OSR Experiments #21: Just another thought on Shields

Why are shields underused in dark Dungeon? I was a bit nagged by the idea that my "better" system would provide such an unrealistic result. But then a thought struck me.

Dark Dungeon heroes are equipped to fight, but they don't go out to fight unless they really have to. It's not like they enter dungeons every second scene, or go into a battle. If they would, then wearing a shield would make much more sense. Especially if they would work in formation, and go in to clobber up orks with their shield wall, riot control style. Or if they went into a duel, viking style, with a few shields for spare if one got axed up.

But that's not usually the case. Heroes in DD2 are more often carousing, traveling, patrolling, visiting local nobility, solving mysteries...

And if they fight, it's because they were surprised, coming to the rescue, or are sniping from a distance anyway. And the ones that do jump into the fray prefer twohanded weapons, or another weapon in the second hand. Many of them are nobility too, who would scoff at using a big shield.

So, maybe it's not all that crazy. But I'll soon surprise them with a goblin shield wall anyway. 

Image gratefully borrowed from Wikipedia Commons.

1 comment:

  1. Partly, DD is not to blame for the dearth of shield use. By which I mean DD shares a phenomenon with AD&D: in both systems, DMs often will dream about epic-scale (or at least unit-based) warfare. To be sure, players do get a kick out of (implied) all-out warfare. But what GMs often forget that a group of (high-level) heroes does not an army make. That is to say, pc heroes tend to fight essentially the same way at their epic levels as they did when they were beginners. This means that shield walls, phalanxes of strormtroopers, and other "large unit tactics" simply do not apply in the actual game. In a fully "realistic" world, maybe they should apply. But they simply don't. At least I've never seen it materialize.
    To put it in that old movie quote: "Formations and shield walls are for military idiots who have the manpower to soak up casualties."
    Translations: npc's can (and do, and should) use such tactics. But against other NPCs. Don't get your hopes up expecting these tactics to be used against -or by- player characters.
    ...And on a more critical note, I maintain that DD players tend to shrug off such 'realism' because they know at some level any combat will be pretty much "what the GM will make of it." I mean the subjectivity of the game system makes for great flexibility but also a degree of "I'm not gonna bother much-ness."