Taking a stab at modifying grappling (pun intended)

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GarethTheLoud
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Taking a stab at modifying grappling (pun intended)

Post by GarethTheLoud » Sat Jul 01, 2017 2:02 pm

TL;DR - Grappling is a bit broken, mechanically and narrative-ly. This is my attempt to fix it. Your mileage may vary.

This post is meant to throw out my diagnosis of grappling for community opinion (oh boy, what have I done…) and suggest some potential changes to improve the rules and see what secondary and tertiary downstream effects I may be causing and may have overlooked. So, donning my helmet, here we go ----

Grappling is broken. Anyone who has played a fight scene where anyone throws over 9 dice is aware there is a problem with the rules. Here is my summary of the issues that I have identified:

1) Winning a fight can be just winning your initiative roll and maxing your grappling pool. Taking Clinch Strike is a bonus. If you can win initiative, you get a turn to inflict damage and eliminate your opponents turn in one go. You completely remove your opponents chance to do anything for that exchange if you have the initiative. That alone is OP. Other similar effects from tilts require much more to accomplish than net 1 success (stunned, insensate, etc) or have a way to overcome the tilt at a cost (i.e. insensate allows you to spend a WP).

2) Grappling uses Gross successes not Net successes to determine effects. Basically, if you win then it is as if your opponent rolled zero successes. So if you are in a grappling fight and you get 7 successes from your maxed out dice pool and your opponent gets 0, 1, or 6 successes, the end result is exactly the same. Not only is this a break across all three game design philosophies (narrative, simulation and gamist), when combined with the exceptional success rule for grappling, it tends to end a fight in one round. Since the loser of the contested roll, regardless of rolling one fewer or 10 fewer successes, still has no active role in the exchange. It ends up being a non-interactive experience and thus less fun. It also leaves you scratching your head for the narrative and simulation side of the fight – Roll an exceptional and still barely lose the roll by 1 success? You suck just as bad as the guy who flopped on the floor like a dead fish.

3) Grappling completely ignores weapons.

(3A) First, it ignores the opponents weapons – charging someone with a size 6 spear is mechanically identical to charging someone with bare hands. If you have done combatives/martial arts/self defense, charging even a guy with a knife is terrifying. Charging a guy with a spear bigger than you are is terribly difficult since they can control the range. These rules lose all of that nuance. Rather than being more difficult to charge someone with a weapon, it is now the smartest thing in the world to do because…

(3B) Once in the grapple, the opponent has no ability to use his weapon. Technically you can choose the damage maneuver, but the rules do not say you can use your weapon unless you did the control weapon maneuver successfully earlier (so oddly, you cannot use your gun but you can use your opponents gun in a grapple...). For size 0 and size 1 weapons, that takes away one of those weapons core advantages – being scary deadly at point blank range. If you're grappling with a guy with the pistol and use your turn to hurt him (damage) there is nothing in the rules to let him say “I take the bear hug and shoot him.”

(3C) because of the above, there is in effect no point in trying to do a controlled weapon maneuver to keep your opponent from using his weapon. As long as you win the roll, you can do what you want. Arm locking the right arm of the guy with the gun in his left has zero mechanical effect in the game. You throw the guy in a headlock and suddenly he cannot use his hands.

So – how to fix this -

We could either overhaul the rules completely or make a few minimal tweaks to the most broken elements – I am going to go with overhaul in this post, but if I could change one thing to improve game it would be to change from GROSS to NET successes in a grapple (change 2 below). This limits the OP nature of exceptional successes which are too common with the crazy dice pools we have in the chat (Looking at you Mage Buffs…).

So - changes:

1) In the turn in which a grapple is initiated, everyone still gets an action. The grappled guy with the knife gets a chance to stab the guy pulling him into the clinch or can call for a contested roll to either escape the grapple or execute another grappling maneuver. If he loses the contested roll, it is like a failed attack. The other guy, in spite of winning the roll, already got to act this round and needs to wait until the next round to enforce his will on his opponent. If the guy who initiated the grapple lost his defense, the roll is not contested. This prevents making AOA at the top of the round OP.

2) Grappling is now measuring NET successes (not GROSS successes). This is now a contested roll more like DODGE. If you win the roll, you get to exert your will and execute the maneuver of your choice – but you count only your margin of success (MoS) for any effects dependent on number of successes. i.e. - if you roll 5 and your opponent rolled 4, your MoS is actually 1, so you did NOT roll an exceptional success for purposes of grappling rules. Beat your opponent by 5, then your MOS is 5 and you DID roll an exceptional success and standard rules apply.

3) You declare your intended maneuver in initiative order before rolling. This change matters for the other changes below and brings the game back into being more aligned with the rest of combat. It also helps with how real fights work. You don't flail around, see what the result of the flailing was, then decide you are escaping, dropping the guy on his head, or headbutting him. You commit energy to achieve a desired and decided outcome.

4) All Out Attack is back in as an option - Rather than trying to oppose your opponents grappling roll, you decide to just stab/punch/Hit your opponent. You no longer contest your opponent's roll, you instead roll your own attack. If you are the guy with the knife you probably aren't worried about that headlock while you stab your opponent in the kidney over and over again.

5) Controlling the weapon now matters more – it is basically the All Out Defense maneuver – you are trying to keep your opponent from using his weapon or going all out attack on you. If you win, you can now take the weapon away or what not as per the base rules and your opponent cannot use the weapon against you. This is how you handle the guy with the knife or gun in the grapple. This maneuver contests damage and AOA maneuvers. DISENGAGE or escaping from the grapple has the same defensive effect and allows you to avoid the all out attack or damage maneuvers of your opponent.

6) Base melee weapon damage modifiers (not enhanced modifiers from magic or what not) now add to DEFENSE against a grapple attempt. If you are going after a guy with a +1L knife you now have to worry about that pointy object. You are trying to avoid that tip while you are closing the distance and going to grips. All pistols and submachine guns add +2 to defense against grapples. Rifles and long guns add +1. Rifles are not meant for point blank range, but the attacker does not want to be on the receiving end of that barrel or get clubbed in the face with the rifle butt while charging.

7) Weapons of size 0 or size 1 can still be used in the grapple. Knives, brass knuckles, pistols – those still are nasty. That means you can roll weaponry. If narratively a weapon can be shortened (e.g. half swording with a longsword – look it up if you do not know what I mean), then it is ST discretion if the weapon can still be used in a grapple. I might allow a pommel strike from a saber for example.

Example:

So – it would be like this in play:

Player 1 wins initiative and grapples player 2 who has a knife. Player 1 subtracts Player 2's defense +1 due to the knife and gets 1 success. A grapple is initiated. With Clinch Strike, he inflicts 1 bashing on Player 2.

Player 2 now goes (unlike RAW, with this house rule he is still grappled, but gets to respond in that brief moment in which the grapple is initiated). Player two decides to roll an attack with his knife. Player 1 did not go All Out and still has his defense, so he subtracts defense from his Strength + WEAPON pool and gets 1 success. With his +1L knife, that is 2 Lethal on Player 1.

Next round, the grapplers are now struggling together. Player 1 has initiative and declares his maneuver as “Damage” and Player 2 decides to also roll for “Damage” with his knife. Since the knife is size 1, it can be used in the grapple. Player 1 rolls STR+Brawl, player 2 rolls STR+Weaponry. Player 1 rolls 5 successes, player 2 rolls 4 successes. Player 1 inflicts 1 bashing damage.

Round 3, still struggling, player 1 who has initiative decides he is going to do Damage again. Player 2 decides to go ALL OUT ATTACK. Player 1 realizes that this could be bad because of his decision to not pay attention to that knife. Both players roll and Player 1 gets 4 success and player two gets 4. Since Player 2 was AOA, this roll is not contested. Player 1 deals 4 damage. Player 2 shanks the hell out of Player 1 and does 5 lethal.

Round 4, Still grappling. Player 1 realizes that knife is a problem and needs to stop the amateur body piercing from continuing. He chooses “Control Weapon” this time and Player 2 goes for the kill, declaring Damage as his maneuver. The two roll. Player 1 gets an amazing roll and has 8 successes. Player 2 only gets three. This is a contested roll so Player 1 wins with an MOS of 5 – an exceptional success! Player 1 now controls the knife hand of player two and decides to shank Player 1 with the blade through a twist of the wrist and some clever application of leverage. MOS is still 5 so he does 6L. OUCH!

And so forth and so on until someone is out of the fight.

Other thoughts -

The one problem I encountered when testing is exemplified in round 3. If Player 1 gets and exceptional success, can he choose “control weapon” and negate the AOA from player 2? I am inclined to say yes, he can pick that as his second maneuver, but it does NOT negate the damage that round. It takes effect the next round, preventing Player 2 from using his knife unless he now wins a control weapon roll.

I also toyed with changing maneuvers by spending a WP. In round 3, that would have let Player 1 defend against that AOA. I am not sure on this idea however.

Conclusion

I am planning to implement this in some PRPs and side games (with full disclosure at sign up). I would be interested in opinions from STs and players as to whether they like these changes. If you see a rules interaction with these changes that I missed, let me know below and I will try to adjust this to make it a bit more effective and fun. Feedback to help me refine this is appreciated!
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Zerd
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Post by Zerd » Sat Jul 01, 2017 5:43 pm

You might want to read up on the whole customizing things and having them approved.

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Post by SonOfSam » Sat Jul 01, 2017 5:54 pm

Just going to throw a couple things out there based on this post, I'm not STM, but this is a thread about opinions, so take it as you will!
TL;DR - Grappling is a bit broken, mechanically and narrative-ly. This is my attempt to fix it. Your mileage may vary.

This post is meant to throw out my diagnosis of grappling for community opinion (oh boy, what have I done…) and suggest some potential changes to improve the rules and see what secondary and tertiary downstream effects I may be causing and may have overlooked. So, donning my helmet, here we go ----

Grappling is broken. Anyone who has played a fight scene where anyone throws over 9 dice is aware there is a problem with the rules. Here is my summary of the issues that I have identified:

1) Winning a fight can be just winning your initiative roll and maxing your grappling pool. Taking Clinch Strike is a bonus. If you can win initiative, you get a turn to inflict damage and eliminate your opponents turn in one go. You completely remove your opponents chance to do anything for that exchange if you have the initiative. That alone is OP. Other similar effects from tilts require much more to accomplish than net 1 success (stunned, insensate, etc) or have a way to overcome the tilt at a cost (i.e. insensate allows you to spend a WP).
while I agree, having someone lash out once and end your character kind of sucks, pretty much every style of combat is exactly like this. Anyone that's been ambushed by an irraka can attest that the game is pretty much designed that whoever wins initiative wins the fight if you're dealing with characters actually designed to be effective in combat.
2) Grappling uses Gross successes not Net successes to determine effects. Basically, if you win then it is as if your opponent rolled zero successes. So if you are in a grappling fight and you get 7 successes from your maxed out dice pool and your opponent gets 0, 1, or 6 successes, the end result is exactly the same. Not only is this a break across all three game design philosophies (narrative, simulation and gamist), when combined with the exceptional success rule for grappling, it tends to end a fight in one round. Since the loser of the contested roll, regardless of rolling one fewer or 10 fewer successes, still has no active role in the exchange. It ends up being a non-interactive experience and thus less fun. It also leaves you scratching your head for the narrative and simulation side of the fight – Roll an exceptional and still barely lose the roll by 1 success? You suck just as bad as the guy who flopped on the floor like a dead fish.
This is the one thing I completely agree with, it sucks to feel that rolling well or the experience you've invested into your character is negated or ignored.
3) Grappling completely ignores weapons.

(3A) First, it ignores the opponents weapons – charging someone with a size 6 spear is mechanically identical to charging someone with bare hands. If you have done combatives/martial arts/self defense, charging even a guy with a knife is terrifying. Charging a guy with a spear bigger than you are is terribly difficult since they can control the range. These rules lose all of that nuance. Rather than being more difficult to charge someone with a weapon, it is now the smartest thing in the world to do because…
Longer weapons have the Reach equipment tag, which increase your defense against unarmed opponents or opponents who have shorter weaponry.
(3B) Once in the grapple, the opponent has no ability to use his weapon. Technically you can choose the damage maneuver, but the rules do not say you can use your weapon unless you did the control weapon maneuver successfully earlier (so oddly, you cannot use your gun but you can use your opponents gun in a grapple...). For size 0 and size 1 weapons, that takes away one of those weapons core advantages – being scary deadly at point blank range. If you're grappling with a guy with the pistol and use your turn to hurt him (damage) there is nothing in the rules to let him say “I take the bear hug and shoot him.”
the quote from the maneuver is this: "Control Weapon, either by drawing a weapon the character has holstered or turning his opponent’s weapon against her. He keeps control until his opponent performs a Control Weapon move"

This means that you can, in fact, use your own weapon. Also, if your opponent does not choose to do a Control Weapon maneuver against you, you can continue to use that weapon in the brawl, and any damage you inflict is lethal with a weapon modifier (assuming it has one).

you can also take your opponents weapon away from them if you so choose.
(3C) because of the above, there is in effect no point in trying to do a controlled weapon maneuver to keep your opponent from using his weapon. As long as you win the roll, you can do what you want. Arm locking the right arm of the guy with the gun in his left has zero mechanical effect in the game. You throw the guy in a headlock and suddenly he cannot use his hands.


hold or Immobilize actions do this, yeah, but it's up to you, as the player, to make it make sense thematically. As far as control weapon, if you absolutely want to deal lethal damage in your grapple, it's not a terrible idea. Also, preventing your opponent from dealing lethal is another good reason. Supernatural splats often have natural weapons that deal lethal, so in that case, I believe you are absolutely right. But sometimes there are witnesses or you are in a situation where you just can't go all ham all the time and you need to make a fight look more mundane.

No, with that being said, obviously a character built for grappling is going to trounce a character not built for grappling, but I feel like it's no different than an ambush designed character taking on a lack of perception character, or any other mix therein. Now mind you, my character is by no means a grappler, he's really fast and zooms around, so if it makes a difference I'm not like trying to protect my own ass here. I just think we need to look at it from a more balanced standpoint so we don't necessarily illicit knee-jerk reactions or incorrect assumptions.

That being said, I'd love to see your ideas for grappling in action. I just won't be able to do them myself. I have a fairly impressive 1 die to grapple.
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Post by GarethTheLoud » Sat Jul 01, 2017 6:25 pm

Thank you for the feedback!

I do want to clarify my intent, but I do not want to get too far from the discussion of the rule tweaks themselves. It is not just that a character built for grappling will trounce a character not built for grappling, its that the character who gets 1 success more than his opponent will completely blast through them as if the other character was not built for grappling. And the one getting trounced might as well not have shown up to play. I ran a scene recently with an NPC twinked out for grappling. He lost initiative by maybe 2, lost the roll by 1 I think, was out of combat by the end of round 1. I felt horrible as an ST since that could not have been fun for the player. ZERO challenge. No narrative suspense, and it just felt wrong. I am not trying to nerf combat, but I am trying to make grappling more interactive and more aligned with the rest of the combat system. Right now it is a bit like 1e archery where you could do more harm from a bow and arrow than an AK-47 - which totally makes sense, right?

Now, that clarification out of the way - I will get to some of the rules comments you made (and thank you again for the feedback).

""Control Weapon, either by drawing a weapon the character has holstered or turning his opponent’s weapon against her. He keeps control until his opponent performs a Control Weapon move""

Unfortunately the weak writing of the rule here (and especially the damage rule) does nothing to resolve the issue with the core rule I expressed.

1) Nothing in the core RAW about using a drawn weapon. I have a knife in my hand, i want to use it to cause Lethal damage and roll weaponry, I cannot.

2) The damage rules apparently presume you beat your opponent with whatever weapon, not stab or shoot them:

"Damage the opponent by dealing bashing damage equal to the character’s rolled successes. If the character performing the move previously succeededat a Control Weapon action, add the weapon modifier to his successes."

The less than precise writing implies you are just adding the modifier to your successes and not changing the damage type from bashing. My goal is to make it possible to use weapon as a weapon in a grapple and to make sure the effect is lethal. I am also removing the bizzare step of having to re-ready your weapon (control weapon) if you already have it drawn.

Last comment - there is nothing in the core PDF that I can see about "Reach" as a special tag. I am looking at the appendix with all the weapons. Spears get a general +1 to defense but that is all I can see from my PDF. Is there an errata somewhere?
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Post by SonOfSam » Sat Jul 01, 2017 9:00 pm

It's in hurt locker under equipment tags. Sorry I should have clarified that.
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Post by SonOfSam » Sat Jul 01, 2017 9:02 pm

Also as a strange note in what you are saying, weapons always do lethal damage even bludgeon. Anything with a damage modifier even of 0 should inflict lethal damage including bats and brass knuckles. So I am assuming that's just crappy writing and weapon manuevers deal lethal? But that would be up to ChrisF
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Post by GarethTheLoud » Sat Jul 01, 2017 9:45 pm

That is what I meant by horrible writing. The RAW says -

You deal bashing damage equal to successes. The current writing says that using a weapon in grapple just adds to your number of successes - NOT adds to damage, which is where it converts to Lethal. So, still bashing. Its bad writing most likely. I am trying to correct that and remove the ambiguity.

Edit: I looked up the rules for Reach. It really does not solve the problem I identified, but it is an interaction I need to test. I do not think it would break my edit for weapons adding to defense against a grapple, I just need to decide if the tweak I am making should stack with reach, or replace it. The penalty to use the weapon with Reach in grapple seemed insufficient as well, once past the point, weapons like spears, rifles, swords etc are extremely hard to use when you go to grips. With swords, you have to use the pommel or otherwise shorten the weapon to make it feasible.

Bigger lesson here is I probably need to re-read Hurt Locker to see if there are other rules interactions I missed.
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Post by magus666 » Sat Jul 01, 2017 11:14 pm

I agree in general, and specifically with the line item regarding the contested roll. That is, I believe, something that came down from an older version of the rules on contested rolls, and was, IMHO, ALWAYS a bad mechanic regardless of what it was it was being used for. Your PC and my PC are doing a contested roll over....whatever. You get 7 suxx and I get 6, but because you won, you get to apply your full 7 suxx? No, that's just poor design. Obviously, it SHOULD be the DIFFERENCE.

Also, as a note, in the Grappling FS, the first dot gives "Sprawl", which says :
Your character can adjust his weight to defend himself in a grapple. Add 2 to his Strength for the purposes of resisting overpowering maneuvers.
This was clearly copied verbatim from the 1.0 Grappling FS. The problem, of course, is that you DON'T "defend" in a grapple anymore (the old system each character rolled their overpowers separately and subtracted the opponents strength from the die pool), with both characters rolling both attack and defense as a single contested roll. So this is EITHER totally useless, OR a direct addition to your grappling dice once a grapple is established. More appropriate (maybe) would be to SUBTRACT 2 from your Opponent's die pool? This would simulate the effect of being a more defensive maneuver, and not giving a bigger pool to do damage (or other maneuvers) yourself.

Honestly, Grappling is one of those places where the old rules, even as wonky as they were, made a lot more sense, and worked better than the 2.0 rules. Going back to the Grapple rules where each character rolled their own overpower maneuver as (Str+Brawl - Opponents Strength) would be an improvement.
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Post by ChrisF » Sat Jul 01, 2017 11:44 pm

Just to note, I've seen this thread and have been pondering grapple rules for a while. At the very least I do agree that modifying the contested roll to only let you apply the difference is likely a good idea, and have been considering applying that rule. Expect something final within a few days.
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Post by Barr2 » Sun Jul 02, 2017 2:21 pm

Hi there. I wanted to add my own two cents. Long time player with an interest in combat mechancis, and i been practicing a grappling art for a couple years now,giving me an insight into what the rules are meant to be presenting.

1-grapple locking someone out of acting is +not+ a thing in wod 2.0 (as i see the rules):
I shoot for you in a grapple,i have to roll against your defense,i use up my action. If you havent acted that turn,you get to roll and if sucessfull,you can roll to break out,use the sucessess to act ,be it running away,dealing damage using your non-grapple skillset,etc. you will be rolling against my grapple sucesses,but I had the initial resistance of your defense.

2)I emphatically agree its neither mechanically,narratively or accurate to real life that the opponents contested efforts do not affect your own roll. this ought to change. if anything it will put far more value in grapple maneuvers like Joint lock and derivatives that seem superfluous at lower levels or roll into overpowered later on.

3)-again RAW as to the use of weapons seem okay enough. you can use weapons in close quarters,in fact, you seem to be able to use any weapon in said situation,regardless of how absurdly large and unwieldy they are. if a weapon is already drawn,and your opponent failed to disarm or take control of it,i see no reason why you couldnt proceed to use it.

4) declaring your actions during initiative stage is something we all often forget to do,and ought to,grapple or not.
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Post by GarethTheLoud » Sun Jul 02, 2017 2:46 pm

I think you intuitively added to the rules what by way of common sense what should be included, but is not.

1) If you go first in the initiative order in round 1 and initiate a grapple, the other player does not get to act that round. The opposed grapple test happens at the higher of the two players initiatives, so it already passed for round one and they have to wait until round 2 to act.

3) RAW allows only to roll STR+Brawl and maybe add the equipment bonus to successes which then become bashing damage. It is not written well which is why common sense is at odds with Rules As Written. Technically, it does not even allow for Body as Weapon or Martial Arts merits to convert Bashing to Lethal as you technically are not rolling an attack, you are contesting and then choosing a maneuver which allows you to convert successes to bashing. Again, this may not have been Rules As Intended, but it is Rules As Written. Most of what I have seen on chat is that players agree to apply the common sense modification to the rules.

4) Again, Rules As Written are that you roll first, choose action after. If you lose the roll, you never declare your action.

"During each subsequent turn, both grappling characters make a contested Strength + Brawl versus Strength + Brawl action on the higher of the two characters’ Initiatives. The winner picks a move from the list below to enact immediately, or two moves on an exceptional success."
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Post by magus666 » Sun Jul 02, 2017 3:16 pm

Yes, according to RAW, it says that if the character initiating the grapple is successful at their (STR+Brawl-Def) roll, BOTH characters are now grappling. In SUBSEQUENT turns.... It does not say anything about the grappled character being able to attempt to break free if they haven't acted in the CURRENT turn. That was a 1.0 mechanic (and an iffy one at best, since it was not contested, and if I rolled 5 suxx to grapple you, and you rolled 1 suxx to break free, you were free). It would make SENSE for a character who has not acted to get a chance to break free, but it does not SAY they do. On the other hand, it ALSO does not say that they lose their action. It simply says that both characters are now grappling. Which would be fine IF grapples were still rolled as individual resisted actions, but since it is now a simultaneous contested action, the mechanics sort of come to a grinding, self conflicted halt. The attacking character has already taken his action (initiating the grapple), so he can't take another action, but the grapple is a contested action, so either he HAS to, or the other character has to either lose his action, or succeed automatically.
Note too, that although it doesn't specifically sat that the grappled character loses his turn if he was the lower initiative, it DOES say that the contested grapple rolls occur on the initiative of the HIGHER character, so that sort of implies it...depending on your interpretation. Of course, this is another reason why the contested roll doesn't make sense. My opponent might be much faster than me, but I'm much stronger...but because he's grappled me, now I can act quicker?
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Post by Barr2 » Sat Jul 08, 2017 6:16 pm

Magus,i cant say im in love with the idea of clinch-locking people off of actions, but i guess it is what it is. a striking stylist is going to have to wait for the next turn to break free and use his own skills,only to then lose an action every other turn.

this couple to the easaly bought clinch merit,keeps the grappler unloading a free shot on you half the time. theres counter-strategies but they get convoluted. I was under (the clearly wrong) impression slipping in and out of the grapple\clinch was going to be a lot more dinamic than it is.
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Post by SonOfSam » Sat Jul 08, 2017 7:07 pm

There are merits that make it more dynamic, but for the most part if they're focused on grappling, and you're not, and they get their hands on you, well that's it. Unless they get super unlucky, it's really never going to happen. You're probably facing someone with 10-12 dice or more 9 again Rote with Fighting styles to support them.

There's a nice merit in one of the books that reduces their dice pool by your dexterity, I really like that one for tricky characters.
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Post by venaat » Sun Jul 16, 2017 9:33 am

I think the mainmost issue is the damage it does however I would point out that if you getting grappled as a supernatural theres a few options available to you that most don't think about. While I wont get into details as to avoid alot of unnessecarry debate if the damage was lowered I think it would alleviate the problem by alot.
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