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Friday, August 16, 2019

Shield Defense for Dice Neutral Attack Tables

Wednesday’s dice neutral combat table did not include shields, for a couple reasons. One being: There’s just too many ways shields get changed in house rules.

In standard D&D, upgrading your body armor from leather to chain, or from chain to plate, effectively adds +2 to your defense. Keeping your current body armor but adding a shield is half as effective, adding +1 to defense. If a GM prefers the standard approach and is using a d20 (or 4d6 drop 6,) they can either add +1 to the target number or (my preference) subtract 1 from the attack roll to get the same result.

But that’s not the only way GMs handle shields in D&D. Some people think shields should be more effective, giving them a +2 defense. Or they add different tiers of shield. For the flat +2 approach, the GM can just shift right one column, so that adding a shield is just as effective as upgrading your body armor. For shield tiers, just subtract 1, 2, or 3 from the attack roll based on the type of shield.

Another idea for a shield houserule. If an attack roll hits exactly (roll = target number, not roll > target number,) roll 1d6. On 4+ the shield blocks the attack. A GM can also adapt this for shield tiers, with weaker shields only blocking on 5+, better shields blocking on 2+ or 3+. Or keep the target number static (5+) but use different dice types for different shields: 1d6 for bucklers, 1d8 for standard shields, 1d10 for tower shields.

Or another option: merge the idea of a shield roll with Shields Shall Be Splintered. Roll a 1d6 to block any successful attack. If the result is higher than the damage rolled, the attack is block, but if the result is 5+, the shield is splintered, whether it blocks the attack or not.

If the GM is not using 1d20 for attack rolls, but is using 1d6 or 2d6, then upgrading body armor is only “worth” 1 point of defense. If you modify the target number or the attack roll, this means that a shield will be just as effective as upgrading to a heavier class of body armor. If that’s not what you want, you should use one of the “shield roll” house rules, or use another houserule, like reducing damage.

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  1. In vanilla d&d the shield is not very good. The Splintered rule is great. I also instituted Shieldmate, where two or more figures with shields fighting in formation gain an additional +1 AC.

    How do you do shields?

    1. For almost forever, I did shields by the book. +1 defense. There was a campaign a few years ago where I think I'd added Shields Shall Be Splintered or a variation of it, but it never actually came up in play.

      What I think I will go with is +1 defense, minimum armor equivalent of plate vs. arrow volleys, and something like the variant Shields Shall Be Splintered described in this post.

    2. What does minimum of plate vs arrows mean?

    3. If a character has a shield, but armor worn is chain or worse, the character is treated as wearing plate vs. a volley of arrows. Character must be active blocking with the shield, and it only applies to volleys, not aimed shots -- in other words, mass combat.