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2 weapon fighting and other questions

posted Oct 17, 2012 16:57:06 by Adam
I was wondering what advantages you get from fighting with two weapons? I can see the advantage of using a 2 handed weapon (greater damage and harder to parry) and of using a 1 handed weapon and shield, but can't see how 2 weapon fighting gives you any advantage.

On a related point, suppose I want to have a swashbuckler using a rapier and main gauche who goes around unarmoured. How do I defend myself against a big weapon? I presume I would have to evade as an opposed roll, which strikes me as a short route to an early grave, even if I do have acrobatics to stop me going prone when I use it instead of evade. Have I missed something that enables such a character to defend himself effectively? Opposed rolls are far more dangerous over time i.e. a PC's adventuring life.

As to the unarmoured thing, from what I can see the only disadvantage to wearing armour is that the enc will affect your strike rank - it doesn't impact on sneaking, evading, acrobatics, climbing etc. While I can see that having fitted armour is not as constricting as many games make it, it still feels wrong that you have just as much chance of doing acrobatics in full plate as you do in your underpants.

I have only read through the rules once, so I appolgise in advance if I have got things wrong.
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33 replies
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Adam said Oct 17, 2012 19:51:16
First off, thank you so much for giving such a comprehensive answer - I really appreciate it!

You make some good points about the advantages of having two weapons, but most of them seem small enough to not really be any real advantage: being able to passive ward - a shield is far superior in this regard, so the two weapon fighter is at a disadvantage here; being disarmed, though I would imagine this is generally a small advantage, and a fighter could always draw another weapon; parrying to prevent special effects again seems a very small advantage, and not one specific to 2 weapons; focusing on offence is not an advantage, just a way of covering the weakness of 2 weapons; closing the range is an advantage if you have a smaller weapon, but does require wasting a possible damaging attack to set it up. All in all, it still seems like the poor relation when compared to 2h weapon or weapon + shield fighting. Doesn't really seem a sensible fighting style, if you want to maximise your effectivness.

Your thoughts on combat style traits is great. I wish that the rulebook had thought more about 2 weapon fighting and given these traits for it, rather than left it up to GMs to create new ones. For a GM getting to grips with the system, it seems a bit unhelpful to not have traits specific to 2 weapon fighting in their examples.

Hadn't noticed that enc affects movement rates. However, this is not much of an advantage to low enc charcters, especially when you are not dealing with grid movement. I also don't see why there are good in-game reasons for not seeing 2 weapon fighters. Such fighters are a stapple of rpg fantasy games, so why have them penalized in comparison to sword and board and two handed weapons? Also, why are those easier to learn? I don't see that in the rules.

As to armour - while ancient armor is not as heavy and restricting as commonly believed and medieval knights could mount a horse on their own while wearing full plate armour, that is not really the point. Your idea of allowing the GM to have discretionary difficulties to some skills when wearing armour is fine and dandy, but, firstly, there is little to no guidence for them in the rulebook, and secondly the difficulty levels don't have much granularity to them. All very well and good to have a sandbox approach, but it seems a big oversite to not give any meaningful guidence to it.

This might sound all a bit negative, and in a way it is. The previous incarnations of runequest have all taken into account this kind of thing, and I can't see why this version has got rid of it. Why do that? I really want this to be the best version of runequest, and in many ways it is, but there just seems to be design choices that limit classic steroetypes, which were catered for in previous versions. For sure, wearing little to no armour was always a bit of a risky choice in runequest, but at least there were certain in-game advantages to it, but these seem to be missing this time, unless you start introducing GM fiat skill penalties that are not really discussed, so become really nothing more than house ruling. The strike rank penalty is meaningful, to be sure, but it only applies in combat and can be overcome if you have more AP's than your opponent anyway. In addition, not attacking first doesn't seem such a huge penalty when you can see the attack roll before you choose to parry or not. Couple that with a swashbuckler having to use opposed acrobatic rolls against the bigger weapons and it just seems you have to create a whole raft of house rules to make it a viable choice.

I am really hoping that I am wrong about all this, as I want this to be my go to system, but at the moment it seems I will have to house rule it, and I was seriously hoping that would not be necessary.



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bluefenix42 said Oct 17, 2012 20:22:36
I understand your concerns. RQ6 definitely leaves certain archetypes at a disadvantage, and there are places where I wish it had more details and examples as you say. Overall, though, I see RQ6 as more of a framework for a game than a truly complete rigid ruleset. For instance, there's no explicit rule on how many weapons a combat style knows, or how fast magic points recover. Instead, the game gives suggestions and guidelines. RQ6 requires house rules and GM fiat decisions before you can even start playing.

To address your two specific concerns further...

Two-weapon fighting in older editions got you an extra action point. Unfortunately, what you could use that point for was poorly defined, and it added an extra thing to keep track of in combat. The authors of RQ6 explicitly decided to leave that out and level the playing field. They were also aiming for a more realistic combat system that reflects their experience with real-world fighting styles. If you want to house-rule something that supports two-weapon fighting better, that's fine - it just doesn't fit with the original author's vision.

Oh, and when I say sword-and-board is easier to learn, I don't mean a specific game rule, just real world. In-game, I tend to allow cultural combat styles to have sword-and-board or two-handed large weapons, but I reserve the most exotic weapons, dual-wielding, and other difficult to learn combat styles for Career combat styles that only Soldiers and other combat-focused careers can learn.

Also, remember that not all characters need to be built and played optimally. A dual-wielding combatant, or one who uses mostly light armor might not be precisely as strong as another build, but if the player is having fun and still contributing to the success of the party, so what?

Finally, don't underestimate the influence of magic on physical combat. This game has TONS of self-buffs in all 5 branches of magic. Archetypes that may not be optimal to play as purely mundane characters can become pretty powerful with the right magical abilities layered on top.
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Thalaba said Oct 17, 2012 20:46:03
Bluefenix's response was pretty comprehensive so I'm not sure how much I could add. One additional advantage of a 2-weapon style is the option to throw your weapon and still keep a weapon in hand - something that would be more difficult with a shield.

Not being disarmed can be a big advantage. True, you might be able to draw another weapon (not always), but that takes time and an AP, which you might not be able to afford when most combats only last 2 or 3 rounds.

The ability to fight both in close and at range is probably a bigger benefit than you give credit for.

A 1-weapon fighting style is not easier to learn, that I can recall. All combat styles are equally easy to learn.

The Penalties to skills from armour needn't be GM fiat - just discuss them with your group and apply what seems reasonable - if everyone agrees it's not 'fiat'. In any case, this version of RQ (like all the previous ones) is a GM-based game and requires a certain amount of decision-making on the part of the GM (call it 'fiat' if you like). This is nothing new. Also, if you find the standard penalties to be not granular enough, there is the option for using fixed penalties.

The movement penalties don't only apply when using the grid - they can be used without a grid, too.

As for RQ6 being the perfect game for you - given that no two GMs have exactly the same taste, the idea that someone would produce a book that did everything to everybody's taste seems a bit unrealistic. As it stands now, maybe you have to add a minor houserule to adjust the game to your taste - so be it. If the book was written exactly as you wanted it, I guarantee someone else would be houseruling to readjust the very rule that you happen to like to their taste, then writing here to say the game isn't realistic enough. That's just the way it goes - luck draw, perhaps.

The comment that 'not enough advice is provided' for this or that has been mentioned a few times by different people, and probably a few parts of the book could use a little clarification here and there. I'm sure it's nearly impossible to foresee every issue people might have when writing a book. Don't overlook, though, that the authors have kindly provided a forum in which to seek the advice you need from the 300+ (and growing) members of the RQ community. That's got to be just as good - probably better :-)
[Last edited Oct 17, 2012 20:48:41]
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DanTrue said Oct 17, 2012 21:08:23
Such fighters are a stapple of rpg fantasy games, so why have them penalized in comparison to sword and board and two handed weapons? Also, why are those easier to learn? I don't see that in the rules.


Well, with this argument you might as well have a bikini mail which gives 10 armor and dual-wielding longswords. The Runequest system is built around Pete's understanding of medieval fencing, and is built to be both very realistic and fun at the same time. My understanding of medieval fencing completely backs what Pete has done with the system.

Historically two-weapon fighting styles are encountered as a Gladiator fighting style and as Rapier + Dagger after the disappearance of armour (I may have forgotten some more examples). Of course some will have picked up two weapons, you might as well if your shield breaks. But as a taught and widely-used combat style, it is almost not seen outside the Arena in ancient times, and almost not at all in Medieval times.

In the rules they are 'easier to learn' because the rules are more straight-forward to making them work. I have no doubt one who really knows the system and has built a character around it can make two-weapon fighting work to his advantage, but it is much more straightforward to make sword+shield work.

closing the range is an advantage if you have a smaller weapon, but does require wasting a possible damaging attack to set it up.


Yes, but if you're a two-weapon fighter you need to have high evade/acrobatics, which means you're likely to get inside that distance, hopefully without getting hit (as you're evade/acrobatics is high). When you're inside his reach:

1) he cannot parry, which is very dangerous for him.
2) he only strikes for 1d3+1 damage
3) if he want's to get away again, he needs to spend an AP to get away. Which means you spend an AP to force him to spend an AP... so AP-economically you're still equal.

Of course, all this can also be done with a shield.. and hence a shield is usually better.

But, in a tight corridor, on a ship, in a back-alley of a major city or at the court at a fancy party, your shield will likely either get in the way (i.e. the 'Attacking in a confined situation' modifier from p. 150) or you will simply not be allowed to take it with you to the fancy party. Hence, people fighting with two-weapons are more likely to be swashbucklers in cities fighting duels of honour or stealing jewels of governor's daughters, not fighting in a war.
To insist that two-weapon fighters should be moved from those environments where they belong historically to some utterly in their disfavor because its' a staple of RPGs is fine - but it's not the design mentality that went into designing RQ6 as far as I can see.

As to armour - while ancient armor is not as heavy and restricting as commonly believed and medieval knights could mount a horse on their own while wearing full plate armour, that is not really the point. Your idea of allowing the GM to have discretionary difficulties to some skills when wearing armour is fine and dandy, but, firstly, there is little to no guidence for them in the rulebook, and secondly the difficulty levels don't have much granularity to them. All very well and good to have a sandbox approach, but it seems a big oversite to not give any meaningful guidence to it.


One point you've missed are the encumbrance rules on 117. A character needs a STR of 17 to be able to wear full-gothic armour (ENC 49) without being overloaded (and that's without all the other crap adventurers tend to carry). And even then, even wearing the armour counts as medium activity and will therefore require an endurance check every CON minutes. Wearing heavy armour is VERY debilitating.. actually much more debilitating than my experiences as a medieval reenactor tells me, but this would likely be mitigated by a combat style trait to trained knights (who have worn armour for most of their life) raising their STR in regards to this. Also, knights were usually very strong historically by the accounts we have, so it's probably not too bad.

On the point of the lacking of penalties, I really don't think they are necessary. That a character should receive a stealth penalty for sneaking in mail is rather obvious, the same with doing acrobatics in plate. It's the GMs job to take these situations into account and use common sense. Setting the penalties in stone will lead to:

1) Some of us think them a waste of space, you disagree - which is fine, we all have different tastes, but they were (are) working on a budget and within certain page/size/cost restraints, and they simply cannot put everything everyone wants in the book.

2) Some other games are designed with the philosophy that everything should be stattet and laid out with guidelines, tables and rules - d&d 3.x is for example. The result is that even simple actions end up having long rule texts, which bloat up everything so it becomes harder to find the rules you're looking for. Secondly, it heightens the chance that you introduce some special-case which break the system or perhaps the special-case doesn't actually make using the rules easier, because it places doubt in something.

3) A fighter jumping down from 3rd storey wearing mail in a realistic Iron-Age game, will likely break a leg. A pirate doing the same in a heroic pirate-tale doesn't even warrant a check. The hero in full-plate armour jumping from his horse in a heroic fantasy game may not suffer many penalties, but the same warrior being dragged into a lake by a hag later might see him almost certainly drown. It all depends on the game style.

4)If they provide guidance to armour penalties, then you could also argue that they should provide guidance to using Lore checks under stressful situations, or Using Engineering in difficult areas such as swamps or riverbeds ... It is very hard to draw a line between what is common knowledge, what is not common knowledge but would be a pain to provide guidance for and what is not common knowledge and is essential. In RuneQuest the designers have clearly focussed on the areas where most people have very little idea (combat) or none at all (magic) about what is going on.

I for one find it refreshing that a system states "We have faith in you, so that we can write out rules more loosely, and you will combine them with common sense / cinematic feel / heroism (whatever fits the game you're playing) to make it work for your game".

But, of course, everything I have said here doesn't need to change your opinion. Your RuneQuest Will Vary! It's the most important rule in the game. If you want a game where dual-longsword wielding scots are the most effective fighting style, you do it. It's your fun to have :) But you cannot expect RuneQuest vanilla to fit your style entirely.. I think everybody on this forum introduces some house rule, new weapon, new special effect or removes a spell. All the game designers can do is to develop the game as realistic as possible, as that is our common ground, but we must take it from there.

Sorry for the long post, hope it clears some things up.

- Dan

EDIT: ah, two posts beat me while I was writing.
[Last edited Oct 17, 2012 21:12:34]
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dreamer_prophet said Oct 17, 2012 21:34:03
Crikey! Lots of really detailed answers!

“All in all, it ...doesn't really seem a sensible fighting style, if you want to maximise your effectiveness.”

“... there just seems to be design choices that limit classic stereotypes ...”


I’d only add this. I think it’s clear where your preferences lie on the cinematic/ gritty scale of combat simulation, and that’s fair enough, but the truth is that cinematic isn’t sensible. On the battlefield, the fighter eschewing armour and a shield where these are available is choosing to fight at a disadvantage.

The thing is that’s why swashbuckling is entertaining. The fun derives from the mooks in heavy armour and large shields seeming incongruous off the battlefield as they fall over themselves in pursuit of the guy in tights. The swashbuckler is forced to compensate for his limitations through resourcefulness. Imaginative use of the scenery and a special effect landed early in the fight might not kill an opponent, but can quickly put him on his ars*.

Don’t write off the rules as they are. In the right setting they might just shine.
[Last edited Oct 17, 2012 21:34:16]
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lawrence.whitaker said Oct 17, 2012 21:51:17
Hi Adam - welcome to the boards. I guess I'm about to add another lengthy post.

First of all, as others have said, its simply impossible to cater for every eventuality and requirement. We acknowledge that front and centre in the first few pages of the rules. There'll always be a want or need for something we haven't covered: its inevitable.

Secondly, we didn't go out of our way to deliberately penalise the two weapon wielder. One of my favourite characters of all time is Moonglum from the Elric series who fights with a scimitar and falchion. That said, the MRQ2 notion of granting an additional Action to sword and board and two weapon styles was there primarily to encourage shield use. The trouble we then encountered, and it regularly gets dredged-up on the Mongoose Legend forum, was:

a) Can the extra Action be used only for defence or not?
b) If I'm an unarmed fighter, then both my hands are weapons, so shouldn't I get an additional action for those...

Not easy questions to deal with and frequently open to abuse.

We therefore chose to drop the additional Action rule which, does penalise two-weapon styles (including shields), but there were good and compelling reasons for doing so. There's also the simple fact that, in life, not all things are fair and balanced.

If you read between the lines though, having two weapons does offer several advantages. Lose one weapon and you have to spend an Action to ready another. There's another thread on this board concerning the Action Point differential, which can be crucial, so having a second weapon already there to use offensively does confer a big advantage - bigger, perhaps, then you're giving credit for.

Also consider the options you have with two swords. Both can impale. You can run an opponent through with one sword and still have the ability to inflict a bleed or impale (perhaps both, if you generate two Special Effects) with the secondary weapon. You can't do that with either a shield or a two-handed weapon. And how about Pin Weapon? A dual-weapon character is an immediate advantage if one of his weapons gets held down.

As far as Combat Style traits are concerned, most of the examples given in the rules are applicable to many different styles. The Thrown Weapon trait is not to be sneezed at. If you lob a sword at someone, and it impales, you place the opponent at a serious disadvantage; your own advantage is that you still have another good weapon in-hand with which to close and do some serious damage. Or even throw again. A foe with two impaled swords is going to have a hard time doing anything.

Its also going to be more acceptable socially - a point which often gets lost in the pros and cons for certain weapon combos. Wander around a civilised settlement with a shield on your arm and you're effectively dressed for battle. Having a rapier and maine gauche, or longsword and shortsword, won't attract nearly as much attention. That, in itself, is huge advantage if a skirmish breaks out in an alley where opponents have only a single weapon.

In general though, sword and board and 'Great' weapons do have inherent advantages over a pair of similar weapons. Shields provide a lot of cover and are designed to absorb damage. Great weapons inflict more damage owing to length and mass. But there are also disadvantages with both of these that I don't need to spell out.

So I'm sorry you feel we've short-changed you on this particular aspect of weapon style and combat. It wasn't a deliberate attempt to do so, but design decisions we made are based on the overall coherence and applicability of the rules. And, I hope that the things I've discussed, as well in the other posts, show that, with a little lateral thinking, there ARE some advantages to be gained from a dual weapon style. They might not be spelled out in neon letters, but they are there.

Loz
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Adam said Oct 18, 2012 09:19:30
Wow! This forum is great!! Thank you all for taking the time to write such comprehensive replies to my questions.

First off, I do realize that if you are going for a realistic medieval fencing system then not every fighting style will be balanced - some will be more effective than others. However, my gaming group has always enjoyed the odd swashbuckling character that wields two weapons and relies on dodging and evading to protect himself rather than armouring up (we also have some fantastic minis of these types of characters, and using a good mini is always a joy!). In addition, in our way of gaming there has always been a trade off about wearing armour - while armour has always been the 'sensible' choice in battle, because if you fail to defend yourself it still protects you, it does impact negatively on certain useful skills, like dodging, but most importantly on thieving/swashbuckling type skills used outside of combat e.g. moving quietly, acrobatics etc. Thus the thief type character would be wearing lighter armour, or even none. Given we have always liked this type of balance, for runequest 6 to work for us we need to incorporate it in some easy mechanical way, so that everybody playing understands exactly how it works.

I also understand the money/page constraints you had producing the rules, and why you fought shy of creating long lists of modifiers all set in stone, when you could just leave it up to a sensible GM to figure it out for themselves. Personally, I would have liked a touch more guidance for a lot of these situations, in the way you did for the magic system (which I thought was excellent on reading through them).

So, given I am going to have to house rule a few things to get the balance I want but have little experience with this version of runequest, I thought I would put them down here, with the reasoning for them, and get your feedback on them, in case there are some major problems with them that I haven't thought about. So here goes:

1. Encumberance penalties for skills - a character's total encumberance subtracts from their chance to do various skills. The GM can choose to lift this in situations where he feels it wouldn't apply e.g. when hiding rather than when sneaking. Basically, this is a return to an old style runequest rule. Might want to have it round down to the nearest 5% as a penalty, so that carrying a few odds and ends doesn't start kicking in penalties. This wouldn't rule out a GM in addition making a test hard etc, but this would be because of situational modifiers rather than due to what the character is wearing/carrying.

2. Combat trait 'Nimble parrying' - basically taking Bluefenix's idea of having a combat trait that increases the size of the your weapon when parrying. Maybe only useable with medium and smaller weapons and not possible with shields?

3. Flurry special effect - agains using Bluefenix's suggestions - allow small weapons in the off-hand to use Flurry as a special effect. Would this be overpowering?

4. Dodging - allows Evade/acrobatics to work as a parry if the character wants to use it that way, so allows a character to use evade as a non-opposed defensive action, so that it works like parry but has no size limitation i.e. regardless of the size of the weapon being defended against, no damage is recieved if successful. Obviously, this is very powerful, so if evade was used in this way it would suffer from double the encumberance penalty from house rule 1 above. I do like this idea as it gives the unarmoured character a fighting chance to defend himself effectively. I know that parry includes footwork and leaning, but dodging would be more extreme. It is a bit clunky, as it makes evade have two seperate mechanics, but the game benefits seem to be worth it, at least from where I stand. One thing I am undecided about is whether evade used this way leaves the character prone after using it. If it doesn't then perhaps it would be too powerful?

So now the character archtype of the two weapon, lightly armoured swashbuckler/thief, is buffed up a little. He can dodge around to avoid all damage without running the additonal risk that opposed rolls bring and can use his small off-hand weapon to attack again with in a flurry if he gets a special effect. As added insurance he could take 'Nimble Parry' combat trait with his fighting style, to make his trusty rapier more effective at parrying the bigger weapons.

Would be interested to hear your feedback on these ideas!
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bluefenix42 said Oct 18, 2012 16:46:16
This has definitely been a great discussion.

The only one of those house rules I'd be a little iffy about is #4. The massive encumbrance penalty means only very lightly armored characters or those willing to dump tons of XP rolls into the skill will depend on it, but those characters will be very very hard to kill. I'd probably keep the restriction that Evade still leaves you prone. Also, what happens if the attack roll is a crit and the Evade roll is a normal success? Does the attacker get to do damage and/or a Special Effect?
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PatHenry said Oct 18, 2012 17:31:01
Like bluefenix42, I would probably leave Evade alone. But I might allow the combatant to attempt to Outmanoeuvre any number of opponents, including just one opponent. Unlike Evade, that does not leave the combatant prone; it leaves the combatant better prepared to act in a future round.

In fact, I have come to House Rule that any combatant can attempt to use Outmanoeuvre against any number of opponents (including just one opponent) on anything other than a flat, featureless battlefield (ie, there has to be objects to maneuver through or around or interpose).
[Last edited Oct 18, 2012 17:36:02]
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Adam said Oct 18, 2012 17:41:03
The only one of those house rules I'd be a little iffy about is #4. The massive encumbrance penalty means only very lightly armored characters or those willing to dump tons of XP rolls into the skill will depend on it, but those characters will be very very hard to kill.


The aim of it is that only very lightly armoured characters could use it. One on one, they will be hard to tag, but no harder than someone whose weapon size was capable of defelecting all damage with a parry surely? The only difference here is that those using 'dodge' are considered parrying with a weapon of equal size.

I'd probably keep the restriction that Evade still leaves you prone. Also, what happens if the attack roll is a crit and the Evade roll is a normal success? Does the attacker get to do damage and/or a Special Effect?


The same as what happens when an attacker rolls a critical and the defender only gets a normal success on the parry. As far as I can tell, in that situation the attacker can do no damage so long as the parrying weapon is of at least equal size, which the 'dodge' is considered to be. I presume this is correct re parrying? The attacker still gets a special effect, but the weapon can do no damage, so effects like maximum damage cannot be chosen. Is that right?
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Adam said Oct 18, 2012 17:44:09
Like bluefenix42, I would probably leave Evade alone. But I might allow the combatant to attempt to Outmanoeuvre any number of opponents, including just one opponent. Unlike Evade, that does not leave the combatant prone; it leaves the combatant better prepared to act in a future round.


Strangely enough, it is the evade change that I view as most crucial :). How does outmanoeuvre work against one opponent? does it just mean neither side actually gets to attack that round? If yes, how does this help the unarmoured character? I am probably missing something here!
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PatHenry said Oct 18, 2012 17:51:08
From the RAW: "Those who fail to beat the manoeuvring character’s roll cannot attack him for the remainder of that Combat Round, being blocked by ... terrain features."

But basically, it works like Evade without leaving the character prone.
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PeteNash said Oct 18, 2012 17:55:39
Multiple opponents can act as terrain features as they interfere with each other's movement.
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bluefenix42 said Oct 18, 2012 18:04:01
As far as I can tell, in that situation the attacker can do no damage so long as the parrying weapon is of at least equal size, which the 'dodge' is considered to be. I presume this is correct re parrying? The attacker still gets a special effect, but the weapon can do no damage, so effects like maximum damage cannot be chosen. Is that right?


Yeah, you've got that right. Although there is the Circumvent Parry special effect to consider.

From the RAW: "Those who fail to beat the maneuvering character’s roll cannot attack him for the remainder of that Combat Round, being blocked by ... terrain features."


Woah. I did not realize that the effects of Outmaneuver last an entire Round, as opposed to just a single cycle of turns. That's huge for dealing with being outnumbered. I need to remind myself to have my NPCs and monsters use this tactic - I've had several fights where a single enemy gets swarmed by the players and cut down very quickly.
[Last edited Oct 18, 2012 18:04:29]
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Adam said Oct 18, 2012 18:13:49
Although there is the Circumvent Parry special effect to consider.


Interesting. That would then work against the 'Dodge' as well.

A question about Outmanoeuvering - if you are outmanoeuvered you cannot attack your opponent. Can you attack someone else, or even do anything else? Are you still considered engaged? If you outmanoever someone can you still attack them? These questions should probably be in another thread, less this one gets sidetracked!
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