Killer Rabbitt
 member, 384 posts
 He's got huge sharp fangs
 Run away! Run away!
Tue 12 Sep 2017
at 00:40
House Rule Rebuttal:  Back Shields
Recently in a 3.5 game, a player proposed a house rule to me that he would like to incorporate in the game:  back shields.  His proposed rule was that a character could wear a shield on their back, which wouldn't add a shield bonus but would negate an opponent's flanking bonus.  I argued that, while I appreciate the historical verisimilitude of such a style (we both do Dagorhir, a foam LARP, which includes back shields, and I've done live-steel as well), I felt that the idea was unbalancing for inclusion, namely in that it did not have enough of a drawback.  To whit:

I feel that in the set-up of 3.5, a character's fighting style comes with certain perks and drawbacks.  Namely, characters who choose two-weapon or two-handed weapons are substituting offense for defense.  This ends up balancing out, more or less.  I feel that adding back shields adds a benefit without a concomitant drawback.  His argument is that there *is* a drawback, in that you have a shield that's only useful in a given situation (being flanked), and you still take the armor penalty for using that shield.  I countered that a bonus that isn't *as good* as a regular bonus (i.e. using a shield) is still an added bonus not built into the balance of play.

Furthermore, I can't see justifying negating the +2 flanking bonus without also negating any precision attacks (i.e. sneak attack) derived from flanking.  He argued that he'd be fine with granting the flanking *bonus* negation, but not the flanked *status* (thus granting Rogues and other characters their precision-based attacks).  For purposes of realism I couldn't see negating one without the other:  if you have a large plank of wood or metal strapped to your back, it's going to fairly effectively block most incoming blows, at least to the point where the kind of strategic placing of sneak attack wouldn't be feasible.  We argued what the difference is between a shield gripped in the hand and such a shield on the back:  namely that a back shield isn't moving, whereas a hand-held shield does, and one can feint around it, etc.  While one could arguably reach around to strike their opponent, again it stretches the feasibility of the accuracy of precision-based damage.  I'm more concerned with how this would affect the party's precision attacker, who would now be up against NPCs who (with any intelligence) would be using this fighting style to negate his sneak attacks.

Long story short, he continued to argue that his proposal of a shield that doesn't fully function as a shield yet adds to the defensive capabilities of two-handed characters is enough of a drawback to warrant their use.

To put in further perspective, we have a party none of whom use shields:  a two-weapon fighter, a pole-fighter, an archer, and my friend who uses a single sword (and gets bonuses with various feats and such).  So I feel this greatly skews in their favor.

This message was last updated by a moderator, as it was the wrong forum, at 02:20, Tue 12 Sept 2017.

 member, 649 posts
Tue 12 Sep 2017
at 02:41
House Rule Rebuttal:  Back Shields
Well, I agree that getting +2 bonus (or in some cases perhaps more) vs flanking attacks seems like a relatively big deal, at least anytime you are being flanked.  I agree that mechanically, it makes more sense not to split precision damage from the flanking bonus, but, admittedly one could argue someone can stab around the sheild.  However, that is also very true for the original attacks too.  One could also point out that a full plate, will basically have a sheet of steel behind it, why doesn't simply wearing heavy armor aleviate the flanking bonus?  (basically, the bonus is not being able to be aware of what is going on all the way around you)

Asuming you are talking about a heavy sheild, giving a +2 AC vs flanking attack, means you have an absolutely fully effective shield being actively projected out your back, as it is getting a full benefit.  I'd be more inclined to believe it would have to grant 'less' than full bonus, meaning none, for a light or buckler (since they are normally only 1) and perhaps a +1 bonus with a heavy sheild on ones back.  Keep in mind, a flanking attack need not strike them in their back, it can just as easily hit them in the leg, arms, or head, just like any other attack.  It just is easier to land some sort of hit, as the person is having to shift their awareness around to try to keep track of their opponents.

Or, if they insist that they should get their bonus, and you decide to let them have it.  Don't forget, if they are effectively 'back-wielding' a shield, they should be inhibited by wearing it.  This means applying the shields armor check penalty.

Next point out, unless they have some sort of feat granting them EXTRA training to effectively use a 'back sheild' with expertise, they are non-proficient with it.  That of course means they well take a penalty equal to the shield's Armor Check Penalty to all attack rolls, STR, and DEX based skill checks.

It could be amusing to consider someone suggesting they are going to strap a tower sheild to there back and battle that way, getting a benefit from it.  Sure, you might manage to negate a couple lost AC points because of it, but you'll be taking a -10 to hit and skill roll!

If they want to argue the sheild makes their back more armored, you could track down the rules for piecemeal armor and let them 'effectively' upgrade their 'back' to something like Plate when they are wearing a steel shield on their back.
 member, 152 posts
 Portal Expat
 Game System Polyglot
Tue 12 Sep 2017
at 04:17
House Rule Rebuttal:  Back Shields
If the player is dead set on this, compromise.

Suggest a feat (Shield Strapping?) that allows you to wield a shield when using a 2-handed weapon while taking a penalty to attack (-2?) and accepting the shield's ACP to stack, but only gain half the shield's AC bonus ([AC + Enh] /2).  This will let you emulate back shields, but also certain spear and pike fighting techniques, or even the large sode of samurai armor.

It requires significant buy-in (a feat), but provides real bonuses (Potentially a lot of AC, in the case of hella magic shields), at the cost of a modest drawback (-2 attack, basically allowing any shield to function as a pseudo-Buckler with enough training, but still giving the Buckler the edge in the case of dual wield).

It also, importantly, dodges the negating of an interesting tactical mechanic, namely flanking.  Even if you have a shield on your back, being attacked from opposite sides should net the attacker an advantage of some kind.  And, in the case of a Rogue or other teamwork creature, a big advantage that you should have to play carefully around.

This message was last edited by the user at 04:18, Tue 12 Sept 2017.

 member, 419 posts
Tue 12 Sep 2017
at 04:28
House Rule Rebuttal:  Back Shields
Perhaps he doesn't like being flanked. Ask him if that's the case and if it is don't flank him. You don't need to. Challenge him in some other way.

Maybe he doesn't like to be hit at all. IF that's the case, then don't try to hit him (or attack him with low threats he can wade through unscathed). Arrange situations in which the enemy can achieve their goal without landing a single blow.
 member, 493 posts
Tue 12 Sep 2017
at 06:49
House Rule Rebuttal:  Back Shields
Assuming the primary concern of the player is that he's a simulationist rather than just trying to be a munchkin or something to that effect...

How is a shield on your back somehow more effective at protecting you from being flanked than full plate armor would be?  It's hard to imagine that's the case...Especially against both flankers.

Anyway, a large part of flanking is about the need to split your attention between your front and back (or two sides or whatever,) not that the back of your armor is somehow more vulnerable to attacks.

Also, keep in mind, not every attack is going at the torso.  Probably not even most.  And, a shield strapped to your back can't really do anything to protect anything but that one spot...a spot that good armor should already be protecting, I'd hope.  It won't protect the joints that are the vulnerable points, especially from behind.  And, it won't reduce the distraction of being surrounded.

In addition, it wouldn't help at all against enemies flanking a player's sides.  (And, because 3.5 doesn't allow for PCs or NPCs facing a particular way, it's hard to say that flankers are definitely coming from behind rather than going after the sides.)  Finally, if there are multiple positions of flanking, there's no way a simple shield on your back negates all of their bonuses.

If the guy insists on the shield-on-the-back tactic having a mechanically simulated effect, it might allow the player to designate a single flanker at any given time and reduce the numerical bonus from flanking by 1.
 member, 12 posts
Tue 12 Sep 2017
at 07:03
House Rule Rebuttal:  Back Shields
First of all I would laugh if a player would like to push a house rule into MY game as a GM. They can suggest but if I don't like it it will never happen.
This sounds like just a player wants to get an extra bonus for "being clever" of tweaking the rules (and creating one if it doesn't exist). I personaly agree this sounds ridiculous and if I were you I would just simply say no...

On the other hand putting a shield on your back... How? A loose strap would be very uncomfortable (possibly a big penalty) a very tight (sort of permanent) strap would make your back quite rigid which sounds like another big penalty and would make your movement awkward.

Thinking through as it was mentioned how would protect a shield more than a plate armor. If you would add bonus against flanking for a shield on back you should give the same for plate armor. In effect it would be just putting two armors together. What bonus (and penalty) would you give if somebody comes to you that he wants to wear an extra hide on top of their chainmail? Is it really different?
 member, 195 posts
 My name is Brad, which is
 darb spelled backwards
Tue 12 Sep 2017
at 11:16
House Rule Rebuttal:  Back Shields
As others have said, the back shield definitely should not negate flanking, for multiple reasons already posted.

What I have seen work though is give a slight bonus against ranged attacks. Small shields get a +1 ac vs 1 ranged attack per round and a large shield gets a +1ac vs 2 ranged attacks per round. They still take the negatives to skill checks.

This was only used in 1 game, so YMMV.
 member, 420 posts
Tue 12 Sep 2017
at 13:43
House Rule Rebuttal:  Back Shields
Saying "No," even with a plausible rationale is unlikely to end the matter. It might, if the player just wanted to see what sort of in-game ideas might work and they're the kind of player who just agrees with rules and rulings even if they can see a reason why the rule doesn't make sense.

Either say "Yes," and move on, or find out what the player's concern really is. Why this bonus in particular? Has it been causing them a lot of trouble? Does it make them feel less heroic or really ruin the fun of the game? Focus on getting to the real heart of the matter, not on balance and verisimilitude. Once you know what the player's issue is, and they understand your concerns (which means you have to state them clearly and honestly), then balance and verisimilitude can be usefully considered.
 member, 58 posts
Tue 12 Sep 2017
at 14:29
House Rule Rebuttal:  Back Shields
I agree with finding out why they want it and addressing the core concern. One piece of DM/GM advice I often hear is to say "Yes, but..." Yes you can swing from the chandelier, but you have to make this skill check. He's you can use two shields, but here's the penalty. You are allowed to compromise.

So what about allowing him to wear a small world on his back and apply it's AC bonus like the Dodge feat? Various Polearms like guisarmes and ranseurs allow bonuses similar to feats like improved trip and improved disarm, so what's unbalanced about improved dodge? Limit the size of shield he can wear and thus the AC bonus. Allow the ability to stack with the Dodge feat or be used septate from it (+3 AC vs one enemy, or +2 vs one and +1 vs another). This allows you to keep flaming options, gives him new tactical options, and gives you more items to reward him with or to take seat from him.