Grappling with grappling

The single most difficult thing to design in a game, in my experience, is grappling. It sounds simple, doesn’t it? Two people wrestling. It’s literally the world’s oldest sport. But in game after game, it’s ridiculously complicated. The first game I ever worked on, Gatewar, had a full page of tiny print describing it. We did our best with Bulletproof Blues, but I was never really happy with it.

Fortunately, with the new task resolution in 3rd edition of Bulletproof Blues, we were able to drastically simplify grappling.

This is a work in process, obviously: it may be a bit different when the book is published.


A grapple is a special form of close combat attack that does not inflict damage, but instead restrains the target’s limbs and prevents them from moving freely. The attack value (AV) of a grapple is equal to the attacker’s Brawn, and the defense value (DV) of the target is equal to the defender’s Brawn or Agility (whichever is greater).

If the attacker’s roll is greater than the defender’s roll, the defender is restrained. A restrained character is not helpless, but they can’t use normal movement until they break free of the grapple. Attacking a restrained character is easier, and a restrained character’s attacks are easier to avoid: a restrained attacker incurs a penalty die on all attack rolls and defense rolls while restrained.

A grapple is not normally able to inflict damage directly (like a punch), but the attacker may attempt to use leverage to hurt the grappled character.

Breaking Free Of A Grapple

To break free of the grapple, the restrained character must use a task action to roll their Brawn or Agility (whichever is greater) against the attacker’s Brawn. If the restrained character has XXX Telekinesis, they may use their Power for this roll. If the restrained character’s roll is greater than the grappling character’s roll, the restrained character has broken free of the grapple, and they may use their movement action for that turn. Alternately, the grappling character may release the restrained character at any time, without using an action.

Hurting A Grappled Target

If the attacker wishes to exert strength or leverage in an attempt to hurt the restrained character, they must use an action to make another attack roll against the restrained character.

Grapple vs. Grapple

If the grappled character succeeds in a grapple attack against the original attacker, both characters are considered restrained. Neither character can use normal movement until they break free of their opponent’s grapple. Both characters incur a penalty die on all attack rolls and defense rolls while restrained.

Throwing A Grappled Target

If the attacker wishes to throw the grappled character, the distance an attacker may throw the defender is based on the Brawn of the attacker and the mass of the defender. First, look up the mass of the defender in the “Lift” column (rounding to the nearest mass value), and find the corresponding Brawn for that mass. Subtract that from the Brawn of the attacker, and look up that resulting value in the “Throw” column. This is how far the attacker can throw the restrained character.

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