Do you think proficiency with shields is "worth" proficiency with a skill in 5E?


4th Edition


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

It seems to us that the only RAW way to get proficiency with shields is to also be proficient with medium armor. This also seems a little silly (to me at least), since the concept of a light armor wearing, shield wielding person doesnt seem outlandish.

Would you allow someone to "trade" a skill proficiency for shield proficiency (either a background proficiency or a feat-gained skill/tool proficiency)? Would you instead invent a feat (proficiency with shields plus a +1 to dex/str perhaps)? Or would you just insist they learn how to use medium armor as well and then choose not to? Or is there, in fact, a way to get shield proficiency without medium armor proficiency we havent noticed?


Well, there's the Moderately Armored feat, which gives +1 to Str or Dex (max 20), as well as proficiency with medium armor and shields.

Other than that, it doesn't look like there's another way to gain proficiency with a shield other than to be of a class that has that built in. So, unless you want to make a new feat almost identical to Moderately Armored, minus the medium armor, you will just need to eat the medium armor proficiency and just never wear it. Hell, people do that all the time in Pathfinder.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Yeah, that seems like the way to do it with the rules as written.

I'm more curious what people would do - if someone said "I want to get shield proficiency without medium armor" would you just answer "tough"? Or would you allow them to swap another proficiency out? Or make a feat without the light armor proficiency which granted +1 dex/str and shield proficiency? Or something else?

One of the things happening with our group is that some have embraced the "just make stuff up, as long as it seems reasonable" approach and others are more of the view: "there's only one way to get shield proficiency until another option is made available in a splat book".

I'm curious whether other groups are finding the same culture shock - it seems to me that modern systems have trained us to take a more legalese approach to playing RPGs where the DM is an arbiter of what is intended as an objective body of rules but that 5e has shifted course back to a more "DM is adjudicator, using the rules as guidelines". For us, at least, it is making our group re-evaluate our preferred philosophy of reading RPG rules.


I see it more as a precedent, in regards to letting players modify feats and how far do you take it. With feats being so broad (macro feats versus micro), you have to be careful about changes stepping on class niches. So if a feat is also covered by class ability, then do you let the class be modified as well. How do you deal with feats with ability requirements, etc.?


Personally, I wouldn't have a problem with that. Skill proficiency is valuable and not easy to come by, so I'm not even sure I'd consider it a fair trade. :)

If you want to look at it mechanically, the shield proficiency makes up about a third of the Medium Armored feat (the other two being +1 stat and medium armor proficiency) while the skilled feat gives three skills (I think?). So that seems pretty even.

I'd probably allow it in my game.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Uchawi wrote:
I see it more as a precedent, in regards to letting players modify feats and how far do you take it. With feats being so broad (macro feats versus micro), you have to be careful about changes stepping on class niches. So if a feat is also covered by class ability, then do you let the class be modified as well. How do you deal with feats with ability requirements, etc.?

Cheers. That's a good point.

My instinct is to allow pretty much everything, but I dont have the problem of players trying to game the system. It could potentially lead to obscure "builds" I guess and maybe encourage a focus on eking out mechanical advantage rather than on building a preexisting character concept.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Slaunyeh wrote:

Personally, I wouldn't have a problem with that. Skill proficiency is valuable and not easy to come by, so I'm not even sure I'd consider it a fair trade. :)

If you want to look at it mechanically, the shield proficiency makes up about a third of the Medium Armored feat (the other two being +1 stat and medium armor proficiency) while the skilled feat gives three skills (I think?). So that seems pretty even.

I'd probably allow it in my game.

Yeah, that was my initial thinking too. I told my group that I'd allow it but that id probably also talk them out of it. the rest of the group thought that was too cheap, but I think they were overvaluing shield proficiency. (There was also a school of thought that medium armor proficiency was the only way - that if the game designers didn't put a shield-without-medium-armor option in then there must have been a reason).


You could allow training in shield use, a la training in a tool proficiency (in the downtime rules).

-TG


Shield Proficiency doesn't seem something to give away lightly, since AC has a relatively strict band in 5E. For characters who have the free hand to make use of shields - many casters, rogues, etc - getting +2 AC from a shield could be a pretty big deal.

So I think simply letting someone swap a regular skill for it would seem rather strong. A Feat seems a reasonable way to go about it (in terms of resources), and it shouldn't take much to design a custom feat for shield use for lightly armored PCs if one was so inclined.

Multiclassing also would be a way to pick up shield proficiency - and, again, seems an acceptable investment in return for such a benefit.

Of course, if you aren't using the feat or multiclassing rules, that limits options. I'd still be wary of just letting one swap a basic skill for it. Making it part of a background could be a solution. Most backgrounds give two skill proficiencies and 1-2 tool proficiencies or languages. You might consider having a background that gives up most of that for 1 shield or armor or weapon proficiency.

But honestly, that starts to go down a tricky road in terms of trading less combat relevant resources for combat relevant resources, and I personally would be awfully wary of going down that route. I'd probably only recommend it if it was supremely relevant to someone's character concept, and none of the other approaches to acquiring it are able to work, for whatever reasons.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
John Robey wrote:

You could allow training in shield use, a la training in a tool proficiency (in the downtime rules).

-TG

Thanks - I havent read the downtime rules yet. I'll look into that too.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Matthew Koelbl wrote:

Shield Proficiency doesn't seem something to give away lightly, since AC has a relatively strict band in 5E. For characters who have the free hand to make use of shields - many casters, rogues, etc - getting +2 AC from a shield could be a pretty big deal.

So I think simply letting someone swap a regular skill for it would seem rather strong. A Feat seems a reasonable way to go about it (in terms of resources), and it shouldn't take much to design a custom feat for shield use for lightly armored PCs if one was so inclined.

Multiclassing also would be a way to pick up shield proficiency - and, again, seems an acceptable investment in return for such a benefit.

Of course, if you aren't using the feat or multiclassing rules, that limits options. I'd still be wary of just letting one swap a basic skill for it. Making it part of a background could be a solution. Most backgrounds give two skill proficiencies and 1-2 tool proficiencies or languages. You might consider having a background that gives up most of that for 1 shield or armor or weapon proficiency.

But honestly, that starts to go down a tricky road in terms of trading less combat relevant resources for combat relevant resources, and I personally would be awfully wary of going down that route. I'd probably only recommend it if it was supremely relevant to someone's character concept, and none of the other approaches to acquiring it are able to work, for whatever reasons.

In 'pricing' shield proficiency, I was struck by the fact that a magicuser can get a +1 to dex/str(?) plus proficiency with light armor (which doesnt use a hand and is up to +3 to AC, from memory) for the cost of one feat. So my thought was that shield proficiency should be a considerably lower investment than that. We also discussed it being potentially worth a couple of skills (either in the skilled feat or from a custom written background which is ultimately my preferred option, I think).

The trading combat relevant resources for non-combat resources is less of an issue in our group, but I take your point that it could become a problem if it became par for the course.


Steve Geddes wrote:
In 'pricing' shield proficiency, I was struck by the fact that a magicuser can get a +1 to dex/str(?) plus proficiency with light armor (which doesnt use a hand and is up to +3 to AC, from memory) for the cost of one feat. So my thought was that shield proficiency should be a considerably lower investment than that. We also discussed it being potentially worth a couple of skills (either in the skilled feat or from a custom written background which is ultimately my preferred option, I think).

My thought regarding the feat comparison would probably be to shift things in the other direction. If a feat that just gives Shield Proficiency seems lackluster (and I agree it does), the solution in my mind would be to add more abilities to the feat, to bring it up to par. Designing a custom Shield feat for non-armored characters would let it be a character designing element.

Whereas trying to create a trade-off to acquire the proficiency via other elements of the system seems dangerous, if only because the same logic could be extended to other feat elements. Why not trade in skills for an armor proficiency? Or for +1 to a stat? Those are also 'partial' elements that come from feats, after all.

All that said, I don't think it will break the system to come up with a way to harvest skills for other bonuses, or create a custom background that goes a little farther afield in the benefits it gives. But it does seem like the sort of thing that can imbalance the system, and would need to be handled with care.


I'm curious what class a player is playing where he wants to have shield but isn't proficient with it from his class?

My answer would probably be to either take the feat or dip into a class like fighter. If that really isn't going to fly I would work with the player to build a new feat before starting mess with the existing ones.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Matthew Koelbl wrote:

My thought regarding the feat comparison would probably be to shift things in the other direction. If a feat that just gives Shield Proficiency seems lackluster (and I agree it does), the solution in my mind would be to add more abilities to the feat, to bring it up to par. Designing a custom Shield feat for non-armored characters would let it be a character designing element.

Whereas trying to create a trade-off to acquire the proficiency via other elements of the system seems dangerous, if only because the same logic could be extended to other feat elements. Why not trade in skills for an armor proficiency? Or for +1 to a stat? Those are also 'partial' elements that come from feats, after all.

All that said, I don't think it will break the system to come up with a way to harvest skills for other bonuses, or create a custom background that goes a little farther afield in the benefits it gives. But it does seem like the sort of thing that can imbalance the system, and would need to be handled with care.

The more I look at the various armor feat chains, the less I'm inclined to mess around with any individual feat. Each armor feat has different value to different classes, but the value for each feat lines up pretty well . Moderately Armored is very valuable for casters, since they don't have to worry as much about being stealthy, but the light armor proficiency prerequisite ensures that casters have to take Lightly Armored, which is still pretty good, first. This way, the really valuable feat (+2 from a shield and and another +2 or +3 from medium armor depending on how stealthy the caster wants to be) is delayed at least until level 4 for humans and level 8 for everyone else.

Same with the Moderately Armored -> Medium Armor Master progression for Rogues. Medium armor is not that valuable for high dex characters, but shield proficiency gives the rogue +2 AC for his first feat. Breastplate is also an (expensive) option to squeeze out another +1 over studded leather (as long as dex is below 18), which is nice. Medium Armor Master is far better, though, letting you use +3 of your dex bonus instead of +2, and removing the disadvantage penalty from scale mail and half-plate (max AC of 20 with shield). Here again, the real value comes two feats in, and the each class's first feat in the chain has a roughly equal benefit for the class that's taking it. I'm not a huge fan of feat chains, but I have to admit the armor progression is pretty well thought out and balanced across the different classes.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Matthew Koelbl wrote:
Steve Geddes wrote:
In 'pricing' shield proficiency, I was struck by the fact that a magicuser can get a +1 to dex/str(?) plus proficiency with light armor (which doesnt use a hand and is up to +3 to AC, from memory) for the cost of one feat. So my thought was that shield proficiency should be a considerably lower investment than that. We also discussed it being potentially worth a couple of skills (either in the skilled feat or from a custom written background which is ultimately my preferred option, I think).

My thought regarding the feat comparison would probably be to shift things in the other direction. If a feat that just gives Shield Proficiency seems lackluster (and I agree it does), the solution in my mind would be to add more abilities to the feat, to bring it up to par. Designing a custom Shield feat for non-armored characters would let it be a character designing element.

Whereas trying to create a trade-off to acquire the proficiency via other elements of the system seems dangerous, if only because the same logic could be extended to other feat elements. Why not trade in skills for an armor proficiency? Or for +1 to a stat? Those are also 'partial' elements that come from feats, after all.

All that said, I don't think it will break the system to come up with a way to harvest skills for other bonuses, or create a custom background that goes a little farther afield in the benefits it gives. But it does seem like the sort of thing that can imbalance the system, and would need to be handled with care.

Cheers. You've changed my mind, I think. Appreciate it.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
P.H. Dungeon wrote:

I'm curious what class a player is playing where he wants to have shield but isn't proficient with it from his class?

My answer would probably be to either take the feat or dip into a class like fighter. If that really isn't going to fly I would work with the player to build a new feat before starting mess with the existing ones.

I think he wanted to be a sorceror with a shield (exiled from a lightly armored, barabarian tribe). Multiclassing was another suggestion (at this stage in us playing the game, starting as a level one fighter then multiclassing into wizard/sorceror from then on seems like quite a mechanically strong option).


1 person marked this as a favorite.

WotC has been releasing DMG previews, and the section on firearms seems to be right on point:

http://media.wizards.com/2014/images/dnd/articles/firearms_p1.jpg

Ultimately up to the DM, but the section on proficiency says that players should be able to acquire firearms proficiency during downtime using the PHB downtime rules, provided they have enough ammunition. This would suggest that the downtime rules permit you to get proficiency in anything you want as long as you have the time and resources to do so. Compared to firearms, getting shield proficiency this way would be pretty trivial. So there you go.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Thanks for all the input. Appreciate the comments. :)

Community / Forums / Gamer Life / Gaming / D&D / 4th Edition / Do you think proficiency with shields is "worth" proficiency with a skill in 5E? All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.
Recent threads in 4th Edition