Parrying: I Get It Now

Sometimes you can know something, or two somethings, but they don’t quite click in your head for whatever reason.

I’d never been a fan of Parrying skills; why spend time not attacking when clearly the obvious way to stop being attacked is to kill the monster that’s in front of you? Games like Neverwinter Nights that are basically “D&D without a party” makes Parrying seem even more useless because while you’re parrying, no damage is being dealt!

One of my big pet peeves is that a lot of people do melee wrong; in D&D, once two characters are in melee, they are in melee period, until one of them dies or spends a round trying to run away. Characters who are in melee can be attacked by characters not in melee without those characters attacking becoming locked. Now, this is important for a reason: high HP low AC fighters and clerics lock down the bad guys by getting them into melee – those baddies so engaged  cannot just say “Well, I’m going to attack the squishy wizard/thief now because I’ve randomly chosen a new target!” They are stuck fighting those opponents until they die, run away, or kill them. While stuck fighting the bruisers, the baddies can be backstabbed and bespelled with impunity by the thieves and magic users, unable to strike back.

In comes Shitlord: the Triggering, which has a Dex-based Parrying skill unique to the Dickpuncher (Fighter) class. For each point of Dex over 13, the Dickpuncher can effectively improve his AC by one against the combatant he’s in melee with instead of making an attack. Now, my first thought is “He’s wasting his time parrying; why would he not just attack instead?” Then it clicked:

With an active defense vis a vis Parrying, a Fighter character can potentially lock down a much tougher opponent longer without sustaining damage to give thief classes more opportunities to backstab. As strong as a fighter’s attack is, a Thief’s backstab is ALWAYS better. Depending on the system, you could easily be doing 3-4 times as much damage per hit with a bonus against the enemy’s AC. The high dex parrying skill negates that huge attack advantage monsters tend to have over PCs and classed NPCs so that a fighter can go toe to toe against something that could very well cream him otherwise for an extra round or two. Yeah, he may not get his chance to do 1d8 damage, but the Thief is almost guaranteed to get 4d6 damage. As long as the DM is abiding by proper melee rules, the Fighter can always keep one baddie locked down so as to ensure that the Thief can get his backstab on.

Thank you for opening my eyes to this, Shitlord: the Triggering!

Also, this is not a real review, but silly Alt-Right shit-talk aside, S:tT looks like it’s a pretty solid retro-clone. It borrows from the best and presents it well, but it also brings in a few original ideas that are absolutely worth incorporating into your game. My group is fairly liberal, so I don’t know if I could get away with running this even as a one-off except for April Fool’s, but I’ll probably borrow several bits and bobs from it.  Also, thank you for not sorting spells by level.

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15 responses to “Parrying: I Get It Now

  1. A lot of games don’t do it well. In many video games, for example, “Defend” merely reduces damage taken, but in most cases this is useless because as you point out you can’t win that way (unless maybe you have some kind of damage over time effect applied and you’re waiting out the clock). “Parry” or “counter-attack” mechanics in games are much more useful, indeed. “Taunt” skills that draw enemy fire and increase defense or evasion are also a lot more well-thought-out than generic “Defend,” though yeah, this is dependent on having a team or party and synergizing. I feel like a lot of more modern games get this right where older ones just offered a pretty pointless action.

    • I think a lot of those skills that appear in older video games are poorly implemented and possibly broken versions of the pencil-paper deal that don’t work because certain RPG combat elements were either poorly understood or impossible to implement due to technical limitations. The “Defend” action from Final Fantasy-esque games is one of the worst offenders. I’ve never seen under the hood, so without any concrete evidence that it affected either your defense or damage taken, it was worse than useless.

  2. Thanks for the plug.

    You’re analysis is exactly right. You wouldn’t parry when fighting mooks, sure. But for the big bad bossman? Yeah, you want to be able to lock that monster down long enough to get everyone else in position.

    Ya also gotta remember that this all stacks up, too. The fighter will already have the best AC in the party, and piling up another two or three points on top of that just gives him a lot more survivability.

    This can also be critical when fighting beasts with that killer claw/claw/bite combo. Two claw hits to embrace is vicious, and if you can limit the thing to one hit per round, you’re preventing it from latching on for the additional attack.

    And when all else fails, if the fighter does get hit, he’s still got the HP to soak it.

    Oddly enough, this occurred to me while playing in a 5e campaign where the straight-up fighter’s job is to do nothing but stand there and draw aggro away from the rest of the party so that everyone else can do stuff. In every damn combat we had. It sucked at the time, but it was clear thatwhat sucked as an *obligation* made for a valid *option*. Hence the rule.

    • Yes, definitely on the monsters with multiple attacks.

      I always hear how the Thief class is broken, doesn’t work, and it’s stupid weak with its 1d4 hit die; but if you let the thief actually take advantage of backstab by using the melee rules correctly, he’s a game-changer, especially against those really big high HD monsters.

      Against something like a grizzly bear, yeah, if the fighter is willing to keep it at bay for a couple rounds, the thief is able to do average of 14 damage per round, while the fighter is hopefully only getting hit once every other round with an effective AC of 0 to -3

  3. Never liked the name “parry” as it assumes a single action that, in fact, it’s already done repeatedly in the course of a minute-long round. Something like “defensive stance” would be better, I guess. Or “cowardly stance,” hehe.

    • It’s the problem with the abstract nature of the round. Feinting and Parrying is what you do during the round, because you’re effectively in “Parry-mode”, which is not to say you spend the entire time parrying one attack.

      But I’m more a fan of the 6 second round, myself.

      So, “Parry” is the skill, “Parrying” is what you’re doing for those six seconds while Stabbs the Hobo gets behind the guy you’re fighting with his hobo knife.

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