D&D (2024) Should shields, like Simple weapons be available to all characters?

Should shields, like Simple weapons be available to all characters?

Again, the 'expected outcome' is an aesthetic of 'bathrobe wizard', which I don't find all that valuable.
I think we've stumbled on the crux of the issue. Some people do like that some wizards are out adventuring in something other than military gear. Getting a system where both can be played (without one player having to do something tactically nonsensical for their preferred flavor) is no small task. I think the D&D2024 route with armor/shield proficiency available to anyone at level 1 through feat selection is at least a pretty reasonable way to accomplish this.

log in or register to remove this ad

Honestly, I would not have a problem that all characters are proficient with all weapons and armor.

Weapon proficiency without investment in STR/DEX, fighting style, feats, various attack riders means very little, mostly is +1 average on damage.
It's not even worth printing 2 sets of weapons because of 2 categories of weapons.

All armor should be gated on STR:
want to wear lightest leather armor? Sure, min STR of 10. So no STR dumping for wizards.
Fullplate? STR 18.
There are certainly game systems which do this. GURPS is a relatively well-known one -- Everyone can use armor*, but the cost (financial and encumbrance) are significant. Being able to manage those costs (without penalties elsewhere) requires additional investment. D&D certainly could go this route**. I guess the question for me would be how do we do this without making every 10+ str wizard who is not wearing leather armor utterly mad (because then we are simply excluding one playstyle preference for the other)?
*or shields, but like weapons doing so without skill has diminished returns compared to someone more dedicated to physical combat
**it already kinda does with weapons, in that just having proficiency in them isn't that meaningful without high attributes and maybe class features like extra attack and such.

This is one of those places where people seem to want to have their cake and eat it to in regards to verisimilitude/realism and game/fun factor. In the end, since 5E is about as unrealistic a set of rules one can imagine, it is probably best to consider how it would affect game balance. What should a character have to give up for that +2 AC. Fighters in 5E give up a point of damage per hit for it, on average. What should the wizard give up?
D&D has definitely not been known for adhering closely to realism. Particularly with skill systems (including 'proficiency') where you either are or are not skilled in something (possibly with some level-based granularity in that).

Also time it takes to get from unskilled to 'could start using in applied situations' varies wildly. Wearing armor is a skill, but one you can get to relative competence in a relatively short order with consistent training (basic training for modern armor, or number of sessions into SCA/HEMA training before you're allowed to put on your own gear and people can swing things at you). Learning to use a shield or many weapons requires maybe a bigger hurdle to get past the fighting-impulses-which-are-actually-detrimental phase Dyson Logos mentions with shield, and then a slow lifelong trajectory of skill increase. Slings and Longbows**, yeah, how much time do you have?
*maintenance of, and maybe even putting on and off of plate armor and the like, maybe taking longer to get to 90% competent.
**this one inextricably entangled with overall physical conditioning in ways most games aren't set up to model.

Honestly, if realism were the primary metric, I would make wearing armor something anyone could learn with downtime like a language, but shields would be like weapons in that you would need build-mechanic parcels like initial class/multiclassing/feats to gain them (these at least being a consistent circumventing of modelling training time).

Again, the 'expected outcome' is an aesthetic of 'bathrobe wizard', which I don't find all that valuable.
And I find it more valuable for heroic fantasy than the aesthetic of "every character is equipped in tacticool military surplus" which is where you end up with everyone getting proficiencies and there is a significant bonus but no significant opportunity cost for things like shields.

Meanwhile OneD&D with the level 1 feats is doing better, allowing Tacticool wizards in medium armour and shields, skilled wizards, lucky wizards, and more and you get to lean in to whichever aesthetic you want.


I would reject the premise that simple weapon proficiency should be available to all characters. Anyone can pick up a spear and use it, but using it with your proficiency bonus should require some level of training from your class or background.

That said, I wonder if the penalties for using a shield without proficiency are too harsh. Using a weapon without training is effectively a -2 attack penalty at low levels. Using a shield without training puts all your attacks at disadvantage and prevents spellcasting outright.

Which isn't there and won't be there regardless.
Unless you get your way and all wizards get shield proficiency. If shield proficiency is free (as you wish to make it) and wizards only really need one hand for spellcasting while shields don't have serious drawbacks then there are only going to be two types of adventuring wizard. Tacticool wizards wearing ex military hardware (in this case shields - and probably the fighter's hand-me-downs much of the time) and suicidal idiots willing to give up two to five points of AC for no real benefit, thus making them significantly more likely to die.


He Mage
But then are wizards fighting men who can sometimes cast fireball? I imagine them as the bookish type who were for some reason dragged around but still does not like close combat.
Wizards are individualistic and highly diverse.

They choose their favorite spells to become very different kinds of Wizards.

Some Wizards are melee-combating jocks.

Some Wizards are range-kiting nerds.

It depends on the character concept that the player has in mind.

Keep in mind, most Wizards have olympic-level endurance training. Wizards are physically tough.


I like how shields are 'tacticool' military hardwear.

Shields have never been cool. not even scare buzzwording them to 'military hardware' will change that.


One day, I hope to actually play DnD.
Why not extend this the other way? Everyone can pick 3 cantrips and a first level spell to cast each day? Magic is apparently super easy to learn in 5E given how little noncasters get in terms of fighting and skills compared to casters.
only three cantrips? tight much? everybody should be able to pick up at least 1/3rd casting on a dime.

wait no, someone might actually take this seriously as a genuine encouragement for making everyone a caster.


Upcoming Releases