There are two in-game concepts called Poise. The player has the stat Poise, which is obtained from Armor, the Lothric Knight Long Spear, Yhorm's Greatshield and the Wolf Ring. There is also the hidden value "poise health" that determines when your "hyperarmor frames" are interrupted, and the visible stat Poise acts as a defense stat for this poise health, reducing how much poise damage is inflicted by enemy attacks.
The stagger resistance given by the skills Unfaltering Prayer, Perseverance, Stone Flesh, and the pyromancy Iron Flesh are unrelated to poise, and simply allow you to take a certain number of hits without staggering. The Great Hammer version of Perseverance, however, does activate the player's poise.
The ability to withstand attacks without breaking form
How Poise Works
In a nutshell, you are only able to resist stagger during "hyperarmor" frames, and your Poise stat determines how many attacks you can take before you can be staggered out of hyperarmor frames. Because hyperarmor frames are not fully uninterruptible and use Poise to determine whether or not you can be interrupted, it would be more accurate to call them "active poise". In the game's code, the supposedly deactivated value for poise is in fact activated during animations with active poise.
All characters using the player model, including the player character, most NPCs, and non-player invaders, have a hidden poise health of 100. All attacks that hit the character will reduce this value, and when the value reaches 0 the character will be staggered regardless of whether or not they are in the middle of an attack with poise frames. The stat Poise will reduce how much poise damage a weapon inflicts to this poise health, by a percentage equal to the amount of Poise. Your Poise stat is always passively reducing incoming poise damage, whether or not you are using an attack with active poise. However, you are only able to resist stagger during active poise, and at any other time you can be staggered regardless of how much poise health you have left.
Furthermore, all attacks and actions with active poise will give a multiplier to your current poise health (usually negative), allowing you to take more or fewer hits before being staggered. The modifiers for normal R1 and R2 attacks on weapons with active poise were greatly reduced in the 1.08 patch, to the point where characters need very high poise to resist stagger from one or two attacks now. However, as of the 1.08 patch, attacks with active poise will now automatically refresh your poise health back to 80% of full after modifiers. For example, if you are using a Greataxe weapon (maximum poise health for R1 is 27) and you have 0.1 poise health before the attack, then as soon as your attack starts your poise will instantly reset to 21.6. What this means is you can now resist stagger from one or two attacks every time you attack, which allows tanky, high poise builds to play much more aggressively. Weapon arts with active poise have much higher modifiers than normal attacks do, being anywhere from 0.30 to 2.00 vs 0.10 to 0.27, and weapon arts will refresh your poise health back to 100% of full instead of 80%. Attacks that are blocked by a shield do not reduce your poise health at all.
Your poise health does not regenerate, but will immediately refresh back to 100% every 30 seconds or when it's reduced to 0, whichever comes first. In addition, the 1.08 patch made it so that your poise health resets to 80% of full whenever you use a normal attack with active poise and to 100% of its full value whenever you use a weapon art with active poise.
To use poise, you need to know these things: how much poise damage your opponent's attacks deal, what the poise health of your attacks is, and how much Poise from armor you need to reduce your opponent's poise damage far enough to not drop your poise health to zero. In addition, since your poise health resets back to 80% with every normal attack, it would also be helpful to have enough poise so that 20.01% of your poise health is left over, as this will allow you to resist stagger through your opponent's attack every time you attack. For weapons that only have active poise during their weapon arts, this is less important since weapon arts reset poise health back to 100% instead of 80%.
Active poise is found on certain weapon attacks including, but not limited to, Ultra Greatsword, Greathammer, and Greataxe R1s, Greatsword two-handed R1s, fully charged R2 attacks, most Weapon Skills, and the medium and heavy rolls. The 1.08 patch also gave active poise to two-handed Hammer attacks. Testing is still ongoing to determine which attacks have poise frames and what their poise multipliers are.
Stat Poise Information
Each piece of armor has a Poise rating, and your total Poise is the sum of each of your armor pieces. Naked characters have 0 Poise. In general, wearing heavier or more protective armor increases Poise.
As of patch 1.07. the Poise formula seems to reduce the effects of poise for armor and rings added once the player has any poise. Every piece added that increases poise will be subjected to the following formula:
So if adding the Wolf Ring (12.5 poise) on a character with 10 poise:
Weapons & Poise Damage
Information via Gamefaqs (Some values were changed in the 1.08 patch and may no longer be accurate. They will be updated as soon as the new values are found.)
|0||Bows, Crossbows, Greatbows|
|10||Whips, Pyromancy Flame, Bare fists|
|15||Thrusting swords, Claws & Fists, Torch|
|20||Straight swords, Curved swords, Katanas, Spears, Pikes, Halberds, Reapers, Small shields, Standard shields|
|23||Axes, Greatswords, Hammers|
|28||Ultra greatswords, Curved greatswords, Great hammers, Wolf Knight's Greatshield, Curse Ward Greatshield|
|30||Greataxes, Greatshields, Gundyr's Halberd|
For a long time, it was believed that the poise stat either didn't work or was intentionally disabled on release, due to a player finding a value in the game's code that determined whether or not poise was active and seeing that the value was 'off' by default. It was later discovered by other people that this value was only turned on during what was thought to be hyperarmor frames at the time, and that poise damage is constantly being calculated at all times but you are only able to resist stagger during attacks or actions with hyperarmor frames.
Boulder Heave is unique among spells in that it also inflicts poise damage. If an opponent is struck by the debris, it will deal a large amount of poise damage. However, spells and skills that cause knockdown do not take poise into account.
Enemies that do not use the player model, such as Darkwraiths, Silver Knights, and Black Knights, do not follow the same rules for poise that the player character and NPCs do.