Shield Proficiency Talent, Updated

After discussion in a few places (here, IRC, IM) regarding the first cut at the Shield Proficiency Talent, I’ve tweaked it a bit.

Shield Proficiency

This talent allows you to use a shield to increasingly greater effect, ultimately providing impenetrable defenses,  defense against spells, and even the ability to turn spells on their caster.

Tier Benefit
Free Proficiency with light shields
Basic Proficiency with heavy shields, Shield Wall
Expert Proficiency with shield bashing and tower shields.  Improved Shield Wall
Heroic Shield Protector, Deflect Arrows
Master Aegis
Champion Immediate Aegis
Legendary Spell Turning

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

Talent Abilities

Shield Wall

When adjacent to another character using a shield and you both have Expert Shield Proficiency you may form a shield wall.  Choose a direction to defend against perpendicular to your line, and as long as you stay adjacent to each other you gain both shield bonuses against attacks from that direction.  When taking part in a shield wall you lose your shield bonus against attacks from other directions.

For instance, if two adjacent characters use large shields and have Expert Shield Proficiency they enjoy a +4 shield bonus attacks from one direction.  If the characters stand in a line running east-west they can apply this bonus to attacks from one of the north or south directions (chosen together each round).

This may be applied for each adjacent character standing in line (three suitable characters with large shields could have +4, +6, and +4 bonuses respectively.

Improved Shield Wall

As Shield Wall above, but you gain bonuses from and grant bonuses to all adjacent shield wall members that can be ‘exposed’.  This means that if your shield wall is actually in a square, those with Expert Shield Proficiency on the ‘corners’ still count as members of the shield wall from both the ‘front’ and the ‘side’, granting and receiving bonuses normally.

Members on the ‘inside’ of the shield wall do not count as exposed and thus are not included in the shield wall.

Shield Protector

All adjacent allies (even outside or ineligible for a shield wall) may gain the benefit of your shield bonus in place of their own, if any.

Deflect Arrows

When struck by a ranged attack you may spend from your Dexterity pool and make an attack roll (DC equal to the attack roll that struck you) to negate the attack.  This does not apply to exceptional ranged attacks such as giant-thrown boulders.

You may not use Deflect Arrows while maintaining an aegis, below.


As a single action you may spend from your Dexterity pool to initiate and maintain either a wall of force (based on your shield location, choose a direction) or a globe of invulnerability (centered on your shield).  You may take only 5′ steps while maintaining either of these and lose the use of your shield for other purposes (including granting your shield bonus to others, deflecting arrows, or gaining the shield bonus for yourself).

Immediate Aegis

If you are not currently maintaining an aegis, you may as an immediate action spend from your Dexterity pool to activate a wall of force or globe of invulnerability (or switch between the two).  If you do not maintain the aegis it will last until your next turn.

Maintaining an aegis becomes a swift action rather than a single action.

Spell Turning

If you are free to use your shield, as an immediate action you may spend from your Dexterity pool to use a spell turning effect against a chosen spell that targets you.  If you are maintaining an aegis you may choose to abandon it (ending the effect immediately) in order to use this ability.


  1. I do try to link to important related posts (such as the previous run at Shield Proficiency)… I’m not perfect at it, I miss them occasionally, but I do try.

    In this case you haven’t missed a post that describes ability pools in detail. I mentioned the possibility in passing in a review of John Reyst’s Threshold system (he does something with point-based resources that sparked an idea in my head) but I haven’t fleshed it out entirely. I mention ability pools from time to time in the last dozen or so posts.

    To be completely honest I’m not entirely, absolutely certain how they’re going to work in detail. For now it’s probably sufficient to know that using these abilities draws from a resource pool that may be shared with other abilities. The abilities being used (such as aegis) aren’t completely free.

    I was going to write up a Spot talent, but I’ll move Ability Pools up in the queue. I think they’re going to be important.

  2. GreyKnight

    If you allow spending multiple pips* from the pool, you could perhaps have scaling abilities (see Rage suggestion) which also scale in their use cost. Of course if your pool size increases with level then your “current-tier” abilities should always be usable in a relevant way. This gives characters what is basically the option of a small number of “daily uses” of a big ability or many uses of a lower-level one; extra tactical flexibility to handle either mook hordes or an evil overlord, but without having to track separate daily usage limits.

    (* I referred to the pool contents as “Constitution pips” because “Constitution points” is an existing phrase that refers to the actual ability score. YMMV.)

  3. I have considered having talents draw from pools in varying amounts by tier or ability used.

    Your rage suggestion looks reasonable. I might instead separate initiation cost and maintenance — it might cost five points to go into a Champion Rage but only one point per round to maintain, sort of thing.

    It’s probably simpler to keep everything at a single point per expenditure, but I do like the idea of being able to use abilities at varying power.

    I suspect deciding exactly how Ability Pools work is going to take a few iterations.

  4. hadsil

    I can see where a wall of force or globe of invulberability could take place, but I still can’t get past shield use providing protection against attacks of the mind or soul, i.e. a Globe would protect against Command or Hold Person. I can accept it stopping a Ray of Enfeeblement because that requires an attack roll and a shield is supposed to protect from that. Therefore, I’ll amend my objection to say I can accept shield proficiency to protect against any spell that requires a reflex save or an attack roll, regardless of save type, but I can’t see how using a shield protects against Command, Slow, or Shout.

  5. @hadsil: it seems your primary difficulty with this talent as written is more or less flavor rather than balance. I’ve made a note of it in the talent repository.

    I’ll consider it again after I’ve worked on some other stuff for a while. Right now I’d rather have ten or twenty pretty-okay talents (which might be enough to actually work with and try in play) than one that is seemingly perfect but very lonely because there are no others….

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