This is an optional rule for increasing the usefulness of shields in d20.

When using a shield against an opponent who does not have a shield (bucklers do not count for this), add the shield AC modifier to your attack rolls against that opponent.

Modeling the versatility of the shield in this case it is about stressing its usefulness when one is fighting another who has no shield. The shield can take & deflect blows, and because of this allow effective counter-striking; since one has much better protection against sneaky things like sliding over the ricasso.

Try it out in your next d20 game and tell me what you think. Suddenly that 2 or 3 points of shield AC becomes very useful against all those beasts with stupidly high “Natural AC” bonuses.

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