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Let me put it simply: shields in 3rd edition don't feel very shield-like.

I think it's because D&D abstracts away parrying and active defense into the Dex bonus to AC. This has several quirks:

* A shield is just as effective when unaware as when actively fighting

* Being armed gives no defensive bonus (except ability to make AoOs)

* Shields, in reality a very powerful defensive item that can give significant tactical advantages, provide only a very minor AC benefit.

I'd like to see equipment play much more of a role in active defense. By this I don't mean magic, but rather than it feels like you must beat the opponent's sword - and particularly shield - to get at them. The ability to defend oneself effectively when unarmed should be remarkable (monks, some sort of unarmed combat feat) rather than assumed.

Similarly, I'd like shields to not be passive. If I've got a shield, I should be able to bring it into play to restrict my opponent's options and/or create openings, not merely treat it as a minor AC bonus that takes out my arm and can be used to add cheap magic plusses.
Look up Iron Heroes. It's got awesome shield feat trees. Now, look at the name on the cover. Now look at the names of the people working on 4E. See what matches.

You're pretty much OK on shields, I think :D

PS-A clue: the name starts with "M" and ends with "ike Meals"
Interestingly the new combat playtest report includes a section where a PC is attacked by a wolf "but she fended it off with her shield ".

It could be just fluff, but it could also be an indicated that shields are finally gonna get their due as a combat option...

For those old-school gamers our there, in an RPG called Dragon Warriors, a shield provided a 1-in-6 chance to completely negate an incoming attack. Now that sounds stupid when the incoming attack is from a 40ft tall Tarrasque, but moving somewhat closer to that rule can only be a good thing in my opinion.

I will just chime in generically, that I would love for Shields to be a significant option to use. A shield classically is probably more important(effective) than armor, and its use in warfare was widespread.

I think 3.5 finally got around to making shields more viable (and variable) when PHII came out, and while that was good, I think it could be done even better.

What I expect from 4th edition about shields :

manoeuvers of all type needed a shield, for exemple

a Counter (immediate action) allowing a fighter to parry (or try to) an incoming successfull attack.

another counter, maybe paladin only, where the character try to deflect a successfull attack on an adjacent ally

still another counter : using a heavy or tower shield to protect against a dragon breath or other cone effect (maybe use an attack roll with the shield bonus added to replace a reflex save for 1/2 damage ?)

Strike manoeuvers could also be used to make bash attack (or other active shield actions), without needing to use the 2 weapon fighting rules :

Exemple :

shield bash
strike (partial action)

make an attack with equipped heavy shield.
If attack hits, target must make a fortitude save (DC 1X + str bonus) or be stunned/moved 5 feets/

If such actions were at will (maybe needing a feat), it would be boring, having the player using the same each round, but with with a manoeuver system like in Tome of Battle, you could have such abilities and special attacks be encounter based (with maybe special actions to refresh an used manoeuver), and have your fighter do something different and cool each round of combat.

Exemple combat in 3.5 :

standard fighter :

round 1 : I charge and make my attack
round 2 : full round attack
round 3 : full round attack
round 4 : full round attack
round 5 : you get the idea ...

warblade (from tome of battle)

round 1 : I move toward the gobelins, and use my "steel wind" strike, making an attack on two gobelins
round 2 : I use another strike manoeuver to attack the bugbear. The attack hits, and the bugbear cannot make any attack of opportunity for 1 round, allowing my friend the rogue to flank him next turn.
I then use a defensive stand against the bugbear, giving me +2 AC against his attacks, but -2 against all other attacks (I take a chance that the surviving gob will hit me, better than taking a hist from the bugbear)
round 3 : No manoeuver this turn, as I make a single normal attack and take a new breath, refreshing all used manoeuvers
round 4 : ...

The second exemple is a real game : it was a warforged warblade in my new Eberron campaign (I'm the DM), and it was only first level !

I could have used a 10th level fighter with several feats trees and not have such a dynamic combat.

I *love* the system from ToB (I have no use for its fluff however), and I'm very exited about the 4th edition using ideas from ToB.
If anyone is familiar with the Star Wars Saga Edition, Jedi get a talent that lets them use their lightsabers to block or deflect an attack. The mechanic works by rolling a skill check (Use the Force) that exceeds the attack roll, if successful, you take no damage. You can do this any number of times, but each time beyond the first you get a -5 penalty to the check to deflect other attacks. This makes it not game breaking, as you can still overwhelm an opponent by attacking them repeatedly, or on multiple fronts. A simple enough mechanic to convert to D&D 4e
* A shield is just as effective when unaware as when actively fighting

That shouldn't be...
When in Combat, a Fighter keeps his shield ready to parry Foes' Attacks, and to do so he moves it up and down, left and right...
If unaware, he won't move the shield to place it against the attack, so, he is vulnerable as if he had no shield...

When unaware, it could grant a 5% cover against arrows and darts, but no more, I think...
I mentioned my view on shields in the "Defense and Damage Reduction" thread.

Basically, a shield should give both a cover bonus based on size (for example: +0 for buckler to +8 for tower shield) and a dodge bonus to reflect their mobility and ability to parry (for example: +4 for buckler to +0 for tower). When flat-footed (ie. not actively using the shield) you lose dodges bonuses, hence the shield would simple act like a cover bonus.

In addition, the shield should have a DR value based on the material. Hence it would be possible for something large and powerful like a giant to just smash through the shield and crush your arm. The damage would be reduced, but it is still going to hurt.

Just some random thoughts....
That isn't a bad idea. However I think it could use a little work. Basically you would have your Armor Class, and your shield helps there a little just by size. Then if they would normally hit, you would roll shield as a weapon(with a -4 for non proficiency if you aren't good, which would also get in the way of weapons) If you hit their weapon, you get the DR(Different for wood and steel, but wood is a simple shield, and steel is martial, or whatever) which can get a bonus for however much you beat their attack by, which simulates how much of the blow you use the shield to deflect, as opposed to absorb.
Then if they would normally hit, you would roll shield as a weapon(with a -4 for non proficiency if you aren't good, which would also get in the way of weapons).

I've seen parry house rules similar to this. I like the idea of modeling parrying as being an acation of the defender, but it adds more complexity as well as more dice rolling. The defender would have to roll a parry roll for every incoming attack, basically double the number of rolls.

I would prefer flat bonuses as much as possible. Instead, have a priority on how the bonuses are applied so you know if the shield is struck. For example:
DEX and Dodge bonues -> Deflection -> Cover and Shield -> Armor -> Natural Armor

The idea being, if you hit the shield dodge bonus range, you are using the shield actively to knock away the attack without damaging the shield. If the attack hits the shield cover AC range then you are basically just using the shield passively to absorb the attack and shield takes damage.

I haven't tested any of these ideas, of course, just philosophical muses....
I so hope they make shields better, I've always felt it was too passive, when the use of a shield in real life is a very active thing.

You don't just block peoples attacks with a shield, nor is your offense likely to be hitting them for damage.

For example, one of the shields most primary uses is open your opponents defenses and knocking them off guard.

Shield use has been one of the most wide spread and efficient fighting styles of all time. Yet it never felt that way in 3.5 at all.
A lot of great ideas in this thread.

On the dreaded passive side, I'd like to see all shields, except for bucklers, have their AC adjustments bumped up by one (if that mechanic is still around.)
Yeah, that way, at least, shields would be more sought after for the warrior types who need to buff their AC as high as possible.
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Yeah, that way, at least, shields would be more sought after for the warrior types who need to buff their AC as high as possible.

Yeah, it makes "board and sword" builds a touch more appealing... in 3.5 anyway. I've got no clue what the shield mechanics will be like in 4E. I just hope that they don't increase the rules for shields so much that it becomes the next Grapple.
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