I am writing this for use in the Midgard setting, but I should state upfront that this can be used for just about any setting. A grappling style Monk would fit in just about any setting that allows monks. I recently wrote a blog post about the weird misconceptions held about martial arts and how they shape their presentation in D&D. One of the reasons I wrote that was because I could see some specific archetypes for Monks in Midgard I wanted to make.
One of the classic archetypes for the unarmed martial combatant is the grappler. The Vikings had Glima, the Greeks had Pankration, and the Mongols had Bokh. These forms combined strikes, and grappling for superior position. You may have heard of other arts along this line including Judo, Jujitsu, and Aikido. Those originate in Japan, but there are similar forms from just about any culture you can name. Grappling can be about strength, but quite often it is about an internal mastery which makes it perfect for the Monk class.
Digging into the Way of the Grasping Hand does require a brief review of the contentious subject of grappling. I say contentious because many a fight has been had over grappling rules through the various editions. In the current rules, the grappling is pretty straight forward.
To enter a grapple requires an action, done instead of a normal attack. The one initiating the grapple must succeed on a contested Strength(Athletics) test against the Targets Strength(Athletics) or Dexterity(Acrobatics) roll, their choice. If you succeed you apply the Grappled condition to the target. The target can’t be more than one size larger than you.
A grappled creature’s speed becomes 0, and it can’t benefit from any bonus to its speed.
The condition ends if the grappler is incapacitated.
The condition also ends if an effect removes the grappled creature from the reach of the grappler or grappling effect, such as when a creature is hurled away by the thunderwave spell.
The target can spend an action to escape. It must succeed on a Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check contested by your Strength (Athletics) check.
You can move someone you are grappling with, but it is difficult. Your speed is halved, unless they are significantly smaller than you (two or more sizes smaller).
The last bit I will bring up is the Grappler feat. It gives you advantage on your grappling checks, and allows a second check to upgrade the target to the restrained condition, but you are also subject to that condition. That condition is simlar to grappled but with a couple of extra points.
A restrained creature’s speed becomes 0, and it can’t benefit from any bonus to its speed.
Attack rolls against the creature have advantage, and the creature’s attack rolls have disadvantage.
The creature has disadvantage on Dexterity saving throws.
That understanding in place I went looking for some elements I could play with there making for interesting options. Here is what I came up with.
Way of the Grasping Hand
Monks of the Way of the Grasping Hand are the ultimate masters of grappling. Their abilities make them the masters fighting of a single opponent, controlling where their opponent can move, and reducing their capabilities throughout the fight. The Monks mystical power binds the body and ties their opponent into knots.
Grasping and Movement
At third level the follower of this way gains the Grappler feat for free.
You also gain the ability to spend a point of ki to ignore the restrained condition till the end your next turn.
The Spirit of the Grapple
At 6th level, you gain resistance to Piercing, Slashing, and Bludgeoning damage while grappling, as long as it is not from a magical weapon. Additionally, you may spend Ki for a reaction attack action applied to anyone who successfully escaped your grapple. This attack action can be used to attempt a grapple again.
Also at 6th level, you can grapple targets up to two sizes larger than you.
Stability of the Mountain
Beginning at 11th level, you gain the ability to ground your Ki into the earth. Effects that would cause you to move (shoves, being knocked prone, grappled and pulled, spells) fail to move you if you do not wish it.The damaging effects occur normally. This ability does not work if you are not in contact with a solid ground. Additionally, all strength checks or saves are made with advantage so long as you are not moving.
Designer’s note: This may be too powerful. It will need some testing to be sure. Alternatively, you could use an expenditure of Ki to achieve the effect.
Grappling the Soul
At 17th level, you gain the ability to tie your ki to the target’s. On a successful strike, you can expend 3 ki. If you do so the target cannot leave your melee range. To do so requires a successful wisdom save, and even then they are bound to the same plane as you. Every time they move away from you they must succeed in a wisdom save or be pulled back to arms reach. As a bonus action you can spend an additional ki and pull them back to your melee range no matter how far they have traveled. This effect remains for a full day, or until either you or the target dies.
How does it fit in the Midgard setting?
(note: This is just my suggestions. Nothing in this is approved in any official Midgard canon.)
The Northmen know this art from old and revere the few men who walk this path. They teach not in monasteries but as fighter to student, with unbroken chains going back to through the centuries. Such fighters are well regarded through all the kingdoms and races of the north. Björnrike’s King of Bears will hold a competition on most years to see who is the greatest grappler and the monks of the Way often attend. often has The Way of the Grasping Hand often associated with the priests of Thor with practitioners often training in temples to Thor.
On the Rothenian plains this an art practiced by the Kariv. The origins of the art is lost to history, though legend has it was taught to a Kariv by a bear in return for a service. Whatever the case, there is usually one or two followers of the Way of the Grasping Hand in larger bands. The masters will meet in fights where the goal is to drive the opponent from a circle drawn on the ground. Even non followers of the Way will participate in these competitions, though rarely will they beat a monk of the Way.
In recent years, there has been an increasing desire for interesting fighting competitions in Zoebeck. The Rothenian plains style competitions have caught on in some venues and they attract people from all over. It has the advantage of being less likely to result in death so few people complain about such competitions.