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

Oofta

Legend
Going back to the OP, I think people overestimate DPR and undervalue things like additional AC and the protection style. Doing damage is not the only thing that matters and on average GWM is not enough better that it makes a significant difference.
 

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DND_Reborn

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.
It is a failure of RPGs when you don't want too much simulation. Historically, yes attack with the pommel and hand-and-a-halfing your sword by holding the blade in one hand was also used. In such a case you are using the longsword two-handed, but not both on the hilt.

The illustration below shows to knights. The one on the left is hand-and-a-halfing his sword, one hand on the hilt the other on the blade. The one on the right is gripping the blade with both ends and using the hilt/pommel for bludgeoning. Such grips also allowed the attacker to use the guard to "grapple" and pull the opponent off-balance or even trip them.

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The game simply lacks this level of versatility and the rules to make such maneuvers more or equally beneficial to simply attacking with the blade.
 

ECMO3

Hero
People use the bonus attack from PAM while using a shield in the other hand...? Man that is some dodgy cheese right there.
Well one of the two weapons you can do this with is a quaterstaff ..... which has two butt ends.

The other is a spear and I don't see either of these as cheesy. Frankly I think using a Halberd like that is much cheesier.
 

jgsugden

Legend
The relative strengths and weaknesses of each style are going to differ - greatly - between campaigns. If, for example, the DM throws a Belt of Storm Giant Strength into the campaign, the Great Weapon master will reap huge benefits from it to offset that -5 to hit. On the other hand, if there is an awesome magic shield, or a great one handed weapon, the Sword and Board PC is going to benefit there. If the DM throws more high HP monsters, the sword and board PC will be better positioned relative to the GWM PC.

In the end - the question is are both viable and are either broken. I have yet to encounter a 5E build that can't be viable, and I have yet to encounter a 5E build that is truly broken (outside whiteroom situational setups).
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
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.
I used the psi's warrior damage reduction capacity a lot. Then my PC died, was reborn as a rune knight (he was a scholar and we were playing SKT so it was fitting), which made him an even better tank and defender. So yeah...
 

I used the psi's warrior damage reduction capacity a lot. Then my PC died, was reborn as a rune knight (he was a scholar and we were playing SKT so it was fitting), which made him an even better tank and defender. So yeah...
Yea slight mismatch of flavor and mechanics with those 2 lol.
 

GreyLord

Legend
It kind of puzzles me when people say they love GWM.

Maybe I just toss creatures with AC's that are too high, and I am a BIG stickler about when they do or do not get Advantage.

GWM actually seemed to be a BIG hinder to those who have chosen it when I allow feats. They just....miss...constantly. I see praise for it all the time online, but my experience is that it isn't as cracked up as the forums seem to claim.

Sure, they get big hits with it sometimes, but in most fights it's been useless. It's why I think Fighters should get expertise to hit or something similar, because at times, they don't seem all that impressive in doing their thing.
 

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).
I don't even see where there's a real risk here as long as you took duelist style. 6.5 weapon damage is slightly behind 8.3 - or 9.5 vs 11.3 if we include STR 16, but your extra 2 AC is significant. Also GWM has a cost - the gap is covered if you had an extra ASI for +1 to hit and +1 damage.

And the ranger's missing out on two potential ASIs and doesn't have the actual cheese there of Sharpshooter + Crossbow Expert for the third attack.
It kind of puzzles me when people say they love GWM.

Maybe I just toss creatures with AC's that are too high, and I am a BIG stickler about when they do or do not get Advantage.

GWM actually seemed to be a BIG hinder to those who have chosen it when I allow feats. They just....miss...constantly. I see praise for it all the time online, but my experience is that it isn't as cracked up as the forums seem to claim.
Great Weapon Master only really gets good when you get accuracy buffs such as reckless barbarians. If the barbarian is not going reckless then against low AC foes it normally does little more than break even - but a reckless attack or other easy means of advantage and it's great and can really scythe through low level foes. (It also does pretty well by a battlemaster with their extra d8 to hit). Without teamwork or to hit bonuses it's medioce.

For paladins who want to spend a feat my recommendation is spear + sheield+ PAM every time especially at level 11+ when you get an extra d8 damage per hit. The whole system matters.
 

It kind of puzzles me when people say they love GWM.

Maybe I just toss creatures with AC's that are too high, and I am a BIG stickler about when they do or do not get Advantage.

GWM actually seemed to be a BIG hinder to those who have chosen it when I allow feats. They just....miss...constantly. I see praise for it all the time online, but my experience is that it isn't as cracked up as the forums seem to claim.

Sure, they get big hits with it sometimes, but in most fights it's been useless. It's why I think Fighters should get expertise to hit or something similar, because at times, they don't seem all that impressive in doing their thing.
It can be great but it takes a set of circumstances that usually cost more than it's worth. You need 3+ attacks, over 60% hit (with the penalty), advantage, and the mobility/positioning to make it shine.
 



Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
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.
and if I remember, +1 shields are more common than +1 armor...
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
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.

I do agree with you that the damage would be weak - and you are at serious risk of being disarmed when twirling around the spear like that. Sure it looks cool, but I find this very, very not convincing... I'm going to re-watch it in slow motion to see if I can get more out of the segment.

edit: I stopped watching it because how silly it is. This is NOT how you use a shield!
 

Just do like me and allow a shield master to use his bonus action between attacks to push or prone an enemy.
You will be surprise at how much the GWM will be happy to have such a nice friend.
The archer and the other range will not be so happy...
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
Yea slight mismatch of flavor and mechanics with those 2 lol.
He was a "warrior-scholar" - it went well with the good int of a psi warrior. But he had spent years researching giants (in our version of the campaign, the PCs were survivors of a giant attack in the past, re-joined to face the return of the giant threat), so when he was reborn, it made stylistic sense that he took RK. It... wasn't the best "fit" mechanically speaking, but I made it work :) (also, the damage reduction of a psi warrior was not so great vs the ridiculous damage a giant can do, the RK damage prevention are better).
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
edit: I stopped watching it because how silly it is. This is NOT how you use a shield!
Out of curiosity at what point was this? There is that section around the 2 minute mark where Achilles has his shield held at his back (sort of), is that the part? At this section Achilles is using his shield this way to toy with Hector and show his general distain for him.

Otherwise, I thought this was a fairly good video showing individual shield use since they use it for striking, shoves, trips, trapping weapons, as well as general defense...

If you feel otherwise, do you have any examples of what you consider how to use a shield??
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
Out of curiosity at what point was this? There is that section around the 2 minute mark where Achilles has his shield held at his back (sort of), is that the part? At this section Achilles is using his shield this way to toy with Hector and show his general distain for him.

Otherwise, I thought this was a fairly good video showing individual shield use since they use it for striking, shoves, trips, trapping weapons, as well as general defense...

If you feel otherwise, do you have any examples of what you consider how to use a shield??

I took about 3 years of medieval sword fighting (not SCA, something parallel to HEMA), and we did sword and shield a lot - I would in fact say that this is the style I'm the most familiar with (I even made my own shield haha).

The goal of the shield is to deny angles of attack to your opponent. A swordfight is, in many ways, a fight for the centre - you want to be in such a position that hitting your opponent is easy while - due to positioning - them hitting you is hard/impossible. If you don't have the centre and you swing at your foe, they might hit your in return - and a double kill is no way to swordfight. Remember, you don't have 100 hp, a single sword blow, properly place, could be fatal.

So moving your shield out of position to attack is foolish, and using it to attack even more so. In fact, part of the art of mastering the shield is learning how to attack and keep your shield in position. And these shields metal are heavy - ok sure, maybe someone like freaking Achilles can use it like that, but irl these shield bash with the edge are slow and expose you terribly.

So for example, look at the dodge at 1:06 , followed by Achilles trying a shield bash with the edge at 1:07. Had Hector's footwork not been so inept, Achilles is WIDE OPEN. His spear is on the other side, his shield is up high as is his arm. Hector could have stabbed him right in the side of the torso, maybe even in the unarmored armpit! But Hector's footwork and block are inept, leaving him open too - but Achilles just... runs on.

Then at 1:14 there is this running leap with a spear trust, very dramatic... except that the spear trust is right at the middle of the shield. Why hit at the middle of your opponent's defence? And it wasn't some kind of opening move, a combo, Hector just staggered back as Achilles watch. Had Hector turned his shield slightly, the trust would have been deflected and he would have had absorbed a lot less of the impact of the blow - AND HE COULD HAVE STABBED ACHILLES MID AIR.

I'll note at 1:18 that there is an interesting block by Hector. Low attacks to the legs are not normally parried by the shield like that (your legs can move fast, it opens you up) but for a moment, he pins Achille's spear to the ground, and, for... no reason I can discern, Achilles's shield is (once again), out of alignment and is basically wide open. HECTOR COULD HAVE STABBED HIM THERE TOO but once again, Hector seems incapable of doing much but stagger around.

These fights are... done for entertainment, for drama. And that's ok! we want to be entertained right? But, they aren't realistic, and should be used as "evidence" of how these weapons were used with great caution.
 

The goal of the shield is to deny angles of attack to your opponent. A swordfight is, in many ways, a fight for the centre - you want to be in such a position that hitting your opponent is easy while - due to positioning - them hitting you is hard/impossible. If you don't have the centre and you swing at your foe, they might hit your in return - and a double kill is no way to swordfight. Remember, you don't have 100 hp, a single sword blow, properly place, could be fatal.

So moving your shield out of position to attack is foolish, and using it to attack even more so. In fact, part of the art of mastering the shield is learning how to attack and keep your shield in position. And these shields metal are heavy - ok sure, maybe someone like freaking Achilles can use it like that, but irl these shield bash with the edge are slow and expose you terribly.
I'd just point out that not all sword and shield styles are the same and there's good evidence the Vikings often used their round shields edge on to the opponent, trying to control the center along the diagonal axis with the shield and sometimes thrusting to keep the opponent's head and sword above that line leaving them vulnerable to your sword. Which isn't the same at all as Achilles in Troy.

But then depending on your mythological sources Achilles may have been invulnerable other than on the ankle.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
First, thanks for your analysis, it was interesting to read. :)

But to address a few points:
So moving your shield out of position to attack is foolish, and using it to attack even more so.
There is historical evidence showing about how shields were used offensively, so I would not call attacking with your shield "foolish". Perhaps in the way they did it in the video, maybe, but shields certainly could be and were used offensively.

So for example, look at the dodge at 1:06 , followed by Achilles trying a shield bash with the edge at 1:07. Had Hector's footwork not been so inept, Achilles is WIDE OPEN. His spear is on the other side, his shield is up high as is his arm. Hector could have stabbed him right in the side of the torso, maybe even in the unarmored armpit! But Hector's footwork and block are inept, leaving him open too - but Achilles just... runs on.
I think it was more about demonstrating Achilles' power and it forced Hector off balance. And although Achilles may appear wide open, his skill is so superior he would dodge any counter-attack, so also feels confident to attack with his shield and leave himself "open".

Then at 1:14 there is this running leap with a spear trust, very dramatic... except that the spear trust is right at the middle of the shield. Why hit at the middle of your opponent's defence? And it wasn't some kind of opening move, a combo, Hector just staggered back as Achilles watch. Had Hector turned his shield slightly, the trust would have been deflected and he would have had absorbed a lot less of the impact of the blow - AND HE COULD HAVE STABBED ACHILLES MID AIR.
If you watch this part carefully you'll see Hector raises his shield to meet the spear strike, not Achilles simply thrusting into Hector's shield. His defense is out of position because the attack might be unorthodox. This sort of "death from above" strike was used by Achilles early in the movie and appears to be a signature move. Again, Hector staggers back from the force of Achilles' strike. It also seems Hector is being more defensive because he is weary of Achilles' skill.

I'll note at 1:18 that there is an interesting block by Hector. Low attacks to the legs are not normally parried by the shield like that (your legs can move fast, it opens you up) but for a moment, he pins Achille's spear to the ground, and, for... no reason I can discern, Achilles's shield is (once again), out of alignment and is basically wide open. HECTOR COULD HAVE STABBED HIM THERE TOO but once again, Hector seems incapable of doing much but stagger around.
At 1:19 as they were standing Hector did try to stab Achilles, who dodged the attack...

These fights are... done for entertainment, for drama. And that's ok! we want to be entertained right? But, they aren't realistic, and should be used as "evidence" of how these weapons were used with great caution.
Agreed, they are entertaining! I think part of this scene is also taking into account the combatants. Achilles is a demi-god, a legend of legends. And although Hector is a legend and hero in his own way, it's obvious his ability is grossly inferior to Achilles.

At any rate, the scene still does show how a spear or staff used one-handed could be used to make the bonus action attack with the butt-end of the weapon. I completely agree that such attack should not be "very effective" and keeping them to just a d4 with no ability modifier makes the most sense to me.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
First, thanks for your analysis, it was interesting to read. :)

thank you :)

There is historical evidence showing about how shields were used offensively, so I would not call attacking with your shield "foolish". Perhaps in the way they did it in the video, maybe, but shields certainly could be and were used offensively.

It really depends on the type of shield - as @Neonchameleon pointed out, viking shield usage was different, and bucklers certainly were used differently too. However, the type of heavy shield protecting mostly the torso used in this film was fairly similar to the ones we used, and heavier too - 13 to 18 pounds if a quick googling is accurate.



At 1:19 as they were standing Hector did try to stab Achilles, who dodged the attack...

But why wait until Achilles' spear is free?


Agreed, they are entertaining! I think part of this scene is also taking into account the combatants. Achilles is a demi-god, a legend of legends. And although Hector is a legend and hero in his own way, it's obvious his ability is grossly inferior to Achilles.

At any rate, the scene still does show how a spear or staff used one-handed could be used to make the bonus action attack with the butt-end of the weapon. I completely agree that such attack should not be "very effective" and keeping them to just a d4 with no ability modifier makes the most sense to me.

See, I don't think it does because Achilles is not human, he's almost a demi god. I guess it depends if you think that D&D heroes should be heroes or superheroes?
 

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