What Is a Parry

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Martial artists usually use the term "parry" to describe a defense that redirects or deflects an attack without absorbing much of its energy. Intercepting an attack and safely dissipating its energy is called a "block." In GURPS, these terms have different meanings. "Parry" refers to either kind of defense made with a weapon or a limb. "Block" describes either type of defense executed with a shield.

Not every parry involves contact. A parry against an attack on your weapon or your hand represents yanking the target out of harm's way, and Parrying Heavy Weapons (p. B376) doesn't apply to the attempt.

Not all parries involve limbs, either. If you parry a grappling technique (e.g., Judo Throw or Piledriver) using Boxing, Brawling, Judo, Karate, Sumo Wrestling, or Wrestling, you can opt to "counter" -twist or sprawl so that your adversary's technique fails - rather than slap away your enemy's hands. This doesn't require a free hand. It resembles a dodge, but it's a parry in game terms.

Neither of the above parries can set up an Arm Lock, Judo Throw, or other grappling technique on your turn. You must use a hand and make contact to do that. When using a combat skill at its DX default or parrying unarmed at DX/2 + 3, your parry is a frantic, brute-force attempt to slap aside the attack, and always involves some contact.

Most "fencing stances" present a reduced profile to an adversary in front of you, and place your weapon(s) between your body and your attacker. They generally include some combination of turning sideways, lining up your front and back legs perpendicular to the foe, and making a quarter turn to confront the enemy with two fencing weapons. These particulars have implications that the GM may wish to explore in a Martial Arts game, if he deems the added realism worth the extra bookkeeping:

Multiple Parries: One benefit of such stances is that they permit short parries that redirect blows just enough for you to lean out of their path. These efficient movements don't carry your weapon out of line, which means you suffer half the usual penalty for multiple parries; see Number of Parries (p. B376). This is realistic for frontal attacks, but attacks from the side require you to sweep your weapon out of line. If the GM is willing to keep track, then when counting multiple parries, parries against attacks that don't come from in front give the full penalty to future parries.

Retreating: Fencing stances use leg placement that allows swift retreats, giving +3 instead of +1 when you retreat on a parry. Realistically, this benefit won't apply when you Dive or when you retreat by rolling while lying down. In both cases, reduce the retreat bonus to the usual +1. The basic bonus is still +3 when you Sideslip or Slip, though - such moves are easier from these stances. For details, see Retreat Options (pp. 123-124).

Encumbrance: Since a fencing parry is actually a rapid parry-and-dodge, factors that limit Dodge ought to affect Parry. Encumbrance penalizes Parry just as it does Dodge . . . and logically, Dodge penalties from maneuvers, techniques, and other combat options should also affect fencing parries (but not vice versa). For instance, if a foe successfully parries your kick and sets up a Riposte (pp. 124-125) that reduces your Dodge, the penalty affects your attempts to parry with fencing weapons, too.

Parrying Flails: Fencing weapons' inability to parry flails (see Flails, p. B405) isn't a weakness of the fighting stances used but a peculiarity of specific weapons. Most rapiers, sabers, and smallswords are so tip-light that they can only parry massive swung weapons near the hilt. This lets a flail loop close enough to hit! To avoid this, reinforce the weapon with a Cross Parry (p. 121) or a Defensive Grip (pp. 109-111).

Other weapons capable of a fencing parry lack this weakness. Any weapon that also works with a non-fencing skill -meaning any skill other than Main-Gauche, Rapier, Saber, or Smallsword - has a mass distribution that lets it parry flails at the standard -4. Examples include the short staff, which can use the Smallsword skill or the Shortsword skill (treat it as a baton), and any rapier heavy enough to use with the Broadsword skill.

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