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View Full Version : Making Shields Worthwhile [PF/E6]



Altair_the_Vexed
2012-05-12, 06:05 PM
I propose some rules changes to make shields more useful, more desirable and maybe a little more realistic (or at least, a little more cinematic / dramatic).
I'm hoping to hone these rules with the feedback I get here, plus some playtesting at home - so please chip in with any comments you have.

Pre-amble
It's often said that using a shield plus a one-handed weapon is sub-optimal - you miss out on dealing damage, and you don't get that much in return.
Also, in d20 games, shields are just a static AC bonus, and rarely get damaged.

In the real world, shield plus weapon is a common fighting style. Iconic warriors benefited from good use of shields. Shields tended to be smashed, dented or pinned with weapons, and were often one-battle items, either being repaired or replaced after a lengthy fight.
d20 games, however, don't model that very well at all. Using a shield is decided sub-optimal in D&D and PF.

Interpose shield
When you are about to be dealt HP damage, you may use your shield to take the blow instead. The shield gains the broken condition, or worse. The damage dealt by the intercepted blow is recorded, and the shield's condition worsens accordingly, as if the shield had been hit with a Sunder attack. However, when the shield is used to take the blow in this manner, it is at least broken, and reduced to half HP. A shield that is already broken is destroyed. Any excess damage from destroying a shield is applied to you.
You must be proficient with the shield to interpose it in this manner.
You must declare that you are using the shield to take the blow before the damage is announced.
A shield may not be interposed unless it is providing a shield bonus to AC, and you are not flatfooted.

Enchanted shields
Enchanted shields are not automatically broken when used to intercept a blow. The damage of the attack is applied to shield as if it were hit by a Sunder attack, including the normal reductions from hardness.

Critical hits
Confirmed critical hits may not be intercepted by a shield.

Behind the curtain
This rule rewards players for opting to take a shield for their character, instead of concentrating on dealing damage.
Not only are shields under this rule much more desirable, but enchanted shields are even more so. An enchanted shield takes on the protective ability that we see in heroic myth and literature - the owner simply avoids most low damage hits: those mook guards are no match for the magic shield!
However, creatures dealing massive damage will still be able to destroy the shield - a +5 heavy steel shield will have a hardness of 20 and 70 HP, so a killer blow of 50 HP from a big creature will damage it, but the player can elect to parry that blow with the shield (which could be repaired later).

Grod_The_Giant
2012-05-12, 06:23 PM
Eeeehhhh... it's a cool idea, but way too harsh. Your example of the +5 shield that can be destroyed by 50 damage? By the time you can afford to drop 25,000 gold on a shield, a lot of attacks are simply going to be dealing more damage than that. And if it does get destroyed, that's a sizable chunk of wealth gone, poof! There's a real problem of having to carry around stacks and stacks of shields to make the style effective.

At the very least, allow all shields to take damage instead of being instantly destroyed. As for magic shields... well, the +X AC is less useful. Instead, have each +X add, say, +X hardness and +25X HP. That way, a +5 (the maxiumum) heavy shield will have 15 hardness and 175 health (in 3.5, may be different in PF), making it a lot hardy enough to take a few high-level hits.

It may be easier to allow non-tower shields to grant you cover. Or at the very least, a bonus to touch AC.

TuggyNE
2012-05-12, 06:41 PM
However, creatures dealing massive damage will still be able to destroy the shield - a +5 heavy steel shield will only have a hardness of 15 and 10 HP, so a killer blow of 50 HP from a big creature will still destroy it, but the player can elect to mitigate that blow by sacrificing the shield (which could be repaired later).

I like this on the whole, but note that, according to the rules for enchanting shields (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/magicItems/magicArmor),
Each +1 of enhancement bonus adds 2 to a shield’s hardness and +10 to its hit points.

So a +5 heavy steel shield would actually have 20 hardness and 70 HP (it starts with 10 and 20 respectively, according to Common Armor, Weapon, and Shield Hardness and Hit Points (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/exploration.htm#tableCommonArmorWeaponAndShieldHar dnessAndHitPoints)); a blow of 50 HP to it would first be halved, since it's an object, then hardness subtracted, and finally the remainder applied to its HP — 5 HP lost, in all. Noticeable, but not unworkable.

Jade Dragon
2012-05-12, 06:51 PM
Make the damage half of what it would've been. Or make them roll a sunder attempt, with all the normal modifiers, including an AoO from the defender if they don't have Improved Sunder (if you really want to go by stories, in an Elder Scrolls story on their website, a guy with a razor-sharp daikatana got it stuck in his opponent's wooden shield after easily penetrating the B-grade iron rim, and the other guy took the opportunity to make an attack with his longsword).

Also, magic shields are expensive. Give it a +1 enhancement that makes it indestructible, or something, since D&D doesn't have indestructible artifacts like Exalted (all artifacts are indestructible. It can be softened with enough heat, so it can be shaped, but pretty much the only way to do that in combat is to be something like the Greater Elemental Dragon of Fire. Isidoros, Malfeas, and certain Devil-Tigers are probably strong enough to break it, but otherwise? Nah) or Greek myths (Achilles's stuff, made by Hephaestus, never broke, and probably was never even damaged, since it was a prize after his death, and Odysseus was given the artifacts) or Marvel stuff (Cap's shield is stronger than true adamantium, and secondary adamantium is the strongest adamantium recorded to have been damaged at all, only slightly dented in two situations, one where Thor hit it with Mjolnir, and one where the Hulk hit it. That's strong. Then there's the fact that Iron Man's current suit is made of vibranium, which can only be damaged by other vibranium...).

tarkisflux
2012-05-12, 11:21 PM
Any attempt to make sword and board a more useful style should probably start off with banning dancing shields. Otherwise, any improvement you make to shields winds up being an improvement for everyone, and sword and board continues to lag behind.

The rest of this critique might be a due to a difference in playstyles, but in the games that I have played in and the games that I run purely defensive abilities without serious offense to back them up are basically wasted. Yeah, you're harder to kill, but you're also not as large of a threat, so the easy to hurt guy who is also a bigger threat makes for a better target. And this looks exactly like that sort of thing. The guy with the shield has more 'hit points' and will be harder to remove from the fight, but that doesn't make him a priority target and those 'hit points' probably won't help him keep his friends up.

So I think the concept needs to be expanded a bit. You could make it more serious by letting them block attacks against adjacent allies with their shield as well, so that even if they're not being targeted directly they can assist defensively. And it could also provide a bonus to touch AC, to both the wielder or one of those adjacent (per attack, so you can spread around the defense).

Or you could do something more offensive and turn shield fighting into a TWF like thing where it's doing things on your turn. I'd say "like shield bash", but that's a boring one. Instead, you could have shield attacks trigger single round debuffs, like penalties to attack from having your weapon knocked out of place or a defensive penalty for being knocked off balance or getting your arm/weapon trapped. Or whatever, there's lots of historical shield uses you could grab and turn into debuffs that the whole party could benefit from and aren't just extra damage from a bash.

You could even do all of the above if you wanted. I don't know if I'd worry about it adding to AC at all if you had actual things to do with it in a fight, but that's might just be me.

Anyway, my 2cp. And whether you agree with the latter stuff or not, you should either dump dancing or just seriously restrict new benefits available with a dancing shield.

Seerow
2012-05-12, 11:34 PM
I don't like the idea of your shield being able to be straight up broken. You say your mechanic makes shields more desirable, I say any mechanic that makes your equipment break is by default going to be less desirable. You're talking about blowing 25k+ gp and giving up your offhand, to get effectively 70 temporary hit points. It's straight up not worth it.





tuggyne: I believe the half damage only applies to certain energy types, and to ranged attacks. Melee attacks deal full damage to an object, so you wouldn't divide it by 2, unless I'm missing something.


edit:
Then there's the fact that Iron Man's current suit is made of vibranium, which can only be damaged by other vibranium...).

Wow, where on earth (or I guess where off of earth is equally appropriate) did Tony Stark find enough Vibranium for that?

Techwarrior
2012-05-13, 12:54 AM
What we (the people I campaign with regularly) have done to make shields more effective is this.

Shields no longer grant an armor class bonus at all.
Instead shields give you a number of parries per round based on the size of the shield. (Bucklers/small shields 1, Large shields 2, Tower shields 4)
These parries may only be used while you're not flatfooted. Size of the shield also affects the parry roll. Small shields give a +1 bonus. Large shields and tower shields give a +3 bonus to the parry roll.
Bucklers still allow for weapons in your main hand. Small shields do not. This only brings a tower shield up to a small shield for, but makes large shields the best at succeeding at a parry attempt. The Enhancement bonus of a shield is applied to parry attempts, not bashes. (unless you make it a weapon and a shield, but that's not how it works generically)

A parry can be declared any time that someone within the area you threaten with your shield would take damage. In other words, after I make my attack roll (and critical threat roll, if applicable), but before I roll damage; you can declare a parry.

Whether a parry is successful is determined by an opposed attack roll, (you're using the shield as your weapon) if you beat my attack roll, you parry. If you don't my attack is carried out normally. A successful parry completely nullifies my attack, but the attempt (even if you fail) costs you a parry use. Each person may only attempt to parry an attack once, but if one person fails, another person can attempt.

What it wound up doing was removing critical hits completely. The party fighter had a tower shield, weapon focus (tower shield), and all of the feats we brewed for parrying. Any time a critical hit was successfully confirmed by me, he would immediately parry it.

Parrying Feats:

Improved Parry
Prerequisites: BAB +1, Shield Proficiency
Benefit: If you are proficient with the shield you are using, you gain a +4 bonus to parry attempts made with the shield.

The you have to be proficient clause is so that you still take the -4 nonproficiency penalty with towers if you're not proficient

Reflexive Parrying
Prerequisites: Combat Reflexes, Shield Proficiency, BAB 6+
By sacrificing offense you can parry much longer than normal.
Benefit: You may 'hold' attacks that you would otherwise be allowed to make. For each 'held' attack you get extra parry attempts at the attack bonus the attack would have. These attacks are used after normal parries.
Normal: You only have a number of parries a round based on your shield type

Example:
Vassikyn is a 12th level fighter using a longsword and a large shield. He has the Reflexive Parrying feat. Garret is a 12th level ranger with the two weapon fighting fighting style fighting with 2 longswords. Vassikyn declares on his action that he will make a full attack. He chooses to 'hold' the first two attacks in his attack chain but uses his third attack to swing at Garret with a +2 BAB. Garret also takes a full attack action. Since he has greater two weapon fighting, Garret makes 6 attacks. Vassikyn may choose to parry any of these attacks, or may choose to continue holding them. 3 of the parries Vassikyn has access to have an attack bonus of 12, the fourth one has an attack bonus of 7. If Vassikyn doesn't use all 4 of his parry attempts, he loses the extra ones that he did not use and starts fresh next round.

Intercept Arrows
Prerequisite: Improved Parrying
You have defended your friends from the melee attacks of your foes, now, in your attempt to protect your allies you have learned to protect them from missiles.
Benefit: You can make parry attempts against ranged attacks. (but not rays)

Intercept Ray
Storm of swords, weather-able. Volley of arrows, no problem. Spells, deflected.
Prerequisites: Improved Parrying, Intercept Arrows
Benefit: You can make parry attempts against ray effects, however the spells effects will still affect you, since the energy of the spell is quite capable of traveling through your shield.

This works really well for us. Shields become a legitimate concern, and often are targeted for sunders. (or called shot disintigrates) This is the version of it we use now. Dancing shields can still be used, but they are MUCH less effective, as they attack on their own. They make a d20 roll and add any enhancement bonus. They do not use any of your bonuses. In fact it hit the enchantment so hard that we treated the enchantment as if it gave the shield the improved parry feat and on top of that the enchantment cost (animated is a +2 bonus) gave that bonus as an increase to the enhancement bonus of the shield, which could add to more than 5 with the bonus.

TuggyNE
2012-05-13, 01:26 AM
tuggyne: I believe the half damage only applies to certain energy types, and to ranged attacks. Melee attacks deal full damage to an object, so you wouldn't divide it by 2, unless I'm missing something.

Bah, you are correct (as usual :smalltongue:). Yeah, given that, it goes from marginal right back to pretty awful.

Altair_the_Vexed
2012-05-13, 03:00 AM
@ tuggyne: Yes, thanks - I missed that. Fixed the OP. But you're right, even the most awesome shield is going to get battered to bits by repeated massive damage.


I don't like the idea of your shield being able to be straight up broken. You say your mechanic makes shields more desirable, I say any mechanic that makes your equipment break is by default going to be less desirable. You're talking about blowing 25k+ gp and giving up your offhand, to get effectively 70 temporary hit points. It's straight up not worth it.

I'm not sure, but I suspect many posters here are missing the point. You choose to interpose your shield. Your shield isn't broken by default:
if you choose to parry with it, and your shield is non-magical, it is broken if it's magical, you get to choose to parry with it and it gets hit with a sunder attack, which may not break it or even damage it a magical shield will indefinitely protect you from any attack dealing less than its hardness (12 or more) in HP

In vanilla d20, you don't get to put your shield in the way, you just get a bonus to AC.
Under this proposal, you can choose to parry the attack. Surely that means that shield is more useful than in a system where you don't get to parry with it at all?

Aldgar
2012-05-13, 03:14 AM
This definitely adds another(optional) layer of defense.

I like this.

Seerow
2012-05-13, 07:59 AM
@ tuggyne: Yes, thanks - I missed that. Fixed the OP. But you're right, even the most awesome shield is going to get battered to bits by repeated massive damage.



I'm not sure, but I suspect many posters here are missing the point. You choose to interpose your shield. Your shield isn't broken by default:
if you choose to parry with it, and your shield is non-magical, it is broken if it's magical, you get to choose to parry with it and it gets hit with a sunder attack, which may not break it or even damage it a magical shield will indefinitely protect you from any attack dealing less than its hardness (12 or more) in HP

In vanilla d20, you don't get to put your shield in the way, you just get a bonus to AC.
Under this proposal, you can choose to parry the attack. Surely that means that shield is more useful than in a system where you don't get to parry with it at all?

Sorry but adding an overcosted option that nobody will ever use doesn't make it an actual improvement, much less a fix.

Altair_the_Vexed
2012-05-13, 08:19 AM
Sorry but adding an overcosted option that nobody will ever use doesn't make it an actual improvement, much less a fix.
Please explain your point - "overcosted" is not a word. What do you mean by it?

bobthe6th
2012-05-13, 08:35 AM
when you can get a really weak version of stone skin by shattering an item... not cool, as it means they just lost all the gold invested into that shield. overly expensive is more the word, but in proper use of this pigeon of a language, contracting "over cost" seems more accurate.

I would suggest a)making shields like ammunition, you get 20 for the price of one, or b) you make magic shields able to fix themselves after one minute or something. then you aren't blowing a level appropriate magic item to stop one attack or two.

Seerow
2012-05-13, 09:03 AM
Actually I've been looking at this all wrong.

The obvious answer is nobody will ever enchant shields ever. Sure the non-magic shields are guaranteed to break, but that's okay, because they're cheap. Anyone who wants to use a shield will just get a handy haversack filled up with about 1000 of the suckers, and use quick draw to pull a new one out for every attack so they never take damage.



Edit: Nevermind just reread it, it only blocks the damage it takes to destroy the shield. So even in that scenario you're wasting a few thousand GP, a feat, and a bunch of storage space (probably more GP), to get effectively a medium level of DR. So it's still a terrible overpriced option.

Grod_The_Giant
2012-05-13, 09:16 AM
@ tuggyne: Yes, thanks - I missed that. Fixed the OP. But you're right, even the most awesome shield is going to get battered to bits by repeated massive damage.
Which...kind of makes it a lot less awesome of a shield, doesn't it?


I'm not sure, but I suspect many posters here are missing the point. You choose to interpose your shield. Your shield isn't broken by default:
Yes. I can choose between having my +7 shield bonus to armor class or paying 25,000+ gold to soak 70 damage from a single attack. It's cheaper to let the attack to kill you and have someone raise you from the dead-- heck, even a true resurrection is cheaper, if someone in the group can cast it.

Aldgar
2012-05-13, 09:16 AM
Well...without this option, you can have your enchanted shield and benefit from a bunch of bonus AC/effects the shield has.

With this option, you can block 1-2 attacks with the enchanted shield, then stop blocking before the shield breaks, be immune to minor mook attacks who don't penetrate the shield's hardness...and still benefit from the AC/bonus effects.


No matter what, this seems like a benefit to me.

Besides, you can repair the shield too.

Spiryt
2012-05-13, 09:16 AM
I'm going to join the choir about this being way to harsh and impractical.. Much bookkeeping and what else for not much purpose.

Using just sunder rules, or something similar would be much better, without any additional conditions like "broken".

TuggyNE
2012-05-13, 09:17 PM
Please explain your point - "overcosted" is not a word. What do you mean by it?

It's a recent coinage, meaning about the same as "overpriced", if a bit more general. Basically Seerow's point is that adding another use for shields that is not cost-effective will not make shields any more popular.

Given that the first regular occurrence of +5 shields is likely to be somewhere around 15th level for characters who invest heavily in defense (more if they want it animated, which is probable), you run into the problem that a great many attacks at that level are going to be able to substantially damage the shield, even through its hardness. For example, an iron golem of CR 13 will damage the shield, if used to interpose, at least 64% of the time. Take a moderately optimized humanoid barbarian at that level using power attack, and you're likely to get much more serious problems.

More to the point: suppose a level 20 character is using this, and is attacked by a swarm of mildly annoying iron golems. They can't safely use this to bat away their attacks.

Generalizing, and assuming no more than 20% WBL spent on a shield at any given point (roughly 50% defensive, split among armor, shield, and miscellaneous gear), we have roughly the following:
{table=head]Level | Bonus | Hardness | Animated Bonus | Animated Hardness | Adamantine Bonus | Adamantine Hardness | Adamantine Animated Bonus | Adamantine Animated Hardness
2 | 0 | 10 | 0 | 10 | 0 | 20 | 0 | 20
3 | 0 | 10 | 0 | 10 | 0 | 20 | 0 | 20
4 | 0 | 10 | 0 | 10 | 0 | 20 | 0 | 20
5 | +1 | 12 | 0 | 10 | 0 | 20 | 0 | 20
6 | +1 | 12 | 0 | 10 | 0 | 20 | 0 | 20
7 | +1 | 12 | 0 | 10 | +1 | 22 | 0 | 20
8 | +2 | 14 | 0 | 10 | +1 | 22 | 0 | 20
9 | +2 | 14 | 0 | 10 | +2 | 24 | 0 | 20
10 | +3 | 16 | +1 | 12 | +2 | 24 | 0 | 20
11 | +3 | 16 | +1 | 12 | +3 | 26 | +1 | 22
12 | +4 | 18 | +2 | 14 | +3 | 26 | +1 | 22
13 | +4 | 18 | +2 | 14 | +4 | 28 | +2 | 24
14 | +5 | 20 | +3 | 16 | +5 | 30 | +3 | 26
15 | +5 | 20 | +4 | 18 | +5 | 30 | +4 | 28
16 | +5 | 20 | +5 | 20 | +5 | 30 | +5 | 30
17 | +5 | 20 | +5 | 20 | +5 | 30 | +5 | 30
18 | +5 | 20 | +5 | 20 | +5 | 30 | +5 | 30
19 | +5 | 20 | +5 | 20 | +5 | 30 | +5 | 30
20 | +5 | 20 | +5 | 20 | +5 | 30 | +5 | 30[/table]

The question is, is this hardness enough to protect against the mooks you'll see at that level?

Example: level 10 party attacked by 8 CR 4 random monsters; hardness 16 is enough to protect against about 2/3 of their maximum damage ratings; that still leaves about a third of those monsters capable of damaging your shield under some circumstances. If it's animated, it's worse (3/4 of them can).

Of course, if you switch to adamantine all the way through, you get another 7 HP or so and an extra 10 hardness, which is pretty good. Still, is it enough?

Same party, same monsters, hardness 24 this time because it's more expensive as a base, and it still doesn't always help you; roughly a fifth of the monsters can damage your expensive shield even then. Here, you can't afford an animated adamantine shield within the guidelines, so that's irrelevant.

None of this counts critical hits, of course, just max damage.


Well...without this option, you can have your enchanted shield and benefit from a bunch of bonus AC/effects the shield has.

With this option, you can block 1-2 attacks with the enchanted shield, then stop blocking before the shield breaks, be immune to minor mook attacks who don't penetrate the shield's hardness...and still benefit from the AC/bonus effects.


No matter what, this seems like a benefit to me.

The problem is that if the added option is not good enough on its own for the price, it's not really an option.


Using just sunder rules, or something similar would be much better, without any additional conditions like "broken".

I believe the idea behind adding the broken condition is to make it PF-compatible.

Altair_the_Vexed
2012-05-14, 05:00 AM
Yes, I included the broken condition because I wrote the rule for PF, not 3.5 - forgetting that "broken" doesn't exist (as a condition :smalltongue:) in 3.5.

All this advice has been very helpful, especially the cost analyses. Thank you.

My original intent for this rule was for use in my E6 game, but I thought that it might make a good rule for general play - but it seems like it becomes increasingly less worthwhile as power levels increase.
I'll keep it for my E6 game, as all the objections to the rule aren't applicable to that game.

Grod_The_Giant
2012-05-14, 09:09 AM
I'll keep it for my E6 game, as all the objections to the rule aren't applicable to that game.

Apart from the whole "1 attack ruins your shield so you need to carry a cartload or two to make it worthwhile" and "if you do find a magic shield, you're really not going to want it to break."

Altair_the_Vexed
2012-05-14, 01:14 PM
No need for a cartload of shields - Pathfinder's broken condition is removed by the use of the Mending cantrip, which is infinitely spammable.

Maybe I should just take the "3.5" out of this thread title, and add E6. I forgot how many of PF's good ideas don't work in 3.5.:smallfrown:

J.Gellert
2012-05-14, 01:19 PM
That's a great idea. I love it.

I don't know Pathfinder, but in 3,5, repairing magic items is easy and relatively cheap. Perhaps too cheap - carrying a bunch of mundane shields to block quickly becomes cheaper (and much more effective!) than wasting actions to drink healing potions!

If anything, I'd make this maneuver doable only once per round, only against attacks requiring attack rolls, and you take any excess damage after the shield breaks. Of course you must also be aware of the attack.

And non-enchanted shields wouldn't automatically break.