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A Tower Shield allows you to use the Take Cover action, in order to gain Greater Cover from the shield. This is confusing because the cover rules require that a source of cover must be between you and the threat, while shields have no rule that specifies which direction they're facing.

Usually, the GM can quickly decide whether your target has cover. If you’re uncertain or need to be more precise, draw a line from the center of your space to the center of the target’s space. If that line passes through any terrain or object that would block the effect, the target has standard cover (or greater cover if the obstruction is extreme or the target has Taken Cover). If the line passes through a creature instead, the target has lesser cover. When measuring cover against an area effect, draw the line from the effect’s point of origin to the center of the creature’s space.

Because there's no rule that tracks the direction of shields, does that imply that a tower shield wielder gains omnidirectional cover from Taking Cover behind their shield?

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Shields don't provide cover (to the wielder), they provide an AC bonus

The relevant text from Raise a Shield states:

When you have Raised a Shield, you gain its listed circumstance bonus to AC. Your shield remains raised until the start of your next turn.

A tower shield goes beyond this to allow you to Take Cover behind your shield while it is raised:

When you have a tower shield raised, you can use the Take Cover action (page 471) to increase the circumstance bonus to AC to +4. This lasts until the shield is no longer raised.

Notice that while the bonuses are similar (standard cover provides a +2 circumstance bonus to AC, and greater cover provides +4), the shield text doesn't use the word "cover" to describe its bonus, at least to the wielder of the shield.

Tower shields do, however, provide cover to others if they are raised, as I've previously detailed in this answer to another question. The Cover rules state:

Cover is relative, so you might simultaneously have cover against one creature and not another. Cover applies only if your path to the target is partially blocked.

In short, your tower shield (while raised) gives you a circumstance bonus to AC and gives your ally cover if you are between them and a threat.

If you're searching for a way to explain this using plain language, cover is obtained from an obstacle that you aren't controlling. A shield is something you can control, so you're able to use it more effectively than static cover.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So you're saying that even though you use the Take Cover action, you don't get any of the normal benefits of Take Cover? \$\endgroup\$ – Strill Oct 1 at 16:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Strill That's right. You wouldn't get a benefit to Stealth checks or Reflex saves from using the Take Cover action behind your raised tower shield, so you're not benefiting from greater cover - you're just getting a circumstance bonus to AC. This is a case of Specific Overrides General (CRB 444), where the Take Cover action is being overridden here to perform a different function than usual. \$\endgroup\$ – Viishnahn Oct 1 at 17:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't know that text overrides Take Cover. Take Cover specifies "If you would have standard cover you instead gain greater cover" (+4 Circumstance AC, Reflex vs Area, and Stealth) "...Otherwise you gain the benefits of standard cover" Nothing in the tower shield text explicitly overrides/replaces this text, so in theory you'd get standard cover benefits (+2 AC/Reflex vs Area/Stealth) on top of your +4 AC from your shield, but since both AC bonuses are circumstance you only take the highest on AC. Otherwise why call out the Take Cover action vs just doing it as an generic action cost? \$\endgroup\$ – Lunin Oct 3 at 8:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Lunin The text may not support this RAW, but it's not hard to disprove by counterexample. Does bringing up a tower shield and using it to block attacks make it easier for you to hide? If not, then you cannot be receiving the benefits of cover, at least not in full. The game convention on Ambiguous Rules (CRB 444) says if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is, so getting a bonus to hide by raising your own shield likely doesn't work by RAI. I have no idea if you would get a benefit to Reflex vs area from this activity; that is plausible but left to individual GM ruling. \$\endgroup\$ – Viishnahn Oct 4 at 12:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Viishnahn So after doing a bunch of digging through the rulebook I ended up finding some tidbits that I think help complete the picture somewhat. If you have time I'd love if you'd take a look through my answer to see if it holds up to what you found as well. Your points in your answer and in these comments fueled much of it :) \$\endgroup\$ – Lunin Oct 10 at 8:54
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Taking Cover with Tower Shields provides omnidirectional benefits of standard cover, but does not otherwise count as cover for the wielder in any direction

After doing some book trawling, I believe this is the correct answer to this question. This is because of a few reasons. On the sidebar on page 462 it details something called Subordinate Actions with the relevant text as follows:

An action might allow you to use a simpler action—usually one of the Basic Actions on page 469—in a different circumstance or with different effects. This subordinate action still has its normal traits and effects, but is modified in any ways listed in the larger action. For example, an activity that tells you to Stride up to half your Speed alters the normal distance you can move in a Stride. The Stride would still have the move trait, would still trigger reactions that occur based on movement, and so on. ...

In this case you have the Tower Shield which allows you to use the Take Cover Action even if you ordinarily wouldn't be able to to increase the circumstance bonus to AC to +4, lasting until the shield is not longer raised. Other than the ability to use it without meeting the requirements of Take Cover, nothing in this line of text contradicts the text in the Take Cover action, which, after detailing the ways it upgrades Standard Cover to Greater Cover, has the following:

If you would have standard cover, you instead gain greater cover ... Otherwise, you gain the benefits of standard cover

This gives a +2 circumstance bonus to AC, Reflex vs AoE, and some Stealth checks. Note the wording though, you gain the benefits of standard cover, but you do not actually get cover (note the difference in wording between "gain greater cover" and "gain the benefits of standard cover").

This is important as in discussion about this matter it was pointed out that the application of a stealth bonus is a bit absurd for a giant tower shield, namely that it would be silly to be able to hide behind a giant slab of metal you yourself are holding. As this does seem wrong I did some more digging, and in fact a further look at the Hide action shows that in order to hide you must actually have cover:

You huddle behind cover or greater cover or deeper into concealment to become hidden, rather than observed. The GM rolls your Stealth check in secret and compares the result to the Perception DC of each creature you’re observed by but that you have cover or greater cover against or are concealed from.

This might sound like a weird distinction to make or splitting hairs, but even without Tower Shields in the mix, this differentiation prevents absurdities. Lets take a look at the requirements for using the Take Cover action normally:

Requirements: You are benefiting from cover, are near a feature that allows you to take cover, or are prone.

This means if you drop prone anywhere you can use the Take Cover action to gain the benefits of Standard Cover (just like with a Tower Shield). If getting the benefits was enough to qualify as actually having cover for purposes of hiding then you'd be able to lay down in front of a giant crowd, Take Cover, and hide from all of them. Incidentally this also means that while you can raise the cover you get from other medium allies from lesser to standard using Take Cover, you also can't Hide behind them (unless of course they have a Tower Shield raised or are two sizes larger).

So in very long winded answer to your question, regardless of the direction you gain a +4 Circumstance bonus to AC, a +2 Circumstance Bonus to Reflex vs AoE, and a +2 Circumstance Bonus to Stealth Checks to Hide, Sneak, or otherwise avoid detection. However, you do not actually have cover and cannot take actions that require it unless you're getting it from another source or are otherwise able to avoid the requirements.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I can't find any flaws in your reasoning, well said. I don't believe any reasonable GM out there would tolerate a player trying to use that hide bonus, though. \$\endgroup\$ – Viishnahn Oct 10 at 13:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ I can't really think of many circumstances where you'd actually be able to use the bonus as written, but I'd probably rule the same unless someone had some pretty clever reasoning like hiding among a bunch of shields :) \$\endgroup\$ – Lunin Oct 10 at 17:51

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