5E Suggested nerf to the Shield spell

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
In my opinion, Shield is one of the strongest spells in all of fifth edition. For a level 1 spell slot and your reaction, it grants you +5 AC for a whole round, and since you cast it after you know you've been hit, it's not wasted unless the roll beats your AC by 5 or more. In the campaign I play, we have 3 people with 18 or more armor class and 4 slots of Shield, and it basically amounts to dodging four hits (and being almost invulnerable for the remainder of those rounds) per long rest. So I propose to change Shield's casting time to:

One reaction, which you take when you are targeted by an attack or by magic missile.

This means that when an enemy attacks you, you have to choose whether to cast shield or not before you see what they roll. This means that the spell could be wasted if the attack would have missed anyways, and it makes it harder to guess what the enemy's attack bonus might be.
First, you've already described people as "almost invulnerable" while shield is up. So I'm not sure that triggering shield on the first attack or the first hit really makes that much of a difference unless they are using it at times when they are only getting attacked once. Sure, there are times when every attack in a round would have missed that it gets used up, but that's not a huge change. If you want to make a meaningful change, make it work like the Defensive Duelist feat and only apply to a single attack.

I wonder how much your table favors Shield. Do the foes ever use non-AC attacks like grapples, shoves, and especially spells with saves. +5 AC is nicely offset by advantage on attacks because one opponent shoved you to the ground after their first attack bounced off the air.

The other table variation I see if when DMs run fewer than the suggested number of combats. 6-8 combats or 3-4 rounds each is about 24 rounds total. Four uses of Shield are quite nice, but not a huge deal. Could be used up in the first combat. There is a commonly held false impression that fewer but tougher battles affect long-rest-recovery and at-will resources the same. This is a good example showing it's false - doing 2-4 combats of 4-5 rounds is only about 60% of the total number of rounds, so a spell like Shield that lasts for a whole round gives a lot more utility in % of combat covered. (Spells that last for an entire combat give even more utility when there are fewer combats.)

So I'd suggest trying to vary up your table a bit with more combats and with non-AC targetting, but if that doesn't get the feel you want then change Shield to just the triggering attack. But let your players know - with three characters with Shield it looks like they found have built around it being very effective and if you are nerfing their character choices they may want to rebuild to take advantage of other opportunities instead.

EDIT: I just read that due to campaign circumstances, you auto-reset all resources after every session. Really, that breaks 5e in multiple ways. I'd strongly recommend using another game system. If that's not an option, I'd recommend slashing all long-rest-recovery resources to a quarter of current uses, and all short-rest resources to half. That will at least approximate 5e balance between long, short, and at-wills.
 
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WhosDaDungeonMaster

Guest
I have played with the idea of making the bonus equal to the proficiency bonus. So, at low levels, it is +2, and at epic levels, +6 (close to the +5 RAW).

That way, it is still useful at lower levels and helpful at higher levels.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
But what if that isn't an option? (Due to campaign circumstances, we can't have stories that last longer than one session and our abilities refresh at the end of every session)
General hint: If you are proposing a rule, it helps *a lot* if you give folks here the context in which that rule sits. Otherwise, they'll judge based on a generic set of assumptions, rather than judge based on your particular situation.

Taking a whole spell slot to avoid usually only a single hit? That doesn't seem overpowered at all in a usual game. Even in a short session it doesn't sound too bad, but that does get into a much deeper discussion of what the best encounter design for your game might be.
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
Your players have found a playstyle that works with the way you're DMing. Change that up. Surprise them. Don't give them the same type of combat situation every time. Give them other ways to spend their reactions, too. "Oh, you cast Shield? Well, no attack of opportunity from you as the enemy gets out of melee range then." "You cast Shield, so you can't cast Feather Fall while this ledge crumbles beneath you. Better hope that Dex save is a good roll!"
There you go. Since it happens so much, anticipate it and PLAN FOR their lost reaction take immediate advantage of it.
 
But what if that isn't an option? (Due to campaign circumstances, we can't have stories that last longer than one session and our abilities refresh at the end of every session)
I think the main issue here is letting abilities refresh at the end of each session. This is a problem that is only going to get worse as spellcasting PCs raise in level. I would suggest having two or three part adventures, otherwise you are on your way to nerfing the entire spellbook.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Not to pile on, but if you only have a handful of encounters between resets, the shield spell will probably be the least of your worries at mid-to-high level.

So as others have stated, I think you're trying to put a band-aid when you're going to die from a thousand cuts soon anyway.

I've dealt with short sessions by simply carrying over from session to session. It's not hard, just have everybody make a note of where they are. In addition, I use the alternate rule where a short rest is overnight and a long rest is a week or more. I've seen other people suggest that you simply don't allow long rests in most areas and other solutions.

If it's not possible to change (not sure how) then I'd suggest sending in waves of monsters. Stretch out the encounters over several rounds, even if it doesn't change the total number of opponents.

Or just adjust your difficulty appropriately. Add +2 to all attacks or give your bad guys pack tactics so they have advantage. Have low level monsters harass the PCs and aid the high level monsters so the higher level monsters can hit. So on and so forth.

But seriously. Only running a handful of encounters between long rests is going to be problematic in the long run anyway.
 

Yardiff

Explorer
Here is the 1e version of the Shield spell.




Duration: 5 rds/level

Explanation/Description: When this spell is cast, an invisible barrier before the front of the magic-user comes into being. This shield will totally negate magic missile attacks. It provides the equivalent protection of armor class 2 (18) against hand hurled missiles (axes, darts, javelins, spears, etc.), armor class 3 (17) against small device-propelled missiles (arrows, bolts, bullets, manticore spikes, sling stones, etc.), and armor class 4 (16) against all other forms of attack. The shield also adds +1 to the magic-user's saving throw dice vs attacks which are basically frontal. Note that all benefits of the spell accrue only to attacks originating from the front facing the magic user, where the shield can move to interpose itself properly.
 

Mon

Explorer
Many of the responses to this thread seem to be out of proportion to the fairly reasonable question asked by the OP. I'd be very hesitant to call someone out so harshly about the quality of their game when I don't know them.

It seems to me that he just has a minor issue with "crowding out" of other interesting/fun 1st level spells by shield in an otherwise enjoyable game. This kind of thing happens. Different strokes for different folks, and all that.

On Topic: I like DEFCON1's proposal (smaller AC bonus) and/or a longer duration 1-action spell, since it avoids the possibility of burning slots for nothing.
 
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Stalker0

Adventurer
I will also note that the whole "only a few encounters a day" scenario is certainly not unique to the OP. Many people have games where having 6-8 encounters in a day is just not in line with the kind of game they want to run.

Now shield may not be the only spell that needs tweaking, but doesn't invalidate the concern, and doesn't make the OP wrong for running his game this way.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I will also note that the whole "only a few encounters a day" scenario is certainly not unique to the OP. Many people have games where having 6-8 encounters in a day is just not in line with the kind of game they want to run.

Now shield may not be the only spell that needs tweaking, but doesn't invalidate the concern, and doesn't make the OP wrong for running his game this way.
I for one am not suggesting that the OP is playing the game wrong, I just believe there will be other issues that crop up if this spell is a concern. There are a lot of things that will be more difficult to balance if spellcasters can go nova every round combat, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

That, and sometimes people think some things are "broken" that I simply don't agree with. Is shield powerful for the right build? Sure. But if they're using shield they aren't using other options.

If hitting the PCs is an issue, there are several solutions.
 
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Shiroiken

Adventurer
Stop doing 5-minute-work-days and shield is perfectly fine.
I find this to be the biggest "fix" to a lot of abilities.

In the last adventure I played in, we started things off at an inn. There were 2 social encounters, which revealed to us that it was run by werewolves. We had 2 combat encounters, plus a social encounter that revealed a shortcut to the BBEG. We took the shortcut with 1 more combat along the way. Against the BBEG, we couldn't nova, because we knew that we may have to fight our way back out (which we did). By the end, everyone was down to standard attacks and cantrips, because we couldn't even short rest once we killed the BBEG.
 

Scott Thorne

Villager
In my game, Shield grants +1d8 AC (rolled once) instead of a static value of 5 to reduce metagaming.

I changed several spells and abilities from static values to dice, including Lay Hands and (Life Domain's) Preserve Life, for the same reason.
 
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WhosDaDungeonMaster

Guest
I've considered changing it to be +Proficiency to AC so it's less OP early game and scales into late game.
Ditto. I like the idea of spells scaling via proficiency bonus and Shield seems a logical application for it IMO.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
I've considered changing it to be +Proficiency to AC so it's less OP early game and scales into late game.
I'm actually pretty hard against this.

First, spells (not cantrips) in 5e shouldn't scale without upcasting. That's one of the design truisms that worked towards getting rid of the linear fighter/quadratic wizard issue. So I'm strongly against it for that.

Second, 5e with bounded accuracy doesn't race to-hit up a huge deal, it intentionally scales HPs instead. So a +5 to AC will have about the same effect in terms of misses at low levels or at high, and it already scales at high levels because it prevents attacks that do more damage. So scaling it by preventing even more hits will literally raise it's use exponentially. I am strongly against it just on this alone.

Third, because of range of proficiency, what this really is doing is nerfing it at lower levels. Low level character already have harder time surviving, especially arcane casters getting attacked. At that level they have fewer spell slots as well, so casting shield is using p a corresponding larger amount of their resources in the first place, at a time it's more critical, and then you want to nerf it for them but not for high level casters? This is the exact opposite of the design I want, it actively heads in the wrong direction. So I'm strongly against it for this.
 
The only balance problem with shield is when there's only 1 or 2 PCs. If there are 3+ PCs, I simply make my monster attack the ones not affected by the spell this round. So at most shield is useful for a single attack. Even if the whole work day only has one encounter, I can get in more than four attacks. Not to mention that shield is useless against spells that don't require an attack roll (except MM).
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
In my opinion, Shield is one of the strongest spells in all of fifth edition. For a level 1 spell slot and your reaction, it grants you +5 AC for a whole round, and since you cast it after you know you've been hit, it's not wasted unless the roll beats your AC by 5 or more.
The spell is balanced for its primarily intended usage, a "squishie" Wizard.

It gets unbalanced when used by characters that already have high to very high AC.

Therefore I would not nerf it generally. While you might not have any Wizards in your party, your nerf is not suitable for general use.

What I could suggest, however, is this:

Shield doesn't stack with physical armor. (Meaning, it stacks with Mage Armor but not Plate Armor.)

Of course, characters should then be allowed a free re-do of their spell choice.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
But telling them there's nothing wrong with [whatever they complain about] is helping them.
I suggest you critically reflect on that attitude. After all, very few posters start threads here because they want to be told to do nothing.

This forum can at times come across as unrelentingly reactionary and conservative, as if 5th edition was handed down on stone tablets by God.

Discussing at length whether changing X should even be attempted is only derailing any attempts to change X, as I'm sure you agree. Far from helping, it is ruinous to the value of these forums and should in my opinion be moderated.

Also, as any good DM would tell you, consider the difference between saying "no" and "yes, but". Not only is the latter more helpful, it also comes across as constructively encouraging.
 

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