D&D 5E the shield warrior - better than some think?

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
I played a full campaign where I had a dex-build psi warrior with a duelist (sword and shield) style. I was a bit concerned that my damage output would simply pale vs the paladin (great weapon master and great sword) or ranger (sharpshooter and gunner).

without the GWM feat, 2 handed style is not great in 5e, but it is "the way" to do the most damage, esp comboed with PAM. However, because of dueling's +2 dmg and shield ac bonus, the gwm is the only real edge 2 handed style has.

So how did it turn out?

Well, first of all my damage was not as impressive - but I did have other ways to boost my damage. I will note, incidentally, that extra damage dice (from psi warrior, battlemaster etc) is less effective on a GWM user because the -5 penalty to hit also affect the extra damage dice, thus reducing the efficiency of the feat. I also had max attack stat sooner than the other 2 because I didn't take GWM or SS.

More importantly, my reliability was very good - 2 hits per round were the norm. The other two could dish it out but... it was swingy. One fight we obliterate, and the next we struggle because our 2 main damage dealers had a few bad rolls. This I expected, but it was a bit more drastic than I anticipated.

The other thing is ... my PC became almost immune to disadvantage. I hear a lot "oh just find a way to get advantage" as a thing for GWM users proponents, but that's not always doable, Sometimes you have disadvantage.

Near the end of the campaign, my fighter was tangling with an underwater troll of some sort (as you do at level 9) and while he could breathe under water, he did not have a swim speed, so suffered disadvantage with his weapon of choice - a sunblade. But the sunblade had +2 to hit. And with my 20 dex and level 9, my + to hit was 11. And the troll had an AC of 13... so I didn't care about disadvantage! It was a penalty yes, but a negligible one.

Did I eventually take a feat? yes - lucky :D
 

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Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
Another advantage of sword and board is in magic items. I know magic items can sometimes be like fight club or Bruno (we don't talk about magic items). But most campaigns have them, and some of those campaigns generate random magic items. And one handed weapons are much more likely to come up than a pole arm or hand crossbow or even a greatsword. The good old reliable longsword +1 is likely to come up fairly early if you're using a published adventure. And a +1 shield comes up sometimes too.
 


ECMO3

Hero
I played a full campaign where I had a dex-build psi warrior with a duelist (sword and shield) style. I was a bit concerned that my damage output would simply pale vs the paladin (great weapon master and great sword) or ranger (sharpshooter and gunner).

without the GWM feat, 2 handed style is not great in 5e, but it is "the way" to do the most damage, esp comboed with PAM. However, because of dueling's +2 dmg and shield ac bonus, the gwm is the only real edge 2 handed style has.

I think GWM is overated, it is big numbers when you hit, but in terms of averages it is not very much ahead. Combining with PAM helps, but I think PAM and Mobile will keep up pretty well with PAM and GWM, and beat it at higher ACs.

You can go sword and board with a spear or quarterstaff, PAM, Dueling and Mobile and be able to keep up pretty well with most other DPR melee builds on enemies that have a 5 foot reach (it will fall behind enemies with a longer reach).

Without PAM though you will fall behind since you lose the bonus action and reaction attacks.

That said, the issue I have always had with sword and board is spells not damage. Either I have to forgo Somatic components or take a feat or do a bunch of weapon switching that leaves you not holding a weapon. If you are playing someone with no spells though it does not matter.

Also you can use a spear without disadvantage underwater even if you don't have a swim speed.:p
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
I think GWM is overated, it is big numbers when you hit, but in terms of averages it is not very much ahead. Combining with PAM helps, but I think PAM and Mobile will keep up pretty well with PAM and GWM, and beat it at higher ACs.

You can go sword and board with a spear or quarterstaff, PAM, Dueling and Mobile and be able to keep up pretty well with most other DPR melee builds on enemies that have a 5 foot reach (it will fall behind enemies with a longer reach).

Also you can use a spear without disadvantage underwater even if you don't have a swim speed.:p

GWM is one of those feats that can very easily be suboptimal if not played JUST right. But people like it when it hits big - so often ignore that aspect.
 

Sword and board is a much better fighting style than most give it credit for. With bounded accuracy, that +2 AC is really solid throughout the character's career. The only major issue I've seen occur is during an ambush, when it takes an entire action to don. My group has houseruled it to be a bonus action, finding it to be perfectly balanced.
 



Iry

Hero
Another advantage of sword and board is in magic items. I know magic items can sometimes be like fight club or Bruno (we don't talk about magic items). But most campaigns have them, and some of those campaigns generate random magic items. And one handed weapons are much more likely to come up than a pole arm or hand crossbow or even a greatsword. The good old reliable longsword +1 is likely to come up fairly early if you're using a published adventure. And a +1 shield comes up sometimes too.
While I acknowledge that 5E can be played without magic items, I think the bare minimum is a magic weapon somewhere around Tier 2 to deal with all those enemies resistant to nonmagical weapons. And that usually comes in the form of a +1.
The BM fighter in my group is sword and board with protection style. LOTS of people says that's suboptimal but boy did he make it work over the life of the campaign.
It can also be a little self-fulfilling. The mere presence of a character with GWM means the GM can happily include more low AC / high HP enemies for them to enjoy killing.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
This is the real issue with using a shield, since the shield offers very little utility in D&D, unlike in real world combat. Dueling Style can get you back up to roughly the same average damage as a two hander, but that precludes you taking another Style you might want, of course, but the reason things like GWM exist is that it's not super hard to ensure you hit most enemies.

Bounded Accuracy keeps most AC's reasonable. But to make up for this, your enemies have lots of hit points, and that's when options that let you do more damage really become much better than they would otherwise appear.
 

Stormonu

Legend
In the current campaign I am playing in, I've been playing a sword & board paladin (with the defense fighting style) and I have greatly enjoyed it. No GWM or PAM, and I feel it works fine. Enemies miss way more often than they hit, and I can usually extend that protection to the ally fighting next to me (say, a rogue). I've got enough tricks and abilities as a paladin that I can still throw out pretty good damage on an enemy.
 


cbwjm

Legend
I think sword and board is good, I tend to lean towards it rather than two-handed weapons.

I'd probably allow any character proficient in shields to use it to make a bonus action off-hand attack, 1d4 damage, +mod if you have the fighting style. If people want to keep the distinction of light weapons, then I'd add a buckler, same damage, +1 AC only and upgrade the regular shield to 1d6 damage.
 

That is a good breakdown and nice to hear about actual play.

We usually have soo many white room analyses here,only looking at one single metric: average damage output over a big number of rounds.

A sword and board user can be 5
4 to 5 AC ahead of a great weapon user. So i guess besides reliability, you don't spend as mich time hugging the ground.

A battlemaster can also use their expertise dice more freely, because they don't have to save it for precision attack.

So I guess the balance team did a way better job than people give them credit for.
 

Aye. One handed weapons, with or without shield, tend to be greatly undervalued in the current meta. Side effect of the HP buffering that happens around lv 11 where it just starts climbing so damage boosters are held in high regard. The thing a lot ppl miss is the gap that is gained by spending a style, 1-2 feats, and probably a class/subclass to support GWM isn't that big.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
People use the bonus attack from PAM while using a shield in the other hand...? Man that is some dodgy cheese right there.
Not really. With two-handed polearms there is no cheese, obviously, and with staves and spears you can use them with one hand and still twirl them to attack with both ends--so, no cheese at all.

The Achilles vs. Hector fight in the movie Troy shows this very well IMO.


If you haven't seen it, watch Achilles attacking at 1:18. He uses a spear and shield, and spins the butt end of the spear around to attack as well as thrusting with the spear tip.

Many martial arts show quarterstaffs being used one-handed and spun to strike with the non-dominant end.

EDIT: I will comment however, that the butt-end attack should just be d4 without ability modifier to damage IMO unless the PC is using it two-handed and has the TWF style. I know JC ruled you are supposed to add STR (or DEX for monks) to the d4, but definitely used one-handed for such maneuvers I don't feel you can get the leverage really for the bonus damage.
 
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Mort

Legend
Supporter
People use the bonus attack from PAM while using a shield in the other hand...? Man that is some dodgy cheese right there.

Not even a little cheesey!

There's a reason spear and should was such a big thing for so long (as already mentioned)!

And you can't say BOTH, look how awesome welding a two handed greatsword (especially with feats) is. While at the same time complaining when shield users gets some nice things too!
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
People use the bonus attack from PAM while using a shield in the other hand...? Man that is some dodgy cheese right there.
As long as by "dodgy cheese" you mean "designer intent and playing by the rules", then I agree.

The spear is a one handed weapon. It was even errata'd in as opposed to being on the list originalyl so we know it's not a legacy "oops" but intentional.

Your judgement of others playstyle is pretty out of line.
 

Oofta

Legend
The problem I have with polearm master is not that you can attack with the butt end of your weapon, it's that it's limited to specific weapons if those weapons are used one handed. I think any melee weapon that isn't light should qualify, particularly if it's versatile.

The alternative is that you can only use the bonus attack if wielding the weapon 2-handed. Why can't I swing my longsword and then bash then with the pommel? Used one handed, a spear (for melee purposes) isn't that much different.
 

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