I would like to experiment with an “active defense” option for shield use. Here is the proposal.
Shields provide the following benefits.
- +1 AC
- 1 shield parry per round
- +4 to saves versus appropriate area effects
All of the benefits only apply when a shield user has freedom of movement during combat (so not against traps).
At the beginning of a combat round, characters must decide which enemy they will primarily direct their shield against. The shield parry is a reaction, and may be used against a successful hit by that enemy. Fighters use their most favorable saving throw, other classes use their least favorable saving throw. Note also the ability of axes to destroy shields
Use of a shield save requires a full action for characters without armor skill
(e.g., zero level humans and magic-users). In other words, a “full defense” type of action will allow the use of a shield saving throw even for a non-combatant class character.
Appropriate area attacks would include dragon breath and fireballs, but not, for example, cloudkill.
Hopefully, this will not prove cumbersome (an attack in addition to a save versus poison does not seem cumbersome, so I don’t see how this will be much different, though I suppose getting hit happens more frequently than getting hit and poisoned). In any case, figuring things like this out is what testing is for.
I think this rule would also work with my recent 2d6 fantasy game, without the +1 AC bonus (since the numeric armor scale is less extensive), and with only +1 to saving throws versus area effects.