Shield Proficiency Talent

GreyKnight wrote up some talents for Echelon and asked for my thoughts on them.  I’ll be reviewing them over the next few days, but his his suggestion for a Shield Proficiency talent (slightly modified in the wording) is such a shining example of what I’m looking for in a talent that I had to get this one out first.

Shield Proficiency

This talent allows you to use a shield to increasingly greater effect, ultimately providing Spell Resistance, spell invulnerability, and spell turning.

Tier Benefit
Basic Proficiency with light and heavy shields.
Expert Proficiency with shield bashing and tower shields.
Heroic If you are free to act with your shield, allies within reach enjoy the benefits of your skill with the shield.  They may use the better of your Shield Bonus and their own, and may share your shield-based Spell Resistance.
Master If you are free to act with your shield, you gain Spell Resistance equal to (12 + Shield Bonus + Level Bonus).
Champion If you are free to act with your shield, your SR increases to (14 + Shield Bonus + Level Bonus).  As a swift action you can activate a globe of invulnerability effect that protects you and your allies within reach.  If this globe of invulnerability is dispelled you may reactivate it as a swift action.
Legendary If you are free to act with your shield, your SR increases to (16 + Shield Bonus + Level Bonus).  As an immediate action usable a number of times per day equal to your Level Bonus you may use a spell turning effect against a chosen spell that targets you.

A character is free to use a shield if the shield is equipped and the character is not helpless (yes, it works while flatfooted).

Keith’s Comments

This talent provides abilities that increase in awesome as the tiers increase, from “can be done in the real world” through “impressive but fairly credible” to “wow, can’t do that in the real world” and “really, really useful for keeping shield-users alive“.  The way the Spell Resistance is written keeps the SR about equal to level+8 (Master tier has a Level bonus of +4..+6, I would expect the Shield Bonus to be +2, for a total of 12+4+2 (18) at 9th level and 12+6+2 (20) at 12th level), so it stays fairly relevant but not crippling against opponents of similar levels.  If the talent is not kept at the top it loses some utility against opponents of the same level but still provides benefits against weaker opponents.

It might prove interesting to make the Spell Resistance equal to 10 + BAB + Shield Bonus.  This is pretty clearly a martial talent and it would be reasonable to have it scale more directly with martial ability (and presumably spell casters and other non-martial characters will have comparable defenses — I don’t see a ‘rogue’ humping a big shield around when he could use evasion instead, possibly more easily).

I like this.  A lot.  Thanks GreyKnight.


  1. GreyKnight

    Hooray, I’m a helper!

    I hadn’t thought of having the Heroic benefit tie in with the SR, but now that you mention it it makes sense. Your point about BAB is interesting; for reference, that would mean a full-BAB character with a tower shield is toting SR 34 at XL 20, where a character with the Spell Resistance talent (Legendary: SR=20+level bonus) has SR 30. BTW I’d also included an SR feature in the revised Armour Focus, although I’m not sure about it; the wider range of possible armour bonuses means that it’s a bit variable in terms of how much actual benefit you get.

    Legendary benefit for shields was the second easiest spell-related choice* I ever made in D&D; “reflect the spell off the shield” is such a classic.

    (* In case you’re wondering, first easiest was choosing an L9 spell for the “Genie” clerical domain. Yeah, that was hard.)

  2. heh, yeah, Genie9 would’ve been pretty easy (Genie7 too, probably).

    Sharing SR seemed reasonable to me under the circumstances, it’s part of the shield benefit. It seemed a little odd regarding Will saves, but I decided to not let it bother me too much. I’m not entirely sure how the Spell Resistance talent would work (even if I’ve drafted one before), but I know I’ve considered not including the Shield Bonus here — it’ll almost always be +2, and tracking the difference between +1 light shield (possible but unlikely if you invest this much into it) and +4 tower shield (possibly but less likely, nobody likes them as far as I can tell) doesn’t seem worth the hassle.

    I saw that you included SR in the armor talent, but it doesn’t seem as appropriate to me, especially since tank types are likely to use both items anyway. Stacking would be a mistake, but overlapping means you pay for an ability that doesn’t complement its physical complement.

    I considered letting high-tier shield use grant a wall of force effect under certain circumstances rather than globe of invulnerability, but all the images that came to mind were of the shield user standing and doing nothing else but hold the wall… which seemed a little boring to me, though potentially useful.

  3. … though on reconsideration (and checking the spell descriptions again) perhaps “full-round to maintain, for a number of rounds equal to your BAB or level bonus or whatever” (at whatever the creation cost is), with the option of activating it as an immediate action and it lasts until your next turn (so you can trigger it as a defense if needed) works better. “oh no, dragon’s breathing fire!” *forcewall everyone available hides behind* ABSOLUTELY seems appropriate. Perhaps revise the Champion ability to be wall of force or globe of invulnerability as needed, but only one at a time? Use the globe ‘most of the time’ but switch to the wall against specific attacks, if you’re not already busy?

  4. And rather than having uses per day based on Level Bonus, what if we look to the Ability Pools idea, where shield-based abilities might draw from the Strength Pool (and armor-based abilities draw from the Constitution Pool) I’d rather see a small number of shared resource pools than a bunch of separate ones that aren’t really attached to anything other than what they do.

  5. Doug Lampert

    Agreed on tying uses per day to an existing pool if you go with ability pools.

    I note that there’s no advantage to having two or three shield users form a shield wall (shield users give pretty much all the shield benefits to anyone in the area). This will encourage diversity in character concept (good), but doesn’t do much for realism (semi-bad). I’m not sure how I feel about that. I’d like having 2 shield users side by side make sense, but I don’t want a party where everyone carries a shield all the time.

  6. @DougL: actually, as originally written it looked like GreyKnight’s Shield Usage talent would let the shield bonuses stack (“adjacent allies can add your shield bonus to their AC”). I backed that off (“may use the better of your Shield Bonus and their own”). Given that I don’t have enhancement bonuses, Shield Bonuses will typically be +2 — letting them stack for multiple shield users probably won’t be too harmful (up to +8 for someone on the corner of a square, +12 for someone on an edge (having five 8-neighbors), +18 for someone in the middle of the turtle — assuming everyone has Heroic Shield Proficiency). I think the situation would be infrequent enough it shouldn’t be a balance problem.

    In fact, it might even be worth allowing a weaker form of this ability at the Expert tier — add half the shield bonus of Expert Shield Proficiency people around you if you’re part of a shield wall, sort of thing (possibly with some kind of limitation, such as only being able to move half-speed and/or at the lowest initiative of the group). That lets the better-trained military forces get specific and greater benefit from disciplined shield use, while the Heroic types get even better benefit without the need for as much structure.

    You raise a good point I hadn’t considered. Thanks.

  7. @GreyKnight: maybe we were doing this backward. As much as I like the SR idea, perhaps it makes more sense to put it on the armor (SR = armor bonus + BAB, possibly with a cap by tier?). Put all the passive stuff on the armor, and make the shield the active element of the defense (globe of invulnerability and/or wall of force, spell turning, etc.). We would need a new Master ability (lesser globe of invulnerability is an obvious one, but kind of uninteresting given you get something better later that supersedes it — though we would upgrade the globe used and replace it with something else when we get there).

  8. GreyKnight

    Genie7 was marginally harder because I had to ask “do I want to double up?” (answer was yes, incidentally).

    If you’re going with ability pools they would make more sense for this sort of thing. I wasn’t sure if that was definite or not so I hadn’t mentioned it.

    Catering for a shield-wall/turtle is a good plan, I should’ve thought of that! Allowing the shield bonuses to stack is one approach (probably the simplest). Half-bonus at Expert level will let rank-and-file troops get the obvious benefits too.

    For a replacement Master ability; perhaps something like the core “Arrow Deflection” shield ability? Perhaps make the Reflex save DC equal to the attack roll since projectiles won’t have intrinsic magical enhancement.

  9. Hmm. To be honest, perhaps it would be better to simply back both the currently-defined Expert and Heroic abilities back. As with armor, everyone is considered proficient with light shields, Basic gives proficiency with heavy shields and bucklers (unless we make buckler use specific to a particular fighting style; D&D 3.x has a dumb implementation for bucklers). Perhaps basic proficiency also gives the ability to form a shield wall (unless it should be limited to disciplined, trained professionals — remember, ‘Expert’ is ‘Navy SEAL’-grade training) and Expert gives the full ‘protect your neighbors’ benefits, beyond the effects of a shield wall. That is, Expert means people who aren’t part of the shield wall are protected (and since the shield wall I mentioned might have half the shield bonus instead of the full bonus, possibly better).

    This would leave Heroic open for the Deflect Arrows ability, which I think is more in line with Heroic tier than Master. Master tier normally would allow casting of wall of force for those who can do so, and globe of invulnerability halfway through the tier, so perhaps start offering them this tier (maybe they come on when you use the full defense action?), then Champion lets you activate as a swift action and swap between them as an immediate action?

    As much as I’d like to see talents grant new abilities at each tier, I don’t much mind having some tiers just be improvements on what you got a previous tier, and this is probably appropriate for this one.

  10. hadsil

    Warriors should get nice things, but it strains credulity for being skilled with a shield should give you spell resistance. I find it logical for it give a bonus to reflex saving throws. 2E had this for damage spells. It provides cover for spells that deal damage and balance for spells that you just need to avoid something. I can even accept shield expertise eventually giving the equivalent of evasion, allowing warriors to get that ability by a different route than the Lightning Reflexes line. I don’t see how shield expertise protects your mind or life force from assault.

    Spellcasters get a bad rap from those who hate 3E, but they shouldn’t be nerfed to uselessness which is what this talent screams to me. What warrior would not take it? Heck, what character would not take it, even if only to have a buckler?

  11. On reconsideration (I’ve conversed about this in a few places and forget exactly where it came up, it may even have been IRC) the shield is a silly place to put SR.

    Wall of force or globe of invulnerability are more appropriate since they are ‘on or off’ and can be considered more active defenses. SR is more passive and would probably be better suited to armor than shields.

    Reflex saves might even be in the same position — in heavier armors you’re wearing just about exactly what you want to be wearing to avoid the damage you are trying to dodge. Area effect energy attacks? Armor specifically made to protect against such things would look a lot like full plate. Traps? Same deal. The only exceptions I can really think of are things like big rocks falling, and while armor might inhibit your ability to dodge quickly, it could also reasonably turn what would have been a devastating blow into a glancing blow (save for half).

    Who wouldn’t take this? People who have better things to do with their talents — TWF and archery will be inhibited (bucklers don’t work IRL as D&D says, and they don’t work in Echelon like that either).

    Now, anyone planning to use a shield regularly may well take this talent, but I’m okay with that so far. I’ll wait until I start seeing problems in practice before I worry about it.

  12. GreyKnight

    If you follow the initial link in the article, I’ve been rewriting the talent on my wiki as we’ve been going along (see History tab if you want an older version). SR is no longer provided. Right now I’ve listed buckler proficiency as a Basic benefit, although I think kjdavies is planning to do something particular with them, so will edit further when we find out details! :-)

    Glad hadsil turned up, so we can take advantage of the hadsil-thinks-it’s-too-powerful effect. :-) It’s important to not turn the situation into “wizards can’t have nice things”! :-D

    PS: I’m not 100% sure how ability pools are going to work, so haven’t mentioned them in any of my proposals.

  13. Aegis at Master tier, I’d say the wall of force or globe of invulnerability lasts only for the duration of the full defense action.

    Aegis at Champion tier, reactivation is swift (if someone takes it down you have to wait until your turn to bring it back up). Activation might be either swift or immediate (if you can bring it up out of turn… though if you can do that there isn’t a huge difference between that and being allowed to have it active most of the time). Switching can be immediate.

    Either way, Champion Aegis can be a fire-and-forget option that lasts until your next turn, instead of requiring the full defense action to bring up and maintain. Maybe reduce maintenance to a single action (move action in D&D, as is typical for maintenance actions) if you want to keep it around. Champion should be able to do something else at the same time.

  14. Ability pools… I’m still working on it, but the leading options right now is that each pool has a number of points equal to the ability score or one-half (ability score + level) [originally ‘5 + mAbility + Level Bonus’, but that’s a dumb calculation considering (ability score + level)/2 gets the same result more easily.

    The first might recover daily (but I want to avoid dailies), the second each encounter. I need to make the pool usage costs such that they actually make for a limitation, though. If you can expect to always have enough in your pool to pay for the abilities used (and damage taken) there’s really no point in having the pools at all. Having the pool equal to the base ability score (or base ability score plus level bonus) will probably make it work okay as a damage pool but may give too many points to be useful as a fuel source.

    Yeah, still pondering. I should just write up a few options with some proposed costs to see how they work out.

  15. GreyKnight

    Can I put a vote in to phrase the latter as (ability/2 + level bonus)? Since the latter’s already going to be calculated.

    My approach for dealing with “dailies” in WRPS was to specify something like that a full eight hours’ sleep would regenerate your $foo, and also say how much $foo is regenerated for a given amount of rest. For example, you can say that one-tenth of your $foo is regenerated for each hour of rest. That lets parties have an excuse to stop, have lunch, and blast through another encounter or two before dinnertime, rather than pitching camp 15 minutes into the working day.

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