Legendary Wrestler – Grappler Archetype For 5E Barbarian Review

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Well, you can’t start tearing apart a game without taking a cheap shot at the grappling rules, and by Garnox and Vindrel, what a cheap shot it is! There are whole webpages discussing how grappling rules are the red-headed stepchild of roleplaying game design and many gamers are happy to take a good ol’ hobnailed punt at the ginger bastard just for ruining an otherwise workable system.

Certainly D&D5 is no better than most and no worse than few others. Apart from the ugly fix of redirecting players to the Shove rules, one can take the uglier route of including exceptions and special rules (such as the Grappler Feat in the Customization Options.) Or one could take that extra step further and make class archetypes to fill gaping problems and make the whole thing uglier still.

I don’t think Legendary Wrestler – Grappler Archetype For 5e Barbarian by C. J. Leung (and supported by Garnox and Vindrel) is a bad supplement, yet I wouldn’t recommend it as a fix for the grappling rules issues in D&D5. Having said that I don’t think it actually wants to fix anything at all, really; it wants to celebrate something.

Exactly what it wants to celebrate is wrestling, but what kind of wrestling is confused and inconsistent. Sometimes it wants to be treated seriously and legitimately, inspired by the mythic acts of Hercules and Samson and including some rather striking archaic cavern paintings of the exploits of Garnox and Vindrel. But the rest is an homage to modern WWE trends with a slew of in-jokes and oh-so-sly references that lose their charm in the long run.

Some of the rules are interesting, but few are great, and none completely fix the integral clumsiness of the grappling rules. The worst are rules purely designed to exhort a chuckle from those who love their TV rasslin’.

No real justification is given as to why the two Paths really suit Barbarian more than Fighter, and Rage is dismissed in an early paragraph. The two Paths listed basically fit into the WWE-style categories of Big Strong Guy and Speedy Aerial Guy. And thus the wonderful “Heroic Age” concepts get ditched in order to talk about Gornax and Vindrel.

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If you’re a little tired of hearing about this Gornax and Vindrel duo, then you’d better get used to it. Telling you too much will spoil about 78% of the entire supplement, but let’s spoil away. They’re the emotional heart of the document, trying to give characterisation to an otherwise rather bald set of rules options that could fit on a bare couple of pages. And bugger me dead, it actually pays off!

Gornax and Vindrel are our examples of the two offered Paths and are half-brothers, one of orc blood and the other of elf stock, and they are actually more fun than their silly premise promises (despite the fact that they end up breaking the 20 point cap in several of their Attributes.) Their sahuagin rival Khululukul is a welcome villain and the artwork for these characters grows on you. Cutout standies for the two brothers are a great inclusion, though I would have liked to see Khululukul and his giant shark added to complete the set.

But the focus on WWE satire means that these Paths will remain little more than a novelty. If the supplement had spent more time trying to emulate the grand strength of ancient heroes it would be much more satisfying. Some rules even demonstrate the potential of this idea, and I’ll admit that I like the image of a hero who can lift up a Storm Giant by the toe before smashing its spine over a church.

Legendary Wrestler Etc Etc Etc doesn’t really work, and the main reason is that it remains an addition to the regular Grappling rules; an expansion of a clumsy system. It isn’t a terrible idea, but it isn’t a great one, and remains purely a bit of discardable fun.

You can pickup a PDF copy of Legendary Wrestler: Grappler Archetype for 5E Barbarian at this website, paying whatever you wish to do so.

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2 Comments
  1. CJ Leung
    November 28, 2016 | Reply
    • December 1, 2016 | Reply

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