Sunday, 18 April 2010

Shoving and Shield Walls

Further to Trollsmyth's interesting post on using simple mechanics to create emergent gameplay effects, here are some quick-and-dirty shield wall rules I'll probably be instituting in the Vaults game.

0:35 to 0:58 - in D&D there's no point in doing this.

"Shield Wall!"
Shield-armed footmen may form a shield wall/phalanx/flying wedge formation on a chosen linchpin combatant during the movement phase of the combat round. Any shield-armed warrior in this formation receives a +1 bonus to AC, over and above that normally awarded by his shield (i.e.: +2 for a small shield, +3 for large).
Shield walls may entirely block narrow passes, corridors or gateways until broken and driven back. Assume ~3' of frontage per warrior.

Maintaining formation
A successful Morale check (see LL p47, or monster description), modified by the Cha Reaction Adjustment of the linchpin character, the allows the shield wall to retain formation and AC bonus when advancing into melee or making a fighting withdrawal.

Breaking the shield wall
Any of the following break a shield wall and negate its bonus until it reforms:
  • Sacrificing one's shield to negate a blow (see Shields Shall be Splintered!),
  • Killing or rendering hors de combat the linchpin of the shield wall,
  • Charging into/withdrawing from melee without a successful Morale check,
  • Individually withdrawing from combat,
  • Retreating from combat ("Leggit lads!").

These rules are unplaytested at time of writing. Comments, criticism and questions sought and welcomed.

(edit: Please excuse the alternate title that may have appeared in your RSS feed or blog sidebar. This was an error on my part, and an object lesson in the hazards of editing several posts at once.)


  1. I think I'd pretty much do it the same way, with tiny differences (I don't factor in shield sizes to AC, for example.) But one important difference is that I'd have the group attack as a whole, with a single combat roll for the lynchpin at -1, but simultaneously damaging as many opponents as the width of the shield wall. If there's a second row with long weapons that can reach past the first row, there's no extra damage except against a charge, but the lynchpin gets a +1, more for additional rows.

    Also, instead of requiring a round to form the phalanx, I'd have both sides roll for speed, to see if the phalanx is formed before the enemy attacks. I'd use the same speed roll for replacing warriors in the front line.

  2. I've been in a few shield walls in re-enactment combat. It's tremendous fun when they crunch together and even more fun when you charge in and break a shield wall, this usually results in your getting thumped, but sufficient momentum can allow you to punch right through and carve up the tightly packed geezers still stuck in formation.

    One of the things that shield wall and phalanx formations do is maximise the number of defender's weapons that can strike at an attacker and minimise the number of opponents that can get at any individual in the shield wall.

    So, in addition to the very sensible rules you've already proposed I would add -no more than two opponents (or three with spears) can strike at an individual in an intact shield wall unless they are on a flank.

    Oh, and guys with small shields cannot make shield walls, that's just a bunch of idiots crowding together;)

  3. @James: Ta. Loving your OSR News round ups BTW. A fantastic public service.

    @Talysman: Interesting. I read your take on things as almost like the shield wall forming a huge armoured, porcupine-spiked battlesuit around the rally point. It's just crazy and flavourful enough to work...

    @Tom: Good idea with the max. no. of attackers rule. I held back from that kind of thing coz:

    i) I worry about getting too HackMasterish with ever more added details,
    ii) we use super-abstract combat positioning ("Hither, Yon, Gone"), and
    iii) half my players are casual gamers in the "I wanna do this. What do I roll?"/"Math is haaaaard" mode. ;)

  4. "I read your take on things as almost like the shield wall forming a huge armoured, porcupine-spiked battlesuit around the rally point."

    Pretty much, although players can skip the "I'll form the head!" "I'll form the legs!" "ICE CREAM CONE! ICE CREAM CONE!" part.


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