D&D (2024) How to balance the shield spell?


One of the most discussed spell of 5E is the shield. It's either a good spell on a wizard or broken on a high AC fighter/wizard/EK combo. Or pala/sorc combo.

So how to make it more balanced and still useful and have it a use as a shield?

1st level spell
1 Action cast
Duration 12hours(so sorcerers can have some use with extend spell)

you increase your AC by 1. If you have one empty hand or you use your spell focus in that hand, spells AC bonus increases to +3.
If you suffer a critical hit, you can end the spell to turn that critical into a normal hit.

if you use 3rd level slot, AC bonus is +2/+4 and you can block one crit without ending the spell as an reaction, 6th level slot is +3/+5 and you can block two crits without ending the spell as an reaction, and 9th level slot is +4/6 and you can block three crits without ending the spell as an reaction.

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Just a dude with a shovel, looking for the past.
How does this interaction with arcane armor going to work? Two first level spells and now Im a tank wizard better than a dude in plate mail?

I think the first thing that would need to happen before 'fixing*' Shield would be to decide on the actual preferred use-case for the spell. OP's suggestion makes the spell a kind of addendum to Mage Armor -- the shield to match the armor. In some ways, I dig it: 1st level caster can spend both spell slots to walk around like a guy with breastplate and (if hand free) a shield, but captain AlreadyHighAC the near-full-caster in a 5-minute workday campaign can't spam it for easy 20+ AC.
*in quotes because I know some people don't think it needs fixing. Personally I agree with OP's assessment that it is fine for standard AC ~12-15 wizards or as limited uses for 1:3 caster EKs, but gets crazy when half- or full-plate and near-full caster-levels are combined (perhaps that's what needs to be addressed...)

Another option would be to simply make it something like "Shield: 1 reaction - your AC becomes 18 until the start of your next turn." or the like -- make it really good as a 'this is my only investment in protection' option (for the person who wants to RP a clumsy professor/only expects to be subject to 1-X attacks per day), but incrementally less impressive for each other AC-enhancer they put into their situation.


Something I had tried as a general limitation to many reaction spells (thus also a nerf for counterspell) was that on your next turn the only spells you may cast are cantrips.

The way you balance it is that you give everyone some sort of comparable cool 'stop an attack' ability, which the game then gets built around.

Wizards can just put up a shield to block anything.

Rogues get to leap 10 feet away and make the attack miss.

Fighters get to parry melee attacks only but can respond with a shove or grab.

Stuff like that. Give everyone limited-use defensive abilities -- and better yet, make those limited-use-defensive-abilities (LUDA) have combat-riders-influencing-strategies (CRIS). Thus this LUDA-CRIS system gives you one or two times each combat when you can stop an attack and get a special bonus to turn the tide.

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