Ever since I first looked at the equipment tables in the PHB, I've been dissatisfied with the lack of different shield options. I suppose it makes sense in the 5e philosophy of making everything as simple as possible. And if shields don't do anything besides give AC bonuses, then there's really no reason to have more than one (mechanical) type of shield, since people are always gonna choose the one with the highest bonus. Unless of course, there are different types of shield proficiencies, which creates complexity ... and so on.

Anyways, I decided to take this issue on, and below is what I came up with.

\begin{array}{|c|c|c|c|} \hline Shield\, type & AC\, bonus & Strength & Cost & Weight \\ \hline Buckler & +1 & — & 5 gp & 4 lbs \\ \hline Spiked\, Shield & +1 & — & 5 gp & 6 lbs \\ \hline Heavy\, Wooden\, Shield & +2 & 10 & 10 gp & 8 lbs \\ \hline Heavy\, Metal\, Shield & +2 & 12 & 15 gp & 12 lbs \\ \hline Wooden\, Tower\, Shield & +3 & 14 & 50 gp & 35 lbs \\ \hline Metal\, Tower\, Shield & +3 & 15 & 100 gp & 40 lbs \\ \hline Stone\, Greatshield & +3 & 19 & 500 gp & 80 lbs \\ \hline \end{array}

Light Shields

Light shields are rather small shields, with a diameter of 20cm for particularly small buckler shields, and up to 50cm for comparably big spiked shields.

Buckler Shield

With a buckler shield, you can parry using your reaction when you are hit by an attack. This allows you to add half your DEX modifier (rounded up) as a bonus to your normal AC against all attacks from the source of the triggering attack. This bonus applies regardless of whether or not your AC normally includes your DEX modifier.

Spiked Shield

This is essentially a larger buckler shield with either a sharp spike in the center or smaller spikes all over it. As a bonus action, you can make an attack with the spike(s), with a reach of 5 feet and dealing 1d4 + STR piercing damage on a hit.

Heavy Shields

Heavy shields are notably bigger than light shields. They include, for example, heater shields (which would usually be made of metal) of 60cm height and more, or kite shields (either wooden or metal) which can be up to shoulder-high. And of course, standard round shields with a diameter of sometimes more than 1 meter, like the Aspis shields used by ancient Greeks, also fall into this category.

Heavy shields don't grant any bonuses beyond what is listed in the table.

Super-heavy shields

Super-heavy shields include Tower Shields, like the Roman scutum or the medieval pavise, and Stone Greatshields, which might be round or even similar to Tower Shields, though made of a different material.

Since super-heavy shields are usually almost as big as an average human, small creatures can't use super-heavy shields due to their unwieldiness for creatures of that size.

Tower Shield

Tower shields allow you to use a bonus action to take cover behind the shield. As a result, you gain three-quarters cover until the start of your next turn, replacing the regular +3 bonus to AC with +5. Magical bonuses still apply on top of this. While you receive this bonus, you have disadvantage on opportunity attacks you make.

Stone Greatshield

A stone greatshield grants immunity against effects that move you against your will, as well as advantage on shove checks if you use the shield for the shove. Stone Greatshields count as uncommon magic items since they require magic enhancements to strengthen the stone enough to counter its usual brittleness.

Shield modifications

Wooden shields

Many shields can be made of wood, which is in fact the more common variant (as opposed to metal) among guards or other common citizens. These shields would often be painted with the emblem of whoever the user served, such as the emblem of a guild or a king. These shields have the advantage that cheaper and usually lighter than their metal variants.

However, being made of wood, they are not as effective against fire as metal shields (although metal shields, due to heating up, are also ideally not used to protect against a dragon's fire breath for longer periods of time). In mechanical terms, they don't offer AC bonuses against attacks that deal fire damage, and they can't be used with the Shield Master feat against spells or other effects that deal fire damage, such as a Fireball spell or a fire-based trap that requires a DEX save.

Mithral metal shields

Most metal shields are made out of iron or material like bronze. However, at high costs, it is possible to buy or commission shields made of mithral. Usually, only dwarven smiths have both the skills and necessary materials at hand to forge mithral shields.

Mithral shields, in comparison to their regular variant, weigh only half as much, don't have a minimum Strength requirement, but they also cost 10 times as much, reflecting the rarity of the material and the skill required to forge it. Bucklers, spiked shields, heavy metal shields, and tower shields can be made of mithral.

Silvered shields

Shields can be silvered for the same price as weapons (100gp, see PHB p. 148). A silvered shield may allow you to deal damage to a creature that is resistant or immune to magical damage, but susceptible to damage from silvered weapons. This resistance circumvention, so-to-speak, applies if you use the shield as an improvised weapon or if you're using a spiked shield.

Shield proficiency

If some effect (such as your class or a feat) gives you proficiency with shields, you can use light and heavy shields, but not super-heavy shields. To gain proficiency with those, you can take the Shield Master feat. Dwarves, however, have an innate connection to stone, and can therefore wield Stone Greatshields even if they only have the regular shield proficiency. They also still have to meet the STR requirement.

Improvised Weapons

All shields can be used as improvised weapons that deal 1d4 bludgeoning damage on a hit. You do not need to be proficient with shields to use them as improvised weapons.

Is the homebrew above balanced? Please consider the following criteria:

  • the original PHB shield will no longer exist if this homebrew is used.
  • attack bonuses etc. will not change, so the shields have to be balanced against the "default balance" in this regard, so-to-speak.
  • Shield Master, in particular, becomes stronger, since it also gives access to +3 nonmagical shields. But is it too strong?
  • Dwarves with shield proficiency gain the ability to use +3 shields for free. Is this overpowered? Do note that the stone greatshield is still an uncommon magic item, although stronger than a regular, non-homebrew +1 shield, which is also uncommon.
    • shields still occupy your entire hand, regardless of the shield's type, and they still take an action to don.

Bonus points for:

  • evaluating the historical accuracy and realism of my shield classification (i.e. would a tower shield really be better than a heater shield? Or is a tower shield so unwieldy that it boils down to the same thing?). Obviously, ignore the stone greatshield in this regard, since that's obviously artistic freedom (err, I mean, because magic).
  • evaluating whether I should also rename the "Shield Master" feat into "Pshiexeld Master" in reference to my name (lmao I don't know how my brain came up with this ^^)

To make the question less broad, I suppose the main focus should be whether the strongest shields (i.e. super-heavy shields) are balanced against the 5e combat system (bearing in mind that anyone but dwarves need a feat to use them, which subsequently makes the feat stronger), or whether the weakest shields are under- or overpowered. The heavy shields are pretty much identical to the default shields, except that they have STR requirements (which is definitely relevant for DEX-based fighters, I might remove that now that I think about it) and different cost & weight, although those two don't really ever matter in my experience (at least not in this range of values).

  • \$\begingroup\$ I may be wrong here, but I'm not sure how to handle a review of each shield homebrew in one. I think we need all to see how they compare against each other and not judge each standalone, but then it seems too broad if we do include them all of them. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Apr 26, 2019 at 17:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ You may want to include that as well just to make sure. In addition, is the donning time the same for all? Is it still one action? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Apr 26, 2019 at 17:55
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Gotcha - I'm still not sure if it's too broad or not because I think we do need the big picture. But it's a lot to check balance on. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Apr 26, 2019 at 18:11
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I love this idea, but I wonder if the "too broad-ness" comes from expanding too much in one go? For example, rather than ask about each shield, could we go for a question about a simplied expansion first? Such as just bucklers (+1), "normal" shields (+2, essentially same as RAW) and tower shields (+3), then maybe a second question about further expansions afterwards? \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Apr 26, 2019 at 18:37
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I would suggest some mention of shield use while mounted. I.e. A rider cannot use a tower shield. \$\endgroup\$
    – krb
    Apr 26, 2019 at 19:14


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