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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Rules for Parrying

    I'm designing a swords-and-sorcery TTRPG, and my intention is to have more nuanced martial combat than I've personally seen from 3.5 and Pathfinder. The problem is, I want to incorporate a block/parry system to martial defense that gives the defender some options and makes things more interesting, but I'm uncertain how to incorporate it. Before I get into that, though, I probably need to give a bit of basic background on the combat mechanics.

    Among other things, most combatants have 'Guard', which are temporary hit points that get drained before your actual health as long as you're capable of effectively defending against the incoming attack, and is much easier to replenish than health. Think of the Poise mechanic from Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (though I was inspired by the guard mechanic in Dragon Age: Inquisition, years before I played Sekiro.) Additionally, the intention is to have the gap between high and low levels not be completely insurmountable, with leveling power being mostly front-loaded, and diminishing returns as you put more points into an ability. Also, I want to make quality of equipment less important to a character's stats, so that magical items mostly provide incomparable, unique abilities rather than straight stat boosts, and losing your gear isn't crippling, as long as you can find even basic replacements. Different weapons and shields provide different basic bonuses to hit chance, damage, block, and parry.

    Every round, player get three actions, which can be spent on any combination of attacks, spells, movement, or other actions.

    In melee combat, attackers get Fast Attacks, Strong Attacks, Maneuvers, and AoE versions of each.

    Fast Attacks are standard melee attacks, but when used against an opponent who has no Guard, gets a significant bonus to hit chance.

    Strong Attacks take a significant penalty to hit chance, but bypass active Guard if they hit. If the opponent has no Guard, Strong Attacks do double damage.

    Maneuvers do no damage, but can be used to trip, move, disarm, or otherwise debilitate enemies, with more dire effects requiring higher rolls.

    AoE versions off these attacks can be performed, but doing so applies a significant penalty to hit chance.

    Now, here's where my question comes in: As of right now, I have two different skills that you can put points into for defending against attacks; Parry and Block. Block is pretty obvious, it works like AC in D&D, being applied against incoming attacks to determine if they hit. But I'm uncertain how to use Parry.

    One of my previous versions gave players the ability to use their actions to basically lay trap cards. They could declare that they were holding an action, but had to set up what that action was. They could choose between Parry, which scaled off of the Parry skill, and if it succeeded would negate the enemy attack and allow an automatic hit on the enemy in return, and would be particularly effective against Strong Attacks. The other option would be Deflect, which could negate the enemy attack and immediately replenish Guard, and would be particularly effective against Fast Attacks. On their turn, a player could pick one of these two to hold as a trap card, and use it at any point before their next turn. I found that this system was somewhat cumbersome to play with; and even if it worked more smoothly, I'm not entirely certain that a guessing game of 'what trap card is the enemy holding' is the right approach to combat.

    As of right now, I'm leaning towards a setup that would make Parrying the 'high-risk-high-reward' approach, with Blocking being more safe but less proactive. One way I could do this would be to allow defenders to call 'I parry' for any given incoming enemy attack, at the cost of one action from their next turn. If they succeed, they negate the incoming attack and get an automatic guard-bypassing hit on the enemy, but if they fail, they still lose the action and get nothing. This strikes me as being a powerful and interesting option, without being the best option in all circumstances; but it's possible that I'm missing something. What problems would arise with this option? And what other options can you think of for Parry mechanics?
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  2. - Top - End - #2
    Firbolg in the Playground
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    Default Re: Rules for Parrying

    Avoid rolls to parry like they're on fire. Like they're pressurised canisters of hydrogen - on fire.

    I'd go with something like Attack Modes, where a 'Balanced Stance' gives you a -X to attack, while also giving attackers a -Y against you. So 'Defensive Stance' would give -x+1 to attack, and -Y+2 against you, for instance, and 'Aggressive Stance' would do the opposite, +X to attack, and +Y against you.

    Failing that, I'd introduce a number of maneuvers, say:

    Feint +1 vs thrust, -1 vs parry
    Thrust +1 vs parry, -1 vs feint
    Parry +1 vs feint, -1 thrust

    Just as an example, of course, stone/scissors/paper, but likely with more than three option.

    But for the love of all that's good and holy, not a parry roll.

  3. - Top - End - #3
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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Rules for Parrying

    Quote Originally Posted by Kaptin Keen View Post
    Avoid rolls to parry like they're on fire. Like they're pressurised canisters of hydrogen - on fire.

    I'd go with something like Attack Modes, where a 'Balanced Stance' gives you a -X to attack, while also giving attackers a -Y against you. So 'Defensive Stance' would give -x+1 to attack, and -Y+2 against you, for instance, and 'Aggressive Stance' would do the opposite, +X to attack, and +Y against you.

    Failing that, I'd introduce a number of maneuvers, say:

    Feint +1 vs thrust, -1 vs parry
    Thrust +1 vs parry, -1 vs feint
    Parry +1 vs feint, -1 thrust

    Just as an example, of course, stone/scissors/paper, but likely with more than three option.

    But for the love of all that's good and holy, not a parry roll.
    The rock/paper/scissors thing was kinda what I was going for before, but I don't think it's a great idea because it requires players and the DM to keep secret information, which is a little cumbersome for a few reasons. But why the reluctance for a parry roll? Just because it requires an additional roll? I can have Parry just be a flat stat like AC to reduce the number of rolls if that's it.
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  4. - Top - End - #4
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Rules for Parrying

    It reminds me of the combat system in DSA (Das Schwarze Auge/The Dark Eye). It's a D20-roll-under system (meaning if you have e.g. an attack rank of 15, you have to roll 15 or lower on a D20 for a successful attack). In combat, every round you have one attack and one parry action. If you succeed on your parry, the attack is blocked.

    It gets more nuanced, because characters can learn combat maneuvers which come with a penalty to the attack or parry roll. For example, you can do a feint maneuever, meaning you take a penalty of X on your attack roll and your opponent will get a penalty of X on their parry roll.

    In general, this is an interesting system. It runs into problems with experienced fighters, which generally have parry and attacks of higher than 20, meaning even with penalties they will only fail with either one on a roll of 20. So it can run into a boring sequence of "I attack" - "I parry" - "I attack" - "I parry" ... so combats will drag out unless characters are willing to push their luck with maneuvers that drop their chances of a successful attack or parry.

    There is an optional stamina system, so each attack and parry (even successful ones) cost you stamina, and when you run out of stamina you cannot fight anymore effectively. This means characters are incentivized to run a higher risk in order to finish the fight earlier.

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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Rules for Parrying

    Quote Originally Posted by Firest Kathon View Post

    There is an optional stamina system, so each attack and parry (even successful ones) cost you stamina, and when you run out of stamina you cannot fight anymore effectively. This means characters are incentivized to run a higher risk in order to finish the fight earlier.
    I just remembered that I have something of a similar setup, where a missed Fast Attack against an opponent with Guard still deals half damage to the enemy's Guard, so that even a low-level attacker against a high-level defender will still do something, by chipping away at the high-level character's defenses. Once their Guard is down, Fast Attacks get a bonus to hit chance, so low-level attackers get a somewhat better chance to actually do damage.
    I realized immediately after logging in for the first time that I should have called my account 'Dire Lemming.' Oh well.

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    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Rules for Parrying

    Quote Originally Posted by Kaptin Keen View Post
    Avoid rolls to parry like they're on fire. Like they're pressurised canisters of hydrogen - on fire.
    Eh, I like defence rolls, and their have their place. However I think they shouldn't be combined with static defences without a good reason.

    Notably most roll under systems tend to use them because it's the easiest way to have character skill impact defence. One of the big differences is if your defence roll is something you get against every attack or if you only get one per round. What seems to be much more standard is a successful defence roll negating an attack, my GURPS group had trouble remembering it wasn't an opposed roll.

    As a side note my current homebrew system uses defence rolls on almost every attack using the system's basic opposed check system (roll, the one who rolls highest without exceeding their stat is the winner, defender wins ties). Melee attacks use power and are defended by Grace, while ranged attacks use Grace and are resisted by Mind. Active defence actions aren't a thing in the system yet, the current rules already represent standard dodging/parrying. Spellcasting inflicts harsh penalties to defence, to encourage more engagement with the combat techniques system over 'magic solves everything'. It works well enough, although I'm worried about Grace being used for both ranged attacks and melee defence I think allowing Reaction Attacks (which uniquely bypass defence rolls in exchange for a massive penalty) against ranged attacks by opponents engaged in melee with you reduces that.

    Yes, the interplay of attack and defences in a combat system is complex. My system is much simpler than the OP's, and it's still somewhat complex with the need to check for Reaction Attack triggers which exist to drop the power of certain builds (melee bow wielders especially, as well as some varieties of battlemage). Actually even the rules on casting time are written to nock certain builds down a peg, there is literally no way to cast a spell without giving others a chance to respond.

    Now onto the important bit, allowing both static ('Block') and active ('Parry') defences can slow combat to a crawl, as attacks which would have got through due to bypass the passive defence now have to deal with the active defence, which may be significantly higher. Active defences are a necessary weasel in some games, but that's because using passive defences is more complicated and not the elegant solution. This gets worse once reroll tokens or the like are in play.

    Anyway, I'm tired, I'll talk more on integrating active defences in the morning. But remember how in 3.5 casters were more interested in boosting Miss Chance than AC? Yeah, be careful of the consequences of introducing additional defence mechanics.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zelphas View Post
    So here I am, trapped in my laboratory, trying to create a Mechabeast that's powerful enough to take down the howling horde outside my door, but also won't join them once it realizes what I've done...twentieth time's the charm, right?
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  7. - Top - End - #7
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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Rules for Parrying

    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post

    Now onto the important bit, allowing both static ('Block') and active ('Parry') defences can slow combat to a crawl, as attacks which would have got through due to bypass the passive defence now have to deal with the active defence, which may be significantly higher. Active defences are a necessary weasel in some games, but that's because using passive defences is more complicated and not the elegant solution. This gets worse once reroll tokens or the like are in play.

    Anyway, I'm tired, I'll talk more on integrating active defences in the morning. But remember how in 3.5 casters were more interested in boosting Miss Chance than AC? Yeah, be careful of the consequences of introducing additional defence mechanics.
    I should probably have clarified, I figure that players have the option to either Block OR Parry. They Block by default, but they can choose to Parry in lieu of Blocking.
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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Rules for Parrying

    Check out Street Fighter: the RPG. It requires a battle mat to keep track of where people are, but there are a variety of moves each of which has pluses and minuses. Everyone picks their action and you count up from 0. When your initiative comes up you have to declare your action. Basically, you can use faster attacks to interrupt slower ones. There are lots of special moves you can learn and it's an interesting system. Balance is maybe a bit off, and it does not cover weapons well at all. It's worth looting for ideas though.

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    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Rules for Parrying

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Lemming View Post
    I should probably have clarified, I figure that players have the option to either Block OR Parry. They Block by default, but they can choose to Parry in lieu of Blocking.
    Problem B: players wanting efficiency will sink all their points into one and just always pick it (seriously, this was a big concern for me when designing, which is why each stat had a secondary use that all characters want such as Might determining hp). Even if you put caps you ruin the risk of players maxing one and then dumping all their points on offensive abilities.
    Snazzy avatar (now back! ) by Honest Tiefling.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zelphas View Post
    So here I am, trapped in my laboratory, trying to create a Mechabeast that's powerful enough to take down the howling horde outside my door, but also won't join them once it realizes what I've done...twentieth time's the charm, right?
    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Raziere View Post
    How about a Jovian Uplift stuck in a Case morph? it makes so little sense.

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    Default Re: Rules for Parrying

    One system I know uses shields as a parry weapon instead of having a block mechanic.

    It's a roll & keep system, so shields are like +2k1 to parry but -1k0 to attack, adds 2 armor to that arm and has (0+str)k1 damage when used to attack. Parry & dodge add half rolled value to static defense (translated to D&D its a touch attack with armor as DR system).
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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Rules for Parrying

    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    Problem B: players wanting efficiency will sink all their points into one and just always pick it (seriously, this was a big concern for me when designing, which is why each stat had a secondary use that all characters want such as Might determining hp). Even if you put caps you ruin the risk of players maxing one and then dumping all their points on offensive abilities.
    Actually, that helps my case. If using a Parry requires using an action from your next turn, then by default you're limited in how many parries you can pull off, and each Parry used limits your flexibility on your turn. Parries are more effective than standard attacks, so you're incentivized to use them; but if you run out and have no Block skill, then any further attacks directed against you are much more likely to hit. The way I've balanced leveling, I think I've built enough flexibility into the system for focusing on one or the other, and balancing the two, are both viable.

    And I agree on making stats have effects that all players want. My system has four base attributes: Strength, which increases health and some abilities/skills, Agility, which increases Guard and some abilities/skills, Intellect, which increases skill points and some abilities/skills, and Will, which increases your supply of Resolve points (which allow you to take extra actions) and some abilities/skills.

    Quote Originally Posted by Telok View Post
    One system I know uses shields as a parry weapon instead of having a block mechanic.

    It's a roll & keep system, so shields are like +2k1 to parry but -1k0 to attack, adds 2 armor to that arm and has (0+str)k1 damage when used to attack. Parry & dodge add half rolled value to static defense (translated to D&D its a touch attack with armor as DR system).
    In my system, all weapons have an Attack bonus (or penalty), a Damage bonus (or penalty), a Parry bonus (or penalty) and a Block bonus (or penalty). Shields generally have low/no attack and damage bonuses, small shields have high Parry bonuses and small Block bonuses, large shields have high Block, and medium shields have a balance.
    I realized immediately after logging in for the first time that I should have called my account 'Dire Lemming.' Oh well.

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