Cyclopeatron has a post about simple grappling rules, which originally come from a K&K Alehouse post by Austin Jimm of the Contemptible Cube of Quazar blog and are themselves based on an example of combat by Gary Gygax in The Strategic Review Vol. 1, No. 2, Summer 1975. Here are Austin Jimm’s rules:
Any character, or group of characters, may attempt to grapple and subdue an opponent. This is accomplished by having the attacking character, or characters, roll a normal “to hit” roll against the target. The hit dice of all attackers who successfully hit the target is totaled, and a number of d6 equal to this total is rolled. The target must then roll a number of d6 equal to his own hit dice. If the attackers’ roll is greater than that of the defender, the target is considered pinned and may be disarmed, shackled, bound, knocked-out, or otherwise subdued. If the defender’s roll prevails, he has thrown off all of his attackers and they must spend one combat round recovering as if from a fumble. If the dice are tied, they are struggling, with the defender still on his feet, and another set of grappling rolls will be made on the next round. Any additional attackers who score a hit may add their dice to the roll.
My problem with this is that requiring a to-hit roll to start a grapple doesn’t make sense for my understandings of what armor class means. Wearing a lot of metal strapped to your body doesn’t make it harder for someone to get an arm bar on you. I don’t use Dex modifiers to AC (they give a saving throw vs. damage instead, and I don’t want to introduce that extra step of die rolling into this grappling procedure), and although “touch AC” seems like a reasonable idea and one which you can extract from various texts in AD&D pretty directly, I have seen the madness to which this leads.
I think that the rightful place of armor in a grapple is that, if you have lots of metal strapped to your own body, you don’t have to worry as much about getting cut while you’re trying to move inside your enemy’s reach and take away his sword. And, in a game where combatants are normally assumed to be able to deal potentially lethal blows at more than arm’s length, it seems to me that starting a grapple is better expressed as whether your foe can use his weapon to drive you back, not whether you can grab them.
Here, then, are my revised combat rules:
Any combatant, or group of combatants, may attempt to grapple and subdue an opponent. This is accomplished by having the defender roll a normal “to hit” roll against each of the attacking grapplers. The hit dice of all attackers who were not hit by the defender is totaled, and a number of d6 equal to this total is rolled. The target must then roll a number of d6 equal to his own hit dice. Strength bonuses or penalties, if any, are added to each d6 roll. If the attackers’ total is greater than that of the defender, the target is considered pinned and may be disarmed, shackled, bound, knocked-out, or otherwise subdued. If the defender’s total prevails, he throws off the grapple attempt and may roll damage against one of the attackers who were hit by his attack rolls in the initial step (or more than one, if he has the ability to damage multiple opponents in a normal round of attacks). If the attacker’s and defender’s dice are tied, they are struggling, with the defender still on his feet but unable to make normal melee attacks; another set of grappling rolls will be made on the next round, in which the defender does not have the ability to make to-hit rolls to prevent attackers from adding their hit dice to the grapple pool.
The consequence of failing a grapple here is that the defender gets to score a hit with his weapon (or more than one, if he has multiple attacks) on you as he throws you back. I like this better than the idea of being stunned for a round, which doesn’t have much precedent otherwise (can you throw someone to stun them in other situations?) and is hard to make sense of if a round subsumes many different events, esp. a minute-long round. If you succeed on the grapple, some of your allies may be held at bay by the defender’s weapon, but you manage to grab him before he can follow up on these feints and threats and make them actually damaging.
Here, for completeness, is the original example of combat from the Strategic Review:
Example: Ten Orcs surprise a lone Hero wandering lost in the dungeons, but the die check reveals they are 30‘ distant at the time of surprise, so they use their initiative to close to melee distance. lnitiative is now checked. The Hero scores a 3, plus 1 for his high dexterity, so it is counted 4. The Orcs score 6, and even a minus 1 for their lack of dexterity (optional) still allows them first attack.As they outnumber their opponent so heavily it is likely that they will try to overpower him rather than kill, so each hit they score will be counted asattempts to grapple the Hero:– Armor of the Hero: Chainmail & Shield — AC 4.– Score required to hit AC 4 — 15 (by monsters with 1 hitdie).– Only 5 Orcs can attack, as they haven‘t had time tosurround.Assume the following dice scores for the Orcs attacks:Orc #1 – 06; #2 – 10; #3 – 18; #4 – 20; #5 – 03.
Two of the Orcs have grappled the Hero, and if his score with 4 dice is less than their score with 2 dice (one each) he has been pinned helplessly. If it is a tie they are struggling, with the Hero still on his feet, but he will be unable to defend himself with his weapon. If the Hero scores higher than the Orcs use the positive difference to throw off his attackers, i.e. the Hero scores 15 and the Orcs scored but 8, so the Hero has tossed both aside, stunning them for 7 turns between them.