A gambit popular with martial artists is a parry that carries the attacker's weapon out of line or otherwise compromises his defenses, "setting up" a counterattack - or riposte - that exploits the opening. Executed correctly, the riposte is difficult to avoid. However, it often requires the defender to begin his attacking motion early and give up some of his own ability to defend. Thus, it can backfire spectacularly!

Harsh Realism for Unarmed Fighters

The Basic Set treats unarmed combat favorably: there's no "off hand, Judo and Karate don't have a penalty to parry weapons, and you can't hurt yourself unless you strike DR 3+ or your opponent uses a weapon to party your attack. See Partying (p. B376) and Hurting Yourself (p. B379) for details. This makes it unrealistically tempting to fight barehanded against armed and j armored foes.

Below are optional rules that add risk to unarmed combat. They're unsuitable for most games -even "realistic" martial-arts fiction tends to err on the side of a good story - and opposite in spirit from cinematic rules (see Cinematic Combat, pp. 125-133). Still, the GM can use both kinds of rules in the same campaign, enforcing harsh realism for most fighters but ignoring it in favor of cinematic options for those with Trained by a Master or Weapon Master!

Bruised Knuckles: Shock may vanish in a second (see Shock, p. B419), but injuries make it painful to strike with the hurt body part. Striking at full power with an injured body part inflicts the shock penalty for its accumulated wounds (maximum -4) as if wounded anew. You can avoid this by hitting with less force: take a damage penalty equal to the shock penalty. High Pain Threshold lets you ignore this; Low Pain Threshold means you must make a Will roll at this penalty or flinch and pull your punch anyway!

Defense Limitations: Boxing, Judo, and Karate are at +3 to Parry on a retreat for reasons of mobility. As discussed under Fencing Parries (p. 122), this reliance on

Kusarigama footwork has its drawbacks. Reduce the +3 to +1 when retreating by diving or rolling instead of by stepping. As well, apply Dodge penalties due to maneuvers, techniques, combat options, and enemy action to Parry for these skills.

Low-Line Parries: A standing man has -2 to parry an attack on his legs or feet if using a hand or a reach C weapon. Leg and foot parries aren't penalized (see Parries with Legs or Feet, p. 123).

Parrying Weapons: Unarmed combat skills - including Judo and Karate -parry weapons, swung or otherwise, at -3. Failure by 3 or less means the parry still "succeeds" in the sense that you got your limb in the way. The attacker hits the parrying limb instead of his intended target, and rolls his usual damage. In close combat (only), ignore this drawback for Judo and Karate parries vs. rigid crushing weapons - clubs, sticks, etc.

Striking Bone: The shins and skull give their owner DR 0 and DR 2, respectively, but are tougher than this suggests. When you strike the skull with any unarmed attack, Hurting Yourself applies. If you strike the leg using a shin kick (p. 112), roll 1d. On a 1 - or on 1-3, if your foe tried and failed a leg parry - you knock shins. Apply Hurting Yourself unless you have the advantage Striker (Crushing; Limb, Shin, -20%).

Strong and Weak Hands: Most unarmed fighters are markedly more capable with one hand than the other. When using the "off" hand, you have the usual -4 to skill (and therefore -2 to Parry) and -2 to ST (giving -1 to punching damage). In campaigns that use this rule, Off-Hand Weapon Training becomes a Style Perk for all barehanded striking arts, and it and Ambidexterity (p. B39) eliminate both penalties.

To set up a Riposte, declare that you wish to do so before you parry. Choose a penalty to your Parry score - the larger the penalty, the greater your focus on the counterattack. This cannot reduce your Parry, before all other modifiers except Enhanced Parry, below 8.

Then add the remaining modifiers and try to parry the attack. You can retreat - but if your foe steps back after attacking, you might end up too far away for a Riposte.

Success means you parry and set up a Riposte. If your first attack next turn uses your parrying weapon against the foe you parried, one of his active defenses against it suffers the penalty you accepted on your parry. If you parried his hand or weapon, reduce his Parry with that hand (with either hand, if his attack used two hands). If you parried his shield, lower his Block. If you parried an unarmed attack other than a hand strike (bite, kick, slam, etc.), reduce his Dodge. Apply half this penalty (drop fractions) to any other defense he attempts against your attack - including rolls to resist grappling moves that use Quick Contests instead of active defenses (e.g., takedowns).

Failure means you're hit, as for any failed parry. Your attempt gives you no special benefits - although you can still attack your foe on your next turn, if his attack leaves you in any shape to do so.

Example: Harry the Good and Black Odo are dueling with broadswords and medium shields. Harry has Broadsword-16 and Enhanced Parry 1, for a Parry of 12. Odo attacks Harry with his sword and Harry decides to attempt a Riposte. Odo being his mortal enemy, Harry goes for broke and takes the maximum penalty: -4, which drops his Parry to 8. With +1 for Combat Reflexes and +2 for his shield's DB, his final Parry is 11. He succeeds, warding off Odo's attack. This allows him to Riposte with his sword (not a shield bash, kick, etc.) on his turn. He does so and succeeds! If Odo tries to parry with his sword, he has the same penalty Harry did, or -4. If he attempts a dodge or block, he has half this penalty, or -2.

A Riposte is most effective when you're more skilled than your foe, when you have many defensive bonuses (Combat

Reflexes, shield, weapon with a Pariy bonus, etc.), or when your target is already compromised - e.g., kneeling or on bad footing.

The active defense penalties from Riposte and from feinting are cumulative. If on your turn you successfully feint a foe, and on his turn he attacks and you parry at a penalty, then you can Riposte on your next turn, forcing him to defend with penalties for both the feint and the Riposte. This takes two turns and offers many opportunities for failure . . . but when it works, it's devastating!

You cannot combine Deceptive Attack and Riposte, though. A Riposte is a Deceptive Attack - just one where you're taking a defensive risk instead of an offensive one.

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