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I created an item which is, conceptually, a hybrid of the Arrow-Catching Shield and the Ring of the Ram. Both of these are rare, however my item has some more restrictions, so I’d class it as uncommon. It was created with a 5th level fighter in mind.

Elephant Shield

Armor (Shield), uncommon (requires attunement by someone with a strength score of 16 or higher and proficiency with shields)

This shield has 3 charges and it regains 1d4 – 1 expended charges daily at dawn. While wearing the shield, you can use an action to expend a charge. Make a melee weapon attack against a target within 60 feet. The attack appears as a spectral elephant and deals 2d4 plus your strength modifier as bludgeoning damage on a hit. Also, while you wear the shield, you can use your reaction to expend one charge and add 2 to your AC against one ranged attack that would hit you, provided that you can see the attacker. Additionally, whenever an attacker makes an attack against a target within 5 feet of you, you can use your reaction to become the target of the attack instead.

Some modifications might look like oversights but are deliberate:

  • Using a d4 for recharge
  • Inability to use multiple charges on one attack
  • Third ability extending to melee attacks
  • Third ability not using a charge
  • Proficiency requirement (seems reasonable for the third ability)

I am interested in whether this item is balanced, specifically if it is (a) obviously abusable, (b) wildly inappropriate for level 5, or (c) ambiguously formulated.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ How many encounters do you normally give per day, magic items with daily charges are far more powerful in campaigns that average only one encounter per adventuring day. \$\endgroup\$
    – John
    Jul 8, 2020 at 2:24

2 Answers 2

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Seems fine

Using an action to do 2d4 + strength bludgeoning damage isn't all that interesting for a level 5 character. If you have 16 strength or more, you are most likely a class that has two attacks at level 5, so your option is something along the lines of doing 2d8 + 2*strength at melee range if you just hit normally with your two attacks, or doing your 2d4+strength at range. The only real advantage here is that almost nothing will resist magical bludgeoning damage, but that can also be accomplished by having a magical weapon.

Using your reaction to gain 2 AC if you would get hit, if you can see the attacker, is pretty minor. It'll save you at best 3 hits per day (because your charges are limited), which while useful, is only slightly more likely to make a difference between a hit and a miss than a normal uncommon + 1 shield, which is active 24/7. You might just want to buff this to allow you to use a charge to cast Shield as a reaction, which gives +5 AC. That way, it's a lot more likely to be a meaningful choice.

Only the third ability seems like it could be considered problematic. By not requiring charges, this would allow a high AC tank to stand next to a squishy target, and once per turn take a hit in their stead, which is extremely strong. Compare this to class abilities like a Cavalier's level 7 ability Warding Maneuver or a fighter's Protection fighting style and it is most likely equal or better than those two abilities. If nobody in your party has those abilities, it should be fine, but it can feel kind of frustrating if an uncommon item does what your character is supposed to be doing better than you, so if you have one of those kinds of characters around, this one might require tweaking.

All in all, it seems like a pretty balanced item. The third ability is really the make or break here, if the party has another melee fighter who's very squishy, the ability is really good. If the rest of the party is all ranged characters, it's most likely a lot less interesting and your players may decide that a + 1 shield is a better choice in the long run, depending on how many fights they have in a day.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ How do you arrive at +2 AC preventing 3 hits per day? AC gets better the more you have, at level 5 you can be pushing builds that only get hit in a natural 20 when accounting for this additional bonus. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Jul 7, 2020 at 9:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri each use requires a charge and the weapon has max 3 charges. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Jul 7, 2020 at 9:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Haha doh. Thanks for pointing that out, I thought there was some clever AC calculations going on 🤦 \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Jul 7, 2020 at 10:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri I added a note on why it's only three times per day, just in case somebody else is also confused. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Theik
    Jul 7, 2020 at 18:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pleasestopbeingevil It's a very situational item that is generally weaker than a +1 shield in the long run, but if you have a fight coming up and you know you will be able to rest afterwards, this shield is likely better. Because it has its niche uses, and it doesn't instantly overpower other options, it feels pretty balanced. It's neither useless nor the shield that will end all other shields. \$\endgroup\$
    – Theik
    Jul 8, 2020 at 20:21
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Comparison to Ring of the Ram

  • The same number of charges (3)
  • Regains slightly fewer charges (average 2 vs 1.5)
  • Both are action to activate
  • Less damage (average 11 vs 5)
  • Adds str to damage (potentially 10 average damage)
  • Attacks with your attack bonus (potentially higher than +7)
  • No knockback
  • No object breaking
  • Melee weapon attack (rather than just an attack)

Overall: Weaker

In the uncommon category, I'm not aware of any item like it. The closest I know of are Circlet of Blasting (7 damage once a day) and Wand of Magic Missile (10.5 damage 7 times per day). We can say that it's probably better than the circlet, and probably worse than the wand.

A paladin could use this item to Divine Smite at 60ft range. There may be other unintended problems, I would be wary of ranged melee attacks.

I'm not sure there is much use case for this ring, a fighter would probably be better off attacking instead of using it.

Comparison to Arrow Catching Shield

  • Basically the AC effect but with charges
  • Reaction effect can be used on all attacks, not just ranged

Overall: Similar

I don't think there are many benefits to going into depth on the differences. I can't think of any items that are similar to this at all. Most players would get more benefit from a +1 shield, but it's nice to have a special ability rather than just another option. It is worth noting that the secondary effect being more powerful than the original is very significant. This would be a great item to have.

I think this item would actually fit into rare as much as it would into uncommon.

Combining the two

The versatility of having an item that is both defensive and offensive shouldn't be underestimated. If your DM does put it is uncommon, it would definitely be close to the border of rare.

While I doubt this would be unbalanced, I think you should consider the complexity of the item. There aren't many items that have this level of complexity. Seriously consider making it simpler.

Wording

The following is unusually worded: "Make a melee weapon attack against a target within 60 feet." it almost seems to imply you get to make a melee weapon attack which is added to the damage from the shield. Consider rewording to:

While wearing the shield, you can use an action to expend a charge to make a melee weapon attack against a target within 60 feet.

I don't think the requirements are necessary. Stat requirements are not common, and wielding a shield without proficiency already has downsides so most people don't do it.

Rewriting

As I said, the item is basically fine. I don't think it's overpowered, abusable, or confusing. However, I would simplify the item. There is just way too much going on, 3 separate activatable effects make for a fiddly item. Additionally, I just don't see much value in an action dealing 2d4 damage. I set the attack bonus to +5 so it will match CR5 enemies (average AC 14.7, high AC 15.1). So here is my suggestion:

Elephant Shield

Armor (Shield), uncommon (requires attunement)

This shield has 3 charges and it regains 1d3 expended charges daily at dawn. Whenever an attacker makes an attack against a target within 5 feet of you, you can use your reaction to become the target of the attack instead. If you do so, you may expend a charge to attack the attacker. The attack appears as a spectral elephant and makes its attack roll with a +5 bonus. On a hit, the target takes 2d4 plus your strength modifier as bludgeoning damage.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – linksassin
    Jul 8, 2020 at 6:54

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