Shields, the piece of metal or wood between you and pain, and the thing that turns your fighter from a bucket of hit points into an indomitable tank. Because it’s not dealing damage it often gets overlooked by today’s modern bloodthirsty types, and it might take more than a hefty plank with handles to convince your players to maybe drop a sword in favour of some protection.
Presented below, five examples of shields with story, magical power, secrets, or just present something more interesting than a boost to armour class. The rules referenced are for Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, but can be readily modified for other editions or systems.
A pair of stags antlers woven with threads of hide and hempen chord, and backed with plates of stone and wood. It looks fragile, as if it could fall apart if carried roughly or subject to any blow that it ought to defend against. To most it is a normal shield, perhaps surprising in how effective it is given its construction, but to the clerics, paladins, and druids sworn to Jedon, warden of the wilds, the great stag who protects the wild places, it is a weapon of incredible potency.
The Aegis Antlers require attunement. If you move up to 15 feet before making an attack against a creature, that creature must succeed on a strength saving throw or be knocked prone, the DC for the save is equal to your spellcasting save. When you move and take the dash action during your turn you can attempt to move through creature’s spaces, if you do that creature must succeed on a strength saving throw or be knocked prone, and cannot take reactions. If the creature succeeds you stop moving immediately.
Charwood Tower Shield
This would be a well made wooden shield capable of protecting a grown dwarf from toe to top, except that it is burned across its entire front surface, it even smoulders a little, sheds a little ash with every blocked strike, or sometimes gives a smell of a freshly burning fire.
To wield, this tower shield requires a strength score of 14, and grants a +3 bonus to AC. It also requires a wisdom score of 14 to use its other ability.
Once per day you can turn the shield into a roaring circle of flame for a number of minutes equal to your wisdom modifier. You lose the +3 bonus to AC, and you have resistance to fire damage for the duration of the effect. The circle of flame encompasses a 5 foot diameter that remains centred on you, even if you move. When a creature moves to within the area, or starts its turn there it takes fire damage equal to 1d6 + your wisdom modifier.
Hull of the Lamplighter
Ragged and splintered at the edges, this panel of wood clearly was never intended to be used as a shield, but has since had handles attached making for a functional but uncomfortable shield. The word PLIGHT is barely outlined in faded and flaked paint, and there are small scars and saltwater damage across the wood.
The Lamplighter was built to fight, built to wage war alone against impossible odds, to fend off monsters and pirates, to defend those that could not defend themselves against the worst that happens at sea, a hero-ship, if you will. Though it may have survived by mercenary means, Captain Torband took to the waves for sincere reasons, alongside a team of friends every bit as powerful as she was. Of course, someone with so noble an ambition always attracts attention.
Stories differ about the fall of the Lamplighter, but Torband was found under a piece of the wreckage, dotted with teeth and hatchets, clinging to it like a shield. Those who honoured her and her crew made a memorial out of her last stand, and the relic has been borne by a few heroes over the years. It may not offer any magical bonuses, and it may be a little uncomfortable to carry, but no one has yet sullied the name of the Lamplighter, they only add to its legend.
Ornate to the point of ostentatious, the heater of steal and brass features the image of a radiant looking bird, perhaps a hawk, but more likely a phoenix given the apparent flames woven into the metal panels. Small enamel plates depict scenes of myth and heroism, a mountain with gigantic humanoids stood on its slopes, two boats that seem engaged in naval combat, a monster slain. K’Thandar was a man obsessed with personal glory, shameless and carefree, and if that wasn’t made clear by his shield, his journals drive it home.
An investigation check of DC 17 made over a week with both the shield and the journal may reveal a few interesting things. Odd word choices and misspellings so distinct they could only be intentional (or particularly dimwitted), and seem to fall within a pattern, a pattern that mimics notches on the outer rim of brass on the shield. Decoding it reveals:
– An alchemical compound requiring the ashes of a phoenix, that when imbibed grand the power of resurrection for a month. A single phoenix’s death produces enough ash to create two doses of the compound, along with 500 GP each of additional materials. If you drop below 0 hit points, you immediately recover all hit points and gain immunity to damage until the start of your next turn.
– The location of a treasure, a cache that belongs to any who claim it in K’Thandar’s name, protected by a cloud giant, Morovenda, who admired K’Thandar. The treasure includes 8000 in Platinum, 4000 Gold, 10,500 in assorted gems, and a belt of fire giant strength that also grants the wearer the loyalty of a pair of fire giants.
– An oath in a mystic tongue which, if sworn before a true vampire lord, earns one night of sanctuary in his or her castle.
The Night Wheel
This metal rondache varies in description over time. Black, and dotted with twinkling lights, slowly becoming a silvery white from one side, creeping across the surface until the whole face gleams, and darkening again in turn.
New Moon – Four 4 days the Night Wheel grants a +1 bonus to AC, and advantage on saving throws against spells and magic effects. Bright light within 10 feet of you becomes dim except direct sunlight, and dim light within 30 feet becomes darkness.
Waxing Moon – For 10 days the Night Wheel grants a +2 bonus to AC. When you cast a spell or use an ability that deals cold or radiant damage, you may re-roll any damage dice that show a 1 or a 2, and must use the new result.
Full Moon – For 4 days the Night Wheel grants a +4 bonus to AC. You have disadvantage on stealth checks, and your speed in water is reduced by 5 foot. Lycanthropes will not attack you if you do not attack them first.
Waning Moon – For 10 days the Night Wheel grants a +2 bonus to AC, and you have resistance to cold and radiant damage.