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Does the Rhythm Blade [ddi] bonus to AC and Reflex work when you've not got an existing shield?

Property: While you wield this weapon in your off hand, your shield bonus to AC and Reflex increases by 1.

I've seen it argued both ways, but if it works without an existing shield, why would you ever go for the Shielding Blade [ddi]

Property: You gain a +1 shield bonus to AC.

which is a Level 4 magic item, as opposed to the Rhythm Blade Level 3

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

The Rythm blade increases your shield bonus, the other blade provides one. This makes it's quite clear in my reading that your existing shield bonus (+0 if you don't have one) is increased by one, allowing it to stack with your existing shield or other shield bonus. However, the Shielding blade provides a shield bonus which does not stack with a shield or feat/class feature/power that grants a shield bonus.

The level difference can be accounted for in the following ways:

  • Rhythm blade requires being wielded off hand. Shielding blade has no such requirement.

  • Rhythm blade is restricted to light blade. Shielding blade can be heavy or light.

Pro tip: Wield both of these to get a +2 AC and +1 to Ref!

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Just found the paragraph in PHB, very bottom of p.213 ... you need to be proficient with shield to get the bonus to AC and Ref ... finally a reason that Fighters have Light and Heavy Shield on their list –  SteveC Sep 27 '12 at 20:49
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If you are holding a Rhytm Blade in your off hand, chances are you're not carrying a shield.

I'm not fully aware of each and every magic or mundane item in D&D 4e, but let's suppose a shield exists that does not occupy your off hand. Then, the Shielding Blade is less useful than a Rhythm Blade, but with that specific shield only.

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There are other ways to get a shield bonus besides a shield. The rhythm blade is compatible with them, the shielding blade is not. –  wax eagle Aug 23 '12 at 17:24
    
And they require you to choose them over a shield. My point is that the Rhythm blade can be better than a shielding blade but only under certain conditions. –  Zachiel Aug 23 '12 at 17:51
    
I think you can hold the Rhythm Blade in your off hand if you are using a Light Shield ... you just can't make an attack with it –  SteveC Sep 27 '12 at 20:48
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