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I play a swashbuckling rapier-wielding warblade named Vesuvio Monteverdi. He refuses to use a shield, as there is no honor in that.

With DM permission, are there any potential mechanical and narrative pitfalls with introducing this homebrew concept:

Dueling Cape
Mechanically same as a standard buckler, except it is made out of thick fabric and takes up the shoulders slot too.

(we play in a hybrid 3.5/PF campaign)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ If there is no honor in using a shield then how can there be honor in using any other defensive item that is mechanically identical to a shield? \$\endgroup\$ – krb May 12 '19 at 0:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @krb Because it’s not a shield. \$\endgroup\$ – FrancisJohn May 12 '19 at 1:01
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Looks good. No issues.

For comparison, Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 has at least two options for this:

The dueling cloak (Dragon #335 77) (15 gp; 3 lbs.)—proficiency with which is granted by the feat Armor Proficiency (light) (Player's Handbook 89) and similar class features—is normally worn but can be readied like a shield so as to occupy a hand then grant the bearer a +1 shield bonus to AC. When so readied, the dueling cloak imposes a -1 armor check penalty and 10% arcane spell failure. The dueling cloak can be used as a weapon, but it can be used only to make disarm attempts yet with a +2 bonus. A dueling cloak can be masterwork and that has its normal effect; it can't be made magical like a shield.

The exotic shield gnome battle cloak (Races of Stone 158) (5 gp; 1 lb.)—proficiency with which is granted by the feat Exotic Shield Proficiency (gnome battle cloak) (RS 139)—seems to take many of its cues from the dueling cloak, but it's also pretty much just better: +1 shield bonus to AC, no armor check penalty, 0% arcane spell failure, make disarm attempts with it with a +4 bonus, and make it magical like a shield. Only a proficient user can make disarm attempts with the gnome battle cloak—and that, it seems, is the only benefit of proficiency.

However, this DM is actually partial to your table's solution: "Dude, just call the dueling cape a buckler and be done, all right?" That's elegant and avoids a lot of issues that come from trying to put into game terms this relatively simple idea. (For instance, the It's-a-buckler-and-move-on! solution eliminates the question of whether making the dueling cape magical requires the feat Craft Magic Arms and Armor or the feat Craft Wondrous Item.)

Keep in mind that if Monteverdi's using a dueling cape and insults the honor of someone using an actual buckler, he's liable to be insulted right back as he's using an honorless shield, just one of a different material. Further, if Monteverdi refuses to use a shield because he, personally, sees no honor in using a shield, he might need to A) take a history class, and B) somehow become immune to arrows. Some weathered oldtimer's going to tell him, "There is no loss of honor in bearing a shield, young man, but there is a loss of life for not bearing one!" However, if his antishield bias is shared by his culture, it'll probably take another culture to change Monteverdi's mind about shields, and, until that happens, Monteverdi can carry his ersatz buckler with pride, knowing that he's using a dueling cape and not using one of those—ew!—shields.

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What you are looking for is Cloak Shield (Ultimate Equipment)

Aura faint abjuration; CL 4th; Slot shoulders; Price 1,000 gp; Weight 1 lb.

DESCRIPTION

The wearer of this rough, gray cloak can, as a move action, grasp the garment’s edge and cause it to harden. The wearer can use the hardened edge it as if it were a masterwork light wooden shield. Using the cloak in this fashion imposes no armor check penalty, but does impose a 5% arcane spell failure chance. The edge of the cloak can be dropped and made pliant again as a free action. Shield enhancement bonuses and special abilities can be added to the cloak as if it were a masterwork shield.

The Cloak Shield works as a Light Wooden Shield so won't synergize with many swashbuckler abilities. But you can use it as a base to create a homebrew Cloak Buckler, that is kinda identical but works as a buckler instead of shield.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Link-only answers are generally discouraged, as they stop being useful if the contents of the link ever change or move. You should quote the relevant information here and elaborate on how it answers OP's question. (In this case, you should also start by explaining how your answer is relevant - i.e. there's no need to homebrew such an item because a similar official item already exists.) \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast May 11 '19 at 5:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Expanded on an answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Draco-S May 12 '19 at 9:25
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Gnome Battlecloak from Races of the Stone might be what you are looking for. It is an exotic shield, granting +1 shield bonus and with no armor check penalty.

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As has been noted, D&D 3.5e has, two options of the sort, and Pathfinder’s got something similar too. There is no reason why it’s problematic to have something with buckler stats that doesn’t actually look like a buckler. So long as it is using the buckler’s stats, it’s not going to cause any more or less problems than the buckler itself does.

But your proposal is not using the buckler’s stats, not exactly, and that’s a big issue. There is no reason why this item should take up the shoulders slot, and very, very good reasons why that’s a bad idea. Does this mean that Monteverdi is not using a cloak of resistance? That means his every save is that much worse off than the game expects to be—and since saves grow naturally only every two or even three levels, that’s a massive deal.

Ultimately, item slots were, wholesale, a mistake.1 Magic items’ costs account for their power, and that’s quite sufficient. Item slots do not provide a meaningful or consistent form of balance, but they do cause serious problems for particular builds. The most glaring example of this is the fact that since all Pathfinder enhancement bonuses to physical scores are found on belts, physical characters have to pay 50% extra for their bonus to Constitution—since they also need enhancement bonuses to Strength or Dexterity. Meanwhile, spellcasters, for whom Constitution is less crucial, and who are already the most powerful classes, get Constitution bonuses at a dramatic discount. This is a horrible mistake of game design, and should be thrown out.

Luckily, you are using D&D 3.5e rules too, and Magic Item Compendium goes a long way to fixing this problem—by allowing a lot of crucial-but-boring bonuses—like those resistance bonuses to saves or those enhancement bonuses to ability scores—to a variety of slots, on top of other magical properties at no extra charge. I strongly recommend—if your proposed dueling cape is in fact a magic item that actually does sit in the shoulders slot—that you treat this property as also being one of these “surcharge-free” properties, so that you can have a dueling cape of resistance of the hedge wizard (I recommend a better name) that costs exactly the same as the equivalent dueling cape + cloak of resistance + cloak of the hedge wizard, rather than 50% more on two of those.

  1. It is out of scope to justify this claim, but I would say that I have worked professionally in game design, on and off, including for a third-party Pathfinder publisher, and also I’ll point out that the rules in Magic Item Compendium that I mention elsewhere in the answer give strong credence to the idea that Wizards of the Coast came to the same conclusion. D&D 5e also lacks hard-and-fast item slots, though it does charge the DM with implementing narrative explanations for how items are worn together, or that they cannot be if it is deemed physically impossible. Since items explicitly magically adjust themselves, it recommends that this be quite rare.
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