|David Carradine as Kwai Chang Caine|
I didn't end up discovering D&D until 1980, right around the same time that I was watching Chuck Norris kick ninja ass in The Octagon, while getting my own tossed around the tatami mats at the YMCA judo club.
Once I got my hands on the Dungeon Master's Guide, though, I was eager to see the rules for weaponless combat, sure that I would soon be dishing out some smack-down in an orgy of bar-room-brawling mayhem. My eyes quickly glazed over as I read the two pages of rules for pummeling, grappling, and overbearing, which I'm sure are the most bewildering and complicated in rpg history. The much-anticipated tavern mayhem never came to pass, and I have to wonder if anyone has ever used those rules.
The situation has never really improved much. Even after running a 3rd Edition campaign for eight years I still needed to look up the rules every time a player wanted to grapple. Does unarmed combat really have to be this complicated?
Here are some simple rules for pummeling and grappling that I've come up with for my S&W game that I think are pretty straightforward. I use a 1 minute combat round and group initiative in my game, but the rules should be equally valid no matter what system you use.
1. When attacking an armed opponent all unarmed attacks are at -4 to hit, and the armed opponent attacks first regardless of initiative since the unarmed attacker must get inside the weapon's range.
2. A successful pummeling hit deals 1d6 points of damage minus the armour rating of the target because punching a guy in full plate armour is pretty pointless (this assumes the opponent is wearing a helmet). So, for example punching an opponent in leather armour deals 1d6-2 points of damage.
1. Before the grapple can occur the intended target must be taken down to the ground. Unless the target is already on the ground a take-down attack (throw or leg-sweep) must be made. If the take-down attack is made against an armed opponent the attack roll is at -4 to hit, and the opponent attacks first regardless of initiative. An opponent's armour does not protect him against a take-down; only Dexterity bonus, Shield bonus, or magical items such as Bracers of Defense can protect against this attack.
2. If the take-down was successful the attacker follows his opponent to the ground and immediately applies a hold.
3. On the defender's turn he has one chance to break free. Each participant in the grapple makes either a Strength or Dexterity check (whichever is higher) by rolling under their attribute score on 1d20. Because fighters are universally trained in grappling arts they may add their level to their attribute score when making this check, and if monks are used in your game they, too, should add their level. Whoever makes a successful attribute check by the greatest amount wins the grapple. If the defender wins he is able to break the hold and either stand up or catch his attacker in a hold of his own. If the attacker wins, his opponent is pinned and helpless. Escape attempts on subsequent rounds are not allowed because the longer an attacker has to consolidate his hold the more difficult it becomes to break; even if you're using a 10 second combat round, by the time a defender makes a second attempt it is too late.
Now, let's get out there and dish out some smack-down with Carl Douglas!