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Kuma Kode
2011-02-07, 06:06 PM
Shields in Dungeons and Dragons suck. We all know it. The tried-and-true technique of the sword and shield is ubiquitous in fantasy, and yet it is one of the worst tactics to build for in-game.

What I want to know is if anyone has released a fix for the shields themselves, the mechanics surrounding them, or a set of feats to make them viable.

Not allowed to use Dragon or Dungeon magazines, but all WoTC products are okay, third-party sources can be good, and homebrew is also good (especially if it's from this forum; there's some high quality stuff here).

I'm asking this before I end up having to homebrew something myself.

Swordguy
2011-02-07, 06:13 PM
1) Get rid of animated shields. Full stop.

2) Homebrew something. Incorporate either a flat "miss chance" from the shield, having shields grant cover automatically, or an active parry mechanic that takes an immediate action (so as not to screw the fighter's already-bad action economy). The existing stuff on shields is horrific for making them into defensive implements - they end up being used as an off-hand weapon more than they do a defensive device. Remember, you're having to compete against Leap Attack/Pounce/Power Attack combos from Greatsword wielders, so almost nothing you're going to do is going to be "too powerful" (and to say nothing about competing with casters).

3) Don't make it dependent on feats, but have the feats make it "better". The shield is pretty much THE ubiquitous weapon of medieval warfare - for all intents and purposes, everybody used one. Therefore, the shield should remain useful (and a damn sight more than +1 or +2 to AC useful) to everybody, regardless of their feat chains.

Waker
2011-02-07, 06:17 PM
2) Homebrew something. Incorporate either a flat "miss chance" from the shield, having shields grant cover automatically, or an active parry mechanic that takes an immediate action (so as not to screw the fighter's already-bad action economy).
I rather like this idea. Putting in a miss chance is definitely workable. Get rid of the Parrying Shield feat and make it so all shields grant their ac to touch. You could also let ac give a small bonus to certain reflex saves, most notably explosions and similar area effects.
Increasing the amount of ac that shields have wouldn't be horrible either.

MeeposFire
2011-02-07, 06:23 PM
Miss chance is so easy to get though. I do not know it would make enough of a difference to beat out the better support for two handed weapons.

How about this shields grant hardness to you equal to the shield bonus to AC?

AslanCross
2011-02-07, 06:28 PM
I think the main problem with shields is that killing stuff quickly (with two-handed weapons) is much more effective in keeping you alive than having an extra 1 or 2 AC.

Also, many low-level spells (Shield, Shield of Faith) give better AC bonuses.

I do think active parrying is a viable fix. It's kind of a shame that it's really hard to pull off parrying by default: Melee Evasion takes several feats to qualify for, although Warblades can do it more easily (Wall of Blades).

Coidzor
2011-02-07, 06:28 PM
^: It's a bit difficult without homebrewing up a lot of feats (or at least cribbing such feats from others' homebrew) to complete with that kind of feat support. But even something to compete with Power Attack by itself would be good.


3) Don't make it dependent on feats, but have the feats make it "better". The shield is pretty much THE ubiquitous weapon of medieval warfare - for all intents and purposes, everybody used one. Therefore, the shield should remain useful (and a damn sight more than +1 or +2 to AC useful) to everybody, regardless of their feat chains.

Yeah, the base thing of what a shield is needs an overhaul, not just the feats.

I'd also disagree with banning animated shields as a fix to shields in and of itself. And with actually going through with it. Since the focus should be on actually making shields better, building up rather than tearing down.

Of course, adding things on to shields as they're wielded in one's hands as opposed to magically animated is perfectly reasonable and actually adds an element of trade-off to it.

Waker
2011-02-07, 06:30 PM
Well, the nice thing about the hypothetical shield miss chance that I'm proposing is that it's non-magical, so it couldn't be subject to dispel. Not to mention being available at a lower level and freeing up gold that could be spent on a different magical effect.
You could also grant Block Arrows from Heroes of Battle to all shields automatically, rather than making it a feat.

theos911
2011-02-07, 06:30 PM
Gotta do geometry hw for a bit, but I wanted to put this out there

Could the AC bonus increase with BAB? What about miss chance, easier reflex save, or decreased damage from AoE things/ranged attacks?


WOW Ninja'd x4

Psyren
2011-02-07, 06:30 PM
Swordguy has the right idea - sword-and-board should be an equally viable route compared to a 2-hander or dual-wielding. Removing or severely nerfing animated shields is indeed a necessary first step along this route, because going full-offense should have penalties.

Coidzor
2011-02-07, 06:34 PM
Swordguy has the right idea - sword-and-board should be an equally viable route compared to a 2-hander or dual-wielding. Removing or severely nerfing animated shields is indeed a necessary first step along this route, because going full-offense should have penalties.

If your fix isn't good enough to actually feel like it'd be a trade-off, it's not a fix.

Hyfigh
2011-02-07, 06:34 PM
1) The miss chance that stacks with other miss chances up to a certain percentage. Miss chance is an important thing, regardless of AC. I don't see why giving a little bit extra to a shield fighter would be unbalanced.

2) A feat structure that works with shields to also improve single-handed power attack ratios. Half of the problem with shield fighters is that their damage sucks. Let them charge(pounce), even if it isn't as effective as the real deal. One is sacrificing a little damage for more defense, the other the opposite.

3) A feat structure that allows scalable effects like the stun. The DC of shield bash is essentially static. Static DC's become less useful over time - a common problem in these level based games. Letting stuff like this scale allows for it to be used much longer and more effectively.

Urpriest
2011-02-07, 06:40 PM
What about making shield-wearers automatically have a tank-like mechanic, so they fulfill a useful role besides just being well defended? Perhaps have a shield-wearer grant increasing cover bonuses to allies, or get an immediate action to block nearby movement?

nedz
2011-02-07, 06:40 PM
I did toy with an idea based a little on my experience fighting against shiellds in LARP.

Basically you have to beat the shield before you can attack the weilder.
Ideally a partial block would make the chance of hitting harder, but that adds even more complexity.
There are a number of mechanisms; you could do something like d20+shield mods for shield AC, and then have a seperate AC for your armour etc.
Either roll one attack to beat both, or two rolls.

The problem with any method though is twofold:
1) you slow down combat, by adding complexity
2) you need a facing rule, which is absent in 3.0++

So we have the +1 AC rule, which simplifies all of this.

Waker
2011-02-07, 06:44 PM
I just had an idea that's drunk enough to work. One of the biggest selling points to using a 2h weapon is Power Attack doubling the damage. What if Combat Expertise did the same with shields? And if you are using the miss chance idea from before, it could conceivably go up whenever you use Combat Expertise. I don't have much time on my hands right now, so I can't do the math, but someone else can do this later.

Let's say for now that Buckler grants 5% miss, Light Shield is 10%, Heavy is 15%. For every 4 points taken off from Combat Expertise, you double your miss chance. So a Fighter using a heavy shield, activates Combat Expertise for -8, increases his ac by 16 and has a miss chance of 45%

Human Paragon 3
2011-02-07, 06:52 PM
I suggested a fix a while back where, like the 2x power attack bonus for two-handing, you get a 2x combat expertise bonus when you wield a shield.

Lord Bingo
2011-02-07, 06:58 PM
I think adding a miss chance is the wrong way to go as it will add to the dice rolling. I like the idea of having shield bonus rise with BAB better -it sorta makes sense that as your skill as a warrior increases you become increasingly adept at defending yourself with a shield. Here is an example of how it could be done:

Light Shields add 1/2 BAB (min 1)
Medium Shields add 1/2 BAB +1 (min 2)
Tower Shields should still provide a flat +4 as they are unwieldy and more meant to provide cover anyway.

This mechanic will require no new feats, etc. and you add magical bonuses abd such as usual. You can just pick it up and go.

holywhippet
2011-02-07, 07:11 PM
One of the main reasons shields are useful both in D&D and real life is for their anti-ballistic properties. Go watch 300 for an example of how useful a good shield can be against incoming arrows.

The thing to keep in mind is that different shields are useful for different purposes. A tower shield is really meant to be something to hide behind so that enemy arrows can't get you - but it's weight makes it hard to use in melee. A smaller shield like a buckler though is meant to catch incoming melee strikes, but it's limited size makes it less useful vs. arrows.

I don't agree that shields are useless in D&D though - but it kind of depends on the level of the combat. I've seen a 4th level dwarvern fighter take out a whole lot of goblins inside of a tower just because his armour + his tower shield meant they needed a 20 in order to hit him. The sword he had in his other hand did more than enough damage to kill the goblins with a single hit so he didn't need a higher damage weapon.

faceroll
2011-02-07, 07:59 PM
Shield + sword doesn't scale well with level, due to the loss of damage from power attack & str. The trivial increase in AC doesn't make up for the loss of offensive power and sacrificing reach.

I would introduce a couple feats that change mechanics, not just give bonuses. Bonuses are easy to get.

Feat 1
When wielding a shield, you are counted as one size category larger for the purposes of bullrush, disarm & trip attempts, should it be beneficial to you.
notes:This makes you more competitive compared to a halberd wielding fighter, as well as makes your style more useful against larger creatures


Feat 2 [Fighter only]
When using a shield, as an immediate action, you can five foot step without provoking an AoO.
notes: Something has reach, or wants to escape from you? Want to close that gap quick? Now you can! Fighter only so anyone with a mithral buckler can pick it up.

Feat 3
While wielding a shield, you can attempt to daze your opponent as part of your attack. The DC is 10+1/2 CL+str mod. This feat is usable 3+wis mod times per day, or a number of times equal to your fighter level, whichever is higher.
notes:a good save-or-lose effect, great for control/lockdown. Unlike stunning fist, you can use it as much as you like in a round. It also isn't explicitly tied to bashing your opponent with the shield, so you don't get any two shield wielding monstrosities or something.

Psyren
2011-02-07, 08:40 PM
If your fix isn't good enough to actually feel like it'd be a trade-off, it's not a fix.

How does that contradict anything I said? :smallconfused:

T.G. Oskar
2011-02-07, 09:07 PM
Honestly? I'd double the AC bonus of shields (bucklers provide a +2, light shields produce a +4, heavy shields produce a +6, tower shields produce a +8), and add a bonus to Reflex saves (bucklers provide none since you have little surface area, light shields add a +1 bonus, heavy shields provide a +2, tower shields provide a +4). Those would be shield bonuses to Reflex saves. That would evoke the idea of the classic "hide behind a shield to prevent damage", since you would reflexively gain a bonus to AC. That would be a starter. Now, the idea would be to work with enhancement bonuses, since adding a flat +1 bonus to Reflex that stacks with other Reflex saves means you'll have a higher Reflex save than most light characters, but it would be a good counterpart to light-armor characters potentially having a higher AC bonus than heavy-armored characters.

Since having proficiency doesn't mean much (I mean, only tower shields have a noticeable ACP to mean business; a -1/-2 ACP doesn't mean that much and you can wield Heavy Mithral/Darkwood Shields without the need of proficiency since the penalties are canceled by the properties), I'd collapse Improved Shield Bash with proficiency; that way, while a character without proficiency wouldn't be able to use the shield as a weapon, those who do will be able to use it without losing their AC bonus. That also gives them a nice weapon, so if you TWF you can get a somewhat decent attack potential without losing the AC bonus at all (though you might not have enough Dexterity to pull it off, hence the PHB II feat that allows you to make a shield bash with your full attack action).

The only thing would be cover, since you'd be losing the huge AC bonus for a moderate AC bonus and you'd have the same Reflex bonus, so that would need some work.

Amphetryon
2011-02-07, 09:13 PM
I remove animated shields, and have them provide cover; 10% for bucklers, 20% for light, 30% for heavy, 50% for tower shields. Any 'exotic' shield gets a 5% boost.

GoodbyeSoberDay
2011-02-07, 09:18 PM
Instead of changing the rules, you could make a Warblade or a Crusader who gets most of her damage from maneuvers. That way wielding a 2H weapon isn't so important, and at low levels the +2 AC matters a little more. At later levels you might want to save WBL by avoiding the Animated Property (in this case). This is especially important if you want various expensive armor enchantments, as you can put one on your shield and one on your armor, while you probably couldn't do that if you also had to deal with the +3 from animated.

I agree with the "just increase the AC bonus" idea, since simple is usually better, but I don't agree with it adding to reflex. Too many effects fall under reflex saves where a shield would hinder you if anything. I could see a save bonus versus spread effects like Fireball, although that gets a little situational.

Optimator
2011-02-07, 09:30 PM
I was toying around with the idea that shields also apply one's strength modifier to AC. Probably with a feat. Seems fair to me. Doesn't seem like much would be unbalanced since
A: AC isn't everything.
B: High ACs aren't that unbalancing in play.
C: By the time one can pump their strength score really high, AC is getting less ans less relevant.
D: Discourages (slightly. D&D is still about striking first and striking hard) THF and makes S&B more attractive to melee combatants.
E: I don't know of any way to apply strength to AC but every other stat is represented in one way or another. Strength is disenfranchised in the AC department! Nevermind the fact that it is the key stat for melee attacks...

T.G. Oskar
2011-02-07, 09:33 PM
I agree with the "just increase the AC bonus" idea, since simple is usually better, but I don't agree with it adding to reflex. Too many effects fall under reflex saves where a shield would hinder you if anything. I could see a save bonus versus spread effects like Fireball, although that gets a little situational.

The problem is that without a secondary, reasonable bonus, higher AC bonuses from shields mean little. The only moment where shields wouldn't provide Reflex bonuses are on traps, and even then you can make a good use of it (for example, dart or bolt traps).

Reflex saves really apply on two areas: area attacks and traps. Of area attacks, a shield could reliably protect against burst attacks (such as Fireball), but not spread attacks because those innately ignore cover. Of traps, you have area attacks (again, good for burst, bad for spread; remember emanation typically counts as spread AoE), actual attacks (darts, bolts, etc. which means you get both Reflex and AC against them) and pitfalls (which are mostly movement based and might not seem like fitting). A cursory observation shows that shields apply mostly to half the attacks that would require Reflex, and generally those attacks that ignore cover also ignore the bonus to Reflex saves from cover. Thus, you'd gain a shield bonus to Reflex saves except on attacks that ignore cover; the definition would be pretty much all-inclusive (covers most, if not all, instances of Reflex saves) and would make having high Dex and being on Roguish classes the main method of gaining such saving throw, but it would throw a nice bone to heavy armor wielders whom already suffer from not using Evasion and having poor Reflex saves, something that would cripple 2H weapon wielders because they have nothing like that.

Though, I also agree about eliminating animated shields. They're a nice idea, but they harm mechanics because it eliminates the idea of the sword-and-boarder to go almost exclusively weapon-based.

Cheesy74
2011-02-07, 09:59 PM
Iron Tortoise (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=160377) does a good job of this for initiating classes. It's a really strong tanking flavor, but it nonetheless makes shields extremely viable for the task.

Dexam
2011-02-07, 10:05 PM
Would it be too overpowered to have something like this (in the same vein as the Deflect Arrows feat):

Shield Deflection [General]
Prerequistes: Shield Proficiency, Combat Reflexes
Benefit: You must be holding a shield to use this feat. Once per round, as an immediate action, when you would normally be hit with a melee weapon, ranged weapon, or natural weapon you may deflect it so that you take no damage from it. You must be aware of the attack and not flat-footed. Unusually massive ranged weapons (such as siege weapons) and ranged attacks generated by spell effects canít be deflected. A fighter may select Shield Deflection as a fighter bonus feat.


There could also be Improved/Greater versions of the feat that would allow you to add the shield's AC bonus to your touch AC and/or reflex saves; and make the deflection a free action and increase the number of attacks deflected each round equal to your Dex bonus. It also means that Animated shields are no longer as impressive, as they can't benefit from this feat. Thoughts?

JeminiZero
2011-02-07, 10:24 PM
The feat you probably want is Improved Buckler Defence from Complete Warrior. It lets you use 2-hander for power attacks and what not, and still lets you apply the buckler to AC, but does not negate the -1 AB penalty.

So -1 to AB for +1 to AC initially. And the tradeoff gets better once you add enhancement bonuses to your buckler (capping at -1 AB for +6 AC).

GoodbyeSoberDay
2011-02-07, 10:52 PM
The problem is that without a secondary, reasonable bonus, higher AC bonuses from shields mean little.At low levels, the AC bonus really matters. At high levels, the magical enhancements you can add to the shield matter.

The only moment where shields wouldn't provide Reflex bonuses are on traps, and even then you can make a good use of it (for example, dart or bolt traps).

Reflex saves really apply on two areas: area attacks and traps.... and a large number of arcane spells. Grease and Web come to mind. A shield should not provide a bonus in that situation.

Of area attacks, a shield could reliably protect against burst attacks (such as Fireball), but not spread attacks because those innately ignore cover.Fireball is a spread. (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/fireball.htm)

Of traps, you have area attacks (again, good for burst, bad for spread; remember emanation typically counts as spread AoE), actual attacks (darts, bolts, etc. which means you get both Reflex and AC against them) and pitfalls (which are mostly movement based and might not seem like fitting). A cursory observation shows that shields apply mostly to half the attacks that would require Reflex, and generally those attacks that ignore cover also ignore the bonus to Reflex saves from cover. Thus, you'd gain a shield bonus to Reflex saves except on attacks that ignore cover; the definition would be pretty much all-inclusive (covers most, if not all, instances of Reflex saves) and would make having high Dex and being on Roguish classes the main method of gaining such saving throw, but it would throw a nice bone to heavy armor wielders whom already suffer from not using Evasion and having poor Reflex saves, something that would cripple 2H weapon wielders because they have nothing like that.Okay, I can see this working. Might need a bit of re-wording, but if it basically means you have partial cover as far as reflex saves go, that's fine.

Though, I also agree about eliminating animated shields. They're a nice idea, but they harm mechanics because it eliminates the idea of the sword-and-boarder to go almost exclusively weapon-based.This is what I don't understand. If AC isn't important at high levels, then why is the meleer wasting 9000+ gold on it when he could be buying something that increases his damage, or preferably his versatility? IMO the real reason to use a shield at high levels is to get the nice magical armor effects, but if you're already using up +3 on Animated there's only so much you can get before the quadratic costs kill your WBL.

faceroll
2011-02-07, 10:55 PM
If AC isn't important at high levels

Higher AC reduces the amount things can power attack you by. 10 AC is much, much worse than 30 AC, as that 20 point spread means you're taking 40 extra damage/round.

jumpet
2011-02-07, 11:58 PM
What about allowing shield users to double their ac bonus against one declared opponent. (ie similar to dodge). I think this kind of makes sense a shield is used actively to dodge incoming blows. Thus its handy against a single foe but less so when surrounded.

T.G. Oskar
2011-02-08, 12:14 AM
... and a large number of arcane spells. Grease and Web come to mind. A shield should not provide a bonus in that situation.

Count them as area attacks or traps. Count Web as an area attack, which deals no damage; it's a spread, so it would be the same as a spread attack (this includes Fireball, as you mentioned; odd I skipped that one). Grease, on the other hand, would qualify as a pit or land-based trap, so it wouldn't qualify either (at least the trap-based move). Stuff such as Lightning Bolt might be blocked by Reflex, though. I could have counted breath weapons as separate types of attacks, but I counted them as area attacks.


Okay, I can see this working. Might need a bit of re-wording, but if it basically means you have partial cover as far as reflex saves go, that's fine.

Remember that partial cover is 3.0 terminology. Here, it's mostly soft cover, cover, or total cover; the shield would work as a different, stackable type of cover. The idea is to go with a simple enough wording, which should be easy to understand and as least ambiguous as possible. Going with "works on all attacks except stuff that ignores cover" might need a bit of a fix, true (to explain it doesn't work against spreads and land-based traps), but it should cover just about anything else. That still is a lot (you wouldn't be capable of evading a Fireball, maybe, but a Lightning Bolt is fair game).

GoodbyeSoberDay
2011-02-08, 12:18 AM
Higher AC reduces the amount things can power attack you by. 10 AC is much, much worse than 30 AC, as that 20 point spread means you're taking 40 extra damage/round.An argument could be made that attack bonuses are so high that they generally exceed AC altogether, making a marginal increase in AC pointless; there's also shock trooper, and an increasing number of attacks that target touch AC or saves instead.

My point, though, was that you can't have it both ways. AC can't be simultaneously useless for the shield user and useful for the animated shield user, and in either event, the shield user gets to use more and better armor enchantments.

faceroll
2011-02-08, 01:31 AM
An argument could be made that attack bonuses are so high that they generally exceed AC altogether, making a marginal increase in AC pointless; there's also shock trooper, and an increasing number of attacks that target touch AC or saves instead.

Every extra point by which you exceed hitting someone's AC can be two points of damage. At high levels, more AC means your enemy isn't gratuitously power attacking. I'm not sure if you really want to be putting shocktrooper on all your monsters, either, because that's going to be killing players pretty fast.


My point, though, was that you can't have it both ways. AC can't be simultaneously useless for the shield user and useful for the animated shield user, and in either event, the shield user gets to use more and better armor enchantments.

Carrying a shield isn't worth the AC bonus in terms of the offensive power you give up (reach, damage). If you really want the extra armor, you can still have it while wielding the spiked chain or whatever. So there is really no reason to go sword-n-board if you want a shield bonus to AC and can afford animating a shield.

JaronK
2011-02-08, 04:38 AM
Note that you CAN already make viable shield builds. See here: http://brilliantgameologists.com/boards/index.php?topic=1532.0;wap2

However, that's not sword and board, that's just the board for the most part. Gets the job done though.

With that said, shields giving miss chances would help a bit, but it's more important that they have aggressive uses and defend others so that you're not just a turtle. Shield Slam and Shield Charge are a good start... lots of shield stuff that debuffs would be great. And Shield Block/Counter are great too, as they protect allies. That's a solid start.

JaronK

Amphetryon
2011-02-08, 09:33 AM
There's also PhoenixInferno's old Captain America build:

CL IL Feats Maneuvers Stances
1 Crusader 1 1 Shield Specialization, Improved Shield Bash Crusader's Strike, Charging Minotaur, Vanguard Strike, Leading the Attack, Douse the Flames Martial Spirit
2 Crusader 2 2 Leading the Charge
3 Fighter 1 2.5 Agile Shield Fighter, Stone Power
4 Fighter 2 3 Shield Sling
5 Crusader 3 4 Stone Vise
6 Crusader 4 5 Improved Unarmed Strike Leading the Attack -> White Raven Tactics
7 Fighter 3 5.5
8 Fighter 4 6 Active Shield Defense
9 Crusader 5 7 Superior Unarmed Strike Shield Block
10 Crusader 6 8
11 Crusader 7 9 Foehammer
12 Crusader 8 10 Snap Kick Charging Minotaur -> Radiant Charge Thicket of Blades
13 Crusader 9 11 Rallying Strike
14 Crusader 10 12
15 Crusader 11 13 Combat Reflexes Shield Counter
16 Crusader 12 14 Stone Vise -> Entangling Blade
17 Crusader 13 15 White Raven Hammer
18 Crusader 14 16 Leadership Aura of Triumph
19 Crusader 15 17 Mountain Tombstone Strike
20 Crusader 16 18 Rallying Strike -> Strike of Righteous Vitality

This build uses ToB to recreate the Marvel superhero Captain America, who is kind of iconic for using an adamantine shield.

Rescued from the abyss by cru.

Kansaschaser
2011-02-08, 10:12 AM
There was an option in the Unearthed Arcana that allows armors and shields to provide damage reduction.

You could rule that all shields give damage reduction in addition to their full shield bonus. If you make the shield adamantine on top of that, the extra damage reduction would stack. That might make shields more appealing.

Gullintanni
2011-02-08, 10:34 AM
This would be my fix:

Feats:

Improved Shield Bash [General]
Prerequisite
Shield Proficiency.

Benefit
You gain one additional attack at your full BAB with your shield in any round where you successfully hit your opponent with your main hand. This attack does not suffer the normal to-hit penalties for TWF, nor does it stack with any additional attacks granted by TWF. For all other purposes, treat this as an off-hand attack. When you perform a shield bash, you may still apply the shieldís shield bonus to your AC. You do not gain the benefits of this feat when using an Animated shield.

Normal: Without this feat, a character who performs a shield bash loses the shieldís shield bonus to AC until his or her next turn, and treats all shield attacks as normal off-hand attacks.

Special: A fighter may select Improved Shield Bash as one of his fighter bonus feats.

Standard and Full Round Actions:

Total Defense
You can defend yourself as a standard action. You get a +4 dodge bonus to your AC for 1 round. Your AC improves at the start of this action. If you are wearing a shield, your shield bonus increases by one half of your BAB and grants you a %20 miss chance. You do not gain this benefit when using an Animated shield. You canít combine total defense with fighting defensively or with the benefit of the Combat Expertise feat (since both of those require you to declare an attack or full attack). You canít make attacks of opportunity while using total defense.

Fighting Defensively
You can choose to fight defensively when attacking. If you do so, you take a -4 penalty on all attacks in a round to gain a +2 dodge bonus to AC for the same round. If you are wearing a shield, your shield bonus increases by an amount equal to half the dodge bonus you gain from fighting defensively. You do not gain this benefit when using an Animated shield.

Special Combat Actions:

Shield Allies: As a swift action, you may give up your shield bonus until the beginning of your next round in order to grant it to any ally within your reach. You may not take this action if you are wielding an Animated shield.

These enhancements give the fighter some additional damage output on all of their attacks (full round, or standard). They function as better turtles, and can act as a defenders for their nearby allies. This makes the figher better at one of his intended roles...drawing aggression away from his friendly squishies.

Critique as you like.

Sinfonian
2011-02-08, 11:55 AM
There's also PhoenixInferno's old Captain America build:

I've been working on a shield-using build for a little bit and this build is fairly similar to the one I cooked up. However, unless there's an errata that I don't know about, Shield Sling (taken at level 4 in that build), requires BAB +9 to get. You could juggle around the unarmed strike feats to work things out, but unfortunately no throwing until rather higher level.

On topic, I like a lot of these fixes and echo the opinion that says that eliminating Animated Shields is a key step.

Vladislav
2011-02-08, 12:03 PM
The simplest steps I see in the right direction, without much homebrewing, are:

- have a shield provide a bonus to touch AC (why doesn't it? if you're holding a shield, it's more difficult to touch you, no?)
- a defense bonus against trip, disarm and similar manuevers
- a bonus to all "Reflex Half" saves (a knight taking cover behind a shield against the fiery breath of a dragon is a fantasy staple)

And yes, no animated shields.

Kuma Kode
2011-02-08, 07:02 PM
While builds and class suggestions are nice, I was hoping for something that would not force a sword-and-board character into a particular class, particularly not ToB (It's nice and all, but it shouldn't be the end-all-be-all for melee classes). So it looks like I've got to do some shield research and homebrew something up.

T.G. Oskar
2011-02-08, 07:19 PM
The simplest steps I see in the right direction, without much homebrewing, are:

- have a shield provide a bonus to touch AC (why doesn't it? if you're holding a shield, it's more difficult to touch you, no?)
- a defense bonus against trip, disarm and similar manuevers

While a good idea, the thing is that you already have such type of bonuses. Shield Ward provides both bonuses, and Parrying Shield offers only the first of the bonuses. Of course, that makes them feat taxes (to be a good shield user in terms of defense, you need to spend feat slots on them).

The argument behind "shield + armor AC does not count for touch attacks" has a fluff part and a mechanical part. The "fluff" part is that you're wearing that armor, holding that shield, but they still have contact with your person, so they're part of the general touch area; if they touch your armor or your shield, the effect still loads on you. Mechanically, it's so that certain attacks bypass the defenses of heavily armored characters, in the same way flat-footed and denying Dex bonus to AC bypasses the defenses of swift characters.

Now, does those arguments stand? I think not. Much like Uncanny Dodge is a counter to bypass the defenses of swift creatures, they should probably grant free Shield Ward to all tank-related, heavy-armor wielding characters without making it a feat. Hence, why feat taxes.

It's a well played move, but it's better to make it a class ability of certain classes. That involves homebrewing, but that would prevent just about everyone to wield a buckler, masterwork light shield or mithral shield and gain all the benefits of increased touch AC without expending feat slots, while those who have proficiency with those don't gain a further benefit. So it'll involve homebrewing, even if you don't want to.


- a bonus to all "Reflex Half" saves (a knight taking cover behind a shield against the fiery breath of a dragon is a fantasy staple)

I mentioned a similar, less contrived version of that: granting a shield bonus to Reflex so as long as they don't bypass cover; spread attacks bypass cover AND have Reflex half most of the time, so you can't count on a shield to protect you from that.


And yes, no animated shields.

I think that grants a 10% (if not more) boost to the utility of actually wielding a shield, and requires no more homebrewing than invoking Rule 0.

JaronK
2011-02-08, 07:49 PM
The reason I mentioned Shield Counter/Slam/Block/Charge is not just to point out you can already use shields, but also to show how shields should work. Even if you don't want to use ToB and want to make house rules, make them in that direction. Having shields protect allies and debuff enemies makes them useful. If you just make them better defensively no one cares... the result is enemies walk around the tin can and kill more serious threats (like the Wizard you wanted to protect). Having shields apply to touch AC and Reflex saves against area spells is all fine and well, but they're not really good until the Fighter next to the Wizard can apply that bonus to his little Wizard buddy, at which point it works much better.

So, here's a few possible homebrew rules changes/feats.

1) The Shield Ward feat is effectively free to everyone, and applies whenever you use a shield you're proficient with.
2) Shields give a bonus to reflex saves against area effects equal to their shield bonus to AC (it's easier to just apply to all of them).
3) Add a "Shield Ally" feat that grants the shield's touch AC bonus and reflex save bonus to all allies within the area you threaten without reach weapons (adjacent for medium creatures). This stacks with the Shield Block maneuver, if you have it.
4) When wielding a weapon and shield, you can as a free action grab the shield with your other hand without letting go of the other weapon and thus use the shield as a two handed weapon, though you can't attack with the weapon this round if you do this. This makes sword and board better than just wielding a shield, which is currently far better.
5) Combine the "Phalanx Fighting" and "Shield and Pike Style" feats into one feat that works with light or heavy shields and works with all piercing polearms. This makes spear and shield a valid, if niche, style. Hey, 300 was a cool movie, people want to play that.
6) Add more feats to the Shield Charge/Slam line, that make more impressive debuffs such as stunning or slowing enemies. Denying actions is a useful ability, and if you have enough debuffs no one creature will be immune to all of them. Possibly allow the Knockdown/Knockback feats to work with medium sized creatures that use shields.
7) Add feats designed to help sword and board types, like a weapon style feat that grants you a free shield bash when you critically hit with your main weapon (possibly triggering the Shield Slam tree for more debuffs) and gives other tactical bonuses as well (when fighting defensively or using combat expertise while using a shield your shield bonuses are doubled, including the bonuses to nearby allies? When you stun, trip, or otherwise debuff an enemy with your shield bash you get a bonus to hit them with your other weapon next round?).

JaronK

Siosilvar
2011-02-08, 07:58 PM
I mentioned a similar, less contrived version of that: granting a shield bonus to Reflex so as long as they don't bypass cover; spread attacks bypass cover AND have Reflex half most of the time, so you can't count on a shield to protect you from that.

Fireball is a spread, and dragon's breath probably is, too. These are the exact things shields are most commonly depicted blocking (probably even beating out arrows and swords).

JeminiZero
2011-02-08, 08:42 PM
While builds and class suggestions are nice, I was hoping for something that would not force a sword-and-board character into a particular class, particularly not ToB

I'll say it again: Improved Buckler Defence. Usable by any class (except maybe Swordsages, because their Wis to AC precludes any sort of shield use).

linebackeru
2011-02-08, 08:46 PM
I'm (sort've) borrowing this from Neverwinter Nights, but here goes:

A shield allows you to block attacks against you by making a roll (d20 + shield bonus + 1/2 BAB (?)) vs the opponent's attack roll. If you win, you take no damage from the attack.

You can make one such block for every attack you get each round.

In NWN, you give up attacks in order to do this. That seems like too much of a trade. Maybe you can still make all of your attacks and still block?

Edit: and maybe add shield bonus to your Reflex save against things like fireballs and breath weapons?

MeeposFire
2011-02-08, 09:23 PM
The best fixes will be ones that require less rolling. The more dice rolls you have to do the slower the games bog down. On video games extra rolls are not bad since the game engine does all the work quickly. On a table not so much. Think of a group of 12 hobgoblins all with shields. Do you really want to add an extra roll every time you attack a hobgoblin?

Make shields give a bonus to reflex saves equal to its bonus. I still like my hardness idea too. Then give shields quality feat support. Its power attack and charges (that rely on power attack) that makes twohanded fighting so good. It is not intrinsic to the style in the game. Oddly do not make defensive feats for the shield make them offensive. Something like this.

Bashing shield- When ever you make an attack on your turn (attack action, full attack action, strike, etc) you can make an additional attack using your shield as a weapon. All your attacks that round are at -2.

Then build from there. Shield bashing is great.

Rythius
2011-02-09, 12:23 PM
simple and no dice rolls, there are two actions in combat. offense and defense. and a characters ability to defend themselves should increase with their ability to attack. a character should add 1/2 their BAB to AC if offensive and full BAB if in a defensive stance. like total defense or fighting defensively. also have the reflex bonuses, based on base AC value. and any non proficient characters would also just use the base values. feats and other wise should not be required to make the shield worth having.

AC should not become irrelevant at higher lvls. it should remain an important part of combat through out the entire life of a game. and with this static increase method it should scale nicely.

Rythius
2011-02-09, 01:23 PM
also. animated shields should use the base value for the AC so there would be no need to get rid of them.

as far as the reflex bonus for non prof users, it should still apply, for both non prof and animated shields. its still in your possession and you will use it instinctually any way.

as far as DR goes and miss chance. many games use a block value and block rate together. have a shield have a certain amount of DR and if you roll for the block just reduce the damage that much. based on size and composition.

as far as str affecting AC, that doesnt make much sense. its not how strong you are, but how quick you can get the shield in the way. so dex would affect that. str should affect DR tho, if used.

in 2nd Ed shield did offer different values to ranged attacks as well.

and there are many different types of shields but mainly three types.
Heater, center grip, and tower.
any shield attached at the fore arm like a heater, kite, badge, ect. are built to block damage, they stick closer to the body and are less maneuverable. they are the in between or the three.
Center grip shields are quick but usually block less damage. while tower shield are built for cover and block a lot of damage. if the block rate is use then there would be three different values to each shield type.

Abemad
2011-02-09, 01:24 PM
Or maybe just give shield an ability similar to deflect arrow?

An auto block of a number of melee attacks each round (ex. equal to the shieldbonus, up to your number of iterative attacks[1 at bab 0-5, 2 at 6-10, 3 at 11-15 and 4 at 16+), and the option to ready action to block ranged attacks.

It would make sword and board fighters more competetive, give two weapon fighters slightly better odds against sword and boarders (you cant block all the attacks), and take twohanded fighters down a notch (unless they take sunder, which would actually make the feat usefull aswell...)

Person_Man
2011-02-09, 01:30 PM
Guide to Shields (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=123630)

Shields do not need to be fixed. You just need to know where to look. Examples from the above thread:

Bulwark of Antimagic: A +1 tower shield with an 1/day Anti-Magic Field. What tank doesn't love AMF? 27,580 gp. Draconomicon pg 118.

Griffin Shield: Remember Eric from the D&D cartoon (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dungeons_&_Dragons_(TV_series))? If you buy the dvd set, you get a free campaign supplement with 3.5 stats for all the main characters and enemies in the series, and you learn that Eric's shield is a +2 Bashing steel shield (that Eric wields two handed). As an Immediate Action you can use the griffin shield to create a small sphere of force like that produced by the Resilient Sphere (www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/resilientSphere.htm) spell. The effect must be centered on the user, and can be used for 5 (consecutive or non-consecutive) rounds each day. It's a phenomenal magic item to give to an NPC you don't want killed. 20,370 gp. Dungeons and Dragons cartoon campaign book.

Shield of the Severed Hand: Once per round grants you a free Bull Rush whenever an enemy attacks you and misses. (Combine with Shock Trooper and/or Dungeoncrasher for awesomeness). Requires True Believer feat and 7 HD. Complete Divine pg 102 or MIC.

Fighter: Gets Tower Shield Proficiency for free and bonus feats, which are the heart of sword and board combat, especially at low levels. He can also trade Tower Shield Proficiency away for Exotic Shield Proficiency, which is useful for several different builds. The Fighter also has some very noteworthy alternate class features and substitution levels, especially Dungeoncrasher from Dungeonscape.

Ironsoul Forgemaster: Shield Bond allows you to pump essentia into your shield for acid + cold + electricity + fire + *sonic* resistance. Has several other excellent class abilities as well. Magic of Incarnum pg 127.

Divine Shield: Burn a turn/rebuke undead to add your Cha bonus to your shield bonus for a number of rounds. Amazing for defensive Paladins or Blackguards. Comp Warrior.

Improved Shield Bash: So your DM probably wonít allow this 3.0 feat, because the name was stolen by the core 3.5 feat. But I think he should. It gives you a free, limited Bull Rush (5 ft, no follow up) whenever you make a shield bash. Combined with Karmic Strike and/or Robilarís Gambit and/or Dungeoncrasher and/or Shock Trooper, and this feat can be ridiculously useful. Requires Power Attack. Defenders of Faith pg 20. (3.0 material)

Inlindl School: You can sacrifice your shield bonus to AC to gain 1/2 that bonus To-Hit with any light or Weapon Finesse-able weapon. While this may not sound like much, keep in mind that with enhancements, Shield Specialization, Divine Shield, Knight bonuses, etc, it's not that hard to get a +10 or higher shield bonus, which means that you can easily get a +5 or higher untyped bonus to hit for a moderate investment. Also note that you could use a heavy shield and a Gnome Battle Cloak (or just a heavy shield in each hand, or one or two animated shields, etc) and only sacrifice the shield bonus from one, while keeping the bonuses from the second shield. Requires Combat Expertise, Shield Proficiency, and Weapon Finesse. Drow of the Underdark pg 56.

Shield Slam: When you charge an enemy and attack with your Shield, you get a free Trip attack (from the Shield Charge pre-req) and your enemy must Save or be Dazed for 1 round. A good mid level combo. A nice DM might let you use it with Pounce, making it far more effective. Otherwise it loses itís usefulness by ECL 11+. Requires Shield Bash and Shield Charge. Complete Warrior pg 105.

Magic Vestment (Cler 3): Basically the Greater Magic Weapon for Shields. Lasts for hours per level, and scales well. So as long as you have a Cleric in the party, your Shield's enhancement bonus need not be above +1, letting you dump the other +9 into other enchantments. PHB.

Shield Counter (Devoted Spirit 7): In response to an attack you can make an offhand shield bash as an Immediate Action, and if you hit your opponents next hit automatically misses. Tome of Battle pg 60.

Vladislav
2011-02-09, 01:34 PM
While a good idea, the thing is that you already have such type of bonuses. Shield Ward provides both bonuses, and Parrying Shield offers only the first of the bonuses. Of course, that makes them feat taxes (to be a good shield user in terms of defense, you need to spend feat slots on them).I see where you're coming from, but IMO, the very fact you're holding a shield should already make you better in defense. Much better.


The argument behind "shield + armor AC does not count for touch attacks" has a fluff part and a mechanical part. The "fluff" part is that you're wearing that armor, holding that shield, but they still have contact with your person, so they're part of the general touch area; if they touch your armor or your shield, the effect still loads on you. Mechanically, it's so that certain attacks bypass the defenses of heavily armored characters, in the same way flat-footed and denying Dex bonus to AC bypasses the defenses of swift characters.
Again, I understand the fluff argument, but there's an alternative fluff - the evil wizard mumbles an incantation and fires a ray at you. WHAM! You raise your shield to block it in the nick of time! Very vivid image, no fluff problems there.

Mechanically, well, the whole point of the discussion is to make shields better. The less mechanical effects exist that bypass the shield defense, the better shields become. It's simple.

manyslayer
2011-02-09, 02:48 PM
In many bits of fiction, a shield is used to knock an enemy's weapon aside to provide an opening as well as simply deflecting an oponent's blows. Perhaps a bonus to attack rolls. Makes the 2H wielder more damaging but the shield wielder more accurate.

Telonius
2011-02-09, 03:02 PM
One fix I've heard about is to flip Unearthed Arcana's "Armor as DR" variant to treat shields (though not armor) as giving DR x/- or x/adamantine.

Buckler: DR1
Light Wooden: DR2
Light Steel: DR3
Heavy Wooden: DR4
Heavy Steel: DR5
Tower: DR6 or higher

Depending on how the numbers crunch, this might be in addition to giving the usual Shield bonus to AC. This would both make shields a bit nicer, as well as cut down on dice rolling. Possible feat to go with this: Shield Specialization, which would either double the DR or grant a scaling bonus according to BAB (Prereq: BAB 10).

Pechvarry
2011-02-09, 06:19 PM
Shield Slam and Shield Charge are a good start...

WotC hates shields so much, I do believe Shield Slam is the ONLY Daze effect in all of 3.5 that is also precision-based (meaning it's as bad in the versatility department as a fear build).


Shields do not need to be fixed. You just need to know where to look.

I never thought I'd disagree with you so vehemently. None of those options outdo a reach/AoO tank forgoing the shield or using an animated shield.

--

Disclosure: I hate reach reliance, animated shields, and bucklers.

One thing I did (and posted here on the forums) was an upgrade to the basic Improved Shield Bash feat, in order to make a very low barrier of entry into tanking:

Improved Shield Bash
Benefits: When you perform a shield bash, you may choose to either still apply the shieldís shield bonus to your AC or, if the attack is successful, you may give up your shield bonus to AC to impose a penalty on your struck foe equal to your shield bonus. The change to AC and penalty to opponent's attacks lasts until the start of your next turn.

I feel like shield bashing should represent constant harassment of your opponents (with a large protective barrier keeping you safe from retaliation), and it should have a very real advantage. So my feat is basically "you can keep your defense against all enemies, or single out one to suck equally against all allies." Since it's an untyped penalty, it won't stack with itself. It also doesn't play terribly well with Shield Ward, which keeps it from synergizing too well on builds with tons of feats.

In addition to that, you need something that competes with reach (and I'm always stumped on how to do that well). From there, personal, defensive buffs are just icing on the cake -- I'm happy enough with simply upping light and heavy shields by +1 AC each.

T.G. Oskar
2011-02-09, 07:45 PM
I see where you're coming from, but IMO, the very fact you're holding a shield should already make you better in defense. Much better.


Again, I understand the fluff argument, but there's an alternative fluff - the evil wizard mumbles an incantation and fires a ray at you. WHAM! You raise your shield to block it in the nick of time! Very vivid image, no fluff problems there.

Mechanically, well, the whole point of the discussion is to make shields better. The less mechanical effects exist that bypass the shield defense, the better shields become. It's simple.

Um...notice what I say later:


Now, does those arguments stand? I think not. Much like Uncanny Dodge is a counter to bypass the defenses of swift creatures, they should probably grant free Shield Ward to all tank-related, heavy-armor wielding characters without making it a feat. Hence, why feat taxes.

It's a well played move, but it's better to make it a class ability of certain classes. That involves homebrewing, but that would prevent just about everyone to wield a buckler, masterwork light shield or mithral shield and gain all the benefits of increased touch AC without expending feat slots, while those who have proficiency with those don't gain a further benefit. So it'll involve homebrewing, even if you don't want to.

I agree with your ideas, but making them inherent properties of shields only helps shields, not the ones that might make most use of them (aka, martial characters). I was just playing DA on your arguments, but when I mentioned (do they stand?) I was serious; however, by making them class abilities, those classes that might make better use of them (Fighters, Paladins, Knights, Crusaders) will get full benefit while those who might just get it for the benefits (the Big 5) will have to purposely multiclass or make a very heavy investment to gain the same benefit. Remember that, unlike proficiency with armor, proficiency with shields can be plausibly ignored because bucklers can be worn without armor penalty, mithral shields ignore all ASF save that from Tower Shields, and Tower Shields pretty much universally require taking a feat (or dipping 1 level into Fighter), so you'd gain a plethora of benefits without taking a feat, while those who take a feat will get no further benefit other than supposedly being able to use them better. Making them class abilities makes the actual shield users have a degree of exclusivity over other shield users, be it those who take the feat or those who simply ignore the penalties because of special traits.

Vladislav
2011-02-09, 07:58 PM
I agree with your ideas, but making them inherent properties of shields only helps shields, not the ones that might make most use of them (aka, martial characters).As a compromise, how about only making all/some of them available to characters proficient with shields? Making them class features goes a bit too far, IMO.

In a campaign I'm running, Shield Proficiency actually says "you gain the benefits of Shield Ward whenever you're wielding a shield you are proficient with".

pilvento
2011-02-09, 08:18 PM
I suggested a fix a while back where, like the 2x power attack bonus for two-handing, you get a 2x combat expertise bonus when you wield a shield.

this is ra really good idea. but the "shield sucks" problems for me is basically that a buckler +5 can be used by any character and a single feat lets u have a free hand. a shield +5 defend for 1 extra ac than the buckler and ruins u one hand

Pechvarry
2011-02-09, 11:22 PM
I still don't see a lot of discussion about making shields good for the party. Feats, class features, inherent changes to shields -- doesn't matter if it all it does is make the invincible Crusader slightly invincible....er.

Zeful
2011-02-10, 01:14 AM
I still don't see a lot of discussion about making shields good for the party. Feats, class features, inherent changes to shields -- doesn't matter if it all it does is make the invincible Crusader slightly invincible....er.

One of my plans for a paladin remake would be to give them a class feature around shields that would allow the paladin to change the shape of enemy Area Effects like dragon breath and fireball by designating squares that the effect can't enter. He has to be adjacent to the squares being affected and they can't be closer to the source them him. It's hilariously kludgy implementation, but I think it's the single most iconic ability the fantasy genre has to offer.

Hida Reju
2011-02-10, 01:59 AM
I have read the thread and like where the ideas are going. Here are some I have seen in action myself. These are all separate instances and many were not in the same game at all.

1. Total AC from shield is doubled vs Ranged attacks, Seeking on arrows or bow negated this.

2. Grants 1/2 Total AC Bonus to all reflex vs half damage saves.

3. DR/- equal to Shield bonus vs Non-spell ranged attacks.

4. Grants 1/2 total AC bonus to all Bull Rush attempts and resists.

5. Grants a %miss chance based on size of shield. 10% bucker, 15% light, 20% heavy, and 30% tower.

6. Granted an amount of Fortification (Protection from crits/SA) based on size, Bucker 0%, Light 10%, Heavy 15%, Tower 25%.

7. Shield proficiency counts as Two Weapon fighting for the purpose of shield bashing with any shield you are skilled with. (This was a big one and I am not sure how balanced it was).

8. When a standard action to set for charge is taken gain +4 bonus to AC vs Charges when using a light shield or heavier.

9. During Total defense action double AC Bonus from shield.

10. During Total Defense action Gain DR/- equal to shield bonus.

Endarire
2011-02-10, 05:30 AM
Sword and Board Handbook (http://brilliantgameologists.com/boards/index.php?topic=10232.0)

Person_Man
2011-02-10, 11:10 AM
I never thought I'd disagree with you so vehemently. None of those options outdo a reach/AoO tank forgoing the shield or using an animated shield.

I accept your challenge sir.

An animated shield costs a minimum of 9,000 gp + materials. Assuming standard wealth by level, the earliest you could afford it is sometime between ECL 5 and 6. Realistically, you're probably not going to buy or find a single treasure of this cost until ECL 7-10. So any argument that says "Animated Shields < Everything Else" should be followed with the asterisk of *above ECL 7.

So knowing that you're not going to have an animated shield until ECL 7ish+, lets examine low levels. At this point in the game, AC matters, sometimes dramatically so because of low hit points and unoptimized Initiative. There are very few damage combos that really kick in before level 6ish. (Power Attack needs BAB and damage multipliers, natural weapons and unarmed strike needs size increases, spells need caster levels and metamagic, etc). To-hit is similarly unreliable, especially if you're using Power Attack without Shock Trooper. So players who choose to use sword and board and the associated feats and abilities are making a legitimate trade-off. Do I want to deal a moderate amount of extra damage, or do I want to be hit 10-30%ish less?

Let's move on to mid-levels, ECL 6-10ish. AC still matters (but far less so), everyone's super damage combo starts kicking in, you can reasonably afford an animated shield, etc. At this level, there are a number of Sword & Board (or lance and board) combos that can reasonably compete with your standard reach/AoO tank or ubercharger. A Dungeoncrasher Fighter with the Shield of the Severed Hand. Shield Slam gives you a very strong Trip and Daze effect (which nothing is immune to). A Paladin or Cleric with Magic Vestment, Divine Shield, and Shield Ward, who has ridiculously high AC, Touch AC, and ability to resist Trip/Bull Rush/Grapple. A Knight who uses a Griffin Shield and Test of Mettle to endlessly frustrate enemies. And so on.

And now we reach high levels, ECL 11+. At this point, I will fully concede that Sword & Board clearly starts to fall behind. Nonetheless, there are still a few reasonable options at this level. An Ironsoul Forgemaster gets universal energy resistance 20ish, and an (unrelated to Sword & Board) capstone ability to Daze enemies on every attack, plus plenty of soulmelds and chakra binds. A Cleric could use Inlindl School with Magic Vestment and Divine Shield to gain a +6 or higher untyped bonus To-Hit, which he uses to ensure that every touch attack spell hits. A Binder could use his ability to spam Animate Objects to crowd the field with weak allies, use Formation Expert to gain free movement every time an ally is killed, and use Sand Dancer and/or an AoO combo and/or a Save or Suck to smack every enemy on the battlefield every round.

But lets be honest with ourselves and recognize that whatever melee combo you or I dream up, it's a joke compared to high level spells and psionics. Comparing Sword & Board to Ubercharger or Sir Trips-a-Lot at this level is like having a contest for the world's tallest midget. The tallest midget might clearly be taller then the average midget, but they're both little people.

And from a practical optimization point of view, if you're playing a build that's capable of dealing 500+ damage every turn, your enemies are going to have 1000+ hit points. Sir Trips-a-Lot will be fighting a lot of Incorporeal and Elemental enemies. Shields do not have a OMG ROXOR! combo associated with them. But like many defensive options, they also are not in danger of being intentionally nerfed by your DM.

So that's my case. I'm not arguing that Sword & Board is > Other Stuff. I'm merely saying that there are reasonably useful builds that a player could have fun while "keeping up" with his more optimal friends, especially at lower levels.

T.G. Oskar
2011-02-10, 12:07 PM
I accept your challenge sir.

An animated shield costs a minimum of 9,000 gp + materials. Assuming standard wealth by level, the earliest you could afford it is sometime between ECL 5 and 6. Realistically, you're probably not going to buy or find a single treasure of this cost until ECL 7-10. So any argument that says "Animated Shields < Everything Else" should be followed with the asterisk of *above ECL 7.

So knowing that you're not going to have an animated shield until ECL 7ish+, lets examine low levels. At this point in the game, AC matters, sometimes dramatically so because of low hit points and unoptimized Initiative. There are very few damage combos that really kick in before level 6ish. (Power Attack needs BAB and damage multipliers, natural weapons and unarmed strike needs size increases, spells need caster levels and metamagic, etc). To-hit is similarly unreliable, especially if you're using Power Attack without Shock Trooper. So players who choose to use sword and board and the associated feats and abilities are making a legitimate trade-off. Do I want to deal a moderate amount of extra damage, or do I want to be hit 10-30%ish less?

Let's move on to mid-levels, ECL 6-10ish. AC still matters (but far less so), everyone's super damage combo starts kicking in, you can reasonably afford an animated shield, etc. At this level, there are a number of Sword & Board (or lance and board) combos that can reasonably compete with your standard reach/AoO tank or ubercharger. A Dungeoncrasher Fighter with the Shield of the Severed Hand. Shield Slam gives you a very strong Trip and Daze effect (which nothing is immune to). A Paladin or Cleric with Magic Vestment, Divine Shield, and Shield Ward, who has ridiculously high AC, Touch AC, and ability to resist Trip/Bull Rush/Grapple. A Knight who uses a Griffin Shield and Test of Mettle to endlessly frustrate enemies. And so on.

And now we reach high levels, ECL 11+. At this point, I will fully concede that Sword & Board clearly starts to fall behind. Nonetheless, there are still a few reasonable options at this level. An Ironsoul Forgemaster gets universal energy resistance 20ish, and an (unrelated to Sword & Board) capstone ability to Daze enemies on every attack, plus plenty of soulmelds and chakra binds. A Cleric could use Inlindl School with Magic Vestment and Divine Shield to gain a +6 or higher untyped bonus To-Hit, which he uses to ensure that every touch attack spell hits. A Binder could use his ability to spam Animate Objects to crowd the field with weak allies, use Formation Expert to gain free movement every time an ally is killed, and use Sand Dancer and/or an AoO combo and/or a Save or Suck to smack every enemy on the battlefield every round.

But lets be honest with ourselves and recognize that whatever melee combo you or I dream up, it's a joke compared to high level spells and psionics. Comparing Sword & Board to Ubercharger or Sir Trips-a-Lot at this level is like having a contest for the world's tallest midget. The tallest midget might clearly be taller then the average midget, but they're both little people.

And from a practical optimization point of view, if you're playing a build that's capable of dealing 500+ damage every turn, your enemies are going to have 1000+ hit points. Sir Trips-a-Lot will be fighting a lot of Incorporeal and Elemental enemies. Shields do not have a OMG ROXOR! combo associated with them. But like many defensive options, they also are not in danger of being intentionally nerfed by your DM.

So that's my case. I'm not arguing that Sword & Board is > Other Stuff. I'm merely saying that there are reasonably useful builds that a player could have fun while "keeping up" with his more optimal friends, especially at lower levels.

Strong point, except it apparently misses the point entirely. If what you tried was to defend the viability of a shield build, fine: you CAN make a good build that reinforces the use of a shield. What's looked at in here is to how to make it better to compare to the simplicity of making TWF or PA builds.

For example: at 1st level, a character can get PA and a decent 2-hander weapon. From level 1, the damage output is very good: Str x1.5 + 2xPA for the loss of 1 point of attack bonus, so by having the bare minimum (Str 13 for Power Attack), you're dealing an extra 3 points of damage from the get-go, with a 5% decrease in efficiency. A shield grants from 5% to 20% worth the chances of attacks affecting you, so that's reasonable, if not strong.

Come level 2, the damage output is 5 points with a 10% loss of efficiency. The shield still offers from 5% to 20% decrease in effective attacks.

At level 5, you might get a +1 shield, so that's an extra 5% increase. Let's say you get Shield Specialization, for the heck of it, and Shield Ward to make it very nice. You get a pretty much undeniable 15%-30% reduced chance to hit. A PA-using character gets a +1 weapon, so not only his damage increases, his chances of missing are reduced. So you get something around 12 points of damage with a 20% decrease in chances of hitting (25%, but remember your weapon is a +1). Of course, by now we've been assuming you're dealing with a standardized amount of AC, but to make it fair, we're also dealing with a standardized attack bonus.

Is a shield build bad? No. Is a Power Attack build better than a shield build? Yes. Why so? Not only because you're ending battles faster, but because you need only one feat. If Power Attack had been like Combat Expertise (up to 5 points of BAB for a total increase of 10 points of damage), pretty much everything would receive an indirect boost.

The idea is to get fixes that approach that level of utility and simplicity. Some of us are going by directly improving the shield stats and providing greater bonuses (such as resist bull rush, disarm, grapple, trip; add AC bonus to Reflex saves) to make shields viable for longer; some, like Pech, attempt to make shields a viable combat tactic instead of a defensive tactic. That doesn't mean we're ignoring the existing material; we acknowledge that, but find we need a bit more to place sword & board as effective as Power Attack, be it by making it simple or by making it useful.

As a much, much, much better example: a Fighter, Paladin, Knight or Crusader (the kind of people you expect using shields) require at least two feats (Shield Specialization and Shield Ward; you might replace with Parrying Shield but it's only half as effective) to do something decent with the shield: trying to use it offensively eats at least 1 feat (Imp. Shield Bash) and generally 2 or 3 more feats (Shield Slam, Shield Charge, Shield Sling, Agile Shield Fighter) in order to make it a bit more competitive. Paladins get Divine Shield, Knights get Shield Ally and class boosts, Crusaders get Devoted Spirit maneuvers; Fighters, on the other hand, won't suffer that much because they have feats to spare. PA-users? Only one feat (Power Attack) and one decent two-handed weapon, and they have just about anything they need; everything else is optional and gives a multiplicative effect (in the case of Combat Brute and Leap Attack, you literally get a multiplicative effect). This isn't comparing sword & board to Ubercharger; this is comparing sword & board with someone who takes Power Attack and happens to wield a 2-handed weapon, period. You don't need to charge to do so; just exchange your BAB for damage, take advantage of the 2:1 ratio, and that's mostly it. When you factor what feats can do to PA in comparison to what feats do to sword & board, you figure shields need something else to keep going on.

And I think everybody has mentioned "no Animated Shields". They are options in-game; however, they are pretty much the sole reason why not to devote to a Shield build, since you can get the core benefit without having to hold the darn thing. Heck, Animated AND Dancing allows you to make a 2H sword & board build, if the lack of proper RAW reading is to be believed...

Again: that doesn't mean that devoting to make a proper shield build is totally gimped; it's that the returns of Power Attack are exaggerate. Heck, comparing to TWF still delivers better returns than devoting to a Shield and wielding a sword. Using a reach weapon has a slightly more stringent set of requirements but deliver an entirely different set of returns than using shields.

Though, and addressing Pech: what do you exactly mean by "making shields useful to the party"? I think the OP sought for ways to make them viable, and that has been delivered...

Cogidubnus
2011-02-10, 01:59 PM
Blast it, I can't remember where it was now, but in a DnD based PC game (Might've been DDO?) shields granted you DR as well as an AC boost. This made them actually more functional, cos it didn't matter if an enemy hit you or not, the shield still helped.

Kuma Kode
2011-02-10, 02:48 PM
Thank you, everyone, for the suggestions. I wasn't trying to say that an effective shield build was not possible, but that it required either particular classes to actually use, magic items, or feat chains that still did little to actually improve shields, considering how much of a feat tax they were. While I understand feats would be necessary to some extent, I am firmly against requiring magic items to make shields viable, and requiring a particular class or feature pidgeonholes anyone who wants to be sword-and-board into a single class, which other combat options do not.

I'll start working on something soon.

The goal will be to make shields useful to anyone who wants to invest the time and effort into them, but not to make them abusable with some darkwood/masterwork buckler shenanigans.

Tanking abilities, such as defending allies and such, is more role-based than it is equipment, so I'll leave that to classes and feats to handle.

Pechvarry
2011-02-10, 11:38 PM
I normally hate multiquoting someone, as it seems like I'm dissecting their words, so my apologies:


I accept your challenge sir.

I peed myself a little.


<summary>good stuff to know about capability comparisons</summary>

Sure, shields can be cool and stuff. But it's a high feat investment to get a hodgepodge of effects and none of them make you that great at tanking. And I want to point out: this is where we speak of different things. Shields are great, but I like the idea of an armored warrior protecting his allies (and not relying on flinging insults like some MMO). And this is something shields simply fail at in 3.5.


Shield Slam gives you a very strong Trip and Daze effect (which nothing is immune to)

Unfortunately, as I pointed out above, Shield Slam's Daze effect is the worst Daze effect in the game: anything immune to critical hits is completely unaffected. I always try to convince myself to close the book before I get to that sentence in the hopes that WotC can still undo it!


So that's my case. I'm not arguing that Sword & Board is > Other Stuff. I'm merely saying that there are reasonably useful builds that a player could have fun while "keeping up" with his more optimal friends, especially at lower levels.

Oh I know you're not saying it's zomg uber. And I totally see the "unlikely to attract DM ire" angle. But any crusader (or even knight!) tank build is better off with a spiked chain or other reach weapon than relying on the class features that benefit using a shield. You can put a couple feats into crowd control (reach weapon + combat reflexes + stand still) and still be good at other stuff, or you can sink all your feats into making shields good and a) be forced to skimp on crowd control feats or b) find a way to get them too and still be worse at it than the guy with 3 simple feats.

I think these are things you can agree with.

MeeposFire
2011-02-11, 12:53 AM
You could make a 4e style fighter with some feats for shield users

Combat Challenge- All enemies adjacent to you take a -2 penalty to attack rolls if they make an attack that does not include you. This penalty increases by 1 every 4 levels. If they make an attack that does not include you the target provokes an attack of opportunity. This feat requires you to wield a shield in your hand.

Combat Superiority-If you hit an enemy with an attack of opportunity you stop their movement (if movement provoked their attack). You gain a bonus to AoO equal to your wisdom modifier. This feat requires you to wield a shield in your hand.

Shield push-If you hit with an attack you made from combat challenge you can choose to initiate a bull rush. Since this takes place before the attack finishes if you knock the enemy far enough away that the enemy's target is out of its reach you effectively nullify its attack. This feat requires you to wield a shield a shield in your hand.

Come and get it-Make an intimidate check against the sense motive skill of all enemies within 15 feat. If your check beats theirs enemies immediately must make an attack on the fighter. This may entail moving adjacent to the fighter.

These are just rough ideas.

Pechvarry
2011-02-11, 05:42 PM
Combat Superiority-If you hit an enemy with an attack of opportunity you stop their movement (if movement provoked their attack). You gain a bonus to AoO equal to your wisdom modifier. This feat requires you to wield a shield in your hand.

Active Shield Defense (PHB2) allows you to ignore fighting defensive penalties on AoOs if you're using a shield. This makes me think of something like that rolled into Stand Still. Not quite the same, just spouting things as they come across my brain matter.

MeeposFire
2011-02-12, 12:46 AM
Active Shield Defense (PHB2) allows you to ignore fighting defensive penalties on AoOs if you're using a shield. This makes me think of something like that rolled into Stand Still. Not quite the same, just spouting things as they come across my brain matter.

It is sort of like stand still except better for a shield user since it automatically stops movement rather than letting a saving throw vs damage (stand stills DC is based on your damage roll).