Further Updated oWoD Grappling Rules


I’ve adjusted the usual rules for grappling in my oWoD games, since, as you know, the oWoD grappling rules leave a little something to be desired.

I first posted these house rules here: oWoD Grappling Rules! iä! iä! To do this, I made an exhaustive review of the grappling rules for WtA, VtM, MtA and the nWoD (which has a better system for grappling than oWoD does though it’s still hardly perfect) in order to construct this, and I like to think that the results will be a touch more useful and cover a few more of the possibilities. These rules are not presently set in stone, and are open to discussion and adjustment. However, at the time of that posting I had overlooked a couple of things somehow, and have attempted to address this here (for example, last time I screwed up the rules for reverses – also, I simplified things a bit by folding rend, slam and bite over into being permutations of the clinch maneuver rather than being separate maneuvers with separate rules).

Grappling is the act of seizing and holding an opponent with the intent to immobilize or harm him. The attack begins with the attacker taking in a Strength + Brawl roll. Success indicates that the attacker has grappled his opponent. The target is held until his next action. In each subsequent turn, combatants act on their orders in the initiative. Once a grapple has been initiated, only actions related to the grapple are allowed until one combatant breaks free. Characters in Hispo or Lupus form cannot initiate grapples; they must perform Jaw Lock maneuvers instead (they are free to attempt to escape grapples, however, or to bite an opponent that has given them the opportunity – see below). A character that has grappled another (IE the aggressor) can perform one of the following maneuvers on their next action:

  • Hold: This attack inflicts no damage, as the intent is to immobilize rather than injure the subject. The attacker holds the target until the subject’s next action. At that time, both combatants roll resisted Strength + Brawl actions; the subject remains immobilized (able to take no other action) until she rolls more successes than the attacker does. Traits: Strength + Brawl, Difficulty: 6 Actions: 1
  • Clinch/Slam/Bite/Rend: A combatant can injure a victim by squeezing on pressure points, bashing their head against a table and so on. Roll to maintain control as you would for a Hold maneuver, treating the opposed roll as an attack roll so additional damage dice on this attack (IE if the grappling character scored three successes to grapple, then two additional damage dice are rolled for the clinch). Characters possessed of talons or fangs can employ them during a clinch, using the damage traits of these natural weapons instead of the standard Strength (bashing). Note: humans and Garou in either homid or glabro form can bite for Strength -1 (lethal) damage if they prefer. Traits: Strength + Brawl. Damage: Strength (Bashing) Actions: 1
  • Release: The attacker can always let their victim go, of course.
  • Render Opponent Prone: On a successful roll, Both combatants fall to the ground. Either party must break the hold in order to stand again in a subsequent turn. Rising is considered an action in a turn. A prone character that has not had the opportunity to rise is treated as partially immobilized. Traits: Strength + Brawl, Difficulty: 6, Actions: 1
  • Throw: The character simultaneously releases his opponent from the grapple and propels him against the largest available blunt object: the planet itself (failing that, a wall, floor or handy table will suffice). The target must roll Dexterity + Athletics (difficulty 8) or suffer a knockdown (see “Maneuver Complications,” p. 213/p. 188). Traits: Strength + Brawl, Difficulty: 7, Damage: Strength (Bashing), Actions: 1
  • Draw Weapon: With one or more successes, your character reaches a weapon on his person, on his opponent or nearby. The weapon has to be small, such as a knife or small gun (a pistol), in order to be brought to bear in grappling combat. Traits: Dexterity + Brawl, Difficulty: 6, Actions: 1
  • Attack with Drawn Weapon: An attack is made with a drawn weapon. The kind of damage is appropriate to the weapon used – bashing for brass knuckles or lethal for a knife or pistol. A Melee or Firearms roll is not made under these circumstances, because it’s your character’s ability to overpower his opponent in grappling combat that dictates how well the weapon is used.  Traits: Strength + Brawl, Difficulty: 6. Damage: As weapon (+2 dice for pistols, or rubber bullets inflict lethal rather than bashing damage), Actions: 1
  • Disarm: If you get one or more successes on this action, your character manages to pry an object from his opponent’s hand. Taking possession of the item thereafter (in another turn) is the equivalent of drawing a weapon (see above). No damage is inflicted. Traits: Strength + Brawl (opposed), Difficulty: 6, Actions: 1
  • Turn Drawn Weapon: If your character’s opponent has a weapon drawn in a grapple, your character may seek to turn the weapon on her enemy. Her action is dedicated to gaining control of the weapon and turning it, even while it’s still in her opponent’s hand. If your character gains at least two more successes than their opponent, he gains control of the weapon. Actually attacking with the weapon requires a separate action. Thus, control of a weapon can be wrestled over from turn to turn in a grapple, with each combatant seeking to gain control and then make an attack. Traits: Strength + Brawl (opposed), Difficulty: 6, Actions: 1
  • Human Shield: On a successful roll, the character uses his victim as improvised cover against incoming attacks. Each success increases the difficulty of attacks against the character by one (maximum 2). Attacks that miss due to this increased difficulty may be considered to have hit the held character instead. If the incoming shots are coming in via  automatic fire, there is no difficulty modifier, but any successes on the shot are divided evenly between the held character and the holder as is normal for automatic fire, and the held character will receive the extra success in the case of an odd number. Traits: Strength + Brawl, Difficulty: 6 (perhaps we should just treat this as Immobilize because shooting into a grapple is already at a +2 difficulty by default)

A character that has been grappled (the defender) can also only take certain actions, as detailed below:

  • Escape or Reverse: The defender can try to break free. Both combatants roll resisted Strength + Brawl actions. If the defender wins, then they have escaped the hold. At the Storyteller’s discretion, a defender may try to escape with Dexterity + Brawl instead. If the attacker wins, then they have managed to keep the character immobilized for the course of this action. A character that has been grappled by multiple opponents rolls to escape the opponent with the highest Strength + Brawl pool, with a penalty of one die per additional opponent that has grappled him, and a success will free him of all adversaries. The defender can also try to not only break free, but to turn things around and take over as the attacker, which requires beating the attacker’s roll by two or more successes – attempts to reverse must be declared before the dice are rolled (the character may not change their mind and just escape if he fails to beat his attacker’s successes by two dice). Traits: Strength + Brawl, Difficulty: 6
  • Clinch: If the attacker’s last action was a clinch, then the defender can return the favor, detailed as above, because the attacker is focusing more on hurting the character than just hanging on and keeping the defender pinned. Otherwise, they may only attempt to escape or reverse the hold. Damage: Strength (Bashing)

Complications: Characters not involved in the grapple may initiate Melee or Brawl attacks against either party. Ranged attacks suffer a +2 difficulty for each character involved in the grapple that the shooter does not want to hit. Burst fire from automatic weaponry is instead treated as having targeted all grappling combatants; a standard attack roll is made against each. Characters engaged in grappling may not dodge.


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