Pathfinder Combat Maneuvers

( ⇪ Adventuring Variants )

In a nutshell: This includes grapple, disarm, trip, etc. and some minor additions.

Read this for more details on each maneuver.

  • CMB mod = BAB + STRmod + special size modifier
  • CMD mod = BAB + STRmod + DEXmod + Defense Bonus + special size modifier + miscellaneous modifiers
  • Flatfooted CMD mod = BAB + STRmod + special size modifier + miscellaneous modifiers
  • PC Attack Maneuver Check = 3d6 + CMB mod
  • PC Defend Maneuver Check = 3d6 + CMD mod
  • NPC Attack Maneuver Score = 11 + CMB mod
  • NPC Defend Maneuver Score = 10 + CMD mod

The special size modifiers are as follows:
Fine –8, Diminutive –4, Tiny –2, Small –1, Medium +0, Large +1, Huge +2, Gargantuan +4, Colossal +8, Planetary +16, Astronomical +32.

Having the Weapon Finesse feat sometimes allows you to substitute your Dexterity modifier to your Strength modifier when determining CMB checks made with an applicable weapon. It depends on what combat maneuver you’re attempting. Disarm, sunder, and trip are normally the only kinds of combat maneuvers in which you’re actually using a weapon to perform the maneuver, and therefore the weapon’s bonuses apply to the roll. Therefore, if you’re attempting a disarm, sunder, trip, and certain kinds of dirty trick maneuver, you can apply your Dexterity modifier instead of your Strength modifier on the CMB check (assuming you’re using a finessable weapon, of course). For other combat maneuvers, you use the normal rule for determining CMB (Strength instead of Dexterity). Remember to also apply armor check penalties, if any.

Grapple Improvements

Here are some quick-reference charts: Round 1 Attacker and Defender, and Round 2 Attacker.


Any time you could do damage as part of a grapple, you can throw the creature you’re grappling to the ground by tripping them. Use the normal rules for a trip, but because the target is grappled, they have a -4 penalty to DEX and an additional -2 to their combat maneuver defense (this does not count as trying to grapple or escape the grapple). If your trip is successful, you deal double your normal grapple damage (half on a successful reflex save, the DC is your combat maneuver attack roll), the target is prone, and you end the grapple.

If you have the Fling Enemy feat (Races of Stone p140) and use that feat instead, every 10 ft you throw an enemy also deals double your normal grapple damage (half on a successful reflex save as above) when they hit the ground. They can take additional damage mid-flight as follows:

  1. If you throw an enemy into a wall with at least 5 hardness, the wall deals damage as if it were fall damage appropriate to the distance cut short from your throw.
  2. If you throw the enemy onto or against an object, they take double whatever damage would be dealt by that object. Treat the damage dealt by an object the target is thrown against as equivalent to an improvised weapon of its weight (as seen in Complete Warrior p159), and being thrown into it pushes it back as equivalent to you making a bull rush against that object (which has a CMD of 0, +5 for every 100 lbs of the object’s weight).


Strangulation doesn’t work against any creature that does not breathe (such as constructs, deathless, elementals, and undead), nor against oozes, plants, vermin, incorporeal, or ethereal creatures, or on a creature of a larger size than you. Your GM might designate other creatures immune to strangulation as well.

When you are the controlling grappler, after maintaining a grapple, instead of doing damage you may attempt to gain a strangle hold on your opponent by making a special melee touch attack (you still have the normal +5 on this attack for being the controlling grappler). If you succeed at this special melee touch attack, you grab hold of your opponent’s throat (or slip a garrote around his neck) and can begin to strangle him on the following round. A garrote can be any thin, supple item (such as a rope, steel cable, wire, and so on, see specifics below). Your opponent’s armor gives a special bonus when making this touch attack, as shown on the chart below.

Armor Type Target’s bonus against strangulation touch attacks
Natural Armor The natural armor bonus to Touch AC
Full Plate +4 to Touch AC
Leather Collar +4 to Touch AC
Gorget +10 to Touch AC

To strangle your opponent you must either use your hands (taking a -4 penalty on the touch attack) or an appropriate strangling implement such as a garrote. You must use at least two hands or an appropriate strangling implement with two hands (unless it’s a locking garrote, see below). Aside from the “deal damage” option or letting go, once you start strangling you cannot take any other action that would require using either of those hands.

If you succeed at your strangle attempt, your opponent can no longer breathe but can still hold their breath for up to 2 rounds per point of their Constitution score (beginning that same round on the opponent’s turn). Each round when you take the “deal damage” option (including immediately), you deal 1d3 nonlethal damage (small creatures do 1d2 nonlethal damage) plus 1-1/2 times your Strength modifier, and you remove a number of additional rounds from their hold-breath time equal to that damage. If you have the Improved Unarmed Strike feat or use a garroting weapon (see below) and beat their CMD by 4 or more when maintaining the grapple, you can choose to make this damage lethal.

The strangled creature on its turn cannot attempt to pin, disarm or steal the strangling weapon, speak, or take any vocal action (such as casting a spell with a verbal component. However, they can still attempt to add a number of rounds to their hold-breath time equal to their Constitution Bonus (minimum +1) by doing the “attempt to break free” option. If they succeed on attempting to break free twice in a row, they loosen your grip or the garrote enough to escape the grapple. Alternatively, they can make a Strength check to break the strangling implement (if there is one) or attempt to (unless it’s a locking garrote, see below) reposition you or bull rush you without requiring a charge. Starting on the round when its hold-breath time runs out, on each of their turns the creature must make a DC 10 Constitution check to continue holding their breath, DC +1 for each previous success.

When the strangled creature fails one of these Constitution checks or drops unconscious from nonlethal damage, they begin to suffocate that turn. In the first round, they simply fall unconscious. On their turn of the following round, they drop to zero hit points and enter the dying status (although no Injury save is made yet). On the third round, they die. If you stop strangling your opponent once they fall unconscious they remain unconscious for 2d6 minutes (unless the reason they’re unconscious is because of their nonlethal damage). If you stop once they become dying, they automatically stabilize (unless lethal damage was done that turn in which case they make Injury saves from being dropped to zero hit points with that damage). A strangled creature may pretend to fall unconscious by making a successful Bluff check.

Strangulation Equipment

The following equipment can be used for strangling and is treated as that weapon category for the purposes of proficiency (using your hands counts as an unarmed strike for proficiency). Anything too dissimilar from the listed items takes a -4 nonproficiency penalty to all strangulation attacks with it.

Simple Weapons Cost Extra CMB Bonus Damage (S) Damage (M) Weight
Two-Handed Weapons
      Chain (5 ft.) 15 gp +2 1d4 1d6 1 lb.
      Cord (5 ft.) 1 sp +1 1d4 1d6 3 oz.
      Rope varies +1 1d3 1d4 varies
      Sling 1 gp +1 1d2 1d3 3 oz.
      Steel cable (5 ft.) 60 gp +3 1d6 1d8 1 lb.
      Wire (5 ft.) 25 gp +3 1d4 1d6 3 oz.
Exotic Weapons Cost Extra CMB Bonus Damage (S) Damage (M) Weight
Two-Handed Weapons
      Bola 5 gp +1 1d3 1d4 2 lb.
      Chain, spiked 25 gp +2 1d6 1d8 10 lb.
      Flail, dire 90 gp +2 1d4 1d6 10 lb.
      Whip 1 gp +3 1d6 1d8 2 lb.

Chain: Originally from the SRD, a chain held no longer than 5 ft from the tip can be used in melee as a sap (as a martial weapon), dealing the same damage. Chain has hardness 10 and 5 hit points. It can be burst with a DC 26 Strength check.

Cord: Cord has hardness 0, 2 hit points, and a break DC of 20.

Gorget: A gorget is a metal collar that provides a +10 bonus toward your Touch AC against starting strangulation. A gorget has hardness 10 and 5 hit points. It must be custom-made for its wearer and imposes a -4 penalty on checks made to perform physical actions over a period of time (running, swimming, breath-holding, and so on). A gorget costs 10 gp and weighs 5 lb.

Leather Collar: This simplified leather gorget provides a +4 bonus toward your Touch AC against starting strangulation. A leather collar has hardness 3 and 1 hit point. It must be custom-made for its wearer and imposes a -2 penalty on checks made to perform physical actions over a period of time (running, swimming, breath-holding, and so on). A leather collar costs 2 gp and weighs 2 lb.

Locking Mechanism: A locking mechanism consists of a pair of handles that attach to any thin, supple item (such as a rope, steel cable, wire, and so on). The handles slide along the garroting material freely, but when brought together they can lock in place together. Once you secure the garrote you can lock the garrote in place with a move action. This maintains strangling pressure on your opponent even after you let go, dealing the same amount of damage and losing the same number of rounds from hold-breath time. The garroted creature continues to take any action it could normally make in that situation (against your last CMB roll you made before locking it, if relevant) until freed or unconscious, but it requires four “break free” successes in a row to loosen the locking garrote enough to escape. Unlocking the handles from each other is a free action for you. Adding a locking mechanism to a garrote makes the garrote an exotic weapon. The DC for a Disable Device check made to remove a locked garrote is 10 if the character has Exotic Weapon Proficiency (locking garrote) or 25 if they do not, and cannot take 10 or take 20 on this check unless the creature garroted is already dead. If someone other than the victim makes the attempt, a -5 penalty applies unless the garroted character is paralyzed, unconscious, or otherwise kept from moving. Removing it from your own neck with Disable Device also gets a -5 penalty unless you can see the garrote. Failing this check results in losing an additional round of hold-breath time. A locking mechanism costs 1 gp and weighs 1 lb.

Steel Cable: A steel cable held no longer than 15 ft from the tip can be used in melee as a whip (an exotic weapon), dealing the same damage. Steel cable has hardness 8, 8 hit points, and a break DC of 26.

Wire: Most wire garrotes come with grips at the ends. Using a wire garrote without grips or some kind of hand protection deals 1d3 points of lethal damage per round to you. Wire has hardness 4, 5 hit points, and a break DC of 24.

Dirty Trick Improvements

This maneuver covers any sort of situational attack that imposes a status condition on a foe for a short period of time. Examples include kicking sand into an opponent’s face to blind him for 1 round, pulling down an enemy’s pants to halve his speed, or hitting a foe in a sensitive spot to make him sickened for a round. The GM is the arbiter of what can be accomplished with this maneuver, but it cannot be used to impose a permanent condition.

Performing a dirty trick is a melee called shot attack. Like normal called shot attacks it’s limited to once per round on your initiative and you must press your luck, but it does no damage, and you roll CMB instead of a non-touch attack roll. A dirty trick is normally a swift action, but you may instead perform it as a standard action to give you a +2 to your CMB roll. Either way, attempting a dirty trick provokes an attack of opportunity. Using a weapon can make a dirty trick plausible, but aside from the weapon finesse feat you do not apply any weapon-specific bonuses, penalties, or effects to the dirty trick. A dirty trick cannot be a critical hit, but as all combat maneuvers are a kind of attack roll it can still auto-succeed on a natural 18.

Attempting a dirty trick means declaring one of the following conditions, making a called shot to the relevant area, (subject to your GM on how hard it is to hit, if it can be hit at all), and giving a plausible way for your called shot to accomplish that condition:

Condition Location Usual bonus to CMD
Dazzled Head +4
Blinded Eye +8
Deafened Head +4
Entangled Leg +2
Shaken Head +4
Sickened Crotch +6

If your called shot misses but by no more than 5, the condition applies anyway but it only takes a move action to remove it. If the called shot hits outright, it instead takes a standard action to remove the condition.

If the condition applies, the target is affected for 1 round. For every 5 by which your attack exceeds your opponent’s CMD, the condition lasts 1 additional round. Each dirty trick condition cannot stack with the same dirty trick condition or lengthen its duration, so you can’t apply the shaken condition with a dirty trick while they’re already shaken from a dirty trick. However, you could apply a different condition with a dirty trick and that would stack with its own duration.

If you have the Combat Expertise feat, attempting a Dirty Trick does not provoke an attack of opportunity. If in addition you also have a Base Attack Bonus of +6 or higher, a dirty trick you perform instead lasts for 1d4 rounds, plus 1 additional round for every 5 by which your Dirty Trick beat the target’s CMD, and removing the condition takes longer (a standard action if you fail by no more than 5, or a full-round action if you succeed).

Meta Analysis: Dirty tricks represent another type of debuff that any character could perform, and are most effective against full-attacking enemies. If the opponent requires a move action to clear the effect, the farthest they can move would require downgrading their standard action to a move, they can’t take a full-round action at all (including a full attack action). Doing a standard action offensively then means the most movement they can do is a step. Once you have a BAB of +6 or higher, a successful dirty trick practically eliminates any offensive capabilities for a round!

Pathfinder Combat Maneuvers

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