13
\$\begingroup\$

In my current 5e game the DM allowed our paladin to purchase this shield that was homebrewed by the DM:

Armor (tower shield), common

\$\begin{array}{|c|c|c|c|c|} \hline \textbf{Cost} & \textbf{Armor Class} & \textbf{Strength} & \textbf{Stealth} & \textbf{Weight} \\ \hline 75\,\text{gp} & +2 & 15 & \text{Disadvantage} & 45\,\text{lb.} \\ \hline \end{array} \$

This massive shield is used frequently in organized armies for its effectiveness at protecting soldiers and aiding in the formation of lines.

While you are holding a tower shield:

  • You have half cover.
  • You can spend an amount of movement equal to half your speed to have 3/4 cover until the start of your next turn. If you do this, then when you are an obstacle to a target (PHB, p. 196) you grant 3/4 cover instead of half cover.
  • You can spend your action during combat to position your tower shield between an ally and an enemy, granting them half cover. No attacks can be made by you the round you do this.

It seems to me that the ability to sacrifice some movement to gain a +5 to your AC on every turn is just insanely overpowered. Am I wrong?

I should mention the character's level is 5.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Where is this item from? \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Sep 30 at 9:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ It is a standard purchased item from a blacksmith's shop (something thrown in by the DM that the character inquired about). The DM tries to keep everything in standing with basic Rules and only normally allows items/races/classes that are from the official WoTC 5e books. This is why i'm surprised and didn't wanna say anything until i'd asked around to see if I am missing something. \$\endgroup\$ – Maligaant Menuk Sep 30 at 10:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MaligaantMenuk: I think enkryptor was actually asking whether this shield was entirely home-brewed by your DM, or whether he/she got the item from some other 3rd-party source book or something \$\endgroup\$ – PJRZ Sep 30 at 10:33
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Ah. It was homebrewed by the DM. \$\endgroup\$ – Maligaant Menuk Sep 30 at 10:34
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I appreciate accepting my answer so fast but keep in mind that it is common to wait a bit longer (a day for example) so as to not discourage others from answering. Which answer and when to accept is entirely up to you though \$\endgroup\$ – Sdjz Sep 30 at 12:30
16
\$\begingroup\$

This shield is very powerful

By the first benefit alone, the shield is comparable a Shield +2. Having half-cover grants +2 AC and DEX saving throws. The reason this is not strictly better than a +2 Shield is because it does not stack with other sources of cover (and can be nullified by features that ignore cover). A +2 Shield is a rare magic item which according to DMG guidelines is appropriate for characters of level 5 or higher.

The second benefit as you note is extremely good. Spending half of your movement is a negligible cost in a lot of situations, especially on a paladin. With access to Find Steed or other mounts, you aren't using your own movement for anything else so spending half your movement to get 3/4 cover is almost free. Even if you don't have a mount, you may not need to move over half your movement often enough that you get the chance to activate this. Having +5 AC for a round is comparable to the Shield spell. Yes, this is just a lvl 1 spell but it requires a reaction to use and usually expends some sort of resource (a spell slot or charges on a magic item)

The third option alone is actually not that strong. Expending your action to grant an ally half-cover is a fairly weak option when standing in front of your ally usually already does this. Having an extra option for an action doesn't really hurt though and in a situation where you can't reach your opponents and have nothing else to do it might be useful.

All of these features together make the shield an incredibly powerful option, especially considering that you can purchase these for 75 gp. I suspect anyone with 15 STR that can use a shield would probably use one.

Is this actually a problem?

Whether having this item in the game is actually an issue is doing to be very group dependent.

For example, if all the PCs have access to very powerful items it might just be fine. The DM may just be planning to throw more powerful encounters at your party or just wants to run a game where the PCs can win encounters fairly easily.

Having a very high AC also does not mean you are invincible, see this related question.

The DM may simply not have realized how powerful this shield is

This can happen often. The DM hands out an item without realizing just how powerful it is until it actually comes into play later.

The important thing to do is to assume good faith on the DM's part. Don't accuse the DM of handing out an OP item. Instead, try to explain how this might affect the game in ways that may not be fun for the group. Let me give you an example:

In a homebrew campaign I played in, after defeating some orcs of Gruumsh, the DM allowed us to keep their blood and apply it to any weapon for a permanent +1d8 damage (like the orcs' trait). While it seemed fine at the time, an extra 4.5 damage per hit for the martial classes was enough to feel unfair on the wizard and bard, who were now resorting to using weapon attacks instead of cantrips. So, after discussing this with the DM it was reduced to 2 extra damage and limited to mundane weapons. I honestly still felt it was a bit much at the time (I tend to be a bit of a balance maniac) but I let it go and it turned to be fine during gameplay.

My takeaway from this is to let it play out a session or two and see what happens. If it is causing actual issues and causing the game to not be fun it should be fairly noticeable and you can then approach the group to discuss how to go about improving the situation.

Maybe it is agreed that the item should be nerfed. Maybe the DM just hands out similarly powerful magic items to the other PCs and cranks up the difficulty of the opponents. Or maybe something else entirely.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Outside the scope of the question and this forum but - for fun and profit - may be worth looking up the use of such shields in real life. Tower shields, as such, don't have a direct real-life equivalent named as such (?) but the closest I could find was the 'shield wall' tactic: The Romans used this tactic with a scutum shield. For what it's worth, it doesn't look like the shield-bearers attacked themselves - their job was to provide arrow-cover on approach and protect the spear-wielders behind (?). Military historians - feel free to correct me! \$\endgroup\$ – PJRZ Sep 30 at 13:16
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I actually feel like you may even be underselling how powerful this is, despite your good analysis. Paladin, this shield, 1 level of Hexblade (for the shield spell), cast shield of faith, grab a cloak of protection and you can get AC up into the mid to high 30s, that's difficult for a dragon to hit and only one common magic item needed. \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Sep 30 at 14:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri: I am not sure how useful it is to judge the power of an item by judging its effects with a character optimized around it. Or said otherwise, if the character already had an absurdly high AC, the DM would probably not have handed them over such an item. I do not necessarily disagree that this item seems OP; I would just like to see the effects of such an item in practice, rather than in theory. I have played optimized characters in non-optimized games, and my group was totally fine with it because said characters were enablers, not spot-light thieves. \$\endgroup\$ – Matthieu M. Sep 30 at 16:45
2
\$\begingroup\$

DnD 5e made a major shift away from 3.5e with a focus on cutting down on the ridiculous to-hit and AC values which could be achieved even at low levels.

This shield by itself allows the paladin to reach an insanely high AC for his level at a very low cost(half-movement).

  • 18 AC from plate armor (he might not have this)
  • +1 from the Defense fighting style
  • +2 from shield
  • +5 from 3/4 cover

This means your paladin at level 5 has a whopping AC of 26. To put that in perspective most monsters at CR 5 have an average to-hit of 6 (from here) and its not going to change for a few levels. Now I wont call it overpowered right off the bat since your DM may be scaling up the difficulty of encounters and thus you might actually need such items. But, if the combat is not scaled up and remains level appropriate this is a very broken item.

  • In the case that combat is scaled up, everyone in your party should receive (or request for) items of a similar power.

  • In cases of homebrew items, it is always better to talk to the DM, since they may have other plans.

\$\endgroup\$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.