I have a problem with the Defender Aura power. I like it well enough, but there’s a mechanical problem at its core — it’s an aura effect, and not a stance. I’ll explain.

Defender Aura is a Fighter utility power, shared primarily among three classes — the Knight (Fighter), the Cavalier (Paladin), and the Berserker (Barbarian). Stances as a game mechanic have come a long way from Third Edition, where moving could end a stance unless you used the Martial Adepts from The Tome of Battle.

Of the three classes with the power, only one of them — the Cavalier — has any kind of “flavorful” justification for having an aura. Really, an aura is a magical-type effect, and has no business being attached to a martial class.

Even including the aura on the berserker is questionable, since the class is largely non-magical in nature. So, why is the power there? Why is it an aura?

Well… the Knight already has stance powers. They have access to the same stances as the Slayer (also a subclass of Fighter), and those stances are all Martial-oriented. One of the mechanical features of a stance is that activating a second stance causes the first stance to end — each stance is a “standalone” effect.

Auras on the other hand, have no such restriction. A character can have as many auras active at once, and they easily overlap with stances. It seems like such a straightforward answer, you might wonder why I’m asking the question at all.

My problem is that it’s lazy. It’s incredibly, offensively lazy.

Looking over the various classes I’ve designed, the simplest way to duplicate the Defender Aura effect without making it an aura would have been to make it a class feature — a “hard” mechanic built into the class, as opposed to the comparatively “soft” mechanic of a power. It could also be a “rider” effect attached to a stance.

As a rider effect, the Fighter stances — which are pretty bland, even if they are effective — could be made more effective in the hands of a Knight. The Slayer might receive many of the same stances as the Knight, but the Knight stances would be different for the inclusion of a hypothetical rider effect. Not better, just different.

Here’s an example of a hard-coded Defender Aura:

Fearsome Defender
Enemies adjacent to you take a -2 penalty to attack rolls. This penalty doesn’t apply if you are included as a target of the attack. Marked enemies aren’t subject to this effect.

Now, will this effect stack with other characters with the Fearsome Defender feature? Sure! Why shouldn’t they? I’m imagining five fighters all crowding around one guy, with their shields and hammers and stuff. The countermeasure for that? A burst or blast attack, natch. Or maybe an aura. Or don’t attack at all, do something else.

Was that really so difficult? No, no it really wasn’t. And that’s why I say Defender Aura is lazy design. Lazy, lazy design. *sigh* There are other ways to contend with the “stances don’t stack” issue, and powers or effects keyed to Defender Aura could just as easily target enemies adjacent to the defender. *heavy sigh*