It is a given among D&D players that, with the rules as written, shields are underpowered. It doesn’t get the prestige it deserves. There’s a reason it was a staple of the infantryman’s gear from the dawn of history all the way into the 17th century. Shields work. They stop blows, they can be moved to intercept attacks coming from almost any direction, and they can be used to attack your foes. Simply lowering your AC by a mere point is hardly representative of the value of a good shield.
Of course, shields are not the only thing that can be used to intercept blows. Just watch any Jackie Chan or Erol Flynn movie: chairs, tables, bar-stools, brooms, benches, more chairs. Everything that isn’t nailed down can and has been grabbed and used as a make-shift, one-shot, destroyed-by-the-blow, improvised shield in one fight or another. And, as this is meant to be a swashbuckling game about pirates, and ninjas, and ninja-pirates, you can bet that there should be a lot of furniture getting smashed during sword fights.
Then, of course, there is the classic Hollywood image of people hitting their swords against each other. Yeah, that should never happen in a real fight. Hitting metal on metal (even if you are VERY careful to take the hit on the flat of your blade) can quickly render a sword useless. It does not dull the edge, it chips the edge. Blocking your opponent’s sword with your own sword is a last-ditch move for after your shield is destroyed and you’ve been backed into a corner with no where to dodge. Of course, when that last threat does get too close, block away (just make sure you have a backup weapon).
Shields Shall be Splintered: As an immediate action, anyone can choose to interpose a physical object already held in hand to intercept a single blow per round. This must be an item you are already holding. Any item can be used in this way, but some are better than others. The item will not necessarily negate the blow, instead abrogating some amount of the damage the blow would deal.
When an attack is intercepted, the player rolls a die determined by the object being interposed and reduces the damage by that amount (see below). If the damage from the attack is reduced to 0, then any special effects of the attack (poison, tripping, pushing, etc.) are also negated.
- Weapons used to block in this way reduce the damage by their damage die (thus a dagger will reduce the damage by 1d4, while a greatsword will reduce it by 2d6). Magical bonuses apply to this roll, as do feats which augment the damage of a specific weapon (such as Weapon Specialization): so a Fighter with Greater Weapon Specialization in the greatsword, could reduce the damage from a blow by 2d6+4.
- Improvised items (such as chairs or tables) will reduce the damage by an amount determined by their size: d4 for small objects (like a vase), d8 for medium-sized objects (like a chair), d12 for large objects (like a bench), or d20 for very large objects (like a table or door).
- Actual Shields reduce damage according to the type of shield being used. Shields with a magical plus, gain one additional die per plus (thus a +1 Buckler would reduce the damage by 3d4, and a +2 Tower Shield would reduce the damage by 3d20). Note that, while wooden shields provide the same AC bonus as metal shields, the metal shield is able to take a greater blow before breaking.
|Shield, Light Wooden||1d8|
|Shield, Light Steel||2d6|
|Shield, Heavy Wooden||1d10|
|Shield, Heavy Steel||2d8|
After blocking a blow, the item gains the broken condition. Having the broken condition does not decrease the amount of damage an item can absorb (but will significantly decrease its effectiveness otherwise). If an item that already has the broken condition is used to block a blow, the item is destroyed. An item that gains the broken condition in this way is assumed to have been reduced to half its hit points (for the purpose of Sunder attempts).
An improvised item is destroyed (rather than just broken) after intercepting a single blow. Magical items used to block a blow are not completely destroyed, but instead keep the broken condition and permanently lose one “plus” each time they would be destroyed. Thus a +2 shield could block a total of 4 blows before becoming useless. If the magic item is repaired after taking the first blow, it does not lose any magical bonuses. Any bonuses lost prior to the repair are gone permanently.
Helmets are Cool Too
When wearing a helmet, you add +1 to your AC against critical hit confirmation rolls. A full, closed-faced or visored helmet grants a +2 bonus to AC against critical hit confirmation rolls.
In addition, when a critical hit is confirmed against you, as an immediate action, you can choose to treat the attack as a normal hit. If you do so, your helmet gains the broken condition, and you are staggered until the end of your next turn. You may not use this ability if your helmet has the broken condition or the attack ignores armor bonuses to AC.
Helms do not restrict the wearer’s movement, and thus do not add to the users armor check penalty or chance of spell failure. A closed-faced helm does limit hearing and vision, however, causing the user to roll all Perception checks with Disadvantage.