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A disclaimer: I am a backer of this successful kickstarter project. I received a preview copy to review -- nothing free since I'm already a backer.

Dungeon Grappling is a 2017 release coming from Gaming Ballistic LLC. It is designed by Douglas H. Cole and has a variety of artists. The book is intended to work with nearly any d20 system from Basic to 5E and including the various OSRIC systems.

The copy I received is s pre-production version. The layout is mostly complete but Doug did include some notes on things he still plans to change in the layout. The layout is clean and it looks like the 49 page supplement will have quite a bit of artwork. I received a pdf, but there are plans to release e-book and softcover versions as well.

The intention of the book is to provide a better and more realistic set of rules for grappling for nearly every d20 system out there. It does this by providing multiple systems in some places, but the core mechanics remain as similar to the original system as possible and incorporate elements of the d20 version being modeled.

The introduction starts with some examples of grappling in fiction and legend and then explains what the author feels is missing in RPGs and how to bring those elements into play.

The first chapter, Core Concepts, discusses How to Grapple. This part talks about the three key elements of Dungeon Grappling: the attack roll, the defensive target number, and the effect roll. Specific rules are provided for calculating these values in different systems all based on D20. There's also a discussion of the impacts of feats from more recent systems and some new feats offered for 5E. There are also rules for the impacts of specific classes on grappling techniques and targets.

This chapter ends with a discussion of the Effect Roll which is in many ways the core rule of the supplement. When characters are grappling, successful actions generate an effect roll. As a character accumulates effect points, his impact on his opponent is greater as are the negative consequences he can inflict on that person.

Grappling Effects are discussed in the second chapter. These are basically the consequences imposed by an increasing number of control points. Every character and creature has a control maximum based on Strength, Dexterity, and skill. The exact formula is given for several different systems and is not necessarily the same. As a creature gains control points, they are compared to this control maximum. Once a creature's control maximum is exceeded, that creature is effectively helpless. Along the way, the creature will be grabbed, grappled, and restrained. Each of these conditions has an effect on combat and actions available.

At the same time, the amount of control being exerted against his foes will apply a condition (though a lesser one) against the grappler. So if a character has an opponent grappled, that opponent imposes the grabbed condition on the original character.

This chapter also provides for the idea of "instant conditions" which more closely resembles some of the older systems. In this one, rather than imply points, characters impose conditions along a track. A character is first clinched, then hindered, then pinned, and finally helpless. As a fight starts, the only possible condition to apply is hindered. Once someone is hindered, the next round will either find them free or clinched. This system reduces some of the bookkeeping involved.

The chapter ends with some reference tables on the conditions mentioned in different systems describing what grabbed means in PFRPG vs Fifth edition.

Chapter Three talks about Grappling Techniques. This takes a couple of different forms. In the standard system it talks about the things you can do to a character once you have them grappled. It talks about some real-world objectives like those of various sporting combat forms like pinning in wrestling or earning points in some martial arts styles and then some examples from gaming like killing or incapacitating your opponent. This leads to grappling techniques -- an assortment of special attacks and actions you can take against a character once you have him grappled. This starts with the simplest, attacking to gain more control and moves through others like inflicting injury, strangling, or doing additional damage with a weapon. There are also some defensive techniques like throwing your opponent or getting him into a takedown. You can also attempt to move your opponent as long as you yourself can move and there are a trio of techniques for that.

The chapter ends with a discussion of grappling using weapons and using magic items and spells breaking down the effects of those items to use the rules created by this supplement.

Monstrous Grappling is the target of Chapter 4. This chapter discusses how to apply these rules to monsters based on their statblocks and special abilities. This includes adjustments based on size and stats as well as handling multiple attacks. There are some suggestions for additional types of attacks for certain types of monsters. The book ends with examples of 11 monsters from various d20 versions converted to use the grappling rules.

The chapter ends with several different examples of grappling combat using Swords & Wizardry, Pathfinder and Fifth Edition rules.

The book ends with a several page index, a rules summary, a glossary of terms, and copies of some commonly used charts.

I have always been disappointed with the grappling rules in D20 games. From the crazy percentile rules of AD&D 1st and 2nd Edition to the nearly unusable ones in 3rd, grappling has always seemed to get short shrift. When I saw this supplement offered on Kickstarter I was pretty excited. I was nervous too though when I saw that it was being written to work with basically every D20 fantasy game.

Now that I've read the preview, my nervousness is gone. The author has done a good job of calling our special rules for each system and then reverting to his own grappling designs again once those concerns are addressed -- I do believe this system could work with any of the d20 fantasy games.

I like the rules approach because it makes it more like other systems in the game -- characters begin grappling and they gradually do more damage to the other person. The effects are cumulative in almost the exact same way that hit points sre cumulative. Once those points are determined, conditions are applied to the character just as one would find in other parts of the d20 rule systems.

This supplement actually has me excited about grappling in my games again. I think it will make the fights easier and more exciting with better defined and more predictable outcomes. Basically, these are the grappling rules I've always wanted.

A disclaimer: I am a backer of this successful kickstarter project. I received a preview copy to review -- nothing free since I'm already a backer.
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Douglas Bailey
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“I would have made this instrumental, but the words got in the way...” —XTC, “No Language in Our Lungs”
“Self-discipline isn’t everything; look at Pol Pot.” —Helen Fielding, _Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason_
I'm glad to hear that the preview lives up to your expectations. I didn't back this because of my concern that it would end up like the author's GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling book, which uses the same grappling-as-cumulative-"damage" concept, and was fascinating reading, but ended up being too rules-intensive for my tastes. (It'd be great if I were running a game about a professional wrestler, but seemed overly complex as a system to drop into a general game.)

But based on your review, I'll investigate this d20 version once it's available to the general public.
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Douglas Cole
United States
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The game shipped in PDF to backers on Jan 8, 2017, seven weeks ahead of the "end of February" promised date.

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