This article deals with fighting shields, from the low-tech to the future tech.
As always with Weapons Locker articles, we are interested in fiction. With an emphasis on comic books, action movies, RPGs and video games. It’s not an historical study of shields. Especially since there isn’t that much conclusive material about older designs.
This article is presented in two parts :
- Shields in DC Heroes – extended rules. This here document.
- Shields in DC Heroes – shields locker.
Using shields, part 1
If you have a shield, it can be used in three distinct ways :
1/ To Block a given attack
The Block Combat Manoeuvre is on p149 of BoH:SE.
Since the Block Manoeuvre bonus depends on the size of the object, we’ll list it in shield stats.
2/ To increase your combat OV
This is done using the Evasion Skill, possibly with the Must Wield Shield Limitation. It usually represents using a shield with dynamic, forceful techniques to control space and enemy weaponry.
- Most mooks with a shield do not have such training.
- For a well-trained fighter, Evasion (Must Wield Shield) is one AP above one’s standard OV.
- Higher numbers likely means unusual combat techniques, or a notable specialist.
3/ The Shield Cover Combat Manoeuvre
A shield can be brandished to provide cover from attacks coming either from the front, *or* from the shield arm’s side. This Combat Manoeuvre will raise your Physical OV, based on the shield’s size. This stacks with the Evasion Skill.
However, that limits tactical options. The Shield Cover Manoeuvre leaves you with but the following possibilities :
- Charge. The only Dice Action you can take is a Charge Manoeuvre. This is an exception – you cannot normally take two Combat Manoeuvres within a Phase, unless one is Initiative-based.
- Advance. You can take one Automatic Action to move, and a Dice Action with a +1 CS OV/RV. That’s it for this Phase. The penalty will be worse if you can’t see your target because of your shield. And of course one of your hands/arms is presumably occupied with brandishing your shield.
- Move around. This is done normally. Dice Actions may be penalized with a +1CS OV/RV if actively wielding a shield hinders it (GM’s call). Most movement Dice Actions are acrobatics, leaps, etc..
- Stand and deliver. You can take one Dice Action at no penalty, but no Automatic Actions. That’s it for this Phase.
The opposition could refuse to play along and attack the shield instead. This is a Trick Shot, but easier :
- The OV bonus that the shield can provide during a Shield Cover Combat Manoeuvre *lowers* the OV in this specific case.
- If the targeted shield is currently providing an OV increase that works against your attacks (e.g. it is brandished as cover against attacks coming from the same direction as yours, or it is currently providing Evasion-based OV against your attack) the Trick Shot penalties are nullified. This stacks with the modifier just above.
- If the person is Blocking your attacks, see the Block Combat Manoeuvre instead.
Attacking shields can be critical for low-AV, high-EV fighters. Shields enhance OV by deflecting attacks, but attacking the shield itself allows for shifting the conflict to EV vs. RV.
Using shields, part 2
Shields and Gadgetry
Shields remain built simply as a BODY score. In most cases they’ll also have APs of Enhance (EV) (since they can be used to strike) and a Recommended STR. More attributes may indicate a Gadget or Artefact rather than simple equipment.
A shield will also offer bonuses to the Block and Shield Cover Manoeuvres. This is points-neutral in Gadgetry terms. All sizes of shields have intrinsic advantages and drawbacks.
OV/RV bonus notation
In this article, the OV/RV bonuses — such as those from Blocking — are expressed as APs rather than as CSes. This allows for use in games with 1 AP-wide modified tables.
MEDIUM SHIELD [BODY (Hardened Defenses) 05, Enhance (EV): 01 (cap is 04), Recommended STR 02, Descriptor: Bludgeon, Note: OV/RV bonus when using the Block Manoeuvre is 2 APs, Note: the OV bonus for the Shield Cover Manoeuvre is 2 APs].
Design notes, part 1
Traditionally, shields in DCH are handled via the Block Manoeuvre. Of course, standing there and and blocking one attack isn’t what shield-slinging heroes such as Captain America or Battlestar usually do in the comics. Or what sword-and-board fighters like Alistair do in video games and genre novels. They are far more dynamic.
With the Evasion Skill one can make skilled shield wielders harder to hit. But it cannot be sufficient. Whereas Blocking is too static, Evasion doesn’t requires any Actions. And it’s only useful for proficient fighters.
The Shield Cover Combat Manoeuvre is an intermediary step between the two. Thus, we end up with a full spectrum that represents most fiction fighting scenes that involve a shield.
Design notes, part 2
Another point was not to make shields too powerful. If it is too easy to interpose the BODY of the shield between you and the blows, you’re having /BODY/ for the price of BODY. And the shield likely has more BODY than comparable body armour.
Thus, this rules present trade-offs to prevent imbalances and offer interesting tactical choices.
(There likely is room for rules about splitting RAPs between shield and user. Howbeit that a/ is more complex than it seems in the case of BODY 02 wielders and b/ would thus require far more playtesting than we can ensure. That said, it would be the likely next step for even better shield rules, and perhaps power armour .)
Using shields, part 3
Most shields have APs of Enhance (EV), since you can bash people with them, hit people with the edge, ram people whilst charging, etc..
Use of these APs of Enhance :
- Cannot be done during a Phase where you Block.
- Does not interfere with the Evasion Skill (the benefits of training !).
- Can only be done in the same Phase as the Shield Cover Combat Manoeuvre if you happen to be Pressing the Attack.
The EV can also be used during a Charge Manoeuvre, instead of your current speed.
Shield *and* weapon
If you aren’t using a buckler (see below), it is possible to hold a weapon in your shield hand. This *could* be sensible. For instance if the weapon is a spare or an alternate. Or if it’s your melee weapon kept there while you hold a throwing weapon.
It is possible to dual-wield weapons while also having a shield strapped on one arm. A good example is Scottish styles where the shield hand also holds a dirk. In steampunk settings, one could also hold a black powder pistol in reserve in the shield hand.
In such cases :
- If you use the weapon you do not benefit at all from the shield, *unless* you are Pressing the Attack. If you intend to use the shield-hand weapon, you must therefore commit to that at the very beginning of a Phase, before people declare their Actions in Initiative order.
- In melee, this will be useful as part of a Paired Weapons Schtick. It allows you to use the bonus, whilst retaining normal use of the shield.
- The AV of the shield-hand weapon is lowered by the OV of the shield against ranged attacks. This an approximation of the shield’s cumbersomeness. This would be the case in, say, a hand axe + shield + pistol-in-the-shield-hand combo when you fire the pistol.
Metal-reinforced hard wood is common. But it’s possible to make a pretty tough shield out of paper and glue, as some Comanche warriors did during the American genocides. The secret lies in the layering.
The popular image of a shield is planked wood. But planked shields are late designs, used by fighters in plate armour. The shield wasn’t as essential to their defense as with earlier, less armoured fighters.
More durable shields are built using plied wood, wrapped in leather or hide. As always, heterogeneous layers are stouter. And the covering really helps in holding damaged wood together.
Improvements include using treated linen covering instead of leather. It works just as well and is lighter. Another one is sealing the wood with oil so it doesn’t absorb humidity (especially at sea).
Some materials might result in an attack vulnerability.
For instance, a shield made of hide and paper likely would have an Attack Vulnerability (RV) against flame. An all-metal shield likely would have an Attack Vulnerability (RV, and perhaps even OV) against electricity.
The range of BODY scores depends ‘pon the material. The BODY scores for the standard shields assume a knights-and-castles, or generic-heroic-fantasy, tech level. Bronze Age or earlier shields will likely have a lower BODY.
Conversely, a shield expertly made for a super-hero, using expensive modern high-yield steel, will likely have a BODY of 12.
A “masterwork” low-tech shield might have a BODY higher by one AP than the stock model. More BODY than that will likely involve magical and/or exotic materials.
Shields without Hardened Defenses
These certainly exist. The more common cases are :
- Improvised shields. The archetype is the post-apocalyptic warrior wielding a road sign with added straps as a shield.
- Disposable shields made of a softer wood, such as spruce. It’s lighter and cheaper, heh ? Viking raiders may have used this approach. Or maybe the shields we’ve found in tombs were made for decoration and not combat, it’s hard to say.
- Very low-tech shields, like animal hide on a wooden frame.
These rules assume that shield use is important to the Character. Not many super-heroes have shields (especially if you decide that blatant Captain America expies shouldn’t count). And wielding one tends to be key to their fighting style.
For such unimportant cases, simply treat the shield as giving a +1 AP OV bonus from the front and side, but preventing the use of Combat Manoeuvers.
Increasing the OV rather than the RV also means that if the attack connects, mooks-with-shields as are simple to take down as any mook. This avoids additional Current Condition book-keeping caused by scoring fewer RAPs.
More shields stats
They live in another castle – namely part #2 of our shields article.
Helper(s): Eric Langendorff, Pawsplay, Ethan Roe.
Writeup revised on the 12th of September, 2018.