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Shield Slam + Imp. Bull Rush


Rules Questions

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Sovereign Court

You have to wonder if it's better to have wrong numbers than to admit that good numbers are hard to come by.

A possible indication for NPC stats would be to take averages from the NPC and Villain codices.

Apart from that, another good point was made: Shield Slam is one feat in a build otherwise not interested in bull rushing. It's a fairly opportunistic choice really.

I happen to play a Slayer with it, and Shield Mastery is by far the more important feat in the build. Whole adventures go by when it just isn't tactically useful to bull rush people. There's no wall to smack them against or ledge to throw them off, or they'd just be pushed out of range of my full attack. I expect it to become more useful when I get Spring Attack though. That will let me move people and then follow up, setting them up for flanks for example.


BadBird wrote:
Overall, 'useful' is a question of A)how high a character drives weapon bonuses vs how high they drive bull rush CMB bonuses, and B)how much a character wants to invest in driving up bull rush CMB bonuses at the cost of other things.

Agreed. But the important point here is that boosting your attack bonus beyond a certain point typically involves making very substantial investments with rapidly diminishing returns. Meaning that in practice, it requires huge investments to maintain just an average Shield Slam BR success chance of 75% with your highest bab attack in higher levels, while the additional advantages those investments bring (mostly increased DPR per attack) tend to be small.

BadBird wrote:
The first question depends a lot on class features. A weapon/shield Fighter focused on weapon feats and class features stacks up hefty weapon-specific bonuses; by level 20 they can have a +6 just from Weapon Training. Crucially, none of this is being invested specifically into CMB; they'd want it all anyhow, regardless of whether they had Shield Slam or not.

I think we should have a closer look at this to make sure our assumptions about this theoretical fighter are at least somewhat similar (please let me know if you think my numbers are off):

Shield Slam BR and Regular BR Fighter Numbers:
A single-classed fighter typically ends up with a Str of no more than 36 while enlarged (16 base, 2 racial, 5 levels, 5 inherent, 6 belt, 2 size), resulting in a maximum shield bash attack bonus of approximately +48 (20 bab, 13 Str, 6 WT, 2 WF feats, 5 enhancement (shield), 2 Gloves of Dueling, 1 haste, -1 size). Which gives this fighter's best attacks a 70% chance to Shield Slam BR the average CR 20 monster, and his second best attacks a 45% chance (or a 40%/15% chance using Power Attack).

The same fighter build but with the two WF feats exchanged for Improved and Greater BR plus a Leveraging shield (+1 weapon enhancement cost) ends up with a BR CMB of +57, for a 95%/90% chance against the same "average" CR 20 monster with his best and second best attacks (85%/60% using Power Attack). Adding a few staple BR items for 15k (Gauntlets of the Skilled Maneuver, Cracked Dusty Rose Prism in Wayfinder, Pauldrons of the Bull), and that CMB becomes +61, best of two rolls. This CMB can of course be boosted even further relatively cheaply, while I believe the former version of this fighter needs to make much greater investments for a mere +2 increase to his attack bonus, not to mention for more substantial boosts (which likely requires a specific archetype, class dips, several Eldritch Heritage feats etc.) It's also worth noting that this latter version has an attack bonus only two points below the former and deals the same amount of damage per hit.

BadBird wrote:
Which brings up the second question. Shield Slam is a single feat that has no prerequisites based on bull rush, and no practical considerations based on bull rush outside of ally AoO's. It's not a feat for a bull rush build, it's a feat to pick up an interesting trick on a shield bash build. Everything a character invests into improving their Shield Slam bull rush is something they're already investing into improving their combat abilities in general.

All would be well and good also in my book if what you're saying here actually was true. But I don't think it is.

More precisely, you typically have a rather modest average chance of successfully pulling off the "interesting trick" at the level when you qualify for the feat, which then quite rapidly deteriorates into a terrible average success chance. Even if you're a fighter and likely have an exceptionally high attack bonus.

Which brings us to the main reason why I think Shield Slam needs to be changed (and/or complemented with additional options): the deteriorating success chance would be perfectly fine, IF there also were reasonable options allowing you to at least counter that deterioration.

As is, Shield Slam is typically reduced to not much more than a Shield Master feat tax only five levels after it was gained IME. A feat most PCs will wish they could retrain.

Again, the problem isn't that Shield Slam is bound to fail during higher levels for many builds. The problem is that, as written, there are very few ways to even make it moderately useful, and it's flat out impossible to improve the average success chance to be on par with that which any other combat maneuver can have.


I still think that it simply uses the number on the dice roll in place of the one you'd otherwise roll.

After all, if we're going to go with that it replaces the overall result, then that means you can't choose not to Bull Rush people, and everybody knows that's obviously not intended.


upho wrote:
I think we should have a closer look at this to make sure our assumptions about this theoretical fighter are at least somewhat similar (please let me know if you think my numbers are off):

Kind of. Dueling and Skilled Maneuver are mutually exclusive. For the cost of a Leveraging enhancement on a +5 weapon, the Fighter in question could be using a Pale Green Ioun for a flat +1 attack instead of a specialized CMB stone. I dunno if there are other resource issues like that, but it's not really the point; it seems like you're going from talking about diminishing returns on attack rolls to talking about instead piling resources into a combat maneuver that's really situational.

On a practical level, just tack-on a +2 charge bonus and a +1 stone bonus, and the Fighter in question has a solid chance to score a Shield Slam in the situation it's most likely to be used against a big bad boss who can actually be affected by it - on a single attack, probably a charge. Against the mobs and minions, where he might actually want to use iterative slams, he's got a good shot at sending them flying. Against weaker targets, like back-rankers prime to be slammed into a wall or post, it's golden. I don't think abstracts about CR20's really represent things very well a lot of the time, especially with situational/tactical things like this.


Ascalaphus wrote:

You have to wonder if it's better to have wrong numbers than to admit that good numbers are hard to come by.

A possible indication for NPC stats would be to take averages from the NPC and Villain codices.

Please go and calculate that average then. I can assure you that the average CMD will be significantly higher than the average AC, and that this average difference will increase with CR.

Ascalaphus wrote:
Apart from that, another good point was made: Shield Slam is one feat in a build otherwise not interested in bull rushing. It's a fairly opportunistic choice really.

And as I already said, that is all well and good.

What is NOT well and good is that there is no way to improve it for a build that actually is interested in bull rushing. Worse, the only currently available Paizo alternative to Shield Slam is a pretty expensive specific magic shield (Tempest Shield). Without such a shield, how do you suggest a build interested in BR actually makes investments into the maneuver worthwhile? Or do you think it's perfectly OK if such investments become trap options in mid/high levels?

Ascalaphus wrote:
I happen to play a Slayer with it, and Shield Mastery is by far the more important feat in the build. Whole adventures go by when it just isn't tactically useful to bull rush people.

Thank you for proving my point about Shield Slam currently being a Shield Mastery feat tax. (But remember there are quite a few options which could make the Shield Slam BR very tactically useful in every round.)


BadBird wrote:
upho wrote:
I think we should have a closer look at this to make sure our assumptions about this theoretical fighter are at least somewhat similar (please let me know if you think my numbers are off):
Kind of. Dueling and Skilled Maneuver are mutually exclusive.

Huh? No, but the Skilled Maneuver gauntlets should have their cost increase to 6k.

BadBird wrote:
For the cost of a Leveraging enhancement on a +5 weapon, the Fighter in question could be using a Pale Green Ioun for a flat +1 attack instead of a specialized CMB stone.

Say what? Leveraging doesn't add a +1 cost to the +5 SHIELD enhancement bonus, but the effective bonus Leveraging adds is still dependent on that SHIELD enhancement bonus because of Shield Master.

BadBird wrote:
I dunno if there are other resource issues like that, but it's not really the point; it seems like you're going from talking about diminishing returns on attack rolls to talking about instead piling resources into a combat maneuver that's really situational.

Sorry, but what do you mean? Is the Shield Slam BR happening or the BR bonuses I suggested "really situational"?

IME neither are in the case of a 20th level fighter focusing on BR and shield fighting. It was you who first brought up a high level fighter. I'm simply saying that if we're going to use that example, it should at least be a realistic representative of a fighter in a real game, played according to game guidelines (WBL etc).

BadBird wrote:
On a practical level, just tack-on a +2 charge bonus and a +1 stone bonus, and the Fighter in question has a solid chance to score a Shield Slam in the situation it's most likely to be used against a big bad boss who can actually be affected by it - on a single attack, probably a charge. Against the mobs and minions, where he might actually want to use iterative slams, he's got a good shot at sending them flying. Against weaker targets, like back-rankers prime to be slammed into a wall or post, it's golden. I don't think abstracts about CR20's really represent things very well a lot of the time, especially with situational/tactical things like this.

To put things into perspective, this fighter would still have a far greater chance to succeed in these situations if he could make a normal BR check. It may cost him a few additional resources to improve that check, but at least he CAN improve it to the same kind of success chance as his attack roll has vs AC.

And perhaps more importantly, the current Shield Slam RAW means the only way to actually make other BR investments worthwhile is to get a Tempest Shield (a specific magic shield which actually grants a proper BR as a separate free action on a shield bash hit). I think martial classes/characters are already more than enough dependent on magic items, so also having entire feat chains being dependent on a highly specific magic item in higher levels seems like really poor game design.

Darksol the Painbringer wrote:

I still think that it simply uses the number on the dice roll in place of the one you'd otherwise roll.

After all, if we're going to go with that it replaces the overall result, then that means you can't choose not to Bull Rush people, and everybody knows that's obviously not intended.

Why? Just because you cannot choose to not BR according to the Shield Slam RAW, it doesn't mean that if you could choose you'd have to make a separate BR check.

IOW, if we assume that you indeed can choose, that doesn't change the fact that RAW, when you do choose to BR you still use your attack roll in place of the normal combat maneuver check.


upho wrote:
BadBird wrote:
For the cost of a Leveraging enhancement on a +5 weapon, the Fighter in question could be using a Pale Green Ioun for a flat +1 attack instead of a specialized CMB stone.
Say what? Leveraging doesn't add a +1 cost to the +5 SHIELD enhancement bonus, but the effective bonus Leveraging adds is still dependent on that SHIELD enhancement bonus because of Shield Master.

Shield Master doesn't make a +5 shield that's also been enhanced as a +1 Leveraging weapon into a +5 Leveraging weapon. Leveraging is still going to refer to the fact that its part of a +1 Leveraging weapon, regardless of whether you can add the shield's enhancement bonus to your attack rolls. But anyhow, numbers differences aren't really the issue.

upho wrote:
BadBird wrote:
I dunno if there are other resource issues like that, but it's not really the point; it seems like you're going from talking about diminishing returns on attack rolls to talking about instead piling resources into a combat maneuver that's really situational.
Sorry, but what do you mean? Is the Shield Slam BR happening or the BR bonuses I suggested "really situational"?

What's situational is using bull rush at all, particularly in the context of Shield Slam; there are many, many attacks where you're not going to want to - or even be able to - make use of it.

You're thinking about Shield Slam in terms of power-gaming abstracts, like how well it works on iterative attacks against a boss-monster at levels many campaigns don't even reach. But on a practical level, characters aren't likely to use it on iterative attacks against boss-monsters, and I can guarantee that most characters who get some use out of it are completely uninterested in investing in bull rush as a specialized ability. Personally, even if I was creating a specialized Shield Slam build I'd probably still prefer it as it is.


BadBird wrote:
Shield Master doesn't make a +5 shield that's also been enhanced as a +1 Leveraging weapon into a +5 Leveraging weapon. Leveraging is still going to refer to the fact that its part of a +1 Leveraging weapon, regardless of whether you can add the shield's enhancement bonus to your attack rolls. But anyhow, numbers differences aren't really the issue.

First off, reading my previous reply to you on this, I'd like to apologize for the arrogant "can't believe you didn't know this"-tone. That was definitely not intended, and extra awkward in this case since I believe the reasons for my statement is far from immediately obvious.

And you're right the exact numbers aren't really the issue, but I feel like I at least owe you an explanation.

Leveraging + Shield Master OT Stuff:

1. Shield Master says (my emphasis):

"Add your shield’s enhancement bonus to attack and damage rolls made with the shield as if it were a weapon enhancement bonus."

Removing the parts irrelevant to the matter at hand (and clarifying the relevant meaning), the above quote says:

"Add your shield’s enhancement bonus to attack rolls (such as combat maneuver checks) made with the shield as if it were a weapon enhancement bonus."

For extra clarity, note the magic weapons general rules (my emphasis):

"Magic weapons have enhancement bonuses ranging from +1 to +5. They apply these bonuses to both attack and damage rolls when used in combat."

So because of Shield Master, the shield enhancement bonus is treated exactly as if a weapon enhancement bonus, but ONLY when actually making an attack roll or a damage roll using the shield (not when simply wearing the shield or for any other purpose).

2. Leveraging says (my emphasis):

"The leveraging weapon’s enhancement bonus is doubled when applied to combat maneuver checks to attempt bull rush..."

3. Ergo when applied to BR, the combined effect is (in my words):

Add twice your shield's enhancement bonus to the combat maneuver check when you perform a bull rush using your shield.

I believe a major reason why mentioned specific wording of the Shield Master rule isn't immediately obvious is because it only matters when combined with Leveraging and a few other magic weapon special abilities (such as Dueling (PFSG) or Furious). And even in some of those cases, Shield Master only affects certain parts of the benefits (for example, Shield Master doesn't make Leveraging apply the shield enhancement bonus to CMD).

So generally speaking, I believe you'd be absolutely right to say that Shield Master, according to current RAW, has no effect whatsoever on the vast majority of magic weapon special abilities. And notably, this is true also in the case of most abilities with mechanics at least superficially similar to Leveraging (such as Defending, Courageous, Impervious, Pitfall etc), as these grant bonuses derived from "the weapon's enhancement bonus" to a value which is irrelevant when making some kind of attack or damage roll with the shield. But specifically the CMB increase granted by Leveraging is one of the few exceptions.

I hope this makes the reasoning behind the calculations in my previous post more clear.

(I'd be interested in hearing your views if your conclusions on this differs from mine and you'd like to share them, but since this topic isn't very relevant to Shield Slam, I suggest we continue this in a new thread.)

BadBird wrote:
What's situational is using bull rush at all, particularly in the context of Shield Slam; there are many, many attacks where you're not going to want to - or even be able to - make use of it.

Well, aside from the fact Shield Slam doesn't allow you to choose NOT to BR strictly according to RAW, what you're saying here is actually a major part of the reason why I find the current Shield Slam mechanics problematic. PF needs more viable tactical tools for martial characters to focus on. BR can already be one such tool, but because of the Shield Slam RAW it's unfortunately restricted to pretty extreme higher level niche builds with access to very specific expensive items.

BadBird wrote:
You're thinking about Shield Slam in terms of power-gaming abstracts, like how well it works on iterative attacks against a boss-monster at levels many campaigns don't even reach.

Based on what I've posted in this thread, I'd say this could definitely be possible. But I hope you realize that this is far from the only possibility, meaning it's ultimately mere conjecture.

And no, I don't generally expect or demand Shield Slam to work on iteratives vs BBEGs. (I guess I might in the case of a specific PC in a specific game though, but that would be a rare thing.) Note also that this is already possible via other Paizo options.

And I assume the "abstracts" means you basically think I'm basing my views on incorrect and/or incorrectly applied math. If so, what do you suggest would be a more accurate and less biased method than using the numbers I supplied to roughly estimate a "typical" Shield Slam's success chance at various levels? And what should we compare this chance to in order to give us a hint about whether it's too low, too high, or just about right? Or is there a much better method which doesn't involve numbers at all?

BadBird wrote:
But on a practical level, characters aren't likely to use it on iterative attacks against boss-monsters, and I can guarantee that most characters who get some use out of it are completely uninterested in investing in bull rush as a specialized ability. Personally, even if I was creating a specialized Shield Slam build I'd probably still prefer it as it is.

From both a GM and a player perspective, I find that the most serious current issue with PF is the options for primarily martial PCs aren't allowing for enough player agency. Not surprisingly, this issue is most noticeable in the most mechanics-heavy part of the game which a vast majority of martial PC options affects; combat.

IOW, in every PF game I've played (with the one possible niche exception including 3PP material), with each level gained it has become increasingly obvious that the number of viable combat focuses/roles, the different combat styles within those focuses/roles, and the tactical options on a round-by-round basis, are all very limited for primarily martial PC's. Which in turn limits the mechanical variation between different martial PCs and ultimately player agency.

Increasing the various ways in which a PC can use combat maneuvers as a viable tool does a great deal in mitigating this issue.


Don't forget, with Shield Slam, you must Bull Rush the enemy that you hit, it's not optional as with Bull Rush Strike.


Darksol the Painbringer wrote:
Don't forget, with Shield Slam, you must Bull Rush the enemy that you hit, it's not optional as with Bull Rush Strike.

I don't think anyone takes the RAW of Shield Slam that slavishly, since if that was actually enforced, taking the feat would be a pretty bad idea. "Oops, knocked the target away while trying to full attack. Oops, did it again! Oops, sent the mage into a safer space. Oops......"

Besides, the idea that a character who specifically has to learn to use Shield Slam suddenly isn't able to just shield bash like they did before they learned it is absurd.


that's why you don't take it, no worry about it going off on the wrong time.


BadBird wrote:
Darksol the Painbringer wrote:
Don't forget, with Shield Slam, you must Bull Rush the enemy that you hit, it's not optional as with Bull Rush Strike.

I don't think anyone takes the RAW of Shield Slam that slavishly, since if that was actually enforced, taking the feat would be a pretty bad idea. "Oops, knocked the target away while trying to full attack. Oops, did it again! Oops, sent the mage into a safer space. Oops......"

Besides, the idea that a character who specifically has to learn to use Shield Slam suddenly isn't able to just shield bash like they did before they learned it is absurd.

Welcome to trap feats. Ever heard of Monkey Lunge, requiring a Standard Action to utilize its benefits, which only works when Attacking while using the Lunge feat? Same concept here. And of course it's absurd.

All I'm saying is that if we take the RAW for what it stands for (people saying you take the entire Attack Roll as-is, instead of simply substituting the dice roll as your roll for the Combat Maneuver, and then add relevant bonuses), you turn this feat from handy and convenient to have, into a complete and utter trap.

The whole "non-optional" thing pertains to a similar rule of thumb described above, which means that if a player is suggesting that they enforce the as-is total Attack Roll, then they should also enforce the as-is "non-optional" rule.


BadBird wrote:
Darksol the Painbringer wrote:
Don't forget, with Shield Slam, you must Bull Rush the enemy that you hit, it's not optional as with Bull Rush Strike.

I don't think anyone takes the RAW of Shield Slam that slavishly, since if that was actually enforced, taking the feat would be a pretty bad idea. "Oops, knocked the target away while trying to full attack. Oops, did it again! Oops, sent the mage into a safer space. Oops......"

Besides, the idea that a character who specifically has to learn to use Shield Slam suddenly isn't able to just shield bash like they did before they learned it is absurd.

I agree. While RAW does not specifically make it optional, mandating that it is always on is tantamount to reading Shield Master (before the FAQ) as removing all penalties i.e. yes, that's what it says, but it's nonsensical to play it that way given the context of the game.

Quote:
Besides, the idea that a character who specifically has to learn to use Shield Slam suddenly isn't able to just shield bash like they did before they learned it is absurd

Exactly the logic I would employ since the feat is not a static bonus, but is a voluntary modification to an attack.


Darksol the Painbringer wrote:
The whole "non-optional" thing pertains to a similar rule of thumb described above, which means that if a player is suggesting that they enforce the as-is total Attack Roll, then they should also enforce the as-is "non-optional" rule.

I'm not sure the idea that you must apply a feat that you know even if you don't want to is actually RAW.

Regardless, saying you can't just perform a shield bash as if you didn't have Shield Slam is patently absurd; and there's a huge difference between ignoring RAW when it's absurd, and ignoring RAW because it suits you.

Sovereign Court

BadBird wrote:
Darksol the Painbringer wrote:
The whole "non-optional" thing pertains to a similar rule of thumb described above, which means that if a player is suggesting that they enforce the as-is total Attack Roll, then they should also enforce the as-is "non-optional" rule.

I'm not sure the idea that you must apply a feat that you know even if you don't want to is actually RAW.

Regardless, saying you can't just perform a shield bash as if you didn't have Shield Slam is patently absurd; and there's a huge difference between ignoring RAW when it's absurd, and ignoring RAW because it suits you.

We've gone into great depth on whether you have to use Shield Slam before. With the usual results (some people stubbornly clinging to their position).

The argument for "may" rings more or less like: feats tend to mean you learned some technique. You can choose not to apply the technique. With most feats there's never a reason not to use them. But the CRB chapter on feats explains:

Quote:
Benefit: What the feat enables the character ("you" in the feat description) to do. If a character has the same feat more than once, its benefits do not stack unless indicated otherwise in the description.

"Enabling" implies that you "can", not necessarily "must" do something.

The other side pointed out that this could lead to obscure absurd cases, like trying to Dominate someone into not using the HP from Toughness (although that might count as an obviously suicidal instruction). And they also pointed out other feats with an effect that was clearly intended as an always-on drawback, such as Fey Foundling.

My personal conclusion was that obvious drawbacks on feats can't be ignored, but that Shield Slam doesn't fit that category, that it's a trick you don't have to use. But that you should indicate before the attack roll whether you want to use it.


Ascalaphus wrote:
BadBird wrote:
Darksol the Painbringer wrote:
The whole "non-optional" thing pertains to a similar rule of thumb described above, which means that if a player is suggesting that they enforce the as-is total Attack Roll, then they should also enforce the as-is "non-optional" rule.

I'm not sure the idea that you must apply a feat that you know even if you don't want to is actually RAW.

Regardless, saying you can't just perform a shield bash as if you didn't have Shield Slam is patently absurd; and there's a huge difference between ignoring RAW when it's absurd, and ignoring RAW because it suits you.

We've gone into great depth on whether you have to use Shield Slam before. With the usual results (some people stubbornly clinging to their position).

The argument for "may" rings more or less like: feats tend to mean you learned some technique. You can choose not to apply the technique. With most feats there's never a reason not to use them. But the CRB chapter on feats explains:

Quote:
Benefit: What the feat enables the character ("you" in the feat description) to do. If a character has the same feat more than once, its benefits do not stack unless indicated otherwise in the description.

"Enabling" implies that you "can", not necessarily "must" do something.

The other side pointed out that this could lead to obscure absurd cases, like trying to Dominate someone into not using the HP from Toughness (although that might count as an obviously suicidal instruction). And they also pointed out other feats with an effect that was clearly intended as an always-on drawback, such as Fey Foundling.

My personal conclusion was that obvious drawbacks on feats can't be ignored, but that Shield Slam doesn't fit that category, that it's a trick you don't have to use. But that you should indicate before the attack roll whether you want to use it.

If you can't take the "Attack Roll" argument to mean that it simply takes the dice result, then you can't take the other parts of the feat definition outside of its written context, because that results in a hypocrisy of expectations between accepting what is and isn't written.

While the word "enable" can mean an allotment, it's not definitively proven if that's the context of what "enable" means. By that argument, I could choose not to apply the effects of Toughness, even though most everybody I know that plays this game would say that it's always active. After all, I can't simply deactivate it, then activate it as a means of pulling a "gotcha" on the PCs defeating a bad guy, because that's clearly not the intent behind it. (There is actually a storyline I'm aware of where this basically happens.)

Compared to Power Attack, which actually has explicit text stating that it's optional, and as a result, I can choose not to use it.

Shield Slam lacks such text. Which means I couldn't deactivate it if I wanted, because it doesn't have the same permissive text that Power Attack contains.

In other words, comparing two options, one that obviously has permissive text, and one that doesn't, we have a case of Specific Trumps General, where Shield Slam comes out on the General case of not being "toggleable," whereas Power Attack is.

Now, what this demonstrates is that "enable" is either not the proper term, or that it has multiple definitions, which means that "enable" is either used in a different context than what's assumed, or that like Shield Slam, is incorrectly written in comparison to the intent behind the definition.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

The idea that you can't generally respect how the rules are written while making exceptions for what's absurd and/or ill-defined is nonsense.

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