Parry Mastery

Reading back some old threads on the official Järnringen/Symbaroum forum on the Swedish site, I found a classic topic with many pages discussing one of the inherent “issues” with Symbaroum’s ruleset – namely how Accurate has a tendency to become a dump stat for any reasonably optimized character. It is the one attribute that probably has the least uses outside of combat, and it’s not really one that the system places challenges against. Most “proper” characters will abandon Accurate and adopt a different attribute for their attacking tests, and many abilities will even allow for certain attributes to become both offensive and defensive attributes.

As the system currently stands, the only real reason to maintain a high Accurate is if you expect to be switching between melee and ranged attacks often. I’ve pondered a number of different ways to help Accurate a bit, but as a believer in iterative game design and making the smallest possible tweak to see what the effect will be… I just propose the following ability. If you try it, let me know how it performs.

Parry Mastery

Novice. Passive. The character can precisely hit and deflect incoming attacks in close combat. The character may use Accurate as their basis for Defense in melee, as long as they are holding a melee weapon or have the Natural Warrior ability.

Adept. Reaction. The character follows their parry with a twisting move designed to liberate their opponent of their weapon. After a successful Defense in melee, the character can roll [Accurate<-Strong] to disarm their opponent (no effect on unarmed enemies).

Master. Passive. The character displays an almost preternatural ability to ward off danger with their weapon. The character may use Accurate for Defense even against ranged attacks, as long as they are holding a melee weapon. If the character also has the Natural Warrior ability, a successful Defense means that they catch the projectile in the air.

3 Replies to “Parry Mastery”

  1. * It is faily unusual for Symbaroum to interconnect two or more abilities. Instead, an ability is written in a way that it /implies/ usability in certain situations. This means that the description of “Natural Warrior” should imply that it may be used for parrying rather than explicitly connect the abilities.

    ** Novice: I’d strongly recommend restrictions on which weapons may be used (e.g. only balanced weapons, only one-handed weapons etc…).

    *** Adept: “the character *may* roll…” (not “can”). Additionally, I’d suggest the test to be rolled against the stat actually /used/ by the attacker (e.g. they may have attacked using Discreet). I understand that you might have chosen “Strong” here, bacause it is the stat used for the manoeuver “Disarm” in APG, but here we have a different situation as the player is using a /reactive/ ability and not an action. Also, compared to other abilities, I find this too strong: Even the “Riposte” ability of the Sword Saint (which might or might not have been the inspiration for this ability) is only usable *once* per round.

    **** Master: This ability is way too strong. Even “Trick Archery” (APG) on mastery level may only be used to deflect *one* attack per round. In my opinion, this *must* be constrained.

    1. Thanks for the feedback!

      1. The combination with Natural Warrior is really just for flavor, making martial arts character feel awesome without actually adding any real mechanical value. Adding parrying as an inherent thing to Natural Warrior would make that already powerful ability even more OP. My idea here is that you need a weapon to parry, and if you have Natural Warrior then your limbs qualify as weapons.

      2. I don’t think it’d make sense to narrowly limit the types of weapons that can be used to parry. Melee seems strict enough. Limiting it to balanced weapons would mean that you can’t parry with a normal sword (and the ability would then also need to take into account the idea that characters using Parry Mastery would always have a Defence bonus going into it), limiting it to one-handed weapons would mean that you couldn’t parry with a two-handed sword (where parrying is actually core to the entire use of the weapon). The only limit that might make sense to me is to limit it to non-Massive weapons, but that’s such an edge case that it seems pointless.

      3. The game is already teetering on the brink of everyone rolling their best attributes against each other all the time, which I think gets dull. Marksman Adept already sets a precedent for targeting Strong with a CC effect, as does Wrestling Adept. Compared to Wrestling Adept, this is a weak ability. Wrestling Adept triggers on the exact same condition (successful defense), rolls against the opponent’s Strong, and if successful it deals damage, stuns them, and leaves them prone (open for Advantage) – with no limit on the number of times it can be used. Compared to that, a disarming move is weak.

      4. Tactician lets you defend against ranged attacks at Adept level. Sixth Sense lets you defend against ranged attacks at Adept level. Feint lets you defend against ranged attacks at Adept level. Dancing Weapon lets you defend against ranged attacks at Novice level. Compared to all of those, forcing an Accurate-focused character to spend 60 XP to get an unconditional Defense with their best stat seems an adequate balance to me. It’s similar to how the Attack-with-Cunning condition is on Master level for Tactician.

  2. I love this ability! It feels very appropriate for the world, similar to other abilities (Sword Saint, Wrestler, Tactician, Feint, etc.), fits neatly with classic archetypes of the world (Gentleman Thief, Weapon Master, etc.), and almost immediately fixes the uselessness of Accurate.

    I do agree with the first point made above, however. They were just pointing out that the rules of Symbaroum almost never explicitly say that abilities can be used together, instead typically leaving it up to GMs to decide when abilities do or don’t apply in border cases. So even if you’re picturing this ability as working with unarmed combat, the archetypal Symbaroum thing to do is leave it vague and let people decide whether they want their martial artists to be able to do this or not.

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