It is infrequently used, it is either drastically over- or under-powered in the system and is almost always too complex because it is trying to model too closely the drama. Over on System Sans Setting, this issue was brought up, and the principle of working from the goal oriented modeling basis was raised - instead of trying to model the process, start with the goals and work backwards from that point.
So what is the goal of grappling someone? In my view there are 4 points, some of which are covered in the above post:
- Keep the defender from escaping.
- Limiting or directing a defender's movements.
- Use the defender as a shield against other opponents.
- Remove options from their combat arsenal, either by limiting movement, or by removing weapons, whether they are effective attacks or removing actual weapons.
The question though is how to model this?
And every time I try to write something down I find myself getting tied in overly complicated game mechanic knots. So I'm going to try and write something for a Fate based system without looking up the rules.
A grapple is basically a Block combat action. It is a long lasting block that applies against all maneuvers applied against it. As blocks are reduced when bypassed this simulates the guy getting free. Sure there's the oddball case that you could have a highly effective grapple that's easily broken, but that's life within the system.
So what about moving someone (such as throwing/shoving them), using them as a shield, or other items? Well some of those are just attacks or maneuvers, and other parts are stunts (especially the using a grapple victim as a shield).
So let's just see how my 30 second "in my mind" rules set matches up against how the Dresden Files RPG deals with grapples:
- Grapples are blocks that need an aspect to justify. (Major difference - in my mind, grappling is just another maneuver, here it is a special maneuver that requires justification to be executed.)
- Roll Might skill. (No real problem there, I never specified the skill needed.)
- Establishes a Block against all actions that a target takes in a round. (Okay so far so good)
- On subsequent rounds, you may make a follow-up Block attack and take a -1 penalty for a supplemental action to either attack, move, or maneuver. (No real problem here, a free 1 stress hit isn't too bad; I'd probably use a stunt to enhance this, but that seems a decent compromise to allow a MMA/ground fighter something to demonstrate their skill.)
Heh, not too off, so that means I've either read the book too many times or internalized the system
And here's the issue discussing systems, each system has a purpose built by its creators. Fate is designed, I'd like to think, to simulate the narrative of the action, so this sort of action works. Something like GURPS, on the other hand, tries much harder to simulate 'reality'. Now how about something troublesome like D&D?
In 3/3.5 edition, I'm not sure what I'd do. It has been a long, long time since I've even looked at the rules. The principle would be ensuring that the opponent's actions are limited, so an attack that instead of inflicting damage inflicts a penalty instead would probably be appropriate, but not sure where to go after that.
4th Edition it is a little simpler. They made a grab condition that limits actions and the ability to get away from the attacker, and it looks like, after some research, some Fighter powers and feats to make a brawler possible. So there you go.
Edited: So it is a bit late, still on a Monday.