[RPG] Can you escape a grapple during a time stop (without teleporting or similar effects)


Some context: during our last game a hidden creature (not the BBEG, but kind of a mini-boss, CR23) charged and grappled (with improved grab) one of the PCs (a 20th-level Sha-ir/Cleric/Dweomerkeeper) during the surprise round, leaving him quite wounded (under half hp). After that this PC won initiative and the first thing he did was casting time stop. We decided to end the game there for several reasons: it was already late, one other player had left, and this is an important encounter that he didn't want to miss, and I wasn't sure how to rule on this situation yet.

So regarding the question itself, say you're in a grapple with another creature, and during your turn you cast time stop (since it only has verbal components you can cast it while grappling with a DC 29 Concentration check), but you're inside the area of a forbiddance spell, so you can't just teleport out.

Could you escape the grapple while time is stopped using the normal method (by making a grapple or escape artist check)? I'm guessing that since the opponent can't move or be moved he can't make a grapple check either so you can't even try the opposed check.

Would casting freedom of movement be of any help at all? You automatically succeed on the grapple check to free yourself, but I don't think you can make that check to begin with.

Best Answer

This going to have to be a pure DM call.

No commentary, much less any rule, covers this. There isn’t even a community consensus. Play at levels where time stop is possible is rare, and actually using grapple seems, if anything, to be rarer. I’m sure you’re not the first to deal with it, but it very much is not a “frequently asked” question.

And you basically have two options (shocking, when dealing with a “yes” or “no” question). Those two options are basically divided between the gamist “yes, you can,” and the simulationist “no, you can’t.”

  • A gamist perspective would look at the rules, and the spirit of the rules, and determine that this is the kind of thing time stop is for. It isn’t an offensive action, it doesn’t directly “affect” another creature, and extricating yourself from dicey situations is part of what you want the spell for. A gamist perspective would likely also note that the rules don’t explicitly bar grapple escapes, and be more comfortable taking the game rules as the physical reality you’re working with. A gamist might also shy away from the potential complications here that are ordinarily below the game’s abstraction threshold—suddenly, we might be wondering how the hold is being established, and whether it could be slipped out of while the other creature is frozen, and so on, where normally the game would have us ignore such complications.

  • A simulationist perspective is much more likely to look at the grapple as something that you just couldn’t physically do anything about while time is frozen. At least some of the time, depending on the hold. Probably, though since time stop doesn’t actually freeze time, maybe you could make an argument that the hold isn’t actually unbreakable (but then that looks a lot more like affecting another creature in a way that time stop would not allow). If you imagine being held by a literal immovable object, it’s hard to imagine escaping: a simulationist perspective would care a lot about that.

There isn't any objective measure by which we can declare one of these right. Traditional “gamist–narrativist–simulationist” theory also includes a third option, that I could see going either way, and potentially not even consistently but on an ad hoc basis (effectively, as dictated by the “rule of cool”). Any of these approaches is valid, and honestly I think everyone should give consideration to all three in making a decision because all the perspective have something of value here. But the final determination is up to the DM.