Last Updated: February 22, 2023
The Wrestler archetype is exactly what it sounds like, expanding your options with the grab and grapple mechanics in Pathfinder 2e. While anyone with Athletics and a decent strength score can grapple, Wrestlers gain several options to do more to a grabbed target. If you’re looking to support your team by focusing on martial crowd control, the Wrestler has you covered. If you want to put some guy in a headlock and then lift them over your head in a suplex or piledriver, Wrestlers can do that too.
But can’t I just grapple without being a Wrestler? Well yes, you can, nothing is stopping you from sometimes grabbing foes while also doing something else. Wrestler Archetype simply gives you feats to focus on making grabs and grappling your primary method of fighting. If your class lacks built-in support, then this is a great way to get some. If your class already has some support for grappling, then you can synergize for even more on top of that.
Table of Contents
RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks.
- : Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
- : OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
- : Good options. Useful often.
- : Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.
- Wrestler Dedication 2: The dedication is particularly strong for anyone interested in grappling. It requires Athletics training, but then increases your Athletics to Expert and also grants the Titan Wrestler skill feat. It does allow you to also make lethal unarmed attacks without a penalty, but it does not increase the die size, so for most medium races it stays 1d4 bludgeoning. For one last benefit, it gives a +2 circumstance bonus to your Fortitude DC when resisting Grapple or Swallow Whole. While these are uncommon things for players to face, it’s almost like being one proficiency step higher on Fortitude against those effects. We are the grapplers here.
- Combat Grab 4: This is a 2nd-level Fighter feat and it has the Press trait, but don’t let that dissuade you. The reason for this being Press is that it bypasses the target’s Fortitude DC in favor of AC to start a Grab, which is a pretty big gap for some monsters.
For example, a level 5 Troll has 20 AC but a Fort DC of 27. A 5th-level non-Fighter martial is looking at +14 to hit (assuming a +1 potency rune), dropping to +9 with one MAP (+10 if Agile). That’s an 11 on the d20, 50-50 odds. Rolling to grapple normally with Expert Athletics would be a +13 (and we’ll give it the benefit of being the first attack so no MAP) we not only need a 14 on the d20 to hit Fort DC, but Combat Grab does not have the critical failure result of normal Grappling.
- Crushing Grab 4: It’s not super great. It’s a small amount of flat damage, that won’t scale significantly (likely from 4 at this level to 6 or 7 at 20th), on a grapple. On top of that, it is only when you use the Grapple action, so it won’t trigger on Combat Grab for example. You can skip this one.
- Disengaging Twist 4: If foes are constantly trying to grapple you, this is a solid feat to have. Being able to use Escape as a reaction with a +2 Circumstance bonus on top is very nice. Remember that Escape has the Attack trait so having to wait Escape on your turn will impose MAP, which this bypasses by being a reaction.
- Elbow Breaker 4: Do you know why Disarm is bad? Because it doesn’t disarm on a normal success. Do you know why Elbow Breaker is good? Because on a normal success, you still Strike the target for damage and on a critical failure you just miss the strike, no becoming flat-footed. Too bad that most of what we fight doesn’t hold weapons.
- Snagging Strike 4: It’s not a bad feat when taken at 1st level by a Fighter. But taken as a 4th-level Archetype feat it’s not so great.
- Suplex 4: Suplex is the Trip version of Elbow Breaker, allowing a strike on a grabbed target instead of an Athletics vs Reflex. It’s nice in that it imposes Prone on a success, but your grab ends no matter the result of the Strike. Because of this effect, you’ve got to be careful with Suplex. I would only use Suplex if I still have the creature grabbed at the start of my turn and can follow up with a Combat Grab once it is prone in order to re-establish the grab..
- Clinch Strike 6: It’s not a bad feat and if you’re not already overloaded on Reactions. An Attack of Opportunity vs targets that successfully escape from your grabbed or restrained, which Attack of Opportunity does not target. If you already have Attack of Opportunity, it’s really up to you if you want this to cover that hole or not. Using this might even convince opponents to stay grabbed and just fight you, setting them up for Suplexs and Aerial Piledrivers in the next round.
- Running Tackle 8: All this really has going for it is improved action economy. For two actions, Stride and Strike, but then make a Shove if you hit with the Strike. In the right circumstances, Shove can be useful. The problem is that the Shove is subject to MAP following the Strike. We could be kiting if the party needs that, but we’re also built to get into melee, hold enemies in place, and inconvenience them, and we can’t do any of those things when they’re out of our reach.
- Strangle 8: This is a fantastic feat if you’re dealing with spellcasters or just trying to keep someone quiet. You get to make a strike against your grabbed foe and if you hit, in addition to doing damage, the target can’t talk or make verbal noises this round. What this means mechanically is that the Flat DC to use actions with the manipulate trait in a grapple increases from 5 to 10 (20% failure chance to 45% failure chance) if the action relies on speech, such as a spell with verbal components.
- Submission Hold 8: Make a grapple check on your grabbed or restrained target to apply enfeebled. This can help keep a strong target in your grip as they will suffer a penalty to the Athletics check to escape.
- Whirling Throw 8: Take a grabbed creature and throw it. There are two things that make this feat great: If you don’t succeed at throwing the creature, you only lose the grab on a critical failure, and it doesn’t have the Attack trait so it doesn’t suffer from MAP. If your second action was a successful Combat Grab, your third action can be yeet at no penalty. You do suffer a penalty if the creature is larger than you, but if you succeed the distance that you can throw and the resulting damage are impressive.
- Aerial Piledriver 10: This is Suplex’s two action older brother. Now, the strike deals an extra 1d6 damage per weapon die and you don’t lose the grab on a success while still leaving the foe prone. As a trade-off for this bigger reward, however, a critical failure will leave you prone instead.
- Spinebreaker 10: This is the clumsy version of Submission Hold. It’s great in the same situations as Submission Hold, except against more agile foes that would roll Acrobatics to escape. I suspect the reason this is two levels higher is that clumsy is also a status penalty to AC which combines very well with the grabbed and restrained conditions imposing flat-footed.
- Inescapable Grasp 12: You wrestle so hard that even magic can’t get people out of your arms more than 25% of the time. Teleportation effects have to beat a DC15 flat check or fail. Freedom of movement has to beat a DC15 flat check or the target can’t automatically succeed at the escape, but does not lose the attempt and still rolls normally. This is a fantastic hard counter to your own hard counters.
- Form Lock 14: It’s very situational, but you can wrestle a werewolf so hard it stops being a wolf. I don’t know how common such foes are going to be for you, but if they show up a lot this can be helpful.
Who Should Use This?
This archetype is all about grappling and really benefits anyone that can make grapples happen. So anyone that can afford to have a high Strength score can do it. To really get the most out of this though, you need to have good unarmed attacks. While the dedication removes the lethal penalty from your basic unarmed attacks, it doesn’t increase the damage die from 1d4. Several Ancestries have access to natural weapons that can help you out, such as the Earthly Wilds heritage Kitsune’s jaw attack or the Lizardfolk’s Sharp Fangs or Tail Whip ancestry feats, but I would suggest prioritizing bites or other non-claw attacks, as your claws might be occupied grabbing foes.
- Barbarian: Barbarians have plenty of built-in feat support and are Strength-based, so they make natural candidates for the Wrestler Archetype. Animal Instinct Barbarians in particular will benefit from their Animal natural weapons to make much stronger unarmed attacks than most classes. Deer, Shark, and Snake all have hands-free grapple attacks, allowing your grapple attempts to benefit from any potency runes on a handwraps of mighty blows as well.
- Champion: While a Champion doesn’t have grapple options in their feats, holding foes in place is one of the Champion’s primary goals. You can even put a blade ally into a handwraps of mighty blows to improve your unarmed damage.
- Fighter: While the Wrestler has some Fighter feats, the higher attack proficiency gives an edge for all these feats that have you perform an unarmed strike and then do something.
- Monk: Monks will have increased damage with their unarmed strikes while gaining the array of options for grabbed targets. Gaining access to Combat Grab to get free grabs is also very nice.
- Ranger: A Flurry Ranger can actually get a lot done with Wrestler. Using the Flurry benefits to minimize the MAP for Combat Grab being a Press action and then following that with a Suplex or an Aerial Piledriver all in a single turn is absolutely bonkers. Precision can also do well to make up for your unarmed strikes possibly having lower damage than a weapon would.
- Rogue: A Ruffian Rogue is the exception that makes a great Wrestler, but there are some caveats to remember. The racket only expands sneak attack to non-finesse and non-agile simple weapons. So to get sneak attack with many of the wrestling moves you still need to use agile or finesse unarmed attacks. The benefit of this is that you’ll be generating your own flat-footed targets with your grab and restrained.
- Swashbuckler: The Gymnast Style gains panache by using the Athletics actions, including Grapple, so naturally you might want to combine these. But be careful: you don’t gain Panache from grabbing, so you don’t get it from Combat Grab, but all is not lost. Running Tackle has you make a Shove action, and both Submission Hold and Spinebreaker have you specifically make a Grapple action. These actions will give a Gymnast panache.
- Thaumaturge: As long as you can get a decent non-hand unarmed attack like a bite, this doesn’t really cause any more implement juggling than a normal Thaumaturge. The upside is that Implement’s Empowerment does apply to unarmed attacks, so a Lizardfolk’s 1d8 Bite attack would pair perfectly with a Thaumaturge Wrestler.