I don’t have Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition (yet) but one of the thing that I heard (and really liked) about it is how now you have 5 different battle stances, with different mechanical benefits. It’s a nice mix of rules and flavor (it’s a game supposedly about things in number of five, no?). Another game that has a good stance rules is Warhammer 3rd, which I’m reading right now. Like its core mechanics (about which I intent to address in a future post), Warhammer’s stances are more abstract and represent reckless/caution.
I’m a fan of these rules because they increase the player’s number of options in regard to basic actions, besides increasing the drama of combat (when done right, of course). A friend of mine, Leoz, has a similar rule for his d20-based games (currently Pathfinder), slightly based on feats like Power Attack. You got, basically, 5 stances: total defense, defensive, aggressive and offensive. Total Defense works normally. The other three stances grant you a +1 bonus in exchange for a -2 penalty; the numbers increasing for each +4 of Base Attack Bonus. These rules, if used, require you to change the way the Combat Expertise feat works (increasing its initial AC bonus to +2).
I thought about adding a similar rule for my Pathfinder games and, while I do believe that Combat Expertise should give a bigger bonus, I don’t want to change it in my Curse of the Crimson Throne game yet (I’ve already added Hero Points because we have only 3 players at the table). So, instead of picking Power Attack and Combat Expertise as a base for this house rule, I’m more inclined to use the Fighting Defensively rule.
Fighting Defensively basically adds +2 to your AC in exchange for a -4 penalty on all your attack rolls. Simple and intuitive. It’s also a tough decision and I admit that I like this aspect – adds tension. So I’m going to expand it and create Combat Postures (I’m not calling them Stances because we already have Stance feats from Ultimate Combat). Basically, you suffer a -4 penalty to gain a benefit – usually a +2 bonus.
Only one Combat Posture can be chosen per round and all modifiers last until the beginning of the character’s next turn.
Your Combat Postures could be:
Brute: -4 on attack rolls, +2 damage.
Reckless: -4 on AC, +2 damage or attack rolls.
Neutral: no modifiers.
Defensive: -4 on attack rolls, +2 AC.
Precise: -4 on damage rolls, +2 on attack rolls.
Evasive (Optional): -4 on attack and damage rolls, one extra move action or one free withdrawn.
Focus (Optional): spend a move action to gain a +2 bonus to your AC, to your attack rolls, to one Perception skill check or to one physical-based check (for example: a Strength check or an Acrobatics check).
These names are just suggestions and frankly, looking at them now, I may just disregard them.
The Gamemaster also should feel free to forbid any combination which he believes doesn’t make sense, for example: using the Precise Combat Posture with the Power Attack feat.
Finally, the Evasive Combat Posture is just a pure guess of mine. I don’t know if it is properly balanced and I put it there just to play with other element from the characters (Speed and movement). The Focus Combat Posture is another exercise in the same direction.
At this moment I’m really tempted to play with hit points and temporary hit points, to create a “Recover” Posture, but I think that would be too complicated for the spirit of this house rule (as HP rules scale faster and must improve to keep their effectiveness)…
…to the Nine Hells, here it is:
Caution (Optional): -4 on attack rolls, +4 temporary hit points. These temporary hit points disappear at the beginning of the character’s next turn. They follow all the rules of temporary hit points. At BAB +4 (and +8, +12, +16 and +20), increase the number of temporary hit points by +2 (maximum of +12 at 20th level).
I must stress again that this house rules was never used.