Unarmed combat and grappling is a poor fit with the main combat rules as written in early editions of D&D, which are focused on armed opponents striking their weapons against armored opponents so as to wound them. They do not speak to a situation where someone unarmed tries to get past a weapon, or disarm someone, or wrestle them to the ground and immobilize them. And yet this kind of thing comes up all the time in my experience, enough that there really need to be rules for it.
Where they have been developed as add-ons to the combat system, they have tended to take absurdly complicated forms, like Gary Gygax's bizarre grappling mini-game in 1E AD&D, perhaps the most sui generis and complex of the many crunchy sub-systems introduced in the wonderfully incomprehensible 1E Dungeon Master's Guide. People who have taken the time to understand and use Gygax's grappling system tell me they love it. But I, who even use segment initiative with casting time, look at it and think: what the actual fuck Gary.
So I want to develop a simpler system for grappling that fits with the weapon rules and stat-check system for Jorune: Evolutions. As I see it, there's a tension here with trade-offs, in that one needs a few options that are more granular than melee combat options, since grappling is often about wanting to do something that breaks the trying-to-wound-an-opponent mold. So you want some complexity, but without introducing a grotesquely granular grappling mini-game. Hopefully, the system below walks that line, keeping things simple enough while allowing a little granularity in.
The system draws on my simple 2d6 stat check system, as well as my rules about weapon types (particularly "close weapons" that can be used in grappling), and some new unarmed combat proficiencies explained below. I remind you about those rules as I go so as to not lose anyone who is interested in this as a discrete topics. It presupposed non-variable weapons damage and low stat modifiers.
I'm sure that many people have created good systems for unarmed combat that are OD&D or B/X friendly. If you know of a good one, please drop it in the comments! My system is builds, like so much of what I'm doing, on that masterpiece of OD&D-inspired rule design, Gus' HMS Apollyon Player's Guide.
Unarmed Melee Combat
Unarmed melee combat is just like armed melee combat, except that when you strike you do 1d6/3 points of damage rounded up (i.e. 1-2). Someone who is armed gets no special bonus against someone unarmed except that they will do more damage to them if they hit.
A player can only grapple a foe that is at most two sizes larger than them. On their turn, a PC who can close with such an opponent can initiate a special grappling attack sequence. It works like this:
- If the opponent subject to the grapple attack is armed, they may melee attack the grappler as they close. (They may make this melee attack even if they have already attacked this round.)
- The grappler rolls to hit as though the opponent is unarmored--agility mods to AC still apply.
- If the attack hits, the two are now grappling. Neither may act for the rest of the round except to resolve the grapple.
- The grapplers now must make an opposed strength check (2d6 + Str Mod). If one side is a size larger they receive advantage (+1), and if two sizes larger they receive great advantage (+2). Tied results are a stand-off.
- The winner chooses 1: damage, disarm, immobilize, or break grapple.
- Damage is 1d6/3 points unless one has a close weapon (or some unarmed combat proficiencies see below), in which case it is 1d6 with disadvantage (2d6 discard the highest). If one chooses damage, one may draw a close weapon for these purposes, provided one drops any other weapons one was carrying. One cannot otherwise draw a weapon while grappling.
- Disarming knocks a weapon far enough away that it can't be used by the grappled foe (1d4x5 feet away).
- Immobilizing the foe allows others to melee attack them without danger of hitting the grappler, or to join the grapple on them without needing to make an attack roll.
- Breaking grapple ends the grapple.
Once someone is grappled, other people can pile on by using their attack to grapple as normal.
- If they are immobilized then no addition attack roll is needed.
- Each additional grappler adds a bonus of 1 to the grappler with the highest bonus to the grapple check (strength or largest size).
- When multiple people grapple a single foe, then they can tie up the foe with two immobilize results on subsequent rounds if they have a rope or other bonds handy.
- If a single grappler wins against multiple foes and chooses to do damage, they may select to whom to apply the damage.
New Grappling and Unarmed Combat Weapon Proficiencies
Note that these unarmed proficiencies can be combined and stack. For example, someone might use chuko to reverse the strength bonus of an opponent, and when winning the grapple, use braz juju to inflict 1d6 damage with disadvantage on them.
This is a catch-all standing in for many different techniques, from brutal street brawling learned in the gutters of Ardoth to disciplined martial arts like mantis boxing.
- Those proficient in brawling do 1d6 damage with disadvantage in unarmed melee combat.
- This proficiency does not affect grappling.
This elegant fighting art involves using your opponents strength against them to toss them like a rag doll.
- Those proficient in chuko turns the strength bonus of their opponent into a minus for the purpose of the grapple check.
- When winning a grapple check, they may opt to break the grapple by throwing their opponent 10' and doing 1d6 damage with disadvantage.
- This proficiency does not affect unarmed melee combat.
This ancient vicious fighting style involves coiling about your opponent like a serpent and inflicting the maximum pain.
- Those proficient in braz juju who win a grapple check and opt to damage their opponent do 1d6 damage with disadvantage.
- This proficiency does not affect unarmed melee combat.
Secret Fighting Techniques
It is rumored that there are other fighting techniques suited to the specific capabilities of different post-human species, but they are either obscure or positively proscribed in Ardoth.