Can you make a Reaction if you're unarmed?

If you’re unarmed, can you take reactions like Defend or Protect if the enemy attacker is wielding a melee weapon?

According to the rules to defend yourself against melee attack you have to use the Parry skill, which in turns state sword/shield/weapon in hand. Also, rules-as-written for the Improvised weapons (p.152) and Basic attacks (p.124) indicate that you should be able to parry. Another implicit indication that you can do it is the reach of the weapon. The struggle will be harder for you when the opponent has reach and does not have its guard down.

After all, a melee weapon is extension of the hand and with some weapons, if your target is too close - it is harder to use.

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I’m a bit late (but hey, i’m new here after all) but now that we have the Conan the Wanderer sourcebook we can confirm that you can do a Defend Reaction while unarmed against a melee weapon attack, otherwise the Flashing Steel talent would be of no use, unless combined with the Symphony of Blades talent, which seems a bit restrictive.
Personnaly, I never assumed that using the Parry skill was literally and strictly block the opponent strike with something (a shield or a weapon), but more like all the technics and stratagems you take to avoid close combat harms. So from this point of view it seems more likely plausible to dodge a melee attack by other means than just blocking

I’m likely to agree with you, but my group has been playing it, pretty much, rules as written.

I’m wondering if it’s a good compromise to ask for +1 Doom for an unarmed Defend Reaction.

In the first versions of the Conan core rules, Parry was actually the blocking/parrying skill. You could always decide to dodge a melee attack using Acrobatics (as you could in Mutant Chronicles, where you have the choice to dodge (Acrobatics) or parry (Close Combat)).

In the Google+ group there were (very few) voices that lamented that their players tended to max-out Agility to be able to attack and dodge really well. The Parry skill is associated with the Coordination attribute, and so often was not learned or improved at all.

The “fix” for that was to disallow dodging melee attacks using Acrobatics, unless you have the Pantherish Twist Talent.
Then the explanation for using Parry even on an “unarmed dodge” was, that the Parry skill includes footwork, dodging, weaving, ducking etc.

The rules mechanical balancing reason was, that now characters have a reason to invest in Agility (for attack) and Coordination (for defense), makes it more attractive to put some effort into Coordination and learning the Parry skill.

This means that you have to pay 2 dooms in order to dodge (as Reactions ask for Doom to be used). Seems a bit expensive to me.
But actually, I never made pay my players for the first Defend reaction they have to take in the round, as I considered the Doom spend for Reaction more like a way to simulate outnumber. So in this case we could imagine that unarmed attacks got a kind of “Defenseless” Quality that raise the Doom cost of Defend Reaction, why not !

I never played Mutant Chronicles, so thanks for the trivia! and indeed Agility would have been too strong in this configuration. I believe anyway that all of this is just a matter of screenplay : in game, you have to strictly use the Parry skill against melee attacks (unless Panterish Twist-ism), but in the description of the fight you can depict it as you want, dodging or parrying as the player prefer

No, spend 1 Doom for the first Reaction, 2 for the second, etc.
There are no additional costs in Doom for “dodging” Melee attacks while unarmed using the Parry skill.
(Some had discussed introducing additional costs for “dodging” melee attacks while unarmed, but this were house rules - and as such I wouldn’t recommend them at all.)

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In Conan it might have been too one-sided, but in Mutant Chronicles you can only ever do ONE single “Response Action” (Reaction) per round. So if you get attacked by two opponents, you need to decide which one to react to, as you cannot react to the other one. - That balances things out quite a bit.

Because a Reaction against a Melee attack does not, does never require any weapon at hand to use the Defend Reaction. This is defined as using the Parry skill (unless you have the Pantherish Twist Acrobatics Talent, which allows for an exception).

So the question is, why would you penalize a player who build a character according to the rules and wants to go for a pugilist or wrestler character type? There is still the disadvantage an unarmed fighter has regarding the Range 1 of his natural weapons versus most longer weapons in performing an attack. And as being unarmed does not save you generating some Doom like the Parrying quality of a dagger for example, it will generate Doom anyway.

I wouldn’t recommend penalizing being unarmed more than the rules already do.

Consider this for NPCs, too. How about beasts, monstrous creatures, etc. - do you penalize them to pay extra Doom for not having an artificial weapon, too? Because as Parry skill covers footwork, weaving, dodging and all other avoidance techniques, this would be the same any animal does in trying to dodge an attack. Animals NEVER “parry”, as parrying is an actual fencing technique one needs some advanced civilisatory development for. But dodging etc. as in the Parry skill anyone could do.


And I 100% agree with you. In my group I don’t have any martial artist or wrestler, but when they have to come litteraly at hands i never made them pay extra Doom, nor penalized them by other means. I was just thinking about some solutions for people who want to screw their heads a bit more than me! I actually believe that the Conan system is already quite heavy, so I don’t recommend to add some pointy (and a bit useless) rules like that.

Most animals and monsters are Minions or Toughened. The Minion ones don’t get a Reaction at all.

p. 305 Core Rulebook: “Minions cannot attempt Reactions, and they cannot sacrifice armor or shields to ignore Wounds.” Also “Toughened creatures act and fight [added by me: including Reactions] using the same rules as do player characters…and they cannot sacrifice armor to ignore Wounds (though they may still sacrifice shields).”

And if they’re in a Mob or Squad (even a squad of Toughened creatures), they don’t get Reactions.

p. 307 Core Rulebook: “Being composed of Minions, Mobs cannot attempt Reactions. Even though Squads are led by Toughened creatures, a Squad cannot attempt a Reaction either.”

All of this assumes they don’t have a special ability in their write-up that allows for Reactions despite being in Squads; from p. 60-61, Conan the Mercenary, Sisters of the Blade have the Skirmishers special ability that allows them to Parry attacks even when in a Squad or a Mob, although they can’t get bonus dice while doing so, and must rely on their own abilities.

To answer the OP, I would allow an unarmed opponent to Parry, and if they have the Deflection Talent, they can do so the first time with 0 Doom. They do have a Reach of 1 (barring "Adaptable Combatant) so they’re probably at a disadvantage against most opponents. The descriptive text in the Parry skill does not preclude parrying without a weapon, just describes that Parry “constitutes most of the training a beginner gets in swordplay, using a weapon or shield to protect oneself.” That’s an inclusive, not proscriptive statement.

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It may be that I have inadvertently produced some confusion here, since I’m the one who, without commitment, floated a house rule for increased Doom costs for unarmed Defend Reactions against Melee attacks.

And this is because my group hasn’t allowed the Parry Skill to be used without a weapon in hand, because this is how we have interpreted the language associated with the Skill.

I’m guessing now that there might be something in, say, the description of the Defend Reaction that alters that understanding.

I’ll have to look into it.