Shields come in all shapes and sizes. In previous editions of D&D, size did matter. Smaller shields, like bucklers and other circular shields, only gave you a +1 to AC, while medium shields gave a +2, and the largest of tower shields granted a +4.
In the 5th edition, however, shields grant a universal +2 to AC. Similarly, while 3rd edition had rules allowing you to perform a shield bash, 5th edition did away with those rules and left it up to the DMs at the table to work out.
That is why Black Citadel is here: to fill in the gaps for players and DMs to help you know what has been done before, make suggestions for what could be done anew, and encourage you to go balls to the wall and make up your own stuff completely!
In that spirit, we have gathered information on the historical Kite Shield — its uses, its makers’ intentions, and how that can translate into something a little more specific for your world.
What Is a Kite Shield in DnD 5e?
A kite shield is a historical shield specific to cavalry. In DnD 5e, kite shields can be recreated with simple modifications.
Kite Shield Stat Block
(Homebrewed by Black Citadel RPG)
- Type: Shield
- Cost: 10 gp
- Weight: 6 pounds
A kite shield is made from wood or metal and is strapped to one arm. Its elongated bottom is designed to cover a rider’s leg while mounted and can also be used as an improvised piercing weapon for 1d4 + your Strength modifier. Wielding a kite shield increases your Armor Class by 2 or by 3 if you are mounted. You can benefit from only one kite shield at a time.
Who Can Use a Kite Shield in DnD 5e?
Anyone who can use a shield could easily use a kite shield. It functions on the same principles, and the rules for D&D 5e do not differentiate between whether shields are held with a handle or an arm strap. Nor do they differentiate by size.
Who Should Use a Kite Shield?
Given that a Kite Shield was historically used by cavalry and the stat block grants an additional +1 to AC for a mounted rider, the ideal kite shield users would be mounted melee combatants.
While it is possible to hold a shield in one hand and use a sling, javelin, spear, or dagger as a ranged weapon, you can not use a crossbow, short bow, or longbow. In general, most ranged cavalry combatants prefer archery as their main weapon skill.
(However, a halfling ranger who rides a Fastieth and uses a sling with a kite shield is a tantalizing build, particularly if they take the Druidic Warrior fighting style and gain access to magic stones. Eh?)
Using a Kite Shield as a Weapon
Historically, there are many armchair scholars who would say the pointed edge of a kite shield can be used as a weapon against infantry that swarms your horse.
Personally, I disagree. Try strapping something to your forearm and swing down with it. You only get maybe 6 inches of effective swing space, severely restricting the amount of force you can build up.
Force equals mass times velocity, right? If a shield is too heavy, it can’t be held during a pitched battle. So, you have neither mass nor velocity in a downward strike from a mounted position with a kite shield.
However, anything is possible. You could brace with your hand on top of the shield and push it down. You could sharpen the shield enough to cut and go for the sensitive portions of the face and neck. Face it — hurting people is easy, and if you are determined, you can do it from almost any angle.
Based on the rules for improvised weapons, I would suggest allowing the shield to be used as such if the player is trying to scratch or stab with the bottom point. Because of the arm strap, however, I would not allow a kite shield to be used as a bludgeoning weapon.
Shields as Improvised Weapons
Shield bashing is a technique as old as shields, really. I imagine a pre-historical arms dealer with a block of wood saying, “Look! You can block with it, and then bash them on the upswing!”
Shield bashing serves a dual purpose of allowing someone to push an enemy back. However, pushing someone does not hurt them, it just moves them.
If you beat someone with a shield, you are probably swinging it broadside or popping them with the edge. Either way, it is effectively a club and should deal 1d4 bludgeoning damage.
Kite shields differ in that the pointed edge could reasonably cause piercing in lieu of bludgeoning.
Improving the Kite Shield
There is a small list of official abilities and feats that will improve your ability with a shield.
Shield Master is a feat that seems fairly straightforward. You are granted a bonus attack, a shield bonus to Dexterity saves, and what is essentially the monk’s evasion ability while wearing a shield.
However, what is not mentioned in the feat description is that, while mounted and in conjunction with the Mounted Combatant feat, all of these bonuses also apply to your mount!
For a kite shield user, that combination is absolutely paramount.
You use shields not just for protection but also for offense. You gain the following benefits while you are wielding a shield:
- If you take the Attack action on your turn, you can use a bonus action to try to shove a creature within 5 feet of you with your shield.
- If you aren’t incapacitated, you can add your shield’s AC bonus to any Dexterity saving throw you make against a spell or other harmful effect that targets only you.
- If you are subjected to an effect that allows you to make a Dexterity saving throw to take only half damage, you can use your reaction to take no damage if you succeed on the saving throw, interposing your shield between yourself and the source of the effect.
Protection is a fighting style from the fighter class ability list. You can impose disadvantage on any attack that happens to an ally provided the ally is within 5 feet of you and you are wearing a shield.
Now imagine multiple mounted combatants riding in tandem with this ability and armed with kite shields. You are getting closer to the cavalry charge with every ally who joins in!
When a creature you can see attacks a target other than you that is within 5 feet of you, you can use your reaction to impose disadvantage on the attack roll. You must be wielding a shield.
There are many historical accuracies that could be added to Dungeons and Dragons if you ever feel the urge. Like the kite shield, all it usually takes is an extra sentence or two.
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I played the game a lot as a kid, back in first edition. Over the past few years since 5e was released, I’ve really started getting back into it. Currently, I run a campaign online for some friends and my brothers, and we also play a side-sesh just to mix things up.