Anyone that has played Dark Souls will know immediately where I am going with this, but for those that haven’t, I’ll give a brief breakdown.
Basically, poise is a character value that measures your ability to resist being staggered. Heavier armor/tankier guys/etc have higher poise values and take more to stagger effectively, while lighter armors/characters will stagger very easily when hit. Various weapons can be set up to have different levels of poise as well, so a lighter weapon will not stagger a target very easily, while a heavy weapon will stagger even a heavily armored knight. Poise damage builds up on successive hits, and much like regenerating health, will go down when you aren’t being hit.
How it works:
Let’s say a knight has a poise of 100. A dagger deals 25 poise damage. It would take 4 consecutive dagger hits to break the knight’s poise (each hit inflicts 25 poise damage, and once 100 poise is inflicted the poise is broken), and stagger him. Additional dagger hits after the 4th will repeatedly stagger him as long as he isn’t in the momentum of a swing because his poise is capped out and already broken. If he is able to back off from combat, the knight’s poise will regenerate.
The key here is that the knight won’t be staggered until the poise is broken, making it possible to get a swing or two off, or take some actions before poise is broken.
An archer might have 0 poise and always get staggered, and a massive war hammer might deal enough poise damage to always stagger a target.
The above situation is very a simplified version of poise. But, there are optional things that could be added to make things a lot more interesting.
1. Different hit locations on your target can inflict more or less poise damage, different swing types (sweeping vs overhand for example) with different weapons can deal different levels of poise damage, etc.
2. Poise damage can still be inflicted even if you successfully block an attack depending on the size of your weapon. A dagger that is used to block a war hammer might stop the hammer, but will almost certainly break your poise completely and stagger you. Repeatedly blocking blows will eventually break your poise and stagger you. This can even be applied to shields, so that repeatedly basing a shield will eventually break the targets poise (although shields should have the best poise defense)
3. Stamina can be worked in with poise as well. Being hit while low on stamina could result in receiving more poise damage from a hit. Having 0 stamina might result in double the poise damage you take, while you would only inflict 50% of the poise damage while attacking. Staggering could also lower your stamina etc.
Obviously, there will need to be additional balance changes that occur in addition to this, as higher poise classes will end up with an advantage other wise. Some possibilities might be:
- Raise the HP on low poise classes, so even though they will stagger easily, they die quite as quickly
- Make low poise classes a bit faster
- lower the damage on weapons that inflict significant poise damage
- lower the defense/hp on heavier classes etc
In my opinion this would fix a lot of the minor annoyances in the game, as well as make combat more dynamic. A single arrow won’t stop a full poise charging vanguard (but a javelin or a heavy crossbow might). Swing spamming with a fast weapon will be a little less effective. Turtling with block will only be a temporary solution. Taking a random stab in melee, or a stray arrow won’t be as significant. Rushing into a melee spamming sweeping swings with a long weapon will be less effective.
As an added bonus, this shouldn’t be a very difficult thing to code into the game. The flinch system already exists, this is just a modification to it. An extra value would be needed on weapons/shields/classes and a poise tracker would be needed that function nearly in the same manor as the health system does. I think that the benefit of a poise system greatly outweighs the energy required to implement it with the only issue being the minor balance issues that would need to be ironed out.
I like the idea of poise being implemented, and I think some minor changes need to be made, but I feel it will be detrimental to certain aspects of the game if it is not done with care.
Maybe if the knight could take a single arrow and continue the attack, or that an archer or MAA with no shield can be more easily staggered (possibly even post-swing) would be great, but I can see knights becoming too OP if a full blown poise system was created. A possible compromise in this situation would be to make the knights slower to compensate for their high poise, but then again I think knights are slow enough as it is.
I think that it works so well in dark souls because it is a single player game that relies on stat building and equipment management.
EDIT: Reading over your points again, I think that what you’re suggesting is a bigger change than you realize, and IMO I think the game is quite balanced already. And while everything you said made sense, it seems a bit too overboard in relation to the minor problems people are experiencing with classes, and could possibly even affect combat strategy altogether.