This weekend was, in a word, good.

Dungeon Grappling

 
I did a triple-whammy. I finished a draft late Friday night that I thought – despite being bleary-eyed – was quite good. My readers confirmed it was the best version yet.
But the next day, one of my readers ran through a PFRPG fight with some purpose built grapple-monsters, both PCs and critters.
Whoa. Not good. The problem is that the source material – OSR D&D in various flavors – is fairly low in the HP department, and Dragon Heresy uses other stats to differentiate wounds from vigor, and control from vigor.
So converting over using HP to get to PFRPG or Fifth Edition? No. Does not work.
I real-timed it with Cole, and realized that at least for the moment, a new value for the grappling version of HP was needed. Came up with one, and that tested well. I knew it wasn’t quite right, and kept working while the playtest was going on. Found a good solution for all of the games treated, and realized (via math, backed up by 8 months of playtests) why Dragon Heresy not once had this problem.
Anyway, rewrote the drafts and got that into the hands of my layout and indexing guys. Wound up at 17,100 words, which (if we use the same layout template as Dragon Heresy) will turn into about 32 pages, which is right where I want to end up. That probably means about 16 – 20 pieces of art. We’ll see – it’s why I like to do a preliminary layout pass – to see where things need to go.
But once the fix was done, the feedback was:

Continue reading “Writing and Art for GB products”

A quick Dragon Heresy update.

Things are moving along, and monsters are being written. I’m super-excited about my lizardfolk writeup, and the elementals and giants are pretty fun too. Actually, the undead are kinda awesome. Anyway, having a specific setting to tie monsters into is a great creative aid.

In other news, I got some feedback on the magnitude of the project which has . . . given me pause isn’t exactly right, but it’s not wrong either. “Hey, here’s a new company, doing a SRD5.1 project that is probably 700-750 pages in two volumes” is a big ask.

So I’m going to try something different. I’m going to rip out the grappling rules from the Dragon Heresy manuscript, plus +Peter V. Dell’Orto and my “Grappling Old School” rules from Manor #8 (which also appeared in Guardians, an OSR Superhero game), and polish them up for a very small Kickstarter. 

I have many, many more words written about grappling than I can use. I have months of playtest of the system, plus all the GURPS stuff where folks have played Technical Grappling. 

I’ll get to trial my layout, give my artists (one under contract, three pending) some early paying work, my indexer and I will figure out a process there, and I’ll get to run myself through the Kickstarter process from start to finish.

Total ask? Likely less than $1,000 . . . maybe much less. 

I’m reaching out to some other authors about some add-ons for extras (all will be PDFs – this is designed to be an “instant gratification” Kickstarter unless it smashes stretch goals for “MOAR ART! COLOR ART! COOL COVER!” or whatnot, in which case you get the B/W version RTFN, and a color version when it’s done.

I will also have a “so . . . you want to help fund Dragon Heresy” set of . . . call them “elite tiers.” I’ve got ideas for this that have to do with having your face and image appear as major historical characters in the art in the DH books. Still cooking on that idea, but I’d commission art to mutually satisfactory specs (real or idealized version of you? What class? pose? that sort of thing) that fit within the scope of art direction for the book. You’d get (minimum) a signed copy of the piece. At best, it reduces what I need to fund for the DH book, as all the art can be re-used.

Anyway, I anticipate having the manuscript done by this weekend or middle of next week. Prelim layout using the DH format (simplified, I think) and density the following weekend. Then I’ll reach out to my artists and we get to see how well we all work together. 

I’m excited about this. It’s a much lower risk project than The Big One, and if successful, the OSR and SRD5.1 crowd will finally have grappling rules that don’t suck. :-)

The Melee Academy series from Thursday got me thinking of alternate mechanics for disarms in D&D. The existing one is straightforward and usable. Roll a melee attack, opposed by your foe’s Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics).

But neither of those two really speak well to a disarm. If anything, a Saving Throw is almost more appropriate, but this seems like the sort of thing that should have its basis in combat skills.

In any case: the existing rule is not horribly broken, but I thought of another way to attack it.

To Disarm using a weapon:

Make a melee attack on your foe’s weapon. The hit number is 10 + DEX bonus (you get full DEX bonus even if wearing heavy armor here) + Weapon Proficiency. If you succeed, you have either struck your foe’s weapon sharply, or used your technique to bind and strip your opponent’s weapon from his grasp.

If you hit, you and your opponent both roll damage for your respective weapons (including STR or DEX, if appropriate – DEX requires a Finesse weapon). If the attacker’s damage exceeds the defender’s damage, a disarm occurs. Ties go to the defender.

If you have multiple attacks, you may certainly attempt multiple disarms against one or more weapons.

Special considerations

  • Treat a shortbow as 1d4, and a longbow as 1d6 for the purposes of resisting armed disarming attempts. You may not use a bow to attempt a disarm without an appropriate Feat.
  • Versatile weapons can use two hands to make or resist a disarm (so a longsword can roll 1d10) if a free hand is available.
  • Extra hands beyond two add +1 to the disarming “damage” roll to either resist or disarm if they can be placed on the weapon
Unarmed Disarms

Again, make a unarmed strike to punch or a Strength (Athletics) check to grapple the foe’s weapon or weapon arm. To-hit number is still 10 + DEX bonus + Weapon Proficiency. If you succeed, you have bypassed the weapon to strike or grapple the limb holding the weapon, rather than the weapon itself. 
If you hit, you and your opponent both roll damage using one die type lower than your usual hit dice (fighters do 1d8, clerics 1d6, magic users 1d4, etc). Unarmed strikes use 1 point plus the STR bonus for damage. Grapples do 1d4+STR bonus. Monks or other characters that have learned improved unarmed strikes may roll that damage instead whether striking or grappling, if it’s better.. 
If you have multiple attacks, you may certainly attempt multiple disarms against one or more weapons.
Special Considerations
  • If you miss on the attack roll when making an unarmed disarm against a weapon, your foe may make an Attack of Opporunity against your full AC including the effects of armor. In essence, he’s defending against your attack by striking your limb.
  • Treat a shortbow as 1d4, and a longbow as 1d6 for the purposes of resisting armed disarming attempts. You may not use a bow to attempt a disarm without an appropriate Feat.
  • Versatile weapons can use two hands to make or resist a disarm (so a longsword can roll 1d10) if a free hand is available.
  • Extra hands beyond two add +1 to the disarming “damage” roll to either resist or disarm if they can be placed on the weapon
Parting Shot
I like effect rolls, and I like how the better fighter in terms of both melee skill and ability to dish out damage will tend to win here. The damage roll means that if you try and disarm a great axe with a knife, the great axe will tend to win. 
On unarmed, the reliance on hit dice tends to mean that combative classes will disarm better than non-combative ones, which I like. I backed it down one die type because having Fighters with STR 18 do 5 points while striking but 1d10+4 for grappling seemed excessive, but 1d8 isn’t so bad.
If that bothers, then drop two die types, so if your hit dice are 1d6, you drop to 1 point, just like striking, but 1d10 will be 1d6, and Barbarian at 1d12 will do a mighty 1d8 when disarming. 
I was tempted to have the Grappler Feat be dealt with explicitly here. Options might include
  • Double damage on a successful hit
  • Expanded critical hit range (that might be weak sauce unless it’s very expanded)
  • Allows -5 to hit, but +10 damage for the purposes of a disarm if you attack with Strength Athletics)
As mentioned earlier, the existing rule isn’t obviously broken. But I like the nuance that this one provides. Swinging or grabbing the weapon is an exercise is striking a smallish object with a combat blow. DEX takes it out of the way, and proficiency with the weapon is a proxy for fighting skill. Damage is the power of the hit, and grappling and like techniques are strength multipliers. 
One can also see purpose-built trapping and disarming weapons coming into play here. As an example, just playing around
Sword-breaker: This weapon may be used in the off-hand using dual-wielding rules. If a bladed weapon attack misses by less than the defender’s proficiency, the defender may use his reaction to make a disarm attempt. If the sword-breaker’s damage is double or more that of the attacking weapon’s damage on the disarm roll, the attacker is disarmed and the weapon is also broken!
Over at The Dragon’s Flagon, the wayfarer penned something about grappling. Naturally, since I’ve had a few things to say about it myself, I was drawn in as the proverbial moth to the flame.

He’s writing a “fantasy-heartbreaker” RPG. What is that? I had to look it up, and found this definition over on The RPG Museum:

“A fantasy heartbreaker is, essentially, a Dungeons & Dragons knock-off. Ron Edwards coined the term to describe a species of games published in the RPG boom of the 1990s, long after their purported innovations could be considered original. The term usefully describes games which are mired in preconceptions arising from the D&D paradigm. A criticism of the term is that it implies dismissal of the idea you can make “D&D, but better,” which might be a desirable goal for some designers.” 

Here speaks Ron Edwards: “The basic notion is that nearly all of the listed games have one great idea buried in them somewhere…. That’s why they break my heart, because the nuggets are so buried and bemired within all the painful material I listed above. – Ron Edwards, 2002”

So  he’s making a D&D-like system that is a variant on the standard. Some examples from reading his combat overview:

  • The Combat Roll inflicts damage, capped at a maximum, based on margin of success (the degree to which the combat roll exceeds the Armor Class of the foe).
  • You can optionally apply your combat rating to defend instead of attack. This can be thought of as either soaking potential damage, or getting out of the way/parrying more effectively. The result is the same – either less or no damage on a one-for-one basis.
  • He’s got some very interesting combat options built in – forcing movement on the battlefield, or using a long weapon to keep a foe at bay (this is a very useful addition, in my opinion).
  • All of the combat options are usable by anyone. I like this – fighters can do fighty-stuff better, but anyone can try. That might be my GURPS showing – or my WEG d6 Star Wars – but it’s my favorite option setup in RPGs.

OK, so grappling. Here we go. I will likely refer frequently to my post on Rules for Grappling Rules, which still stands up well as a good way to think about designing a grappling system, or an RPG subsystem in general.

Goblins and Greatswords: Grappling made simple(ish)


Right away, we have this:

The first phase of a grappling attack is resolved with standard combat rolls.

In short: Yes. Grappling is combat, likely older than using striking or weapons in most worlds, and the more natural form of fighting and playing. Not having to break out a new system to do something this basic is a key part of making grappling not relegated to something that is a disruption in game flow.

A defender may be either unarmed or armed.  (Included in standard G&G combat, if I haven’t mentioned it already, is a rule that attacking unarmed against an armed opponent incurs a -2 penalty to AC; thus grappling an opponent with deadly weaponry is more hazardous than grappling an unarmed one.)

You’re signing up for increased damage against you (lower AC on the attacker’s part) if you grapple someone armed. Hrm. Interesting.

Both combat rolls have their normal effects, inflicting damage if they exceed the opponent’s AC.

This is interesting, and avoids one of the classic grappling traps: that attempting a grapple is always a really poor tactical choice relative to bashing someone with an axe (this is the Make it Interesting sub-point of my article). A grappling attack does the usual damage (if desired) if you exceed the foe’s AC; if you don’t but still beat his combat roll, you can get a grip with no damage. Presumably, if the player wants to, he can exceed the AC and elect to do no damage to the foe.

So you never have to choose between bashing your foe with an axe or grappling – you can always do both. That sidesteps the “pointless” question.

The question I’d ask is: why not, in this case, grapple every turn? Other than a slightly lower AC, what are the down-sides? 

The answer may well be “there are none,” which will see combatants locked in close combat more often than less – this strikes me as an entirely plausible outcome. 

Holding on to an opponent means that the combatant is maintaining its grip on the opponent and avoiding the opponent’s attacks.  One common tactic is to hold the opponent from behind, or in the case of a larger opponent, to climb on and cling to its back.  While holding, the grappling character’s combat rolls against the opponent are made at +2, while the opponent’s combat rolls against the grappler suffer -2.  Additionally, attacks by other creatures or characters against either grappler or grappled are made at +2 to the combat roll, as their ability to dodge and parry is limited.

So AC doesn’t change (unless the grappler is unarmed fighting an armed foe, at which point he’s at -2 to AC). He gets his die rolls altered, giving +2 to his combat roll (which is the same as +2 to damage so long as AC is exceeded). The defender has his die rolls lowered. So he’s less likely to fight back by about 10% for hit, and will do two points less damage than otherwise.

There are some “Rule Zero” interpretations allowed, too:

At the GM’s option, holding onto certain opponents may render some attack forms impossible and others more likely to succeed.  For instance, a grappled medusa may be unable to turn and use her gaze attack on the grappler, but the grappler would be extremely vulnerable to the bites of the writhing snakes on her head.

Every round, a new combat roll is made (is this done on each combatant’s turn, one roll per turn, or is the rolling per round, simultaneously? Ah, from the examples, it looks like the contested combat rolls are made simultaneously, as in “how effectively did the combatants face each other this round?” Interesting.

If a grappled character wins a combat roll, he can grapple back or break free.

What can you do?



So you’ve grappled your foe. What can you do?

The basic one is the overpower, which is a 1d6 contest modified by Might (good, Strength gets an influence) and the combat rating (that represents skill). If you win, you can do extra damage, reduce your foe’s damage, move the foe, or break free. 

Solid options there; you can only pick one per round, and a new Overpowering roll is made each round.

Personally, I’d consider this one a point of departure from the “use what’s there” rule. I’d have to see how it plays (1d20 rolls may well be too swingy and allow too much damage potential than 1d6). The basic combat contest is both players roll 1d20 plus bonuses, and margin matters. An Overpower contest is both combatants roll 1d6 plus bonuses, and margin matters. 

The Overpower contest clearly favors skill and might, and will be less swingy than the normal contest. 

Again based on the examples, though, you do both. You get a combat roll as usual, and an Overpower contest every round. I’m really not seeing a good reason not to close and grapple here!

Other possibilities once you’ve got a grapple include disarms and tackles. You disarm by winning two “reduce damage” Overpower actions in a row. Tackling (or pouncing) adds +2 to an initial grappling attempt. 

There are rules for dogpiling and grappling multiple foes at once, as well.

Parting Shot

Overall, the Goblins and Greatswords grappling rules virtually beg you to close in and come to grips with your opponent. Of course, if you’re weaker and less skilled, this will not go well for you. If you are stronger and more skilled, it will. This will be a go-to strategy for the bigger, nastier foe. 

The nice thing here is that you don’t give anything up, ever, by attempting the grapple. You still make your combat roll every turn against your foe, with the usual results. The grapple contest is a bet that closing with your foe and engaging in the 1d6+Modifiers roll will, on the average, work out better for you than it will for him. It’s a layer of flavor that stacks with, rather than replacing, the basic combat set.

Two options that might be added here are the “throw the foe to the ground” option – some sort of positional advantage – as well as the option to deny actions to the foe. 

That second one might be implicit in “reduce damage,” though. If I basically use a victorious Overpower roll to limit the damage done to me by a grappling foe, he’s basically wasting his turn each time. The 1d6+Bonuses type roll seems to be on the order of 1d6+1 to 1d6+6 in the examples, so a good fighter might basically inflict the equivalent of -10 to damage (which is also -10 to a combat roll, sorta, due to margin of success) each round – that’s a lot of useless flailing on the part of the foe.

Are there reasons to avoid grappling? Sure, especially if you are lower in Might (the STR equivalent), and your only weapon is a largish one (only small or natural weapons can be brought to bear in an Overpower contest). 

This, right there, gives mechanical support to using two weapons of dissimilar size in a fight as emergent behavior. Neat.

I think the real innovation here is making grappling additive, rather than a replacement, for the regular combat sequence. That’s clever.

Kromm laid down the format, so I tried to do the same thing for Judo. This is bascially a find/replace of Judo for Karate, since they mostly have the same rules. Still – check my work?

Remember to use the higher of DX or skill. Going by the Basic Set alone, doing all the math to express things relative to DX (drop fractions at the very end!), and putting the benefits of Judo in boldface, the real progression is this:

  • 0 points (DX only): Grapple (including takedowns and other DX defaults) at DX; grapple with the legs at DX-2; break free at DX, armed enemies who parry your unarmed grapples attack your limb at full skill; parry unarmed attacks at DX/2 + 3, or DX/2 + 4 if retreating; you maynot use hands-free parries to parry grapples; parry weapons at DX/2, or DX/2 + 1 if retreating; cannot attempt Judo Throw, Arm Lock, Choke Hold, or Finger Lock.
  • 1 point (Judo at DX-2): Grapple (including takedowns and other DX defaults) at DX; grapple with the legs at DX-2; break free at DX, armed enemies who parry your unarmed grapples attack your limb at skill-4; parry unarmed attacks at DX/2 + 3 (DX/2 + 2 if using Judo to set up a throw), or DX/2 + 5 if retreating; you may use hands-free parries to parry grapples at DX/2 + 2; parry weapons at DX/2 + 2, or DX/2 + 5 if retreating; following a Judo parry, can attempt Judo Throw (DX-2) , Arm Lock (DX-2), Choke Hold (DX-4), or Finger Lock (DX-5).
  • 2 points (Judo at DX-1): Grapple (including takedowns and other DX defaults) at DX; grapple with the legs at DX-2; break free at DX; armed enemies who parry your unarmed grapples attack your limb at skill-4; parry unarmed attacks at DX/2 + 3 (DX/2 + 2.5 if using Judo to set up a throw), or DX/2 + 5.5 if retreating; you may use hands-free parries to parry grapples at DX/2 +2.5; parry weapons at DX/2+2.5, or DX/2 + 5.5 if retreating; following a Judo parry, can attempt Judo Throw (DX-1) , Arm Lock (DX-1), Choke Hold (DX-3), or Finger Lock (DX-4).
  • 4 points (Judo at DX): Grapple (including takedowns and other DX defaults) at DX; grapple with the legs at DX-2; break free at DX; armed enemies who parry your unarmed grapples attack your limb at skill-4; parried unarmed attacks automatically set up throws at DX/2 + 3, or DX/2 + 6 if retreating; you may use hands-free parries to parry grapples at DX/2 + 3; parry weapons at DX/2+3, or DX/2 + 6 if retreating; following a Judo parry, can attempt Judo Throw (DX) , Arm Lock (DX), Choke Hold (DX-2), or Finger Lock (DX-3).
  • 8 points (Judo at DX+1): Grapple (including takedowns and other DX defaults) at DX+1; grapple with the legs at DX-1; break free at DX+1, armed enemies who parry your unarmed grapples attack your limb at skill-4; parry unarmed attacks automatically set up throws at DX/2 + 3.5, or DX/2 + 6.5 if retreating; you may use hands-free parries to parry grapples at DX/2 + 3.5; parry weapons atDX/2+3.5, or DX/2 + 6.5 if retreating; following a Judo parry, can attempt Judo Throw (DX+1) , Arm Lock (DX+1), Choke Hold (DX-1), or Finger Lock (DX-2).

Adding in the Martial Arts rules gives you a bunch more techniques (some of which default to untrained DX). If using Technical Grappling, Judo doesn’t start to “pay off” in the form of extra Trained ST until you reach DX+4 (+0.5 extra Control Points per roll).

Parting Shot

A point in Judo goes one important thing right off the bat – it enables Judo Throw following a parry using Judo. Now, in order to make it work, you’ll need to invest. I had a character with Axe/Mace-18 and the Perk Judo Throw defaults to Axe/Mace and could not get Judo Throws to work reliably in combat, so it’s not a slam dunk. But Judo Parry sets up both throws and locks that you must invest in a grappling skill in order to take advantage of.

Once you get 4 points in, anything you can do with DX you can do with Judo instead.

That’s the key breakpoint. At 8 points, anything you do with DX you do better with Judo if there’s an option.

Grappling is probably one of the oldest forms of combat on the planet. It’s also the form of combat most often used when animals are hunting (some of them, like constrictor snakes, exclusively so). It’s also one that both children, animals, and child animals do instinctively for play.
And yet the rules are so often so poorly regarded they have their own entry in TVTropes.

Grappling with Grappling – What is it?

In the broadest sense, grappling and wrestling are about restraint. You are attempting, in a grappling-based fight, to restrict your opponent’s movements to the point where the only allowable actions your foe can take are those which you allow him.
Such restrictions can be:

  • He cannot use his hands (handcuffing, for example, is grappling with a mechanical aid)
  • He cannot run (bearing your opponent to the ground and sitting on him, or leg-cuffs, or gluing feet to the floor all qualify)
  • He is restricted to a position that you want him to be in, and cannot easily change that position (a wrestling pin, a police officer putting a suspect on the ground and kneeling on him)
  • He cannot speak (putting a hand or object over the mouth and jaw)
  • He can do what he likes, but you’re dragging him with you (alligator!)
  • He cannot breathe, or blood flow to his brain is restricted (choke and strangle holds)
The science and art of grappling is one of applied and denied leverage. You are going to use your own body weight, strength, and position, plus environmental and positional factors such as the walls and the floors, your relative positions to minimize the required effort to achieve the above restrictions, and also minimize the effectiveness of his own attempts to resist your restrictions.
Most of grappling consists of ways to achieve this sort of restraint on your foe while avoiding restraint on yourself. This is not always possible, especially with two skilled combatants. In fact, in many cases, grappling is fierce, mutual, and may have an outward appearance of near-stasis that either participant would characterize as anything but static!
In addition, the above restrictions are often applied while fully armed and armored, and not restricted or usually employed only by some specific ethnic esoteric martial art, either. It was a key part of the melee battlefield, and a short perusal of period manuals such as Talhoffer’s Fechtbuch shows a wide variety of grappling applications for any situation.
Grounding your opponent and then moving in for a killing or incapacitating blow is part and parcel of fighting.
So how is this dynamic, ancient, apparently difficult to model style of combat modeled in the five systems considered here?

This review of Manor #8 by Follow Me and Die might be the nicest review I’ve ever received for something I’ve written.

I think this system is what we have been needing for a simple mechanic for grappling, that makes grappling an option players would choose. Various options and outcomes that are realistic in grappling are discussed and addressed. While not perfect, I can’t think of how else to handle it without building yet another new subsystem just for grappling. This is simple enough that it can easily be implemented at your next session. I know that I will use it, if I need to resolve a grappling issue.

Thanks to the proprietor of the blog, and I sincerely hope he enjoys it! I’m sure +Peter V. Dell’Orto and +Tim Shorts will be pleased to see it as well!

Well, +Peter V. Dell’Orto and I went and did it – we took GURPS Technical Grappling and made it into an OSR-compatible short rules set

Having now done this twice, what is it with me and grappling rules, and what principles are involved?

Coming to Grips


Grappling is probably one of the oldest forms of combat on the planet, is most often used by animals when hunting, and is something that both kids and animals (and animal kids) do for play.

And yet, the rules, by and large, suck

Why is that? 

The TV Tropes entry gets it both right and wrong. Grappling seems complex, and is often made so. It’s different enough from “hit him with my mace” or “boot to the head” that complex systems are often created.

That’s not required, though…

Use What’s There


The first rule of grappling is to use the rules you already have. I did this in Technical Grappling when I noted that a striking player will need to attack, the foe defends, and then if successful an effect roll of some sort is required to see what happens. Ideally, when it’s time to grapple, you should use the exact same mechanics. 

Roll to hit: This may well be a different skill as striking or not. In GURPS, there are three unarmed striking skills, three unarmed grappling skills, and a metric crap-ton of weapon skills. You should not have to break out a new rules set to grapple. You should do the same things you always do.

When it came to OSR grappling in Gothridge Manor #8, Peter and I applied the same theory. In D&D, if you want to hit, you roll vs. Armor Class. Why should grappling be any different? So much gets swept under the rug in rolling to hit in D&D anyway, AC makes as good a proxy as a resistance to grappling as anything.

Oh, you don’t like that? Mail or scale armor doesn’t make you any harder to hit than leather for grappling? You might be right . . . but in the OSR, monsters usually don’t have stat blocks, so unless you want to do something like “roll against 10+ half the hit dice of the monster” then AC it must be. In other editions and versions where monsters get full stats? No problem: 10+DEX bonus. 

Make it Interesting


Striking damage rolls are variable. So why not make grappling have a variable effect too? That was my solution for TG, and it makes total sense to use some dice-proxy for control as a measure of how good your grapple is. I think Peter and I found a good solution for the Manor, and the GURPS ST progression naturally supports control points for grappling in scale.

The thing about making it interesting is the key rule for these rules: grappling should be a useful device for combat. Grappling a relatively equal foe should neither be pointless or an “I win!” button. It should be something that when it happens is cool, and allows things that make the grapple worthwhile. It has to be as compelling in its place as bashing a guy with a sword or shooting him with an arrow in terms of fight-ending ability, without being a magical nuclear weapon (“I’ve got him in a tentacle lock! Demogorgon is so toast!”)

Reduce Book-keeping Where Possible


In most games, you already keep track of hit points, counting down from the max. For grappling, one nod to complexity is that  you have to keep track of the total strength of the grapple for each combatant grabbed. The GURPS system uses penalties, but the D&D-based ones don’t have to, though they can.

What else can be done? What options are there, and pros and cons?

You’re easier to hit: Your AC could go down as you get grappled more. This is part and parcel with . . .

You’re clumsier and restrained: When trying to make attacks, the more grappled you are, the higher penalty you should take when swinging weapons and fists. Because you have to get even more up close and personal than usual (probably within the same 5′ square), having penalties to attack and other bonuses decrease rapidly is probably the right way to go.

You can’t move very well: D&D5 does this with the grappled condition already, restricting movement. As you get more and more grappled, it should be harder and harder to move in a direction you wish to go. 

You’re open to injury and compelled movement: Being grappled invites the inevitable arm-bar type of motion. Techniques that translate restraint into actual injury. This gets back to putting injury points and control points on either the exact same scale, or some easily transferred quantity (two control points might be one injury point, or vice versa). As your foe gets you more under his control, he can also move you around.

Fighting Back


The nice thing about using the same mechanics present in the “normal” combat rules is that nothing special needs to be done for counter-grappling. If you attack and roll to increase control, you can attack and roll to decrease it by trying to break a hold. You can also grab right back, making a useful choice with narrative power.

On One Condition


One thing present in versions of D&D but not quite so much in GURPS (or at least in a grappling-useful way) is the concept of Conditions. These descriptive phrases have game-mechanical weight. If you’re Prone, Grappled, Restrained, or Paralyzed (in D&D5), that means something very specific. It would be a trivial thing to borrow these conditions directly upon reaching certain control point thresholds. In fact, this ties in directly with reducing book-keeping, since setting thresholds for Conditions based on accumulated control means is all the GM needs to worry about is what threshold is crossed, and the foe is impacted as appropriate.

Fancy Moves


Fighting bloodies your foe. Occasionally it might knock him down (that’s easier in GURPS, where the Sweep especially is a non-grapple way of knocking someone prone). But the thing about grappling is that it probably needs to open up the target to something kinda neat.

Injury has already been discussed, but frankly you’ll injure someone more with a sword, and faster, than with a grapple. That works. 

But there are things you can do with grapples that are harder or impossible than with a strike. Disarms for one. Throws, for another. Crippling limbs is a great one where such effects are allowed in games. Applying pain that stops when the fighter decides it, rather than when the organs grow back, is a way to make some critters give up without killing them.

Grappling is for Monsters


Even more than the players, grappling needs to be seen as a useful tool for the GM to make the players’ lives a tetch more interesting than they’d generally like. Getting grabbed by a giant scorpion should make it easier to hit the grappled character. It should be scary. A well-crafted set of grappling rules will make for better stories, and will frankly make for more believable encounters. A crocodile is scary because of the bite, yeah, but it’s because they bit with three tons of force (or more) and then drag you underwater to drown. A lion bites the neck to suffocate its meal, not to make it bleed to death. Cats will strike with their claws, but they will also grapple, and then rake with the back claws. Perhaps ironically, bears don’t bear-hug, but snakes do. 

In any case, mostly grappling is a great tool for the GM to make giant monsters fracking terrifying and something you don’t walk up to casually so you can start swatting at it with axes. 

Parting Shot

Grappling rules do not have to suck. The key seems to be taking the rules that are usually very well developed and well understood, and not fighting that system. Use it, tweaking it only enough to reflect some of the things grappling does differently – restraint rather than injury – and then allow for some of the more interesting grappling-related nifty outcomes as naturally as possible.
GURPS gets this both right and wrong. The initial attack to grapple is a hit roll, which then can be countered by an active defense. One that happens, though, the mechanics tend to invoke the Contest of Skill . . . but not always. Sometimes it is an attack roll. Sometimes it’s a Quick Contest. For a Pin, in the regular rules, it’s a Regular Contest. 
It works, but it’s not necessary. A better design call might have been to use either no Contests, or all Contests, but not a mish-mash of both. Of course, it wasn’t my role to fix this when I wrote my book. I took the rules Sean and Peter had provided in Martial Arts and wrapped Control Points around them
The OSR Grappling in Manor #8 reinforces many of the design rules (and reiterates them) and gives a few simple options. There should be no impediments to further options if desired, with explicit rules for locks and other special moves. 
There also should be no real issue in porting this to D&D5, ACKS, d20 Modern, or any other system derived from D&D.