Condition-based grappling in GURPS

Grappling in Pathfinder and D&D5 is what you might call “condition-based.” If you hit with the appropriate attack, you’re “grappled,” and wackiness can ensue.

I even speculated about how you might take the conditions already present in the D&D Basic Rules and give more flavor to grappling in that game.

I’d love to expand on that as a module, too.

But that’s not why I’m here.

Over on the GURPS Forums, the poster mr beer put up a thread about sample fights, to learn the rules and get some practice. His third fight featured a grappler as a protagonist.

He’s using RAW rather than Technical Grappling, and one of the bits that can be confusing is what happens when you just grapple a limb, leaving the body free.

The “grappled” condition also exists in GURPS, and being grappled gives you -4 to DX, and you can’t use grappled limbs . . . but you can still defend. It’s a bit odd, though Martial Arts does clarify a bunch of the odd cases on p. 122.

Still, it occurred to me today that you could probably take the very, very raw barebones of Technical Grappling – the idea of Control Points, and get really simple, using a partial conditional system that takes advantage of the CP mechanic, but without lots of detailed bookkeeping.

Grappling Conditions


I’m going to posit three conditions:

Contact: You’ve grabbed your foe in a minor way. This allows proceeding with any follow-on technique (like arm locks and whatnot) that require a grapple. He is at -2 to DX with grabbed body parts, and -1 to active defenses (all of them, including Doddge). You and your foe may move between close combat and 1 hex without worrying about breaking the contact (see the image to the right). Contact does not preclude attacks or defenses; it just makes them a bit harder.

Grappled: You have secured your foe significantly. Body parts that are grappled are at -4 to DX. If your torso is grappled, you are -2 to all active defenses. If only one limbis grappled, you are at -1 to defend with un-grappled body parts. If two limbs are grappled, or a limb and the torso or head, you suffer full penalties. You and your foe are locked in Close Combat. Your or you foe may attempt to move, but your foe’s weight is treated as encumbrance [1]. Grappled limbs may not be used to attack with, nor may they parry strikes.


Restrained: While not “pinned and helpless, as in the usual rules, your foe is at -8 to DX and half ST with all grappled body parts. No attacks or parries are possible with grappled limbs, as above. You are at -4 to all active defenses. You may not move (even a step), and retreats are impossible. If the only grappled body part is a limb, defenses are at -2 for ungrappled parts.

Condition Thresholds


You’ll need to know how many Control Points you can dish out. Look up your effective ST for grappling on the thrust column of the damage table on p. B16. When you grapple and hit (and your foe fails to defend), roll for CP.

You have made Contact if you score fewer than 20% of your foe’s ST.

You have grappled your foe if you accumulate more than 20% of your foe’s ST, but less than his ST.

You have Restrained your foe if you accumulate ST or more Control Points.

You may attack more than once, accumulating CP. Don’t bother to keep track of them by location, but do note grappled body parts.

Breaking Free


Attack the grapple, removing CP. If you get it to less than zero, you’ve broken contact.

Parting Shot


This is a rough-cut. I’m sure there could be refinements, but there has to be a fun middle ground between breaking out the full-on rules from Technical Grappling, and the pretty sparse grappled/not-grappled state that is GURPS current status (well, there’s pinned, but that’s so final that I tend to ignore it. It’s also the result of a Regular Contest, which makes it pretty darn unlikely).

4 thoughts on “Condition-based grappling in GURPS

    1. Yeah – that's pretty much it. You don't have CP spend, or all of the extra rules. You DO have a measure of the quality of a grapple (the CP "damage" roll) that works for both skill and ST, and unifies grappling more with the regular attack/defense system. All to the good.

    2. You could add a way to spend CP: transitioning to a weaker condition grants you the relevant CP that can be used normally. You get CP equal to 2/3rds the foe's ST for going from restrained to grappled, CP equal to 1/5 the foe's ST for going from grappled to contact, and 1/10th the foe's CP for going from contact to freed.

      You might need to tweak the numbers a bit, but it's a good start.

    3. I could be wrong, but I suspect it'd just be simpler to allow CP spends right out of the rulebook. If you have CP, spend them how you like, but if you drop below one of the thresholds, the foe gains the benefits before any rolls are made. Also, there's a tweak to spending CP that makes more sense that Peter and I wrote into an article, but we're waiting to reveal it until after we get word on whether that article is going anywhere.

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