The Defence Roll Reversal

This probably isn’t a terribly original idea but I thought I’d share it anyway. You see, recently, I’ve been hearing a lot of complaining about the so-called “whiffiness” of combat in a lot of games.

Apparently to “whiff” is to be rolling an attack and then to discover that you’d actually missed, especially when you thought you were about to hit. GURPS has been accused of this because of the dynamic of the Attack Roll being followed by the Active Defence Roll.

An example: Burly George goes to attack Whimpy William with his knife. George rolls to attack and the player needs to roll, lets arbitrarily decide, 12 or less. The roll is made and is a success! All good so far. But, hey, what’s this? William gets to make an active defense roll, in this case needing (say) a 9 or less. William the Whimp succeeds and thus nullifies George’s attack by dodging. This, I am told, is a whiff.

Putting aside the assertion that it’s somehow better for William to have no active defense and better for George to simply roll to attack, let’s imagine for a second that this does in fact feel sucky to the player. What to do about it?

Well, simple. In recent games within the Fire Citadel of The Dragon Kings, I have been trying a simple reversal of the rolls: the attacker declares the action and the defender immediately attempts the active defense. If they succeed in avoiding the attack, the player making said attack knows they need to score a Critical Success or let the dodge, parry, or block stand. Simple.

In play, it’s been working fine so far. Players report that it’s quite exciting to know that they need to crit to hit if the defender makes the defense roll. Also, when under assault from the “bad guys” it’s rather nice to be able to establish a dodge, parry, or block straight away and require that your assailant crits too. Suddenly the so-called “whiff” has dissipated. And no-one had to resort to sucky Armour Class rules after all.

Game on!


  1. How many things can happen to an attack against a successful active defense?

    Attacker could crit which negates any active the defense, correct?
    He could fumble.
    If the active defense is a Parry both need to check on damage/breakage of weapons?
    What else? Oh intersection of Deceptive Attacks/ripostes/etc – does changing the order of the rolls change anything?


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