Stances Extended


I love stances. Something about taking two opposed rolls, symmetrically splitting them into two pairs of results, and then comparing said results just appeals to my inner appreciation of crunch. Still, there are some logistical issues that can arise when using them, especially at any table where the GM does all the math.

To start with, it’s a lot of numbers to hold in your head at once. A normal opposed roll never goes above three (opposition state, your roll, your stat), and collapses pretty quickly down to one. Stances can push that to five pretty easily, and that’s a lot of juggling to do. Sure, one could just use paper – but if physical objects are on the table then we might as well look at the physical objects on the table.

That would be the dice. They can effectively hold a number just fine, no human memory involved, and in a combat context the idea of physically splitting the dice into offense and defense piles makes intuitive sense to the player. Making it a standard element of combat also adds a decision step, which is a plus for more crunch-minded players. The opposed roll is effectively an 8dF roll, instead of the standard 4dF, and can be really chaotic. Splitting these into two groups results in a pair of 4dF rolls, a happy coincidence albeit with some distinct slanting.

This can also be generalized beyond combat for a number of rolls. The single opposed roll splits into two parts, accomplishing your task and resisting opposition. Doing, and not being done unto. Enaction and inaction.

Combat Stances

Starting with the traditional, there’s good old-fashioned combat. For simultaneous combat, both opponents roll against each other. They then secretly split dice between their left (defense) and right (attack) hands. Each pair is resolved individually, with no more mental overhead than a normal opposed roll. For turn-based combat, reveal the attack when it comes up, while keeping the defense in the open until your next turn.

There are two major options for allowed splits – either two dice must go to each hand, or the four can be split up more freely. The latter generally allows more freedom, and neither will split the dice any further than the conventional five stances allow, regardless of how they roll.

Paired Combat Rolls

Moving outward in generality a bit, any two rolls could be paired this way. Instead of just splitting the same skill two different skills could be used – or even a skill and an attached value of some sort. Roll 4dF, but instead of splitting the dice between two stances you split the dice between two different skills or statistics. In combat a few obvious options appear:

  • Fight + Move: Maybe there’s a running fight where someone is trying not to get surrounded, maybe this is just standard ranged combat maneuvering, or maybe everyone is on rooftops in a hailstorm trying not to fall and just needs to keep a certain threshold of mobility at all times. Regardless, attention is split between two tasks. At a higher level of abstraction, this could also be used for round-by-round turn order.
  • Fight + Damage: This makes particular sense when using static defenses, and necessitates some rules changes. The first is that you no longer get RD to damage. Instead, every point of damage done comes out of your attack – and the better you are at fighting the more positives you can throw that way and negatives you can sequester in your attack roll before missing.
  • Fight + Perception: Battlefields can change quickly, diversions are a thing, and you just generally might need to hold back a bit to keep abreast of the situation. Alternately you can give up on paying attention to your surroundings and just fight really well for a while. Hopefully that works out for you.

Paired General Rolls

This roll pairing works just as well outside of combat – but providing an example list that is even remotely comprehensive is prohibitive for obvious reasons. Instead, there are a few major categories worth looking at.

  • Risk + Reward: This is the generalized case discussed in the preface. For it to work well all four results need to make sense, particularly whether a successful reward can be simultaneously combined with a failed risk.
  • Quality + Haste: Doing something well and doing something fast are often opposed goals, and this general form of roll could come up whenever both are suddenly important. It’s particularly likely to matter when the characters are making something but have a time limit. To some extent this is a Risk + Reward roll where the risk is running out of time and the quality is the degree of reward.
  • Risk + Risk: Sometimes you have two problems to deal with at once, and it’s just a matter of priorities.
  • Reward + Reward: Alternately you might have two opportunities that interfere with each other to some extent, which is again a matter of priorities.

Some of these make a lot more sense as unopposed rolls. To keep the core engine behaving you might want to mess with the number of dice a bit. Using 4dF will cause them to bunch towards the center a bit after dice are split, using 8dF makes extreme results more likely (often in pairs). 6dF is a happy middle ground, but a bit of a weird number aesthetically.

Further Extension

This whole idea naturally lines up with a number of general design concepts that have grown more common in role playing games since the publication of Fudge. Successes at cost and failures with boons are particularly common, but with this technique there is a second dimension in play. A lot could be done in that space, but I make no claims to being able to see most of it, let alone explore it. So I end this article on the hope that it inspires designers more creative than myself.

Open Game License v 1.0 Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.
Fudge 10th Anniversary Edition Copyright 2005, Grey Ghost Press, Inc.; Authors Steffan O’Sullivan and Ann Dupuis, with additional material by Jonathan Benn, Peter Bonney, Deird’Re Brooks, Reimer Behrends, Don Bisdorf, Carl Cravens, Shawn Garbett, Steven Hammond, Ed Heil, Bernard Hsiung, J.M. “Thijs” Krijger, Sedge Lewis, Shawn Lockard, Gordon McCormick, Kent Matthewson, Peter Mikelsons, Robb Neumann, Anthony Roberson, Andy Skinner, William Stoddard, Stephan Szabo, John Ughrin, Alex Weldon, Duke York, Dmitri Zagidulin
This article Copyright 2019, Knaight.
The contents of this document are declared Open Game Content.

3 replies on “Stances Extended”

  1. I’m not sure where they first showed up. That said, Fudge 1995, section 4.32 has them. They’ve been consistently reprinted in subsequent text, starting with the 10th Anniversary Edition.

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