Defender ability is unbalanced (feedback)

One of my players asked me during our session "can my character (Cleric of Moradin) use Defender on himself?"


If not, why not? Is Defender not quite unbalanced? If he faces one monster, the cleric can simple block the cave passage and dodge, giving him AC 20. The monster would have to roll twice every time to try to hit the cleric because of Defender, which would result in a player doing nothing but dodging to ensure that the other players can take down creatures with ranged attacks. If he can’t use Defender on himself, he can simple stand behind the fighter who dodges and thus has AC 19, still forcing the attacker to do two attacks and thus blocking the way while the other players take down the monster. However, if there are lots of monsters, like a dozen goblins, then Defender is practically useless, since it requires that you target a goblin before it attacks, and if that goblin misses then the ability was wasted. We haven’t found a solution to this yet though and will keep testing it hoping to find a creative suggestion.


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Short answer: DM call.

Long answer: We have no definitions for "ally", "enemy", or "creature"; specifically we are not told whether the Cleric counts as a "creature within 5 feet" of himself. Strictest RAW, yes, he does, and therefore can grant himself the bonus, if and only if you choose to interpret only the wording under "Benefit" as rules text. If you choose to also interpret the wording under "Defender" as rules text, it then becomes clear that the bonus applies only to the Cleric's allies, and not to the Cleric himself.

The intended use of the ability is clearly that he cannot apply this bonus to himself, but the wording of "Benefit" doesn't actually say this.

This is precisely the reason why more mechanically-precise wording in rulebooks is a good idea. Muddy, colloquial language only leaves room for argument.
I'd rule that The Defender has to block an ally, just to limit the power and to enhance his role in the party.   He or she already has a higher AC than the other PCs (most likely), and if he or she wanted to defend himself or herself, he could execute a Dodge and gain +4 to his own AC.   If he could Defend himself, I feel there would be too much benefit that could be stacked up.

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You can only use the power once per round. See reactions definition.
As a defender, the idea is to give the enemies an incentive to attack you instead of your allies so I think it's fair to say you can't use it on yourself.  My player asked the same thing (though he tries to bend rules so I don't put much stock in that!) and that was my call.
This is precisely the reason why more mechanically-precise wording in rulebooks is a good idea. Muddy, colloquial language only leaves room for argument.



Or, alternatively, you could use common sense. Clearly 'Defender' is not meant to apply to the character himself.
What? It clearly can't be used on yourself. Just read the description again. "interpose your shield between your allies and their attackers."
What? It clearly can't be used on yourself. Just read the description again. "interpose your shield between your allies and their attackers."


To be fair, that's more or less the flavor text from what I see, not the actual reading of the benefit of the feat, which simply says "when an attack is made against a creature within 5 feet of you, you can give the attacker disadvantage on the attack as a reaction."

I agree that it SHOULDN'T be able to be applied to yourself to keep with the spirit of the theme and feat, but as written, it doesn’t really make that clear. 
Well this is certainly interesting. Supposing it really is meant to work that way, what exactly is the worse thing that could happen? Forcing a disadvantage on an attack once per turn sounds pretty strong to me, but not at all game-changing or mandatory.

It very clearly is NOT intended to work on the player himself. And I wouldn't personally want to encourage that sort of rules twisting in the game.

If you really want to go down that road - go ahead. But you go alone, imho.

Carl
What? It clearly can't be used on yourself. Just read the description again. "interpose your shield between your allies and their attackers."


To be fair, that's more or less the flavor text from what I see, not the actual reading of the benefit of the feat, which simply says "when an attack is made against a creature within 5 feet of you, you can give the attacker disadvantage on the attack as a reaction."



I don't think that there is 'flavor text', it is a description of what you are doing if you take that action. I'd not only rule that you couldn't use it on yourself, I'd rule that you couldn't use it if you did not have a shield or shield-like object. I would let you pick up half a broken door and use it to drive this ability though.
The flavor text IS the mechanics.

Carl
What? It clearly can't be used on yourself. Just read the description again. "interpose your shield between your allies and their attackers."


To be fair, that's more or less the flavor text from what I see, not the actual reading of the benefit of the feat, which simply says "when an attack is made against a creature within 5 feet of you, you can give the attacker disadvantage on the attack as a reaction."



I don't think that there is 'flavor text', it is a description of what you are doing if you take that action. I'd not only rule that you couldn't use it on yourself, I'd rule that you couldn't use it if you did not have a shield or shield-like object. I would let you pick up half a broken door and use it to drive this ability though.


I was paraphrasing the benefit/mechanic text, but it does explicitly refer to that you need to use a shield to get the benefit.
The flavor text IS the mechanics.


I do not agree at all.  From what I see, the Flavor Text is the intent/spirit of the feat/feature, while the benefit text is the mechanic, and in this case the benefit text is something that will simply need to be more clearly worded as time goes along. As it stands, as long as you have a shield, you can make an attacker attack with disadvantage when they attack anyone within 5 feet of you, even if it is an enemy, or yourself, given the loose wording of it.
Ally is always another creature. Not yourself.
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Otherwise it would say "you or one ally."
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Ally is always another creature. Not yourself.


The benefit text doesn't specify ally, however.  That's the point.  The benefit text, verbatum, is:

"While you are using a shield, when a creature within 5 feet of you is attacked, as a reaction you can give the attack disadvantage on the attack."

All that needs to be modified is just adding "other than yourself" after creature, and that would seal up the rule semantically. 
I thought it said ally. Obviously they need to errata that.
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One thing to point out: Unless there is a place in the corridor that is only 5 feet wide [or let's say 10 feet with the Theatre of the Mind explanation that by standing in the middle, you don't give enough room on either side for the enemies to get past], your super defender can stand there ... and then everyone will just walk by him and attack someone else. You might be able to make yourself very hard to hit AND (I doubt the rule is intended to work that way, but even if it was, or you go with the back-up option of standing behind someone with great AC that dodges) make it so the person that is very hard to hit gets the benefit of defender ... you don't have the ability to force the enemy to attack that person. You can't even rely on your 3rd level feat to reduce their attacking options, as best case, you lose the ability to give disadvantage should you do so.

There may be corner cases where you can pull off a something, but the more likely scenario will be "stick with the wizard because without OAs or something like it, most encounter areas don't give you a way to prevent enemies from getting to the wizard.   
Ally is always another creature. Not yourself.


The benefit text doesn't specify ally, however.  That's the point.  The benefit text, verbatum, is:

"While you are using a shield, when a creature within 5 feet of you is attacked, as a reaction you can give the attack disadvantage on the attack."

All that needs to be modified is just adding "other than yourself" after creature, and that would seal up the rule semantically. 



I think this is clear enough as written, both as regards the spirit of the rule and the rule itself. I dont see how, conceptually,  you can be both "you" and "a creature within 5 feet of you" simultaneously.

Kris Kobold

I'm with the "clearly not intended to be used on yourself" crowd. I also oppose the "we need insanely precise language to stop these confusions" approach. There will always be loopholes and misreadings. There's no point in writing a 600-page book of ultimate clarity when a little common sense and maybe a place where commentary can be written is available. That said, if you really want it that way, go ahead and try it. No harm in giving it a whirl for a few sessions.
A.) it's a reaction, only applies to one attacker
B.) the spirit of the game blah blah blah
C.) you mean you can use your defencive classes to choke off a point, offer suvivability to your squishies, and generally play with a sense of teamwork and strategy? NERF NAO PLOX!!!!!
It very clearly is NOT intended to work on the player himself. And I wouldn't personally want to encourage that sort of rules twisting in the game. If you really want to go down that road - go ahead. But you go alone, imho. Carl



No, unfortunately they will not be going alone.

Once one person goes there it'll be like a swarm of lemmings following in their wake.
This ability definitely needs some errata.  

I understand the "defender = defending other people" concept from 4e, but it's not obvious that this is what's going on here.  From a real-world perspective it makes plenty of sense that a person expert in shield use is able to block for his own benefit as well as the benefit of his allies.  That way, a defender can choose to be super-tough or to protect nearby allies as the situation demands.

-KS 
I agree with Rune. The DM needs to have the "stones" to tell the player no, when he's obviously trying to twist the wording on a rule as far as possible for his own personal benefit.  Granted, in this case, it did benefit the party, but its not something that you should get into the habit of allowing, as it opens a sort of Pandora's box.  If they can push you this far, they might try to see just how far they can push you.  Pretty soon, it'll be like you are asking the player's permission for what you want your monsters to do.  As if they are running the game, not you. 
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I agree with KidSnide,

A shield expert would know how to cover up both himself; or an ally.  I don't see anything wrong with a Defender "defending" himself from a single monster attack once per round as a reaction to an attack.

I'll also add that if a Defender gets seperated from his party suddenly his Theme of Choice is now a wasted part of his character build and how is that any fun?  "I built this guy to only be effective around my friends so no friends equals no point to my character..." how much fun is that to play?  I would much rather know that the defender cleric can survive for a few rounds by himself because he could button up behind his shield and wait for the rest of us to get to him with the reasonable expectation that he would still be alive due to his ability to defend himself really well.

Do other DM's really think this one Theme ability is that broken if he uses it on himself?  Can anyone give a reasonable example of why it's broken other than "I don't like it...?" 
SO, when you read the character sheet does it not say ....

Defender: You can interpose your shield between your allies and thier attacker?

That sound pretty clear to me. Trying to squeeze another interpertation out of the "Benefit" text seems a little streatchy. 

If I were to allow such an interpertation then you would lose the benefit of having the shield for yourself, if you were attacked after declaring it in the same round.

Still, it sounds like squeezing too much out of the PT packet rules. 
 
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he can allready take a dodge action and increase his AC to 22, forcing a disadvantage will make him impossible to hit

which is what a defender does. i say working as intended
"It's not a bug, it's a feature."

I think the Defender ability is very cool in concept. 

But it does seem to need refinement.  Using it as a reaction is really really hard when you don't have a map.  Also, theoretically, if the character stands in the middle of everyone, he blocks attacks against all of them limitless times.

My player instintually just started say on his turn, "I'm going to defend player X."

That worked out well to answer the "who is 5 feet away" question.  It seemed to take the ridiculously overpowered chunk out of it, as well.

Someone asked about can't the Knight just block a passageway?  Well, in this module and most DnD, passageways are 10 feet (two squares) wide, so the enemies could get past.
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I should note that if you had 6 players, the extra one running a second dwarven cleric, they could both block the tunnel, declare dodge, and defend each other.
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I should note that if you had 6 players, the extra one running a second dwarven cleric, they could both block the tunnel, declare dodge, and defend each other.



which would work for one turn (or once every other turn) because declaring dodge and defend, while legal, will mean that they can take no action the next round (a reaction uses up your action for the next round). So not so much a "broken" feature.
A.) it's a reaction, only applies to one attacker


I don't see any reason to assume it's limited to one attacker.  It doesn't say anything about limited usage per round or turn.

I should note that if you had 6 players, the extra one running a second dwarven cleric, they could both block the tunnel, declare dodge, and defend each other.



which would work for one turn (or once every other turn) because declaring dodge and defend, while legal, will mean that they can take no action the next round (a reaction uses up your action for the next round). So not so much a "broken" feature.


A reation uses up your action for the next round?  Bad news for anyone making a saving throw eh?

I believe Mike spoke about that in a column but I couldn't find it in the rules, just that you only got one reaction between each of your turns/in a round.
I should note that if you had 6 players, the extra one running a second dwarven cleric, they could both block the tunnel, declare dodge, and defend each other.



which would work for one turn (or once every other turn) because declaring dodge and defend, while legal, will mean that they can take no action the next round (a reaction uses up your action for the next round). So not so much a "broken" feature.


A reation uses up your action for the next round?  Bad news for anyone making a saving throw eh?




from the how to play:
"You make saving throws in reaction to events that happen to you"
and
"Reactions: Some actions allow you to act when it is not your turn"

Not exactly the same, a saving throw is not a "Reaction", although it is not unthinkable people can read that in this (although it is a torturous and very suspect logic). To avoid WoTC maybe should add an extra sentence to either paragraph to make clear that a saving throw does not count as a "reaction" insfar that the charater looses an action next round.
..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />from the how to play:
"You make saving throws in reaction to events that happen to you"
and
"Reactions: Some actions allow you to act when it is not your turn"

Not exactly the same, a saving throw is not a "Reaction", although it is not unthinkable people can read that in this (although it is a torturous and very suspect logic). To avoid WoTC maybe should add an extra sentence to either paragraph to make clear that a saving throw does not count as a "reaction" insfar that the charater looses an action next round.


I still don't see where it says a reation uses your action for the next turn.  But let's assume it does.  Imposing a shield between an attacker and an adjacent ally doesn't even require a check.  Why couldn't it be considered a reaction like a save is?
..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />from the how to play:
"You make saving throws in reaction to events that happen to you"
and
"Reactions: Some actions allow you to act when it is not your turn"

Not exactly the same, a saving throw is not a "Reaction", although it is not unthinkable people can read that in this (although it is a torturous and very suspect logic). To avoid WoTC maybe should add an extra sentence to either paragraph to make clear that a saving throw does not count as a "reaction" insfar that the charater looses an action next round.


I still don't see where it says a reation uses your action for the next turn.  But let's assume it does.  Imposing a shield between an attacker and an adjacent ally doesn't even require a check.  Why couldn't it be considered a reaction like a save is?



Page 9 last 2 paragraphs of the How to Play document
I agree with KidSnide,

A shield expert would know how to cover up both himself; or an ally.  I don't see anything wrong with a Defender "defending" himself from a single monster attack once per round as a reaction to an attack.

I'll also add that if a Defender gets seperated from his party suddenly his Theme of Choice is now a wasted part of his character build and how is that any fun?  "I built this guy to only be effective around my friends so no friends equals no point to my character..." how much fun is that to play?  I would much rather know that the defender cleric can survive for a few rounds by himself because he could button up behind his shield and wait for the rest of us to get to him with the reasonable expectation that he would still be alive due to his ability to defend himself really well.

Do other DM's really think this one Theme ability is that broken if he uses it on himself?  Can anyone give a reasonable example of why it's broken other than "I don't like it...?" 



The theme, nor the rules text, says nothing about the guardian being a "shield expert." I think you are inferring too much. It does say that guardians "protect others," that "you can interpose your shield between your allies and their attackers," and that, while you are using a shield, you can give the attacker disadvantage against a creature attacked within 5 feet of you. The power may not be "broken" (whatever that means, specifically) to apply it to the guardian itself (as a DM, make this ruling for your specific player-group, if it suits your game), but, regardless, it seems clear that's not what the rule intends for you to do with the benefit.

With regard the the separated defender scenario: why is there the assumption that your character's game benefits/resources should be available at all times? Being a "defender" is as much about the way the character is portrayed/utilised/described/role-played as it is about the rules that serve to reinforce these notions. The guardian theme benefit seems to be intended for situational applicability. Why do you wish to change it to general applicability? On the one hand you call out the gamist elements that you don't like, then ask us to harken to "real life" for support? In real life, a defender might defend with his weapon as well. Why not complain that the benefit requires that the defender must only use his shield? Why not complain that if a guardian loses his shield in play, he can't "defend"? Why not complain that a guardian seems pidgeon-holed into always using a shield and that you can't have a dual-wielding crossbow guardian? These complaints about the game benefits (most often tied to effectiveness in combat) are grating. You muse: " "'I built this guy to only be effective around my friends so no friends equals no point to my character...' how much fun is that to play?" (my emphasis) How about "I created this guy as a compelling character I want to play in a series of compelling imagined adventures, and that's the point."
I should note that if you had 6 players, the extra one running a second dwarven cleric, they could both block the tunnel, declare dodge, and defend each other.



which would work for one turn (or once every other turn) because declaring dodge and defend, while legal, will mean that they can take no action the next round (a reaction uses up your action for the next round). So not so much a "broken" feature.



It only does this if you are using the ready and action feature, otherwise it doesn't say that it uses an action...
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I should note that if you had 6 players, the extra one running a second dwarven cleric, they could both block the tunnel, declare dodge, and defend each other.

and then any sentient creature would..... walk away, maybehide around the next corner, maybe find a path behind them. it's their caves, pretty sure they know them better than the PC's
A.) it's a reaction, only applies to one attacker


I don't see any reason to assume it's limited to one attacker.  It doesn't say anything about limited usage per round or turn.


now you are just being pedantic.

so if it isn't limited in any way, why don't we just ready actions to hit when a monster comes into range, and then keep swinging until it's dead, cuz i mean, it says nothing about limited uses right?

once the reaction has been resolved it is expended, although i guess wizards will have to spend extra time to specify that for rules lawyers like you that exist to open books and slow games.