Defend Command

'It isn't for fighting. It's for when the fighting's gone bad.

The Defend Command is a common battle command in RPGs, where the character assumes a defensive stance that reduces damage received from enemies (usually by half), usually at the expense of not being able to take any other action in that stance. Hence, this command is regarded as useless (especially in turn-based environments where all actions require a full turn), although it can vary from game to game. Occasionally, however, a boss will have a charged-up super move which is best survived by defending on the turn it fires, leaving players used to ignoring the command clueless as to how to survive.

More recent games, recognizing how unused defend traditionally was have attempted to bring back its usefulness by allowing the defend command to have other tactical advantages beyond negating half of incoming damage. For instance a more useful variation may cause a defending character to becomes the target for all enemy attacks, i.e. shielding other party members from taking the hits, which comes in handy if used by a character who can Counter Attack.

A second common approach to expanding the use of the defend command is to cause defending characters to also regenerate resources when used. For instance defend may regenerate a percentage of health or mana each time it is used. Alternatively it may regenerate stamina or technique points used for preforming more powerful attacks. While this approach will keep defend from being useless it can go to the alternate extreme of having a party spending as much or more time defending as attacking, either to generate enough mana to heal or build up stamina to preform more powerful attacks. This can, in turn, draw out battles, even otherwise easy Random Encounters, with excessive defending. Whether this is preferable or more strategic then the usual quick all-out attack strategy of most RPG is dependent on who you ask.

See also Stone Wall, which any character using this command becomes while it's in effect. See also Unblockable Attack, which can break through this. Contrast Blocking Stops All Damage.


Tabletop RPG
  • Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition has "Fight Defensively" (-4 to attack rolls, but +2 dodge bonus to Armor Class) and "Total Defense" (+4 dodge bonus to AC, but requires a standard action to use (thus preventing the character from attacking), as well as preventing them from making Attacks of Opportunity)
    • 4th edition kept "Total Defense" from 3rd edition and still costs a standard action to use(like 3rd, this usually prevents the character from attacking) and now grants a +2 bonus to all defenses.
    • Adventure WG6 Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure. The Big Bad Tomorast replaced his hands with magical versions. One of their powers is that when clasped together in defense, they provide strong protection against both physical and magical attacks.
    • The Dwarven Defender Prestige Class in 3E has a "defensive stance" that gives it a big boost to AC and temporary Constitution bonus (meaning extra Hit Points) at the cost of remaining stationary. It was adapted to Pathfinder as the Stalwart Defender.
  • Shadowrun. Early editions allowed characters in melee combat to use the Full Defense option, which reduced incoming damage and could cause an opponent to miss altogether.
  • The Legend of the Five Rings RPG has the Full Defense stance, in which the character cannot attack and has their movement reduced, but is harder to hit. How much of a benefit the stance gives varies depending on the character's Defense skill and which edition you are playing.
  • GURPS has the All-Out Defense maneuver, which allows the character to attempt two different defenses against each attack—or alternately, to focus on a single defense type (parry, dodge or block) for a +2 to that defense. In GURPS, characters suffer a shock penalty to attacks on the turn after they've been injured, so an All-Out Defense can actually be useful for a character to get their bearings after a painful wound.
  • Fate-based games starting all the way back with Spirit of the Century have the full defense action, which provides a +2 bonus on all defense rolls. This is made more significant by the fact that a defense roll that beats the attack by enough (generally defined as "by 3 or more") actually grants the defender a small temporary situational advantage — "spin" in earlier versions of the game and a "boost" in later ones starting with Fate Core — which they or their allies can then potentially exploit on a later action. Most of these games also come with stunts that actually improve full defense (SotC itself has Flow Like Water and Flawless Parry, boosting the benefit from a full defense using the Fists or Weapons skill respectively to +3 instead of just +2) or provide extra perks to a sufficiently good defense roll (like dealing damage to the attacker via reflexive counterattack).

Video Games
  • A Very Long Rope to the Top of the Sky: It has a defend command.
  • Brave Hero Yuusha: It has a defend command.
  • Prayer Of The Faithless: Averted. It doesn't have a Defend Command. Instead, it has Focus, which restores some of the Mana which also reduces damage taken by how much Mana is left when enemies attack.
  • In DC Universe Online, blocking reduces most damage to about 1/4, but the player cannot attack while blocking; some player special attacks backfire if the target used block. For some boss special attacks, block may or may not reduce damage, but they usually have the added bonus of neglecting special effects.
  • Shield in Minecraft can be held up to reduce incoming damage, but reduce the player to a crawling speed.
  • Pokémon: Wild XXX used Protect! Wild XXX Protected itself!
    • The main use of actually using that is to stall while something else kills your foe. In early generations "something else" would be the status conditions like Toxic, while in later generations it's usually your allies in double and triple battles using moves such as Surf to hit everything on screen. Wide Guard and Quick Guard have an added bonus of protecting your allies, but only do anything against multi-target and increased-priority moves.
    • There's also Detect, which is pretty much the same thing. Also, some moves raise defense stats, like Harden, Defense Curl, Withdraw and Vespiquen's Defend Order
    • Pokémon X and Y brings us Aegislashnote  and its signature move King's Shield. It is similar to protect, except any attacker who used a contact move also gets their attack lowered by 2 levels. It can't block status moves, however.
      • Also from X and Y, Chesnaught's signature move is Spiky Shield. Like King's Shield, it's a Protect variant that also has a negative effect on any attacker that uses a contact move, in this case taking out 1/8 of its max HP.
    • Pokemon GO allows you to reduce an incoming attack's damage by a whopping 75 percent, by waiting for the yellow "flash" (the timing of this appearing varies depending on the attack, but each has one) then quickly swiping left or right to "Dodge" out of the way note . This greatly reduces the effectiveness of a Gym-defending Pokemon's otherwise devastating attacks such as Hyper Beam, and allows for more thoughtful battles than simply Attack! Attack! Attack! as well as imperfect type matchups still being viable.
  • The Paper Mario series has a real-time equivalent: pressing A just before an attack hits Mario or his partner will reduce the damage taken by 1 and protect from any side effects the attack would have had (such as poisoning).
    • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door adds a more conventional "Defend" command, which increases defense by 1 for the turn in addition to the reaction guard, as well as a Superguard that blocks all damage and counters physical attacks but has stricter timing requirements.
  • In Final Fantasy games, Defend generally halves physical damage only, providing no protection against magic. In games with ATB, the character will defend indefinitely until they are issued a different command, giving it some use as a way to keep one character on standby. The series is also replete with examples of the 'defender becomes target of enemy attacks' variation, and it's frequently a job requirement of the Knight and/or Paladin classes.
    • Final Fantasy IV:
      • Yang gets the Brace command in addition to the standard Defend. It takes a bit of time to come into effect, but cuts physical damage by three-fourths instead of half. Using the DS remake's Augment System, you can give the Brace command to other characters.
      • Cecil automatically shields characters with low HP from enemy physical attacks, and also includes a "Cover" ability that can be used to shield any other character from harm.
    • Final Fantasy V features the Knight class, which has a Cover ability much like Cecil's in that it shields low-HP characters. The Knight class also gets the Guard skill, which completely nullifies all damage from any physical attacks.
    • Final Fantasy X':
      • Aeons have the ability to greatly reduce the damage done by the next attack, though this prevents their Overdrive gauge from filling up. It also seems to make them lose a turn.
      • Auron features this ability, including an improved version that cuts incoming damage by 75% rather than 50%.
      • Tidus has a related ability, "Provoke", which causes a single enemy to attack only him.
    • Sentinels in Final Fantasy XIII use nothing but this and variants of Provoke in battle, but each has a varying effect:
      • Steelguard: The character guards, and takes less damage from each consecutive hit received.
      • Mediguard: The character regenerates HP while guarding.
      • Vendetta/Entrench: The character automatically counterattacks based on certain criteria.
      • Elude: The character may dodge damage altogether when attacked.
  • The "Default" command in Bravely Default halves all damage and also stores up actions to use for a burst of "Brave" attacks.
  • Dragon Quest:
    • In Dragon Quest VIII, the Hero and Angelo can get the Defending Champion ability, which is similar to the defend command except it reduces damage to 1/10th instead of 1/2.
    • In Dragon Quest IX, the first shield ability you learn is Blockenspiel, which has the same effect as defending, but you still get to attack. Extremely useful when a monster gets pissed and only attacks one person. The only downside is that it costs 4 mana, but that's not exactly a huge drawback.
  • In The Legend of Dragoon, Defend halves all damage and blocks all status attacks (other than instant KO), and recovers 10% of the character's maximum HP. The free healing is totally necessary, considering the laughably small inventory you're able to carry (32 items total).
  • In the first Dark Cloud, the Defend command reduced damage from attacks, but it required a target lock to function, and did not protect the player from powerful attacks that would knock them to the ground.
  • Dark Chronicle improved the Defend command over its predecessor, greatly reducing (or entirely blocking) incoming damage, protecting the player from being knocked to the ground. If an attack was blocked entirely, any status effect from it would be blocked as well. It was also part of the button combination required to pick up and throw enemies.
  • In Persona 4, the Defense command not only reduces the amount of damage you take, but also nullifies Critical Hits and elemental weaknesses while preventing the character from receiving status conditions during the turn. This makes it surprisingly useful to the point that not using it is sometimes outright suicidal. In fact, its so useful that the game's first major boss fight is basically just a glorified tutorial on guarding.
  • Rogue Galaxy's Defend command was very much similar to Dark Cloud 2 (block or reduce incoming damage, prevent knockdown, pick up and throw enemies). But all party members had action meters that periodically needed recharging; successfully blocking an attack during this time would recharge the meter immediately.
  • Lords Of Magic has a "defend self" command, where the unit will stand still and not attack, but gains extra defense. This one was actually useful vs. the AI in the game.
  • Golden Sun has a defend command. Characters automatically go into defend if you tell them to wait (or take too long in a linked battle). Various defense Djinn also exist to provide protection to the whole party, and then there's Sveta's Pack Defense in Beastform...
  • Warcraft III's footmen have the Defend ability, in which they raise their shields to greatly reduce incoming piercing damage (e.g. arrows), sometimes sending the attack back (interestingly, the bandit axeman and spearthrower units have the animation for it, but don't have the ability by default). However, it makes them move veeeeeeery slowly. Spell Breakers had a magical version of this spell, though they now have complete immunity to magic.
  • In World of Warcraft, Warriors have Defensive Stance, which used to reduce damage dealt and damage taken by 10%. In Cataclysm, it was changed to eliminate the damage penalty. Its inverse, Berserker Stance, formerly increased crit chance and damage taken. Now it provides a +10% to damage dealt without an increase in damage taken.
  • Sort of used in the Civilization series, with the Fortify command, which provides a defensive bonus to any unit using it. But it does mean they can't move until you unfortify them.
  • The tactical RPG Odium/Gorky 17 allows this for your characters.
  • Heroes of Might and Magic series has a defend command to use instead of attacking.
  • It's also present and useful in Patapon where "Chaka chaka pata pon" increases the defense of the said units a lot.
  • In Grandia II, Defend is actually useful — you can see when something is about to hit you, the damage reduction is extreme, and if you don't use it there's a chance you'll be hit out of whatever you would have tried instead.
  • The 7th Saga increases your attack strength for the turn after you defend as well as the usual defence increase.
  • Alter Aila Genesis has a defend command that only reduces damage from the single next attack, but is actually used quite frequently when the player's trying to build up their AP to unleash a more powerful attack the following round.
  • Super Robot Wars offers units being directly attacked the option of defending or evading instead of retaliating. Defend halves damage taken and Evade halves the chance of being hit. Both have their uses, depending on the mech under fire.
  • In the roguelike Omega, you can configure your combat style among attacks and defences. For example, you may choose to attack three times, or replace one of the attacks with a defend command. However, you need at least three defence commands to guarantee coverage on the High, Center and Low attacks.
  • Legend of Legaia offers the Spirit command that, in addition to reducing damage taken (especially against Zeto and Xain), also recharges 32 AP and increases the number of attacks you can make. Noa has a long command gauge by default and can use Miracle Arts after using spirit by the time her level is in the mid 20's.
    • The sequel also has a Guard command. It does not allow more attacks, but there is an accessory that lets you double (and later triple) your strength after you Guard. The increased damage is sufficient for a moderately leveled party to one-shot the final boss.
  • The MOTHER games feature the Defend Command. In MOTHER 3, using Defend also reduces the rate at which the character's rolling HP meter ticks down. This comes in handy during the final battle with the Masked Man, where, due to plot reasons, there's not much you can do besides defend yourself and do your best to survive.
  • It's often actually useful in the Epic Battle Fantasy series, especially in the higher difficulties, where you can't always end your turns at full health and enemies can do most of your health bar in damage. Also, one of the characters can sometimes absorb MP from defended damage taken and in the later games you almost always possess the ability to counterattack and/or spells that are randomly cast for you at the start of the turn.
  • The Tales Series makes guarding a practical option by including skills that provide benefits like HP/TP restoration for guarding attacks at the last moment, allowing you to turn any arte into an Invulnerable Attack if performed immediately after blocking a hit, and also simply allowing you to cancel some attacks early for combo or safety purposes.
  • Episodes 3 & 4 of Penny Arcade Adventures have a well-balanced Defend command: damage taken is slightly reduced and the character will receive their next turn more quickly than normal, which is useful since characters gain a magic point every turn. There are also some abilities that reward further bonuses for defending.
  • Active Defence from Arcuz II. You can upgrade this skill further, such as making an enemy attacks deal damage to your mana instead, or even restore your HP and MP if you guard just as the enemy hits you.
    • The Lizard Folk Mook has a ridiculous version of this. It sports a spear and a rather tiny shield. It'll hold up its shield very often, which makes it unable to move but makes it completely damn immune to damage from all directions, and if you hit it then, you'll get hurt instead.
  • Quite useful in Child of Light, where the defend ability not only allows you to take your next turn faster in the Combatant Cooldown System, but it can also be upgraded to reduce 80% of incoming damage. This works well with Oengus' Taunt when maxed out, which allows him to regenerate 50 health a turn while most enemies that are forced to attack him will deal much less than that while he defends.
  • Super Mario RPG has both the vanilla Defend command a variant based on the "Timed Hits" system. The "Timed Hits" version allows Mario and his partymates to reduce damage by pressing B at a specific point during an enemy's attack animation (which sometimes takes some guesswork); particularly well timed hits will actually reduce the damage to 0 and can even prevent instant death attacks. True to the trope, the "regular" Defend command is almost completely useless, even moreso than most other RPGs because a) It's more efficient to just attempt the Timed Hits version - which does not require spending a turn on the player's part - and b) It doesn't protect against magic attacks.
  • SD Gundam G Generation plays with the trope a bit. Only units that have a shield equipped can Defend, but all units can use the Evade command, which reduces hit chance by one third. In addition, some units have special defensive abilities that can nullify or greatly reduce damage from certain types of attacks. Unlike some other strategy RPGs, enemies will default to Evade or Defend when unable to counterattack.
  • Three classes from Darkest Dungeon have variations on this skill. The Man-at-Arms can take the hit for another party member while buffing his protection, and has a separate skill where he counterattacks anyone that hits him. Paired together he can cover the weaker party members while damaging the enemies that try to Shoot the Medic First. The Houndmaster does the same but lacks the counter and buffs his dodge chance instead. The Antiquarian forces someone else to guard her but gives them a buff to protection and dodging.
  • Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden gives each party member unique defend commands. Barkley's simply reduces incoming damage, Balthios' makes him counter attack when hit, Vinceborg's restores his VP and BP, Cyberdwarf's has him absorb some of the damage an ally would take if they get attacked, and Hoopz' defend command gives him a 100% evasion rate.
  • Luxaren Allure: Called Guard here. It also increases Impulse.
  • Jade Cocoon gives the defend command a very valid use: when a Mon defends an attack they regain a decent chunk of MP. It's a very handy tactic when grinding experience, as it saves you needing to waste time to return to the village to rest or waste Shab Liquors to recover magic instead.
  • Nocturne Rebirth has a guard command that reduces damage by more than half. Better yet, the guard stance can be maintained even while pressing a key to advance time. However, guarding too many attacks will result in a guard break, leaving the character stunned and vulnerable.