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Block, Dodge, Parry - A Levelless, Classless Expansion of CairnClick to magnify
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Block, Dodge, Parry - A Levelless, Classless Expansion of Cairn


Block, Dodge, Parry aims to be somewhat of an 'Advanced Edition' to Yochai Gal's Cairn. It is playable as an entirely standalone game, or as an 'expansion pack' to CairnInto The Odd, Electric Bastionland, or any other Mark of the Odd-type games.

I hope it also proves helpful as a toolbox: a collection of ideas that hopefully inspire you to use what you like, tweak what you want, and expand where you find it lacking.

The main concepts behind its contents are 

  • To integrate 'fiction' into OSR-style play. If you are a wizard, it should be fun and easy to do wizard stuff, without causing major balancing issues.
  • To make any fantasy character concept a player might have, easy to 'build' and play. The backstory is the character building.
  • To provide players and Wardens with meaningful, impactful choices that emerge naturally during play.
  • To organically create 'prompts' for new adventures from play itself. Do you want to master a new weapon? Use it! Do you want to learn how to master a particular skill? Find someone who can teach you!

Block, Dodge, Parry has 37 pages, and contains the following:

  • Time, Gear & Skill; a system for ‘skill checks’ without requiring a whole list of skills, that rewards the character’s background and preparation.
  • Fantasy Species; a simple framework to play as non-humans with unique properties.
  • Extended rest rules, rewarding more comfortable places of rest with more rejuvenation.
  • Social Conflict; an alternative to physical combat, allowing for tense negotiations. It straddles the line between “complete abstraction” and “having the players actually argue with the Warden” by using dice rolls as prompts.
  • Blocking, Dodging & Parrying, the namesake of the system, giving players more tactical options during combat while maintaining its overall flow and simplicity.
  • Location-based critical damage; an optional system to add a bit of impact to your blows.
  • Weapons; wherein each weapon can deal one of three types of damage, combined with fast, balanced, and heavy attacks and different special properties, which characters master by using.
  • Careers: 16 careers, each with a description, related skills, and "common knowledge" (things any person of that career would know)
  • Skills: 97 skills, which give you tangible new options during play. These skills can be picked at character creation, or learned along your travels.
  • Training: A system to learn new skills by studying, doing, or finding the right trainer.
  • Magic; a free-form magic system inspired by GLOG, allowing you to freely sculpt energy, hinder opponents or alter reality. To inspire the free-form system, 12 common magic effects are expanded upon, and the offensive magic section has more than 15 tags to start with.
  • Miracles; divine magic allowing you to banish your foes or aid allies. Compose your own Higher Power using one of the 100 domains, and dedicate your actions to your Higher Power to receive healing and bonuses.

Please Note:

On Monday, the 29th of May, the SRD for Block, Dodge, Parry will be released. The full book version of Block, Dodge, Parry will go from $5 to $10. This is your last chance to get the full version for $5!

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Discussions (1)
Customer avatar
Aaron K November 08, 2023 5:23 pm UTC
I bought this on so I'm leaving a review in the discussion section:
Its a pretty good collection of rules. In my opinion a bit too arbitrarily bloated and goes against the design philosophy of the original rulesets it expands upon if all rules options are used.
Absolutely worthwhile though to pick and choose rules from. It expands Cairn campaigns into viable longterm campaigns rather than Cairn's lazy "let the DM figure it out in fiction out somehow". (Yes we will do that anyway, but the designer's job is to ease the DM's job so it isn't all purely make believe and DM fiat) *ends tangent*
The combat initiative system is very fascinating design-wise, but in practice with groups medium to large, phased combat from bx d&d was smoother in my experience. Weapon proficiencies, and gambit rolls added unnecessary crunch to combat back into the game. With so many rules to pick or discard it was a bit annoying to convey to players which ones were canonical in our campaign. ...See more
Customer avatar
Lars H December 01, 2023 10:59 am UTC
Thank you for the expansive review!
I appreciate the "nitpicking", it gives food for thought!
I agree with you that using *everything* adds some bloat. I tried to write the books for, well, people like me: I love it when an author just throws out a lot of ideas, does explain some of the logic and philosophy, and leaves it up to the reader a little bit to go run with it.
I would never claim that this is a perfect, fully-fledged way to run the game; I mostly hope to inspire, hence me framing it a bit more as a 'toolkit' as opposed to a 'game'.
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File Last Updated:
November 05, 2023
This title was added to our catalog on February 16, 2023.
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