how to interpret Wizard's Shield (lv2 utility)?

21 posts / 0 new
Last post
The wizard's level 2 utility, Shield, is an immediate interrupt triggered by being attacked that grants the user +4 to AC and Reflex until the end of his/her next turn.

As far as I can tell, the rules as written don't dictate whether the player must know whether the incoming attack would miss if Shield were activated.  My question is how I, as a DM, should let Shield work.

Right now, I perform almost all rolls in public, and I state attack modifiers, and then I ask whether the result beats the players's defenses.  That means that players know exactly how much over their defense an attack roll was, and that in turn means that the wizard can choose to use Shield such that it always deflects the incoming attack.

This seems too powerful to me.  Shield is already the consensus char-op pick for the wizard's level 2 utility, even without assuming that the player always knows exactly when it would deflect the triggering attack.  I'm thinking instead to make my wizard tell me, before I resolve my attack roll, that he wants to activate Shield if the attack hits.  This would bring it more in line with other powers that give some chance of turning failure into success (e.g., several of the racial powers, such as for halflings, elves, devas, and humans).  After all, the designers could have written the power in a slightly different way to force the opposing interpretation, something like: "Trigger: an attack hits your AC or Reflex by 4 or less.  Result: the attack instead misses, and you gain +4 AC / Reflex UEoNT."

What do you all think?  Any advice is appreciated.

(Note, I realize there are more general threads floating around about how to deal with metagame information, but I want to follow legal precedent and not discuss more general questions unless I have to.)
Edit: I recommend forgetting about the idea of "legal precedent" at your table. What's important is what works for your game. Odds are that what will work is to err in the players' favor and make up for any imbalance in other ways, but try it and see what works for you.

My mage has had it since level 2, and never gotten to use it once. I suppose if I didn't know how much certain attacks had hit me by, I would then at least have used it, though that's a rather fake form of utility.

But no, transparency of numbers such as this is the baseline assumption. Furthermore, it's plausible to think that someone using the spell would have enough idea to know when it's needed that they don't use it otherwise. Finally, it's enough of a tactical challenge to determine if this is the attack that should be blocked (instead of something potentially more damaging later); there's no need to add a layer of complexity either by hiding rolls or forcing the player to keep track of hidden modifiers and spend time at the table deciding.

Actually, that last is probably the best argument for transparency. If you make players think about choices like that, you're just slowing down your own game. If the spell is somehow overpowered as a result, it's not likely to be by much, since it doesn't even last a whole round.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Well, I usually keep attack rolls hidden (the players prefer it), so when I announce a hit against the wizard he can choose to use Shield - not knowing if 4+ def will save him, or not.
Discuss it with your players, come to an agreement, and run it that way.

In my experience most players prefer to know if their limited-use ability is going to do any good before they expend it. In other words, most players want to know if they were hit by 3 or less (so Shield blocks the hit) or by 4 or more.

However, I can certainly understand not wanting to give out perfect information, if that's the style of game you and your group prefers.

There are tons and tons of powers like this in 4e (both defensive and offensive), so it's important to get group agreement on how they will work.     
The words from the developers is that the intent of Shield, and similar powers, is that the player knows precisely when they will and will not turn a hit into a miss.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
The words from the developers is that the intent of Shield, and similar powers, is that the player knows precisely when they will and will not turn a hit into a miss.


Is there a source where I can verify this?
Not to be a jerk, but why does it matter what the D&D developers think? Run the game the way you (and your group) want to run it.
Edit: I recommend forgetting about the idea of "legal precedent" at your table.


I think you misunderstand what I meant by that comment.  I meant that I want to decide narrowly on Shield, without my decision thereby applying broadly to all other powers that grant possible changes in outcomes.  This is how judges are trained to rule: narrowly on the topic at hand rather than broadly on many possibly similar topics.
The words from the developers is that the intent of Shield, and similar powers, is that the player knows precisely when they will and will not turn a hit into a miss.

Is there a source where I can verify this?

No. But it's pretty obvious from the design.

Edit: I recommend forgetting about the idea of "legal precedent" at your table.

I think you misunderstand what I meant by that comment.  I meant that I want to decide narrowly on Shield, without my decision thereby applying broadly to all other powers that grant possible changes in outcomes.  This is how judges are trained to rule: narrowly on the topic at hand rather than broadly on many possibly similar topics.

Just apply it broadly. I don't see what you think will be the problem. The game is balanced enough that running it transparently isn't going to break anything.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Don't think of it froma  DM's position. Think about it from the player's postion. Would YOU want to be in a position where you never know if one of your powers, one that's entire purpose is to protect you from a hit, is even an option? I don't want to be sitting there and hear "You are hit and take 27 damage". What I want to hear is "I got a 30 versus your AC. Does that hit?" because I can go "No, I cast Shield and it misses my 31 AC".

Besides, the game runs off the assumption that you announce attack rolls to players. If you break that assumption and do the whole "You're hit, take damage" what is there to prevent your players from doing the same to you? Why can't the Ranger say "I hit with both swings of Twin Strike. Take OneMetricCrapTonOfDamage"?
Spiteful Wizard and Voice of Reason of the House of Trolls The Silent God of the House of Trolls Unfrozen OTTer Arbiter of the House of Trolls Yes, I have many titles. Deal with it.
Don't think of it froma  DM's position. Think about it from the player's postion. Would YOU want to be in a position where you never know if one of your powers, one that's entire purpose is to protect you from a hit, is even an option? I don't want to be sitting there and hear "You are hit and take 27 damage". What I want to hear is "I got a 30 versus your AC. Does that hit?" because I can go "No, I cast Shield and it misses my 31 AC".

Besides, the game runs off the assumption that you announce attack rolls to players. If you break that assumption and do the whole "You're hit, take damage" what is there to prevent your players from doing the same to you? Why can't the Ranger say "I hit with both swings of Twin Strike. Take OneMetricCrapTonOfDamage"?



Sorry to pick on this bit of text, WolfLordBran--I see other people in this thread making a similar argument, and yours is just conveniently the last one.  Anyway, I don't find this reasoning persuasive.  First, many powers offer an uncertain chance at turning a miss into a hit or vice versa (e.g., elven accuracy, second chance, etc.).  The chance at turning something from a hit to a miss or vice versa is still useful, because the (non-zero) chance of a benefit is still a benefit.  The question is whether Shield is one of these powers.  Second, Shield offers another benefit besides potentially avoiding the triggering hit: you get +4 AC / Reflex until the start of your next turn.  That would be a useful effect even if the power did nothing else.

On the second paragraph--I wasn't thinking that the solution is private die rolls.  My intended solution is for the wizard to commit to using Shield before discovering whether the attack hits.  The order of operations goes: (1) I announce that a monster is attacking the wizard.  (2) The wizard announces whether he is using Shield if the attack hits.  (3)  I resolve the monster's attack roll in public, with results announced.  (4) If the wizard announced that he will use Shield on a hit, and if the attack hits, then the wizard applies Shield.

Also, I'll repeat this question: if the developers intended the player to know that an attack hits for 4 or less, they could easily have written the power differently, such as like this: "Immediate Interrupt, trigger: an attack hits your AC / Reflex by 4 or less.  Effect: The attack misses instead, and you gain a +4 power bonus to AC and Reflex until the end of your next turn."  If that was what they meant, why did they write it the other way?
In case the wizard wants to cast the Shield when it won't result in a hit becoming a miss.  Why he'd do this, I don't know, but hey.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
Also, I'll repeat this question: if the developers intended the player to know that an attack hits for 4 or less, they could easily have written the power differently, such as like this: "Immediate Interrupt, trigger: an attack hits your AC / Reflex by 4 or less.  Effect: The attack misses instead, and you gain a +4 power bonus to AC and Reflex until the end of your next turn."  If that was what they meant, why did they write it the other way?

Who knows? They made plenty of other wording "mistakes" that they ended up clarifying to... pretty much the same interpretation a reasonable person would determine.

Just try it the transparency way. It's not going to break anything if you do that, but even if you don't believe that, at least try it.

In case the wizard wants to cast the Shield when it won't result in a hit becoming a miss.  Why he'd do this, I don't know, but hey.

Because, as he noted, there's an ongoing benefit. The wizard might be in a tight spot and want to get out, so he uses Shield without effect, just to have it up when he makes a break through several opportunity attacks. Since it's an interrupt, as you probably know but many don't, he can't use it in response to an opportunity attack.

It's wonky, sure, but then again it works well with the action economy and transparency of the game.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

On the second paragraph--I wasn't thinking that the solution is private die rolls.  My intended solution is for the wizard to commit to using Shield before discovering whether the attack hits.  The order of operations goes: (1) I announce that a monster is attacking the wizard.  (2) The wizard announces whether he is using Shield if the attack hits.  (3)  I resolve the monster's attack roll in public, with results announced.  (4) If the wizard announced that he will use Shield on a hit, and if the attack hits, then the wizard applies Shield.



I'm not sure exactly why you object to players knowing the attack before using the power, but if it has anything to do with "metagaming," you can fix that by simply imagining that the wizard is knowledgeable enough to know exactly the right time the shield needs to go up to deflect an attack. Being smart and all. Oh, plus, a wizard did it.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

FREE CONTENT: Encounters With Alternate Goals | Full-Contact Futbol  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs | Re-Imagining Phandelver | Three Pillars of Immersion | Seahorse Run

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith



Just try it the transparency way. It's not going to break anything if you do that, but even if you don't believe that, at least try it.



Well, first, I don't think it's fair to call one method transparent and the other not.  As I said, the order of operations is that the wizard declares conditional use of Shield before I (transparently) resolve the attack roll.  But, second, I started out using the method where the wizard can declare Shield after knowing the attack roll, and that's our current method of play.  It seems overpowered to me, and that's supported by the folks on CharOp who think Shield is by far the best level 2 Wizard utility, even if the DM insists on a different (still transparent) order of operations.  So I've been having second thoughts.  Not about whether one method breaks the game, but rather about whether one method is more in line with other level 2 utility powers.


In case the wizard wants to cast the Shield when it won't result in a hit becoming a miss.  Why he'd do this, I don't know, but hey.

Because, as he noted, there's an ongoing benefit. The wizard might be in a tight spot and want to get out, so he uses Shield without effect, just to have it up when he makes a break through several opportunity attacks. Since it's an interrupt, as you probably know but many don't, he can't use it in response to an opportunity attack.

It's wonky, sure, but then again it works well with the action economy and transparency of the game.



Yeah, this makes sense to me and is a good point.  Thanks to both Salla and Centauri for making it.

I'm not sure exactly why you object to players knowing the attack before using the power, but if it has anything to do with "metagaming," you can fix that by simply imagining that the wizard is knowledgeable enough to know exactly the right time the shield needs to go up to deflect an attack. Being smart and all. Oh, plus, a wizard did it.


Nah, nothing to do with metagaming knowledge versus wizard skillz; the power just seems too strong (relative to other level 2 utility powers) if it's one way rather than the other.
Nah, nothing to do with metagaming knowledge versus wizard skillz; the power just seems too strong (relative to other level 2 utility powers) if it's one way rather than the other.



We call it the "Get Out of Jail Free Card" at our table. Still, it's pretty situational. There's only a range of results at which it will work and its duration is quite short since you can't use it on your own turn. As well, it will only ever be used if you actually attack the wizard, so if you don't manage to do that either by choice or the way things go during the fight, that player has in fact taken on an opportunity cost for not having another power that might be more "active" than "reactive." I think it's also a perception thing - you probably don't go after the wizard all that much and when you do, bam, Shield. It can almost seem like a wasted action for the DM.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

FREE CONTENT: Encounters With Alternate Goals | Full-Contact Futbol  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs | Re-Imagining Phandelver | Three Pillars of Immersion | Seahorse Run

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Still, it's pretty situational. There's only a range of results at which it will work and its duration is quite short since you can't use it on your own turn. As well, it will only ever be used if you actually attack the wizard, so if you don't manage to do that either by choice or the way things go during the fight, that player has in fact taken on an opportunity cost for not having another power that might be more "active" than "reactive." I think it's also a perception thing - you probably don't go after the wizard all that much and when you do, bam, Shield. It can almost seem like a wasted action for the DM.



Good point; thanks.
Just wait until the wizard is higher level and has Wizard's Escape (teleport out of the way of the attack) in addition to Shield. And if it's a staff wizard, he has the staff-power too. Etc.

Wizards are squishy but they're hard to hit, hard to pin down. I believe that is by design. 
Just wait until the wizard is higher level and has Wizard's Escape (teleport out of the way of the attack) in addition to Shield. And if it's a staff wizard, he has the staff-power too. Etc.

Wizards are squishy but they're hard to hit, hard to pin down. I believe that is by design. 



It's a double-edged sword for me, at least in my perception. I'm playing a staff wizard now. I don't have wizard's escape, but I do have shield and staff of defense. Anecdotally, I almost never get to use both powers in an encounter. I'm either not attacked or the roll against me is so high it doesn't matter or it's a minion and I'd rather take the damage than waste the power or the power hits a defense not covered by the spell, and on and on.

So really I think I'm just going to drop shield for something more interesting and "active." If you really think about it, it's just not worth it. I got healing surges that are barely ever tapped. I'll let that be my defense from now on. I think anyone who has played a wizard for any length of time must also have encountered this. If you're not a hardcore failure mitigator by nature, shield can go.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

FREE CONTENT: Encounters With Alternate Goals | Full-Contact Futbol  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs | Re-Imagining Phandelver | Three Pillars of Immersion | Seahorse Run

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

So really I think I'm just going to drop shield for something more interesting and "active." [...] I got healing surges that are barely ever tapped. I'll let that be my defense from now on. [...] If you're not a hardcore failure mitigator by nature, shield can go.

Different strokes for different folks.

Some people prefer not to get hit at all. Some people prefer to treat their hit points / healing surges as just another resource to tap. Most people are probably somewhere in the middle. 

You should pick powers that are interesting to you. If you don't like shield, don't use it. If you do like it, use it.

Oh, and discuss with your DM how he's going to rule on shield so you can make an informed decision.  (To bring this slightly back on topic.)