Sidebar #1: Shields as Cover
This installment of Fat Goblin Games’ sidebar-series clocks in at 3 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 1 page of content, so what does it…
…no, I’m not gonna insult your intelligence by summing up a premise that can be read in the title of this pdf as a rhetorical question.
I loathe how shields work in PFRPG. Their bonuses are paltry and often, the benefits cannot stand up to similar benefits granted by more massive weapons and over all, shields always felt to me like they did not do their job: We all know the iconic images of characters covering between shields to weather dragon’s breath or fireballs flung at them. why then do shields not simply grant cover?
So, this pdf, on one page provides what amounts to an optional houserule – this is not intended as derogatory, mind you, just calling a thing by its name. That being said, the presentation itself is pretty solid – shield bashes, rays and being flat-footed: All such pieces are covered. Shields also benefit from an easy-to-grasp, concise expansion of their function: Each shield-size grants different degrees of cover when employed in regular combat, fighting defensively or using total defense:
A heavy shield, to give you an example, nets partial cover (+2 AC, +1 Ref) when used regularly, standard cover (+4 AC, +2 Ref) when fighting defensively and improved cover (+8 AC, +4 Ref) when using the total defense action. The distinct reader may note that no, abuse of this cover for Stealth-purposes is NOT possible. Interaction with Shield Focus and similar tricks are covered as well, as are tower shield’s special tricks and the interaction with these rules. Even a kind of stacking of cover when employing shields while adjacent to a wall is covered.
Editing and formatting are good – though I noticed a plural/singular discrepancy, I don’t consider this important. Layout adheres to a beautiful, easy to read 2-column full-color standard ad the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.
So yes, I do like this system – mainly due to it rewarding basic tactical decisions and since it provides a more strategic array of options when using shields, options which feel more diverse and closer to what shields in my opinion should do. This little pdf is in fact pretty close to a houserule I used in some of my campaigns. What is here, is functional and nice, but the premise does suffer from the brevity of the format – While e.g. the interaction with Lob Shot works still (and pretty much feels organic to me), Improved Precise Shot is still the bane of cover and unique benefits for tower shields that make these cumbersome things more versatile would have also been nice – as written, they are treated as just another shield class.
Author Lucus Palosaari delivers essentially a nice, inexpensive and pretty concise house-rule that should not break any game and offer some easy tactical depth and increased reason to opt for sword-and-board fighting styles. While not perfect, this pdf can be considered an inexpensive rules-variation. It could be more complex, but honestly should be a great fit for quite a few groups out there. Oh, and one can easily expand the content herein, making the system more complex – which is exactly what I intend to do. All in all, this pdf thus remains, at least for me, a solid 4 stars – this may not be earthshattering, but it is a nice option for people dissatisfied with how shields work in vanilla PFRPG.
You can get this inexpensive alternate rule-supplement here on OBS!