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Everyone knows about Batman, CoDzilla, Ubercharger, and TWF. Sword and board is the much overlooked stepchild of D&D, and shields in general are generally an afterthought on the equipment list. The primary reason for this is the Animated shield enhancement, which you can afford starting around ECL 6-7. So before then, sword and board is a solid option for anyone who values defense over offense. After that point, anyone who invested in shield related feats tends to look like a chump next to the guy with Leap Attack, Knock-Down, Scorpionís Grasp, Knockback, etc. So this is a guide to all to all things related to shields in D&D.
The first thing you have to accept about sword and board is that in most cases, youíre not going to be amazing at offense. A lot of people are going to tell you that you can do all of the cool stuff that a shield-centric build is capable of doing, but better, if only you do XYZ and/or use an Animated shield or buckler. In most cases, those people are right. But contained in this thread are a bunch of options that make shields playable and fun. So here are some useful tips and tactics when designing your shield build:
Your goals are defense and battlefield control. If youíre interested in massive damage, look elsewhere.
Boost your Shield AC bonus as high as possible, and then get your Shield AC to apply to as many things as possible (Touch AC, Bull Rush, other opposed checks, etc).
Most of the powerful high damage combinations people write about donít kick in until ECL 6 or higher, whereas many shield combos can start as early as level 1.
You can use a shield as a two-handed weapon. While itís less optimal then pretty much any other weapon due to itís low damage, lack of reach, lack of special abilities, and requirement for Shield Bash, it can be done.
If you get Pounce and Ride by Attack, you can use a lance and shield (using Shield Bash instead of TWF) for some very impressive damage.
The Tome of Battle is chock full of manuevers that deal respectable damage and/or special effects regardless of what weapon you're using or what feats you have. If you like the concept of sword and board (or just like higher AC at low levels) and want to contribute to your party without concern for optimizing, then this is the book for you.
One of the easiest ways to balance out party members is to give the weaker member(s) better magic items. So if you're concerned about playing a sword and board build in a campaign with CoDzilla and the 1,000,000 damage charge combo guy, then ask if you can use some of the more obscure/powerful magical enhancements.
Buckler: The poor manís Animated shield. Basically you can accept a small penalty to hit, pick up the Improved Buckler Defense feat, and get all the benefits of a shield and itís magical protections without the hassle of giving up two-handed fighting. So if youíre a caster, this is probably the shield for you. If youíre a melee build and have access to Races of Stone, youíll probably want to use a Gnome Battle Cloak instead, as it doesnít have a penalty To-Hit. PHB.
Extreme Shield: +3 AC without a penalty to hit, but it can't be used for bashing, and doesn't provide cover like a Tower Shield. Requires Exotic Shield Proficiency (see Feats, below) to use properly. If youíre a Fighter who doesnít want to make shield bash attacks, then an Animated Extreme Shield is probably your best choice. Races of Stone pg 157.
Gnome Battle Cloak: This is a cloak that confers a +1 shield bonus if you are proficient with it. Since it provides a shield bonus and is listed as a shield in the equipment chart, you can enchant it with shield enhancements, even though you're just wearing it. Basically it just saves you the expense of having to buy an Animated shield. You can't make a shield bash with it, but you can make Disarm attempts with it (and you get a +4 bonus), though you have to wield it as an off hand weapon like a light shield to do so. Requires Exotic Shield Proficiency (see Feats, below) to use properly. Races of Stone pg 155.
Heavy Shield: +2 AC, and you can use it for bashing. This is the shield of choice for most sword and board builds. PHB.
Light Shield: +1 AC, and you can use it for bashing. Honestly, I have no idea why anyone would use this and not a heavy shield. PHB.
Razored Shield: A shield that you can use as a slashing weapon for bash attacks, which is necessary for certain feats or spells. Underdark, p. 64.
Riding Shield: +2 Shield AC, and both you and your mount gain the benefit of the shield's AC bonus. Useful for mounted builds, especially builds with the Divine Shield feat. Requires Exotic Shield Proficiency (see Feats, below) to use correctly. Races of Stone pg 158.
Shield Gauntlet: +2 Shield AC, and you can use your shield hand to hold stuff or perform spells with a somatic component, although you can't use weapons with it. Requires Exotic Shield Proficiency (see Feats, below) to use correctly. Races of Stone pg 158.
Tower Shield: You can hide behind this to gain total cover. This is especially useful if you have something to do with your actions that don't involve attacks, such as summoning, healing, buffing, Demoralize, etc. Note that Fighters get proficiency for free at first level.
Magic Shields and Shield Enhancements
Iíve only listed the magical shields and enhancements that I find useful. For a more thorough review, read Darrinís extremely helpful posts here and here.
Animated: For those of you who donít have a philosophical disagreement with this enchantment, if youíre not attacking with your shield, then youíll probably want to pick this up when you can afford it. DMG.
Bashing enhancement: Deals damage as if it were a weapon of two size categories larger. Cheap. Pretty much required for any build that wants to use its shield offensively. DMG.
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.
Called: Provided youíre on the same plane of existence, you can summon your shield (or armor, if itís enchanted with this as well) to you as a Standard Action. Although there are a variety of means of doing this, since itís so cheap and virtually every DM will throw you into prison (or gladiator pit without your equipment, or a royal banquet where youíre not allow to have weapons but will be ambushed by ninjaÖ) I think every build should invest in this when they can. 2,000 gp. MIC.
Clasp of Energy Protection: Provides Energy Resistance up to a certain maximum amount each day. Though the damage limit per day is a knock against it, but the main advantage is you can swap them out fairly easily, so you can add more fire protection if one crystal maxes out, or switch to another energy type as the situation demands. 500/1500/3000 gp. MIC.
Crest of Valiant Defense: Minor bonus to AC, and Shield Other once per day. Cheap. Heroes of Battle pg 130.
Crystal of Arrow Deflection: Great bargain for an untyped bonus against all ranged attacks. For the Greater crystal, the bonus is only +2, but you get the effects of the Deflect Arrows feat. Normally, an item that provides a feat should cost at least 10000 GP, but here it's half that, and you don't need Improved Unarmed Strike (and an argument could be made you don't need a hand free, either). 500/2500/5000 gp, MIC.
Energy Resistance: Use of this enchantment is very dependent on your build and your campaign. Some DMs are very fond of using one type of energy damage (You enter the Caverns of Burning, which is defended by a dozen red dragons.) Others not so much. Plus Energy Resistance or Immunity is readily available via a variety of spells, a clasp, and some class abilities. But if youíre a tank build with no Evasion, this might be a good choice for you. DMG.
Empyreal armor or shield enhancement: You can transfer your enhancement bonus to AC to be a Sacred bonus to Saves. Although adding this to a +5 shield to get a bonus to your Saves would be twice as expensive as a Cloak of Resistance, itís noteworthy in that the bonuses stack. (Put together, you spend 75,000ish gp for a +10 to all Saves, +5 of which you can swap into AC). A good high ECL choice. Book of Exalted Deeds pg 112.
Fortification: I think it's important for tank builds to find a way to be immune to critical hits at some point in there career. This is the most strait forward way, though it is a bit expensive. DMG.
Glory Heraldic Crest: Gives you a minor moral bonus to all damage rolls, and lets you cast Heroism on yourself once per day. 11,000 gp, Heroes of Battle pg 130.
Griffin Shield: Remember Eric from the D&D cartoon? 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 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.
Negating: After being hit by a magic weapon, your armor or shield automatically casts Greater Dispel Magic on it, at caster level 20. Although this is in the Epic Level Handbook, as a +5 bonus it's available to anyone around ECL 10ish.
Mindarmor: This gives you a really nice bonus to your Will Save against mind-affecting spells and abilities for one round as an Immediate Action three times per day. Cheap. 3,000 gp, MIC.
Quickspur's Ally: This is a Weapon of Legacy, which means you can't just buy it. Your DM basically has to give it to you, or you can talk to him about a side quest to go and find it. As you gain levels, you need to complete several rituals and pay permanent personal costs (penalties to-hit, Saves, and hit points). You then unlock the shield's powers, which also scale with your level. While most Weapons of Legacy suck, this one actually has a pretty decent cost/benefit ratio. Ritual costs: 55,500 gp, -2 to hit, -3 to Saves, -16 hit points. Weapons of Legacy pg 129.
Ranged: A two-for-one bargain, this combines the Throwing and Returning properties on a shield, and has a much better 30' range increment than most Throwing weapons. Unfortunately, it locks in your damage to 1d6 or 1d8, so you can't take advantage of oversized or heavy properties. There are several other methods to throw your shield around and have it come back to your hand, but this one is worth considering with the others. +1 bonus, MIC.
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 for awesomeness). Requires True Believer feat and 7 HD. Complete Divine pg 102 or MIC.
Shield of Vigor: Spend Knight's challenges as a Swift Action to gain Fast Healing 5 for 3 rounds. MIC pg. 196.
Spider Bound: Once per day you can transform your shield into a spider, with a size dependent on the type of shield. While there are much cheaper ways to summon more effective creatures, for some odd reason I think this is hilarious. Plus you never know when you'll want a Huge spider to Grapple for you. +2,500/5,000/10,000/15,000 gp. Drow of the Underdark pg 97.
Valiant Defense Heraldic Crests: Adds a minor Deflection bonus to AC, and Shield Other once per day. +6,000 gp, Heroes of Battle pg 130.
Remember that shields can be enchanted separately just like a weapon. Here is a list of good weapon enhancements that a shield build might find useful, the bulk of which was helpfully provided by Darrin here.
Adaptive: Let's you use a weapon specific feat for the enchanted weapon, regardless of what the weapon is. There aren't a lot of shield-specific feats, so if you want to cash in on Lightning Mace, Three Mountains, or Shadow Blade, you'll need this. +1 bonus, Tome of Battle.
Brutal Surge: Bull Rush as a Swift Action, usable Con bonus +1 times per day. If you're doing any kind of Dungeon Crasher/Flaming Homer build, put this at the top of your Christmas list. +1 bonus. MIC.
Crystal of Return: All three versions are a fantastic bargain. For the Least version, 300 GP gets you the Quickdraw feat. For the Lesser version, half off the cost of the Calling property, only it takes a move action instead of a standard action, so you can call your shield to you and attack in the same round. For the Greater version, it's another way to add the Returning property to your shield for only 4000 GP. +300/1000/4000 gp. MIC.
Defending: Shield Spikes are considered weapons which may be separately enchanted. So you enchant them with Defending, to get even MORE AC out of your shield. (Though it's an untyped bonus, and thus doesn't count towards your Shield AC for feats related to such). With Magic Vestments and Greater Magic Weapon to boost the Enhancement bonuses of your shield and shield spikes, your shield can grant you a 12ish bonus to AC for a pretty cheap investment. DMG.
Eager: Free action to draw your shield, and an untyped +2 initiative bonus. A Crystal of Return is cheaper, but the +2 initiative bonus can be stacked with other Eager/Warning weapons. +1 bonus. MIC.
Energy Aura: Requires an action to activate, but it has no listed duration so you may be able to keep it on all the time. Instead of futzing around with a golf bag of frost/flaming/corrosive/shocking weapons, allows you to change your energy type as the situation demands. +2 bonus, MIC.
Everbright: Makes your shield immune to acid and rust attacks, and the blinding 2/day may be somewhat useful (Ref DC 14 gets a little meaningless at higher levels), but I suspect the only real use here is to make your shield look "Shiny!", which may or may not be worth the cheap price. +2,000 gp, MIC.
Feathered: Fly as the spell up to 50 minutes per day, although it doesn't say how often or if duration needs to be continuous. The duration of the fly spell changed in 3.5 from 10 min/level to 1 min/level, so you might want to talk to your DM about RAW/RAI there. Though given the large variety of ways to get flying via other means, I'd skip this. +2 bonus, Arms and Equipment Guide (3.0).
Flying: Now here's an oddity... this turns your weapon into an animated object that can follow simple commands, although what it can or can't do is never clearly defined. I'm not sure how complicated the instructions can be (as an unseen servant? golem? animated skeleton?), but as an animated object it can be ordered to guard a location or attack. Since an animated object's stats are directly proportional to its size, you absolutely want the Sizing property on your shield. Not only that, you could presumably then use it as a floating disk or flying carpet/dish/thingy with a 30' fly speed. +1 bonus. Magic of Faerun.
Rusting: Requires a non-metallic shield, but essentially everything you hit gets something similar to the effects of a rusting grasp spell (although there is a Fort Save DC 16). So, this should create plenty of arguments with your DM. For example, the spell won't work on any magical items, but the property description mentions no such limitation. The spell normally doesn't allow a save, but this property does. Even if the DM insists this property only works on unattended, non-magical, ferrous metals, there's a lot of serious dungeon-redecorating this thing could do. +1 bonus. Shining South.
Sizing: Most size-related spells or abilities will automatically resize your weapons (Enlarge Person, Expansion, and so forth), but there are certain conditions where resizing your shield could be very useful. For example, if you built/enchanted your Ubershield before picking up Strongarm Bracers, a fixed cost of 5000 GP allows you to take advantage of the size increase. Or you could be wildshaping/polymorphing into a form with a different size, and want your shield to match. You never know when a colossal-sized heavy shield might come in handy (240 lbs, which means 5d6 damage as an improvised projectile for all you Hulking Hurlers out there). +5000 gp. MIC.
Smoking: Surrounds you with a personal 5'x5' square of stinking cloud that follows you wherever you go. Provides concealment and if anyone enters your square, they have to save vs. nausea. Could be an interesting combo with Confound the Big Folk. +1 bonus. Lords of Darkness.
Spellblade: This property is an affordable and improved version of Spell Immunity. Greater Spell Immunity, for example, doesn't protect against spells that ignore Spell Resistance, and can only protect against spells 8th level or lower. Spellblade works on spells that ignore SR, can go up to 9th level, and you also get an opportunity to redirect it toward another target. Combine this property with a Ring of Spell-Battle and you can absorb/redirect that spell being cast on anyone else. +6,000 gp, Player's Guide to Faerun.
Torturous: I'm mentioning this one not necessarily because it works well on a shield, but because the MIC nerfed the Paralyzing ability to 1/day and most of the regular posters on the CharOps boards seem to have missed this one when ranking all the various weapon abilities. Every hit with a Torturous weapon requires the target to make a Fort save DC 12 or they are stunned for 1 round. While this is a pretty low save DC, there's no limit on how many times it can be used, and you can upgrade the save to a more respectable DC 17 by increasing the bonus to +2. +1 or +2 bonus. Ghostwalk.
Truedeath Crystal: Add the Ghost Touch property to your shield for only 5000 GP. +1000/5000/10000 gp. MIC.
Warning: Grants a nice bonus to Initiative for a cheap investment. This property is also quite useful when paired with the Eager property or a Crystal of Returning, which allows you to draw your shield as a free action, presumably just before you roll initiative. +1 bonus, MIC.
Whirling: You'll need a Razor Shield (FR Underdark) to use this property, but this is a bargain to get Whirlwind Attack 3/day without worrying about the insane number of prerequisite feats. It's an even better enhancement if you put it on a Spiked Chain or Spinning Sword. +1 bonus, MIC.
Wrathful Healing: Another very obscure ability, sort of Vampiric-On-Steroids. Whatever damage the weapon does, you heal half that amount. +3 bonus. Enemies & Allies p. 20.
Valorous: Damage multiplier on charge attacks, so an absolute must on any charge-focused build. +1 bonus. Unapproachable East.
Special Materials and Non-Magical Improvements
At first level, every sword and board build will want a steel shield with shield spikes. After that, youíre definitely going to want a shield made out of some special material. Also, don't forget that your shield spikes can be made of special materials, which usually depends on what DR you need to bypass the most often. If you want to read all of the special materials, you can just go over to crystalkeep. But here are a few materials that are particularly good.
Adamantine: Do you have a spiteful DM who likes to Sunder things? If so, this is the special material for your shield. Also, shield spikes made of adamantine bypass hardness of everything that isnt' adamantine. PDMG pg 283.
Aurorum: If your favorite Sundered, this material allows you to put it back together as a full-round action. 4,000 gp, Book of Exalted Deeds pg 38.
Dragoncraft: Shields or armor made of dragon hide provide you with Energy Resistance 5 against a particular energy type, and a lower Armor Check penalty. Draconomicon pg 117.
Dwarvencraft Quality: An improvement over Masterwork Quality, Dwarverncraft items have superior hit points, hardness, and Saves. 600 gp, Races of Stone pg 159.
Feycraft: Reduce ASF 5%, +1 untyped bonus on Bluff checks. 500 gp, Dungeon Master's Guide II, pg 275.
Githcraft: Reduce ASF 5%, +1 untyped bonus on Concentration checks. (Diamond Mind strikes, anyone?). 600 gp, Dungeon Master's Guide II, pg 276.
Kaorti: Shield spikes = piercing, so kaorti resin can give you a shield with a x4 crit multiplier. You'll need Exotic Weapon Proficiency to attack without a -4 penalty. WotC article.
Masterwork Quality: A masterwork buckler has an Armor Check penalty of 0. So there's no penalty for non-proficiency. So every Skill Monkey should consider carrying an masterwork buckler in order to gain the bonus to AC and the protections of it's magical enchantments. PHB.
Mithral: This material will decrease the Armor Spell Failure Chance and Armor Check Penalty on a buckler to 0. So there's no penalty for non-proficiency or using it while casting arcane spells. This makes enchanted mithral bucklers a very good deal for most arcane casters, who rarely make melee attacks anyway. PHB.
Shield Sheath: A non-magical scabbard for a Light weapon is added to the inside of any non-buckler Shield. If the shield has be Readied, the weapon may be drawn as a Free Action. IMO, it's always useful to have backup weapons. 25gp, Races of Stone pg. 158.
Shield Spikes: Increases the damage dealt by your shield by one size category. Also, you can enchant your spikes as if they were a magic weapon. PHB.
Riverine: This is a special material unlike any other. Itís water, encased in a whatís essentially a Wall of Force. If you make something out of Riverine, it cannot be destroyed by anything except for Disintigrate and a few other high level spells. If you make armor or a shield out of Riverine, then half of the AC bonus counts as a Deflection bonus. Although ridiculously expensive, if you have a magic item that absolutely cannot be destroyed without nerfing your build, this is what you should build it out of. Stormwrack pg 128.
Other Useful Equipment
Arms of the Naga: Expensive, but gives you a spare set of arms to carry a shield. 56,000 gp, Savage Species pg 55.
Dastana + Chahar-Aina: Basically Asian bracers and an extra armor overlay, each of these items can be added to padded, leather, or chain shirt armor. Each adds a +1 armor bonus that explicitly stacks with other armor and shield bonuses. If enchanted, the enhancement bonuses *do not* stack, but enchanting them separately is cheaper than loading up armor enhancements on one item. Oriental Adventures.
Gloves of Man: Not much cheaper than the Arms of the Naga, but if you have appendages such as tentacles or are in a form without opposable thumbs, these would allow you to manipulate objects or carry a shield. 42,000 gp, Savage Species, p. 57.
Glove of the Master Strategist: Works just like a glove of storing without the horrendously inflated 3.5 price tag. Whip out your shield as a free action. And yes, Ghostwalk got a 3.5 update and they didn't change the price. If you really really need your gloves slot for something else, try a Kimono of Storing (Oriental Adventures p. 140, 20,000 GP). 3,600 gp, Ghostwalk pg 71.
Glove of Taarnahm the Vigilant: Any weapon you wield counts is given Throwing and Returning. A cheap way to be Captain America. But be mindful that Returning doesn't return your weapon until the start of the next round, so you'll be without your Shield bonus until then. Playerís Guide to Faerun pg 123.
Lance: The lance is the only non-exotic reach weapon that you can use with one hand (while mounted). Reach is a hugely important component of battlefield control. So it's my opinion that most builds that want to use a non-Animated shield should consider using a lance as their primary weapon. And it deals double damage on a Charge, which is always handy. PHB.
Phylactery of Change: Somewhat cheap way to all-day polymorph into a Diopsid or Thri-Kreen, which gives you plenty of arms. 11200 gp, Arms and Equipment Guide pg 135.
Ring of Arming: While the Called property may be cheaper for one item, if you have to call each piece of armor or weapon separately, then the Ring of Arming will save you a lot of standard actions, and may be cheaper in the long run. 5,000 gp, MIC pg 122.
Spare Hand: If you have access to an Artificer, a 2nd level infusion allows this hand to carry a buckler or light shield. 12,000 gp, MIC pg 137.
Spinning Sword: Basically a Spiked Chain that you can only use with one hand. Requires Exotic Weapon Proficiency to use without penalty. This should be the weapon of choice for non-mounted builds that want to use shield bash and battlefield control. Secrets of Sarlona, pg 136.
Strongarm Bracers: Let's you wield weapons (which presumably includes shields) one size larger then normal without penalty. Does not stack with Powerful Build. 6,000 gp, MIC pg 139.
Wand Chamber: Puts a single wand inside a weapon or shield. As long as youíre holding it, you count as holding the wand. UMD is your friend, evenif you have to take it cross class. Also remember that a single level of any caster class entitles you to use all of their spell trigger items. For example, a Whatever X/Paladin 1 can put a Wand of Holy Sword into his shield, and cast it when needed to buff himself. Dungeonscape pg 34.
Classes and Prestige Classes
Cleric: CoDzilla with the right spells can be powerful with almost any build. He also gets Turn Undead at first level, which is pivotal to fuel several potent shield related feats.
Crusader: A great defensive class. There are also a couple of excellent Devoted Spirit manuevers which require a shield. Tome of Battle.
Demonbinder: Once per day per Demonbinder level you can Demonbind Marilith, which gives you 40 temporary hit points and 2 extra arms. Lots of potential here. The only down side is that you must be Chaotic Evil and a Drow, but there are several variant Drow or half Drow out there that have no LA but count as a Drow. Drow of the Underdark pg 73.
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. Also allows early access to the Heart Chakra at ECL 15. Magic of Incarnum pg 127.
Knight: The Knight is one of the best battlefield melee classes in the game. He also gets a bonus to his shield AC, and plenty of nifty defensive abilities.
Paladin: Turn Undead, plus high Saves and a Special Mount. In particular, the Wary Swordknight substitution level (Champions of Valor pg 52) lets a Halfling Paladin count as one size larger for opposed checks (Bull Rush et al). This is very useful in that a small race can ride his medium Special Mount everywhere with a lance and shield, while still pulling off some useful special attacks.
Psychic Warrior: Gets easy access to Expansion. This gives you bonuses to all of your size related checks. And when combined with the Bashing enhancement and shield spikes, your shield can deal 4d6 base damage (or 6d6 if you're a Half-Giant or Goliath), which is very solid for a one handed weapon at ECL 9ish.
Warforged Juggernaut: Shield builds are surprisingly good at Bull Rushes, and this class offers several good bonuses to Bull Rush and Charge, plus a bunch of highly useful immunities. Eberron Campaign Setting pg 84.
Active Shield Defense feat: When fighting defensively with a shield, you don't take the attack penalties on your AoO. Also, you still threaten when on Total Defense, which is useful when combined with Spinning Defense (Dungeon Compendium) which allows you to use Deflect Arrows to deflect any number of ranged attacks when wielding a polearm and using the Total Defense action (though you'll need to use a buckler, an Animated shield, or have 3+ hands for this to work). Essentially, you sacrifice your normal attack routine (depending on AoO) to gain a bonus to AC and be immune to ranged attacks. PHBII.
Agile Shield Fighter: This feat is essentially Two Weapon Fighting with a Shield, but without the Dexterity requirement. Requires Improved Shield Bash and Shield Specialization. PHBII pg 74.
Block Arrow: Deflect Arrows with shield instead of unarmed strike. And it only requires Dex 13 and Shield Proficiency. Heroes of Battle, pg 96.
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.
Exotic Shield Proficiency: Races of Stone has several exotic shields (listed in the Shields and Shield Enhancements section above) which require this feat to use properly. In most cases it's not worth spending a feat to use one. But a 1st level Fighter can trade their Tower Shield Proficiency for Exotic Shield Proficiency, which opens up several useful build options without having to expend any resources to get them. Races of Stone pg. 139.
Formation Expert: Gives you several shield related manuevers. Two provide minor bonuses, and the third grants free movement whenever an ally falls if you are fighting in a line. Useful if you have someone in your party who is fond of summoning weak creatures, as this feat can be a poor man's Pounce, and might even grant you additional attacks if you have Evasive Reflexes or other similar feats. Comp Warrior pg 110.
Improved Buckler Defense: When you attack with a weapon in your off-hand, you may still apply your bucklerís Shield bonus to your AC. Comp Warrior pg 100.
Improved Shield Bash: When you perform a shield bash, you may still apply the shield bonus to your AC. PHB.
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.
Parrying Shield feat: You add your shield bonus to Touch AC. This is a huge weak point for many builds, which this feat fixes. Lords of Madness pg 181.
Shield Charge: When you attack with a shield as part of a Charge, you get a free Trip attack. Requires Improved Shield Bash. Complete Warrior pg 105.
Shield Charge: This is the 3.0 version. When you attack with a shield as part of a charge, you deal double damage. Requires Power Attack and Improved Shield Bash. Defenders of Faith pg 20. (3.0 material)
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.
Shield Specialization: You get a +1 to your Shield bonus with one type of shield. Like Weapon Focus, I think think that this feat sucks. But it's a pre-req for several other feats. PHBII pg 82.
Shield Wall: When you and an adjacent ally are using a shield, your Shield bonus to AC increases by 2. Heroes of Battle pg. 99.
Shield Ward feat: Your shield bonus applies to Touch AC and checks to resist Bull Rush, Disarm, Grapple, Overrun, and Trip attempts (but not offensive checks). Unfortunately, it requires the Shield Specialization feat. But when combined with Divine Shield, you essentially become immune to these special attacks and Touch Attacks (unless your enemy has a ridiculous modifier or rolls a natural 20). PHBII 82.
Maneuvers, Powers, Spells, etc.
Please suggest powers maneuvers, spells, Invocations, and/or other special abilities that might help a Shield-centric build. I haven't had the time to do a full audit yet.
Energize Shield (Cler 3 Pal 2): Your shield deals +2d6 elemental (pick any one element at time of casting) on successful shield bash, and also grants the wielder resistance 10 to the chosen element. Duration is only 1 round/level, but its still a nice damage boost and also an on-demand source of pretty much any elemental damage and resistance that you may need. Spell Compendium pg 79.
Expansion (Psy War 1): +1 size increase. The augmented version requires manifester level 7, and grants +2 size increases. Does not stack with Enlarge Person. Expanded Psionics Handbook.
Greater Mighty Wallop (Wiz 3) Increases the damage of a bludgeoning melee weapon by one size category per 4 caster levels (max Colossal) without increasing the actual size. Your shield without spikes is a blunt weapon. A reasonable DM should allow a shield with spikes to be a bludgeoning and piercing weapon. Races of the Dragon pg 115.
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.
Mighty Wallop (Wiz 1): Increases the damage of a bludgeoning melee weapon by one size category without increasing the actual size. Interestingly enough, this spell does not have the Colossal size maximum of Greater Mighty Wallop, making it more useful for certain builds if your DM is willing to consider a shield with spikes a bludgeoning and piercing weapon. Races of the Dragon pg 114.
Shield Block (Devoted Spirit 2): Grants your Shield bonus +4 AC (which is a ton) to an adjacent ally in response to an attack as an Immediate Action. Tome of Battle pg 60.
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.
Shield of Warding (Cler 2/Pal 2): Your shield provides you Sacred bonus on Reflex Saves. Draconomicon pg 115.
Please post your favorite shield related builds, and I'll link to them and give you full credit.
Quoted directly from a PM Ailurus sent me. Please feel free to post or PM your builds as well:
Currently level 18, and am a human Paladin 7/Crusader 11, aiming for Paladin 7/Crusader 13 at level 20 (picking up Mettle)
Feats are off some, since the DM is giving us feats every 2 levels instead of 3, but if I was going with the usual progression probably would have been:
Level 1: Improved Shield Block, Power Attack
Level 3: Improved Initiative
Level 6: Divine Shield
Level 9: Heavy Shield Spec
Level 12: Shield Ward
Level 15: Divine Vigor (Another one of the complete warrior divine feats - page 108 - gives some temp HP and +10 ft/round movement speed, minutes/level duration)
Level 18: Probably go with divine might, also from C Warrior (as a free action, spend a turn attempt to add cha to damage for one round)
Stats, main focus is on Cha and Str (base stats 18/12/14/14/14/20 right now, rolled 16/12/14/14/14/16 to start).
I can give you the full list of chosen maneuvers and such if you want it, but in brief its pick up some white raven support maneuvers (such as white raven tactics and order forged from chaos), and devoted spirit maneuvers for damage/healing.
Basic combat approach is use divine vigor when it seems like battle will be imminent for the increased movement speed, divine shield and/or energized shield if there's buffing time (or if you get a bad roll on the maneuvers granted in the first round of combat), and then go off to try to latch yourself on to the biggest, nastiest thing around. Hopefully it won't hit you, but if it does it just feeds the crusader delayed damage pool, making it more likely that you can hurt/upset it enough so the DM has it stay on you instead of beating up someone else.
Cheater the Kobold
FYI, I hate the name of this build. Suggestions?
This combo is useful for any melee build, but it's particularly helpful for people who want to use shields.
Be a Kobold. (Preferably a variant Kobold, as they're more powerful). Take the Dragon Tail feat (Races of the Dragon pg 98). You gain a tail that you can attack with. This gives you a tail attack. Alternatively, you can take the Shape Soulmeld feat (Magic of Incarnum) to get access to the Dragon Tail soulmeld (Dragon Magic). This also gives you a tail attack - but be mindful that it's subject to Dispel Magic, Antimagic Field, etc. If you can a race with a natural tail attack, then you can skip this step.
Take the Prehensile Tail feat (Serpent Kingdoms pg 147), which lets you use your tail as an arm. This qualifies you for Multiweapon Fighting, or you can just use a weapon two handed and carry a shield without penalty, or you can use a crossbow in each hand without reloading problems.
And you're set. Now all you have to do is overcome the accusations of being a munchkin.
Halfling Shield Paladin
Strongheart Halflings are from Races of Faerun. You get a bonus feat instead of your Save bonus. Plus Halflings are a small race, and thus you can pick up an excellent medium Special Mount and ride it pretty much anywhere. You'll probably want to use the Wary Swordknight substitution level (Champions of Valor pg 52), which lets a Halfling Paladin count as one size larger for opposed checks (Bull Rush et al).
What mix of Paladin you should depend on what ECL your campaign goes to. But your basic combination of Divine Grace + Shield Ward + Divine Shield + reach weapon (lance) + the mobility of always being mounted is going to make you a defensive monster. You won't have uber damage output, but your lance and attacks from your Special Mount should keep you competitive.
If your game is not going to rise above ECL 6ish, then your best bet is Fighter 2/Paladin 4. Fighter provides 2 bonus feats, and you can trade your Tower Shield Proficiency away for Exotic Shield Proficiency (Riding Shield) so that your Special Mount can benefit from your Shield bonus. Paladin will give you Cha to Saves and Turn Undead. You won't get a Special Mount, but at this ECL it won't matter much. For feats beyond Shield Ward (and it's Shield Specialization pre-req) and Divine Shield, take a look at Shield Charge and Shield Slam. They're very useful at low levels.
If your game is going into ECL 7-15ish, you'll probably want a Prestige Class that improves your Paladin Mount. Ashworm Dragoon, Aglarondan Griffin Rider, and Knight of the Iron Glacier are all excellent choices. It's noteworthy that they provide you with Large sized mounts though, so you may wish to be a Human instead and read up on the squeezing rules. (A Large creature can fight anywhere a medium creature can, but with penalties). Halfling Outrider is also a good choice, and a Paladin 5/Beastmaster 1/Halfling Outrider X with the Devoted Tracker feat gets a seriously broken Special Mount (as Halfing Outrider stacks to determine both your Special Mount and Animal Companion bonuses, and Devoted Tracker makes your Special Mount your Animal Companion, giving it both sets of bonuses). You should also remember that a single level of Paladin entitles you to use any Spell Trigger item (such as Wands) for any spell on your Spell List. The splat books are filled with useful Paladin spells. In particular, Holy Sword is an excellent choice for your shield spikes. At this ECL, your best choice of feats in addition to Shield Ward (and it's Shield Specialization pre-req) and Divine Shield will probably be Mounted Combat, Ride by Attack, Spirited Charge, Combat Reflexes, Robilar's Gambit, Stand Still, Goad, and one other divine or domain feat (which rock).
At the highest ECLs, then Paladin 20 is the way to go, because it's all about your spells. In particular, you're going to want Sword of the Arcane Order from Champions of Valor, which let's you memorize Wizard spells in your Paladin spell slots. Combine this with the Battle Blessing feat from Complete Champion, which let's you cast Standard Action Paladin spells as a Swift Action. And combine both of those with your Share Spells ability, which lets all of your buffs count for you and your mount. Use and abuse spells to the same degree that your other party members do. (Think Alter Self an Polymorph). If you mine the splat books for good buffs, you and your mount can be competitive with any build.
Olo Demonsbane's That Guy with the REALLY Big Shield
Like every build involving increased damage from size, this one was debated. But basically, you combine several of the following:
Shield Spikes: +1 effective size increase for your shield.
Bashing enhancement: +2 effective size increases for your shield.
Half-Ogre: Large race. (+2 LA, Races of Destiny pg 97)
Powerful Build: Can use a weapon 1 size larger.
Strongarm Bracers: Can use a weapon 1 size larger. Doesn't stack with Powerful Build or Monkey Grip.
Monkey Grip: Can use a weapon 1 size larger. Doesn't stack with Powerful Build or Strongarm Bracers.
So getting to 4d6 base shield damage is actually pretty easy, and getting to 12d6ish damage isn't that hard to accomplish by ECL 9ish.
Sam the Shuffling Shield Soldier
Max out Dex. A small race is a good idea, as it raises your AC and Dex. I suggest Whisper Gnome or variant Kobold.
Go strait Fighter. Trust me, you'll need the bonus feats. The basic combo needs 7 feats (Human Fighter 4). To fully optimize it, you'll need 3-8 more.
Take Combat Expertise, Improved Trip, and Combat Reflexes. This gives you some battlefield control.
Take Dodge, Mobility, and Elusive Target. Elusive Target is very useful for a variety of reasons. But the key ability is Cause Overreach. Now whenever you move out of an enemy's threatened area and they miss on the AoO, you get a free Trip attack (and free follow up attack from Improved Trip).
Take Formation Expert (Complete Warrior). This gives you the Step into the Breech maneuver. Whenever you have a line of allies and one ally falls, you may Move into that position as if you had a Readied Action. Also, buy Boots of Speed. This gives you Haste (extra movement and attack) when you need it.
Have a team member cast Empowered Summon Monster/Natures Ally I once or twice, or Animate Objects. This creates a line of weak allies for you. As each one dies, you'll get a free Move. This means you'll probably get a Full Attack most rounds (because they Move for you, die, and you Move into their space), and you'll get plenty of free attacks on your enemies whenever they try to take an AoO on you (and miss, because your AC is so ridiculously high).
Take the Ancestral Weapon feat (Book of Exalted Deeds) at first level. This feat lets you sacrifice magic items (bypassing the need to sell them at a 50% mark down) or gold in order to improve a single weapon. Designate your shield as this weapon. If you're playing in a long term campaign, it will save you a lot of money, and give you an uber shield/weapon.
Take TWF, Improved TWF, and then Double Hit (Miniatures Handbook). Now you have 2 more attacks when you make a normal full attack. And when you make an AoO, you may attack with both weapons (your shield and whatever).
Take Robilar's Gambit (PHBII). This will give you an extra attack whenever an enemy swings at you and misses.
Take Shield Specialization and Shield Ward (PHBII). This adds your Shield bonus to your Touch AC and your ability to resist special attacks. Since your Shield bonus will be ridiculously high (base + enhancement +1 from specialization) this should be quite high. This will go a long way towards protecting you from casters (and their dreaded touch attack spells) and very big enemies (like dragons and whatnot, which are fond of Grapple).
Take Item Familiar (Unearthed Arcana). This feat (which everyone qualifies for) gives a chosen item intelligence and special abilities. Lots of them are quite potent at high levels.
The end result: High AC, high touch AC, tons of attacks, plenty of mobility. Not the best build in the world, but it's playable in a normal group.
The Tactic: Use your Shield as a viable weapon in melee and at range.
Bloodclaw Master allows your off-hand weapon (that is to say, your shield) to deal full Str damage (rather than 1/2) and negates the -2 penalty for TWFing. Of course, it only applies to Tiger Claw weapons, but there are ways around that little restriction
Bloodstorm Blade 4 allows you to throw your shield at anyone and have it return instantly. You can also treat a thrown weapon as a melee weapon, which means you can Power Attack with them while throwing them, if you like.
Also, I'm surprised you haven't made a bigger mention of Dungeoncrasher, which can do some pretty awesomely synergistic things with bull rushing with a shield.
Please make any and all suggestions for additions, post your favorite builds, and argue about shields in D&D. If you do post an addition to the guide, please cite a book and page number if you can, so that I can look it up. Thanks.
Spell suggestion (the most obvious one of all, perhaps): Magic vestment. Particularly handy at high levels, when a pearl of power gifted to your party spellcaster can buy you a +3 to +5 enhancement that lasts practically all day and doesn't stack with the costs of other shinier enchantments for just 9000 gp.
There's only like two maneuver with shields in the ToB. You can grant your ally your shield bonus + 4 (or maybe a bit lower I forgot) as an immediate action against one attack. Or you can shield bash someone as an immediate action. If you hit, you cancel out that enemy's attack.
Shield Block and Shield Counter are the 2 Devoted Spirit manevuers that deal with shields. Page 60 in Tome of Battle. One is Crusader 2 (ECL3) and the other is Crusader 7 (ECL13). Both are Immediate Actions. Shield block allows you to give an adacent ally a bonus to AC equal to 4 + your shields AC (that a lot of AC!), and Shield Counter allows you to make an offhand attack (-2) with your shield (immediate!) and if you hit, your opponents next hit AUTOMATICALLY MISSES!!!! Must be done before you know if the attack hits or not though.
A beholderís favorite foods include small live mammals, exotic mushrooms and other fungi, gnomes, beef, pork, colorful leafy vegetables, leaves, flower petals, insects, and birds.
Shield Block and Shield Counter are the 2 Devoted Spirit manevuers that deal with shields.
While those are two maneuvers that deal specifically with shields, it should be noted that any of the Tiger Claw discipline maneuvers that emulate or improve TWF can also be used with a shield as your secondary weapon.
A beholderís favorite foods include small live mammals, exotic mushrooms and other fungi, gnomes, beef, pork, colorful leafy vegetables, leaves, flower petals, insects, and birds.
Buckler: The poor manís Animated shield. Basically you can accept a small penalty to hit, pick up the Shield Bash feat, and get all the benefits of a shield and itís magical protections without the hassle of giving up two-handed fighting. PHB.
Mithral: If you're concerned about your Armor Check penalty, this will lower it. It's also worth mentioning that a Mithral Buckler has 0 Armor Check penalty. So there's no penalty for non-proficiency. Thus, almost every build I've made that isn't proficient with shields has an enchanted mithral buckler. This trick is particularly useful for Skill monkeys.
Why mithral buckler? It makes no sense and it's unnecessarily expensive, as you can achieve the same just by masterworking the buckler. If 5 pounds is too much, make it a darkwood buckler, which is cheaper than mithral and still cuts the weight in half. The only reason to mithral a buckler is if you want to negate the ASF, which isn't that important to shield wielders in general except for the occasional arcane gish.
Originally Posted by Person_Man
Active Shield Defense feat: When fighting defensively with a shield, you don't take the attack penalties on your AoO. Also, you still threaten when on Total Defense, which is useful when combined with Spinning Defense (Dungeon Compendium) which allows you to use Deflect Arrows to deflect any number of ranged attacks when wielding a polearm and using the Total Defense action. Essentially, you sacrifice your normal attack routine (depending on AoO) to gain a bonus to AC and be immune to ranged attacks. PHBII.
Again, how exactly are you wielding a 2-handed polearm to get off Spinning Defense with a shield, unless you do it with an animated shield or buckler?
Originally Posted by Person_Man
Agile Shield Fighter: This one feat essentially replaces 3 TWF feats when your are fighting with a shield and unarmed strike.
It replaces 4 feats, as it essentially also acts like Oversized Two-Weapon Fighting for Shields, as most shield fighters taking this feat will probably be using a heavy shield, which counts as one-handed weapon for two-weapon fighting purposes.
Another dirty shield trick is to build your shield as both a magic weapon and shield, and on the weapon side to make it a +X defending weapon. Strictly speaking, that bonus AC from defending won't be strictly shield bonuses for the purpose of Shield Ward and Parrying Shield but that's still more AC.
For purpose of Defending and Empyreal, I'm not sure whether using Greater Magic Weapon or Magic Vestment would count for the purposes of transferring the enhancement bonus to AC or Attack to Saves or AC, respectively.
Otherwise, your guide is off to a nice start. Keep it up!
Rule of Cool Contributor and Goon
Thanks for all the additional info everyone. I've done my best to update the guide with everything people have posted. And I'll put some additional work into it tomorrow and again next week until everyone is satisfied with it.
[*]You can use a shield as a two-handed weapon. While itís less optimal then pretty much any other weapon due to itís low damage, lack of reach, lack of special abilities, and requirement for Shield Bash, it can be done.
No, you can't.
Shields are offhand weapons. So 1/2 damage bonus from Str. No, buts about it.
Shield Bash Attacks You can bash an opponent with a light shield, using it as an off-hand weapon. See Table: Weapons for the damage dealt by a shield bash. Used this way, a light shield is a martial bludgeoning weapon. For the purpose of penalties on attack rolls, treat a light shield as a light weapon. If you use your shield as a weapon, you lose its AC bonus until your next action (usually until the next round). An enhancement bonus on a shield does not improve the effectiveness of a shield bash made with it, but the shield can be made into a magic weapon in its own right.
Originally Posted by Official 3.5 FAQ
Can a character make a shield bash attack using the
shield as a primary weapon or can it be used only as an offhand
While the rules describe a shield bash as an off-hand
weapon, thatís simply an assumption (that your primary hand is
holding a weapon). Thereís nothing stopping you from
declaring your shield bash as your primary weapon. Of course,
that means that any attack you make with your other hand
becomes a secondary weapon.