A repetitive but useful introduction:

In previous posts I talked about grappling from the perspective of someone totally unfamiliar with the concept and application.

I proposed what is effectively a loose four-step model. Like all models, it’s wrong, but hopefully useful ( “All models are wrong; some are useful.” G. E. P. Box).

The steps (and the post titles) are:

  1. Grab him
  2. Grab him better
  3. Achieve a dominant position
  4. Win

Along the way, I digressed into defending yourself from grapples and while grappling, as well as a very detailed look at the arm lock technique in the Basic Set/Martial Arts.

In this installment, we talk about the fourth and final step: achieving victory. Due to time constraints tonight, I’m only going to talk Rules-as-Written. I’ll hit TG in a later post. Sorry.

That depends on what “I Win” means

A key decision here is to define victory, and if you’re grappling, the goals are probably one or more of these four things:

  • Escape from a conflict
  • Immobilize your foe, either to keep him from leaving or to stall him
  • Incapacitate him and make him unable to continue fighting
  • Kill him. Dead. D-E-D. Dead.

Winning in the RAW

Given the binary grapple in the Basic Set, one might think that options to achieve the potential “I win!” state are limited.

Not really.

Escape (“Run Away!!”)

Usain Bolt, not Barry Allen

The key to getting away, assuming that your foe isn’t the Fastest Man Alive or something, is to put him down or away for enough time to turn and run away.

This can be done with technically non-grappling methods (see what I did there?) such as slams or shoves. A good hard push just might give you enough distance to turn and run, but ideally you give yourself a few seconds head start.

That’s going to be grounding your foe while you stay upright, and that, in turn, will likely involve a posture change of some sort. This might be a simple takedown or sweep, a judo throw, or a throw from a lock. Takedowns have the advantage that anyone with ST and DX can try them, but the disadvantage is by RAW you go down with him, which is not conducive to running away.

A sweep might be better, and Sumo and Judo are excellent for that – plus you can do it with Karate or a two-handed weapon with Reach 2+. This gets your foe, but not you, to fall down.

A defensive Judo Throw is about perfect for this. You parry, throw him on your turn, and then unless he can acrobatic stand, you should get at least one turn free and clear to run. If you stun him, you get even more.


There are two versions of this, and one of them is a freebie under RAW: if you grapple someone and they are less than twice your ST, they cannot move away without breaking free. So depending on your ST, simply by grappling them, they can’t move out of the space they’re in. Because grapples are not mutual in the RAW, they cannot use Shoving People Around back on you (though you can try to move them).

The other way to immobilize is the mother of all immobilizations: The Pin.

To Pin is to Win

Pinning – to me – often seems like a casual assumption, but one that’s really a lot harder to bring off than you’d think. You have to win a Regular Contest of ST, for one. You have to be on the ground, for another.

Come back to this: Regular Contest. You have to succeed, where your foe must fail. I’ve heard that meme before.

Anyway, this can take a bit, but if it works, you get ten full seconds to act on your foe in any way you wish. He’s helpless.

If you can do it, it’s the standard “I win” button. Personally, I recommend always norming the lower score to 10, and multiplying the higher score by 10/lower score, instead of the three possibilities on p. B349.

Another pseudo-pin is to pile so many penalties on your foe that he can’t roll. Applying pain, combined with a takedown, plus a grapple can hit with -10 to hit, and -5 or more to defend.

Breaking free, though, is a Quick Contest of ST, favored heavily to the grappler. So he can still try that, though Martial Arts does apply some of the good penalties to ST for this purpose as well.


In this you’re breaking stuff or stunning him.

Crippling Limbs

This is the old-timey favorite. Wrench Limb or Arm Lock to grapple and then shatter arms and legs. You can also do fancier stuff like piledriver or backbreaker. Cripple enough limbs and he won’t be fighting you anymore.

Knockout, Stun, Unconscious

Choke holds are nice, because if your foe has the proper anatomy, you can do FP damage per second, which can put a foe out pretty fast.

Stunning a foe isn’t truly rendering him incapacitated, but in GURPS it’s darn near a close thing. No attacks, severely impaired defenses. Judo Throw is a good way to try this, but the HT roll means that it may not work

Note: this has actually been my issue with Judo Throw for a bit. It seems awesome, but my Warrior Saint, Cadmus, had “Judo Throw (defaults to Axe/Mace)” at a quite-high skill level, and he still managed to never throw anyone, and he tried. 

Backbreakers and bear hugs are another way to cause FP or HP of damage to incapacitate your foe.

The Right to Not Bear Arms

Finally, there’s the minor variant of incapacitation, where you use your grappling skills to disarm your foe. This is a nice way to make a weapon fighter that focused too narrowly on “the pointy end goes into the other man” really question his skill choices.

Kill Him

This one’s harder than it looks, but you can use Bear Hug to render your foe dead if you crush him for a long time and you’re the right size modifier bigger than he is.

You can also choke him to death, though that can take a while. But once he’s KO’d, you can just keep applying FP until HP come off, and go until a death check is failed.

Finally, there’s applying damage through a head lock, Neck Snap, or throw from a head lock. Those last two do swing damage to the neck, x1.5 for location modifier, and is probably the most damaging move in GURPS using grappling skills.

A repetitive but useful introduction: 

In previous posts I talked about grappling from the perspective of someone totally unfamiliar with the concept and application. 

I proposed what is effectively a loose four-step model. Like all models, it’s wrong, but hopefully useful ( “All models are wrong; some are useful.” G. E. P. Box).
The steps (and the post titles) are:
  1. Grab him
  2. Grab him better
  3. Achieve a dominant position
  4. Win

I followed with a note about how to achieve an initial grab using both the Rules as Written (RAW), as well as my expansion, GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling. Along the way, I digressed into defending yourself from grapples and while grappling. In the previous post to this one, I discussed an interpretation of what I considered “Step 2: Grab him better,” again looking at RAW vs. Technical Grappling.

In this installment, we talk about the third step, which is achieving a dominant position. I’m going to borrow a definition I used in Technical Grappling, which in turn is based on the corresponding real-world concepts:

In Technical Grappling, positioning is defined by changes to a grappler’s posture, facing, orientation, and relative facing.

  • Posture means the same thing as it does in the RAW. Standing, kneeling, crawling, and lying face-down or face-up are all postures.
  • Facing is basically what hex-side your head is pointing at on a battle map. This isn’t always perfectly clear in close combat.
  • Orientation defines what parts of your body are in close combat, and which are not. Basically orientation accounts for which hexes a multi-hex figure (including a prone SM +0 human) occupies on a battle map. 
  • Relative Facing is the close-combat equivalent of front, side, and rear arcs, and are defined the same way. Two fighters both facing “north” on the battle map and with commoon orientation and posture might still be facing each other (in each other’s front arcs), facing away from each other (mutually in each other’s rear arc), one facing the rear, the other facing away (bad mojo; this is rear mount), or other combinations. Relative facing is new with Technical Grappling, but important for describing grapples.

Only posture and facing are present in the Basic Set and Martial Arts.

Dominant Positions – RAW

The concept of step 3 here, where you achieve a superior position relative to your foe, can only really leverage (explicitly) the rules for posture and facing if only using the Basic Set and Martial Arts. Some of the Actions After a Grapple make reference to ideas that are made more nuanced when orientation and relative facing come into play explicitly.

Positioning Before the Grapple: Facing

As always in GURPS, if you can attack from the rear (best) or the side (still good), you have a certain amount of awesome going for you. This initial bit of facing (and technically relative position in a standing way) dictates if you can get in a free shot (attack from your foe’s rear hex) or a hard-to-defend one (from the side) before the grapple starts. 

This is pretty much all there is about facing: make the initial attack from a good one if possible.

Positioning Moves in RAW

In the previous post, I went through all of the potential options enumerated in RAW and classified them as Step 2, 3, or 4. Some cross over a bit. I’m going to skip all the ones I already talked about as being “improved grapples,” and focus on the ones that are based on achieving a dominant position.

As before, I’ve color-coded the option titles, and Step 3’s are bold/blue. 

Using the Basic Set:

  • Takedown: Bear your opponent to the ground using the Quick Contest from the Basic Set. Note that unless you have also bought up ground fighting, and your foe has not, this may not even be an improvement. The basic penalties – without house-rules – apply to both the grappler and the grappled if you’re both on the ground. I validated this with +Peter V. Dell’Orto and +Sean Punch. The note about when DX penalties apply that is in the box Using Your Legs, Martial Arts, p. 79, likely grants mild reprieve from posture penalties when the legs are used to attack a target that is also not standing.

    But it bears repeating: under canon rules, if you want to put your foe at penalties to attack and defend, throw him to the ground and he’s at -4 to attack and -3 to defend without special training. However, so are you should you choose to go down with him.

    However, moves like sweep and judo throw, and especially throws from locks, can put your foe on the ground while you remain standing (and even retain your grapple), which is the goal for which you’re striving.

Moving on to “After a Grapple” options from Martial Arts . . . 

  • Shoving People Around: This is an improvement in position, especially if you pay close attention to what you can do with it – literally shoving people around is one move, but you can also move either of you to achieve a position where you’re at his back. This is also a great way to leverage a lock or hold, since bonuses are substantial (MA, p. 118)
  • Sit on Him: While the pin is definitely Step 4 from the perspective of the person you’re fighting, you can also use your legs to pin your foe while still leaving your arms free to fight – or more likely defend against – other combatants. This special “after you win” effect is still an improvement in your position, especially relative to the long list of “you can’t do that, you’re grappling” items that exist before you succeed in a real pin. This frees up hands and stuff to deal with other foes, or rain death and destruction down on an already-pinned opponent.
That’s about it.

Dominant Positions in the RAW: Summarized

There’s not terribly much you can do with the rules-as-written, which is in keeping with a broad, somewhat condensed set of grappling rules. You can toss their butt down on the ground, rotate them (or you) in place to take their back, or free up hands by sitting on him if you have already won the Regular Contest of skill to achieve a Pin.
Dominant Positions – Technical Grappling

Positional grappling gets a lot of love in most actual grappling classes. Collegiate Wrestling and many non-submission grappling contests are won and lost effectively by positioning. 

Technical Grappling piles on by allowing all of the position-based options to have game-mechanical merit, and probably represent the largest expansion on the rules as presented in the Basic Set and Martial Arts.

Positional Options in Technical Grappling

There are some primary options to add a positional advantage in TG that amplify, expand, and add to the options presented in RAW. Since things like “takedown” have themselves been expanded, you won’t find any of the RAW options in the list below.

  • Change Position: This is an expansion and adaptation of Shoving People around. It can be used in several ways to establish a positional advantage. You can move to your foe’s side or rear arc (change relative facing), alter your own absolute facing, or you can rotate your body and change your orientation in ground fighting (say, put your legs out of reach of his right arm and both his legs), or establish a weight advantage by winning a Quick Contest of each fighter’s Trained ST or Change Position technique. It can be done either as an attack by itself, or combined with any maneuver that allows a step, so if you want to apply an Arm Lock while stepping into someone’s side or rear arcs – the way mostly this technique is actually trained – you may do so.
  • Weight Advantage: If you are more than 6x your foe’s basic lift, he’s going to be at a penalty to move you around if you’re on top of him or otherwise purposefully bring your body weight to bear. If you are more than 8x his basic lift, you even impart Dodge penalties and impact skills that require mobility, such as Karate, Judo, and fencing skills. Against a ST 10 man (Basic Lift of 20 lbs), a 160-lb. foe can inflict a weight-based penalty of -4; a 225-lb person hits you with -8. Being trapped under something heavy sucks.
  • Force Posture Change: This is the expanded version of Takedown. You can force your foe to a lower posture (at a penalty for each step down a posture progression from standing to lying face down), but for each step down you also go, you get a bonus. This obviously hits both of you with posture penalties, so you’d have better have purchased Ground Fighting or Low Fighting.
    The posture change can also be part of a Sweep, Judo Throw, a throw from a lock, or other knock-down move, just as in the RAW. The bonuses you can claim for dropping your own posture using Force Posture Change may also be claimed for Judo Throw.
  • Sprawling Parry: A special defense against someone trying to grapple your legs, it trades a posture change for you in exchange for the ability to partially mitigate positioning or hit location penalties.
  • Pass Limb: This unique option allows you to maintain a position already achieved by trapping a limb against something unyielding, such as your torso or a wall. It is what grapplers do when they take a foe’s (for example) arm and immobilize it by putting it between their two bodies as they grapple the neck with both of their own arms. Or pushing a fighter up against a wall, or kneeling on someone’s neck. It allows very powerful grapples, once established, to be maintained while freeing limbs for other uses.
Dominant Positions in Technical Grappling: Summarized

TG includes the basics of posture and facing, and expands this to explicitly include more options for relative facing and two-hex orientation. It also provides more mechanical support for using your weight against your foes. Most of the moves provide penalties to skill or limit the attacks that can be used against you, though some of them may require some interpretation.
To make this discussion relevant to Arm Lock, instead of the usual RAW progression, a powerful arm lock can be obtained by a sequence like the following (assumes a ST 13 attacker with 1d CP but 1d+1 using Arm Lock).
  • Using a Grabbing Parry on your foe’s turn to get a (usually low CP) grip on your foe’s arm. Let’s say this gives you 1-2 CP.
  • Stepping into close combat, accepting a penalty to Arm Lock to acquire your foe’s side arc. CP are increased by a successful attack using Arm Lock, and the joint is now locked. Let’s say this is another 4-5 CP, for 5-7 total. -3 to DX and ST in the standing lock to that arm (it’s slightly more complicated than this: see TG, pp. 5-6).
    Your foe cannot use the locked limb in order to break free, and initiating grapples and strikes into the side arc can only be done as a Wild Swing: -5 to hit, maximum effective skill of 9.
  • On your next turn, use Force Posture Change to make him go face down. Of course, like a good grappler, you have bought up your Ground Fighting and are unpenalized as you kneel beside him. His penalties to all actions are now -7 to attack, -4 to defend, attacks are wild swings.
  • Now, kneel on his neck while taking his rear arc. This is an attack using one leg at -2 for using the legs and -4 for taking the rear arc. Go ahead and do it Committed/Telegraphic, and attack at no penalty, and he’s still at a net -2 to defend. If successful, you’ll add 4-5 CP to his neck and be in his rear arc. Oh, claim weight advantage while you’re at it. If you’re ST 13 and 180 lbs, that’s 9x your foe’s basic lift, and so your foe will be at -6 to mass-based moves, including attacks to break free of this maneuver.
  • If you’re feeling mean, use Pass Limb to keep the locked arm secure, while freeing your hands to grapple him even more if you like.
At this point, you’ve racked up 9-11 CP on various parts of him (-5 to ST and DX, more or less), plus an additional -4 to attack, -3 to defend due to posture. He can’t attack you because you’re in his rear arc, he can only try and break free. 
When attacking to break free, he adds -6 to that because you’re kneeling on his freakin’ neck. So attacks to break free of your grapple are at -15, defenses against you are at -5. The “pin” might have been removed formally from TG, but that doesn’t make this guy any less pinned.
If you do this step-by-step, it’ll be over and done with in four seconds. Fewer if you’re a lot more skilled and can use Extra Attack or Rapid Strike, more if he successfully struggles for a bit.
Parting Shot
Improving your grapples in the real world is based on posture, position, selective and cumulative advantage in restriction your foe’s limb use, and applying leverage and weight to deny movement.
Technical Grappling was designed to allow nuance in all of those, so there’s an explicit mechanic in the form of control points for improved grapple quality, and a whole bunch more potential penalties that can stack up very quickly for intelligent use of weight, posture, position, and orientation.

The Basic Set can be leveraged mechanically to accomplish some of the goals above. You can do a takedown to get your foe to the ground, Shoving People Around to rotate him face-down. You can’t really leverage sitting on him explicitly, but you can shift arms for legs and gain +2 to ST, which is sort of the same thing.

Finally getting back to the four steps of grappling. In previous posts I talked about grappling from the perspective of someone totally unfamiliar with the concept and application, which was sprung from a SJG Forums thread on the topic. I followed with a note about how to achieve an initial grab using both the Rules as Written (RAW), as well as my expansion, GURPS Martial Arts, Technical Grappling. Along the way, I digressed into defending yourself from grapples and while grappling.

I proposed what is effectively a loose four-step model. Like all models, it’s wrong, but hopefully useful ( “All models are wrong; some are useful.” G. E. P. Box).
The steps (and the post titles) are:
  1. Grab him
  2. Grab him better
  3. Achieve a dominant position
  4. Win
Grab Him Better – RAW

The concept of step 2 here, where a grapple is improved, hinges very importantly on what rules you are using. Improving  the grapple has limited meaning using the basic rules, since any successful attack with the intent to grapple toggles the “grappled” state. When your options are “zero” and “one,” can there really be “one, but better?”

Turns out yes, in some cases, but definitions might have to be a little tortured to get there.
The Moose in the Room: Pin Him

I’m going to come right out and say it. I consider winning the Regular Contest of ST between the two grapplers (you succeed your roll and your opponent fails his on the same turn) an application of Step 4: Win. 
If you succeed in this task, you have rendered your foe completely helpless for ten turns. Most GURPS combats don’t last that long. The fight is over at this point. You can rain blows down on him free of charge for ten seconds, stab, twist, fold, spindle, and mutilate with no real restrictions during that time. Oh, sure, the GM might impose a little reality in there if he’s feeling like it, but this is the ultimate “I win” button.
Ergo, Step 4.

Grapple Quality in RAW
So what might it mean to improve a grapple other than to pin the guy? Given the mechanical choices available to the grappler, let me go through options without regard to whether they properly qualify as a “better” grapple just yet.

I’ve color-coded the option titles. Step 2’s are bold/green. Step 3’s are bold/blue. Step 4’s are bold/red. 

Also, some notation [Follow-on] means that the benefit of the improved grapple is a follow-on technique, such as Arm Lock enabling pain or injury. [+ST] means it gives a bonus to a Quick Contest of ST, or improves damage. [+CP] will mean that it enables adding CP to an existing grapple. [-DX] means that it inflicts additional DX penalties. Note that [+CP] implies that it gets additional ST and DX penalties.

So, what activities – other than the already-disqualified Pin – qualify under the Basic Set and Martial Arts as “grab him better?” Let’s look at Actions After a Grapple, p. B370 to start.
  • Arm Lock: Addressed in much detail in another post, this definitely qualifies as an improved grapple. When you have successfully trapped your foe’s arm in a lock, you get a boost to your ST for the purposes of breaking free, and you have access to crippling and painful options for Step 4: Win. [Follow-on][+ST]
  • Choke Hold: This one’s a fatigue attack and requires the same “improved” grapple as the prior entry, Choke or Strangle. See p. B404, but note that you can simply attack the neck directly at a penalty that depends on what skill you’re using (Judo makes it easier). [Follow-on]
  • Takedown: Bear your opponent to the ground. This falls, in my taxonomy, under Step 3, Improving Position. It doesn’t really improve the grapple, though it does improve the effectiveness of grappling (due to large penalties that accrue if you’re prepared for ground fighting and your opponent is not). 
  • Neck Snap or Wrench Limb: Yep, again this is an “I Win” move, not an improved grapple.
  • Choke or Strangle: The Choke/Strangle itself is part of Step 4: Win. But in order to do it, you must have first grappled your foe by the neck. The act of moving from a general grapple of (say) the torso to the more specific neck grapple can be considered an improved grapple. So there’s that, but that’s best qualified as Shift Grip, below.
Moving on to options from Martial Arts . . . 

  • Inflict Pain: Found on p. 119, but referencing p. B428), applying pain while grappling is one of the few things that ratchet up the DX penalties beyond the usual -4. Total penalties of -6 for Moderate pain to a whopping -10 for being grappled while in Terrible Pain. Inflicting Agony is similar in game-mechanical effect to a Pin. [-DX]
  • Using Your Legs/Switch Arms for Legs: While this is done at a penalty (the usual -2 to DX or skill), it gives a ST bonus that’s good for +2 to ST where it matters, or +1 damage where that matters, such as Throws from Locks (swing damage) or offensive Judo Throws (based on thrust, I believe). [+ST]
  • Adding Hands: Definitely improves the grapple, if you didn’t start with a two-handed grapple anyway. A two-handed grapple is +5 to ST relative to a one-handed one in the Quick Contest to Break Free. [+ST]
  • Shift Grip: The genesis for Technical Grappling’s rules on attacking locations are found here – and you can improve your location by attacking the new one, with slightly modified rules. As noted, if you start by grappling the torso, hit locations using these rules are irrelevant; this is not the case in TG. [Follow-on]
  • Shoving People Around: Not an improvement to the grapple, but may be an improvement in position for Step 3.
  • Sit on Him: This frees up hands and stuff to deal with other foes, or rain death and destruction down on an already-pinned opponent. This nearly qualifies as a Step 2/3 that somewhat paradoxically follows victory!

But not really. Step 1-4 are conceptual, and are not always a linear sequence – this applies both to GURPS grappling (where you can go right to an improved grapple following a Judo Parry) as well as real life.

  • Bear Hug: This is a victory move, part of Step 4 . . . but also references something that is important for improving grapples.

There are other RAW/Martial Arts options, but these are the main ones.
Improved Grapples in the RAW: Summarized

Basically, an improved grapple either enables a follow-on technique such as a throw, lock, or crush, or boosts your ST in appropriate places. There are other position-based “improvements” that might occur, such as a Takedown, but the big two game-mechanical effects are here.
Grab Him Better – Technical Grappling

The entire purpose of the Control Point mechanic in TG is to allow grapples to vary in effectiveness. Against a ST 10 person, every 2 Control Points (CP hereafter) give -1 to DX . . . and the new thing is they also impart -1 to ST. You can not use your full power effectively when restrained.

It’s quite possible to have a reasonably strong, reasonably trained guy (say ST 12 and Wrestling at DX+2) “only” rolling 1d for Control Points on any successful normal attack. The usual roll will be 3 or 4 CP, which is either -1 or -2 to ST and DX

The original rule in my first draft was to have odd CP totals give DX penalties, and even ones give ST. So 3 CP would be -2 to DX and -1 to ST. The playtesters and I killed that as a concept varying between a speed bump and treadles (picture right) pretty quickly, instead favoring the “divide by 2 and drop fractions” rule, which is simpler in play.

Since a RAW grapple is -4 to DX, one can make a gentle equivalence that an 8 CP grapple is roughly equivalent to the grapple in the Basic Set – at least on a normal human (DX penalties are lower against much stronger creatures; 8 CP against a ST 20 guy is -2 to DX, -4 to ST, not -4 to both).

In any case the question of grapple quality in TG is pretty straightforward: did your CP total go up?
Grapple Quality in TG

In addition to the options that I’ll cover again for completeness, there’s the first, obvious option for improving the quality of the grapple . . . attack.
Attack Again: You can (and should!) make repeated attacks to increase your CP total against a foe. Eventually, you can achieve the equivalent of a Pin by stacking up so many penalties that your foe cannot roll dice if you’re strong and skilled enough (the book suggests a CP limit equal to Trained ST, so if you’re Trained ST 16, you can’t amass and retain more than 16 CP, which of course will bring a normal guy down to ST 2 DX 2, and he can only attempt a skill at all if he’s got it at DX+1 or greater. [+CP]
Attack to Regain CP: Because CP must be spent to cause injury in the basic rules (house rules do exist to eliminate this), it is often necessary (or at least desirable) to alternate between rolling for (say) Arm Lock damage or applying a blood choke and amassing more CP to retain a high level of restraint on your foe. I’ll admit this isn’t the most elegant mechanic, but it does produce mostly realistic effects, jives with my personal experience in grappling more or less, and makes the choice to cause permanent injury have some risk to it. [+CP]
So, here we go again, in a very brief TG-centric version:
  • Using Your Legs/Switch Arms for Legs: This one is also a fall-out of the CP mechanic. Adding limbs allows you do more and more CP, based on the combined Basic Lift of the body parts. [+CP]
  • Adding Hands: As above, attacking with more hands gives more CP, improving the grapple. Especially on the ground adding hands – or more likely, adding both your legs to your two-armed grapple, increases your ST by 1.5x. That’s the equivalent of just shy of +2 per die to your CP roll (which is actually about +60%).  [+CP]
  • Shift Grip: Moving to a different hit location is a gateway to other moves, and qualifies. [+CP][Follow-on]
  • Choke Hold: Again, the hold itself can be considered an improved grapple by virtue of the neck hit location and that the attack includes it. [+CP][Follow-on]
  • Arm Lock: This is very specifically an attack (as it is in RAW) that requires the limb to be locked to already be grappled. However, the Arm Lock attempt does additional CP as well (it’s an honest-to-goodness attack, with the special effect of locking the limb). Once locked, that limb can’t be used for anything other than attacking to Break Free. and immobilizing an limb is generally somewhere between “improved grapple” and “I Win,” but closer to improved grapple. [+CP][Follow-on]
  • Inflict Pain: Still there, and still nasty. Now referenced to CP spent, but locked limbs get double benefit, so a fairly low CP lock can cause really awful penalties – and those are whole body penalties, not limited to just the limbs being torqued. [-DX]
  • Takedown: Nope. Still not an improved grapple.
  • Shoving People Around: Not an improvement to the grapple, but may be an improvement in position for Step 3.
  • Sit on Him: Basically a Leg Grapple that takes advantage of the rules for weight advantage, which is really Step 3.
  • Choke or Strangle: Grappling specific hit locations and “paying” full penalties for them is now a thing. Still, the move itself is part of Step 4.
  • Neck Snap or Wrench Limb: Not an improved grapple.
  • Bear Hug: Still a victory move
Unique Options for Technical Grappling

Some of the usual options above still apply, some don’t, plus there’s the whole Control Point concept. But there are a couple of options for improved grapples that are unique to TG.

  • Grappling of  Stability Points: TG introduces the concept of stability, where if you amass enough CP against a limb, it no longer counts as providing full support, and CP spent on balance-upsetting moves have double effect. The practical upside of this is that if you grapple a leg of a standing man for (say) 6 CP, for -3 to ST and DX, he’s unstable. He might only be at -1 to ST and DX for the rest of his body (see Referred Control and Whole-Body Actions, pp. 5-6) but if you spend 4 CP to take him down, he’s at -8 in that Quick Contest rather than the (TG-usual) penalties to DX and ST imparted only by CP. [Follow-on]
  • Armed Grapple: The addition of leverage, especially with sticks and flexible weapons like garrotes, gives a per die bonus to CP. Grappling using a short stick can be very, very nasty, as not only does it multiply the CP imparted by an attack, but it greatly increases the maximum you can do. [+CP][Follow-on]
  • Attack Maneuvers and Options: You can apply more CP to a move, thus improving the initial grapple, by selecting options such as All-Out Attack (Strong) and Committed Attack (Strong). Not having a variable effect mechanism for grappling makes these attack variants pretty meaningless in the RAW. [+CP]
Improved Grapples in TG; Summarized

The short version is you increase the grapple quality by racking up more CP, causing pain, or grappling something like a limb that allows a cool follow-on move or a a magnified impact (such as stability-impairing grapple of a limb).
Parting Shot
Improving your grapples in the real world is based on posture, position, selective and cumulative advantage in restriction your foe’s limb use, and applying leverage and weight to deny movement.
Technical Grappling was designed to allow nuance in all of those, so there’s an explicit mechanic in the form of control points for improved grapple quality, and the usual implicit ones in things that enable a grapple to be more nasty. The bonuses to ST you get to resist your foe’s attempts to break free are replaced by penalties to his ST, which will remove fewer CP from his attacjs to break free, plus the DX penalties that make a successful Break Free attack less likely to begin with. Embrace the death spiral of grappling!
In the Basic Set, the implicit improvements are still present, and the explicit ones tend to be found in pretty substantial bonuses to ST for Contests.
In either case, it is possible to make a grapple “better” once one has occurred, as well as follow a strategy of a less-advantageous initial grapple leading into a more-advantageous one.
And all of that is without considering posture and position – which is coming next.

The quickie follow-on post to what happens when someone grabs you.

Active Defense

This one’s easy: they attack, and you defend. Just like any other move, you may make any legal active defense against a grapple. This includes a parry with a weapon (which will have the usual injurious effects), a block (if your foe is trying to enter close combat, you absolutely can stuff your shield in his face), or a dodge. Retreating is not precluded, though if the grapple winds up succeeding, you don’t get your step back; you’re held in the original position.

Breaking Free

If your defense fails, you’ve been grabbed and grappled. All is not lost – you can still try and get out.

Breaking Free in the Raw

With the Basic Set, once you’re grappled, you can try and Break Free (p. B371) by winning a Quick Contest of ST vs ST. If you have Wrestling or Sumo Wrestling at high enough to get a ST boost, you get it. If you have Power Grappling (Martial Arts, p. 51) you can roll ST-based skill (yow!). The grappler is at +5 in the Quick Contest if he’s using both hands.

Note that posture penalties are to skill, not ST, so being on the ground or whatnot doesn’t seem to have an impact.

This does mean that for two grapplers of equal skill and ST, the attacker is significantly advantaged: that +5 is, to paraphrase, a big freakin’ deal. I’m not sure if the bonus is mutual, such that if you grapple your foe back the bonuses equalize. I get the feeling that just means you two are locked together, each with a +5 against your foe’s ST to stay clinched.

Boot to the Face

Anther way to break free is to knock your foe out. If you can use a free limb (you can’t use grappled limbs) or your head, if you can render your foe unconscious, he’ll let go, effectively giving you a Flawless Victory in the contest to Break Free. Strong blows to the head might be a valid option here. 

This remains an option for TG as well.

I think if you stun your foe, he might let go of a grapple as well; I remember writing a rule or note on this one, somewhere. The pitfalls of writing 450 posts. Even Google fails me.

Technically Breaking Free

Using TG, escaping from a grapple means using a grappling skill to attack the grapple itself. You may use a grappled limb (with penalties) to attempt to break free. If you succeed, you roll with your effective Trained ST (reduced for your foe’s grapple) to remove CP directly from the foe’s grapple. If his CP total goes negative, you’re out.

Simple Example: I grab Peter by the torso with both hands, rolling 4 CP to do so; let’s say this makes him at -2 to DX and ST. He will attack me to break free. He’s strong and a good grappler, so normally he’ll roll 1d+2 CP on me, but the ST penalty drops his CP roll to 1d+1. So he rolls to attack at -2 for the DX penalty. I try and defend. If I fail, he rolls 1d+1, and if he rolls 4 or higher, he’s totally out. If he rolls 1-3, he’ll remove 2-4 CP from my grapple. If he removes 4 CP, I still have a 0 CP hold on him; it’s a grab, but he’s not impaired in any way. Let’s say he rolled a 2, removing 3 CP. The 1 CP I have left isn’t enough to penalize him in any way, but I could (notionally) spend it for something, like the Quick Contest on a Takedown (Force Posture Change).

Mostly, I want you to wriggle

Bad me, I completely forgot about a useful addition to Technical Grappling for the purpose of breaking free: The Escaping Parry.

It’s basically a grappling version of Aggressive Parry (Martial Arts, p. 65) where you fend off an attack and attempt to escape from an existing grapple at the same time.

It’s implied that you’re defending against a grappling attack, but it’s not stated, and I don’t think it’d break anything if you allowed it if you’re being grappled and pummeled at the same time.

You won’t remove many CP, but if you can absorb the penalties (or spend the 3 CP to buy it up to full Parry) there’s no reason not to use it on every grappling defense. It even says so in the book: Grapplers will often attempt every parry using this technique; they are taught that the entire point of defense is to create space – reducing your foe’s CP – for a counterattack.

Parting Shot

That’s really it on the defense at this point. You can either break the grapple or grapple back. In RAW, it’s going to be hard to do unless you’re much stronger than the other guy, and if you’re not out, you’re fully grappled. On or off.

With TG, tracking Control Points means you can struggle to increase or decrease control and restraint over your foe. You can have “partial credit” and wriggle free enough to reduce penalties, but not enough to be totally free.

It really depends how much detail you want to have.

Are there ways of having the variable effects provided by CP without actually tracking CP? It would be pretty easy to make it that way, but I’d rather you buy my book. Hey, every two copies means I get a mocha at Caribou! And we all know how important buying overpriced caffeine and chocolate is.

In the previous post, I proposed a high-level descriptive model for grappling. Like all models, it’s wrong, but hopefully useful ( “All models are wrong; some are useful.” G. E. P. Box).

The steps were basically

  1. Grab him
  2. Grab him better
  3. Achieve a dominant position
  4. Win

So, how does this work in GURPS? 

Grab the Guy

The first course of business is to put your meaty paws on your opponent. A lot of this discussion will focus (for the moment) on the attacker’s progression and oscillation through the stages, and short shrift will be given to the defender’s options. We’ll cover that later.

Raw Grappling: Grab him

The first thing you have to do when grappling in GURPS is grab the other guy. In the rules presented in the Basic Set, this is one-way street. That is, you grab your foe, and he suffers all the pain and restrictions of that grab, mostly. If he wants to grab you or do techniques on you, he must attack you back, at a penalty. 

Unless you do Hand Catch (Martial Arts, p. 84), most grapples, even those enabled by parries, are resolved by an attack on the attacker’s turn. Hand Catch allows an attack roll right after you parry, and your foe does not get a defense against it! It’s a cinematic technique, though, as listed, so there you go.

To grapple, you make an attack roll using DX or your best grappling skill (Judo, Sumo Wrestling, Wrestling, or with a weapon at -2 to skill). Your foe may use any legal defense, including block, parry, or dodge (with or without a weapon). If they retreat and still fail their defenses, I believe they do not actually get to take that step back (either that, or you can move your guy to follow, but I think the “he doesn’t get to step back” is the RAW answer).

Once you succeed in an attack roll, and your foe fails his defense, he’s “Grappled.” He’s at -4 to DX, and can’t move unless you’re strong enough to simply treat the foe as encumbrance.

The default grapple is two-handed, but you can grapple with one hand. Or using your legs at a penalty. The default grapple also targets the torso, but you can (and indeed, to get some of the nifty techniques properly set up, you must) grapple other body parts.

In any case, the way it works (again, high level) is that the DX of the impacted, grappled body parts goes down. When looking at breaking free, your effective ST is modified by how many hands you’re using, and other things.  But even a very low ST creature that grapples a very high ST creature hits him with that DX penalty unless he breaks free. This is resolved as one of my least-favorite things: a Quick Contest of ST.

Ultimately, though, the answer is that to get a grip using the RAW, make an attack roll. If you succeed (with success also implying your foe fails his defnese roll), he suffers a DX penalty.

Instant Awesome
Some advanced techniques such as Choke Hold are also attacks, and are a bit of a two-fer. If you succeed in your attack roll, you’ve not only grappled him about the neck in a way that inflicts the grappling penalty (“you apply the hold, which counts as a grapple”), you can then proceed to choke the crap out of the guy on your next turn.

Likewise, Arm and Wrist Locks allow rolling directly against the technique in question in order to capture the arm and lock it up immediately following a parry. Given that Arm Lock can be improved as an Average technique for up to +4 or +6 with a GM nod to Technique Mastery, this is one of the reasons that Arm Lock can be so terrifying. A decent combatant can trade that technique bonus on top of a good Judo or Wrestling skill to make that initial attack roll to lock the arm a very, very high percentage technique, as they can pile on a lot of deceptive attack to facilitate a failed defense roll.

It’s hard to say whether this represents a really, really good “Grab him” stage, or if it is best characterized as “you just did Step 1 and 2, or even 1, 2, and 3, in one fell swoop” type thing. Either way, you’re getting a lot done in one roll here.

Technical Grappling: Grab him

Really, this part isn’t that much different. You make the same attack rolls and your foe has the same defensive options. If you succeed, though, you have an effect roll, measured in Control Points. This is based on the ST of the limb or limbs used.

This roll is based on your ST, and if you use one hand, you will roughly do half the CP. You can get a poor or a good grip on any given attack depending on how well you roll. A critical hit can drastically increase your CP total if you get one of the “max damage” or “2x damage” results.

The effects of a successful grapple are a bit different as well, but not hugely so. The Control Points impact both the ST and DX of the targeted locations. The DX-penalty equivalent of a grapple that’s -4 to DX is 8 CP against a normal strength foe of ST 10 and DX 10. This will also inflict -4 to ST. In fact, the ST loss is always -1 per 2 CP applied.

Since CP use the thrust column of the damage table, you need to be “Trained” ST 23 to do this 8 CP grapple on an average roll, and Trained ST 17 or higher to do it at all (one time in six) without taking attack options such as All-Out (Strong). That’s pretty strong, which means more typically you’re going to be looking at CP rolls in the 3-5 range, or only -2 to DX and -2 to ST for a ST 10, DX 10 foe (the higher the opponent’s ST, the more CP it takes to inflict a DX penalty).

Even a very low CP grapple is still a grapple, though, and allows follow-on attacks or even skipping to Step 3 to try positional and postural improvements if you get lucky and get a high CP roll.

Technical Grappling: Grabbing Parry

Silly me, I forgot one. While the RAW allow you to proceed right to grapples such as Arm Locks after any successful Judo Parry, TG insists that you first grapple the limb. This can (and often will be) done with a Grabbing Parry, a modification of Hand Catch. Make your parry accepting the penalties for hit location and the parry itself, and if successful, you score CP based on a weak grapple. You’re not going to render someone helpless with this on the grab, but it does allow the kind of Parry-Arm Lock-Win awesomeness that is more or less the default with RAW.

Parting Shot

This is truly resolution at the cost of complexity. It scales a bit more naturally, but the fact that it does involve an effect roll and different effect levels depending on what limbs your using, how many, and how much training you have means there’s more work. Much of this is during character generation or on the character sheet (or can be put there). But not all, and that won’t work for everyone.

Ultimately, though, without the cinematic switch doubling CP turned on for TG (which will bring the initial grapple more in line with the RAW in terms of debilitation of the foe), the Rules-as-Written provide for a binary grappled/not-grappled switch. If the -4 to DX isn’t enough to get the job done (and against high-power characters like Dungeon Fantasy archetypes, or even worse, Monster Hunters, it won’t be) then this initial grab is likely only good enough to provide a gateway drug to Actions After a Grapple.

With Technical Grappling, you can eventually rack up (by the baseline rules) as many CP as you have Trained ST, which for a ST 13 warrior with Wrestling at DX+4 will be 16. This is enough to slap another ST 13 warrior with -5 to DX at 13 CP (if you don’t round numbers), or (by “normal rounding conventinos) -1 t DX for every 3 CP. If you do like +Peter V. Dell’Orto wisely suggests, ST 10-ST14 is -1 per 2 CP. What does all that mean? At maximum unarmed CP, you can rack up -8 to DX against a weaker foe, or -5 to DX against someone your size. You will also, regardless of the ST of the foe, impart -8 to his ST, which is -4 to thrust damage and -8 to swing. The thrust damage means his attacks to grapple back are weaker as well.

Grappling matches can be turned into protracted struggles to achieve a dominant position, likely resulting from someone making a mistake (rolling a crit) or you just getting lucky a few times if the foes are evenly matched. 

In terms of which is “better,” that obviously depends on what your goals are. The TG method allows a big, strong monster (or character) to automatically impart a higher ST/DX penalty on a grappled foe, and provides the right level of instant asymmetry one would expect from this matchup. It also means strong guys can mostly ignore weaker grapples, since they can defensively attack back to break the grapple and their worst CP roll will overcome their foe’s best.

Tracking CP by hit location is less trouble than it sounds by reading it, and Peter and I have worked out a great method to make it even easier that we hope to have see print one day.

For Rules-as-Written, the lack of nuance is a feature.  You attack, you grapple, you impart the same -4 to DX for everyone. Boom. Done. If this bothers you, you may be a good candidate for either TG in its entirety, or perhaps taking a look at Fixed Effects from Pyramid #3/61, Coming to Grips with Realism, on p. 32. 

Over on the SJG Forums, a thread emerged that has started to wind down with an interesting question. GURPS (and other systems) author Bill Stoddard asked a basic question. Acknowledging that his real-world experience with grappling was basically zero, and his familiarity with the goals and methods and lingo was limited enough that, well, let’s use his own words:

My immediate sense of bafflement comes from having read the Basic Set rules for grappling two or three times, and not being able to say, “Okay, I see why you do this, and then you have this option and this option.” I don’t have a Gestalt for what’s going on that would match my Gestalt for striking blows.

I’m interested in the actuality of grappling primarily as an aid to understanding the game mechanics

OK. So with that in mind, what is grappling? That should lead to a productive discussion of game mechanics allowing for an entire range of complexity in both mechanics and effects.

Where I would like to start is “what is the tactical logic of grappling combat?”—that is, what are the objectives and what are the means by which it’s attained? [ . . . ] I think I need to have a focus on the very basic issues before delving into the technicalities.

A fine place to start.

Restrain yourself. Actually, no. Restrain someone else

OK, at the broadest sense, grappling and wrestling are about restraint. You are attempting, in a grappling-based fight, to restrict your opponents 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 have blood flow to his brain (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.

Take the oft-mentioned example of an “arm lock.” Now, there are a zillion types, but most of them pit either major body parts or muscle groups of the controlling grappler against a foe who is really out of position to fight back.

The classic grounded arm bar position, for example, puts both arms, legs, and the core of the controlling grappler all against his foe’s arm and elbow. The “victim” cannot usually bring any of his major muscle groups to bear; his arm is hyperextended and unable to apply leverage. His motions are restricted by the attacker’s legs.

A more weapon-oriented example would be that of defense by grappling the arm of someone trying to stab you with a knife. Immobilizing the arm with the knife in it – or even better taking that weapon away – would seem an obvious goal. As such, you want to put as much restriction on that movement as possible, while denying your foe opportunity to regain control of his weapon and the initiative with which to attack you again. Which is why idealized knife defense ends up in positions like the aikido image to the right.

This is why – to segue into game mechanics for a moment – I chose to apply not just penalties to DX (as with RAW) but to ST as well.

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!

But tell me: who’s winning or advantaged in the picture to the right?

They’re both going for chokes and restraint applied through the cloth of their uniform jackets on the neck.

They both have restricted the motion of their opponents. The standing one by using his weight and standing position to keep the other in place. The person on his back . . . may not be that disadvantaged. In fact, he may well be winning, as he may have both sides of the collar, and is restricting his foe’s ability to escape with both legs (the technical term is “he has the standing foe in his guard.”

So again . . . what is grappling?

Grappling is basically a process. And in broad strokes, I look at it like this (and as a by-the-way, I’d love to hear other ways of explaining this process from other grapplers and teachers). Note that I wrote about the basics of grappling as discussed in GURPS Technical Grappling from a game-mechanics point of view a while ago. There’s a whole section on this blog devoted to grappling combat (though I haven’t updated it in a while. Bad Doug!)

First: grab the guy. Or vice versa.

It might be obvious, but it’s worth repeating – grappling involves some level of sustained contact. It can be quite brief, such as this example with Rickson Gracie and Ed Norton from Incredible Hulk.

But the first thing you need to do is get a hold of your opponent – and that can include his grabbing you. Many self-defense moves are initiated by using your foe’s grip as the starting point.

Second: Get a better grip

While some grapples might start out awesome, many more start from so-so to pretty good but then have to be developed. This can be fast or slow, grounded or standing up.

But basically, at this part of grappling, you are working your foe to try and have him offer you the opportunity to improve your position more and more. Where you stop “improving” and move on to something else depends on what your goal is. If you’re trying to do something like not get killed then your goal might simply be to get your foe into a good enough grip that you can throw him down and then run away. If your goal is to win a sporting contest according to a specified set of rules (say, College Wrestling or Submission Fighting or Sumo Wrestling) then you’re probably trying to get him into a position where you can apply one of the allowed “fighting-winning” techniques.
If you are engaging in a lethal fight to the death against an armored opponent, your goal might be to get him off his feet onto his back or face so that you can apply a finishing move through a gap in the armor.

But that brings us to the third phase.

Third: Get the right position

Some contests, such as collegiate wrestling, can be won simply (not easily!) by developing your grip to the point that your foe is more or less immobile, but only if he’s in the right position. This “pin” pr “fall” is accomplished by one fighter holding both of his foe’s shoulders or shoulder blades to the mat for one or two seconds (two in high school, one in college).

So . . . if you start standing, you’re going to have to get your foe down on the ground, flip him on to his back, and get his shoulders on the ground.

If you’re in a lethal fight, or a self-defense situation, your goal might be to get on top of, or behind, your opponent so that you can prevent him from attacking you, perhaps while attacking him back (or to simply escape).

Still – you’re looking for an advantaged position, where you are grappling things you care about, in a way where your foe’s options are limited to those you chose for him.

Sometimes, you may need to bear your foe to the ground to do this. Sweeps, takedowns, throws – these can be the beginning or (in, say, sport Judo or Sumo) the end.

Fourth: win

After you get a grip on the guy, after you improve that grip to the point where you’ve got sufficient control over your foe, after you wrestle or throw or trip or roll or shuffle yourself into a superior position, then you need to end the fight.

This again depends on the goals.

  • Win a bunch of “points.” This might be through many position changes to demonstrate superior skill. Common in junior sports grappling or some types of wrestling. Get enough points, you win.
  • Get a fight-ending position. The pin or fall discussed earlier. These positions may or not be practical – in college wrestling, being face-down is not a losing position (though you may be getting your face ground into the mat in unpleasant ways), but being on your back is.
  • Change your foe’s position suddenly. Judo throws and Sumo matches end this way.
  • Inflict pain. Submission wrestling and many contests of machismo or dominance end when you bend the person into a pretzel and he says “Ow! You win!” Choke holds, arm bars, shoulder and knee bars and locks, finger locks, pressure points. They’re all good.
  • Render him unconscious. Some versions of submissions can be by restricting blood flow to the brain. If you black out (this can happen in only a few seconds with the right technique), you’re done.
  • Injure him. Most moves that will submit can also be used to cause permanent injury. You can also, if fighting for life rather than grappling for fun, engage in a bit of judicious beating the bejeeezus out of your foe. The classic “ground and pound” from MMA, where you leverage a position on top of your foe to repeatedly beat him in the face is an example here.
  • Kill him. Choke him until brain death. Break his neck. Strike until he dies, with or without a weapon.
These goals can change as the fight changes, of course.

Parting Shot

The basic moves here, get a grip, make it better, achieve a sufficiently dominant position, end the fight, are reasonably descriptive and yet overly simplistic. Rarely will a grappling contest go quite like that. A super-skilled combatant – a real life or cinematic Jason Bourne or Natasha Romanov – may well do multiple steps at once. The initial grab is powerful enough that it doesn’t need to be developed. The “achieve superior position” and “incapacitate your foe” moves might be all in one.
On the other side of the spectrum, the initial grab can be broken, so that you have to start over again. You can grab your foe, start to improve it, but make a mistake and find yourself on the receiving end of having a grapple or position change put on you.
Most often, the combatants are both striving for a good grapple and position, and both are succeeding and failing at different things at the same time. One grappler is going for a choke hold, while at the same time trying to fend off his foe’s attempts to put him in a wrist lock or achieve a takedown. Or both grapplers are standing, pushing and pulling in a mutual grip to find a moment of weakness or imbalance to exploit.
But for a basics – to answer the original question of a heuristic that allows one to consider a branching if-then-else (or more likely, a CASE statement for grappling!) decision tree of what to do, the presented version is probably a good start:
  1. Grab him
  2. Grab him better
  3. Achieve a dominant position
  4. End the fight

In Pyramid #3/61: The Way of the Warrior, we see a very, very focused set of articles: six articles plus +Steven Marsh‘s intro and Random Thought Table, contributed by five authors . . . and the lead article was co-authored!

That being said, this one was interesting. “How about a theme issue,” said Steven. BAM! And stuff rolled in. Lots and lots of it. The fact that we have two Martial Arts Designer’s Notes articles in here – long ones – only highlights the fun that is the other six.

This is the second issue I’ve done an article-by-article review on, and yes, that might have something to do with my having two pieces in it. Still, it’s very good, and very on-topic for me. So, here we go.

You can find my commentary on the first articles, More Power to Dungeon Warriors, Takedown Sequences, The Devil’s Fist, and Fusion Styles of Ytarria in previous posts.

Coming to Grips with Realism ( +Douglas Cole )
This article contains the Designer’s Notes for the relatively new release GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling. I will likely cover this briefly; reviewing my own Designer’s Notes for my own book is a bit too recursive for my tastes.
This is a relatively long article at over 5,200 words, and opens with a long quote from TV Tropes, expounding on why grappling is so very different than regular combat. 
Hogwash, in short.
Mission Statement

In this chapter – and yes, this article is long enough to effectively have chapters, or at least major subsections denoted by using the GURPS Style Guide’s B-HEAD – I laid out the mission for TG, and where I was allowed or encouraged to wander, and where I chose to avoid.
The new stuff is pretty straight-forward: Control Points and optional bits on stability and weight-based penalties. The expansions and clarifications flow from those concepts pretty directly. Lots and lots on weapons, important stuff on posture and position, and the very important concept of Trained ST. Plus a bunch more on how to use all your limbs to grapple. 
Technical Alternatives

The article presents two ways to ease yourself into TG without some of the perhaps-fiddly mechanics. Though Control Points and their effects aren’t that much different than damage and the lingering impact of getting nailed with a sword, some mighn’t want to bother, and a rule for penalties imparted by a grapple that work for ST 8 and higher is presented.
Of course, the reader is left to work out that penalties are zero for ST 7 and lower, which is an oops here. The simplest thing in that case is use Control Points. But for ST 8 and larger, you can use variable penalties for grappling instead of the flat -4 to DX.
The other alternate rule, which did receive playtesting for a while, so it should work well, is to disallow the spending of CP to affect the outcome of Contests. That’s a big part of the TG rules changes, but it can successfully be done away with with a few other tweaks.

There are effectively five different cut bits of different quality and importance. The first was a drive-by at using the Trained ST progression with other skills, including Melee skills (I covered this in more detail in Trained ST and Striking on Sept 10, 2013). Most of the cuts are inconsequential, which is, of course, why they were cut.
Critical Hits and Misses

This one was fun to get printed, and provides far more detailed critical hit and miss tables, based on the Unarmed Combat criticals, for use with TG. Lots and lots of the critical hit entries just multiply your CP by up to a factor of four, while the miss entries are more interesting and varied.
Final Submission

A quick summary of take-aways from the playtest, including the surprisingly awesome results possible with cinematic action using the new Control Point rules.
Parting Shot

As I said, this one was quick. The Designer’s Notes were extant for a long time prior to publication of both the manuscript and the two rounds of errata, but that didn’t change much in them. Overall, between the DN, the new Takedown Sequences article, and the content on the Grappling Mat, I think TG is getting good support, at least from me.

A new revised version of Technical Grappling is now live.

If you’ve already got a copy, you’re going to want to download it again. The alterations are significant and beneficial. If you don’t have a copy, you need run right over and get one.

Thanks again to Steve Jackson Games and +Steven Marsh for allowing this sort of thing to happen. I love the fact that they take good advantage of the digital medium.

What’s goin’ on?

Two things happened here. One was a really productive discussion initiated by Ryan W that turned up what wound up being a clear Murphy. As I noted to Gef, these sorts of fixes aren’t discussed and iterated (and there’s always iteration) on the public forum – but they do happen, and the first set of related changes have to do with that.

The second thing that happened was that I hit the right combination of search terms that gave me raw bite force instead of what mostly I’d found before, which is bite pressure. A billion psi in a tiny mouth can still be pried apart with your little finger, while a relatively low pressure but a huge area imparts enough force to fully immobilize – so that wasn’t terribly game-useful. The new data (it was always there, I just rolled better on my Research/TL8 skill this time) led to a useful calculation that, yes, the force applied by a mouth tracked well with 8xBL, and for humans, that meant ST 7-9 for an average bite. Well hey, Control Points (usually based on thr) for a ST 8 are the same as thr-1 for ST 10 . . . and doesn’t that sound familiar (see p. B271). Given that new information, I felt it was only proper to make a comprehensive change, which renders a lot of my commentary here moot.

Here’s a list of what’s different, why, and the new text (most of the time).

pp. 5-6 Referred Control and Whole-Body Actions

The entire section got replaced and clarified to address the issue above. Referred control is now the same formula – a simpler formula – regardless of number of locations grappled. The ‘grapples can reinforce each other’ rule is still there, but only strong grapples qualify. If a location is grappled weakly enough such that the referred control from other sources is larger than a local specific penalty, you use the larger one. Whole-body penalties are slightly and usefully revised given that the neck was rolled into the head where it belongs, giving truth to “control the hips, control the head, control the person.” Also, it so happens that if you’re grappling neither the torso or head, but lots of other places, the Whole-Body penalty is based on simply the sum of all Active CP. So you don’t need to do complicated math – just take all CP, divide by two, and that’s your ST penalty. If you are grappling the torso or head in addition to other places, you take the active CP on the torso/head and still add total active CP/2. If you’ve got both, likely the reinforcement rules come into play, and thus it’s actually better to achieve a one-handed grapple on each of head/neck and torso than it is to do a two-handed on only one location. This pleased me as well.

If you hate the reinforcement rule (something I’ve not heard), or find it bogs down play, ignore it. No one will care.

p. 6: Mouths

Here’e the moment you’ve been waiting for, with the replacement of CP based on ST/2 revised upward to thr-1 based on the user’s full ST. This means that you’re going to need industrial equipment to pry open a croc’s jaws, while the ST/2 rule meant that if you take a fairly large critter, say a ST 18 big-ass bear, he’s going to be capable of being resisted by an attack to break free by a ST 10 man pretty easily. That didn’t work well, even if it was correct that it’s very hard to do funky grappling moves with that grip. I fixed that in a different way, on p. 29, in the Teeth section.

p. 13: Drop that Weapon

A quick change to comply with the fact that penalties to skill are now the worst of a grappled limb required to use the skill and the whole-body penalty. This makes it a heck of a lot harder to swing a sword when someone grabs your wrist. Again, sensible, and the direct clarification on pp. 5-6 of what penalties are used for skill use came in handy here.

p. 22: Dodge

This was altered to conform with the head/neck + torso change, and clarify that the Dodge penalty is 1/4 of the DX penalty, like just about all other cases in GURPS.

p. 27: Extra

This section referenced Bite ST, so got a tweak.

p. 29: Teeth

Here’s the other half of the biting rules change that makes a difference. When spending CP in Quick Contests, you need to spend 2 CP to get 1 point worth of effect on the roll. This has the effect of making biting half as effective as more-dexterous manipulators for doing techniques, but still quite powerful. Very strong biters won’t need the help anyway.

p. 36: Choke Hold

A wording tweak emphasizing the term of art “active CP” instead of the less-specific “scored.”

p. 44: Bears

Given the new Bite ST data, comparisons were made based on the 8xBL figure and black bears got a Bite ST boost, while brown and polar bears got an even bigger one.

p. 44: Canines

Same deal. Dogs bite quite hard for their body weight – much harder than humans. So they too got the boost.

p. 45: Felines

Housecats actually bite about proportionally to what humans seem to, but big cats get about half the boost of dogs.

Parting Shot

I hope these are the last fixes that need to be made that are closer to “Murphy” than “style.” In fact, I hope they’re the last fixes ever. The new information I got on bites actually allowed a great simplification on the whole Grip ST for bites issues: it’s the same as damage for strikes, and yeah, use the same roll. If you want to make two rolls (so you can have a very damaging bite that is a weak one, or vice versa), more power to you . . . but the capability for simplification is there. Also, now the Bite ST version of Lifting ST adds 1:1 to regular ST for bites, which will make those unhappy about needing 2 pts of Bite ST for an equivalent +1 to the Grip ST of the bite instead of 1 point less unhappy. So now, yeah, Bite ST = ST + levels of Lifting ST (Bites), and you do thr-1 for chomps and grips. Easy peasy.

The referred control fix is fun because it too makes things simpler, while fixing a real Murphy. I like it better, it scales better, and makes a lot more calculation possible using just “what’s my total CP I’ve got on the guy.”

Overall, good changes. Thanks to all for the feedback. Technical Grappling just got better.

I note today that Technical Grappling has now sold 300 copies since it went live on Sept 5 or thereabouts. 

Thanks to all who have purchased it, and I hope you are getting good use out of the book!

I won’t lie and say I’m done with it, though. 

Mwa ha ha.

If you haven’t bought a copy yet, I’d surely appreciate it if you would. If you’ve read it and have comments, especially concerning how it works – or could work better – in play, I’d love to hear them!

But mostly, I wanted to say thank you. 

Thursday is GURPS-Day, and thanks to the digital format of e23 releases, there have been some fixes and tweaks to Technical Grappling.

There were three that made it in:
1. (p. 7) The neck hit location has been formally made part of the head region, rather than belonging to both head and torso. The inclusion in both regions complicated referred control to the point that even I, as the author, didn’t know what to make of it. With this much-needed tweak, this becomes much simpler and more intuitive. Less recursive calculation.

New text: Grappling the Neck: The neck is considered part of the head, allowing CP to be spent from both the head and torso. It may only be attacked directly if purposefully grappled.

2. (p. 10) This one made it through playtest, but in retrospect shouldn’t have. Limbs lost their ability to provide stability if they were grappled for 1 CP or more. T-Rex grabbed by a hobbit? Unstable. That just didn’t work. The simple fix was to base being unstable on the DX penalty inflicted to that limb, and that’s the fix that was made.

New Text: A limb may not provide stability if it is maintaining active control or being actively grappled for more than -1 to DX.

3. (p. 27) This is a fine point, but the word “Fine” was dropped from the original text with this erratum, such that if you have no grasping hand but enough of a grip to grab stuff, you basically have No Fine Manipulators-level limitations, and suffer the appropriate penalties. The only thing this really says is that if you have a weak grip but can still write with a pencil or something, just use NFM. It’s a bit of a hair-split, but the difference between No Manipulators, No Arms, and No Fine Manipulators is called out in the rules, but for creatures that don’t really have a hand but can manipulate tools at full DX but less ST was not clear. This change more or less attempts to clarify that.

No Grasping Hand: Extra Arms only. Arms that do not have a hand, suction cups, gecko-hairs, or  hooking claws – but enough of a grip to not qualify for No Manipulators – have only 0.3¥ST per arm instead of 0.5¥ST.

Parting Shot
The first two tweaks, in my mind, really help the rules in play. The third is a semantic point brought about by a bit of phrasing.

But aren’t the Bite rules broken?

No. The difference between “bite to strike for damage” and “bite to grapple and control” are enough to merit the distinction. We decided in playtest that using the full ST of a bite just wasn’t right given the magnitudes of forces involves, plus the need to be able to react to your foe to be able to actually control them. While bite force enters into it, what you can do with that force is much less.

Fine distinctions can be made for those who want them. I could (and may still) write an expanded treatment of bites for Pyramid (the title of said future article is right there waiting to be used, an obvious play on words), but as, is things are more or less fine.

Injury vs CP

Injury and CP are supposed to be synonymous, though. So do you roll more than once to hit on a bite to grapple? Roll for injury and CP separately?

The (lack of) discussion doesn’t really help, but would lean towards rolling thr-1 for the initial bite, and Bite ST (basically thrust based on ST/2) for how much control is applied. For human-scale ST, these two values are usually either equal or about a point apart, so there’s really no harm there in just picking one and rolling it.

If you wanted to pick only one:

Use thr-1: If you do this, just say that while yes, you do potentially a large amount of CP, you spend them in the same way you can spend weapon-based CP: only on things that have a default to flat ST, such as takedowns, Wrench (Limb), etc. So yeah, you chomp down hard, but are limited in what you can do with it.

Use CP: The lower control points for higher Bite ST creatures suggests that once earned, you can spend them however you like. Joint Lock applied to a bitten wrist? Go for it. Furthermore, the ability to bite and worry for additional injury takes some of the sting out of the potential loss of initial damage on the bite. An alligator or crocodile probably doesn’t bite “just a little bit” so that they can hang on better, though, so I can see where this might not be preferable.