Tuesday, August 26, 2014

OSR extras (8) - Shield and Blocking, new rules

One of the things that I never liked much in Old School combat is the way Shields are treated. In our world, shields were always extremely important in the ancient battle field, since skirmishing was a very common practice. The armies would trade projectile shots - stones, javelins, arrows - and a single hit on the knee or the head could be enough to take a warrior out. Therefore, shield were very important to impede or halt such conecting projectiles and, not only ranged attack, but melee attacks could also be averted by the proper usage of shields - and I'm not even talking about special tactics, like the turtle formation or the hoplite stance!

But in Old School systems, normally shields make only a very small impact, giving +1 AC for melee combat and +2 for ranged. Such defense does not reflect the way that shields were used in real combat. However, there is a very special old english rpg named Dragon Warrior that had some very interesting rules for shields and, inspired by it, I will discuss now some new rules for Shields and Blocking in OSR systems.

Shields would no longer give bonus to AC, but would have a Block Value. Bucklers would have 1, Small shields 2, Medium Shields 3 and Big Shields 4. Every time  an attack against a warrior using a shield hits through the AC, then the attacking creature should try rolling higher than the block value of the shield. If it is a ranged attack, the attacker rolls 1d6, if it is melee, roll 1d8. If it the roll fails, then the attack causes no damage.

And, although historically people did not use two shields (at least I don't know of it), we may accept something like that in a heroic fantasy game. So, if someone is using two shields, all attackers must roll two times against the block value - once for each shield - and be successful in both in order to damage the opponent.

Remorhazes are awesome!
If the attacking creature is big or too strong, then it rolls 1d12 against the Block Value. If the creature is gigantic (2 size categories bigger) or extremely strong, then blocking is impossible. So, an ogre attacking a warrior would roll 1d12 against the shield's Block Value, but a Remorhaz would just ignore it. However, if the warrior has some magical mean to improve his strength - like a Belt of Hill Giant Strength - then the GM might allow a block chance.

Blocking a fire strike
with a Shield
For different attacks, like rays of frost, fire strikes and whatnots, the GM may allow a block roll too, in the same way as per other attacks, choosing a die size relevant for the situation (a giant flame strike would roll 1d12 agains the Bloc Value, for example). In the end, I hope you guys liked those ideas. I find them more interesting than just adding +1 to AC. It gives the shield a character in itself, and I find more fun this way.

In Resume:

. Shields have a blocking value, from 1 to 4 depending on the shield's size. Any attacker that hits through the character AC will have to roll higher than the block value in order to cause damage.

. The harder it is to block the attack, the bigger the die size is. For normal projectiles (arrows, darts), the attacker rolls 1d6. For melee attacks, 1d8. For big boulders, attacks from big creatures or magical strikes, 1d12. If the attacker is too big, strong, or attacking from behind, it is not possible to be blocked.

Until next time,

Images 123

PS: The die size idea was given by Rodolfo from the Old Dragon brazillian facebook rpg group

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  1. I think this is interesting, but I would encourage reading Gary Gygax's article "The Melee in D&D" in The Dragon #24. It's important to remember that D&D's combat system is scaled down from the abstracted combat model used in medieval miniatures. It's not well-suited to the moment-to-moment actions of actual combat. For another take on this, it might also be worthwhile to look at The Perrin Conventions: http://www.rpgblog2.com/2010/03/d-rules-variants-perrin-conventions.html?m=1

    1. Heia! Thanks for the comment. Yeah, I understand the toning down of D&D combat. In fact, I talked about it here:


      But I think that blocking is too important in combat to just be reduced to '+1 to AC'. Nevertheless, this is just an option that a GM may accept or not in their game, = )

      I personally like the idea of being able to block energy attacks, to be sincere.

  2. One of the quick ways I like to deal with shield is to make it possible to be damaged in combat. You just give a threshold damage to a shield based on its size and material and every attack blocked should roll for damage. If the damaged rolled trespass the threshold, it causes a point of damage to the shield.

    For example: A medium steel shield could have a threshold of 12. If a strong ogre hit it with a battleaxe and roll 12 or more, it will cause a point of damage to the shield. Since its a good shield, it won't crack on just one attack, but it may not hold a second fierce blow from the same ogre. The shield has now 1pt of damage and it needs repairs or it will break sooner or later.

    1. That is interesting, but isn't it too much book keeping? Normally, all rules I've seen that dealed with structural damage in D&D were pretty clumbersome in play. But it is an interesting idea nonetheless, =3