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I had an idea to play a monk who uses a shield in his fighting. After a little searching, I came across the Unhindering Shield feat.

The feat lists a benefit which is specific to bucklers.

Benefit(s): You still gain a buckler’s bonus to AC even if you use your shield hand for some other purpose. When you wield a buckler, your shield hand is considered free for the purposes of casting spells, wielding weapons, and using any other abilities that require you to have a free hand or interact with your shield, such as the swashbuckler’s precise strike deed or the Weapon Finesse feat.

It then goes on to specify a special benefit without explicitly mentioning bucklers.

Special: A monk with this feat is not considered to be using a shield for the purposes of his AC bonus, fast movement, or flurry of blows.

Does this mean that the 2 sections can be read separately and while the first section only applies to bucklers the second section can apply to any shield w.r.t. monks? Or does the 1st section's focus on bucklers somehow imply that the 2nd section must also apply only to bucklers?

My GM likes to stay very close to RAW in almost all matters and she allows all Paizo material.

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You are correct, the fact that the benefit section is talking about bucklers has no bearing on the special section, since the special section only requires you to have the feat, not actually be using it. If it said “While using this feat, a monk [...],” you would have a much harder time making that argument, but it doesn’t say that.

The name and fluff of the feat also reference a “shield,” rather than “buckler” specifically, so there is some reason to think this may even have been intentional.

That said, taking this feat and then not using a buckler seems like a poor choice—a heavy shield has only +1 shield bonus more to AC than a buckler, and has several other drawbacks that this shield lacks. Since shield bonuses to AC don’t count towards touch attacks, +1 is very close to worthless. Armored AC is (by far) the weakest defense in the game, and after the basics (best armor you can use without losing class features or needing to spend a feat), it’s basically never worth investing in on its own.

Which is another reason to expect it’s fine to allow it to be used with non-bucklers: the feat is quite a lot weaker that way anyway. Please don’t fall into that trap though.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you help me understand better why (1) this is a trap and (2) why a monk would have problems with a heavy shield (assuming proficiency) that a buckler wouldn't have? I'm not looking for an overpowered character, just checking whether I can make such a character viable. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Brown Jul 30 '18 at 18:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ FWIW, I was toying with the idea of dipping into Warpriest (Bulwark) to lessen the armor check penalty, picking up Shield Focus, etc. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Brown Jul 30 '18 at 18:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NickBrown There are better ways to get +1 to AC than upgrading a bucker to a heavy shield, which don't require you to rely on poorly worded feats such as this. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Jul 30 '18 at 19:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NickBrown Warpriest is a great class (though I don’t know what you mean by “bulwark,” that doesn’t seem to be a warpriest class feature, blessing, or archetype). It is, in fact, vastly superior to monk in every way—it’s well worth considering just dropping monk entirely (take Improved Unarmed Strike normally if you want). Anyway, the issue with heavy shield here is that you are giving up something valuable (a free hand) for something not valuable (+1 more shield bonus to AC). We can extend that, too: by taking Unhindering Shield, you are giving up something extremely valuable (a feat). \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 30 '18 at 19:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ I shy alway at all archetypes that remove the ability to allow you to add keen or holy to a weapon on demand. Also, the main class's archetype list is grossly outdated. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Jul 30 '18 at 20:15

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