Grappling Question


I'm new to the game.

I don't understand close combat, specifically grappling. The core rule book says if you are within 2m you are in close combat. I understand that you can then make a melee attack or you can grapple.

Is there any penalty to initiating a grapple? Some sort of free attack?
Can you do anything to prevent it aside from winning the first grapple check? Is the first grapple check always the unarmed skill or can you use another melee for the first check?
Is there no other way to get out of grappling and back to melee once grappling is initiated? It seems like you can only really get out of it if you win on your opponents turn as you've just spent your significant action.

The scenario we had was a guy with a cutlass and a shield and an opponent with a knife. The opponent declared he was grappling and then they made opposing grapple checks. The sword and shield were then useless and as the character didn't have a 0 in unarmed they just kept on failing the opposed checks due to the -3 penalty. Even winning one opposed grapple on his turn just got him out of the grapple but then his opponent just re-initiated it. So in the end the 2 skill swordsman was easily defeated by a guy with a 0 in unarmed.

Did we play this right, because it kind of felt like the guy with the sword should have been able to keep his opponent at bay?
Unless I've been doing it wrong, if the character had melee(blade)-2, he would also have melee-0 for the rest of the melee specialties, so no -3 penalty.
Geir is correct. Unarmed is a sub-skill under the broad skill of Melee, so your character did have Melee 0 for the grapple.

If you have Traveller Companion you might want to take a look at the changes to Melee skill. Grapple is now officially a subskill.

Once of the most thrilling combats I've GM'd to date was a desperate hand-to-hand battle between one of the PCs (with Melee 0) and a drug-addled tech who'd put the fusion powerplants of a massive orbital habitat on a course for catastrophic overload. A massive struggle ensued, including use of improvised weapons like tool lasers, laptops and fire extinguishers while another PC worked frantically to regain control of the reactors. In the end the PC won thanks to that DM -3 penalty his opponent had (and the "GM rolling dice" penalty all my Traveller villains have). Very fun!
Ok so it looks like the error we made was forgetting melee blade 1 was also melee 0 for unarmed. So he would have had a better chance of getting out of the grapple. Thanks for pointing out the error. :D

So we didn't make a mistake with respect to starting the grapple? You just declare it and after that it is all melee unarmed. No attack or other defense against starting it?

It seems like melee unarmed trumps other melee attacks as grappling pretty much prevents you from using most melee weapons (save from small blades).
I don’t remember the rules on starting a grapple. I do think you could justify a house rule on weapon reach; maybe the longer weapon gets an Initiative Boon or Bonus, or the shorter weapon takes a penalty. Or you might give the defender a chance to parry with blade or shield on the first grappling attack. There might be something on this in the Companion too.
Unless I'm misreading the section, a grapple attack results in a single effect being applied and that's that. It does NOT automatically continue until broken (unlike d20 systems). If you want to keep a grapple going then you have to choose that specific effect, in which case you don't get to do anything else.

So Mr. McGrabby would be able to use successful checks to keep holding on until the opponent won a check and chose an outcome that breaks the grapple, but he wouldn't be able to do anything else (like damage) during that time. The other guy could simply stall indefinitely if they're disadvantaged on the checks; even if they do make checks and take some secondary effects, they only need to win once to not only break the grapple but move away (or throw Mr. McGrabby away) and they can use their minor action to move further away (too far to just move up to and grapple again), or do something else that makes it hard for Mr. McGrabby to get at them on the next turn.

I don't think there's anything stopping the sword-user from Parrying the grapple attack each time either; they could certainly do that against the initial one. If they also have a shield then then their parry will be even better.
Right, so continue the grapple is an outcome from winning the opposed check. It's the last bullet in "one of the following". Also, Initiating a grapple is a melee attack, therefore a significant action and its also subject to initiative. I don't think I would give a boon or any other advantage to initiative to someone with a longer weapon, though. It might be more "realistic" but a clever or quick unarmed fighter could still get the drop on someone with a sword.
Ok this is all very helpful. Thanks.

I read the last sentence in the grapple section as "do nothing except except make ... checks" as locking you into grappling until you escape, one of the grapple options. Is that not correct? If not, what does that last sentence mean then?

Thanks again for the help so far.
Garran said:
So Mr. McGrabby would be able to use successful checks to keep holding on until the opponent won a check and chose an outcome that breaks the grapple, but he wouldn't be able to do anything else (like damage) during that time.

I don't believe that is intended, the last option is just a catch-all so you are not forced to perform any of the other options.

Note that one of the options is ending the grapple, of you win the grapple roll.
Yes, those options exist, but as I read the section, they're there when you want to end a grapple that the other person is maintaining with their choice of effect - which could be the initial attacker if the other side is turning out to be better at it than expected and is now maintaining one against them.

I'd have to look at the grappling system with a great deal of skepticism (and house-rule hammer) if it works as you're suggesting because it really would beg everyone to just ramp up unarmed and not only be able to shut down an opponent but effectively claim their actions as yours while still getting the full benefit of your own.
ok maybe a quote of the section might help people explain this to me. It still isn't clear to me.

While involved in a grapple, the traveller may do nothing except make opposed melee (unarmed) checks.

While this is from MGT1 SRD I think this might be relevant too"

Throwing an opponent always ends the grapple. With any other option the winner can choose to end or continue the grapple as he sees fit. A character in a grapple cannot move or do anything other than make opposed Melee checks. Each time an opposed check is made the winner can choose an option from the above list.

So what I'm still unclear on is if you are locked in the grapple until you win one check. The MGT1 is pretty clear, the winner can chose to continue the grapple. The text is shorter in MGT2 but could be interpreted the same way or the removal of the text could be interpreted as the designers intent to remove the "grapple lock". Both text however use the plural "checks". Thoughts?