A standard criticism of D&D's combat system is how little benefit shields offer PCs. They seem to have been much more effective in the real world.
I'm currently tweaking my Bronze-age campaign's house rules and I want to give shields a little something extra. Though it's the quickest solution, I can't decide whether to change the actual AC math (-1) since I don't want an increased bonus to stack easily with the weakest armor.
So I'm looking for suggestions.
One thing I'm considering is giving shields a damage reduction of 1 HP on a successful hit. This would only count for certain attacks (obviously melee, probably missile, possibly dragon's breath and the like). I'm also tempted to extend that DR to each hit dice (iow, if a creature does 2d6, -1 on each die.) Lastly, I am tempted to allow Fighting Men to improve their shield usage at a certain level (7th, perhaps), so that they have -2 DR with shields thereafter.
I should note that I use d6 hit dice and non-variable weapon damage, so that modest damage reduction is meaningful.
A standard criticism of D&D's combat system is how little benefit shields offer PCs.
You're stating a shield doesn't protect enough. I'm just spit-ballin' here but if you feel that way why don't you just increase the protection a shield grants? For instance +3 for a kite shield, +2 for a shield, and a mere +1 for a buckler.
Okay, want to really model shields rules on the real things? Let them simultaneaously act as a defensive bonus to AC (+1, +2 whatever) and an offensive 2nd hand weapon using your favorite two weapon rule. If you are having trouble thinking of shields as offensive weapons picture someone standing in front of you and bashing you repetedly with a 3 foot piece of plywood. It wouldn't exactly tickle.
Shields have another important benefit nobody's mentioned yet, which is that they can be enchanted. If you want to make them a more appealing choice for PCs, then stock plenty of +1 shields in your dungeons, and house-rule that this bonus "stacks" with magic armor.
Last Edit: Mar 5, 2012 14:43:36 GMT -6 by mushgnome
On the DR mentioned earlier: Have you considered doing it the other way around? A shield is a more important factor on whether you get hit or not than armour. So have different kinds of shield and character skill affecting armour class, and have different types of armour giving DR's of 1, 2 or 3 points. Probably changes things too much for you, but it works well for us.
I completely see where your coming from on improving shields, but I'll give my own two c.p by saying that a Fighting Man in full plate with a shield has an AC of 2 (Rather Potent!). So giving them yet ANOTHER defensive benefit might be a little much.
You could space things out a little more by making armor less important and then giving the shield some cool additional benefit. Its really up to you I suppose.
I'm leaning toward just changing the math, viz. shields are +3 to AC and armor ranks light to heavy +1 - +3. This roughly approximates the original values while boosting shields considerably.
I'm also considering giving low DR to armor, but still weighing that. That's a whole nother topic anyway.
Hey DH, it would be great to hear how it turns out for you
FWIW -- I trialled a system almost identical to what you describe here. With a couple of minor changes, I'm still using it two years on.
One thing I noted right away was that degrading leather armour from +2 AC to +1 really hurts the thief/ranger types who don't employ shields. I quickly reverted to +2 for leather armour, so chain and plate became +3 and +4, respectively.
My method for shields is more fiddly than a straight +3, but it works out (more-or-less) to +3 versus missiles, +2 versus basic weaponry, and +1 versus "good" weaponry (i.e., the fighter only weapons).
This seems to be working out pretty well in my games.
I also experimented with damage reduction for a while, but in the end I dropped it. Not because it was unsatisfactory per se, but because it took longer at the table. Introducing DR means you need to add a DR stat to every character/monster, record it, and remember to apply it to every hit. That turned out to be a pretty significant overhead that honestly didn't add much to the game.
That was my experience anyway... yours may well be different