Really, really: I think shields are way overcosted in OD&D. This has bugged me forever! At least in 3.X, you can choose to carry a large shield that gives you +2AC. But you also have to deal with unbounded accuracy, making armor pretty feeble at the high levels. I don't think we ever played past about level 12, but even then the skill and stat inflation was just silly.
So we've been working on different shield ideas over on ODD74 and I've come up with the things I want a shield to do.
First of all, shields are constructed of thick wood with a metal rim and metal boss in the middle. They weigh 15 pounds (150cn) and are about three feet across. This means fighting men can stand at most three abreast in a dungeon corridor, but two of them can seal it off. The player may decide whether it is round, heater, or kite-shaped, but round is default. Scuta and bucklers are outside the scope of these rules, but I guess we should address those at some point.
This is not meant to be historically accurate. Various epochs had fighting men who used shields in a great variety of weights and sizes. It's just a game approximation.
Optional Shield Rules for Mythical Journeys to be included in the Referee's Guide if I ever get around to writing it.
1, Armor: Shields grant a +1 to Armor Class versus melee attacks. Facing is important - shields only protect from the left and front. Versus missile attacks, shields grant +3 to Armor Class.
2. Shield Wall: two or more adjacent figures, each carrying a shield, grant each other a bonus of +1 to Armor Class in addition to that provided from his own shield.
3. Saves: Shields provide a +3 to any Save versus traps or breath weapons of an appropriate type (Referee's option.)
4. Shields can be splintered as usual for old-style games. I would disallow the splintering of a buckler I think.
UPDATE: Upon further reflection no, shield facing should not matter in most cases. In one-minute combat rounds, the shield is much too abstract to worry about facing. But the Ref is within his rights to say that in a particular instance, such as a secret sneak attack, that shield facing does matter.
What do you think of these rules? I'm going for "simple" and useful. Do they go too far? Are they too complicated? The name of the game is keep it simple for me and for new players - that's why these rules would be in the Ref's Guide as optionals rather than under the regular equipment or combat sections.