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My groups have started using a homerule that we find fun (and aren't looking to change). However, I do find myself wondering why it isn't supported in the rules themselves. I'm wondering if anyone here could assess if it's a reasonable Exploration to allow, exploitable, etc. to see if it needs to be refined for continued use.

The rule is fairly simple. It allows a character to claim a Stance as their Exploration activity so they don't need to spend an Action on their first turn to enter it. This overwrites* the rules in Stance that

You can enter or be in a stance only in encounter mode.

The reasoning for our ruling is that the Defend Exploration exists. It's not exactly the same as Defend doesn't save you an Action, but the +2 AC before your first turn is much more reliably useful than beginning combat in a Stance and it the two effects are narratively very similar.

As normal, using a Stance for Exploration precludes other options such as Searching and Avoiding Notice. As with some other options, its benefits are duplicated by a mid-level Feat for classes that have an affinity for Stances.

*I don't believe it's come up if you count as being in said Stance when not in Encounters e.g. in response to non-Complex Hazards. I'd be interested to know if ruling that either way affects the overall balance of the homerule.

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    \$\begingroup\$ How do/would you handle stances that require a check, like Dread Marshal Stance? \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Mar 15, 2023 at 7:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's a good question that hasn't come up yet. I'm not GM'ing currently, but I'd lean toward having them roll the check during initiative. I could also see disallowing it as too complex for the intent of the homerule (reducing the bad feeling of spending your first round of a fight getting ready to fight). By contrast, I would certainly disallow the Monk Focus stances. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Mar 15, 2023 at 20:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think a lot of the reasoning is that characters can walk around encounter maps with weapons drawn... but then the Monk over here has to spend time getting ready to punch and kick things is a weird dichotomy. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Mar 15, 2023 at 20:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ It is weird indeed \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Mar 16, 2023 at 8:46

2 Answers 2

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Stances are Much More Powerful

Spending one action to enter a stance is the cost to use one beyond selecting it as a feat, so removing that would make them mostly passive benefits and allow applicable characters an additional action over each combat. This effectively gives each character the 12th-level Stance Savant ability, though it instead costs their exploration activity.

An exploration activity to start in a stance is quite a bit better than just raising a shield via Defending because the stance lasts more than one round, where a pre-raised shield lowers at the start of the character's turn.

This would allow some exploration shenanigans like staying in Ironblood Stance to avoid some consistent low-damage, but otherwise freeing up one action probably won't break any assumptions about power in the game. Might be worth considering how this homerule interacts with the Dread Marshall's Stance which requires a check as part of entering the stance.

One concern with balance would be feeling like there's a requirement to pick at least one stance if possible, but with it costing your exploration activity that's probably fine as a character choice rather than a soft requirement.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ For further comparison, the Scout exploration activity is about as powerful as the level 4 feat Scout's Warning, and Investigate is is probably comparable to Automatic Knowledge which requires two low-level skill feats or Expeditious Inspection, a level 1 Investigator ability. So the stance exploration activity is way stronger. \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Mar 15, 2023 at 16:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not the GM for the games currently, but I'd personally have them roll for their Marshall stance at the start of combat... or disallow it as too complex of an interaction. I certainly wouldn't allow the Monk Focus stances as an Exploration option, by contrast. The intent certainly isn't to make players feel like having a Stance is "the right choice" but to reduce the bad feeling of starting a fight by getting ready to fight. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Mar 15, 2023 at 20:18
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While brandon explained why mechanically such houserule makes stances more powerful there is another aspect to consider: being in stance while exploring doesn't make much sense from narrative point.

It is kinda hard to do anything else except being in stance, not to mention it is exhausting - mentally and physically. If someone at my table were to attempt that I would have him roll for exhaustion every 10 minutes. With increasing penalties. Defend exploration action is not all that similar. And it carries a cost: decrease in speed. So being in a stance should cost at least that.

A better comparison than defend action would be if you allowed someone to take ready action of shooting first enemy spotted during exploration. Something that isn't in the rules for a good reason

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    \$\begingroup\$ I have to disagree on a couple points. While some stances are a big energy investment narratively, such as Crane stance, other are more about a mindset; carrying a 1 Bulk (estimated at 5-10 lbs) at the ready would be equally taxing. The Ready action is two actions and requires you to be ready for something (e.g. looking in the right direction, aware of how high to aim, etc), whereas being in a preferred stance is simply being ready to fight something. Speed was never mentioned but the assumption is that, like basically every other Exploration, it halves Speed. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Mar 15, 2023 at 20:15

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