Weapon Shield Bonus (3.5e Variant Rule)

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Weapon Shield Bonus[edit]

When in a fight, the weapon in your hand is not only a tool for attack. It can become an adequate defense as well. Weapons can be used to block strikes that otherwise course through your personal defense. The defensive quality of a weapon usually depends first and foremost on its size. Bigger weapons generally provide more defense. This variant rule gives a possible method of handling such added defense.

Note: A DM that expresses interest in this variant rule may wish to decide for themselves whether to take or leave a certain rule described in this article. Although after personal tests, none of these rules have been deemed 'gamebreaking', certain rules may wish to be omitted by the DM in order to simplify gameplay. Such supplementary rules not intricate to the core mechanics of this variant rule have been given their own section.

Defensive properties of weapons[edit]

When a melee weapon is used in order to block an attack, the bonus to Armor Class that the weapon grants is always a shield bonus. The defensive property detailed in this variant rule depends on the weapon's type and method of handling. For this purpose, the types of weapons are detailed below. For the amount of protection offered by these weapons, see Table: Weapon Shield Bonus

Light: Light weapons, such as daggers and short swords are small - often concealable - weapons that have little range and provide limited protection. These types of weapons are only rarely used in a defensive manner. One-handed weapons that may be used in conjunction with the Weapon Finesse feat are considered light for the purpose of defense (such as the rapier). Unarmed strike and other natural attacks are not considered as weapons for the purpose of weapon shield bonus.

One-Handed: These weapons are traditionally wielded in a single hand, such as the longsword and the battleaxe, but are larger and sturdier than light weapons. Weapons that are normally two-handed, but are wielded in one hand due to special feats or abilities (such as Monkey Grip), are considered One-Handed for the purpose of weapon shield bonus.

Double: Weapons that have two different methods of attack, such as the quarterstaff can be used for defense just as much as attack.

Two-Handed: Large weapons, whose weight necessitates them being held with two hands, such as the greatsword and the greataxe. These weapons are used to channel overbearing power into the enemy, but can be quite effective to shield the wielder from damage. One-handed weapons may be wielded in two hands. When wielded in two-hands, a normally one-handed weapon becomes two-handed for the purpose of weapon shield bonus. Light weapons held in both hands however remain light.

Ranged: Ranged weapons, such as bows and crossbows, do not have a weapon shield bonus.

Table: Weapon Shield Bonus
Hand Light One-Handed Double Two-Handed1
Primary +0 +1 +2 +2
Off-Hand2 +1 +2 +2
1: A weapon wielded with two hands cannot be wielded in the off-hand.
2: This column applies to Two-Weapon Fighting. When you wield two
weapons, their shield bonuses do not stack. In that case, your weapon
shield bonus is your off-hand weapon's shield bonus.

Properties of weapon shield bonus[edit]

Weapon shield bonus does not stack with any normal shield bonus. In battle, when a particular attack bypasses shield bonus, it bypasses weapon shield bonus as well. When a creature is denied his Dexterity bonus to Armor Class for any reason, he loses his weapon shield bonus as well.

Weapon Proficiency and Weapon Shield Bonus: If you are not proficient with a weapon you wield, you do not get a weapon shield bonus for that weapon at all. Improvised weapons never have a weapon shield bonus.

Special Attacks: When mounting a charge or performing a bull rush or overrun, you lose your weapon shield bonus to Armor Class for the remainder of the round.

Similar Effects: Certain effects such as those granted by feats, class features and abilities grant a weapon a similar form of protection. In general, the effects of weapon shield bonus stacks with these effects. An example of this is the Two-Weapon Defense feat, which when taken heightens all the weapon shield bonuses in the Off-Hand row of Table: Weapon Shield Bonus by an additional +1. Another fully stacking example is the defending weapon enhancement, that allows the wielder of a weapon to convert part or all of the weapon's enhancement bonus to Armor Class at will.

Fighting Defensively and Total Defense: When fighting defensively or using the total defense action, the bonuses on Table: Weapon Shield Bonus are doubled.

Supplementary Rules[edit]

This section contains rules that a DM may want to use to further support melee combat in relation to weapon shield bonuses. Certain custom rules in this section may contradict each other, but none of them are necessary for this variant's core rules to function properly.

Weapon Shield Bonus against Single or Limited Opponents: Instead of being active against all opponents, you may rule that in order to benefit from your weapon shield bonus, you must designate a single opponent. Only against this opponent, you can use your weapon in defense, gaining the weapon shield bonus to your Armor Class. If you have the Combat Reflexes feat, you can designate a number of enemies equal to your Dexterity bonus against which your weapon shield bonus applies. Switching opponents in regard to weapon shield bonus is a free action.

Concentrationg on a Single Opponent in Combat: Your weapon shield bonus functions normally against all opponents, however you may rule that you can designate a single creature and focus your attacks and defense on that creature alone. Your weapon shield bonus doubles against your selected enemy, but no longer applies to attacks from other enemies. When fighting defensively or using the total defense action, your weapon shield bonus triples against your selected enemy. Designating an opponent to focus on is a action.

Deflecting Arrows with your Weapon: Defending against ranged weapons with your own weapon is a lot more difficult than defending against melee attacks. DMs that feel that this needs to be incorporated may rule that ranged attacks bypass weapon shield bonus unless the defender has the Deflect Arrows feat.

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