Continuing with the ongoing trend of goodness in march DDI content, today's feature is a very niche article that happens to fit MY personal niche: that of Fighters with shields. The article, signed by Daniel Jones (who is getting D&D material published for the first, and hopefully not the last time), fills 5 pages with a wide assortment of options for the defensive-oriented warrior. This is good stuff, with many fresh ideas supported by solid mechanics. Here is an overview of what you'll find:
- Shield powers for each slot up to level 16, including a new at-will, so you can now realistically make a Paragon Fighter fully committed to shield attacks. And a moderately effective one at that, thanks to the next point...
- Proper attack bonus scaling on shield powers! Yep, these have +3 at heroic, +6 at paragon, and +9 at epic (rather than the +2/+4/+6 of previous iterations), to account for the loss of Weapon Expertise (since they lack the weapon keyword). Powers on the later half of a tier even have an extra point thrown in there to ease the progression. I may still miss the extra point from Fighter Weapon Talent, but this is a very positive progress, nonetheless. Now, if only shield powers from other sources could be updated to work like this...
- A strong, shield-based at-will attack that is even offensively oriented! I had been missing something like this for a while. I loved the original shield at-will, Tide of Iron, as much as anyone (aside from its mechanic usefulness, it still has one of the best power names in the game), but the more recent addition, Resolute Shield, had turned out to be a poor man's version of Crushing Surge. The one presented here, called Shield Feint, has the intriguing effect of Righteous Brand'ing (post-errata) yourself. Most useful in sustained assaults, this can also serve to set up potent encounter or daily powers. Interestingly, the attack bonus can be applied (and spent) if you make opportunity or combat challenge attacks, making you even more sticky, but also being a potential waste if you are already auto-hitting with Combat Superiority.
- A Paragon Path with an amazing concept. Called Snapping Testudo (in honor of the famous Roman defensive formation, and Latin turtles in general), it rewards players for wearing two shields at once! Needless to say, this turns you into a defensive powerhouse, apart from being downright cool.
- New magic shields that can be used as off-hand weapons, opening up many cool options. These make a very solid alternative to Spiked Shields because they don't take up a feat, tend to have better stats, and can be heavy shields. Apart from being very useful for those whishing to enter the Testudo path from the previous point, these open up Dual Strike for shield fighters. So now my character is retraining not one but two at-will attacks (goodbye, Cleave!). And, of course, adding shiny new loot to my wishlist!
- Finally, there are a few new feats to further customize your shield user, including one that I consider a must-have: Hindering Shield (for Paragon fighters) makes all your forced movement slow enemies! I wonder if this couldn't have been written in a more restricted way - as is, it allows a wizard multiclassing into fighter to turn Thunderwave into a real powerhouse. On the other hand, I'd like it to work with melee basic attacks, and fighter and paragon path powers with or without the weapon keyword - which is not easy to template.