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Given that footwork is an active and passive defense you can always use (apart from being onboard a ship), why should I invest in any other defense, possibly requiring me to have the right weapon?

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It depends on how you play the rules.

Here's what the official FAQ says:

Q: If Footwork can be used at any time, and Parry (for the appropriate weapon) may be used when holding that weapon, doesn't that make Parry knacks not very important?

Use Footwork when you have nothing else. On the other hand, if you do have Parry, you can use that instead of Footwork. If you are leaping from a table top to a chandelier, you have to use Leaping; if you're climbing up a rope, you have to use Climbing, etc.

If you use this ruling, then footwork becomes strictly better than parrying. It works on firearms. It works whether or not you have your weapon out. It's just good to have.

Based on this, the only reason to use parry would be if you have an ability that gives you a bonus to parry (which many swordsman schools do).

A fan FAQ on Revenant's board shows a different interpretation:

Q: When can I use the Parry knack? Whilst swinging or climbing (assuming I have a one-handed weapon)? When knocked to the ground? On board ship (or other unsteady surface)? The way I understand it, in any situation, you can always choose to use either a Parry knack (assuming you are wielding an appropriate weapon), or a 'situation' knack, which will vary based on where you are situated. But it would be good to get final clarification.

A: (Thwak) Parry can be used whenever you have the appropriate weapon in hand, UNLESS overriding circumstances would prevent you from using it. Swinging on a chandelier with rapier in hand? Sure, parry. Swinging on a chandelier with a damsel in distress in your arms? Unless you have the Knack for Parry (Damsel in Distress) (and are a complete cad...), you gotta use Swing as your Defensive Knack. Common sense is the final arbitrator on that, of course.

This is the version I played in my campaigns, and it makes parry a bit more useful. Most characters wanted to have both footwork (for defense against guns) and parry (for fighting aboard a ship, on top of carriages, etc.).

This gives a good trade off: footwork works against all types of attacks, but parry works in all situations.

There is a middle ground between these two, also articulated on Revenant's board:

The trick, I've found, is to vary the fighting scenarios a lot. Have some fight scenes in a narrow hallway or staircase; others in a broad, open area with plenty of room; others on-board ship, others in a crowded hall or cluttered storeroom with barrels and boxes everywhere, etc.

The reasoning here is that footwork can't be used if you don't have room to dodge around.

I'm not a big fan of this one, because it feels like bending the rules just to punish footwork-based players. It is a viable option though, so use it if it works for you.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for this nice and comprehensive answer! That helps a lot. Do I understand correctly that in all three rulings I can use either parry or footwork when both are available? Or do I HAVE to use one over the other if both apply (e.g. forbidding footwork in a fencing duel, even when there is enough space and I am not climbing or the like)? \$\endgroup\$ Jun 22 '16 at 13:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PaulPaulsen Yes, if both footwork and parry are valid you have your choice of the two. There may be roleplaying restrictions (stop running around and fight!). The only rules restriction is that you have to use the same active defense as the passive defense you used when you were attacked... But that passive defense can be either footwork or parry. \$\endgroup\$
    – AceCalhoon
    Jun 22 '16 at 14:17
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You won't be able to always use footwork.

Footwork

May be used at any time, unless over-ruled by another

If you fell into water, try to climb, or swing on the ropes it won't be possible for you to use footwork. You would have to accordingly use swimming, climbing or swinging defense knacks.

This is why all of those movement-type dependant defense knacks even exist.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for your answer! Probably my question was unclear, I cared more about things like parry(knife) or parry(heavy weapon), i.e. the weapon based knacks where I normally could use footwork. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 22 '16 at 10:20

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