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Rethinking Shields and Blocking


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I was pondering last night whether shields work properly in the Hero system as written or if they should be changed.  Just giving someone bonus DCV is a quick and easy method, but does it truly represent how shields work, especially in a game like Hero?  It feels more like a D&D throwback where shields just add Armor Class: they missed because you have a shield!

 

If they added as portable armor it would seem to fit the system better, but how would you represent that in game terms?  If you require a block to use a shield, then that requires taking a half phase, rolling to block, etc which seems like it should be a part of the possible use of a shield (with the OCV bonus) but not its exclusive use.

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I guess it depends on how realistically you want shields to be portrayed in the game. As an abstraction, adding OCV/DCV and/or PD/ED works reasonably well. But in reality, a shield acts like a separate target that gets in between the attacker and the defender. It's like, "Here, hit this DCV 2 object instead of me!" That's how shields work, though really small shields (like a buckler) might just provide a bonus to the Block maneuver and little else.

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Don’t forget that you can also add your shields DCV bonus to your OCV when blocking.  While many players may not do this the rules are there.  This is more of a problem with the players than the rules.  There is a whole thread about why players don’t block.

 

I think that a lot of problems result because people picking up the hero system for the first time don’t have experienced players to demonstrate what can be done with the system.  A lot of the other game systems have more exposure and support from their company than hero does. This leads to more mixing of new and older players.  Piazo has a whole organized play organization for Pathfinder and let’s face it when most people think of gaming they think of D&D.  
 

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8 hours ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

I was pondering last night whether shields work properly in the Hero system as written or if they should be changed.  Just giving someone bonus DCV is a quick and easy method, but does it truly represent how shields work, especially in a game like Hero?  It feels more like a D&D throwback where shields just add Armor Class: they missed because you have a shield!

 

If they added as portable armor it would seem to fit the system better, but how would you represent that in game terms?  If you require a block to use a shield, then that requires taking a half phase, rolling to block, etc which seems like it should be a part of the possible use of a shield (with the OCV bonus) but not its exclusive use.

 

I love that you're asking this!  :D

 

 

 

6 hours ago, zslane said:

I guess it depends on how realistically you want shields to be portrayed in the game. As an abstraction, adding OCV/DCV and/or PD/ED works reasonably well. But in reality, a shield acts like a separate target that gets in between the attacker and the defender. It's like, "Here, hit this DCV 2 object instead of me!" That's how shields work, though really small shields (like a buckler) might just provide a bonus to the Block maneuver and little else.

 

And I love that Z has the perfect answer: the current system _does_ work well as an abstract model, but it's not accurate to the real world.

 

However, again-- Z is dead-on: it works fine to represent what the shield does, at least in game terms, and most importantly, it doesn't really add a lot of complexity to an already kinda slow combat system  (don't get me wrong: the combat system appeals to me in a way no other ever has, but that added value is not exactly free).

 

 

Still, it would be nice to see _optional_ ideas on using shields.  Now I'm not using any of the following, but I'm going to toss them out just as examples of how they could be modeled:

 

They could be additional DEF tied to an Activation Roll to represent the character's timing or skill in placing the shield "just so."  (Ooops-- I actually _do_ use that one, but only in Supers, and only if the player wants his particular shield to work that way)

 

Similarly, they could take damage when used in Block or Parry Maneuvers.

 

Actually, as long as we are on this track, "Shield, large" and "Shield, medium" could require their own professional skills, a success means you can bring it to bear.  Perhaps Bucklers are modeled as something different entirely-- perhaps bonus DCV on a successful Dex roll, or even bonus Dex to attack first in the next phase (with a successful Dex roll defense, mind you) or a point or two of bonus OCV for your counterattack.  (what can I say?  I have always liked the image of the hulking barbarian _swatting away_ a sword blow with his buckler, knocking the weapon away, forcing the wielder to swing his arm back to maintain his hold, but leaving his chitlins exposed to the world for that instant....)

 

Sheilds could be ablative regardless of what system your using, perhaps forcing maintenance via a skill or other game mechanic to make field repairs that regain _some_ of the DEF, or perhaps certain weapons could be built with "messes shields up big time" advantages that allow them to inflict some part of their damage directly to a shield.  Battle Axes and certain pole arms come to mind.

 

Shields could modify the hit location chart based on their size: hitting location X means a miss, or reduced damage, or damage to the shield only, as this shield covers Locations X, Y, and Z.

 

Damage that penetrates the shield could be made to affect location "shield arm" first before any other location.

 

There are a lot -- and I mean _a lot_ of possible options I've thought about over the years, but in the end, I've never tried them because, as I said, it seems they would slow things down even more (to this day I don't use hit locations unless they are called shots, which, by unspoken agreement to not slow the game down, are few and far between).  Most importantly, as Z said, for the most part, the current system falls into a not-unreasonable "okay enough" groove for us that we've never been _quite_ unhappy enough to pursue any new methodolgies beyond the whole "I was thinking about this a couple of nights ago...."

 

Still, I would _love_ to see other folks thoughts on this subject!  :D

 

 

 

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Using a shield in combat is more accurate to say that you are attempting to block an incoming attack - both HTH and ranged. If you block, the shield takes the damage. The shield should have BODY because after awhile of blocking, it's going to get worn down and break, depending on what material is used in it's creation. In Champions, shields with extra PD/ED are given an Activation roll as an example of how well the shielder (I made up a new word) is able up protect himself. I don't play Fantasy Hero but I think it's defined as extra DCV.

 

It might work better as: Extra defense, with the limitations: must make a block roll & foci

 

Ultimately, how realistic are you wanting a shield to work determines how it's going to be used in any campaign. I'm okay with extra PD/ED foci, with an Activation roll, although I'm beginning to like my example.

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On 11/28/2020 at 1:13 PM, Christopher R Taylor said:

I was pondering last night whether shields work properly in the Hero system as written or if they should be changed.  Just giving someone bonus DCV is a quick and easy method, but does it truly represent how shields work, especially in a game like Hero?  It feels more like a D&D throwback where shields just add Armor Class: they missed because you have a shield!

 

I disagree. Shields should add passively to your DCV because, just by their use, they close off some angles of attack. An attacker has to try to strike around it.

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I think shields should have a passive effect - the player should have an advantage over a shieldless foe without having to sacrifice all other actions.  What if a Shield converted Block from an Attack Action to a half phase action and provided a bonus to Block which was increased if an attack action were used?

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32 minutes ago, Hugh Neilson said:

I think shields should have a passive effect - the player should have an advantage over a shieldless foe without having to sacrifice all other actions.  What if a Shield converted Block from an Attack Action to a half phase action and provided a bonus to Block which was increased if an attack action were used?

Sounds interesting! But how much does this add to the game? I’m not sure the benefit would outweigh the increase complexity.

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As anyone who has fought in armor in an SCA event knows, using a shield effectively takes skill and active effort. Anyone who thinks the shield is just going to protect them all on its own (in melee combat anyway) is simply going to lose a limb, if not their head just as quickly as someone without a shield at all.

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3 minutes ago, zslane said:

As anyone who has fought in armor in an SCA event knows, using a shield effectively takes skill and active effort. Anyone who thinks the shield is just going to protect them all on its own (in melee combat anyway) is simply going to lose a limb, if not their head just as quickly as someone without a shield at all.

This is a question of what level of abstraction do you care about and how much work are you willing to do to get there?

OK, so shields require skill.  Do we require a Weapon Familiarity with Shields?  Probably.  In a heroic game it's 1 more point on your character to use a shield.  Thats probably fair.
Should shields break?  Probably, but current Hero rules don't have any rules for weapons or armor breaking, or really wear and tear in general.  Should Shields have to track wear while weapons dont?  How about Armor?  You *can* buy ablative on your helmet, but that isn't the standard build that Hero has used in the past.

What is the effect we are trying to simulate?  This is Hero, we care about mechanics not special effects. 
- Does a shield absorb damage?  If so it should be extra def, or maybe extra body that gets lost first. 

- Does a shield prevent you from getting hit?  if so extra DCV is the way to do that.

- Does it make it easier to block?  If so it's extra OCV when making block rolls


Personally, I don't think extra defense simulates the way shields work in fiction.  Shields stop the attack or they don't, you never see a spear go through a shield to spear the guy behind it (implying it overwhelmed the DEF the shield added).  Damage to Shields might be nice, but it doesn't easily work within existing systems.  You could make shields ablative, but that doesn't take into account what kinds of damage they are resisting, and if you are using the Block rules or extra DCV to simulate the shield, how does it take damage from a negated attack?
In Hero, it isn't really a thing to make a block roll but have them do so much damage it gets through anyway.  A 90D6 Killing attack vorpal sword will be turned aside by a 1x2 stick of wood if they make their block roll.

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I agree that shields have both a passive and active effect.  Simply being there adds more armor to the area covered even if you don't bother moving it (and in some historical periods, the shields were permanently affixed to armor as an extra plate, or to the back of characters like crossbowmen for when they reloaded).  Obviously an attacker can avoid that area, but in doing so, they are definitely limiting their area of attack and hence making it harder to hit you (its like removing hit locations from the chart).

 

But they also should definitely have a more significant role when used actively.  I just dislike the "its just DCV/OCV with block" approach which seems excessively simplistic and not immersive.  It feels like a throwback to D&D.
 

Quote

In Hero, it isn't really a thing to make a block roll but have them do so much damage it gets through anyway.  A 90D6 Killing attack vorpal sword will be turned aside by a 1x2 stick of wood if they make their block roll.

 

And that is another, related issue that probably would be good to discuss.  Blocking with a shield probably should just add armor to a location rather than utterly deflect all damage.  That kind of thing is fine for Champions but maybe not FH or other heroic genres.

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6 hours ago, Jhamin said:

you never see a spear go through a shield to spear the guy behind it

 

Perhaps not spears, but lances deployed in charge by heavy cavalry (ala knights) were known to penetrate light and medium shields straight through to the defender behind.

 

It wouldn't be difficult to give shields DEF and BODY just like any other object, and to have them take damage during combat, like any other object, losing effectiveness as damage is sustained. It might not be worth the bookkeeping in terms of play value, but if realism is the goal, I believe there are standard mechanics in HERO to deal with this reasonably well.

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you never see a spear go through a shield to spear the guy behind it

 

You did in real life combat, but not very often because shields were designed to be tough enough to stop attacks.  The roman Pilum were designed to stick in the shield break off of their shaft and weigh it down so it was difficult to keep up in a defensive position, rather than punch through them, for example.  That would be a DCV drain I suppose, but its an interesting tactic.

 

 

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One option might be to allow shield users to attempt to make a block as a half phase action, which doesn’t end their turn. So they could block, then use a half phase to attack or retreat at 1/2 or 1/4 movement. 
 

That might be a bit powerful, so I would add that what is currently the DCV bonus of the shield be changed to floating modifier. For example, a large shield currently gives +3 DCV, in this variation instead it could give up to +3 OCV to block (like current rules allow) but whatever + the user takes to their block attempt, they get an equal -OCV on whatever attack they might do in their last 1/2 phase. 
 

So Eric the Viking with his large shield uses it to gain +2 OCV to his attempt to block the trolls hammer attack, this is a 1/2 phase action and he succeeds. He then tries to counter attack with his sword in his last 1/2 phase but gets -2 OCV to his attack roll. He could have only used the shield to give +1 to his block, and only take -1 to his attack, or he could have gone all out and used the full +3 to block and take a full -3 to his attack. A medium shield wound only give a max +2/-2 and a small shield +1/-1. 
 

this would I guess simulate those fights you see when it is just the two fighters swinging back and forth smashing their swords into each other’s shields. (Becomes a contest of END then, or until someone screws up and the other lands a killing blow)

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5 hours ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

 

You did in real life combat, but not very often because shields were designed to be tough enough to stop attacks.  The roman Pilum were designed to stick in the shield break off of their shaft and weigh it down so it was difficult to keep up in a defensive position, rather than punch through them, for example.  That would be a DCV drain I suppose, but its an interesting tactic.

 

 

 

:rofl:  :rofl::rofl::rofl:

 

HA!

 

I actually did not know that; thank you!

 

I laugh because in one of our fantasy world, there is a weapon with the nickname "sinker," because it works similarly.   :lol:  It's lengths of chain (short, obviously, and usually just two large, heavy rings) affixed to spear that cut from a cross-grain section of tree.  This makes it remarkably strong along its axis, as you're compressing grains (rings) together, but very easy to snap off.   The shaft can be re-used a few times (though it gets shorter). The chain has a deep cone into which the user can jam the shaft, then spear a shield, jerk the shaft sideways-- if damage is done to the shield, the sinker is embedded.

 

But I straight-up had no idea there really was a similar thing!   :lol:

 

 

Thanks, Christopher!  I'd rep you (and Mallet), but I'm all out, it seems.

 

We don't use it as a Drain, per se, but we track the weight v character's STR and END expenditure, and it won't be too long before he just can't hold it up anymore.  We also track shield BODY, in case the thing gets broken while this is going on.  Rings / chain links are used as they allow an increased chance that pole arms or flails (of proper design) can snag the shield and be used to leverage the shield away from the character, or at least away from his body, should be he strapped to it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The ideal is a system that's simple to use, represents shields being more than just bonus DCV (the book does give Defense and Body for shields, but that's just like having it for a chair; this is what it takes to destroy one, not that it acts as portable armor), and represents that you get some protection by having one, but more by using one.

 

For example: shields give +1 DCV at all times, but their full bonus when the attacker uses them, but this takes a half phase?  And the bonus to DCV is per system used in block, but attacks which hit the shield instead of perfectly deflecting, reduce the damage.

 

How do you know when an attack hit the shield?  When it hit the bonus DCV instead of the character's DCV.  In other words, if Shield Jane has DCV 4 and the shield grants +2, then if the attack hit a 5 or 6 DCV, it hit the shield instead of missing her because of her natural evasiveness.

 

The thing is, shields are actually designed to deflect, so they ought to, unless directly and deliberately attacked, reduce damage by more than the actual defense of the shield.  The proper use of a shield doesn't merely involve putting it up like a wall, but using it as a pivot on your arm to turn and move the energy of the attack away from you.

 

So, perhaps the shield has double PD, if not directly attacked?  Maybe using a shield would be a particular "defensive maneuver" which requires a half phase, but isn't treated as an attack or block, merely granting full DCV.

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2 hours ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

The proper use of a shield doesn't merely involve putting it up like a wall, but using it as a pivot on your arm to turn and move the energy of the attack away from you.

 

I think the proper use of a shield depends on the type of shield in question. A scutum, for instance, is basically a portable wall, not a "big bracer" you move around to deflect blows. A buckler, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. Most medieval shields of any real value (on a battlefield) were large and heavy and they blocked or deflected blows mostly based on the angle of the attack, not based on fancy "shield maneuvering". A soldier who spent his energy "chasing the attacks" with his shield quickly found himself too exhausted to defend himself effectively, with little left for attacks and counter-attacks.

 

Of course, none of that matters if you're not trying to achieve historical verisimilitude. If on the other hand you're aiming for swashbuckling, Hollywood-style action instead, then it probably makes more sense to just represent shields as DCV bonuses and call it a day.

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It has less to do with chasing attacks than grip, you hold it so it will turn if its hit, but not too far.  But yes, shields varied a lot.  Like I mentioned above, Crossbowmen would wear basically a table on their back that they turned toward the enemy while reloading.  Spartan troops under Alexander had their "shield" basically built into their breastplate.

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On 12/2/2020 at 1:01 PM, Christopher R Taylor said:

The thing is, shields are actually designed to deflect, so they ought to, unless directly and deliberately attacked, reduce damage by more than the actual defense of the shield.  The proper use of a shield doesn't merely involve putting it up like a wall, but using it as a pivot on your arm to turn and move the energy of the attack away from you.

 

So, perhaps the shield has double PD, if not directly attacked?  Maybe using a shield would be a particular "defensive maneuver" which requires a half phase, but isn't treated as an attack or block, merely granting full DCV.

 

Well, Hero simulates dramatic reality more than real reality.  Hence my comment a few posts up about never seeing a spear pierce a shield.  In real life I'm sure that happened but it is incredibly rare in fiction.

I'd say you should let shields give a DCV bonus when "in use" to reflect what they are deflecting.  If the DCV makes the difference, the attack misses.  If it doesn't they got around the shield.  If they actively block (as in the action), the shield helps them do so.  Giving shields the old "real armor" limit can reflect the fact that a wooden shield won't stop a lightsaber or a howitzer round, thus allowing those weapons to ignore the DCV bonus.
Opponents can attack the shield instead of the user if they want to actually break the shield.  Use the normal rules for breaking objects or foci.


If you want shield use to be an active action you are going to need to redesign the rules a bit.  Hero doesn't really have an option to take defensive actions that don't use up your whole turn.
It's really off topic, but have you seen how Pathfinder 2e handles shields?  It sounds like it might be a lot more what you are after, but of course it is a *long* way from Hero.

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