th 2007 by Jonathan Drain
Fourth EditionNews, Reviews & Culture

The 4th Edition forum at Wizards is already up, but evidently we weren’t meant to find it until the big announcement tomorrow at Gencon. I still have the forum open in my browser, so here’s what I can tell you:

The initials DI, which we had all assumed stood for “Digital Initiative”, seem to refer to D&D Insider, Wizards’ new online brand. D&D Insider includes the former Dragon and Dungeon magazines, as well as software components allowing character generation and advanced internet play (the forum refers to something called D&D Game Table) – looks like this is why they cancelled the d20 licenses on several third-party D&D software products. At a guess, D&D Insider will allow players to officially download adventures and virtual miniatures for their online games. I’m expecting DI to be either a subscription service (like World of Warcraft), a free service allowing DRM-locked electronic product purchases (like Steam), or some combination of both.

Eberron and Forgotten Realms are definitely receiving strong support in fourth edition. However, as in third edition, Wizards are being careful not to fragment the user base too far – the forum rolls all other campaign settings into an “Other Settings” category. At first it might seem that Greyhawk and Planescape fans are out of luck, but it’s feasible that limited support could be provided via Wizards’ online system.

It’s too early to tell, but it’s possible that Wizards will release some or all of 4th edition under some version of the Open Gaming License – there’s a thread on the forum entitled “OGL/d20 license”. However, this is no guarantee. I expect Wizards are abandoning the D20 brand (which does not fare well for my blog title…), but it’s entirely feasible that 4th ed will remain closed to avoid the mess of poor-quality PDFs and allow Wizards to sell licenses to selected third parties. I’ve been expecting this edition to be closed, but we’ll have to see how it goes.

Building on third edition’s “all monks and paladins are women”, Wizards is making specific effort to have this edition appeal to women gamers. We can also expect that they’ll move to capture a more gamesy group, the sort of people who prefer World of Warcraft style hack and slash adventure and who lack the qualities required of a talented dungeon master. D&D has always suffered from a lack of dungeon masters, and lowering the bar to run the game should be a priority for Wizards.

There’s an EN World thread which is better suited to discussion than my comments page. Feel free use the thread to cover the points I’ve raised.

Wizards to Announce 4th Edition Tomorrow

posted Thursday, August 16th 2007 by Jonathan Drain
Fourth EditionNews, Reviews & Culture

If you’re one of the two hundred people who will read this blog before tomorrow, you’ll have noticed that the Wizards of the Coast D&D page has been replaced with a one-day countdown titled “4DVENTURE”. Discussion already abounds but I’m going to stick my neck out here and announce that Wizards is announcing Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition at Gencon 2007 on Thursday, 16th August.

Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Even if you didn’t put much stock in Eric Noah’s August 2006 rumours, you still have to ask why Wizards branded their “3.5″ update as halfway to a fourth edition, revoked several d20 licenses, rebranded Winter Fantasy convention to The D&D Experience, set Mike Mearls remaking monsters for no apparent reason, and released a new edition of the Star Wars RPG. You had to have known they were up to something.

Industry insiders have had advance warning of more than a year. Third edition author Monte Cook predicted 4th edition as far back as May 2006: “At some point, Wizards will decide to do a 4th Edition, which is a good thing. … I know the kinds of products that you release before a new edition, and the kinds of things you post to the Internet and say at conventions when you’re working on a new edition. And so based on all that, my wild guess is 2008, with an announcement in 2007.”

Should we worry? No, I don’t think so. Wizards can’t retract the OGL on existing material, meaning that 4e is going to be pretty good if it’s going to draw players away from old editions. If, as I conjecture, Mike Mearls is working hard on it, it will be something special. Trust me, there is a lot of room for improvement in third edition, and if my expectations are correct, you will not want to return to third edition when you see what fourth brings.

Edit: Looks like I was right: they’ve just put the forum up.

Grappling for Dummies

posted Sunday, August 12th 2007 by Jonathan Drain
Player AdviceThird Edition

Of all the combat rules, grappling is easily the main villain of complexity. It’s a rule that you know must have worked for the game’s designers at the time, but in retrospect it’s perhaps needlessly complicated. When you add in the Attack of Opportunity cost, players rarely ever use grapple, trip or disarm unless they’ve deliberately built a fighter around special combat manoevers. It’s an extra challenge on Dungeon Masters who have to run monsters that grapple.

Since it’s complex, I’m going to try and simplify it. Let me know if this helps you any.

First up is the grab. It’s just a regular attack roll, except that you use the opponent’s touch AC (ignores armour, natural armour and shields). If you haven’t taken the Improved Grapple feat, however, your opponent gets an Attack Of Opportunity first, and if he hits and deals damage, your grapple attempt fails. Remember that starting a grapple takes only one attack, if you have multiple attacks you can make multiple grapple attempts – your opponent, meanwhile, probably only has one Attack of Opportunity per round.

Did you manage to grab? Good! (If not, better luck next round.) To secure the grapple, you must beat your opponent in an opposed grapple check – essentially, these are Strength checks (1d20 plus your Strength modifier). If you succeed, you’re now grappling, and you automatically deal damage as an unarmed strike. If you fail, you’re back to square one. There are other modifiers to grapple checks: +4 or -4 for every size class above or below Medium, and +4 for having the Improved Grapple feat. At the end of the round you can either automatically move into the opponent’s square, or end the grapple.

While grappling, you and your opponent have a limited range of actions – that’s kinda the point of grappling. The following actions can be performed by defeating your opponent in an opposed grapple check:

  • Escape from the grapple (attack action): your opponent will probably want to do this
  • Damage your opponent (attack action): Deal damage as an unarmed strike – pretty good if you’re a monk
  • “Pin” your opponent (attack action): Hold a grappled opponent immobile for one round, -4 to AC to people outside the grapple
  • Damage someone with his own weapon (attack action): Additionally, you must succeed at an attack roll with -4 penalty
  • Draw a light weapon (move action)
  • Move half your speed (standard action): Otherwise, you can’t move while grappling
  • Retrieve a spell component (full-round action): If you’re grappled as a wizard, you’re in big trouble

You can also perform the following actions, without making a grapple check:

  • Attack (attack action): You suffer a -4 penalty to the attack, and can only use a light weapon, natural weapon or unarmed strike – so no longswords
  • Cast a spell (as usual): A grappled spellcaster is in trouble, but he can still cast spells – as long as they have no somatic component, aren’t more than a standard action, don’t require spell components unless he has them in hand (see above), don’t require precise and careful action, and he make a difficult Concentration check. Not a good position to be in.
  • Activate a magic item: Other than a wand or staff

But why grapple at all? There are benefits and drawbacks, which apply equally to anyone in a grapple regardless of who started it. First, they don’t threaten any squares, so they can’t attack anyone but you (and even then only with light weapons and at a penalty). Second, they’re weakened defensively, and lose their Dexterity bonus to AC against anyone except who they’re grappling with. Third, neither can move without making grapple check. Finally, their options are limited to the list above. The best times to grapple are when your opponent suffers more from the penalties than you do. As a bonus, grappled opponents are vulnerable to a rogue’s sneak attack.

Whether you’re a player or a Dungeon Master, grapple is good for shutting down a strong opponent. It’s especially effective against spellcasters (who cannot cast and may find it difficult to escape a grapple), creatures smaller than you (who tend to have low Strength and have a size penalty). It even works against some fighter types, who cannot use large weapons, ranged weapons, dual weapons or reach weapons while grappling, nor can they move to target weaker characters, and their base attack bonus doesn’t help them all that much to escape the grapple.

In summary: To grapple, make a touch attack (provokes attempt-ruining AoOs!) then an opposed Strength check with +4/-4 modifiers for size past Medium. Deal unarmed strike if you’re successful. Opposed grapple checks as attack actions to escape the grapple, damage opponent with unarmed strike, or pin opponent immobile for a round. Alternatively, you can attack with a light weapon but at a -4 penalty.

There are other rules regarding pinning, multiple-person grapples, Imroved Grab and and but if you’re planning on going into that much complexity you’ll want to read the complete rules.

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