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Date asked: 5 Aug 2006
Rule set: Second Edition
Rules area: When someone reverses a clinch, when do those involved next act?

When attacker (call him Hero) succeeds at putting someone (call him Five) into a clinch, Fives's action immediately becomes Inactive. This remains until Hero's next action, where he must act to maintain the clinch (a Speed 6 action). The victim reflexively opposes. The winner controls the clinch. Rule say if the victim wins "then his action immediately switches to attacking and the former agressor switches to inactive, restting the appropriate speed of each from that tick". Rules for being inactive say that, in spite of having a Speed of 5: "the state of inactivity ends as abruptly as it begins, as soon as the conditions causing it withdraw. On the next available tick, the character may act normally with a refreshed DV and a full range of options."

For the sake of the argument, assume the action to maintain the clinch happened on tick 5. Suppose Five wins the contest, reversing the clinch. Further suppose he elects to drop Hero. When do Hero and Five act next?

The following rules may help in resolving this:

  • Exalted Second Edition, grappling rules pg. 157-158, including:
    • "The victim's action shifts immediately to inactive".
    • "...reflexively resisted by the victim..."
  • Exalted Second Edition, how Inactive actions end pg. 143.



This ruling was required for TrialBySchmendrick/TerrestrialHeroVsFiveDragon.

Both sides act at Tick 10 and neither side is inactive from Tick 5 onward. Both sides must use an action to do the control contest. If for some reason one side does not want to use his action to contest the clinch, then he doesn't get to roll and the other side effectively rolls against a difficulty 1. The inactive status only apply to the loser of the clinch while he is clinched. The moment the winner chose to let go (by throwing), the loser is no longer inactive. - TonyC

I think Tony's wrong on this one. The grapple rules on 157-158 say that the agressor must spend his action to grapple, but the victim "reflexively" resists. They also say that once a victim is clinched, he becomes immediately inactive. The rules for being inactive (143) state that "the state of inactivity ends as abruptly as it begins, as soon as the conditions causing it withdraw. On the next available tick, the character may act normally with a refreshed DV and a full range of options." -- Wordman
Well, if that's correct, does that mean I became Inactive as soon as you won, then when you threw me I also became active again? - Hapushet, whose head is starting to hurt
If TonyC is correct, then we're not both acting on 10 - one of the few equipment advantages I have in this fight is my clinch speeds are faster than yours, so you'd be going on 11. On the other hand, if we've both gone from Inactive and back to regular function again, then we're both acting on tick 6, since the Inactive rules clearly override action speeds. In that case, your first attack stands, but I would most definitely be flurrying a rise from prone action with a renewed grapple attack; you'd get a second action, but I'd be doing a simultaneous attack that might abort your third and forth attacks. (Applying here Neph's suggested resolution for conflicting simultaneous actions - resolve each round of competing flurries before moving on to the next round.) Or, it could be as you said, in which case you're going now and I'm going on 10, if I manage to live through the rest of the tick. - Hapushet
Looking at the line that says if the victim reverses the clinch, "then his action immediately switches to attacking and the former agressor switches to inactive, restting the appropriate speed of each from that tick" makes my head explode. It implies that Fives speed is now calculated as if he attacked and doesn't get an action until 11, but if he lets Hero go, since Hero was inactive for the moment of the clinch reversal, he can now act on the next tick, in spite of initiating a speed 5 attack in the same tick.. In which case, why bother escaping from a clinch at all? - Wordman
Keep in mind that at the moment of reversal, Hero already used his action to try to maintain the clinch. So Hero, having already done a clinch at Speed 5 (even though he failed), will act again on Tick 10 while Five, having already done a clinch at Speed 6, gets to act again at Tick 11. - TonyC
The issue there is that the Inactive rules don't seem to care what Speed your last action was before you became Inactive - they just say that when you become active, "On the next available tick, the character may act normally with a refreshed DV and a full range of options." I suppose that word "available" could become key herem but I and Wordman both seem to be reading it as "the tick right after this one." - Hapushet

It may be that the Inactive action having a speed of 5 helps resolve this, but it seems to me the "ends as abruptly as it begins" rule makes the Speed essentially meaningless. - Wordman

If Inactivity ends as abruptly as it begins, I recommend treating it as if it didn't begin at all, and the person should be restored to acting on whatever tick they would have acted on if not grappled. It's not exactly what the rules say, but it makes more sense than a literal reading. - IanPrice
The problem with that idea is that grapples often run for several actions, and the point at which they would have acted is usually long past in such cases. - Hapushet
Right. To clarify, in the combat that led to this discussion, the clinch originated on tick 0 and was reversed on tick 5. The "whatever tick they would have acted on if not grappled" happened to be tick 1 in this case. -- Wordman

My initial reading of both sides spending an action turns out to be incorrect. A closer reading establishes that the attacker must spend an action to maintain a clinch. He doesn't get a choice. He can't simply let go, because letting go is a Break Hold clinch maneuver and to do a clinch maneuver, you need control of the clinch. This control is being contested in the first place. Five does not get to spend an action because he is Inactive and unable to do so. His roll is reflexive and he is only treated as spending an action if he wins the clinching contest. For most situations, the "both sides spend an action" is close enough for a rule of thumb, but there is one particular situation where it doesn't hold. If Hero won the contest and chooses to let go, then Five had not done any action and gets to go next tick. So if at Tick 5 Hero won the clinch and chooses to throw Five, then Hero acts at Tick 10, having done a Speed 5 Clinch (he has a speed reducer artifact) while Five, not having done anything except a reflexive roll, gets to act at Tick 6. This seems like it penalizes the initiator of the clinch for letting go, so can someone go to WW and put something in their wiki, because this could be errata material. - TonyC

Where exactly are you getting the idea that the winner - if he was the loser before - is treated as having spent an action? - Hapushet
"then his action immediately switches to attacking and the former agressor switches to inactive, resetting the appropriate speed of each from that tick". Page 158. Emphasis mine. - TonyC
Interestigly, TonyC's most recent interpretation is the one I assumed from the start, but now I think might be wrong. D'oh! Still thinking. -- Wordman

Let's face it. The production team goofed, and allowed this part of the rules to get in there as an unclear mess. The only "right" ways to interpret the rules are either "get the developer or author to comment" or "make an expedient decision that allows you to play the game." TonyC and I did the latter on the fly in TrialByFire/ShunVersusMonkey. (Specifically, we read it that the inactivity ends not when the clinch action is resolved, but when the last one ends; ie, when its speed is up - so both fighters end up acting on the same tick.) The former resolution is nice when possible, but rules confusions like this just halt gameplay. I find playing Exalted more fun than talking about the rules of Exalted. - IanPrice

In the arena of "what do the rules say", Ian's right that they don't seem to say much. In the realm of "what do the rules intend", they don't say much more. In the realm of "how should it work", I'm drawing a blank. It's tough to see ramifications of the variuous choices. For example, in cases where one combatant has a faster clinch speed than the other, you can essentially get into situations where one combatant actually never gets an action of his own. Or, consider the case where there is a third combatant standing next to the first two when a clinch is released. Some choices would allow him to be more effective than others. I think one potential solution is to assign Speeds to the various options you can make on control of a clinch. Or, perhaps, generate three new action types, each of which can only be made when already in a clinch. -- Wordman

Another thing to consider: suppose on tick 5 that, instead of using his action to continue the clinch, Hero wanted to release. Can he do so? If so, does it take an action? The rules say "For as long as a character maintains a clinch, he can do nothing else without a flurry, and he must use every subsequent action to renew the clinch", but suppose he doesn't want to? -- Wordman

There is a "break hold" maneuver described in the clinching section. It's a Clinch attack (when already clinched) where you throw the opponent, or where you let go without harming them further without rolling. - IanPrice
This implies that you believe that in order to release a clinch on his action, someone who initiated and currently controlls a clinch would, on his action tick, need to win the opposed contest again, then release, thus spending his action? -- Wordman
That's how I read it. Moreover, the "he can do nothing else" bit seems pretty clear that, once you're in, the only way out is forward. I don't think it's a restriction on doing something else while clinching, I think it's a hard limit on doing anything at all that isn't a clinch once it begins. - Hapushet

It occurs to me that, while the clinch rules suggest that you can do three things when you control a clinch, you really have a choice of five, all of which used to have separate mechanics in 1st edition: crush, hold, throw, sweep or release. The first four of these, while they may or may not be "attacks", are certainly "attack-like". The last one is not. It seems like, therefore, that the Speed of the one that controlled the clinch, at least, should be based on his choice. Crush and hold seem like the "normal" clinch maneuvers, so would be speed 6. Throw and sweep seem more like standard attacks, so may be a bit faster, maybe 5. Release seems like it should be more instantaneous, so is perhaps speed 1. Assuming this, what of the other combatant's speed? I'd suggest that, just as attacking someone with a sword doesn't change the target's speed, neither would an event that ended a clinch that they did not control. That is, if they were already waiting for the speed from their last action to expire, they keep waiting. Otherwise they act on the next tick. The one special case is of that of a release, where if a combatant is released, they can act again on the next tick, regardless of prior speed.

Using these rules, when Five takes over the clinch, he can simply let go, in which case both he and Hero will act on the next tick, or he could do the knockdown/sweep described previously in the fight, in which case, he could go in Speed ticks (whatever the speed of sweep is chosen to be) and Hero would go when the speed from his failed clinch attempt expires. -- Wordman

Grappling is just a mess, mostly due to the extremely lax wording surrounding the Inactive state and actions, and the fact that grappling uses the word Inactive, but the text indicates that the actual state invovled is very much different. The current rules have several interpretations; I think the most reasonable one currently is this:

  • When you are the target of a successful grapple action, you are put into in Inactive state and must therefore take an Inactive action every tick, just as other forms of being inactive require.
  • But it's, uh, a special Inactive state! You can still use reflexive charms! And take reflexive actions! But, uh, not the reflexive movement action and you have no DV. ...unless you use a charm.
  • After the clinch is released, the target is no longer forced to take the Inactive action, but you still have to wait for the speed of the Inactive action until your DV refreshes and you have to act again; this is the 'next available tick'. Until your DV has refreshed you suffer the same restrictions on the actions you may take as you did while you were forced to be Inactive. So, basically, you get to act normally 5 ticks after the clinch is ended. Until then, it sucks to be you.
  • But it's still faster than the poor sod who controlled and ended the clinch! However, since there's no special restrictions in the grappling action about waiting till DV refreshes before you can act with a 'full range of options', he could probably take reflexive move actions after he ended the clinch. And he probably gets to dodge and/or parry after he's ended the clinch.

Uh.. yeah. Clinching is just a big fat stupid mess!

So with regards to original question: I'd say that Five acts on tick 11, may take reflexive movement and activate reflexive charms as usual, and may apply his dodge and/or parry DV to attacks which occur after the clinch has ended. Hero may activate reflexive charms, but may not take reflexive movement, and may not dodge or parry without use of stunts or charms until his next action on tick 10, after which he may take actions as normal.

What they need is a action, similar to but seperate from Inactive, called "Getting Clinched" which is either speed 6 or has speed equal to the speed of the attack which caused the clinch (straight 6 is probably better). Then they figure out what rules they want to apply and put them all as conditions of the "Getting Clinched" action.

As it stands, the rules are really inspecific and even when taking very conservative interpretations, give really weird results (the loser of the clinch will act before the winner?), so some sort of house rules are necessary. On the other hand, I have never seen the RPG system that deals with grappling in a consistent and elegant manner; it's always a mess of hodgepodge and funny rules and exceptions. I suppose it is not the worst thing that 2e could flub on. ~Capric

If we want to go into the realm of house-rules, my first interpretation has much to recommend. It's simple, doesn't have weird effects, does not punish the winner nor reward the loser, and takes into account Clinch speed. Basically, both sides decide whether to attempt to control the clinch. If both decide against, then the clinch breaks automatically and both sides immediately do whatever it is that they were planning to do. If both decide to attempt to control the clinch, then you have a resisted roll (which probably shouldn't not be treated as a normal attack). If only one side attempts it, then that guy rolls his pool normally and can add the successes to inflict damage. The person(s) attempting to control a clinch has whatever Speed is appropriate for the Clinch (normally 6, but could be some other number), regardless of the result. Thus if one side does not attempt to control the clinch and foregoes the roll and yet somehow manages to get away (Freedom Stone comes to mind, also, the opponent could let go, or even botch the roll), then he gets to act immediately. If both attempted to control the clinch, and the loser was thrown or let go, then the loser's next action comes 6 ticks later (whatever appropriate for that person's Clinch speed). - TonyC
I admit, this concept has much to recommend it. I'd prefer an official answer, but this idea does make a fair amount of sense. The only concern I have is when clinches have different Speeds, as in this case; I would assume that it is impossible to contest the roll without allowing your opponent to do the same, so contested rolls are effectively capped by the lower Speed, but the higher Speed may come into play if/when the clinch is broken. - Hapushet
I'm considering just having some sort of DV system, as having everyone be synched seems to mess with the tick system a bit. -FlowsLikeBits

It occurs to me that one way around this mess is to ditch the idea of the victim becoming inactive at all. Instead, let the victim act on whatever tick he would have acted on but, like the attacker, he must use his action to try to control the clinch. The ramification of this is that clinch contests would happen more frequently (triggered on both participant's ticks, not just the attacker's) and this might have weird side-effects. It would, however, give very clear indication of when each combatant could next act, as well as make the whole "can use reflexive actions" thing make a little more sense. This would also, possibly, allow more cinematic clinching, like the victim of a grapple maneuvering both combatants off the edge of a cliff without breaking the hold, and so on. -- Wordman

I came across this issue in the middle of a game recently and it basically stalled out the entire session. That was aggravating. To prevent this from happening again I've come up with a solution/house rule.
  • Grappling: Ignore the section about the defender of a grapple and the Inactive Action. Instead, once a grapple is initiated, the contested roll is checked each time the attacker's speed comes up, with the winner controlling the clinch and is able to take one of the listed actions on page 157. Both participants of the grapple are considered to have a starting DV of 0. Charms may add to this and their DV refreshes when the grapple is checked for. Upon ending a grapple, the winner may immediately act, the looser must make a Join Battle roll to re-enter combat.
This fixes the problem and addresses my issue with the split speeds of the two people grappling. - SagaciousAscendingHero

I'm not sure why it took me so long to consider this possibility, but when people are Inactive, and then suddenly not, they need to expend effort to get back into the fray. In other words, they should spend a Miscellaneous Action to make a Join Battle roll to get back into the combat. When they "immediately" gain an action upon being released, this action should be their only choice. This solves the confusion over speed in a way that seems more fair to me, plus opens the door for cool "join battle" charm use after a clinch. Does this make any sense? Does its make the issue better or worse? - Wordman

I think that's an interesting and fair variant. While I think it'd be a shaky position to try to say it's supported by the printed rules, it's a variant I'd have a lot of fun playing with, and therefore I like it. - IanPrice