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The entry for Shield says that the reaction is triggered by being hit by an attack, which would tend to imply that you can wait to see if your opponent actually succeeds on their attack roll (otherwise they would not be hitting you with their attack) to beat your AC before deciding whether or not to cast the spell. However, wouldn't that be considered meta gaming? After all, my character does not know whether the attack will hit or miss; only that he or she is being attacked.

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No. You get to wait to see if the attack would hit you.

It's specifically a reaction to when you were hit and it allows you to rewind and replay the attack as if you'd cast shield before it (using the original attack roll). See the text:

Casting Time: 1 reaction, which you take when you are hit by an attack or targeted by the magic missile spell


An invisible barrier of magical force appears and protects you. Until the start of your next turn, you have a +5 bonus to AC, including against the triggering attack, and you take no damage from magic missile. (Basic D&D p100)

So the clear intent here is the use it after the attack roll so you know whether or not you've been hit.

This is not meta gaming any more than 4e's immediate interrupts were meta gaming (if the action negated the trigger, then the action didn't happen but was expended). This is about modeling quick reaction in a way that's fair. It might be a bit meta, but it's far better than requiring a wizard to use a valuable spell (especially at early levels) for something that wouldn't have affected them anyways.

If you're looking for a simulationist model, this is the wizard waiting to see if the attack would otherwise hit them and only casting shield then.

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@DampeS8N you are (1) hit by an attack or (2) targeted by the magic missile spell...could be clearer, but it's OK grammatically (I think?) –  wax eagle Jul 15 '14 at 15:14
It is grammatical, but it still feels like there is a missing second 'are'. –  DampeS8N Jul 15 '14 at 15:17
Just in case anyone wants "proof": thesageadvice.wordpress.com/2014/10/11/shield-before –  WannabeCoder Dec 24 '14 at 18:37
Your wording rewind and replay suggests that the attack die is rerolled when shield is triggered, did you really mean that? That means that a sure hit would still get a chance to miss. –  Aviad P. Apr 12 at 13:26
@Aviad that's not the case, I've clarified that its the same roll. –  wax eagle Apr 12 at 16:00

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