Q: Dear Sage,
Does the knight’s shield ally class feature (Player’s Handbook II, 28) apply only to one attack or does it mean he takes damage from every attack on his ally? And what does “physical” attacks mean?
A: Once you’ve activated shield ally, it applies to all attacks made against the chosen ally before the start of your next turn.
You don’t even have to activate it in response to an attack -- you can activate it literally at any time you want during the round.
The phrase “physical attacks” is a poor one; it means to say that shield ally only allows you to absorb half the damage from weapon attacks (whether manufactured or natural), but not from spells, supernatural abilities, or other non-weapon attacks.
About the Author
The Sage is a mammal classified in the bear family, Ursidae, native to central and southern China. Debate continues as to whether he is truly a bear or more related to the raccoon rather than the bear, or perhaps in a family of his own. When not eating bamboo and answering rules questions, he works under the nom de plume of Andy Collins as an RPG developer in Wizards of the Coast R&D, where his development credits include Complete Mage, Dragon Magic, and the Player's Handbook v.3.5. He can be easily recognized by his large, distinctive black patches around the eyes, ears and on his rotund body.