Splintered Shields

Shields in Dungeons & Dragons have always felt somewhat lackluster. I can appreciate that little boost they grant to my character’s Armor Class, but there’s always a part of me wants to cast the old board aside so I can irk out a little bit more damage with that trusty greatsword.

Nine years ago, Trollsmyth decided to give the shield some love with a little house rule called “Shields Shall be Splintered“. The rule is pretty simple: whenever you take damage, you can have your shield absorb the force of the blow. The shield is destroyed, but you ignore the damage.

The rule has gained a great deal of traction, specifically within the OSR side of the hobby. I’ve always been intrigued by the rule, so I thought I’d take a crack at adapting it to 5e. Here’s what I have.


When a character who is wielding a shield is hit by a successful attack roll, they can allow said shield to take the blunt of the damage. This grants the character resistance against this attack roll, but the shield is destroyed and the wielder loses the benefit it provides to their Armor Class. 

Characters who are wielding magical shields can use them in this way several times before they are destroyed. The number is equal to the magical shields’ additional bonus. Once they have exceeded this amount, the shield is destroyed. For example, a character with a +2 shield can perform the above action two times before it is destroyed. 

The biggest change I made to the rule is that it now offers resistance to the wielder instead of negating the damage. This feels a little bit more thematic to me, and I feel would work better with 5e. That being said, one can easily convert it back to a complete negation if they wish.

I also decided tried to create a simple solution for the magical shield situation. I figured allowing them to be more resilient would be an easy way to handle it, and keeping the number tied to their bonus meant it was straightforward to determine. I admit I haven’t figured out what to do for magical shields that don’t grant an additional bonus to Armor Class, but I can tackle that later down the road.


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