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Shields in D&D

2004 - Randal Snyder

Ok, all this talk of D&D ACs and stuff has gotten me on a rampage about how D&D uses shields. Talking from experience, yes, with shields, I can say that a shield is MUCH more effective than what D&D alludes to. Additionally, use of a shields is very much SKILL based, and not some static item like armor.

Here's the basic D&D shield concept. Shields will add a bonus to your Armor Class which is fixed and never changes unless you change shields. Second, there is no easy way to decide if a shield is "Hit" in combat and thus damaged/destroyed.

Now, as I see it, a shield is an extension of the character's skill. Sure its a huge target and functions like armor, but you learn to use it the same as you do a sword...

In D&D your shield will give you a +1 or +2 bonus to your AC. However, it seems that as your character improves, so should his shield AC. Here's one option that I "approve" of:

Buckler Shield AC = BAB/4 or 1, Which ever is higher.
Small Shield AC = BAB/2 or 1
Medium Shield AC = BAB or 1 (this might be 2 by the rules)
Door Shield AC = BAB + 1 or 2

Now, to make this work, you need to define when your shield can and cannot be used. First step is to define what arm is the shield arm. Any attack that comes from the opposite side or rear, cannot use the shield bonus. Thus if the shield is on the left side, attacks from the right do not use the shield AC (Typical for right handers).

Second, you need to set up two AC values, the Total and the Unshielded AC.

Now comes the most complex part; figuring out if the shield or the character is hit. The easiest solution is to assume that if the attack was over the unshielded AC but under the Total, then the shield is "Hit".

Also to keep it simple, ANY attack that is done against the Shielded AC assumes the shield is hit during the attack.

Now this begs that shields are now "over kill" or "too powerful". However, you have to keep in mind that even the strongest shield will break. How you track that damage is up to you, but my preference is the three strikes you're out method. (I don't know what the D&D rules are for damaging shields so bear with me)

Each shield would be given a Damage Point scale. A typical shield might have a 10 where a superbly built shield might get 15. Every hit against a shield causes damage to the shield. If the damage rolled is over the Damage Point value, then the shield takes a "Hit" and loses quality. If a shield has taken all three points, it is severely damaged and should lose some or all of its protectiveness. One more "Hit" and the shield breaks and is useless until repaired.

Also, keep in mind that shields are only useful if the defender is aware of an attack. Thus a sneak attack, attack from the rear, or attack in blinding conditions will render the shield useless (or at least no better than the base AC bonus).

I know this is a whole lot to take in, but feel free to post criticism, questions, etc. If you have some other alternate shield system, please post away :)

Magical Shields

Someone asked the question, "What about magic shields?" In those cases, add the magic bonus to both the Damage Resistance AND the number of "Hits" a shield can take. Thus if a normal quality shield has a damage resistance of 10 and can take 3 hits, then a +2 shield has a damage resistance of 12 and can take 5 hits.
 

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