Turning the Gears: Wrestling Heroes in Pathfinder

As some of you may have noticed I’m a fan of professional wrestling (or “Sports Entertainment” as the WWE calls it).  I also enjoy playing bare-knuckle style fighters in my RPGs because I grew up watching Power Rangers and WMAC Masters (Basically Pro-Wrestling for karate nerds), and I fancy myself a bit of a scrapper as well.  One of the obstacles that I’ve face is that fisticuffs is not a particularly legit fighting style in Pathfinder.  The Monk is widely regarded as bottom tier and while I like the Brawler, I expect they are still considered less sound than a similarly leveled fighter with a great sword.  While this list of feats and maneuvers might not necessarily fix the problem, hopefully it gives brawlers some extra options.


Pathfinder has some simple rules for grappling, and while I appreciate this simplicity I do believe that there should be more options for some of the complex maneuvers that can be performed during a grapple.  Similarly, a lack of complex options beyond “deal damage” is limiting to a fighter who may want to focus on controlling the battlefield, letting the rogue or ranger or whoever else handle the DPS.  Hopefully, I will be able to fill both of those voids today.


Instead of a full scale mechanical system like Tinge of Death, today I’m going to present you with feats that provide characters with new effects and combat maneuvers related to grappling.

Feat:  Basic Wrestling

Prerequisites:  BAB +2 or Monk 1, Improved Grapple

Benefit:  Basic wrestling allows a character to add extra effects to their grapples.  A character with this feat has the following options:

Limb Lock:  When a character with Basic Wrestling succeeds on a combat maneuver check to initiate or gain control of a grapple, they may apply a limb lock to their opponent.  A limb lock restricts the target from using one of its hands or natural weapons to attack, in addition to the other effects of grappling.

Takedown:  When a character with Basic Wrestling attempts to initiate a grapple, they may accept a -5 penalty to their combat maneuver bonus.  If they do, then they may pin their opponent instead of grappling them.

Grappling Movement: When a character with Basic Wrestling makes a combat maneuver check to deal damage, they may also reposition themselves in any square adjacent to their target.  If the character chooses to move instead of dealing damage, they do not provoke attacks of opportunity while they and the grappled creature are moving.

Feat:  Advanced Wrestling

Prerequisites: BAB +6 or Monk 5, Improved Grapple, Basic Wrestling

Benefit:  Advanced Wrestling allows a character to add more effects to their grapples.  A character with this feat has the following options:

Suplex:  When a character with Advanced Wrestling successfully maintains a grapple check, they may deal damage as an unarmed strike and reposition their target into any square adjacent to them. They may then reposition themselves via Grappling Movement.

Submission Pin:  When a character with Advanced Wrestling succeeds on a combat maneuver check to pin an opponent, they may also lock in a painful submission hold.  When using a grapple check to deal damage against an opponent in a submission pin, that damage is doubled.  If the damage would be multiplied by any other effect, increase the multiplier by one instead (x2 becomes x3, x3 becomes x4 and so on).

Roll Up:  A character with Advanced Wrestling may use an attack of opportunity to initiate a grapple, even though doing so is normally a standard action rather than an attack action.

Feat:  Giant Wrestling

Prerequisites:  STR 15+, BAB +8 or Monk 8, Improved Grapple, Basic Wrestling, Advanced Wrestling

Benefit:  A character with this feat is considered one size category larger for purposes of grapple checks and gains the following options:

Giant Swing:  When a character with Giant Wrestling makes a combat maneuver check to maintain a grapple, they may deal damage as an unarmed strike and throw their opponent in a straight line a number of squares equal to their strength modifier in any direction.  For every size category that the target is larger than the attacker (using his effective size for grappling), decrease the range of this throw by 1.  If the target is smaller than the attacker, increase the range by 1 for each size category smaller.  The target cannot move through creatures of the attacker’s size category or larger in this way and lands prone unless they succeed on a DC 20 Acrobatics check.  Using this maneuver ends the grapple.

Bear Hug:  When a character with Giant Wrestling successfully initiates a grapple, they may initiate it as a bear hug.  A bear hug binds both of the targets arms so that they cannot be used to attack (this includes natural attacks such as claws, slams, and wings, but not bites or tail slaps).

Feat: Master Wrestling

Prerequisites: BAB +11 or Monk 10, Improved Grapple, Basic Wrestling, Advanced Wrestling

Benefit:  A character with this feat gains access to the following new combat maneuvers.

Deadly Takedown:  When a character succeeds a takedown maneuver they may deal damage as with a normal grapple check.

Total Body Lock:  When a character with Master Wrestling attempts to maintain a grapple on an already pinned opponent, they may apply a total body lock.  A creature stuck in a total body lock is considered “bound,” as though they were tied up, and gain the “helpless” condition.  The character applying the total body lock gains the pinned condition, instead of the normal grappled condition and must maintain the body lock each round.

Piledriver:  When a character with Advanced Wrestling uses this ability, they make their combat maneuver check to maintain the grapple at a -5 penalty.  If this maneuver is successful, it deals damage as an unarmed strike and the target must make a Fortitude save (DC 10 + the attackers CMB) or be stunned for 1d4 rounds.


I think that these mechanics effectively reflect some of the more complex wrestling moves that a skilled grappler can perform, without making the rules themselves too clunky.  From a mechanical, balance effect it gives grapplers more options to control enemy positioning as well as their own.  I think this also makes grapplers into the masters of one-on-one combat by allowing them to do things like bear hugs and the total body lock, which would potentially allow them to end a fight with a giant monster such as a dragon in 2-3 rounds.  I think that this is balanced by the required feat investment making them less effective against groups and the fact that there is still the chance for failure on these rolls.

From a flavor perspective, I understand that there is some dissonance that comes with a medium (effectively large) creature “bear hugging” a colossal creature and binding its natural weapons.  I decided to allow that in the interest of keeping the rules simple and also not making a character’s build suffer at later levels when enemies are often bigger.  Besides, the idea of a human putting a kaiju in a body lock so that they can’t move is absolutely hilarious to me.

I tried to not step on the toes of any existing feats, which is why I did not put in a chokehold maneuver.  I believe that every ability you get from these feats is an option that was not otherwise available to fighters or monks.  I think this gives the unarmed fighter archetype (not like, archetype as in class variant but… you know… the type of character) some significant bonuses, which I think is fine since they tend to be near the bottom of the totem pole anyway.

As always I appreciate any critique, either here or on my social media, which you can find on the “Following the Game Detective” tab at the top.

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