Parrying is the art of deflecting an enemy’s attack away from you, with a qualifying shield or weapon , in turn stunning them for a few seconds (or even pushing them to the ground) and allowing you to get in a critical damage hit. Parrying is very much a high-risk/high-reward strategy as it all comes down to timing (which will vary between enemies).
To attempt a parry you first need to ensure your shield or weapon (such as a Rapier) can parry (you’ll know if you look at the shield in your inventory as it’ll tell you the shield type at the top). Certain shields can also parry back magic attacks (and not just physical attacks); so it’s worth double-checking your shield class prior to equipping it.
Once you know your shield or weapon is capable of parrying then the real fun begins. It’s worth practicing this technique in the Forest of Fallen Giants at the start (near the first bonfire) as those enemies don’t 1-hit kill you if you mess up and the nearby bonfire allows you to replenish your health and respawn them (up to 14 more times) if need be.
How to Parry
Wait for an enemy to get close and then attempt to attack you. Stand right in front of the enemy and just before their weapon is about to strike you, press the strong attack button that your shield/weapon is equipped to and if you’ve timed it right; it’ll knock the attacker back (or for some enemies knock them to the ground on their back).
If you’re too fast, or too slow, with the parry then you’ll miss and take the full brunt of the attack. That’s why it’s worthwhile practicing this move on smaller enemies until you’re able to execute the move a good 50%+ of the time.
Note: If you’re feeling uber-brave then you can actually parry attacks with your bare hands! As long as the attack is parry-able in the first place, you’ll feel like the ultimate badass as you push away their swords and punch them, hard, in the face in return. Hardcore.
The Riposte (Counter-Attack)
If they’re too big to knock onto the ground (such as bosses that can be parried), then they’ll be briefly stunned allowing you to get a free attack in. If the enemy falls to the ground now’s your chance to stand right in front of them and push the regular attack button to trigger the 'riposte'. A riposte is a counter-attack that triggers a high-damage critical hit; killing most enemies in the process.
Important! To ensure a successful riposte (as they can be missed quite easily), make sure you get very close after they fall, wait a brief second and then press the normal attack button.