Parrying Rules for (A)D&D


I think I’ve come up with an elegant solution to the whole “how the heck do I actively defend against an enemy?” question. And it works so well with (A)D&D, I thought I would share. How about this:

Anyone engaged in melee can opt to parry. The term includes dodging, avoiding, etc. as well as literal parrying of weapons.

The character opts to parry as part of their normal attack in the melee round. Characters who lose initiative may not parry. Parrying subtracts a number from the opponents’ “to hit” roll equal to half the number chosen by the character, to a maximum of their level (round down). Characters are penalized by the full amount on their own “to hit” roll. Opponents of fighters (and cavaliers, and sub-classes of both) are penalized the full amount, rather than half, due to the training they receive. Monsters can parry at a level equal to their hit dice, at the full rate as if they were fighters.

EXAMPLE: A 5th level fighter chooses to parry 3 points during his round. Both his opponent and he suffer a -3 penalty on their “to hit” rolls.

EXAMPLE: A 4th level magic-user chooses to parry 5 points during his round. He cannot, however, since he can only is 4th level. He opts to parry 4 points. His opponent is -2 on its “to hit” rolls. He is -4 “to hit” for that round.

My only concern is, is this too under-powered a rule? Would you ever parry in melee, given these rules?

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

12 thoughts on “Parrying Rules for (A)D&D

  1. It's not what I'd use myself, but I wouldn't mind it if I were playing in someone else's game, except maybe the penalty calculation. Perhaps a flat -2, or -4 for a non-fighter parrying a fighter?

    My own solution is just to let a character sacrifice an attack to parry. Roll the damage for the weapon used to parry, that's how much it blocks.

  2. I use almost exactly this rule in Gods & Monsters; I have a list of things that warriors can trade their attack bonuses for; one is increased defense, at a 1-to-1 trade. The others are an extra attack (for +4, though I'm probably going to change that to +3), extra (potential) damage (also at a 1-to-1 cost), and extra movement.

    The warriors occasionally go for extra defense or an extra attack (but not as often as I think they should, so I'm thinking the cost is too high), rarely for extra damage; and rarely for extra movement but they have used it when they know they need it.

    What they most often do is take advantage of another part of the rule: saving attack bonuses across multiple rounds. A warrior can save up to twice their level in bonuses for use in later rounds. So when they want to be absolutely certain to hit once in a while, they'll save half or even all of their attack bonuses to the second round (and rarely to a third round).

    Occasionally they try to be fancy and save up as many bonuses as they can and trade them in for one or two extra attacks and keep the rest for attack bonuses.

  3. I'd be afraid of drawn-out fights. The net result will be that people will hit less. It might make a good simulation, but is this what we want in a game?

    An alternative that sounds more interesting because it provides choice and doesn't draw out combat: adjacent alllies can pass on AC. A fighter with AC 2 and a mage with AC 9 can stand side by side, and the fighter can choose to pass along 3, resulting in his AC being 5 and the mage's AC being 6.

  4. I probably would not use the rule for AD&D. Although I would see if my players would like such an option.

    If it were a gameplay rule would it be used? Probably for certain situations such as just keeping an opponent busy while your thief lines up a backstab or loots the shop or til the mage can charm him. Overall I'm not sure how much I would use it.

  5. I'd be afraid of drawn-out fights. The net result will be that people will hit less. It might make a good simulation, but is this what we want in a game?

    Well, by definition anything that decreases the average points of damage inflicted in a round is going to prolong combat. I'm not aiming so much at "simulation" with this, so much as "option". I want to give players the chance to take a more active role in combat, other than just picking orc #6 and rolling to hit. If I was going for simulation, I'd be changing things around a LOT more…

  6. I use a choice system for parrying in my d20-based game. During any round players have the standard move + action options, which can be swapped for double move, or double actions (two attacks, or an attack and parry). To balance it I'm using a point buy system for them to determine their skill at either main attack, secondary attack, or parry.

    Most of my players opt for the second attack, and parry only if their HP gets critically low. As a result, combats actually go a little faster.

  7. I know this is an old thread, but here's my take:

    As a combat option, a Fighter can choose to Parry and Dodge by forgoing their attack. This adds their DEX bonus to their AAC for the turn, over and above any normal AAC bonus for DEX. If they have a shield, add an additional +1. This works for both melee and missile attacks.

    This rule limits this to extreme circumstances.

Comments are closed.