GM Advice: Superpowered Grappling

In case you couldn’t tell from the previous article, I’m on a grappling kick.

With the options discussed there, players can totally build a character using content from the PHB alone. But what if you want to bring your wrestler to the next level? I’m talking about bumping your character from Hulk Hogan to the Incredible Hulk.

I came across two monsters from the Monster Manual that have special grappling attacks, which can totally be adapted into custom player options.

Disclaimer: A player showed me this feat on D&Dwiki, and while adapting it for use I was inspired to write this article. In so doing, I accidentally derived how it was made, so there are some distinct similarities here.

Fling ’em

The first is the Kraken, which has the ability to fling grappled Large or smaller creatures up to 60 feet into walls or their allies. If the creature hits a wall, it basically uses fall damage rules, dealing 1d6 damage for every full 10 feet traveled. And if another creature happens to be the target of such a throw, they have to make a Dexterity save or take the same amount of damage. Any creature affected takes damage and also falls prone.

Exactly like this.

To adapt this for player use, you have to look at the two conditions here – the throw distance, as well as the target’s relative size.

The Kraken’s a Gargantuan creature, and it can only fling creatures that are two sizes smaller than it. For players, who usually play Medium-sized creatures, I’d hate to have this only work on Tiny creatures, which would limit their ammunition to things like cats or sprites. So, for the sake of fun, I’d allow it to work on any creature that’s one size smaller than the character, allowing them to chuck a goblin into his boss across the room.

Now for the distance, which defines how much damage the feat deals. If thrown the full 60 feet, the target will take 6d6 damage, which is almost as much as a 3rd level spell. That’s quite a bit of damage for a single-action attack, but not unheard of. To keep 1st-level Variant Humans from grabbing such a powerful attack, let’s have the range scale with the character’s Strength modifier, aiming for 60 ft as the cap.

A thrown improvised weapon has a range of 20/60, so we can say that a range of 10 times a Strength modifier is reasonable. If we put a Strength prerequisite on it, like with Natural Athelete or Tavern Brawler, then we can indirectly set the minimum range. Going up to a +5 Strength mod, that allows for a maximum range of 50 feet. With magical assistance, a character can eventually meet the throwing distance of a Kraken, but the monster will still remain a formidable foe due to its sheer size.

But wait up- I’ve seen Hulk Hogan toss people his size considerable distances. Why shouldn’t this character?

Case in point.

Fair point. But it only makes sense that a goblin would fly farther than an orc if tossed. Let’s add another condition: the character can fling creatures of the same size, but for half the normal distance. This effectively cuts the damage in half, but still offers some fun environmental interactions for similarly-sized opponents.

It’s also worth mentioning that there will rarely be a battlemap with 60 or more feet of open space between enemies to maximize this damage.

Slam ’em

The second grappling monster is the Otyugh, which can slam a grappled Medium or smaller creature into the ground. This deals 2d6+Str and stuns the victim on a failed Strength save, or half damage and no stun on a successful save.

puny god
This scene is every barbarian’s dream.

Using the same size adaptations from the previous example, I’d rule that the character could only slam creatures their size or smaller. Also, I would reduce the damage dice from 2d6 to 1d6, mainly because, generally, big creatures like Ogres & other Giants deal 2 times the usual damage for weapon attacks. This is enough of a precedent for me to halve the Otyugh’s slam for use by a Medium-sized creature.

I’d allow the stun condition mainly because I like the cinematic image of a target lying there, stunned after impact. The stunned condition really stings, especially because it incapacitates the victim (making it unable to act), in addition to dropping their movement to 0, giving allies advantage on attacks against them, and auto-fails on Dexterity and Strength saving throws. As such, it definitely needs to be hidden behind a saving throw, like it is in the Otyugh’s stat block.

I mean, come on. Just look at his face.

For both of these moves, I’d pull a page from the Martial Adept feat (PHB 168), and set the DCs equal to 8 + the thrower/slammer’s Strength modifier + proficiency bonus.

Packaging it up

Now comes the question of how to present this content to the players. We could make each move a separate feat, but I don’t know if the two maneuvers are worth requiring players to ignore two valuable Ability Score Improvements.

Wrapping them both into the same feat would be unprecedented, but would be the quickest way to test-run them in-game. Plus, they feel good next to each other – maybe a little combat-focused, but I don’t think they’re overpowered. All that’s left to do is finding an appropriate name, rephrasing a couple of things for clarity, and some proper formatting with the Homebrewery, and voila!

Nothing like some crisp, clean homebrew.

Honestly, these moves might serve better within a subclass, since feats rarely give specific moves or attacks. Plus, this kind of caters to a specific class/playstyle for a feat, which are supposed to be universal.

It would be interesting to build a subclass for the Barbarian that fills the role that Battlemaster does for the Fighter. You could give players maneuvers to choose from and a special resource pool like superiority dice or Ki points (I’d call them Syle Points or Pain Dice).

But if you really have an immediate hankering for more grappling options, this feat provides a nice, simple way to port them into your game.

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