Shield Information for Dark Souls and Dark Souls Remastered, explaining Shield mechanics and differences between the categories available to the player.
Shields come in three basic types: Small Shields, Standard Shields, and Greatshields.
These shields are light, but also weak. They generally have above-average magic and elemental resistances, but their physical damage mitigation is sub-par. At present, no known Small Shield deflects 100% of incoming physical damage. These shields also have comparatively low stability; a large amount of stamina is consumed when physical attacks are blocked, leading to a higher risk of being knocked off-balance. Small Shields typically have low deflection but are much better suited for parrying than their larger brethren. Their lighter weight also makes them ideal for quick, agile characters with low equipment weight capacity. Example shields in this category are the Small Leather Shield or the Target Shield.
These shields are a well balanced mixture of defense and weight. Standard shields vary from lighter variants used by lighter characters to heavier ones used by more robust characters. Good all round values makes this the most common shield type and the one you'll be using most of the time. A wide variety of specialized shields come in this category as well allowing the prepared adventurer to easily swap to a similarly weighted shield based on the occasion. Most of these shields have 100% physical damage reduction making them great at blocking instead of parrying. Example shields are the Crest Shield and Kite Shield.
These heavy unrelenting shields resemble more a wall than anything else. Weighing as much as 26.0 units these aren't your regular shield. These shields are too heavy for light characters to even consider wielding without sacrificing mobility or dedicated rings to lighten their load. However any character with a strong endurance who doesn't mind the heavy burden will find the best protection behind these shields. Not only do they give a major damage reduction boost against all types of damage and have the greatest Stability of all shields, they typically have the highest rates of deflection causing even heavy hitters to recoil. Small hits shouldn't even drain your stamina and even large hits and combos can be blocked without your guard being broken. Sadly the drawback is that large shields can't be used for parrying and instead have a shield bash as their secondary attack. While it can be used for breaking the enemies guard it's slow speed limits its use and is quickly redundant if your weapon of choice allows you to kick. Example shields are the Tower Shield and Stone Shield. The Greatshield of Artorias has a total of 88 stability, but the Crystal Tower Shield +5 has 90 stability which is the highest currently available, if impractical.
While these categories offer a good baseline on which to judge a shield, the only guarantee that these categories bring with them are weight ranges, physical damage reduction limits and which of three ways your character will hold the shield when blocking. Once you look past the general types of shields, the effectiveness and abilities available to each shield varies almost as much as the numbers do.
Shields are further identified by how well and in what fashion they can receive and counter attacks. As traits that are only mentioned vaguely within the game, information will be added as it is discovered.
Expressed in varying levels, Deflection identifies which types of blows will bounce off the shield and stagger the enemy and which will flow right through. With high Deflection even larger creatures won't be able to finish their combos when blocked. While most NPCs follow these rules as well there are some (Rapier w/buckler Undead Elite Knights for example) that have more Deflection than their shield should be capable of.
- None - Exceptionally weak shields or shields that you don't have the stats to use properly have no Deflection. Even if you have enough Strength to effectively wield a shield in two hands it's Deflection will be decreased to None until you have enough strength to wield it in one hand. Having no Deflection will allow any foe to combo against your guard until it is broken.
- Light - Most Small Shields have this level of Deflection. Will cause recoil for weak attacks such as the one-handed quick strike of a dagger or a sword. Simply wielding the weapon in two hands or using a strong overhead strike will allow them to follow through your shield, severely limiting the time you have to counter.
- Medium - As you might expect this is the value for the majority of Standard Shields. In addition to weaker attacks this will also cause recoil for two-handed strikes with small weapons and the one-handed strikes of larger weapons like axes. However a two-handed axe strike or any katana strike will follow through just fine.
- Heavy - At this level of Deflection you become capable of going toe to toe with creatures twice your size. Deflects all but full-force attacks from most weapons and even causes Capra Demons and Man-Serpents to stagger during their one-handed swipes. Most often found in Greatshields.
Deflection is a property that is easy to observe but hard to assess accurately. As more testing is done more refined and accurate definitions will become available.
Parrying: Most shields that aren't Greatshields have the ability to Parry when in your left hand by pressing L2 with precise timing. Though the differences can be difficult to see at first, not all parries are created equal. Special shields and weapons offer more lenient timing while lighter shields recover faster making missed parries harder to punish. Parry types vary more often than deflection properties, even within the same category of shield.
- Normal - The most common parrying speed for shields. 6 frames parry window, 18 frames recovery (24 total)
- Fast - The speed of most Small Shields and Standard Shields that weigh less than 3.0 units. 6 frames parry window, 14 frames recovery (20 total)
- Special - An exceedingly rare parry type exclusive to the Buckler, the Target Shield and the Parrying Dagger. 8 frames parry window, 19 frames recovery (27 total)
All weapons (excluding the parrying dagger) have a 6 frame parry window and varying recovery speeds.
Shields are usually upgraded to increase their stability. The higher the stability, the less stamina will be used to block an attack. Upgrading a shield to another path than Regular (or Crystal) will increase their resistance to that element (usually by 20% when fully upgraded), but the stability will stay at the base level. An elemental upgrade will also affect the shields damage when used for bashing, similar to upgrading weapons. Shields can not be upgraded to the Raw, Enchanted, Occult or Chaos paths.
- A Divine upgraded shield does not have increased resistance to magic, or any other damage type.
- Before upgrading into an elemental path, be aware that some Shields will only provide added resistance to one or two elemental damage types.
- Some Shields will also provide higher or lower resistances, compared to the base stats of other shields, with elemental upgrades. For example: A fully Magic upgraded Warrior's Round Shield has a 84.5% magic damage reduction at 1.0 unit weight.
- Cracked Round Shield - Magic & Fire +30%. Warrior's Round Shield - Magic +30%. Red & White Round Shield - Fire +30%. Caduceus Round Shield - Fire +30%. Plank Shield - Magic & Fire +30%. Small Leather Shield - Magic & Fire +30%. Leather Shield - Magic & Fire +30%. Effigy Shield - Magic +30%. East-West Shield - Magic & Fire +30%. Wooden Shield - Magic & Fire +30%. Large Leather Shield - Magic & Fire +30%. Balder Shield - Fire +30%. Pierce Shield - Fire +10%, Lightning +40%. Spiked Shield - Fire +10%, Lightning +40%. Bonewheel Shield - Fire +10%, Lightning +40%.
- Parry windows can be roughly estimated by parrying against the wall with a metal item while on a full speed elevator.
- Bash damage of shields upgraded down the Divine path used to scale with Intellgence instead of Faith, but this was adressed in patch 1.06.