Attacking a character holding a bow

Ran my first game of Conan yesterday using To Race The Thunder. One of the questions I had was: is there any bonus for attacking a character holding a bow?

The Picts had axes and were attacking the archer of the group who was holding his bow. The Picts have Guard and axes with Reach 2. The archer holds a bow which doesn’t seem to have a Reach stat and probably doesn’t have Guard since it’s not a melee weapon. The Pict minions still roll 1d20?

Other question: if the archer has the Deflection talent, can they parry while holding their bow? I ruled that they couldn’t because it’s a Melee talent.

No. The bow is at best an improvised melee weapon, Reach 1, so no advantage for the attacker, not penalty for the defender.

You do not need to have a melee weapon at hand to have Guard. You only need to be standing or crouching and be aware of the attack. You can always have Guard and defend unarmed.

Parry is, as was declared during the different stages in the development of the Conan rules, not only a weapon parry, but includes unarmed parry, footwork to avoid attacks.
So it is perfectly fine for the Archer character to roll a Parry against the axe attack, while holding a bow. That simply means the Archer will dodge, step aside, weave under the axe attack.

In Mutant Chronicles and Infinity the defending character against a melee attack always have the choice whether to use Acrobatics to dodge or the Close Combat skill to parry.
For Conan that was an option in the early released versions of the core rules, too.
But later it was changed, so that to use Acrobatics to dodge against a melee attack you will need the Pantherish Twist (Acrobatics) Talent.
This forces the PCs to invest into Coordination and the Parry skill instead of maxing out Agility for attack and defense.
It was justified that way: the Parry skill includes footwork, dodge, weave, duck movements to avoid an attack as well as the actual parry movements, coming to a bind or a deflecting movement with a weapon or even unarmed.
So, now Parry includes some dodging movements, too, and you can always use Parry against all melee attacks. Using Acrobatics is the exception and requires a Talent.)

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Thank you @FrankF. You seem to know a lot about the rules as intended. Were you a playtester if I may ask?

Playtester for Conan, yes, and other 2d20 RPGs.
But this specific topic considering the Parry skill came up during the late stages of the Kickstarter.
The core rules book had been made available to Backers in preview versions.
Those had provoked some feedback about the rules.
And in this specific case there was one Backer on Google+ who had some “bad experience” in the games he ran, as most of the players decided to build their characters with high Agility, as this allows for a good Melee TN and a good Acrobatics TN to dodge melee attacks, too. (As this was the option you had in Mutant Chronicles and Infinity, it was included in most versions of the Conan core rules, too.)
This feedback was taken by the Conan developers to change the core rules in a rather late version. Now you cannot choose whether to use Acrobatics or Parry to simply dodge a Melee attack. You must use Parry. Unless you acquire a special Acrobatics Talent that allows you to do this using Acrobatics. It has the advantage, that all characters are forced to invest into the Parry Skill, which was a new one - in MC3 and Infinity you attack AND parry using the same close combat skill.
The Parry skill was (and still is) somewhat “underdeveloped”, considering the Talent Tree in the core book containing the for Conan adventures quite unimportant, next to useless “stage fighting” Talents. Later source books would add some other Parry Talents to somewhat remedy this, but still not quite.

In the core book version from December 22nd 2016 the Talent Pantherish Twist was worded as follows:

Pantherish Twist
Prerequisite: Nimble as a Cat
When attempting a Defend reaction using the Acrobatics
skill, you may reduce the amount of Doom generated by
1, to a minimum of 0.

You see, using the Defend Reaction using Acrobatics was an option open to everyone. This Talent only reduced the Doom generated.

Compare that to the version from Aprill 11th 2017.

Pantherish Twist
Prerequisite: Nimble as a Cat
You may use your Acrobatics skill in place of Parry when
attempting a Defend Reaction, reducing the amount of
Doom generated by 1, to a minimum of 0.

This kind of information is open to all Kickstarter Backers who had access to all the previews.
So not actually any “inside information”, just insight in the rules changes in the course of the Kickstarter delivery.

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Do you consider that an unarmed parrying character should be imposed a higher difficulty (+D1 to +D3) against an armed attacker ?

It seems intuitive to add a difficulty modifier for an unarmed defender, but the rules are not clear on this issue.

How do you handle this specific situation ?

No. Not by the Conan 2d20 rules anyway.
Conan is NOT “realistic” at all, it is the cinematic, high-action, larger than life type of combat action that you see in novels, comics, movies etc.
In that regard, no unarmed defender needs to be penalized in defending against an armed attacker in Conan.

You have people like the Picts attacking metal-clad, steel-weapon-wielding Aquilonians using pointy sticks and rock axes. They should be slaughtered by the thousands, if you want any kind of “realism” to be applied.
But it is the story, the narrative that makes them formidable opponents, not their equipment.

Else you can always look for a more simulationist game, where you do have lots of minute differences modelled in rules mechanics and equipment stats (often weirdly unrealistic, too, if you really know anything about historical weapon and armor combat).

The obvious disadvantage of an unarmed defender is, that he is unarmed. That means, any kind of counter attack would be with only 2 Combat Dice of damage (plus Melee Bonus of course), unarmed does not have the Parrying quality, so you pay full Doom (unless you have the Deflection (Parry) Talent). And your unarmed “weapons” are Reach 1, so if you were to attack a swordsman (Reach 2), you would suffer the +1 Difficulty for your attack.

And there you are: being unarmed makes ATTACKING an armed opponent with a longer Reach weapon harder, but not because he is armed, only because of the Reach of the weapon. Against someone with a knife you would not suffer the +1 Difficulty for your attack. (Again, “realistically” it is suicidal attacking a knife-fighter unarmed. You will be cut to ribbons, you will bleed out and your inner organs will be punctured - in no time at all.)

The question is, do you want Conan characters to be heroic, larger than life, surviving dangers that would utterly annihilate normal human beings in the real world?
If so, don’t worry about those pseudo-realistic details.
The Conan 2d20 rules are offering not realism, but an interesting gameplay, offer game-tactical decisions for the PLAYERS, not so much for the characters (Momentum, Fortune, Doom do not even exist for the inhabitants of the game world, they are only for the real-world players and GMs playing the game - and a game it is, just a game).

Yes, for an unarmed defender in the real world it would be very, very hard to defend even against a fruit knife, not even thinking about actual war gear like a sword or a spear. Usually, if you are unarmed and an armed attacker slashes, stabs or strikes at you, you will die.

That would make for a very short short story.- the like you usually find in news articles about knife murder, machete murder etc. - just look at your favorite news in the last few days, I’m sure you find some, a few, more than a few or even a lot of those articles (depending on where you live).

I play roleplaying games to escape the depressing situation in the real world for a few hours.
That is why I find it perfectly acceptable if PCs in Conan can survive situations that are next to unsurvivable. That is fine. It is entertainment.

The rules are clear: there is no higher Difficulty for an unarmed defender.

I handle it this way: the unarmed defender makes a normal Parry skill test - as usual in a Strugggle against the attacker. The side which generates more Momentum wins, ties go to the PC or the GM spends 1 Doom to break it in favor of the NPC.

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To add to the above, that there is no raised Difficulty for defending unarmed against an armed attacker, take a look at Conan the Wanderer, page 21, the basic Martial Arts Talent “Open Hand” states:

You have learned unarmed physical combat, and are able
to face steel with flesh, engaging rapidly and withdrawing
when you have struck. When in melee combat, so long as
you are unarmed, you suffer no penalty due to Reach.

That adds to what I said above, that the only drawback being unarmed is that you suffer the raised Difficulty if you attack someone with a weapon of Reach 2 or more, as Unarmed is Reach 1.
This Talent allows you to avoid this raised Difficulty for your unarmed attacks.

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You are right about the fact that any game - even those who pretends to be simulationists - are always at odd with a real life melee combat. A RPG scene will always be an abstraction of a real situation and REH’s Conan fully assumes the simulation of the Sword and Sorcery genre.

Thank you for your generous answer.

Following up this highly intstructive topic, i got a few questions. I only have 2 sessions played so far, and i’m a beginner to Conan and to the 2D20 system (which i like a lot).

I’m playing Idrissa, a bossonian female archer and i think we’re close to our first carousing so these situations are bound to happen soon enough.

So, let’s say my beloved DM (Amra, praise be his name) decides to spend some doom so that mob of scary picts are on me before i got to fire with my bow. Now that i have read this great topic, i know that i can use my amazing skills to parry without any penalty.

Q1—If i have the riposte talent and wish to use it after parrying successfully with my bow (without
penalty, Yeah !!) my melee test will have it’s difficulty increased by one because my oponents have weapons with reach 2 and my bow as an improvised melee weapon has reach 1. Correct ?

Q2—Same situation as in Q1, but now i have this incredibly powerful talent named: adaptable combatant. I will riposte (melee test) with no penalty due to reach. Correct ?

Q3—Swift actions…In this situation, after hearing that those picts have the initiative, would i be allowed to declare: i will now use 2 of the 3 momentum available in the common pool to perform a swift action as a reation to draw my broadsword so i can riposte with a proper weapon ?

Q4—Free actions…can you perform free actions during the turn of an opponent ? In this case, would i be allowed to drop my bow as a free action ?

Q5—Finally, to follow up with Q3 and Q4 : while performing a swift action as a reaction, can you also perform some free actions as part of the swift action ? So, in our case, the picts have initative and are attacking me, can i make a swift ation to grab my sword AND drop my bow ?

Thanks for your help.

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Yes. And it is Improvised, so probably even less useful for a Riposte than using an unarmed attack to Riposte, as this has the Stun quality, which is quite handy. Both are Improvised, though, so any rolled Effects only trigger qualities, but do not add the +1 damage as is the case for non-improvised weapons.
Parry does officially cover footwork, sidestepping, etc., so as an archer you do not need to ruin your bow by smashing someone with it, you could always kick them or punch them.
Due to the delicacy of a bow (I’m into medieval archery myself, and I know how much abuse a bow can NOT take), as a GM I would raise the Complication range for such an attack using a bow as an expensive and delicate club a bit. Complication rolled indicate the bow is ruined. But that is my view on “bow abuse”.

No increased Difficulty due to Range. Other Difficulty increase will still apply (like obscured sight, being on ship, fighting while wounded, etc.).
And as the Talent states: “When making or defending against an attack, you may increase or decrease the Reach of your weapon by 1.”, this is not an Action at all, it only requires that you make an attack or defend against an attack.
You could increase the Reach of an unarmed strike to 2, too. (See my comment above.)

No. You don’t get to make a Reaction against anyone gaining the Initiative.
If you are attacked by the Picts and you make a Defend Reaction, then, after making this Reaction to whatever outcome, you can spend the 2 Momentum from the Group Momentum pool to make immediately another Standard Action at +1 Difficulty. You can “downgrade” the Standard Action to perform a Minor Action instead - drawing a weapon is a Minor Action.
But that won’t help you in this case very much, as while the first attack is still resolved, you don’t have your broadsword ready. Only after the Pict’s attack, your Defend Reaction, and your possible Riposte are resolved, you can buy a Standard Action for Momentum.
This is still quite an advantage, as you can have this Standard Action outside of your turn, if you spend the Swift Action Momentum Spend on your Reaction resolution, instead of having to wait for your own turn to come up.

Free Actions are still actions that can only be taken on your turn.
As a GM I might allow dropping a held item while being attack, as part of your Reaction, but not while you are not involved in any action at all. And, remember, a Free Action can never require a dice roll, so there is never a skill test involved in a Free Action. That means, you will not be able to use a Free Action to perform any kind of attack.
If it is the Pict’s turn, then you will still have your bow in your hand.

Strictly speaking, the Swift Action only gives you a single Standard Action, no more than that.
It does not allow you to perform a full turn (including Free Actions, Minor Actions and a Standard Action).
You may downgrade the Standard Action bought for the Swift Action Momentum Spend to a Minor Action or even a Free Action if you find that worth the cost in Momentum, but in most, if not all cases, this is a waste of 2 Momentum that could be brought to more good use.
Only if it is your actual turn, you may spend your Free Action to drop your bow, spend your Minor Action to draw your sword, and still have your Standard Action for whatever else you want to do.

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Thank you FrankF, this will help a lot. After reading many of your posts in other topics, i can say that you truly are a very valuable ressource for this forum. You not only take the time to give detailed and well articulated answers with references in the rule books, but also to give precious insight from your gaming experience with Conan.

This is soooo true ! I guess the insane idea to parry with a bow comes from too much watching of feats ala Legolas when the guy routinely parry with his frail elvish bow slashes from heavy blades and always get away with it.

After reading your anwers to my questions, i’ve been thinking and i 've got new ones :thinking:

This is of very high interest to me ! So…

Q6— In the situation you describe, i have let’s say 2 or 3 momentum from that parry/riposte reaction, and i have also read this great topic Marksman Talent query - #15 by Phebus where you explain all the stuff you can do with that extra momentum.

—What happens if i don’t spend this momentum, is it lost or does it go to the common pool ?

—If i decide to spend it, can i wait until all of the oponents have finished their actions to finally unlash an attack ?

—Do i get to spend it at ANY time while the oponents are playing their turn, meaning i could simply interrupt an attack against an ally by taking down his oponent with my standard attack as a swift action ?

Q7— Is generating your own momentum from a defense reaction (parry/riposte/panterish twist) the only way to perform a swift action outside of your turn ?

Q8—Now, as an echo of Q6. This time, during my regular turn, after a successful attack, i’ve got 2 momentums at my disposal from Marksman and Trickshot talents. Instead of spending them immediately to perform another attack as a swift action , can i ‘’ keep them in the air’’ to perform a swift action later in the turn but before the oponents get their turn ?

Q9—After a defense reaction, i generate only 1 momentum, but there is momentum available in the common pool. Is the momentum spend for a swift action possible ?


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The Marksman Talent adds Bonus Momentum, which could be stored in the Group Momentum pool as well as any Momentum generated by a good dice roll.
(I do have a house rule in most of my 2d20 RPG games, that Bonus Momentum has to be used during the resolution of the action at hand, or else is lost. The reason for that is, that you can give your PC rather cheap (in XP costs) Talents that give not only 1, but for several ranks in the Talent, up to 3 Bonus Momentum on Skill tests of a certain skill. That often keeps the Group Momentum pool “overflowing” and makes generation of Doom less likely, keeping the GM often dry and out of Doom. With this house rule rolled Momentum can still be added to the Group Momentum pool, but not Bonus Momentum.)

If you generated 2 or 3 Momentum from your Parry/Riposte Reaction, if you don’t use it right away, then you can store it in the Group Momentum pool, just like any other Momentum you generated in an action or reaction.

No. You have to decide during the resolution of your action or reaction at hand to spend it. There are exceptions, those are the Immediate Momentum spends (marked with “I” in the list of Momentum spends). Those you can spend (nearly) at any time.
That includes Second Wind (regenerates 1 Vigor or Resolve Stress per point of Momentum spent), Create Opportunity (to gain bonus d20s for a skill test your character has to roll) and Create Obstacle (to raise the Difficulty of an NPC’s skill test by +1 per 2 Momentum spent).
You cannot use any other Momentum spends outside of your turn or outside of a Reaction your character makes.

But, many folks underestimate the usefulness of the Create Obstacle spend. If you are about to be attacked, or if someone else is about to be attacked, or if the enemy sorcerer is about to cast as spell, spend the 2 Momentum or 4 or even 6, if the Group Momentum Pool is full, to add +1, +2 or even +3 Difficulty to their current action’s dice roll. That is often a better way to ruin the NPC’s action than simply to hope for bad luck or declare a Reaction and roll opposed in a Struggle.

What you can do, though, is if you were the target of an opponent’s attack, you made your defense Reaction successfully, then you could spend Momentum for a Swift Attack at +1 Difficulty.
But you cannot spend this outside of your turn or your Reaction.
If you were not targetted, if you had not performed a Reaction to any action the NPCs made, then you can only use the Immediate spends above.

See above: any time only Immediate spends are available.

If you see an ally getting attacked and you are within Reach of this ally, you can make a Protect Reaction, though. That is, you interpose yourself, make your Reaction at D2 base Difficulty, and if successful, you become the target of the attack, thus protecting your ally.
On this Reaction you can spend Momentum as usual - and even follow a successful Protect Reaction with a Swift Attack (but not a Riposte, as per the Talent this only is allowed on a Defend Reaction, not a Protect Reaction - though as a house rule I allow that on a Protect Reaction, too).

No. Any Reaction will do.
So Defend Reaction, if you are targetted yourself.
Protect Reaction, if you are protecting an ally.
Retaliate Reaction, if you are performing an “attack of opportunity”-like attack if an opponent moves out of your Reach without the Withdraw action (or the Withdraw Momentum spend - another very useful spend!) or makes any other action besides attacking you while within your Reach.
And then there are the Defend Reactions against Threaten attacks, using Discipline to fend off intimidation and fear attacks. If you generate Doom to make it, it is a Reaction and you may spend Momentum just like on other Reactions. (Note: Some creatures have the Fear ability, where you need to make a Discipline test right away on seeing the creature - this is not a Reaction, you don’t pay Doom, you don’t get to spend Momentum on that - only the Immediate spends, like for bonus d20s to raise your chances to make the Discipline test, are available).

So, outside of your turn, Immediate spends and spends following a Reaction are the only ways to spend Momentum.

What do you mean by “later in the turn”?
While it is your turn, you may choose to make Free Actions, Minor Actions and a Standard Action in any sequence you like. But Marksman eats up your Minor Action anyway, and Trick Shot has to be used right away, as the Bonus Momentum from that cannot be stored in the Group Momentum pool (as per the Talent description).
So you generate 2 Momentum on a Ranged Combat attack as your Standard Action, after spending the Minor Action for Marksman. That is fine. Now, with the Trick Shot Talent, you have 2 Momentum left.
You need to decide right now, whether to spend it for a Swift Attack or something else. If not, only 1 Momentum, from Marksman, may be stored in the Group Momentum pool, the other point of Momentum, from Trick Shot, is lost.
That ends your turn.
Every character only gets a single turn per round.
If you want to perform a Swift Action later in the round, outside of your turn, you need to be the target of an attack that allows you to make a Reaction. (See the answers above.)

Yes. You cannot add the Group Momentum to your result in a Struggle, an opposed test to see who wins. But after the outcome of such an opposed test ist determined, you may spend the Group Momentum points just like your rolled Momentum from the test.


Thanks a lot. I’m pretty sure those answers will save us a lot of time. We only play short sessions of 5 h every 3 weeks, so every minute spent playing instead of talking rules is a blessing.

I’ll come up with another topic cause’ i got some more for you !

:grinning: :drum:

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