Revised Grappling Rules

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Version: 0.5

The Grappling rules in the Vampire the Masquerade 5th Edition core book, pg. 301 has a good, basic rule but reads very incomplete. There are a number of implications that make it unbalanced in regards to other aspects of the book, such as the implication that the grappled character can't do anything but attempt to break free. In this article, we have evaluated the grappling rules and made some adjustments to them to bring them more in-line with V5's generally balanced methodology.

This is far enough along to be considered a ‘beta’ document, but needs further refinement and playtesting. Everything here has had basic numbers run for it and has been used in a short-term V5 game, but has not been heavily stress-tested in long-term use.

Grappling Rules

To begin a grapple, a character must declare the intent to grapple as part of their action during the beginning of the round. The attacker must engage the target in a standard conflict of Strength + Brawl versus an appropriate pool; for example, a target could attempt to dodge with Dexterity + Athletics, or attempt to punch the would-be grappler with Strength + Brawl, or shank them with a knife with Dexterity + Melee.

  • If the target wins the conflict, it is treated as a normal conflict result, with normal results.
  • If the attacker wins the conflict, they then engage the grapple, doing no damage with their attack. The attacker and the target are engaged in subsequent rounds, until the Grappler relinquishes their hold, the Grappled breaks free, or there is outside interference.

Once a grapple is established, on subsequent rounds the characters involved make further contests, with both characters using Strength + Brawl. Characters with Prowess may add half their Potence rating (rounded down) as extra dice to this conflict. For the outcomes of this contest...

  • If the grappler/attacker wins, they maintain the grapple and can perform one of the following maneuvers:
    • Deal Damage: The character deals damage equal to their Margin of win on the conflict, as the grappler crushes, squeezes, bends, scratches and scrapes his victim. Weapons and powers such as Feral Weapons, Lethal Body and Fist of Caine (among others) may modify the damage type if narratively appropriate, though no weapon damage ratings are applied (for example, a Gangrel in a clinch with Feral Weapons active may deal damage, causing their Margin in Aggravated Damage, but not applying the +2 from Feral Weapons' weapon rating). Characters with Prowess treat this as a normal Brawl attack for the purposes of that power.
      • Bite: The character may make a Bite attack without the normal penalty. All other rules of Bite apply as normal.
    • Immobilize: The attacker renders the target immobile, unable to move or attempt other physical actions. Once immobilized, the victim’s physical actions are restricted to breaking free, although they could bring mental or some supernatural capabilities to bear such as Dominate (all power usage is at Storyteller’s discretion, but should fit the narrative). A character remains immobilized until they succeed in breaking free or turning the grapple (see below).
      hen using Immobilize, both characters are considered to have no defense, and can be attacked with a Difficulty 2 attack roll by other characters. The attacker may disengage the grapple as a reaction to being attacked by others, thus regaining their normal defense in the conflict. (IE: Marius is holding Anton still, and Anton's lover Henrietta lunges at Marius with a machete; Marius disengages the grapple, freeing Anton to regain his defense against Henrietta).
      The attacker does not need to make further Immobilize contests from turn to turn to keep the victim immobilized. However, the attacker can do nothing except maintain the hold. If they choose any other maneuver such as Deal Damage, the target is no longer immobilized. The attacker still has a grip, but a successful conflict0 is required in a subsequent turn to immobilize the opponent again.

The attacker relinquishes their Grapple if they take any action that targets anyone other than the target of the grapple, or if they move more than a single meter in the turn.

  • If the defender wins, they may do the following:
    • Break Free: The defender may break free of the grapple, and can immediately take a normal action that does not initiate a conflict against the attacker. For example, a character who Breaks Free may move away, use a Discipline to flee, or fire at another target other than the attacker they broke free from.
    • Turn the Grapple: The target may Turn the Grapple, changing control of the hold and becoming the aggressor. Thereafter, normal rules apply, but the roles are switched. (IE: James is grappling Fernando; Fernando succeeds in Turning the Grapple, and is now the aggressor. Next turn, Fernando attempts to bite James.)

Grapple Rule Permutations

The following are standard permutations of the Grapple rules, based on common posed scenarios:

  • Pile On: Multiple characters may attempt to grapple a single target. This is treated as a Teamwork roll (pg. 112) on the conflict roll (this is considered, by the author of this homebrew, an exception to the normal Teamwork rules as Teamwork is not written to function on attacks, as that has a different resolution methodology). A target who is grappled via Pile On can only use the Break Free maneuver, and must only succeed against the Teamwork roll.
  • Attacking into a Grapple: Characters outside the grapple may attack any characters currently engaged in a grapple.

The characters engaged in a grapple may defend with Dexterity + Athletics (unless immobilized) at a -2 dice penalty, as they wrestle for control as well as attempt to move around enough to not get shot/stabbed.
If the characters engaged in the grapple are engaged in the Immobilize maneuver, the attackers are able to attack at Difficulty 2 per the rules of Immobilize (see above).

  • Avoid Friendly Fire: Attackers may take a -1 dice penalty to their attack pool to avoid an issue of 'friendly fire'. If they choose not to, modify Attacking into a Grapple as follows:
    If the attack misses the primary target of the attack, the secondary actor in the grapple makes a Dexterity + Athletics roll against the original attack roll. If they succeed, they are able to not get hit. If not, they take damage based on the attack roll per a normal conflict. (IE: Juan and Bernard are engaged in a grapple. Juan's ally, Aracely, takes aim at Bernard but doesn't bother to attempt to avoid friendly fire. Aracely attacks and rolls 5 successes, while Bernard rolls 6. Juan must immediately roll against Aracely's 5 successes; if he fails, he will take damage equal to the margin plus the weapon, per normal conflict rules).


Author: ElmerG

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