Guard (3.5e Creature Ability)
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"Put up your dukes!"
Guard is an ability, mechanism or technique that allows a creature to absorb a certain amount of damage from certain sources before it starts affecting its hit points. A creature with a guard value of 10 may guard against 10 points of damage from certain sources per round.
'Guard' may manifest in simply blocking or parrying attacks, or it may be something as intricate as evading like flowing water or forming a magical shield to negate the damage. As such, any special attacks that are fully 'guarded against' will not exhibit any ancillary effects; if a creature guards against a monk's stunning fist attack and negates all the damage dealt, the stunning effect will also be negated.
As the word suggests, a guard is a form of defense that needs to be directed and is used actively by its owner. As such, regardless of the other defenses the creature has (with the exception of shields and wards), the guard is always checked against first. Because the guard manifests itself through conscious effort, adverse conditions that stop a creature from taking actions will also make the guard unusable.
Using a Guard
As long as your guard remains unbroken (i.e. can still absorb damage for the round), putting it up generally counts as a free action, but may depend on the type of guard. A guard can be put up in response to an attack declared against you, but must be used before the attack is resolved. If you are flat-footed or denied your Dexterity bonus to Armor Class, or you are targeted by attacks that render you as such, you cannot put up a guard.
While your guard is kept up you cannot perform any offensive actions, such as attacks of opportunity or maneuvers of the Counter type.
If your guard takes more damage than it can absorb, it becomes broken. If your guard is broken through, it may have consequences depending on the type of guard.
Types of Guards
Guards can be granted by class features, monster abilities, feats or items. Most guards defend only against certain types of damage. For example, a physical guard defends solely against physical sources of damage (bludgeoning, piercing and slashing). A fire guard defends against fire, an energy guard defends against all energy types, etcetera.
Furthermore, a guard may be 'targeted' or 'total'. A targeted guard defends only against attacks that target you specifically, whereas a total guard may also defend against effects that don't have you as a target specifically, such as area effects.