[5e] Offensive and defensive stances

CubicsRube

Explorer
Next in my series of rambling tinkering thoughts on 5e (because apparently I like to keep my mind engaged this way), I was thinking about a simple change to add more choice in combat.

Simple, but I suspect with long reaching knock-on effects.

The idea is thus: Characters may determine if they are in a reckless, cautious, or neutral stance at the start of their turn if they are making a melee attack. If they are using ranged or casting a spell, they are assumed to be in neutral stance.

If aggressive, they have advantage to attack rolls, but enemies have advantage to attack them for the rest of the round.
If cautious, they have disadvantage to attack rolls, but enemies have disadvantage to attack them for the rest of the round.
Neutral is the same as vanilla 5e. No advantahe or disadvantage.

Intention: To enable more player choice. Players might go reckless if they're having a hard time hitting something and they're willing to take the risk. On the other hand if they are struggling to survive they may wish to be cautious to try and bide some time.

Issue 1: the aggressive stance gives everyone the barbarians reckless attack feature. Something else would need to be given to boost this feature for the barbarian. Perhaps extra damage. What would you suggest?

Issue 2: the monks patient defense is diminished somewhat by the cautious stance. Perhaps they could get some ability to absorb damage such as the deflect missiles ability. Not sure about this one yet. What would you suggest?

Issue 3: this gives everyone the ability to dodge yet still attack. I'm fine with this actually as i feel that dodge is underutilised in my experience.

What other issues would this change cause that I'm missing? It definitely changes the dynamics of the fight and I'd love to try it out with a group to see how it plays.
 
Thats very interesting, because i made an extremely similar ruleset, (Even using the words Aggressive and Cautious Stances) however mine was with the intention of making a social combat.
In mine, people in aggressive stances could not move away from their enemies, while people in Cautious Stances could not move towards threats. (If either they did, they would lose the stance for this combat, as no one would believe they are actually aggressive/cautious) People in Aggressive stances could taunt, they could threaten someone to put them into a Cautious Stance, or compel someone to leave or surrender, or bait someone into becoming aggressive. A cautious stance could Fake Surrender, or Shame two foes into fighting you 1v1 instead of 2v1. My system was balanced, but based on a different system than 5e so I don't think I could translate it well.

Obviously, i like the idea of adding these kinds of stances in, and it would mean Monks, Barbarians, etc, would get different abilities or upgraded abilities. It would definitely change the fight and make them more dynamic. I think barbarians would have Improved Reckless Stance, allowing them to get advantage without the Disadvantage, and the same goes for Monks. (or No ki cost)

I don't like that its tied to your attack. I don't like that you cant be cautious and cast spells. I think you're on the right track and you should put some more time into developing this.
 

Darth Solo

Villager
D&D was designed by nerds like Gygax with little or no knowledge of how combat really works. They did not know an attack can, first, be based on how the attacker will counter. D&D, at its root , is a terrible game through the lens of simulated combat. GURPS and HERO do this far better.

The cool aspect was how Gygax & others listened to gamers to improve the system. They had rules but, the rules could be modified for your group.
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
I like the idea of an offensive stance, for when you want to speed the battle up. One way to differentiate it from the barbarian's Reckless Attack is to make it a damage modifier instead of advantage/disadvantage: you deal double damage with melee attacks, but you suffer double damage from all sources until the start of your next turn. This lets it stack with the barbarian's Reckless Attack but at a pretty severe cost. It also prevents abuse by rogues; if you do the advantage/advantage thing, then a rogue can stab a guy with advantage and get sneak attack damage, then use Cunning Action to run away and potentially get out of reach.

Defensive stance sounds like it would just slow things down. Attacks with disadvantage are more likely to miss, have zero effect, and become a waste of everyone's time. So I kind of like the idea that Dodge is the defensive stance: if you are just trying to tank or "buy time," you can Dodge, but you give up your attack (but you can still make Opportunity Attacks, which is nice).
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I do a similar thing in my WIP TTRPG.

I have Aggressive, Defensive, Readied, and characters can choose not to take up a stance.

I’d consider leveraging Initiative as a cost/reward element to such a system. In my game it’s simply that aggressives go first, Readys next, and Defensives last. Initiative is a d10 roll, and you choose a Stance when it is rolled, and can change stance as a Quick Action (you get 2 per round of those) on your turn. Anyone not in a stance rolls last, and simply slots into the order based on their roll. Ie, if 3 characters are aggressive, their rolls determine who goes first, 2nd, 3rd, among them. If a Defensive rolls a 10, they still don’t go before aggressives and readies that rolled lower.
 

UngeheuerLich

Adventurer
Probably it is better to have +2/-4 attack and defense for offensive and defensove stances respectively.
I took inspiration from 3rd edition. First it does not mingle with advantage disadvantage which might not be that easy to get (rogue etc)
It is also important that it is asymetrical so that the default is normal stance and the one who choses to deviate usually does it because they see an advantage in it.
If you want to use GWM +2 is such a big thing that -2 to defense would be way to low.
On the other hand, while fighting defensively when you already have a big AC +2 is a big thing. -4 to defense seems appropriate.

And if both use the opposite stance then both are fighting as normal against each other.
 

CubicsRube

Explorer
Thats very interesting, because i made an extremely similar ruleset, (Even using the words Aggressive and Cautious Stances) however mine was with the intention of making a social combat.
A good coincidence! These days I'm mostly looking at slight but impactful changes to 5e. I'm not sure if illget a group buy in to try this out but its interesting to think about
 

CubicsRube

Explorer
I like the idea of an offensive stance, for when you want to speed the battle up. One way to differentiate it from the barbarian's Reckless Attack is to make it a damage modifier instead of advantage/disadvantage: you deal double damage with melee attacks, but you suffer double damage from all sources until the start of your next turn. This lets it stack with the barbarian's Reckless Attack but at a pretty severe cost. It also prevents abuse by rogues; if you do the advantage/advantage thing, then a rogue can stab a guy with advantage and get sneak attack damage, then use Cunning Action to run away and potentially get out of reach.

Defensive stance sounds like it would just slow things down. Attacks with disadvantage are more likely to miss, have zero effect, and become a waste of everyone's time. So I kind of like the idea that Dodge is the defensive stance: if you are just trying to tank or "buy time," you can Dodge, but you give up your attack (but you can still make Opportunity Attacks, which is nice).
Yeah, one posibility is just making dodge more prominent as the cautious stance. I find many people i k ow very rarely use it as the idea of giving up an attack seems to be too much sacrifice.
 

CubicsRube

Explorer
I do a similar thing in my WIP TTRPG.

I have Aggressive, Defensive, Readied, and characters can choose not to take up a stance.

I’d consider leveraging Initiative as a cost/reward element to such a system. In my game it’s simply that aggressives go first, Readys next, and Defensives last. Initiative is a d10 roll, and you choose a Stance when it is rolled, and can change stance as a Quick Action (you get 2 per round of those) on your turn. Anyone not in a stance rolls last, and simply slots into the order based on their roll. Ie, if 3 characters are aggressive, their rolls determine who goes first, 2nd, 3rd, among them. If a Defensive rolls a 10, they still don’t go before aggressives and readies that rolled lower.
Wow, your post made me think of something I hadn't even considered.

In shadow of the demon lord they have two phases based on fast (move or action) and slow (move and action).

As you said the same idea could be leveraged with this, so those on offense go first, but are vulnerable to counter attack, whereas those who go last shore up their defenses but they have to weather attacks first.

It's very interesting. I'll have to think about it!
 
D&D was designed by nerds like Gygax with little or no knowledge of how combat really works. They did not know an attack can, first, be based on how the attacker will counter. D&D, at its root , is a terrible game through the lens of simulated combat. GURPS and HERO do this far better.

The cool aspect was how Gygax & others listened to gamers to improve the system. They had rules but, the rules could be modified for your group.
That's because D&D has never been a combat simulator. The combat mechanics descended from wargames where individual combat was largely abstract, the specific decisions on how to defend being left to the character rather than the player.

Since then D&D has changed to let the players have more decisions in combat, but it's always been about making a more interesting game, not about making a better "simulation".
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
Next in my series of rambling tinkering thoughts on 5e (because apparently I like to keep my mind engaged this way), I was thinking about a simple change to add more choice in combat.

Simple, but I suspect with long reaching knock-on effects.

The idea is thus: Characters may determine if they are in a reckless, cautious, or neutral stance at the start of their turn if they are making a melee attack. If they are using ranged or casting a spell, they are assumed to be in neutral stance.

If aggressive, they have advantage to attack rolls, but enemies have advantage to attack them for the rest of the round.
If cautious, they have disadvantage to attack rolls, but enemies have disadvantage to attack them for the rest of the round.
Neutral is the same as vanilla 5e. No advantahe or disadvantage.

Intention: To enable more player choice. Players might go reckless if they're having a hard time hitting something and they're willing to take the risk. On the other hand if they are struggling to survive they may wish to be cautious to try and bide some time.

Issue 1: the aggressive stance gives everyone the barbarians reckless attack feature. Something else would need to be given to boost this feature for the barbarian. Perhaps extra damage. What would you suggest?

Issue 2: the monks patient defense is diminished somewhat by the cautious stance. Perhaps they could get some ability to absorb damage such as the deflect missiles ability. Not sure about this one yet. What would you suggest?

Issue 3: this gives everyone the ability to dodge yet still attack. I'm fine with this actually as i feel that dodge is underutilised in my experience.

What other issues would this change cause that I'm missing? It definitely changes the dynamics of the fight and I'd love to try it out with a group to see how it plays.
My thoughts...

First while the idea seems something worthwhile, I do not like that it's so narrow as to only be affecting attacks and so powerful it stomps over other actions and class features. So it would not get in my game eith this manifestation.

Second, i do not like the certainty, the easy math, trade-off. I give this I get that makes it too predictable.

Third, dodge is already powerful. Your best way to encourage its use is to use it and let them see it in play against them, not changing it to something else.


So, if I were going to do this, I would leverage it with the DMG option for success at cost (S@C). (Assumes you are not already using that optional feature.)
_____
Let's call it - Going All Out
At the start of your turn you may go all out, throwing everything into your effort. If your attack roll fails by 1 or 2, it succeeds anyway. But at that point, once the success occurs, the GM can and will impose some cost, setback or misfortune that also happens. (See Success at cost and Ability Checks "some progress with setback" as just a few examples. This could be applied to an enemy's save vs your spell, turning a narrow success to resist your spell into a failure, but again at a cost to you.
_____
So, this basically brings S@C inyo the game as a choice one can invoke before taking an action, wagering a slight gain in odds of success with a cost.

It's essentially S@C but declared in advance, "pre-clared"?

The key to this working will be the variety and scope of the impactful drawbacks that hit the character when the 1-2 under occurs. (Note, you could make a small tweak, to flavor, and frame it as lemons to lemonade - if you say "on a roll of 1 or 2" instead of 1 or 2 under. Makes it more of an immediate recognize thing.)

But the key remains the uncertainty - the GM has a wide array of options, not a set trade-off you calculate in advance.

So, this is the route I would go, leveraging an optional rule, bringing it more as a choice or gamble into the fray.
 
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Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
The idea is thus: Characters may determine if they are in a reckless, cautious, or neutral stance at the start of their turn if they are making a melee attack. If they are using ranged or casting a spell, they are assumed to be in neutral stance.

If aggressive, they have advantage to attack rolls, but enemies have advantage to attack them for the rest of the round.
If cautious, they have disadvantage to attack rolls, but enemies have disadvantage to attack them for the rest of the round.
Neutral is the same as vanilla 5e. No advantahe or disadvantage.
It's better then Aggressive Stance since it works with non-STR attacks, which can allow things like Sneak Attack and such. And it works with Elven Accuracy. Plus all the crit-seeking is doubled.

A fighter(champion) would be critting 19% of the time at 3rd level. Make it a half orc with a battle axe and close to 1/5 of all attacks are doing 3d12+STR. Take GWM at 4th and you're also getting bonus action attack, plus really enabling the -5/+10 damage. It's just abusable. Another abuse is DEX or CHR based melee attacked with Elven Accuracy for effectively 3d20 for every attack.

I would not suggest that Reckless = More Precise. I'd suggest making it -2 to hit and AC for +4 to damage for melee attacks. You are Reckless - just swinging all out without precision nor care to defense.

Dodge and Defensive Stance both grant disadvantage to attack, but one requires your whole action and the other you can still attack. That's not balanced at all. If you want to still grant attacks then it needs to be less than the Dodge action. Just reducing hit (or even hit and damage) is always better because dodge always gives 0 damage.

Maybe
Defensive action: trigger when making a melee attack on your turn. You have -4 on all attack rolls until the start of your next turn. You gain +1 AC and DEX saves unless you have a shield, fighting style or feat that adds to your AC (or max dex in armor) in which case it's +2.

Went with penalty to attacks instead of disadvantage since otherwise you'd always do it if you already had disadvantage for a free bonus. Could be reworded to only work if you didn't already have disadvantage from any other source and then grant disadvantage.

I think both are too much to fit in with existing options and need to be adjusted down.

BTW, I would be sure to word them so you can't take one melee attack and then get the benefit with ranged attacks, or make thrown attacks (which are melee weapon attacks).
 
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CubicsRube

Explorer
Your defensive stance allows creatures to completely nerf rogues in combat. No more sneak attacks.
Not at all. Rogues still get sneak attack if the enemy is within 5 feet of an ally.

But it does bring up a good point regarding the interactions with sneak attack that I'd have to think about.

Shadow of the demon lord simply allows one sneak attack per round regardless and i dont mind that really. The 5e rogue is built on the assumption of getting sneak attack each round, so it's largely a formality for the rogue to get it in any case.
 

Mistwell

Hero
Disadvantage on all attacks is too much. It eliminates dodge as a choice, it messes with any ability which triggers on advantage, it has weird interactions with some attacks which don't require an attack roll (like spells and grapple and shove), it just doesn't work in practice I suspect as well as it's deceptive "elegance" might imply.

I'd go with -2 to melee attacks against you in exchange for you having -4 on attack rolls.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
Not at all. Rogues still get sneak attack if the enemy is within 5 feet of an ally.

But it does bring up a good point regarding the interactions with sneak attack that I'd have to think about.

Shadow of the demon lord simply allows one sneak attack per round regardless and i dont mind that really. The 5e rogue is built on the assumption of getting sneak attack each round, so it's largely a formality for the rogue to get it in any case.
"Not at all. Rogues still get sneak attack if the enemy is within 5 feet of an ally."

Not if they have disadvantage.
 

Mistwell

Hero
"Not at all. Rogues still get sneak attack if the enemy is within 5 feet of an ally."

Not if they have disadvantage.
Good point. "You don’t need advantage on the attack roll if another enemy of the target is within 5 feet of it, that enemy isn’t incapacitated, and you don’t have disadvantage on the attack roll."

So it negates sneak attack.
 

Laurefindel

Explorer
I like the simplicity and symmetry behind this houserule. It's direct and to the point, easy to remember and to implement, and doesn't mess with attack modifiers or AC.

I am wondering about its implications and ramifications however. I fear it would make your heavy hitters even better at dealing damage, and defense-based characters even more invulnerable.

It does also raise questions about some spells and abilities designed to be offensive/defensive. Would the blur spell, for example, grant net advantage on attack rolls (recipient in aggressive stance, advantage to be hit by others cancelled by blur spell)? Would faerie fire similarly give a free "dodge" to those fighting cautiously?

The barbarian would be cheated of one of its best abilities. Would there be a replacement, or an improved version of this already powerful class feature? Advantage on attack rolls is relatively easy to acquire, leading to many situations granting a net disadvantage for enemy attacks while canceling its own disadvantage with advantage.

Obviously, what's good for the goose is good for the gander, and smart opponents could use that too. I can see this bringing an interesting tactical element to the game, or perhaps just a big bother for nothing when everyone is trying to cancel each other's advantage out. Personally, I'm not sure if I would appreciate that rule as it would make me overthink everything. As a DM, it would require me to track who's got advantage/disadvantage against who depending on stance, spells, help actions, lighting conditions, and other various sources of advantage/disadvantage, and I'm not sure I'd be ready for that.

So I'm not sure I'd be the right target audience for this, but I encourage you to give this houserule a try. I'd be curious to learn how it turned out, how it made the game better, or why it was dropped in the end.

'findel
 
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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Good point. "You don’t need advantage on the attack roll if another enemy of the target is within 5 feet of it, that enemy isn’t incapacitated, and you don’t have disadvantage on the attack roll."

So it negates sneak attack.
The game features, in a couple places, feature which describe Advantage without actually being it. No reason the same couldn’t be done here.

Simpler, though, might be to give a bonus to initiative and to attack on your first attack in a round. Aggro combatants might have an additional bonus against each other.

Defensive gives the same penalty to init, and get a special defensive perk. Bonus to AC, reaction based defense move, and whatever.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
It's too much, messes with other classes, and can be exploited. The design is simple and elegant, but you have to find a milder way to do it.

And yes, D&D is *not* a good combat simulator. A sword fight is a "fight for the center" - you want to be in a position where you have outmaneuvered your opponent (both with blade position and footwork) so that you might strike at them while leaving them with limited options for counter attacks or evasion. This moment where you "have" the center can be fleeting, so you have to be quick to recognize it and exploit it. (I speak from some experience).

This is not at all the D&D experience.

I have no idea how this would work in sword vs non swords in battle... and it would be a nightmare to simulate. So while D&D is not a good sword fighting simulator, it *is* a good game. So what is the priority? :)
 

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