Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Two Shield Rules

According to that AD&D rules (and the BECMI and 0D&D rules for that matter if I recall correctly), shields provide a flat +1 bonus to AC (or, -1 if you want to get technical). The only difference between shield sizes is in the size and weight of the thing, and how many attacks per round it can defend against. This is all fine and good, but I find that, in the end, it adds a level of monintoring and book keeping that drag out what would otherwise be an exciting combat: how many attacks has Bob's fighter faced this round?, and do multiple attacks from a single create (a claw/claw/bite say) count as one attack, or three? and so on. In the end, it seems to get in the way of the goal of fast and clear combat rounds and ends up dragging things out.

In that light, I propose the following two possible rules.

Option The First: Ignore the different shield sizes. There's only one shield size and it weighs X number of pounds and provides only a +1 bonus to AC. Period. It's a level of abstraction I'm willing to accept in the quest for simplex resolution even if it does bring up interesting questions about why a shield built by a halfling would be the same weight as one built by an ogre, and why a halfling wielding an ogre's shield would only receive a +1 bonus rather than benefiting from the much larger proportional coverage, but in the spirit of the rule, I can simply ignore those issues and forge on with getting to what's more interesting, the adventuring.

Option The Second: Various sized shields provide various degrees of defense:

*A small shield weighs in at 5 pounds and provides a +1 bonus to AC.
*A medium shield weighs in at 10 pounds and provides a +2 bonus to AC.
*A large/body shield weighs 15 pounds and provides a +3 bonus to AC with no special rules attached to it.

This provides a reason why somebody would carry another sized shield other than weight and eliminates the need for tracking how many attacks have been made against a particular character (or, heaven forbid, which of the 25 goblins each with his own shield has faced one attack, two, three, or four in a given round). It also, as I see it, makes carrying a shield even more desirable and the tradeoff between carrying a two-handed weapon at the cost of a single point of AC a little more interesting: do you carry that two handed sword and go through enemies like a farmer mowing wheat, or do you pick up a long sword and a large shield for that added defense?

Truth be told, I much prefer the second option. It adds just a bit of complication to the rules and strips out at the same time a needlesly complicated bit of ruling that slows things down when they need most to move quickly.


  1. I used to be in favour of different shield sizes imparting different bonuses to armour class, but now not so much. My feeling is that it just ends up that nobody wants to use a small shield. I prefer now the optional rule that larger shields impart a better defence against missile attacks.

    I agree with your other point, though, which is that it is a pain to track how many hits have been warded off with a shield. So, I ignore that element.

  2. The problem then, is, that there's no reason to carry anything other than a buckler. It's the smallest and lightest shield and provides the same benefits as larger, heavier shields without adding in some rule that makes for a difference. Gary saw that and his solution to it was just not the way I would go for reasons stated above.

    Providing added benefit against ranged attacks is a way to go, too.

  3. but in the spirit of the rule, I can simply ignore those issues and forge on with getting to what's more interesting, the adventuring<

    A main reason why I leave out almost all weapons related rules in my AD&D 1st ed. except for damage dice.

    Just like I do for weapons, I sort of make a call on sheild use outside of the ordinary. Just like I might make a broadsword a little easier to use in a tight corridor over a longsword, the same can be figured for shields.

    Sure a buckler is better in terms if being able to crawl or climb with it on your arm, but with a medium to large size shield, you can hunker down behind it like a Spartan if two dozen arrows are coming your way - therefor getting a +2 or even +3 to AC (but only if not attacking). I'd maybe allow a bonus against dragon fire or something if you can crouch down and fit behind your shield.

    There are lots of uses for different sized shields that may or may not come into combat situations. You can use a buckler as a plate to eat that Bulette stew you made out in the woods. You can use your medium round or kite shield to sled down a snowy hill. You can lay your tower shield over yourself at night to keep the rain off.

    Different sized shields may come in handy to plug up a hole, gather rain water, or use in a shield. Players need to think outside the box!

  4. OH yeah, and I guess it needs to be said the same things for a helmet. With no real reason to have one, you gotta think outside the box. You can't be hit on the head by a sap and knocked out by a thief. A brick falling off a building might do less damage. And like the buckler, you can use that sumbitch for a mess kit.

  5. I agree with Brunomac here; once small and large shields are treated more or less the same (with the exception of ranged attacks) they can be further differentiated during play on a more ad hoc basis. I can understand why you would not be encouraged to go along with this line of thinking, mind, but my feeling is that keeping the defined mathematical effects very similar makes for a better balanced game on the whole.