Parry: Fighters with a Dexterity score of 14 or better can fight on thedefensive, parrying enemy blows and dodging attacks, as shown on thetable below.
I bring this up here because the threads I'm seeing are several months old and I don't want to necro. I do want to address this, though, since I have some thoughts on it.
The concern has been whether this ability continuously functions or if it is some sort of tactical option. The main crux of it is that Fighters are the only class to enjoy bonuses "to-hit" and damage, so should they be able to take advantage of a high DEX ability in addition to high STR bonuses in a given round.
There have been several ways of handling this question put forward. The most harsh, for the Fighter, is an either/or situation. Parry was defined in many games as a full-round defense which improved AC by -4. The other end of the scale was that the ability is always "on" and is fully functional with the STR bonuses. The most common middle ground answer was to render it as a tactical decision, that is the player would choose which bonus to take advantage of round-per-round.
Personally, being the Fighter-phile that I am, I say both bonuses are always in effect. The either/or option completely invalidates this as a class ability. Any class can Parry, at the expense of their attack, so that negates this as a "class ability". Sure, the Fighter does it better than anyone else, most likely, but so what. I also don't really like the tactical option approach. It weakens the ability. Does any other class have to choose which action to apply a bonus to? If a bow wielding character is attacked hand-to-hand in the same round he fires his bow, is the player forced to choose to apply his DEX bonus to either the missile attack -or- AC? No.
I think the problem is that people are looking in the wrong place for the answer. They are fixating on the word "can" in the above quote:
"can fight on the defensive,"Which to them, can equals optionally. If looked at in that way, sure, I can see it. Can would imply "if they so choose".
However, I think the operative word is fight. Fight, meaning attack. They can (as in "have the ability to") fight (attack), while maintaining a sound defensive aspect to their tactics.
Besides which, it is obvious that an effort has been made to give the Fighter unique class abilities to make them desirable, mechanically. And that's a Good Thing.