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Version 0.14: This article may not be up to date for the latest stable release of Crawl.
“Let who will boast their courage in the field,

I find but little safety from my shield.
Nature's, not honour's, law we must obey:
This made me cast my useless shield away,
And by a prudent flight and cunning save
A life, which valour could not, from the grave.
A better buckler I can soon regain;
But who can get another life again?”
-Archilochos. 7th cent. B.C. trans. William H. Goodwin, 1878.

Shields are a kind of armour worn in one hand, preventing the use of two handed weapons, which use the Shields skill. Unlike other armour, shields increase a character's SH defense, giving you a chance at blocking physical (and some magical) attacks entirely. Certain spells can also grant you an SH score.


Shield Penalties

Wearing a shield also gives penalties to attack speed, attack damage, and spellcasting, along with EV penalties of -0.8 (buckler), -3 (shield), or -5 (large shield). While the penalty for wearing a small buckler is almost negligible, a large shield can seriously slow your attacks and make spellcasting unreliable. Sufficient Shields skill will reduce or even negate these penalties, but the amount needed varies by race:

Size Races Buckler Shield Large shield
Little Spriggan 7.2 - -
Small Kobold, Halfling 5.6 21 -
Normal most races 4 15 25
(normal torso) & Formicids
Centaur, Naga, Formicid 2.4 9 15
Large Ogre, Troll - 9 15

Your Shield penalty is (Shield EV penalty) - (Shields skill)/(5 + (Size factor)). Shield EV penalty and Size factor can be looked up in these tables:

Shield type Shield EV penalty
Buckler -0.8
Shield -3
Large shield -5
Size Races Size factor
Little Spriggan +4
Small Kobold, Halfling +2
Normal most races 0
(normal torso) & Formicids
Centaur, Naga, Formicid -2
Large Ogre, Troll -2

If you are wearing a shield, wielding a one-handed weapon, and your Shield penalty is greater than zero, the game throws two dice with (Shield penalty) sides. The smaller one is added to your delay.

The penalty for unarmed combat is like the penalty for one-handed weapons, but your delay is increased by one aut, 50% of the time, regardless of your Shield penalty.

The penalty for using a shield with a bow, longbow and crossbow is an increased attack delay: +25% for bucklers / +50% for shields / +100% for large shields. This penalty can be halved with 27 levels in the Shields skill becoming: +12.5%/+25%/+50%. Slings and throwing don't suffer any kind of penalty.

If you are wearing a 0 EVP armour, you need less shield skill to eliminate just the casting penalties:

Size Races Buckler Shield Large shield
Little Spriggan 0 - -
Small Kobold, Halfling 0 15.19 -
Normal most races 0 10.85 20.85
(normal torso) & Formicids
Centaur, Naga, Formicid 0 6.51 12.51
Large Ogre, Troll - 6.51 12.51



It's possible to block a melee attack if you wear a shield of some kind or are under the effect of a magical shield (the Helm card's Magic Shield, Qazlal's Storm Shield, or the Shining One's Divine Shield). Ranged attacks can be blocked only with physical shields, like bucklers, shields, large shields or the Large Bones Plates mutation. The Shining One's Divine Shield will only help you block missiles if you already have a physical shield of some kind. Your ability to block missiles doesn't benefit from spells like Repel Missiles or Deflect Missiles. If the attacker's pierce value is less than the defender's blocking value, the attack does no damage. Shield blocking is done before rolling your evasion or your AC, but if you have already blocked some attacks in that turn, your blocking ability will be decreased greatly.

All melee attacks can be blocked (except a successful stabbing), but many ranged attacks are unblockable:

Some examples of ranged attacks that can be blocked: Iron shot, Poison Arrow, Orb of Destruction, Lehudib's Crystal Spear, Iskenderun's Mystic Blast (the explosion is special), Throw Icicle, Stone Arrow, Throw Flame, Throw Frost, Flame Tongue, Sting, Sandblast


The defender's blocking value depends on the nature of the shield:

Physical shields:

SH = Block × (1 + Shield skill/40 + Beogh bonus/60)
+ Enchantment bonus + Stat bonus 
+ min(0.38×Shield skill, .57 + 0.19×Shield skill)

or Helm card (this does not stack with a physical shield):

SH = 4.5 + 0.375×Evocations

and then on top of either of those:

+ Divine shield bonus
+ Qazlal shield bonus
+ Mutation bonus
+ Cigotuvi's Embrace bonus
+ Amulet of reflection bonus
+ Any SH bonus from artifacts

For a physical shield (Buckler, Shield and Large Shield), Block is the shield's blocking value, equal to the base shield bonus (3 for Buckler, 8 for Shield, 13 for Large Shield), modified by a size factor:

Size Races Buckler Shield Large shield
Little Spriggan +2 - -
Small Kobold, Halfling +1 +0.5 -
Normal most races 0 0 0
(normal torso) & Formicids
Centaur, Naga, Formicid 0 0 0
Large Ogre, Troll - -0.5 0
  • Beogh bonus increases with Piety. This additional bonus maxes out at +10 when you reach 160 Piety.
  • Stat bonus is 38×DEX for bucklers, 19×STR + 19×DEX for shields, or 26×STR + 12×DEX for large shields. Then this value is multiplied by (block + 13)/26, and by 100.
  • The Shinining One's Divine shield bonus is 4.5 + 0.3×Shield skill. Your stat bonus will be increased to (9 + 0.6×Shield skill) if it was smaller.

The resulting value is rounded to the nearest integer and displayed as the player's SH value.

For reference, a 15-Dex, 15-Str character wearing a buckler has an average blocking value of:

  • 3 with a Shield Skill of 0
  • 6 with a Shield Skill of 8
  • 8 with a Shield skill of 15
  • 11 with a Shield skill of 27

With a large shield, it becomes:

  • 11 with a Shield Skill of 0
  • 15 with a Shield Skill of 8
  • 19 with a Shield skill of 15
  • 25 with a Shield skill of 27

The attacker's pierce value is equal to:

1d(15 + to hit/2 + 5×past_blocks^2) - 1 (melee attacks)
1d(1.3×to hit    + 5×past_blocks^2) - 1 (ranged attacks)   

"To hit" is the monster's To hit value (based primarily on the monster's HD, type, and weapon accuracy) and "past_blocks" is the number of attacks already successfully blocked in the current turn.

The defender's blocking value is equal to:

 2d(2×SH)/6 - 1.3 (Divided by 3 against melee attacks from invisible opponents)

If this value is greater or equal than the attacker's pierce value, the attack is blocked.


In 0.16, the amount of skill required to negate penalties for wearing a shield will be simplified.