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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Shield Block Approaches

I ran a poll on both RPGNet and The RPG Site about how people handle blocking with shields in TSR-era D&D and D&D clones. I asked about three basic approaches:
  1. The standard rules (having a shield changes your defense rating;)
  2. Shields provide Damage Resistance;
  3. Shields Shall Be Splintered! (Or some variation of it.)
I tried to make it clear that I wasn't asking about actual numbers, but general procedures, so changing the AC modifier for shields or having some shields be worth 1 AC step and others 2 AC steps still counts as "no change to the standard rules," but in retrospect, I should have not used that phrase "no change"... nobody seemed to get what I was asking. I saw the three options representing three general approaches:
  1. Modify the attack roll;
  2. Modify the attack result (damage;)
  3. Undo the attack.
Here in OSR blogland, Shields Shall Be Splintered seems awfully popular. On the other hand, I'm always seeing people arguing that shields (and armor in general) should reduce damage instead of making the defender harder to hit. But on the other other hand, Shields Shall Be Splintered is, in some ways, a very "meta" rule, requiring some retconning of a supposed hit into an effective miss by sacrificing a shield. That seems like something many people in traditional gaming rail against.

I was wondering if my perceptions were skewed by selection bias, or if people really were more accepting of undos or rerolls than I thought. So, the polls. The sample was small, but somewhat consistent: the majority (73% on RPGNet, 52% on The RPG Site) stuck with the standard rules or close to it, but Shields Shall Be Splintered! beat adopting a damage resistance approach. In fact, there was only 1 vote for damage resistance on each forum.

It was sort of surprising that more people answered the poll on The RPG Site than on the supposedly-larger RPGNet, but perhaps that was because I put "OSR/TSR-Era D&D" in the title, and RPGNet has a policy of banning most of the people who play non-WotC D&D.


  1. I've never understood it.

    Lowering the AC does reduce the damage over the course of a battle. How is that not damage reduction?

  2. Shield save? It's "undo the attack" but a different beast from having the player choose between damage or sacrifice of shield.

  3. Shields shouldn't reduce damage - you're using a shield to avoid being hit, not to soak up damage when you do (unlike armour).

    1. I don't think this distinction of use should survive the general combat abstraction procedures when introduced to the system.