Parrying Unarmed Attacks – a quick noodle

There’s an interesting discussion going on over at the SJG Forums about parrying unarmed attacks with weapons.

It’s interesting for a bunch of reasons. GURPS Martial Arts has a bit to say on this subject, mostly in the text box appropriately titled Harsh Realism for Unarmed Fighters. GURPS Basic Set throws down on p. B376 and p. B379 on this subject as well, giving parrying weapons a -3 vs. anything but a thrust, and of course, if you parry an unarmed blow with a weapon and make a skill roll at -4, you do damage “as normal.”

Of course, that “as normal” is interesting. What’s normal?

It could be all sorts of things, but the real question seems to be “thrust, swing, or some fraction thereof?”

Go read the thread to see the diverse opinions.

Now I’ll add my own. I think an interesting way to go would be to take the damage of the blow being attempted (based on the attacker’s ST), and apply that damage based on the wounding modifier of the weapon being struck.

So if you’re throwing some sort of uber-kick that does 2d-1 cr base damage (no modifiers for boots, fist loads, etc) and you’re parried by a sword, you should probably take 2d-1 cut to your foot or shin (but how to decide?). If you’re parrying a punch, you probably are dealing with his thrust damage.

Most parries that aren’t purposefully Aggressive Parries don’t move much, and so I’m not sure the defender’s ST should figure in that much.

Anyway, +Peter V. Dell’Orto seems to use swing. I’ve also seen thrust and thrust/2 in the past!

Lots of options for interpretation on this one, it seems. What do you use?

Update: Kromm Speaks!

The back-from-vacation +Sean Punch weighed in with the intent of the rules at the tail end of the thread linked above. The compilation of several clarifying posts:

The intent of the rule is to use the damage of the attack being parried. The weapon might be some Swiss Army knife with 100 attack forms, but the attacker has to pick one before rolling to hit. Use the damage of that attack form.

Those who dislike the size of the damage – and I agree it’s excessive – might want to reduce Parrying Unarmed Attacks (p. B376) to a special case of Hurting Yourself (p. B379). First, don’t limit self-inflicted damage to target DR. Second, change damage type to that of the edge of whatever you’re parrying (cutting for anything with a swing cutting attack, crushing for just about everything else, and possibly burning or corrosion for energy swords), and remember that minimum damage is 1 point if the type is anything but crushing. Finally, apply any armor divisor on the weapon.

This is strictly a replacement for Parrying Unarmed Attacks (p. B376). Parrying Unarmed (p. B376) wouldn’t change, because that’s about mistiming a parry with your body and placing a body part directly in the path of a full-powered attack.

He notes in response to a question: “Is it the damage of the attack being parried or the damage of an attack chosen by the defender with the parrying weapon?”

Sorry, I mushed together parrying an attack and being parried. However, I’d let the defender choose. Sure, most parries are edge-on, but one can stab a foe in the wrist to check his unarmed attack.

When challenged that this seemed an awful lot like an Aggressive Parry

Note that all armed parries vs. unarmed attacks are “aggressive” by default. That’s why they do damage. Agressive Parry is only a distinct technique for unarmed fighters, in the rules as written.

This is not new. +Peter V. Dell’Orto makes this exact point in a post from over six months ago.

One thought on “Parrying Unarmed Attacks – a quick noodle

  1. I have just used minimum damage of of either the cut or crush type, though Im not really sure that it should ALWAYS result in damage. I've thought a lot about this one, and to avoid it, I just give my monster creatures Strikers when possible.

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