I used to get bonked on the head several times each Wednesday night.
This was years ago (more than I’d care to admit), when I attended the weekly meetings of the Society for Creative Anachronism. I went fairly regularly for the better part of a year, before other circumstances arose and my Wednesday nights were no longer available.
Yet some valuable lesson were learned. The number one being:
Keep your shield up!
But I wouldn’t, and then: bonk!
I’d been going through some difficult times in those days: financially, emotionally, spiritually. But I have to say, getting thwacked upside the noggin from a padded zweihänder will give you a different perspective on things.
Get your shield up! Thwack!
When I did keep my shield up, it became a lot harder for opponent to hit me. Duh. (But then I had to learn how to defend my lower parts, though strikes to knees and groin were verboten in SCA, they could still happen by accident…)
It was through this experience I concluded shields in any D&D/d20 system shouldn’t give a paltry +1 to armor class. Why not +2 or +3 depending on the size?
So in my Expeditions in the Northlands campaign for DCC RPG, I came up with the following table.
If the player understands how bucklers and small shields work, then I might allow their character to carry something in their off-hand, but they’ll still get the armor check penalty–especially if they decide to have a weapon in each hand.
I’m not go to bother with differentiating between what’s considered a large, and what’s considered a medium shield.
Pavise Shields can be carried in melee combat, but are so large and cumbersome they incur the check and movement penalties along with the fumble die. A paviser–a person who is presumably trained with a pavise–may plant the pavise in the ground to avoid the penalties and the fumble die. This takes a full round to make sure its sturdy, but the user will not incur any penalties so long as they stay behind the shield.
We’re assuming here that the characters are proficient with the shield they are using. If not, then they might not get any bonus. Thwack! Keep your shield up! But we’ll get to that bridge if we must cross it.