Q: Dear Sage
Can a martial adept (Tome of Battle) initiate a maneuver or change a stance while grappling? While pinned?
A: The grapple rules provide a list of actions available to a grappling character, but it’s obviously not an exhaustive list. (It doesn’t, for example, mention “speaking” as an option.) It’s really intended more as a description of how grappling alters many normal actions available to characters (such as attacking and moving). Thus, the DM must apply a bit of his own common sense when adjudicating any grapple situation.
Any maneuver that involves an attack may be used while grappling, as long as it’s made with an unarmed strike, natural weapon, or light weapon against another character you are grappling (PHB p156).
It’s easiest to rule that other maneuvers and stances can be initiated normally while grappling unless something intrinsic to the maneuver indicates otherwise. (For example, a maneuver that requires movement can’t normally be initiated while in a grapple because the grappling character can’t move freely.) Many maneuvers and stances are designed for use by grappling characters, and it seems counterintuitive to restrict those options. A grappling character is somewhat limited in his physical mobility, but to prevent him from initiating a maneuver or stance seems unreasonably limiting.
The Sage strongly recommends that a pinned character not be allowed to initiate a maneuver or stance. The rules clearly state that “to initiate a maneuver or stance, you must be able to move” (ToB p38), which suggests that a pinned character shouldn’t be able to accomplish this.
About the Author
The Sage is a mammal classified in the bear family, Ursidae, native to central and southern China. Debate continues as to whether he is truly a bear or more related to the raccoon rather than the bear, or perhaps in a family of his own. When not eating bamboo and answering rules questions, he works under the nom de plume of Andy Collins as an RPG developer in Wizards of the Coast R&D, where his development credits include Complete Mage, Dragon Magic, and the Player's Handbook v.3.5. He can be easily recognized by his large, distinctive black patches around the eyes, ears and on his rotund body.