Saturday, June 25, 2011

Not only Shields Shall Be Splintered!

Trollsmyth's Shields Shall Be Splintered rule to give the shield more value in melee is one of my favorite house rule ideas to come out of the OSR blogosphere.

It's easy, simple to employ in The Game, and makes sense to my way of playing. It also gives a bit more juice to combat. Like a saving throw, it allows for an exiting narrow escape from a possible nasty end.

I like to roll it around in my mind. It has a tasty texture and rule symmetry that appeals to me. Thank you Trollsmyth!

This is how I phrased the rule for my own houserule document.

Any player character, who is employing a shield and takes damage in melee combat, can opt to instead have their shield take the damage. The shield will be shattered and must be discarded thereafter, but the character takes no damage from that particular attack.

I like it so much, I want to share the terror and excitement of that near brush with death with PCs of classes which normally don't carry shields.

So, I'm extending the rule to include hastily improvised shields. Things which might be snatched up in a desperate attempt to ward off an otherwise fatal blow.

Items such as a stool, a chair, a saddle, a halfling, etc..

This way, magic-users and thieves, who usually need all the protection they can get, have a rule to give them a last chance to escape a cleft skull.

Of course, same as with the shield, whatever object the PC grabs to serve as a shield is destroyed if made to absorb the damage the PC would have otherwise incurred.

*regarding the halfling. Only NPCs may be sacrificed in this manner. PCs may not be employed as hastily improvised shields by other PCs.

Pics are a nice medievalesque stool I found online, and a clip from a larger sketch by the mighty Jim Holloway, one of my favorite D&D artists.


Jason Zavoda said...

Very cinematic, shields, tables, chairs, etc... being smashed in a fight. The problem then becomes what about magic shields, or large magic items that could be used as a shield.

Also, shields are made to be bashed, so one swing wouldn't normally splinter them. What would the effect be of different size shields?

In the past I've tried armor hit points and it was enjoyable, but magical armor with D&D or AD&D had to be worked around. Much more bookkeeping, but suddenly combat without chances to repair became much more costly as shields and armor were destroyed.

There are a lot of questions that can arise by pulling this particular thread.

E.G.Palmer said...

I don't apply this rule to magic shields, unless, the shield is being struck by a magic weapon that has a higher plus than the shield does.
Say a +3 sword hitting a +1 shield.
Even in that case, the rule is actually put into effect by the Player. If he dosn't want to sacrifice his magic shield to save himself some damage, he dosn't have to.

This rule is really something that a PC will only resort too if he knows that the next blow will most likely kill him, and there is no other way to avoid it.

Jason Zavoda said...

Not to beat this topic into splinters but...

If a player can use a magic shield to protect him from any blow that might do him damage will the DM have to disallow him from doing so if the shield won't be destroyed?

If the shield isn't destroyed can the player just keep using it against attacks?

The shattered shield or splinetered bit of furniture is a pretty idea but it seems like something that players will have to choose not to exploit or the DM will have to put a heavy foot down on its use.

E.G.Palmer said...

It's a one time choice by the player to sacrifice the shield to avoid an otherwise fatal blow.
If they do this, that shield is toast and they lose it's AC bonus in the next round.

I suppose players, being who they are, would try to carry multiple shields to work the rule, but personnaly, I'm ruthless about encumbrance and resource management and those who try and rules lawyer me end up crying on their character sheets.

I'm also stingy with magic, so nobody who plays in my games undervalues a magic item.

Tedankhamen said...

What about 'Arms Shall Be Broken'? Seriously, a character about to be killed by an attack could stay alive at the expense of an arm or leg. Would make the game more cinematic - who hasn't read a book or seen a flick where the potagonist soldiers on through cuts and broken bones?

E.G.Palmer said...

Heh! Trade a broken arm to avoid death? Hmmmm, I might consider that as a situational ruling rather than as a fixed rule.

It would be a serious matter if there is no healing magic available. There would be a lot of penalties piled on a PC with a broken limb.