Grappler (5e Optimized Character Build)

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The goal of this build it to make the best grappler possible. In this case making the best grappler means optimized ability to grapple and deal damage while grappling.


In any case, you want to get proficiency in Athletics.

Ability Scores[edit]


Highest for Athletics.


Not important for this build.


Relatively high because this build is for an upfront fighter and you'll need to concentrate on a spell for this build.


Not important for this build.


Useful for Eldritch Knight stuff, but not necessarily important. Increased by 1 for being a Tiefling.


Useful for Sorcerer stuff and it's always good to have a high Charisma, but not necessarily important. Increased by 2 for being a Tiefling.



Really only for the Barbed Hide feat. You get Darkvision, resistance to fire, and a few spells (Thaumaturgy, Hellish Rebuke, and Darkness) all useful but not important for this build.


Fighter: 11 levels in Fighter for 3 attacks (more attacks means more chances to grapple), the Dueling Fighting Style (+2 damage and you'll need to have one hand free to grapple), and Action Surge. Take the Eldritch Knight archetype so you can cast Enlarge/Reduce on yourself to give you advantage on Strength checks and saves. Also, you deal an extra 1d4 damage on melee attacks, and your size increase by 1 size category (if your medium you become large), because of this the size of creature you can grapple increases by one (a normally medium size creature can now grapple a huge creature).

Barbarian: 1 level in Barbarian for 2 rage (because it gives you advantage on Strength checks) in case you run out of 2nd level spells slots. The +2 to damage and resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing is nice too, but not necessary for this build.

Sorcerer: 3 levels in Sorcerer for the Extended Spell Meta Magic option to increase the length of Enlarge/Reduce to 2 minutes and the Quickened Spell option to cast it as a bonus action. Also, you get two more 2nd level spell slots.

Rogue: 5 levels in Rogue for 3d6 Sneak Attack damage, which you would get every turn while grappling with the Grappler feat. (Note: For Sneak Attack you must use a finesse weapon, however it doesn't say you have to use Dexterity, so it still works with Strength. While this does limit weapons you can use it is more than made up by the amount of damage you'll be doing per round). Also, you can use Expertise for Athletics so you don't have to get the Brawny feat.




Prerequisite: Strength 13 or higher You've developed the skills necessary to hold your own in close-quarters grappling. You gain the following benefits:

  • You have advantage on attack rolls against a creature you are grappling.
  • You can use your action to try to pin a creature grappled by you. To do so, make another grapple check. If you succeed, you and the creature are both restrained until the grapple ends.
  • Creatures that are one size larger than you don’t automatically succeed on checks to escape your grapple.

You become stronger, gaining the following benefits:

  • Increase your Strength score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
  • You gain proficiency in the Athletics skill. If you are already proficient in the skill, you add double your proficiency bonus to checks you make with it.
  • You count as if you were one size larger for the purpose of determining your carrying capacity.
Barbed Hide

Prerequisite: Tiefling One of your ancestors was a barbed devil or other spiky fiend. Barbs protrude from your head. You gain the following benefits:

  • Increase your Constitution or Charisma score by 1, up to a maximum of 20.
  • As a bonus action, you can cause small barbs to protrude all over your body or cause them to retract. At the start of each of your turns while the barbs are out, you deal 1d6 piercing damage to any creature grappling you or any creature grappled by you.
  • You gain proficiency in the Intimidation skill. If you’re already proficient in it, your proficiency bonus is doubled for any check you make with it.

Good Feats for this build, but not necessary.


You have 3 luck points. Whenever you make an attack roll, an ability check, or a saving throw, you can spend one luck point to roll an additional d20. You can choose to spend one of your luck points after you roll the die, but before the outcome is determined. You choose which of the d20s is used for the attack roll, ability check, or saving throw. You can also spend one luck point when an attack roll is made against you. Roll a d20, and then choose whether the attack uses the attacker’s roll or yours. If more than one creature spends a luck point to influence the outcome of a roll, the points cancel each other out; no additional dice are rolled. You regain your expended luck points when you finish a long rest.

If your unsatisfied with your grapple roll use a luck point.

Tavern Brawler

Accustomed to rough-and-tumble fighting using whatever weapons happen to be at hand, you gain the following benefits:

  • Increase your Strength or Constitution score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
  • You are proficient with improvised weapons.
  • Your unarmed strikes use a d4 for damage.
  • When you hit a creature with an unarmed strike or an improvised weapon on your turn, you can use a bonus action to attempt to grapple the target.

Your hit point maximum increases by an amount equal to twice your level when you gain this feat. Whenever you gain a level thereafter, your hit point maximum increases by an additional 2 hit points.

Blade Mastery

You master the shortsword, longsword, scimitar, rapier, and greatsword. You gain the following benefits when using any of them:

  • You gain a +1 bonus to attack rolls you make with the weapon.
  • On your turn, you can use your reaction to assume a parrying stance, provided you have the weapon in hand. Doing so grants a +1 bonus to your AC until the start of your next turn or until you're not holding the weapon.
  • When you make an opportunity attack with the weapon, you have advantage on the attack roll.
Defensive Duelist

Prerequisite: Dexterity 13 or higher When you are wielding a finesse weapon with which you are proficient and another creature hits you with a melee attack, you can use your reaction to add your proficiency bonus to your AC for that attack, potentially causing the attack to miss you.

Magic Initiate

Choose a class: bard, cleric, druid, sorcerer, warlock, or wizard. You learn two cantrips of your choice from that class’s spell list.

In addition, choose one 1st-level spell from that same list. You learn that spell and can cast it at its lowest level. Once you cast it, you must finish a long rest before you can cast it again.

Your spellcasting ability for these spells depends on the class you chose: Charisma for bard, sorcerer, or warlock; Wisdom for cleric or druid; or Intelligence for wizard.

With this you can get Hex, so you can deal an extra 1d6 damage and give your opponent disadvantage on Strength or Dexterity checks to make them easier to grapple. The problem with this is its concentration, so it doesn't work with Enlarge or rage.

Martial Adept

You have martial training that allows you to perform special combat maneuvers. You gain the following benefits:

You learn two maneuvers of your choice from among those available to the Battle Master archetype in the fighter class. If a maneuver you use requires your target to make a saving throw to resist the maneuver’s effects, the saving throw DC equals 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Strength or Dexterity modifier (your choice). If you already have superiority dice, you gain one more; otherwise, you have one superiority die, which is a d6. These dice are used to fuel your maneuvers. A superiority die is expended when you use it. You regain your expended superiority dice when you finish a short or long rest.

Maneuvers are always useful.

War Caster

Prerequisite: The ability to cast at least one spell

You have practiced casting spells in the midst of combat, learning techniques that grant you the following benefits:

You have advantage on Constitution saving throws that you make to maintain your concentration on a spell when you take damage. You can perform the somatic components of spells even when you have weapons or a shield in one or both hands. When a hostile creature’s movement provokes an opportunity attack from you, you can use your reaction to cast a spell at the creature, rather than making an opportunity attack. The spell must have a casting time of 1 action and must target only that creature.

This would be helpful for maintaining concentration on Enlarge.


You become fearsome to others, gaining the following benefits:

Increase your Charisma score by 1, to a maximum of 20. You gain proficiency in the Intimidation skill. If you are already proficient in the skill, you add double your proficiency bonus to checks you make with it. When you take the Attack action on your turn, you can replace one attack with an attempt to demoralize one humanoid you can see within 30 feet of you that can see and hear you. Make a Charisma (Intimidation) check contested by the target's Wisdom (Insight) check. If your check succeeds, the target is frightened until the end of your next turn. If your check fails, the target can't be frightened by you in this way for 1 hour.

This is useful for keeping creatures other than the one your grappling at a distance.

Flames of Phlegethos

Prerequisite: Tiefling

You learn to call on hellfire to serve your commands. You gain the following benefits:

Increase your Intelligence or Charisma score by 1, to a maximum of 20. When you roll fire damage for a spell you cast, you can reroll any roll of 1 on the fire damage dice, but you must use the new roll, even if it is another 1. Whenever you cast a spell that deals fire damage, you can cause flames to wreathe you until the end of your next turn. The flames don’t harm you or your possessions, and they shed bright light out to 30 feet and dim light for an additional 30 feet. While the flames are present, any creature within 5 feet of you that hits you with a melee attack takes 1d4 fire damage.

Burning the grappled creature in addition to everything else, why not?


First round of combat

Use Quickened Spell to cast Enlarge/Reduce as a bonus action (or if you want it to last longer use Extended Spell, but you can only use one Meta Magic option per casting so you couldn't use Quickened Spell). Next, as your action, Attack and use your first attack to grapple (with advantage and double proficiency you should probably succeed). Then, attack with your weapon (the Rapier is the best weapon for this build) with advantage for grappling and Sneak Attack because you have advantage (assuming you have 20 in Strength that's 1d8+5+2+1d4+4d6 damage with a min of 13 and max of 43). The second attack is with advantage for grappling, but Sneak Attack can only be once per turn (assuming you have 20 in Strength that's 1d8+5+2+1d4 damage with a min of 9 and max of 17). Finally, you can use Action Surge to attack more, cast a spell, or attempt to pin the creature (this restrains both you and the creature. While this is bad for you defensively it gives your allies advantage on attacks against the creature).

Following Rounds

As a bonus action, use Barbed Hide to cause small barbs to protrude all over your body. At the start of each of your turns while the barbs are out, you deal 1d6 piercing damage to any creature you are grappling. Next, attack like before or cast a spell.


This build is best for fighting one opponent, but as long as you don't restrain the creature you grapple (and yourself) you should be fine against multiple enemies. Also when you get hit by an attack (once per long rest) you can cast Hellish Rebuke at 2nd level (from being a Tiefling) this does 3d10 and lets you use Flames of Phlegethos (if you have it).


As a Fighter you can start out with Chain Mail (AC 16) and you should be able to get Plate armor eventually (AC 18). You can get the Shield spell from being an Eldritch Knight or Sorcerer (AC 23). Or you can use Uncanny Dodge to only take half damage (which wouldn't take any spell slots like Shield would).

You should have a +17 to Athletics checks by level 20 and multiple ways to get advantage on them. Also with Enlarge/Reduce you can grapple an adult dragon (or other huge creatures). So, you really are the Ultimate Grappler.

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