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It seems like Shields are a bit worthless given the bonus to AC doesn't really match the increased damage output from not using them. Perhaps they could stand to give a slightly stronger bonus to AC. This would also help buff fighters a bit.
Maybe something more along the lines of
Light Shields: +2, Heavy Shields: +4?
Do you think Shields are alright where they are, or do you agree with me that they're a little weak? I'd really like to know what your own experiences are and thoughts are on this subject.
I think it is a moot discussion. Shields had a +1 AC bonus all the way back to paleo-dnd. It has always been an unrealistically small benefit. For that matter wearing a helm is a big advantage as well, but that isn't even really codified into the game in any consistent way at all and never has been. In reality I'd much rather have a medium sized shield and a good helmet than a breastplate or any of that unless it is perhaps late period full plate armor. It is easily at least 1/3 of your defense (armor and your weapon being the other major factors).
Honestly, it is not going to change due to tradition and just jacking up the value doesn't really make things much more realistic. As for the balance between 2-handed weapons vs using a shield, offense always trumps defense. Typically D&D has encouraged or discouraged shield use in other ways. For instance in AD&D you needed magical weapons, but it was unlikely to find 2-handed ones. Thus many characters simply stuck with the lower damage long sword which was vastly the most common magical weapon. Since you've got a hand free at that point you might as well use a shield.
It's already possible, with full plate and a heavy shield, to have a 19 AC, and that's without even adding magical bonuses or buying any of the really expensive armor. The playtest characters have from +4 to +6 on their best attacks, so they only have a 30-40% chance to hit such a character on each attack. That's about as low a miss chance that characters can have before the game starts to feel like a whifflebat fight.
I wouldn't think that the shield bonus itself has to be a sacred cow. It's perfectly acceptable to put it at +2/+4 as suggested.
Shields should give +2 AC in my opinion. That's a 10% bonus, which is something you will notice. A +1 is only a 5% change in hit chance, so it doesn't feel like it's worth the trouble.
Heavy armour being too weak needs to be dealt with first. Shields are fine.
I'd love to see some offensive shield options, not just shield bash, but the whole shield opening a hole in defences. Perhaps I should just flavor things that way, but it feels like it needs a mechanical implication beyond "it sits there and opponents wail on it".
Shield and Weapon combat is basically my favourite kind in the whole of forever, I'd love to see it as an offensive option.
Just two guys using the Hans Tolhoffer treatises to figure Viking combat, but it shows some exceptional shield work.
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