Dex-based defense options



So, I just picked up the ICRPG Master Edition pdf yesterday (and am waiting impatiently for the physical book). Almost immediately, only partway through the player’s guide, I was inspired to make a Gerblin Bard/Duelist (Provoker, naturally, with an Heirloom blade, and a dash of War Scholar on the side). Then I realized that defense is entirely Con and Loot based. My visions of Gnash dancing aside from danger while hurling taunts are in peril.
Knowing full well that the answer is liable to be a combination of “Loot” and “Wing it,” (and being cool with that), I am changing my question from “How do I mechanically design a character with a quick and nimble fighting style?” (See answers above) to this:
What systems/workarounds have people tried to accomplish the “nimble melee fighter” trope, and how well did the various approaches work?


I’m sure others will help you out here but my first instinct is to ask if you’ve seen the parts that talk about DEF vs DEX. So with Master Edition, as a GM, I try to use a lot of “roll DEF to block” or “roll DEX to evade” or “roll DEF or DEX, your choice”. Defense was meant to help reward high CON players since DEX enabled so much dodging in previous editions. So yeah DIY of course but I’d just focus on DEX and maybe find a few pieces of loot to still boost ur DEF a little bit.


Well, I’ve made it into the monsters section. I don’t remember seeing that in the player’s or gm’s sections, but it has been a pretty quick first read.
Also, I thought I saw something in one of the reviews I read about the 4 Effort points (at character creation) being usable to increase Defense too. Of course, either the reviewer or myself (or both) could easily be mistaken.


No worries! If I remember correctly, it’s 6 to stats, 4 points to efforts, and DEF is just loot bonuses plus CON. I’m previous versions you could add points into Armor but I don’t believe that’s the case in Master. And I’m sure the DEF vs DEX talk could also be more from Hanks videos and such, I don’t remember how well it’s explained in the book to be honest LoL.


That is my one… for lack of a better word, “complaint” about ICRPG. I understand the DIY nature of it, but there are several places I would have liked a little guidance. Suggestions on how one might go about doing X.
Of course, that’s part of what these forums are for. I’ll try not to be too much of a pest. :slight_smile:


Looking at your concept, I’d say RAW, you have a couple headwinds. You can’t use high DEX to make your bard harder to hit, and you can’t use DEX to make the heirloom blade hit more often, cuz that’s a STR thing. Your GM may just let you swap DEX for CON to modify DEF, or might make doing so a piece of loot or a special ability. For a Gerblin, you might also be able to wrangle the heirloom blade into an heirloom pistol, and then you’ve got a cool little gunslinger.

I think a lot of people have struggled with DEX not being the super stat it has been in D&D, because we’ve been conditioned to think of DEX as applying to so many different things. Revisiting that means rethinking some of the tropes we’ve come to rely on to feed our imaginations, and there’s no easy solution for that, short of giving yourself time and space to rethink what these things mean, or adjusting the rules to fit your taste.


The rub is that every guideline can become an ironclad rule for someone, and that’s not the spirit of the game. Some folks latch on to rules as written, and take that as immutable truth.

I’ve had some struggles with the DEX vs DEF challenge, too. Most end up being resolved narratively without a mechanical difference.

GM: “The earth crumbles and you fall! Roll DEF against the target number or take some damage from the fall!”
Gnash: “Okay, can I roll DEX to instead somersault and land nimbly on my feet?”
GM: “Heck yeah. Your dwarf friend in plate mail falls like a stone, though, and needs to roll DEF.”


I think a solution could be creating an ability that allows to use DEX instead of CON.

This highlights that for the character, balances well because it will take the place of another ability one could have, and it is inherent to the character concept rather than being taken away with by destroying loot.

I added this ability in my post apocalyptic setting under the name: “Dodge, Duck, Dip, Dive and Dodge: Add DEX to DEF”


Here’s an alternative take on your situation, which I hope you find helpful.

Rules as written, ICRPG is not preventing your agile defender character concept or its mechanical implementation. Maybe your in-game narrative is.

Consider the real-world example of a professional ballet dancer, with trained grace, superb agility, and expert levels of proprioception from his many years of training; he is strong, athletic, learned, and disciplined. However, ripped from reality and plunked down into a medieval fantasy setting in front a charging barbarian and his mighty great axe, he is likely going to get his ass kicked (or his head handed to him). The skill set is the same in the two scenarios. The difference is context, which you control in an RPG.

Now consider another real-world example: the boxer Muhammad Ali. Ali was famous as a heavyweight prize fighter for his focus on cardiovascular conditioning, stamina, agility, and movement. All of these are largely constitution-based skills that he trained hard to maximize. His dancing style in the ring, using intricate footwork and constant, quick circular movement to deny his opponents any success at closing off the ring, forced other fighters to overcommit repeatedly as they progressively tired themselves out with missed throws and weakly landed blows. Ali’s fast reflexes, uncanny footwork, and superb head movement kept him safe whenever his opponents did close the range, and, intercut with his rope-a-dope technique of absorbing and minimizing blows along the perimeter of the ring as he let his opponents burn through their energy reserves, Ali set other fighters up to fall victim to his devastating counter-punches. Muhammad Ali was the quintessential example of a modern-day agility-based warrior, and his foundation was a stout constitution.

Bottom line: Rather than trying to bend the mechanics of the game to stack yet another in-game benefit onto the single statistic DEX—which already confers stealth, nimbleness, manual manipulation prowess, balance, and ranged attack accuracy—consider expanding your concept of what the CON statistic embodies to include the ability to “tough it out” in combat (or under some other onslaught) by “bobbing and weaving” while resisting fatigue or other degradation. No mechanical hack to RAW is required.

ETA: I happen to be a big fan of @JDH’s “5 Ds” special ability in his excellent ICRPG post-apoc supplement The Waste Is Not Kind, but that is precisely because it is a special ability equivalent to a starting ability for a character type (“class”) or something acquired as an epic power-up. As a default rule for game play, I stand by what I said about CON versus DEX.


Now that’s a neat little sidestep, and wouldn’t much change the character concept. Well worth pondering. Thanks!


Very true, and no quantity of verbal and written “don’t take this as gospel” warnings will entirely prevent that.

I do like the narrative approach; that can iron out a great many wrinkles.



Very good points, and excellent examples! Ali was the greatest for many reasons.

I agree with what you’re all saying about not super-stacking DEX; my intention was never to min-max a bard into a Gerblin Juicer. My hangup here is, as you say, narrative. I just don’t see him as a high-CON character. He’s a mouthy (good CHA) slippery little weasel (good DEX). Tough he ain’t.

@JDH’s “5 Ds” special ability does seem like an excellent solution to help keep him from getting squished. He probably doesn’t hit often with his heirloom blade, but that’s not how he’ll tell the story later. :slight_smile:

As a side note to that, I’d already decided that he must have a “Ridiculously Floppy Hat,” but wasn’t sure quite what to have it do. I’m possibly thinking that if he waves it in his off-hand as a distraction, it either makes his attack Easy, or someone’s attack on him Hard. To balance, he can’t do a Move on a round when he uses it. How does that sound (as a first try at creating Loot/gear)?

And thanks for all the great feedback!


My take -
Ridiculous Hat: +1 CHA, once per encounter, flourish as a distraction. Target rolls HARD WIS or your attack does max Effort.


Now, that is an idea that I never really sat down to consider. Excellent explanation, and I would add to that by saying that Bruce Lee fell into the CON category for his attack and reaction speed. For him, it also came down to muscular and cardiovascular endurance more than sneaking or walking on tightropes. I can totally get behind that explanation.