The Shield: Rule Tweaks

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The Shield: Rule Tweaks

Post by Piperdog »

I really was unhappy with D&D way back in the 80s for how unimportant shield use was. A measly +1 on AC? That's a joke right? Anyone who studies the trained use of a shield in combat or has competed in full contact reenactments will tell you how insanely important it is.

I have chosen as a house rule to allow the combat oriented classes to use the Cover rules on pg 118 in the PHB. These rules are primarily for AC bonuses against missles, but I adapted them to shields. If the size of the shield covers 1/4 of your body, you get a +2 to AC, if it covers 1/2 your body, you get a +4 to AC, and a tower shield that covers 3/4 of your body grants a +6. This assumes the individual is trained to use a shield; non-combat classes recieve only the standard +1 (commoners, wizards, etc).

This guy is crazy you may say. This is an unbalancing rule, some may cry. Everyone will want to carry a shield if you put that rule in, you may bellow. Good Lord Man! Exactly. No warrior in his right mind would do without a good shield, unless they dared to expose themselves only to wield mighty two handed weapons.

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Post by moriarty777 »

I decided to take a different approach with the whole shield thing.

I do stick with a '+1' regardless if it is a Buckler, Small, Medium, or Large shield. However, I have shields confer different AC bonuses depending on its size when used to defend against missile fire. A large shield grants more cover and thus has a higher AC value against missile fire compared to a small shield.

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Post by Philotomy Jurament »

Not crazy at all. I did this exact same thing for a Viking mini-campaign. It worked great, especially since there weren't a whole lot of armor types available to the PCs.

I think the +1 AC bonus from a shield was (somewhat) more reasonable in OD&D(1974), when bonuses were harder to come by. Over the years, more and more things were added that could improve your AC, but the value for a shield stayed the same. It's like having a 1970 salary with year 2000 prices. Originally, a +1 bonus to AC was a much bigger deal than it is, these days.
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Post by BASH MAN »

You may enjoy this:
http://www.freeyabb.com/phpbb/viewtopic ... llordgames
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Re: The Shield: Rule Tweaks

Post by Treebore »

PIperdog wrote:
I really was unhappy with D&D way back in the 80s for how unimportant shield use was. A measly +1 on AC? That's a joke right? Anyone who studies the trained use of a shield in combat or has competed in full contact reenactments will tell you how insanely important it is.

I have chosen as a house rule to allow the combat oriented classes to use the Cover rules on pg 118 in the PHB. These rules are primarily for AC bonuses against missles, but I adapted them to shields. If the size of the shield covers 1/4 of your body, you get a +2 to AC, if it covers 1/2 your body, you get a +4 to AC, and a tower shield that covers 3/4 of your body grants a +6. This assumes the individual is trained to use a shield; non-combat classes recieve only the standard +1 (commoners, wizards, etc).

This guy is crazy you may say. This is an unbalancing rule, some may cry. Everyone will want to carry a shield if you put that rule in, you may bellow. Good Lord Man! Exactly. No warrior in his right mind would do without a good shield, unless they dared to expose themselves only to wield mighty two handed weapons.

I saw the title of your thread earlier today, but didn't read it because I was busy with Ravenloft posts. However it did get me to thinking about my problems with the Shield. I thought along the exact same lines you did. However, I am currently running a group with PC's between 9th to 12th level PC's, and now three groups of 9th level characters for my 3 Ravenloft games.

If I made shields even more powerful than they are, especially once they become enchanted it will be too ugly.

Like my 9th level Ravenloft game, limited to +3 enchantments for fighter types, the AC's are in the high 20's and even AC 32 (+3 Plate, +3 Shield, +3 Amulet of Natural Armor, and a Ring of Protection from Evil, + DEX bonus).

So the High AC is forcing me to pull out more stops than I wanted to (I do want at least one group to beat I6), if I allowed this shield House Rule it would be even uglier.

In a low to no magic camapign, I'll use it, but in something like this Ravenloft Game, with built characters, too powerful for already powerful characters.
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Post by moriarty777 »

BASH MAN wrote:
You may enjoy this:
http://www.freeyabb.com/phpbb/viewtopic ... llordgames

I had forgotten about that... this is certainly something worth looking in to.

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Re: The Shield: Rule Tweaks

Post by Fizz »

PIperdog wrote:
I have chosen as a house rule to allow the combat oriented classes to use the Cover rules on pg 118 in the PHB.

I had already increased the bonuses imc, but not to this extent. I like this idea. It has a certain elegance and logic to it. I think i'll use it.

-Fizz

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Post by Piperdog »

I agree with you, Treebore. Low Magic is best for this house rule. It is also reasonable in campaign settings where armor is hard to come by or the culture just doesn't have higher technology armors like platemail and such.

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Post by serleran »

Using the cover rules might make it very difficult for foes to hit someone using a shield, especially at low levels. A fighter in a chain hauberk using a medium shield would be a very nasty AC to hit for those little guys with the +1 - +3 to hit... of course, I suppose this would have to work the other way, as well.

Also, don't forget the effect cover would have on spells... a fighter armed with a large shield just might throw that fireball back like it was nothing. Not something I'd suggest, but it is very "high fantasy."

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Post by Piperdog »

Bash Man,

I looked at the Shield Deflection rule variant and I like it; it is very much like Gurps. In that system, everyone gets a Dodge, Parry, or Shield Block attempt once per round, twice if you give up attacking that round. When we discuss the shield being a passive defense system, it is really both passive and active. The shield bearer attempts to shift, turn, and swing the shield into the various angles of the blow.

In a d20 style system, however, passive armors, agility, and all that are lumped into a very abstract system we call Armor Class. Other systems make the "to Hit" part very easy, or rather, the Making Contact part. The penetrating defenses and armor to cause damage is the hard part. Other systems sometimes use a damage reduction system instead of AC. (example, platemail subtracts 7 pnts of damage per die)

However, the very reason I went to C&C was for a more abstract, faster system; thus I just added some umph to the shield bonus instead.

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Post by Piperdog »

Quote:
Using the cover rules might make it very difficult for foes to hit someone using a shield, especially at low levels. A fighter in a chain hauberk using a medium shield would be a very nasty AC to hit for those little guys with the +1 - +3 to hit... of course, I suppose this would have to work the other way, as well.


Exactly! Just like in real combat, anyone remotely comfortable with a shield is just darn hard to hit; it takes someone really skilled to get a blow past even a medium sized shield. Low level fighters should say to themselves "Man, I'm not powerful enough at this point to forgoe a shield to weild that two handed sword; I better stick the shield for now...." or for those that are insane 2 handed choppers, make them think "As much as I love swinging my 2 hander, I wonder if I should go with a shield instead?"

As far as fighting baddies with shields, low level characters will have to rethink their strategies a little and say"Dang guys, all those hobgoblins are hunkered down behind SHIELDS and have spears ready to skewer us...maybe we should run for it...." This leads into a discussion of rule variants for weapons such as flails that are meant to go over and around shields and such. This would make fighters choose their weapons tactically to fit the situation.
Quote:
Also, don't forget the effect cover would have on spells... a fighter armed with a large shield just might throw that fireball back like it was nothing

And yep, it will effect some spells. Wizards throwing fireballs may also be forced into strategy mode and have a better plan than just the typical fireball barrage.
Quote:
Not something I'd suggest, but it is very "high fantasy."

Not sure what you meant by that, but as far as the importance of the shield and the grim reality the beefed up shield rule represents, I would say it is pretty realistic and not High Fantasy at all. [/quote]

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Post by serleran »

Its "high fantasy" because no one should stand behind a shield and expect to be unscathed by the touch of flame and heat... unless that shield just absorbs it. Like those cartoons where a fighter ducks behind a shield when the dragon breathes and then stands up laughing at the stupidity of the attack....

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Post by Fizz »

I should point out that, imc, i use armor as damage reduction, and all characters have a defensive rating based on class and level, but far fewer hit points.

As a whole, it's a more dangerous way to play. So, i think treating a shield as cover is a fair tradeoff.

As for spells, it'd just give a bonus to the saving throw, though i may rule that shields don't help against area of effect spells (since the effects are everywhere around you). Have to think about that...

Using it as straight cover would certainly be comparitively more potent if all other combat rules are unchanged.

-Fizz

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Post by Yamo »

Maybe you could let fighters specialize in the shield as though it were a weapon? Instead of the specialization bonuses applying to attack and damage, they could modify the shield's AC bonus and the number of attacks it can block in a round?

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Post by Piperdog »

Serl, I actually laughed out loud. You're right about the shield not leaving people unscathed during a flame type attack. The whole cartoon analogy cracked me up.

I still think that it is a fair rule in melee combat. Yamo, opening up the weapon specialization to include shields is something I also pondered. It would make sense to force the fighter to choose whether they want to make themselves a more defensive or a more offensive style warrior; giving up a weapon bonus for an AC bonus adds more customizing options for the fighter types. I think I might go that route with our group.

Also, if they specialize in shield use, you think they should get a bonus on using the shield to bash with? Maybe a small bonus to overbear? What do you think?

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Post by Lurker »

I do like the idea of the shield being more effective at least in Melee
Quote:
Quote:

Using the cover rules might make it very difficult for foes to hit someone using a shield, especially at low levels. A fighter in a chain hauberk using a medium shield would be a very nasty AC to hit for those little guys with the +1 - +3 to hit... of course, I suppose this would have to work the other way, as well.

Exactly! Just like in real combat, anyone remotely comfortable with a shield is just darn hard to hit; it takes someone really skilled to get a blow past even a medium sized shield. Low level fighters should say to themselves "Man, I'm not powerful enough at this point to forgoe a shield to weild that two handed sword; I better stick the shield for now...." or for those that are insane 2 handed choppers, make them think "As much as I love swinging my 2 hander, I wonder if I should go with a shield instead?"

As far as fighting baddies with shields, low level characters will have to rethink their strategies a little and say"Dang guys, all those hobgoblins are hunkered down behind SHIELDS and have spears ready to skewer us...maybe we should run for it...." This leads into a discussion of rule variants for weapons such as flails that are meant to go over and around shields and such. This would make fighters choose their weapons tactically to fit the situation.

One down side is that it would open up more house ruling to handle flails etc
Quote:
i may rule that shields don't help against area of effect spells (since the effects are everywhere around you). Have to think about that...

That is very true. In real life, & I speak from experience, a shield may protect you from debris flying around after an explosion, but you will still feel the thump of the concussion. Plus I'd say things like dragon's breath are hot enough to singe your lungs even if you are behind the shield.
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Post by Fizz »

Lurker wrote:
That is very true. In real life, & I speak from experience, a shield may protect you from debris flying around after an explosion, but you will still feel the thump of the concussion. Plus I'd say things like dragon's breath are hot enough to singe your lungs even if you are behind the shield.

Really? You've been attacked by a dragon?
The question is not whether it would totally protect you, i think we all agree it's not perfect protection. The question is whether it could help reduce the lethality of the attack. That is, is it worthy of a bonus to the saving throw?

You'd still feel the concussive shock, but it'd be dulled by the shield. And while you might still get your lungs singed, it's an indirect path to you- some of the fumes / heat would have to be deflected. It's not all going to wrap around the shield specifically looking for you.

So i'm leaning towards allowing shields the bonus. I figure it's got to reduce the odds of harm compared to a direct attack.

-Fizz

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Post by serleran »

Unless its a nonmagical shield, in which case it just gets destroyed, offering absolutely no protection at all, and likely helping you take damage from its own shrapnel; even magical shields not specifically enchanted to resist the effect would likely blow up in the face of a direct breath weapon. And then, you've got the whole "shouldn't my armor get superheated as if heat metal had been cast on it?" Yep, if you want to get all total realistic. What about against the attack of a green dragon which is a chlorine gas effect? A shield somehow puts you in Saran wrap?

This ain't Mythus, folks. Its C&C. Your shield is there to help you in combat, but its not a freaking wall of near-invincibility.

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Post by Fizz »

serleran wrote:
Unless its a nonmagical shield, in which case it just gets destroyed, offering absolutely no protection at all, and likely helping you take damage from its own shrapnel; even magical shields not specifically enchanted to resist the effect would likely blow up in the face of a direct breath weapon.

Well, if that's true, then so should any sort of armor, and flesh ought to be melted immediately. In other words, your breath weapon ought to cause instant death. Don't bother rolloing damage, because this is an instant death situation, no different than being under a falling 10 ton ceiling or being dipped into lava.

But it's not of course. That's why you roll damage.
Quote:
And then, you've got the whole "shouldn't my armor get superheated as if heat metal had been cast on it?" Yep, if you want to get all total realistic.

I disagree- that's a different mechanism. Heat Metal heats up the metal internally, and that latent heat is transferred to the wearer directly. But the energy of a breath weapon is external to the armor. It would have to be absorbed and then re-emitted to the wearer. But the advantage of the shield is that it deflects attacks. Not all of the energy will go into heating it up, but pushing the flames away from the user.

Some energy gets deflected, some gets absorbed by the shield. Either way is good for our hero, because it means less energy absorbed into him.

I mean, if someone points a flamethrower at me, i'd sure as hell rather have a shield than not. Will i still be seriously injured? Yep, but not as badly as if i'd been hit by all of it directly.
Quote:
What about against the attack of a green dragon which is a chlorine gas effect? A shield somehow puts you in Saran wrap?

No saran wrap required. A gas breath weapon (as i understand it), isn't a puff of cloud. It's a flow pattern.

Try this. Have someone blow smoke in your face. Then do it a second time but put a small plate or book in between you and and him. Notice how you don't take in nearly as much smoke. The plate (shield) redirects the flow away from you. Sure, some may creep around the edges, but it'll be far less than the direct flow. Fluid dynamics baby.
Quote:
This ain't Mythus, folks. Its C&C. Your shield is there to help you in combat, but its not a freaking wall of near-invincibility.

Not saying it makes you invincible. But suggesting it can't help you at all is equally silly. All that's being proposed is that it give a bonus to the saving throw. Nothing more.

-Fizz

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Post by Philotomy Jurament »

Another shield variant I've considered is something like this (very rough):

Shield = +4 AC

Leather = +1 AC

Chain = +2 AC

Plate Mail = +3 AC
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Post by Lurker »

Quote:
Really? You've been attacked by a dragon?

Dragon, nope when I see a dragon I put the scotch (or rum) down and try to run away! It's the other things that go bump & boom in the night that I've gotten to play with.
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Post by bulletmeat »

I also was considering the shield question. During a brief Dragonstar campaign a while back I came up with changing the armor rules (Dragonstar AC is really nuts). While watching 13th Warrior I though armor should have AC & DR, shields can have higher AC per primary target.

Light Armor

Padded: AC=+1, Leather: AC=+2, Ring Mail: AC=+2 DR= 1

Medium Armor

Chain Shirt: AC=+2 DR=2, Chain Hauberk: AC=+3 DR=2

Full Chain Suit: AC=+4 DR=2

Heavy Armor

Plate Mail: AC=+4 DR=3, Full Plate Mail: AC=+5 DR=3

Shields

Buckler: AC=+1 missile only, Medium: AC=+2 1 target, Large: AC=+3 2 targets

I don't know if I thought this up or I got it off ENworld (been a while). My only worry would be if someone attacked a Full Plate target with a dagger, they're not doing much (if any damage). But who the hell would attack a Full Plate target w/ a dagger? Only a mad man (berzerker rage!)
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Post by serleran »

Quote:
In other words, your breath weapon ought to cause instant death

Have you seen the damage ratings? ;) Those were nice as they were higher, originally.
Quote:
It's a flow pattern.

Depends. Some are clouds, others are "fluidic."
Quote:
Try this. Have someone blow smoke in your face.

Wrong example. Try this: have someone blow smoke in your face as your entire body is surrounded by the same gas. The damage from the attack is not based on "suffocation," per se, or the amount inhaled... the gas seeps through every opening and gets into you. After all, your skin is the most absorbent part of your body, with all those millions of pores all over it.... kinda like an enormous lung. A shield isn't going to help you, unless it can shield your entire body.

But, it really doesn't matter. Shields can protect against some attacks, and it cannot against others. Not worth the effort to differentiate in my opinion, so a low bonus against everything is a better compromise than a high bonus against everything... for one, it makes them less "mandatory" which, in my opinion, is a good thing.

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Post by Fizz »

Quote:
Depends. Some are clouds, others are "fluidic."

Hey, i took grad level fluid dynamics. Everything is a fluid.
Quote:
Wrong example. Try this: have someone blow smoke in your face as your entire body is surrounded by the same gas.

That's only valid if you've got multiple sources of the smoke. The gas has to come from some place and move to another. It doesn't just *poof* into existence all around you. It has to flow. The high pressure of the dragons breath is the driving factor, pushing gas outwards. If you put something in it's way, the gas will be deflected. Sure you'll get fringe effects and vortices forming off the corners, but that's much less exposure than the direct flow.
Quote:
The damage from the attack is not based on "suffocation," per se, or the amount inhaled... the gas seeps through every opening and gets into you.

That's fine, but the flow argument is still valid. Less gas will come into contact with you because some it has been redirected away from you.
Quote:
Not worth the effort to differentiate in my opinion, so a low bonus against everything is a better compromise than a high bonus against everything... for one, it makes them less "mandatory" which, in my opinion, is a good thing.

I agree, it depends how detailed you want to get. My house rules make for a more deadly game, so a little extra protection never hurt.

Shields are excessively cumbersome, so while great for combat, they'll cause problems with other adventuring tasks. Such is the trade-off every adventurer must make. Heh.

-Fizz

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Post by serleran »

Heh, so far, the best use for a shield I've found has been as a makeshift sled down a greased staircase. Not a happy landing, but it was, at least, more controlled. Damn things are heavy.

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Post by Matthew »

The relative ineffectiveness of the Shield is also something that I have found troubling over the years. I took the inspiration for my solution from the 2e AD&D Complete Fighter's Handbook. The AD&D version can be viewed over at Knights & Knaves. A Castles & Crusades version might look something like this:
Quote:
Alternative Defences
Block

Once per Round or in place of an Attack, a Character using a Shield may declare a Block against a Missile or Melee Attack that would otherwise have hit his Armour Class. The Block provides a Base Armour Class equal to [10 + Bonus to Hit]. This is then adjusted by any other modifiers the Character may have that would normally apply to an Attack (such as from Strength or, at the Castle Keeper's option, Dexterity) and also by +2 for Small Shields and +4 for Large Shields (modified by any enchantments).
Example: Aldros, a Level 5 Human Fighter (Strength 15, Dexterity 13) equipped with Mail Armour and a Large Shield is attacked by an Orc. The Orc rolls a 16 and adds his +2 to Hit Bonus, which beats Aldros' Armour Class. Aldros declares a Block, which provides an Armour Class of 20 [(10) + Bonus to Hit (6) + Large Shield (4)] and foils the Orc's Attack. Aldros can only make another Block if he has an Attack to spare this Round.
Dodge

If a Character has one or more attacks left to make during the Round, he may in place of that Attack declare a Dodge against a Missile or Melee Attack that would otherwise have hit his Armour Class. The Dodge provides a Base Armour Class equal to [10 + Level], modified by Dexterity.
Example: Talus a Level 4 Human Thief (Dexterity 15) is attacked by an Orc. The Orc rolls a 12 and adds his +2 to Hit Bonus, which beats Aldros' Armour Class. However, since Talus has not yet attacked in the Round, he decides to declare a Dodge. His Dodge provides an Armour Class of 15 [10 + Level (4) + Dexterity Bonus (1)], which foils the Orc's Attack.
Parry

If a Character has one or more attacks left to make during the Round, he may in place of that Attack declare a Parry against a Melee Attack that would otherwise have hit his Armour Class. The Parry provides a Base Armour Class equal to [10 + Bonus to Hit]. This is then modified by any to hit Bonuses the Character may have that would normally apply to an Attack (such as from Strength or, at the Castle Keeper's option, Dexterity) and any Parry Bonuses the Weapon may provide.
Example: Merena, a Level 5 Human Fighter (Strength 14, Dexterity 14) equipped with Mail Armour and a Two Handed Sword +1 with which she has Specialisation, is attacked by an Orc. The Orc rolls a 14 and adds 2, which will beat her Armour Class. Merena decides to declare a Parry. Her Parry provides an Armour Class of 18 [10 + Bonus To Hit (5) + Specialisation Bonus (1) + Magic Bonus (1) + Strength Bonus (1)] and foils the Orc's Attack.
Variable Defences

If the Castle Keeper so wishes, he may have Player Characters and significant Monsters add 1D20 in place of 10. This creates both a chance for dismal failure and outstanding success.
Notes

The Castle Keeper must use some degree of judgement in adjudicating these sorts of defences. It is probably not appropriate to allow a Character to Parry an Ogre's Club with a Dagger and it is not the intention of this Optional Rule to allow anything that would be implausible.

Some Castle Keepers may want to have Shields or Weapons used to explicitly deflect Attacks have a chance of being destroyed. I have occasionally asked for Saving Throws for such items, but would advise only doing so under special circumstances.

Anyway, that's how I dealt with it.

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Post by Treebore »

The only way I would mess with shield AC bonuses is if I either lowered the bonuses given by the heavier armors, or at the very least only allowed armor to get better than the base +1 by only allowing the higher bonus rules to work with light armor.

Still, even then, why would anyone wear medium to heavy armor? Two handed weapon damage isn't good enough to offset that shield bonus.

So far I just think messing with the shield rules cause more headaches than it solves.

I like the ideas MAthew posted, but one thing that bugs me about those rules is everything is keyed against knowing that the attack is going to hit.

I could only go with that if the player declares they are doing it against a specific attack before the hit is actually even rolled. Probably when they declare their initiative.
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Post by Matthew »

Originally, I did ask Players to declare whether they were using any Attacks to Dodge, Parry or Block and there was even some messing around with having them declare these defences aganst particular opponents. That was more in line with the 2e AD&D Parry and Block mechanism from the Complete Fighter's Handbook and Player's Option: Combat and Tactics. In actual play, though, I found it to be cumbersome, which led me to eventually treat it as a Savng Throw and has worked out much better on the whole. Still, what suits one may not suit another!

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Relaxo
Greater Lore Drake
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Post by Relaxo »

TO backtrack in the thread a little, if you're casting fireball against a pike hedge of enemies well hidden behind shields, just target the explosion behind them so the shields don't matter. hmmm, crispy.
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ThrorII
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Joined: Tue Oct 23, 2007 7:00 am

Re: The Shield: Rule Tweaks

Post by ThrorII »

PIperdog wrote:
If the size of the shield covers 1/4 of your body, you get a +2 to AC, if it covers 1/2 your body, you get a +4 to AC, and a tower shield that covers 3/4 of your body grants a +6.

I do a very similar thing, although I didn't 'use' the cover system to arrive at it (I like that though, gives uniformity to it all). I agree that shields should be more important, heck, the concept of shield walls in phalanx, Roman Legions, etc. were of the utmost importance in defensive tactics.

I currently give +1 AC to bucklers and the like; +2 to round shields and heater-type shields; +3 to kite-styled shields; and +6 to 'Tower' or Pavis shields. For sake of bookkeeping, I also house ruled that shields are 'on' for all attacks (not the "defends against 1 attack per +1 AC" in the RAW).

After seeing this thread, I'm going to knock kite-styled shields up to +4 instead (1/2 cover).

Thanks for helping me connect the dots between cover and shields

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