Grappler Feat 5e: How It Works + Our Homebrew Improvement

In a world full of swords and spells, sometimes you just want to play a character that can wrestle with your enemies and make them tap out.

This article is for all you out there who want to play a walking bag of muscles and rage. 

In today’s article, we’re going to go over the Grappler feat and what makes it so good, along with which classes should be picking it up and why.

What Is the Grappler feat?

The Grappler feat, which is locked behind a prerequisite strength score of 13, provides you with advantage on attack rolls against targets that you are grappling as well as the ability to restrain a creature grappled by you.

Ironically, this feat doesn’t actually make you any better at grappling.

What Is Grappling?

Grappling is a special melee attack that allows you to use a free hand to grab ahold of a creature no more than one size larger than you. 

You make an Athletics (strength) check against the creature, who can make an Athletics (strength) or Acrobatics (dexterity) check in response, their choice. If your check is higher, the opponent is grappled by you.

A grappled creature’s speed is 0, and it can’t benefit from any bonus to speed.

The grappled condition ends if the creature is incapacitated, moved out of range of your hold by some effect, or if they manage to escape the grapple.

Escaping a Grapple: A creature can escape from being grappled (the more I say it, the more grapple sounds like a fake word) by using their action to repeat the earlier contest of dexterity or strength against strength.

Moving a Grappled Creature: You can move a grappled creature no more than half your movement speed unless the creature is two sizes smaller than you.

So, you’ll be using one hand to hold onto a creature, meaning you’ll need either a one-handed weapon or an unarmed strike to then attack them with advantage.

Interestingly, “attack rolls” can also be taken to mean spell attack rolls, since there are no specifications on what sort of attack rolls are required. 

Yes, the Grappler feat can provide you with advantage on close-range spell attack rolls. This makes a lot of sense for touch-based spells, like Inflict Wounds, and can open up some interesting character builds.

What Is the Restrained Condition?

A creature that is restrained has the same effects as a creature that is grappled, with the additional effect that all attacks made against them are made with advantage and the effect of having disadvantage on dexterity saving throws.

In order to restrain a creature with this feat you must make a secondary grapple check while they are already grappled.

Keep in mind that if you succeed in pinning them, you are also under the effects of the restrained condition.

Is the Grappler Feat Worth It?

To be quite honest, no. First, the Grappler feat doesn’t make you any better at actually grappling.

Second, the effects of the grappled or restrained effect are almost completely replicated by knocking a creature prone. 

Part of what makes feats so sought after in 5e is that they make you better at doing something you can already do.

This is in contrast to earlier editions that locked abilities behind a feat, meaning you had to take the feat if you wanted to just be good at something.

The spirit of feats in 5e really isn’t well represented here. This becomes obvious if a player asks to pin a target.

If a player comes up with a plan to jump off a small ledge and restrain a creature WWE style, I’m probably going to give them a similar check to the grappling ability.

What I’m most certainly not going to do is tell them, “Oh, sorry. You should’ve taken the Grappler feat and gone through two rounds of combat. Better luck next time.”

That’s one part of this feat that’s now useless, since restraining creatures is something my players can do if they make a compelling argument and the proper checks anyways.

Next up is advantage on attacks against a grappled creature. 

While advantage is almost always good, this is a situation that requires you to burn through an action to get that advantage. More than anything, you have to succeed on the check.

In my head, a grappler is someone who’s good at grappling. If the whole point of this is to gain advantage on melee attacks, just pick up ritual casting and take Find Familiar.

Grappler Feat 2.0

We all deserve a better Grappler feat. There’s a reason why so many people are drawn to this feat (and promptly disappointed); it sounds so cool.

I know I would love to have a barbarian that excels at grappling their opponents and beating them down. So, keeping with what I believe is the intended spirit of this feat, here goes nothing.

Revised Grappler Feat

Prerequisite Strength 13 or Dexterity 13

You have developed the skills necessary to become a master of close-quarters grappling. You gain the following benefits:

  • You gain proficiency in Acrobatics or Athletics if you don’t already have it.
  • You can make grapple checks with expertise (add your PB twice) in either Acrobatics (Dexterity) or Athletics (Strength). 
  • Creatures grappled by you are under the effects of the Restrained condition, rather than the Grappled condition. 

This revised version makes our character outrageously better at grappling and doesn’t assume that they already had proficiency in athletics.

It also allows for dexterity-based grapplers to come into play because let’s face it, Black Widow is definitely using dexterity to restrain her enemies.

I hope this also answers the question of “Who should take the Grappler feat?” If it wasn’t obvious, no one.

The Grappler feat is a great example of a feat that missed the mark and a great opportunity for DMs to create a simple solution for what their players want to do.

Whether it’s creating an alternate version of the Grappler feat or simply stating that the rules of the feat are now the general mechanical rules of grappling, there is a lot of space for reworking that still feels exciting for players who want to channel the Rock in everything they do.

As always, happy adventuring.