Defensive Weapon Usage

The idea of a warrior who deftly parries every blow his opponent sends his way, striking out with swift counterattacks that send the opponent reeling, is a compelling one. Unfortunately, the D&D combat rules fall short of this ideal, providing only a mechanism for direct attacks, and not much in the way of defensive strategies or counterattacks. The following rules for defensive weapon usage are simple, yet offer a reasonable way of dealing with parrying, counterattacks, fencing-style fighting, and related topics.


Prerequisites: Dex 13, Int 13

Characters with the Parry feat know how to use their weapon to defend against enemy blows. Whether the weapon is a foil that knocks blows aside deftly, or a greatclub that imposes a solid barrier against attack, it can provide a useful defense against the enemy in some fashion.

As a standard action, a character may choose to fight defensively, attempting to parry any attacks opponents send his way. When this technique is used, the player rolls a d20 and adds his melee bonus with that weapon. This number (his “parry AC”) becomes the character’s AC for the round for the purposes of parrying.

A character may parry a number of attacks equal to the number of attacks per round he has. For example, an 11th level fighter with a base attack bonus of +11/+6/+1 could parry up to three attacks per round. For each attack parried, the character’s parry AC is reduced by 5. Thus, if the 11th level warrior has a total melee bonus of +17/+12/+7 with his parrying weapon, and he rolls an 11 on the die, his parry AC starts at 28, drops to 23 after the first parry, and drops to 18 for his final parry.

An attack made against the parrying character is considered parried if the attack roll meets or exceeds 10, but is less than or equal to the defending character’s parry AC. An attack roll less than 10 represents an attack so wildly inaccurate that a parry was unnecessary or impossible (unless of course the attack roll actually hits).

Using a weapon to deflect or absorb opponents’ blows in this way is hard on the parrying weapon. Whenever an attack is successfully parried, the attacker rolls damage as usual and that damage is applied to the defender’s weapon (see sundering and object damage rules in the Player’s Handbook for more information). If more damage is dealt than is necessary to sunder the weapon, the remaining damage is dealt to the defender as normal.

Lastly, it is easier to parry or block attacks with a larger weapon (imagine using a greatsword to stop a dagger thrust, versus the other way around). The defender receives a modifier to his parry AC based on the relative size of the weapons in question, as follows:

### Attacker’s weapon ### Parry AC modifier
4 size categories smaller +16
3 size categories smaller +8
2 size categories smaller +4
1 size category smaller +2
the same size +0
1 size category larger -4
2 size category larger -8
3 size category larger -16
4 size category larger -32

For example, using a greatsword (a large weapon) to parry a dagger (a small weapon) grants the defender a +4 parry AC bonus, because the greatsword is two size categories larger than the dagger. On the other hand, using a dagger to parry a greatsword is difficult, and yields a -8 parry AC penalty.

Breakwater Defense

Prerequisites: Parry

The Breakwater Defense is a technique for not just parrying enemy weapons, but damaging them in the process. A greatclub that violently smashes a longsword blow aside is an example of the Breakwater Defense.

When declaring a Parry action, the character may elect to utilize Breakwater Defense. Doing so imposes a -4 parry AC penalty, due to the added difficulty of attacking opponents’ weapons rather than just deflecting or blocking them.

When a weapon is parried with Breakwater Defense, the defender rolls his weapon’s damage and applies it to the attacking weapon. Thus, when one weapon parries another in this fashion, both weapons damage each other appropriately.


Prerequisites: Parry

Riposte allows a character to take an attack of opportunity against an opponent whose blow he just parried. Limits to the number of attacks of opportunity per opponent and per round apply as normal. In addition, a character utilizing Breakwater Defense cannot also make a riposte.