Defensive Options in Dragon Heresy

I know my blog has been filled with Kickstarter reports these days. It is, of course, rather important to me to make the best book I can, and in order to do that, I would need to bring in about $4,800, which means I’m roughly halfway there (though the project has funded and will be made regardless – each extra chunk of money just makes it more attractive).

In any case, a fun article that can be read tongue-in-cheek but really isn’t showed up on the Cirsova blog.

Called Parrying: I get it now, it goes over a point of potential misunderstanding in OSR rules – namely that once engaged in melee combat, two foes are “locked” there. Therefore, having a defensive option such as “parry,” which makes one harder to hit, is a synergistic move, because it allows your fellow combatants – archers, spellcasters, and backstabbers – to destroy the foe safely and quickly, while the low Armor Class, high Hit Point fighter keeps him occupied.

The only problem with these “parry” type options in D&D style games tends to be the very, very mild benefit that one gets. Fifth Edition does it perhaps the best by granting disadvantage if an option like this is taken – this option is Dodge, and unless the odds are already really good for your foe, or really bad, this decreases your chance to be hit by about 25%. That’s much better than a shield (10%) in this system, and in most systems that shield is only worth 5% (+1).

Note: I reflexively use ascending Armor Class in my writing, since I’ve been writing based on SRD5.1 for almost a year, and even when we played S&W, we used ascending AC.

But it got me thinking. How many defensive options exist in Dragon Heresy? 

Defend or Die

So, here we have anything that you can try that will either make you harder to take wounds, or make it harder to be hit in general.

Armor. Armor uses Damage Reduction instead of increasing Armor Class (hereafter Threat DC and Hit DC, for reasons).

Be Damaged. I know this sounds silly, but vigor loss in Dragon Heresy is explicitly parrying, luck, footwork, etc. You’re not bleeding until you take wounds. This is why they can come right back with a rest.

Defense Fighting Style. You’re better at parrying and blocking with weapons and shields. Increases Hit DC but not Threat DC.

Dodge. The dodge action is retained, and gives attacks against you disadvantage.

Feats. There are several feats that improve defensive capabilities.

Fencing Fighting Style. Your mastery of footwork makes you hard to threaten. About half as good as simply picking up a shield.

Frantic Defense. If an attack exceeds your Hit DC (a higher total than your Threat DC), then unless you can absorb twice rolled damage as vigor (think of ’em as HP), you will take wounds. This is no joke, and carries significant penalites, and even taking one wound triggers a morale check.

Rage. Barbarians, of course, halve damage from mundane weapons when raging.

Shields. Carrying and employing a shield gives you a 20% reduction in hit chance (+4 to Hit DC), as well as allowing defenses at all against fast missiles. Without a shield or a martial arts ability, the only thing you can do if an arrow comes your way is throw yourself aside.

Take it on your Shield. If an attack exceeds the Threat DC but not the Hit DC, you can, instead of taking the vigor yourself, spend your reaction to direct it at your shield. It’s possible for the shield to be broken by this, either all at once or eventually, so this will run out.

Unarmored Defense. Barbarians are harder to hit via Constitution, Monks via Wisdom.

Fighters are not Punching Bags

Another comment he made in passing – and that has been made on this blog before – is that playing a fighter can be considered a bit of a chore. Your role seems to be “lock up the other guys so that the real damage-dealers can come to the fray.

Well, in Dragon Heresy, I did not nerf spellcasters. They’re still very dangerous. But, I did calibrate most of the other attacks and attackers against the concept that standing next to a dedicated fighter should be dangerous. Very dangerous. A very high level fighter can throw 4-5 attacks (perhaps more, but I think five is about it) each of which has an enhanced critical hit threshold, and getting hit by all five can be the most dangerous melee thing you can do, other than be targeted by some of the spellcasters’ nastier items. For a rogue/thief to out-damage the fighter, they have to be sneaky, and have to employ their backstab ability, which no longer does tons of raw “hit point” output, but instead has a much better chance of bypassing “hit points” entirely, and going right to wounds. The effect is still the same – messy and rapid death. But in terms of wearing down vigor (hit points), after the fighter is done with you, even a 1st level wizard is sticking knives in your body. I like my fighters dangerous, and it’s also true to the source material.

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