Friday, October 23, 2009

[GURPS] Shields as Cover.

A shield is not just a portable wall that flickers in and out of the character's way. Shields were intentionally designed with the users behind it as full cover as they advanced.

The role of the shield tends to be overlooked and systems tend to represent it poorly, which further spreads the misinformation. I am aware that this is done for more game-able purposes, but the current rules as is have the ability to represent these concepts without adding anything.

In the RAW, there is nothing stopping you from applying the shield in a realistic manner: where the character uses it as cover, putting as much of the character's body behind it. Doing this the Character drops their DB bonus (because the shield ceases to be reactive). The rules can be found in B408.

  • Medium Shields, typically can provide full cover. Kite Shields, with their reverse teardrop shape, can be stabbed on the ground to stand as cover while reloading weapons.
  • Small Shields, Can serve as half cover, or full cover when crouched behind it. A Small Kite Shield, can be stabbed on the ground and used by crossbowmen as full cover who can kneel to reload and fire.

In GURPS, shields provide a Defense Bonus to all active defenses. Intentionally the “game” aspect ignores the fact that most shield training, has a default guard position covering the torso. This guard position is why spears and shortswords are preferred over axes and maces. Spears allows the combatant to maintain his guard position while attacking because it allows the torso to maintain its profile againts the opponent, unlike axes/maces and broadswords that require the torso to turn for mechanical efficiency for the swinging motion. Shortswords and Knives, allow the Shield bearer to slip a blade without sacrificing this valuable guard position.

How to reflect it in GURPS? There is 2 aspects that need to change in order to maintain a level of balance and realism if one is going to apply these insights into GURPS combat. 1- Shields, realistically are more fragile than the rules would lead you to believe. 2 – Certain Weapons designed to break shields should enter play.

Medium Shields $60 15lbs

  • DR2, 20HP, HT12, Over penetration 7
  • Cheap Version $36

Small Shields $40 8lbs

  • DR2, 16HP, HT12 Over penetration 6
  • Cheap Version $36 HT9

Light Shield $25 2lbs

  • DR2, 10HP, HT12 Over penetration 4
  • Cheap Version $15 HT9


According to B405, for Picks.

Impaling and Piercing Weapons that deal enough damage to penetrate DR may get stuck. So javelins, arrows, Spears, Knives, that penetrate DR will stick to the shield. For simplicity's sake, ignore the damage tolerance rules for shields.


Overpenetration (B408) is the Blow Through DR of an object. Separate from an object's DR, which usually protects the object itself, the OP is the DR for the person behind the object.

Once the shields are more destructible (which they are that is why there is a specialize role called shield bearers), you can just add it to the other character combat options for the spear and shortsword users to hold the shield guard as cover. Basically this makes the shield grant their DR to the character's general torso and will require the opponent to attack harder targets.

What will this do to my game: Bandits, with no armor and crappy shields will put up more of a fight than usual. $24-$36 for a wooden barrier covering one's vitals will have the setting littered with broken shields.

More Javelins, Axes and Maces will be around as shield disablers.

Swords will be more rare and less used.

A character can equip themselves at less than $70:

Small shield $24 + Cheap Spear $24;Small shield $24 + Cheap Axe $30;Medium Shield $36 + Cheap Spear $24;Medium Shield $36 + Cheap Axe $30;
In a GURPS basic set game, these rules will change the way characters can fight because the shield is lighter and more effective then the armor available (which will be rebalanced late next year in low tech).


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