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Getting a Grip: Pinning Down Pathfinder’s Grappling Rules (Part 2)

Getting a Grip: Pinning Down Pathfinder’s Grappling Rules (Part 2)

Wrestlers. Attic Late Geometric oinochoe, ca. 715-700 BC. From Thebes. (Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons)


Not to be outdone, the fighter class offers a great grappler build as well. The unarmed fighter (Ultimate Combat, page 48) essentially turns your fighter into a monk, with a few differences. You don’t have any ki obviously, but you will get bonuses when using monk weapons, gain bonuses to saving throws against many effects, have damage reduction against subdual damage, and, perhaps most importantly, gain the level 7 ability, which takes away all penalties to Dexterity and allows you retain your Dexterity while you’re pinning an opponent. You can even make attacks of opportunity while grappling, and you can combine grappling with Dirty Trick combat maneuvers at higher levels as swift actions. Talk about adding insult to injury! This build has enough bonus feats that you should branch out into other combat maneuvers such as Dirty Trick and Trip just to keep things interesting.


While it might seem like an odd choice, the alchemist has a lot to offer as a grappler, especially when multiclassed with a barbarian such as the drunken brute (Advanced Player’s Guide, page 78). The mutagen class feature allows you to increase your strength, and elixirs such as enlarge person can make you a truly difficult foe to get hold of. If you decide to pursue the master chymist prestige class (Advanced Player’s Guide, page 267), there are additional mutations that increase your CMB, and you get a full BAB. Although not a straightforward class, alchemists are flexible in the roles they can fill.


Feats are the bread and butter of any decent grappler. The major feats that you need are these: Improved Unarmed Strike (Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook, page 128), Improved Grapple (Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook, page 127), Greater Grapple (Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook, page 124).

These feats make up the core of any grappling character. There are additional feats you can invest in, such as Bonebreaker (Ultimate Combat, page 90) and Jawbreaker (Ultimate Combat, page 106), which involve grappled or pinned opponents, but these also require the use of Stunning Fist. So unless you’re beginning with a monk, these might not be the feats for you.


The best skill for a grappling character to invest in is Escape Artist. Stealth is also important if you want to sneak up on enemies and get them in a choke hold, but your main skill is going to be Escape Artist, with a side of Heal if you intend on pursuing the feats that allow you to cripple your opponents with Stunning Fist.

Things to Remember

Paizo has tackled a few rules that deal with grappling on their FAQ page. So here are some of the pertinent things you need to know.

–      The grappled condition doesn’t deny you your Dexterity. Rather it imposes a -4 penalty to it. It’s only once you’re pinned that you lose your Dexterity modifier. Keep this in mind for those who want to work as a pair with a rogue, who can get in all that sneak attack damage.

–      You can still make a full attack action while grappled. You do it at a negative, and you cannot use actions that require two hands. Spellcasting is possible, but it is done at a negative. All attacks except for attempts to grapple your opponent are at a –2.


This is perhaps the pièce de résistance when it comes to grapplers. Why do you go into dangerous situations with just your bare hands and the strength in your body? Are you part of an esoteric order of warriors? A holy person who has forsworn weapons? A pit fighter who had to make do with no armaments but what the gods gave him? Perhaps you worked as a waterfront bouncer, or you were a champion athlete who has turned to adventuring. Whatever your reason, you can come up something suitable to add the finishing touch to your wrestler.

2 thoughts on “Getting a Grip: Pinning Down Pathfinder’s Grappling Rules (Part 2)”

  1. Morgan Boehringer

    Aaaack! I would totally love this as a pdf! The class features, feats, skills and FAQs all wrapped up tidily in one place. I guess I can cut and paste all this into a doc….

    As before, a stellar gathering of pertinent information Neal. Consider me looking at the Unarmed Fighter archetype in a very positive light….

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