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Basically I have a dwarf cleric that thinks he is an invulnerable tank and takes the brunt of most attacks to the party.

In the 5 sessions so far his shield has had the following:

  • A throwing axe embedded in it for 5 rounds.
  • Set on fire for 2 rounds from Molotov cocktail in a bar
  • Drow sword pierce through it which disintegrated in light later, leaving a hole in the shield.
  • 2 javelins embedded in it from tripping a trap .

I have mentioned to him that his shield must be pretty messed up by now and he agreed it has seen better days so having something happen would not be a shock or out of order in my mind.

The 5ed rules state that the lifestyle expenses cover upkeep of gear. Does that mean that he would have repaired his shield to new after each encounter if he keeps up with the lifestyle expenses?

I was thinking that the next critical hit he takes will be too much for the poor shield and it will finally give but that's very local to him and I hate singling out characters like that.

Is there a relatively simple way to model excessive wear and tear and apply consequences?

I.E. rules form a previous edition or house rules you have tried and how they worked for you.

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By default, it is assumed that he maintains the shield in downtime (ie; patches the worst of it during camp time and has it repaired when the party returns to the village). So yeah, he would have his shield fixed to new whenever there's a bit of time available. D&D by default does not have random gear disintegration rules.

So in that regard I would suggest you to at most dedicate a few minutes of village downtime to it, letting the Dwarf describe how the blacksmith fixes his gear and maybe remarks on "what the hell have you put this poor thing through?" before letting him get back to it.

However, if you want gear breakage rules for D&D, the best ones I've seen so far come from the Dark Sun setting. What makes them great is that they allow for dramatic breakage without shafting the owner and they give the player the final say on whether or not they want their things to break at that point.

For weapons the idea is that if you roll a 1 you can opt to reroll the attack but the weapon breaks afterwards.

For shields you could say that if he takes a critical hit, he may instead opt to catch it on his shield, turning it into a miss or regular hit (either can work) but it smashes the shield to bits.

But he could also just decline and accept the critical hit in full. (Or accept the miss with a weapon swing)

That allows players who like that kind of thing to go for it, without singling out anyone unfairly or taking away gear of people who don't like that kind of thing.

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There aren't rules for how you're narrating combat, so there aren't rules for dealing with its aftermath.

Consider that you may be over modelling what's happening in combat and causing more damage to the shield/gear than what's intended by the system. As Erik mentioned in his answer, there is an expectation that part of the rest time that adventurers spend is maintaining gear.

However, I'd be much more concerned about the play style you're dictating with these kinds of narration and expectations. The question you have to ask yourself is, "Do I want my PCs worrying about carrying backup shields, or do I want them worried about the story?"

This is really dependent on the kind of story you're telling and the setting you're discussing. As Erik mentioned, Dark Sun has rules for this kind of thing, because it's a gritty survival world where metal is rare so gear is hard to come by and hard to repair when it breaks.

In most D&D settings, if a shield breaks, you can probably scavenge a new one off the corpse of a recently felled foe. That, or you could pop back to town to purchase one from a nearby smith, or perhaps pick one up from a travelling merchant. The question is whether or not narrating this is interesting for our game.

But back to my point, if your narration style is going to involve the level of detail of having weapons buried in shields or holes punched in them, and you want to treat these mechanically, you are on your own for developing those mechanics. That kind of thing is out of scope in 5e so it's not covered by the rules. That doesn't mean it can't happen, and it doesn't mean that there don't have to be consequences, but it does mean that the mechanics just aren't there to support it.

So to sum up, there aren't rules for this right now, you could develop some, but I'd be very careful that the rules you develop support the style of play you want to encourage, not one that you don't.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree with the sentiment that you're trying to convey but disagree that it actually detracts from the story. How much more awesome is to be carrying around a patched and battle-scarred shield that could go on to be a relic of the famous hero? \$\endgroup\$ – Wesley Obenshain Jun 10 '15 at 19:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @WesleyObenshain I tried to be careful to not say that, because it might, it sort of depends on what you're going for. If that's something the enhances the story for you, great! But then you need to ask if that narrative element is more or less fun if it has mechanical consequence. If doing so enhances your gameplay experience then great, but if it detracts then maybe it's not a good fit. The narrative element can stay without needing a mechanical one. \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Jun 10 '15 at 19:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that breakage rules don't help with "carrying around a patched and battle-scarred shield", because the most likely response to breakage system is "discard and grab a new one". You'd need a different setup to encourage players to KEEP the shield after it breaks for it to get a reputation. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Jun 11 '15 at 11:46
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Since you asked for previous edition rules that make this simple, I'll refer to 3.5, which has a handy table to handle this:

http://www.dandwiki.com/wiki/SRD3e:Breaking_Items_%26_Attacking_Objects

As you can see, the tables there provide you with a simple reference to shields, including shields made of unusual materials. This should provide incentive for the Dwarf to carry a spare shield on him, and give you a couple more openings because it will force him to consider how much more his shield can take.

As a side bonus, it will also give him something to invest his gold into. As for maintenance, if he spends a couple of days in a town, there's no real reason a decent blacksmith couldn't repair or create him a new shield. Especially if it's a wooden shield. Steel would take a little longer, but a blacksmith would likely have steel shields on hand in an average city. After all, the guards likely use them as well.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Please, no, not the notoriously unreliable dandwiki. Try the Hypertext d20 SRD instead. (The latter is also actually 3.5, not 3.0 as in the given link.) \$\endgroup\$ – user17995 Jun 10 '15 at 19:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Either really works for his purposes. He was just asking for a quick and simple reference, and was happy to accept something house ruled. \$\endgroup\$ – Lino Frank Ciaralli Jun 10 '15 at 20:47

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