This article uses some mechanics from GURPS Martial Arts. It's an excellent book and an excellent set of additional rules for melee combats.
Closing the Distance (The Less Optimal Way)
Doug describes a simple Wait system for grapplers: Wait until the foe moves 1 hex away, and then step into close combat and attempt a grapple. As Doug himself notes, this isn't a very good system: the grappler's foe can attempt to Dodge and Retreat, at a minimum, and depending on his weapon, may be able to Retreat and Parry. And no matter what the grappler's foe does, he'll be able to use his shield DB to defend himself since the grappler attacked from the front.
Assuming two foes with roughly equal skills in the 14-18 range, and the attempted grapple victim carrying a DB2 medium shield, the system method succeeds about 1 time in 5. While this isn't any worse than other comparable combat actions, it could be a lot better.
Closing the Distance (The Better Way)
This is a more complicated system, but it works better.
- Grappler declares a Wait and attack, triggered when the foe moves to Reach 1.
- The foe starts more than a hex away and steps up to the grappler to attack. Both grappler and foe are facing each other at Reach 1.
- During the foe's action, the grappler triggers the Wait and converts it to a Step and Attack maneuver. He then steps forward and to the side, moving toward the foe's weapon side. For his Attack, he uses the Feint attack option.
- The grappler's foe makes his attack. He can't respond to grappler's movement because he already made his step.
- Assuming the attack hits, the grappler Parries and sidesteps, moving to the foe's weapon-side flank.
- On the grappler's next turn, he steps into close combat with the foe and attempts an Arm Lock. At a minimum, he is attacking from the off-shield flank, depriving the foe of shield DB and imposing another -2 on Parry and Dodge attempts for people without Peripheral Vision. People with Tunnel Vision (because they're wearing fully enclosed helmets or the like) can't even defend, since the attack was launched by an attacker they could not see when the attack started. The grappler's foe's defenses may be further compromised by a successful feint, and the foe has to retreat away from the grappler in order to get any bonuses - which may force him to open his back or flank to the grappler's allies.
Responding to an Attack and Fly Out
The grappler's foe doesn't have to Step into the grappler's Wait and get surrounded and flanked. He could try some other tricks, like making a Committed Attack to Step two hexes, advancing toward the grappler and then stepping away while turning to face the grappler square on. Doing this keeps the distance open at the cost of the foe's Parry and ability to retreat, as well as a -2 on all defenses. From the grappler's perspective, it's nearly as good as getting to the foe's flank. On his turn, the grappler can make his own Committed Attack, taking two steps to move into the foe's hex.
Sidesteps Are Not Just for Grapplers
This nasty little trick is not just for grapplers. Anyone with either a good Dodge, an excellent Active Defense from skill or shields, or a fencing Parry can attempt it with a reasonable degree of success. Characters with a low Block and Parry, a low Dodge, and a non-fencing weapon probably want to preserve their Retreat to back away at +3 to Dodge or +1 to Block or Parry.
The biggest problem with the Wait and Sidestep combination is that if the grappler's foe has allies, the grappler has generally moved away from his own allies and closer to his enemy's allies. The grappler has to be careful about not opening his own flank or rear to his foe's allies. If the grappler and his allies outnumber their foes, this can be an excellent trick for establishing a grapple or other damaging attack on an unwary and unfortunate enemy.
More Melee Academy LinksOther contributions in this week's Melee Academy series on Waits and Timing can be found at:
Dungeon Fantastic - +Peter V. Dell'Orto writes about Stop Hit
Orbs and Balrogs - +Christian Blouin writes about creating and holding combat initiative
RPG Snob - +Jason Packer throws down about combat pacing
Gaming Ballistic - +Douglas Cole starts a conversation about Wait tactics and Grappling