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Should the Shield Spell Be Banned?

After watching Treantmonk’s superb subclass ranking series I was excited when the rules-savvy vlogger published a video in which he claimed to ‘fix D&D’ with just three house rules.

I was left absolutely flabbergasted when the first of these rules was to remove the shield spell from the game!

Artwork that brings back some memories!

Wtf? If I was going to start removing spells from the game shield would be pretty far down on my list!

Now, I’ve railed against certain incantations so many times on this blog that I’m not going to list them again here… regular readers have no doubt grown sick of me complaining about them! As for shield, I’d never even considered that it was somehow damaging my D&D sessions, nor had anyone else flagged it as an issue.

As someone who is currently playing a very fragile College of Lore bard, I’d more likely go the opposite way and say the shield spell is actually good for the game. Anyone unable to wear medium or heavy armour in 5th edition walks around with a suicidal AC for essentially the entirety of their adventuring career. Shield goes someway to offset that. Plus, it’s one of the only defensive mechanics in the game… a rare, and enjoyable, moment of empowerment for players who are usually unable to actively do anything to prevent an enemy hit.

Now, Treantmonk obviously runs games full of optimised character builds who (it seems) spam the table with full spellcasters in plate armour etc., so maybe this house rule makes sense for his games – if everyone on the table feels obliged to take a certain option, then I agree with his logic: it’s better to remove that option, because all you’re doing is killing variety in your game.

But while I must confess that I may have exasperated a few DMs with successive castings of the spell in clutch combats, for ‘normal’ tables I don’t think a nuclear option is required to deal with shield. Just a little down-tuning should be enough.

So here’s my easy fix…

Shield

1st level abjuration

Casting time: 1 reaction
Range: Self
Components: V, S
Duration: 1 round
An invisible barrier of magical force appears and protects you. Until the start of your next turn, you have a +5 bonus to your AC to a maximum of 21. The bonus works against the triggering attack, and you take no damage from magic missile.

That’s it!

Now the shield spell goes back to fulfilling its job of protecting glass cannons, and is still a pretty useful option for the likes of Eldritch Knights (at least ones that don’t wear an actual shield). But it’s never going to result in players spamming their ACs to obscene levels where they become all but untouchable.

If you want to be a bit kinder to Eldritch Knights and Artificers, for example, you could use my original idea that the AC bonus depends on whether you’re wearing no armour / light armour (+5), medium armour (+4) or heavy armour (+3). (It kinda makes sense… the more armour you have, the less help having a protective magical barrier provides vs. the protection you already have). However, I personally prefer just sticking a top limit on, which is easy to remember.

There are even a couple more alternative fixes I could suggest, such as not being able to cast shield on successive turns perhaps. Or you could steal a mechanic I used many years ago for a couple of high level defense spells I created (such as Lavinia’s Stunning Escape, below… which, yes, is massively overpowered!). Using this mechanic, the spell has to be cast before combat using a longer casting time and then is triggered later, using a reaction, during combat. This essentially limits its use to once per fight, which could be a really good way of limiting shield‘s effectiveness, esp. if you don’t play many combats in an adventuring day.

Lavinia’s Stunning Escape

5th level evocation

Casting Time: 1 minute (activated with a reaction)
Range: Self
Components: V, S, M (a pair of cymbals)
Duration: 24 hours

You weave a protective aura around yourself (or a willing target you touch) that you are able to trigger using a reaction the moment you take damage from an attack. When triggered a stunning blast of magical force affects anyone within 30 ft., doing 2d10 damage (half on a successful Strength saving throw) and causing them to be stunned for 1 turn (no effect on save). In addition you may turn invisible as per the conditions of the spell invisibility (requires concentration, ends if you attack a creature) and teleport up to 60ft to an unoccupied space that you can see. The spell must be triggered within 24 hours of casting, or be lost. Only one protective aura can be active per person at one time, and it can be triggered only once.

Shield Beating Tactics

Whether you’re using the Hipster Remix or the original shield in your game, Dungeon Masters can reduce the spell’s effectiveness by switching up their tactics a little from just piling on relentless claw, bite or sword attacks against an impossible AC. Once a player has cast shield, for example, consider using the next monster attacks to grapple or shove (prone) the player instead. The shield doesn’t help the players’ Athletics score after all, and, if knocked prone, other monsters can pile in with advantage (or the same monster if it has enough attacks). Otherwise, you could have one (weaker) monster use the Help action so that a second monster can get advantage on their next attack, another way of offsetting the spell’s AC bonus. And while you probably don’t need me to tell you this, area of effect spells/abilities are great shield circumventers.

Your Experiences with Shield? Did You Ban It?

As always, I’m curious to know about your experiences with the shield spell and whether it’s been a problem with your game, and what you or your DM did about it… you know where the comments section is!

Treantmonk’s Other Two House Rules

I feel like now is probably the time for my thoughts on Treantmonk’s other two house rules.

Rule Number 2: A levelled spell gained through a class may only be cast with armour or a shield equipped if that class provides the proficiency for that armour or shield.

Again, this seems designed to deal with an issue that probably only comes up with spammy multiclass builds (which don’t feature much on my tables), but I’m totally on board with this rule. As Treantmonk says in his video, casters being squishy is really the only downside to the massive upside of being insanely powerful magic users, so this house rule makes perfect sense to me.

Rule Number 3: When you attack using the attack action to make a weapon attack or unarmed strike, you can choose to take a -5 penalty to that attack roll. If the attack hits you deal +10 damage.

Arggggghhhhhhh! Treantmonk’s favourite house rule is actually one that would legitimately put me off playing the game. The -5 / +10 is just such a horrible, un-5e mechanic, that skews damage output, while introducing a player dilemma (i.e. time wasting) on every single fucking attack – so pretty much the very last thing I would do is make this mechanic a cornerstone of my game.

Now, I can see why he did it (and he makes a good case in the video), but again it seems very specific to his table, dealing with the fact that martial characters are more or less obliged to take Great Weapon Master or Sharp Shooter if they want to optimise their damage, leading to very little variety on the table. I feel like he could have achieved the same just by removing those two feats (and feats being optional rules, it’s more a case of not allowing them than banning them), rather than making 5e’s most annoying trade off an ubiquitous part of gameplay.

Personally, I think just switching the -5/+10 on the GWM and SS feats for some situational benefit would be the best way to improve the game.

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27 Comments

  1. Peter

    Shield is scary. Bladesinger from Tasha’s really sealed it home because they are basically a Wizard with an AC of 12+DEX+INT+5 with shield, which is incredible, especially for a class that can just take ASIs and increase their AC by 1 every 4 levels.

    Treatmonk’s 3rd point was partially to give the GWM/SS benefit to his namesake monk without being forced to be a Way of the Kensei. I don’t really think it is a huge dilemma unless your party suffers from intense analysis paralysis. If you are afraid to miss, don’t do it. That is pretty much it. However, it causes another big problem: it continues to poop on strength in a game where it is incredibly undertuned. For example, armor. A max strength character has to pay 200 gold for 17 AC armor and get disadvantage on stealth. A max Dex character pays 45. Dex saves are more useful than strength. And now, treant wants to make Dex weapon damage equal to 2 handed weapons? No one would ever want to use strength!

    • duncan

      Bladesingers look fun actually, but yes, they can concentrate on boosting either their Int or Dex and gain massive benefits from either, without having to stop to pick up feats.

      To be fair, if they’re really expected to go into melee with a d6 as their hit dice then they will need a very good AC! I suspect most don’t though… and just sign up for the AC and concentration save benefits while behaving like a regular caster.

      Shield makes their Song of Defense very situational as well…

      Good point about Treantmonk’s house rule sh*tting on Strength-based characters.

  2. Rick Coen

    My current about-to-retire character is an Aberrant Mind sorcerer. His AC is 19 normally (16 DEX, Staff of Defense, +3 AC from subclass, and Bracers of Defense) – which uses 2 of his attunement slots, just to point out. The Staff of Defense allows him 4 free Shield spells per day (the 5th might turn the staff to dust). He is rarely hit, and when he is, he pops a Shield spell to get to 24 AC. [On top of that, he is an Inspiring Leader, and starts after each rest with 12 temps!] The point of this is that your Remix would only give him 2 AC; *or*, it might make him think about not bothering with the Bracers of Defense. Either way, it would be a nerf to my character, and no one else’s (we had an artificer with Shield, but he retired
    already). Ick. Having said that… in a bounded accuracy system where the highest AC any monster has is 25 (tiamat and tarrasque, I think), my 5th level sorcerer able to get an AC of 24 when needed is… frustrating for the DM.

    My next (replacement) character is a Paladin/Warlock – not a hexblade, a tomelock of a Genie, because Story. He wears full plate. Treatmonk’s second rule would mean I can’t cast my warlock spells or cantrips in my full plate. This isn’t a cheese build; my warlock levels are for Ritual Casting (tomelock!), some cantrips (*not* Eldritch Blast), and unlimited False Life (start each fight with 8 temps).

    Now, there’s a “d4 Optimization Build: the Catch-22” that is a sorcerer, fighter (BM or RK), bard, paladin that looks like so much fun to play, but is absolutely about cheesing a specific circumstance. And this guy can do all his spell casting in Full Plate if he wants, despite having only one level of Fighter (maybe two, for Action Surge). *That* is what TM’s rule is trying to prevent. So I get the design intent. No DM wants to see the wizard take a level of fighter and start rocking mithril full plate with his STR 8 (or normal full plate, if a dwarf). I would -weakly- argue that the multiclass character does lose some spell progression, but… yeah.

    His third rule basically – if you take a certain perspective – introduces “called shot” or “all in”. And, as stated, removes the unbalancing feature of GWM and SS by giving it to everyone. Fighting zombies? Take a -5 to hit them harder and make sure they stay down. Big nasty “paper tiger” of a foe with high damage and AC 12? cut your accuracy by 30% to inflict double damage, kill it faster. Anything else… don’t use it. In practice… well, either you’ll have players that slow things down figuring out the math (or have a handy statistics table printed out!), or they’ll mostly not use it. and when they do, and succeed, it will feel cool! and that’s fine, if its a rare epic moment. IMHO, of course!

    • duncan

      Hi Rick, well I don’t have too much sympathy for your DM if he gave you bracers of defense and staff of defense by 5th level… he must know that he’s creating a tank of a sorcerer! Having said that, yes, my house rule is designed to legislate against the stacking of magic items etc. and keep a bounded accuracy on AC (as you seemed to have deduced!).

      Re: TM’s rule number three: I don’t think the epic moments will be very rare, I think more attacks than not would use the -5 / +10… any time you have advantage for example, or are fighting with a fist or dagger.

      I’ve just realised it’s a massive nerf for rogues, as their base attacks actually do decent damage, so they gain nothing by being able to do this, as would be dumb to risk missing their Sneak Attack damage… (maybe if they fight with 2 weapons and do the SA on their bonus attack and then can do the +10 on their usual attack. Not sure if you can use a bonus attack before an attack any more though… pretty sure you can’t!).

    • Will

      What subclass ability does Aberrant Mind have that provides +3 to AC?

      • Rick Coen

        When I created the character, it was a base class ability, warped skin and Psionic energy, like the draconian sorcerer’s scaled skin.

  3. Kat W

    At my table, the House Rule is simply that you don’t know the math ahead of time. If your character has the ability to cast shield (or other such reactionary abilities to reduce the attack roll or increase your AC), then I, as DM, would simply say “it hits you” instead of saying “that’s a 23 to hit” (I keep everyone’s AC on a sticky note, along with PP and Spell DC, on my DM screen).

    This way, the player has to make a decision before they know the numerical values, the same way the character would in the moment. They have to decide to shield or not, without knowing if the shield will be enough to stop the incoming attack. Hoping, but unsure. After they decide to shield, I verify by saying “Okay, so I rolled a 23 to hit; what’s your new AC with shield?” And then resolve damage as normal, and so on.

    It’s a small change, but it makes things more immersive, and makes those shield spells more valuable as a resource to the player. They could use it and maybe waste it, or save it and take the hit. It adds tactics, drama, and resource scarcity to the shield spell, and my players love it.

    • duncan

      Hi Kat

      Totally agree, that’s good practice there and I think how the designers intend you to play it.

      We also do that on my tables… although sometimes players see the dice rolls, or the DM forgets, so a player can metagame the maths a fair bit in any one session.

    • DM Badger

      This is by far the most sensible suggestion I have seen. It almost like the couterspell issue.
      I will be using this mechanic for this spell in my games moving forward.

      Thank you

  4. Shield is an insidious “problem spell”. At levels 1-3 it’s at least a real drain on a characters resources, but by level 5 or so it’s basically a minor to moderate “spell tax” that spellcasters pay to become a lot more survivable in battle. At a certain point, the use of level 1 spells (or even level 2 spells) is basically just for shield and absorb elements, which is somewhat telling.

    As a DM, I find Shield to be pretty frustrating because it often means there are no great targets in battle and little punishment for a caster being caught in melee. I look around and there’s, say, a barbarian who takes half damage, a druid soaking up damage in bear form, a fighter or cleric with high AC, and a wizard or other caster capable of increasing their AC to 21 or so for the entire round. Thank god some people still play rogues and bards or those poor goblins and other low level fodder would really struggle to hit anything.

    Shield is just a little too strong. I think it would still see play if the AC bonus were +3 or if it only applied to one attack. One of those would be my preferred fix (probably +3 ac).

    • duncan

      Right, and at lower levels fights take less time so I feel like DMs are happy to build more of them into the adventuring day, so using shield feels like a strategical decision.

      By 7th level a full spellcaster already has one 4th level spell and three 3rd level spells which is probably enough to get them through the two combats they’ll fight in a typical day, and still leave them with 7 chances to cast shield if they need it… making it an every round ability during most adventuring days.

      Another little fix could be that Shield only works against the triggering attack, but you can continue to burn slots for every additional attack that you face that round. So you can still get the mega protection, but your resources drain way quicker!

      Or, it could be that it gives you +5 against the first attack, but +4 against the second, +3 against the third etc. I quite like this actually, and might start it off at +4 against the first attack…

      Note: when I first picked up shield for my very first character I thought the bonus was +4, and I still felt it was a great spell…. On the other hand +3 seems just a bit too stingy for me, if we consider shield of faith is +2 and lasts 10 minutes, albeit with concentration required.

      Cheers!

  5. PK

    —–
    Shield
    Casting time: 1 action, bonus action or reaction
    Range: Self
    Components: V, S
    Duration: 1 round

    An invisible barrier of magical force appears and protects you. Until the start of your next turn, you have a +5 bonus to your AC, and you take no damage from magic missile.

    To use this spell as a reaction against a melee or ranged attack that is a hit, you need to make an Arcana skill check with your spell casting ability against a DC equal to the enemies attack roll total. If the spell effect takes immediate effect and may cause the hit to miss. If unsuccessful the spell comes into effect after the hit is resolved. If the hit is a critical, you need to roll a natural 20 and have your Arcana check better the attack roll for the effect to be considered against the hit.
    —–

    Design Comment: I love the shield spell (mostly). And even though as a DM I just say to the PC’s “You’re hit”, I still find my games better when I have tweeked the shield spell.
    My changes above work for me. The changes mean the spell imposes on the action economy of the character a little more, but allows it to be used more preemptively (action, and BA). Also even as a preemptive reaction – e.g. “As the goblins approach I cast shield”. So the spell is still incredibly useful.
    And those that want to take a risk of contesting their Arcana vs the to hit roll have the choice. Something the Eldritch Knight and Bladesingers may want to do.

    I do realize my spell edit is a Nerf of the spell: somewhat for spell-slingers, more so for martials who caster dip.

    On the flip side, I agree with Treantmonk that a martial dip for Spell-slingers so they can get Armor prof is way to common.
    So I too use a homebrew rule :
    “You can cast a spell wearing armor if the armor you wear is within the armor proficiency of the class of the spell list from which you learnt the spell, or you have a feat that changes your armor proficiency for all your classes.”

    The last TM house rule regarding GWM and SS – is a patch change that tries to help the Martial classes scale with the spell slingers. For me, 5e’s biggest issue is the high Pulp Fiction hitpoints. HP ratio to weapon damage means weapon hits are quite mundane. I have a 4th level wizard with 26 HP. It would take a villager 9 hits of a short sword to bring down a Wizard.
    Consider now that Orcs at CR:1/2 have HP 15, a Gnoll at CR:1/2 have HP 22!
    Half the Villages on the Sword Coast (Phandalin?) would fall to any band of 6+ Orcs! TM’s approach doesn’t help either, it just makes more math, and less play.

    • Rick Coen

      Wow… that is a heck of a nerf. You kinda made it a cantrip, like Bladeward. Do you want to guaranteed take half damage? or get an AC bonus? Either one is good, but one takes a spell slot? And might not even be needed if you aren’t attacked? See – cantrip. Oh but wait, you can use this as a Reaction! Aww… but you failed the skill check, it didn’t work AT ALL – *and* you still spell the spell slot.

      And for extra pain, you don’t tell the player if it is even *worth* casting in the first place?? That’s just cruel. Might as well just say “Shield doesn’t exist as a spell”. I mean, as a DM myself, I get the idea of “how would you know the metagame value of a hypothetical die roll?” But, think from the mage’s view: she can absolutely tell if that incoming sword or arrow is aimed right at her chest, or is a bit off-center and can be deflected into a “miss”. Maybe the Eldritch Knight in his full plate has “7 points of uncertainty” on whether the blow that strikes his armor is going to be deflected by the armor, or will actually hit hard enough to hurt… but that’s a stretch, trying to rationalize “armor = DR” vs. D&D’s “armor = AC”.

      You don’t use Shield if the blow is clearly missing. You don’t use Shield if the blow is clearly *hitting* (meaning all your rules and math about critical hits are also irrelevant: a critical hit always hits). You use Shield to deflect the shots that might his your shoulder, arms, and legs, or might just graze along your side. Otherwise you just get a cool “breaking mirror” special effect as the attack goes straight through your Shield… in which case, why did you cast it at all and use a precious resource to no effect?

    • duncan

      Hey PK, well unlike Rick, I quite like this… or the thinking behind it at least.

      Shield is not guaranteed to work in RAW either I guess. And even if you fail your Arcana check you still get the Shield for the rest of the round, so it’s still might prove a good use of the spell slot in many cases.

      I think I would share the result of the monster attack roll though in this case however, because I’d want the player to know the risk of their Arcana check. I think it suits spell slingers because they have lower AC, so they get hit by lower rolls (15 might be a hit, hell 12 might be a hit), and they should have high Arcana skills used with Spellcasting Ability (maybe +5 or 6 at first level), so they would have a decent chance of countering those rolls.

      But wait, if they win the Arcana contest and trigger the spell in time, they can still get hit if the +5 AC of the spell isn’t enough? That would feel very disappointing! I think they’ve done enough to stop the attack if they win the contest…

      Pre-casting as a bonus action is interesting option, but is giving players too much thinking to do for my liking as to their best approach (vs. saving it for reactions).

      Overall, it’s probably a bit too strong of a nerf and a touch too fiddly for my table…. but on the other hand I do quite like contested rolls, so I might trial it one day.

      Re: hit points… wasn’t that the case of all editions of D&D?

      Weapons can certainly do some pathetic damage in the wrong hands, or wrong set of situational circumstances!

  6. A lot of people point out that Shield is broken on higher levels because you can spam it. Hm, sure, but ideally you would have at least 2-3 combat encounters per day + other activities that would most likely demand using some spells so I wouldn’t consider it to be such an issue.

    When it comes to scaling, remember that a lot of damage, especially later on, comes from saving throws, not only on-hit. Furthermore, a squishy wizard, even with a shield, can be in real trouble when surrounded by a high damaging monster.

    Also, it incentivizes DMs to think more strategically rather than just using “go and hit” monsters. Even grappling & restraining can cripple casting Shield since its somatic component.

    When it comes to broken builds – sure, you can always build something that is almost always broken, especially with enough magic items, but I don’t think you can escape with that in games such as D&D. Eventually someone who loves to optimize will figure out a way make the encounters super hard – but as I said, I believe this is where the DMs fun starts. A great villain would know that a certain hero is almost unhittable and prep for it accordingly.

  7. KingMel

    Love the discussion. As an old guy who cut his teeth on war games and hex games like Melee and Wizard and learned RPG with OD&D and AD&D 1e, I was amazed at the evolution of AD&D through 5e.

    Sure, you could create a superhero in the old days with liberal use of magic items. But all of the bonuses and magic and stuff in 5e has really boosted baseline character power — excessively so in my opinion. The old armor class system worked fine in combination with “to hit” values as a function of monster level. Big, powerful high hit die monsters had a reasonable chance of doing damage to even well-armored players.

    If you have having a problem with Shield, it is because in AD&D 5e it combines +5 protection to already high AC values. If you start with AC 14 then you boost to AC 19 for a d20 roll.

    AD&D 5e gives magic to almost everyone along with special abilities and “plus” bonuses out the wazoo. In addition, it tends to be far more difficult to die.

    Where did the risk go? We used to plan out battle strategies carefully and seek ways to avoid battle though stealth, wit, and such. Now superheroes wade into battle with huge pluses. The spirit of the game has been lost and now you are trying to fix the excesses.

  8. Rick Coen

    Here’s a couple crazy “shower thoughts”.

    1) Harken back to way-previous editions. Shield spell is still +5 against ranged attacks, but only +3 against melee. (Maybe +4 against spell attacks.) Reinforce the “get in the mage’s face” offense/defense trope.

    2) Allow certain weapons / weapon types to bypass the Shield entirely. For example: Guns! 🙂

    3) And/or a special material. Not a common adventuring material, though, because everyone will have it. I’m thinking something not-uncommon-to-get, but not a common weapon material. Like, I don’t know, copper-plated weapons, or obsidian shards. So warriors and adventurers might need to carry this off-weapon (like a dagger instead of their normal greataxe) for mage-slaying.

    4) And, to wrap it up with crazy ideas, maybe certain damage-types or monster types. Force effects (well, specifically Magic Missile) are blocked, but perhaps Necrotic goes right through. Normal claws and teeth are blocked, but maybe aberrations or oozes are not?

    • duncan

      A productive shower!

      I like number 1) the best…

      Delirious post-work, pre-bed thoughts… the Shield can soak up a max no. of HP = to 5 x your spellcaster class level, eg. 10 at level 2. (Excess hit points are taken as damage on any single hit, while, once destroyed, the shield no longer confers any AC bonus or magic missile protection [the spell ends basically]).

      Apart from putting a top limit on its capabilities, another advantage of this is it makes spammy multiclassing less effective! But keeps Eldritch Knight in clover.

  9. Tom Miskey

    I haven’t had any real problems with Shield in game, but 1 idea might be this: Shield moves your Proficiency bonus from your attack rolls to your AC instead, and it lasts until the END of your next turn. It’s true that this is usually less than a +5 bonus for most of your career, but the fact that it lowers the caster’s attack bonus the following round helps provide some potential cost or at least consideration to using the spell. It’s manageable if a pure caster uses it, they could just cast a non-attack roll spell next round, but if a martial character were using it (not the intended Shield caster, I agree with you), it hurts more.

    Also, because I use the rule that Sharpshooter and GWM subtract your Proficiency bonus from the attack roll to give you 2x your Prof. bonus to damage if you hit, those feats can’t be used the round after casting Shield, because your Prof. bonus was already reallocated to AC. Thus, there is no attack bonus from proficiency left until it returns when the Shield drops. I enjoy these “reallocate your limited resource” ideas for feats and spells in the game.

  10. Mark

    I really like treatmonk’s three suggestions because they are all simple, they all seem to add variety and choice by either removing an option that is always strongest in character creation or giving it to everyone, and they all seem to reduce the power gap between spellcasters and physical combatants. I think your suggestion of banning/changing great weapon master and sharpshooter has a big drawback in that those two feats are almost single-handedly balancing physical combat classes to the point that removing the -5 accuracy/+10 damage ability would greatly increase the already large power gap between casters and physical combatants. It feels like this would hurt physical combatant classes as much as just reducing their proficiency bonus by 1 which seems like a huge and unwarranted nerf to the already under-tuned classes.

  11. Justin

    Just coming back to this after seeing one of your new posts.

    One simple & minor nerf to Shield could be to have it only work against the triggering attack, not ‘until the start of your next turn’. Most enemies at higher levels have multiattack, so this change specifically addresses the concern about how the spell functions at higher level play.

    An alternative would be to have it absorb a certain number of points of damage (say, 10) *per level of spell it is cast at*

    That creates an upcasting option, and prevents the problem of this 1st level spell remaining about equally powerful at all levels of play, while most other 1st level spells become comparatively less effective & relevant.

    This is similar to how I’d like to change Absorb Elements (the 1st level spell that actually becomes MORE powerful as you level up!), whose upcasting works the wrong way around IMHO. It should require upcasting to absorb more damage, not to give a melee damage buff.

    • Rick Coen

      5e specifically shied away from this very simple and easy to implement – 3e, 3.5e, 4e, PF 1e, PF2e – concept for the logic-breaking “half or double” mechanic. Having said that, I totally agree. I could completely see Shield being balanced if it gave say “+3 AC, until you suffer 10 damage; each level upcasting grants 20 additional damage, each two levels grants +1 additional AC”. So at 1st level, +3 AC until 10 damage. At 3rd level, giving up Fly or Fireball, +4 AC until 30 damage. Note that this is not absorbing damage — When that stone giant’s boulder hits you in the chest for 32 damage, you still take all 32 damage! (otherwise you step on Armor of Agathys, False Life, etc. toes)

    • duncan

      Hi Justin

      Pretty much agree with all your comments, except for the ‘minor nerf’ of it only working against the triggering attack. This is a common house rule I believe, but I consider it a major nerf. Not only do most monsters have multiple attacks, but you can obviously be attacked by multiple monsters in a round. Also consider scenarios like dozens of goblin archers firing at you. Shield in RAW is a lifesaver in this case, shield against a triggering attack, not too helpful.

      I don’t think this nerf is outrageous though, and shield would remain powerful with this nerf.

      Cheers mate

  12. Spetzel

    Re the GWM (or even GWM-any-time house rule): an easy edit (courtesy of my favorite DM) is to change the +10 to +Proficiency Bonus (or perhaps 2xPB if you don’t want to nerf it that much)

    As for nerfing/outlawing Shield, I feel that’s just the knee-jerk reaction of a pissed-off DM. 5e Wizards aren’t really the “insane damage dealers” that people seem to think, at least in terms of single-target damage, compared to what a competent Fighter, Barbarian, or Paladin can put out at 11th level. Their greatest utility is crowd control, utility spells, and occasionally AoEs. Let’s not nerf them from protecting themselves against concentration-ending attacks.

  13. Tom Miskey

    I made a few changes to the Shield spell for my games. Instead of a flat +5 AC with no cost, the spell now transfers the caster’s Proficiency bonus from their attack rolls to their AC, and the effects last until the end of the caster’s next turn. This means that they will have a full turn with the bonus AC and reduced attacks, which can help them to get out of danger on their turn, if needed. If they try to make an immediate attack on their turn instead of getting away, they best use a spell that requires a saving throw instead of an attack roll. This means that more martial types, like the Bladesingers and half-casters, are more inconvenienced than a full caster would by using the Shield spell (which is a feature, not a bug… the squishy full casters are who Shield is truly meant for, IMHO!)

    Also, the AC bonus with this version of the spell scales along with the player and the enemies they’ll face, starting at only a +2 and going up to a max of +6 at 17th level. I also enjoy this aspect of the revised spell, because a flat +5 at early levels can be nearly insurmountable, but it’s less so by 13th level and above!

    • Rick Coen

      Tom, this is an interesting trade-off! I wonder, though, whether a wizard would bother spending a spell slot for just +2 AC, especially with an accompanying -2 accuracy? What about leaving it +5 AC, but they cannot apply their proficiency bonus to *any* magic the following round (accuracy or spell save DC)?

  14. Brandon

    My DM gave my Rune Knight/sorcerer dwarven plate, I had a +1 shield, access to Shield of Faith and Shield spells.

    That meant I could have a 27-32 AC if I wanted to.

    He never once complained. After all, if I was willing to expend a slot AND my valuable reaction (I had Storm/Cloud runes) on Shield, then fine by him!

    I went FOUR sessions never taking a hit. Then one session, we were trying to cross a raging river. This involved a buttload of DEX saves. I failed several times. Ended up taking 50+ damage when all was said and done.

    This first-time DM learned a valuable lesson: who cares about high AC? There’s always a way to challenge a character. ALWAYS.

    Part of the game is making sure the GM is challenged too. Nerfing SHIELD ain’t the way to go. That’s akin to cheating.

    How many spell slots do Eldritch Knights get? 4-5? They need to waste them on SHIELD? Let them! Contrary to WotC thinks, an encounter is going to last longer than 3-4 rounds–especially an encounter where an EK feels like they need to cast SHIELD.

    Same work a Bladesinger. If they wanna blow a slot and reaction on SHIELD, then that’s one less round for their reaction-based feature. It’s one less opportunity to cast any of their other MUCH MORE PROBLEMATIC spells. Let them. Hit them with something else.

    DMs have a wealth of other options that are better solutions against SHIELD spammers. Any of them are better than nerfing a perfectly reasonable spell.

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