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Stance System
The ability to switch between sets of abilities or attack styles. The Stance System is frequently used to make it possible to map a large number of actions to the finite number of buttons on a controller without resorting to increasingly complicated combos. Each action may require as little as a single button press to execute, but the same button will perform a different action depending on the stance.

While a normal stance remains as-is until switched, a less-popular variation gives a character access to a new series of moves, but only for a short window of time before going back to their usual control-scheme.

See also Dual Mode Unit. Compare Job System. If the same effect is achieved through Shapeshifting then you probably have a Swiss Army Hero on your hands.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Action Adventure 
  • No More Heroes allows you to change between 'High' and 'Low' stances depending on how you hold the Wiimote.
  • In Assassin's Creed I, Altair can switch between low-profile mode, which has moves like blending with crowds and gently pushing people aside, and high-profile mode, which allows freerunning, throwing, and attacks. In combat, different moves are available depending on whether the player is blocking.
  • The Little Big Adventure series - Twinsen can switch between four "moods" that influence his movement, his magic ball throwing, his swordwork, and, in the sequel, his use of the ray gun. Normal is used for interacting with other beings, Sporty gives him faster movement and the ability to jump, Aggressive lets him attack enemies with his fists, and Discreet is used for sneaking.
  • This trope was the entire selling-point of Spider-Man: Web of Shadows. Spidey could switch between the black symbiote suit which infects him throughout the game or the classic red-blue outfit at any time with the press of a button, the use of each deciding his path down the Karma Meter. The black suit favored combat, brutality and black tendrils while the classic suit preferred webbing, combo-slinging and acrobatics.
  • Episode 3 of Penny Arcade Adventures has the Cardboard Tube Samurai class. Different stances that the samurai can take will both raise one stat and offer a stance-selective option of moves.

    Adventure 

    Fighting 
  • Street Fighter gives us Gen, in one of the earliest examples in video games.
  • Almost a constant for jugglers and chaotic type fighters in Tekken, from small time-window activation (Flicker Stance, Kenpo Step) to constant switches (Lei's five animal kung fu, back-turning, Hwoarang's left and right stances).
  • All of the Soul Calibur games. The iconic example is Maxi, who has different stances depending on what side of his body his nunchaku end an attack on. This has become more prominent in later entries in the series, as the movelist has expanded.
    • There's also Tira, who switches between her 'Gloomy' and 'Jolly' personas, with different movesets as a result. Certain actions can be taken to manually switch her between these modes, and it'll also happen with certain damage calculations.
    • Voldo deserves special mention: his stances include turning his back to his opponent, attacking from a prone position, doing the worm, and crab-walking in both head-first and feet-first configurations.
    • Ivy can use her Whip Sword in either whip or sword mode. Most games add additional stances, such as swinging it above her head or to one side.
    • Nightmare / Siegfried's stances involve holding his BFS in both hands, dragging it along the ground with one hand (which limits mobility), or holding it behind his back.
    • Mitsurugi typically has a few stances, including one in which he holds his sword above his head and pointed toward his opponent and another in which he sheathes it in preparation for a few different variations of Sheath Strike or Iaijutsu.
  • In Super Smash Bros. (both Melee and Brawl), there are characters like this, but the game and community really treat them as separate characters: Zelda and Sheik, Pokémon Trainer, and Samus and Zero Suit Samus.
  • Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance actually called it Stance shifting, and was one of the earliest examples to use literal switches of fighting stance and weapon use to expand the move-list without compromising user-friendliness.
  • Hotaru Futuba from King of Fighters has moves that change her stance which in turn give access to different attacks. Note that she debuted in Garou: Mark of The Wolves and didn't have a Stance System. Only after her inclusion in Neo Geo Battle Coliseum did she get that.
    • May Lee Jinju from the same series also has a 'Hero Mode' which offers her different and more powerful attacks. Jhun Hoon also has a mode in which he stands on one leg and his attacks differ.
  • In Magical Battle Arena, Fate Testarossa's block special lets her switch between Lightning and Sonic form. Lightning Form is her default and gives her a Mid-Range fighting style (5-hit melee combos and 3-hit long-range attacks), while Sonic Form turns her into a more Fragile Speedster with a Short-Range fighting style (7-hit melee combos and 1-hit long-range attacks).
  • Mito from The Rumble Fish has 2 stances, one which she swings her wooden sword in wide arcs and another where she uses mainly thrusts.
  • Bushido Blade - The stance system was the foundation of the game as, with the exception of projectiles and a few speciality moves, all characters had the same moves with the same weapons in each of the three stances, just different speed and power. The sequel moved from the ability to shift up and down to only being able to shift up in a circular manner. The spiritual sequel, Kengo: Master of Bushido, changed this to allowing up to four combo-sets to switch between that were earned by defeated the practitioners of various styles.
  • In X-Men: Next Dimension, three characters (Beast, Gambit and Toad) have different stances listed. Forge can also play to a different style depending on what type of ammo he's loaded in his variable gun.
  • In BlazBlue, Litchi Faye-Ling usually starts out carrying her staff, but can switch into a different stance by planting the staff on the ground and fights more on chi control and martial arts. Though she can still command her staff with telekinesis.
    • In Chronophantasma, Nu-13 has this system where one form she's her usual self, in another form, she took on Lambda-11's style. Newcomer Kagura Mutsuki also has this of sorts, which would change what kind of normal attacks he has, the only thing that's constant in him would be just his Sonic Boom/Flash Kick-esque charged attacks.
  • This is Phoenix Wright's niche in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (along with Confusion Fu).
  • Zappa from Guilty Gear, as represented with the spirit possessing him, grants him about three default stances, the 3-Ghost, the Demon Dog and Flying Sword stance, which grants him quite the diversity of moves depending on which spirit is active. Under certain circumstances, then he will get the Raou spirit (an armored, energy being spirit thing) which is more powerful than the rest. In Gold Mode, he's permanently using Raou, thus losing his Stance System.
  • Toro Inoue, the Sony Cat in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale fights like this (during the reveal, the PlayStation blog referred to Toro as having "a unique stance-based fighting style"). Justice Toro is a martial arts master who specializes in close combat, Torobi is a Ninja that uses long-ranged tactics and Oni Toro is a Youkai that prefers a wide-area assault.
    • EmmettGraves does something like this with his build-and-battle system.
  • Several characters in Injustice: Gods Among Us have multiple fighting styles. Wonder Woman switches between using her whip and a Sword and shield, while Nightwing uses escrima sticks which can combine into a staff.
  • Aigis in Persona 4 Arena has one in form of Orgia Mode. In the original game, it's just a temporary boost in strength for several turns. Here, while her old moves are still available, the way she moves changes drastically that their play styles tends to get very different.
  • Squigly from Skullgirls has a rather unique twist on this concept. All of her ground specials are based off of one of two stances, the dragon stance, and the whip stance. Holding the button while performing the special, however, allows Squigly to stay in the stance. Doing so charges up her moves, and after a while makes all of the moves in that stance a Level 2 variant, giving it more unique properties as well as more combo opportunities. In addition, she can actually end her stances extremely quickly if the button is merely tapped, allowing her to continue her combos via Lag Cancel. Having a Level 2 stance allows her to end the stances even quicker to offer even more unique combos.
  • In Hopeless Masquerade, characters have religions which affect the properties of most of their attacks. There's Buddhism, which greatly prefers short-range and melee attacks, Taoism, which prefers low-spread, fast-moving projectiles, and Shinto, which prefers high-spread and homing projectiles. There is also Atheism, which is merely a middle ground between each of the faiths.
    • Hata no Kokoro is the only one who can change religions in battle with her skills. One of her spell cards can change the opponent's religion.
  • The Gundam Vs Series uses a Stance System to imitate machines with Mecha Expansion Packs, letting them change gear on the fly. A prime example is the Strike Gundam from Gundam SEED, which can swap between the speedy Aile Striker, melee-focused Sword Striker, and long-range Launcher Striker; Extreme Vs. also threw in the I.W.S.P. from SEED-MSV, which can do a little bit of everything, but runs on a timer.
    • The Shining Gundam as it appeared in Gundam vs. Gundam Next Plus worked like this during its Super Mode; it can fight bare-handed, which is mostly identical to its base form, or pull out the Shining Finger Sword, which limits it to melee moves which are incredibly powerful and have more reach than one might suspect.

    First Person Shooter 
  • Various games in the Dark Forces Saga allow the player to switch between between three different lightsaber styles (light, medium, and heavy). Enemies with lightsabers also use one of the three styles, and are Color-Coded for Your Convenience.
    • When using a saber staff or dual sabers in Jedi Academy only, one blade can be extinguished to use medium/fast style respectively (and even then, they don't have as much functionality compared to using a single saber with the style, meaning it's better to have both blades active).
  • Crysis uses this trope in regards to your Powered Armor. It has four modes you can switch between at any time; Armor, Speed, Strength, and Cloaking.

    Hack and Slash 
  • This shows up in Heavenly Sword. Each stance is oriented towards some specialty (power, speed and range).
  • Devil May Cry was one of the first to use these in an action game form in DMC3 with its styles system. 4 decided to push it to its natural evolution with the ability to switch immediately.
    • In the reboot, developed by Heavenly Sword creator Ninja Theory, the stances return in the form of your standard Rebellion sword, and an Angelic weapon (focusing on fast, crowd-hitting attacks) and Demonic weapon (focusing on slow but heavy-damage attacks).
  • Genji: Days of the Blade (the one with real-time weapon switching) gives the ability to switch between four characters who can themselves switch between two weapons in real time. The concept isn't the same, but from a gameplay stand-point it's a stance.
  • Pretty abundant in Sengoku Basara, sometimes overlapping Super Mode.
    • Date Masamune has the War Dance/Six Swords stance in which he foregoes blocking and defense for wielding all his katanas at once for a more aggressive fighting style, and in the 3rd game, modifies his normal skills. Either it's activated manually by equipping the skill/his unique item or it's an aftereffect of his BASARA attack.
      • His second-in-command and Battle Butler, Katakura Kojuuro, can pull off a "Berserker Mode" which also forfeits his ability to block and evade to add some Good Old Fistcuffs to the action. This mode also comes with a cool Sword Drag to complete the picture of the wrath of a usually calm and reserved man when he chooses to get REALLY serious.
    • Honda Tadakatsu has the Heavy Mode skill, which turns his style from a Lightning Bruiser into a Mighty Glacier by trading his normal drill-spear into a gigantic Pilebunker.
    • Magoichi can switch guns with certain attacks, going from a pistol to a shotgun or machine gun.
    • Nobunaga can do this in the third game as well, where he can switch from using Sword and Gun to attacking with his Guardian Entity, the latter of which makes him an outright Game Breaker.
    • The fourth game introduces newcomers Shima Sakon and Goto Matabe. The first is a happy-go-lucky, gambling-loving jock who can switch between kick- and blade-based moves, and the latter is a murder-obsessed madman who can switch between swinging around his Precision-Guided Boomerang or swiping at enemies with his gauntlets after tossing said boomerang.

    MMORPG 
  • In World of Warcraft:
    • The warrior class was like this until the Mists of Pandaria expansion: Berserker Stance (does more damage and takes more), Battle Stance (balanced) and Defensive Stance (less damage) had restrictions on what abilities could be used, and switching between them was part of gameplay. While the stances still exist, the ability restrictions were removed as they were felt to not make a dynamic playstyle, and what stance to use is now a matter of the player's role in the party and how much damage they are taking.
      • General Nazgrim, in his boss fight, also switches between stances. When he's in Battle Stance, his attacks grant him rage. While he's in Berserker Stance, he does more damage and gets more rage, but also takes more damage. While he's in Defensive Stance, he takes less damage and gets Rage every time he's struck by someone who does not have the debuff he puts on his tank.
    • Druids have shapeshifting, in which cat and bear forms completely change their abilities and playstyle. However they usually stay in one form most of the time (determined by their specialisation and role), only shifting for brief periods to give emergency healing, gain mobility or providing a temporary tank.
    • The T440 Dual-Mode robot alternates between melee and ranged attack modes based on how close the player fighting him is. Regardless of whether your class and spec is best at melee or ranged combat, you must periodically force him into the other mode, because he gradually does more damage the longer he stays in one mode.
  • Warhammer Online has two stance-based classes. The Marauder is a servant of the Changer of Ways, and as can adopt different stances by painfully mutating his left arm; the mutations are claw, club, and blade, for anti-magic and utility, fighting a group, or fighting a single target. The Shadow Warrior is an elf trained in the guerilla warfare style necessary to fight against the Dark Elves in their own land; their stances are sniping/scouting, skirmishing, and close combat. When players switch stances frequently in the middle of combat, players call that "stance dancing."
  • In Grand Chase, Amy can switch between Performance and Fight modes in all three of her classes. While both can fight, Performance mode is more focused on buffs and singing/dancing/violining, while Fighting mode more on hand to hand combos.
  • Granado Espada gives all of its characters at least three stances. Player Mooks have more, but are limited by what weapons they're holding, occasionally requiring a Real Time Weapon Change.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: Jedi Knights and Sith Warriors learn different lightsaber stances that offer passive boosts: specifically, Shii-Cho (I), Shien (V), Ataru (IV), Soresu (III), and Juyo (VII), though all but the first one are additionally restricted to a particular Prestige Class. Bounty Hunters and Troopers can switch out ammo for similar effects. The Imperial Agents and Smugglers have truer stances, being able to take cover, required for many of their attacks. Several classes can go into a stealth mode as well, effectively another stance.
  • The Monks in Dungeons & Dragons Online have stances that change their Ki Attacks and their Elemental Powers, creating offensive or defensive advantages at the sacrifice of another ability. Many general and combat stances in the game for other classes have similar tradeoffs.

    MUD 
  • Lost Souls MUD has this in the form of a "combat mode" system, encompassing both such basics as aggressive and defensive modes and esoterica like berserking and combat meditation.

    Platform 
  • Sonic Heroes, which featured the ability to choose one of three characters on the fly while having the other two invincible and in some sort of formation with your character. The swap is so near-instant that it's pretty much a glorified stance change. Contrast to other games that used this idea before, which often had some sort of delay or disadvantage to switching characters mid-game.

    RPG 
  • Jade Empire has this in spades: 6 martial arts forms, 4 weapon forms, and 5 summon forms. Though, while a player can collect them all in a single game, it's more than likely they'll only use 6 total.
    • And then there are so many support and magic forms...much of the replay value lies in getting a hold of them all and seeing how they all play when levelled out to the max.
  • A staple in the Final Fantasy series:
    • Final Fantasy VI gives us Ditto Fighter Gau, except that many of his stances don't have anything to do with the monster he's changed into.
    • Final Fantasy XI has stances for Samurai that boost either offensive ability or the power of one of their defensive abilities, and both require a two-handed weapon. Scholars can either be proficient in White or Black magic, but not both at the same time, which places at least some limitation to the job (although both schools of magic are still usable). Ninjas gain stances that emphasize either their tanking ability or their damage-dealing ability.
    • The battle system of Final Fantasy XIII hinges on this mixed with a Job System. Parties are made up of three members, and each character as a battle role, the combination of which determines the name and the type of Paradigm you're using (e.g. Medic/Medic/Sentinel is a defensive paradigm called "Combat Clinic", while using Commando/Ravager/Ravager is an offensive paradigm aptly called "Relentless Assault"). The entire purpose of these roles is to mix-n'-match your paradigms depending on your party and situation. Over leveled? Using Cerberus (Commando/Commando/Commando) will take at weak enemies. Enemy dishing out too much damage and is too fast? A balanced paradigm like Supernatural(Synergist/Saboteur/Medic) is the way to go. Boss preparing an ultimate attack an you're underleveled? Quickly switching to Tortoise (Sentinel/Sentinel/Sentinel) should help. The roles are:
      • Commando - primary damage dealer
      • Ravager - Black mage type who use rapid magic attacks to initiate Stagger Mode
      • Sentinel - Sponge who absorbs damage while other members perform other jobs.
      • Synergist - the buffer; enhances allies
      • Saboteur - debuffer; weakens enemies
      • Medic - Heals party members
    • Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII plays it even straighter than the previous FF 13 games, with Lightning now being the sole playable character who shifts between several customizable Schemas, with each abilities attached to each one.
    • Cecil from Dissidia: Final Fantasy can switch between Dark Knight (a warrior focusing on ground attacks and the odd blast of dark power) and Paladin (Warrior with powerful Air Combos and the odd blast of holy power) depending on which attacks he uses, allowing him to go from ground to air fighter on the fly. He even gets separate weapons for both forms and switches between the two along with the form.
    • Lightning in the prequel Dissidia Duodecim uses the Paradigm System of her original game, able to switch between mostly physical attacks (Commando), offensive magic (Ravager) and restoring Brave points (Medic).
  • True Crime: New York City has four (not including the default) individually trainable martial arts forms: Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Wushu, and Muay Thai. Marcus can switch between them in real time, and cannot use them with weapons.
  • Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords gives the player the ability to set each character's combat style in order to determine what kinds of tactics they use. It's expanded further for Jedi characters, who can learn a number of lightsaber forms, each with different advantages and disadvantages.
  • Several characters from Virtua Fighter have different sets of attacks depending on their stance, most notably Lei-Fei and Vanessa Lewis.
  • The Drive Forms from Kingdom Hearts 2 also count, the valor form gives you a second keyblade and increases attack power, the wisdom form increases magic power, master form increases aerial attacks, and final form increases ...well, everything else.
    • Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep expands on the drive system with Command Styles and Dimension Links. By filling up a meter with special moves, you'll enter a "Command Style" that gives elemental powers to your attacks and enables a special finishing move to be used. Dimension links will replace your entire command list with ones related to characters you've met throughout the story, allowing you to completely change the way your character fights for a short time. Both of these are useful for adapting to the three characters' strengths and weaknesses.
  • The Witcher allows the player to switch between Strong, Fast, and Group styles of swordfighting. Some enemies an only be hurt effectively by fast or strong style, while group is effective anytime you fight more than one foe.
  • Dragon Age:
    • In Dragon Age: Origins, Shale has three four different modes she can use: Attack (melee), Attack (ranged), Defense, and Passive Defense. Her abilities in each mode change radically, as does her performance on the battlefield, and the bonuses she bestows to party members within range. In the fourth mode, she is actually completely disabled, while all nearby party members enjoy massive bonuses.
    • Dragon Age II allows usage of some Prestige Classes' abilities only if that class' basic Sustained ability is active, e.g. Blood Magic, Spirit Healer's Aura, and Berserking. Non-prestige class Skill Trees occasionally include mutually exclusive Sustained abilities that offer different bonuses, essentially functioning as stances, e.g. Rogue Specialist's Precision, Speed, and Power; Warrior Defender's Elemental Aegis and Turn the Blade; and Vanguard's Control and Might. Lastly, some companions' specializations have Sustained abilities akin to prestige classes, like Fenris' Lyrium Ghost and Merrill's Wrath of the Elvhen, but Anders takes it a step further, only using half of his special abilities when the mutually exclusive Panacea or Vengeance modes are active.
  • Patty in the PS3 version of Tales of Vesperia has four battle modes when fighting: Normal, Advance, Brainel, and Critical. Normal is exactly what it sounds like, Advance emphasizes direct attacks, Brainel prefers range and spell casting, and Critical has the benefits of both Advance and Brainel. Knowing the difference between the modes is crucial, since certain techniques are different depending on her form.
  • The primitive Action RPG Hydlide gave the player character "Attack" and "Defend" stances.
  • In Tales of Graces, every playable character switches between two different sets of artes (apparently being called Alpha and Beta), each using a different style [for example, Cheria switches between throwing knives (her Alpha artes) and light spells (her Beta artes), likewise, Asbel switches between a combo of sheath bunts and kicks (Alpha artes) and sword combat (Beta artes].
  • All the characters of Dungeon Siege III have two attack stances that they can use.
    • Lucas uses either a sword and shield for single enemies or a two-handed BFS for groups.
    • Anjali can attack with a spear or turn into an Avatar and use fire blasts.
    • Katarina uses Guns Akimbo for close quarters or a rifle for range.
    • Reinhart switches between Entropic Magic or Dynamic Magic.
  • 7th Dragon 2020 gives us a rare dungeon crawler instance with the Samurai class. The Samurai is able to switch between Iai and Battou stances, where the Iai stance allows the usage of elementally-imbued, single-hit attacks while Battou stances are for multiple-hit physical attacks.
  • Etrian Odyssey and its remake have the Ronin class, which has certain skills based on which of the three stances are active. Overhead increases offence and defence, with focus on offence, Seigan increases the same, but with focus on defence, and Iai increases speed.
  • Tales of Graces has this in its battle system. Each character has an A-style, generally a balanced style that emphasizes faster combat, and a B-style, which is generally focused on single, powerful strikes.
  • The Pokémon Aegislash, which takes the form of an animate sword and shield, has the unique Ability "Stance Change". In its Shield Forme, it has some of the highest defenses in the game; in its Blade Forme, its attack stats skyrocket and its defenses drop to almost nothing.

    Real Time Strategy 
  • Warcraft III: Druids of the Claw and Talon can shapeshift into bears and crows, giving them more damage and resilience but leaving them unable to cast spells (the expansion allows them to cast their basic spell when shifted). Footmen can use Defend; raising their shields to greatly reduce the damage (and in the expansion, reflect) damage done by some ranged attacks at the cost of movement speed.
  • Sort of used in the Chinese Overlord tank from Command & Conquer: Generals, where you can build on top of them a propaganda speaker that heals your troops, a gatling gun, or a bunker.
  • Udyr in League of Legends is based around stances.
    • While the game developers do claim that Udyr is based on stances and his abilities are called stances, beyond the initial benefit that activating said stances gives (which prompts stance dancing to make an effective Udyr), the differences for being in a specific stance are hardly game-breaking. Same thing applies to the later added champion Sona, who is also based on the same mechanic.
  • Several Real-Time Strategy games have three stances consisting of Aggressive (an attack bonus at the cost of a defence penalty), Defensive (a defence bonus at the cost of an attack penalty), and Balanced (neutral) stances.
  • Dawn of War has a variation where the stances decide how far the squad engages spotted enemies (until destruction/chase for a while and go back/hold position), adding the "Burn" stance (prioritize buildings in range higher than enemy troops) and "Hold Fire" (a, aha, relic from the previous games where cloaked units decloaked to attack, automatically switching to hold fire to prevent Leeroy Jenkins. Useful against human enemies, but pointless against the computer, who always knows where your sneaky units are). Most units also have a secondary set of stances indicating whether to use ranged or melee weapons. This is relevant because units hit with a melee attack must respond in kind, meaning that all-round units like Tactical Marines will have an easier time defeating ranged combat specialists like Fire Warriors by leaving their usual ranged attack stance. On top of this, units engaged in melee only take 50% ranged damage, so getting into a slugfest can preserve a squad under heavy fire until reinforcements arrive.

    Other 
  • The Alethi swordfighting stances from The Stormlight Archive. Each represents a different fighting style named after one of the Ten Essences, ranging from the elegant Windstance to the brutal Ironstance.

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