Thursday, October 21, 2010


In running Star Wars for so many years, I've had to come up with quite a few of my own explanations for things that are NOT explained either in the movies or in the various sourcebooks. Shield technology is one of these things.

Space-ship shielding is pretty self-explanatory- a close-fitting 'bubble' of energy around the hull. For the sake of 'color' at least, shielding can be shifted forward or backwards on a ship (even though we never did anything with this in-game).

Planetary shields were a bit more complicated, however. Specifically when you look at the Battle of Hoth and the implications of it. First of all, the shield is powerful enough to deflect heavy bombardment (i.e. Star Destroyers don't even bother trying to bombard the planet). But at the same time, you can apparently insert ground-troops beneath a shield in order to take it down (witness the AT-AT walkers). I've probably talked about this before, but to me, this suggests (and was proven by the Gungan shields in Episode I), that shields can be 'walked through' by ground units. Therefore, in my game, I had the rule that ground-based shields have a disruptive effect on repulsorlift vehicles. Thus, while you can 'walk' through and under them, you can't 'fly' through their periphery- even at ground level.

The big question that I've never really delved into, however, is the reason why NO ground-based vehicles seem to have shield generators. They certainly don't in the RPG, and in Empire Strikes Back the rebels talk about the 'Armor' on the AT-ATs being too strong- not their shields. This led me to believe that maybe there was some kind of 'disruptive' quality to ground-based vehicles that prevented them from using shields effectively.

And then we see Destroyer droids. They are ground-based and they have shields. How do you reconcile this? Well, I suppose you could say that they were a 'special' kind of shield that ONLY worked with that droid type, but that seems to be a cheap answer. You could also say that shields are perhaps too expensive to use on ground-based vehicles/droids. But how expensive can they REALLY be? Regular, ship-sized shield generators aren't all that expensive. So, yeah. It is something of a quandry.

In my musings, however, I struck upon the idea that perhaps the reason why Shielding isn't used on ground based vehicles is because it severely slows them down. This could easily be backed up by what we see in the movies. Destroyer droids with their shields deployed move only VERY slowly. They can't seem to keep those shields active in their faster 'rolling' form. So maybe shields create some kind of 'bond' or 'suction' to the surface they are deployed against. This seems to make sense and also fits with the idea of planetary shields forming a 'loose bond' with the terrain over which they're deployed. So, if ground vehicles DID have shielding, it would 'latch onto' the ground and drag the vehicle to a near halt. And nobody wants to be in a slow moving target, even if you do have a bit more protection.

So in short (too late)- this explains (to me at least) why ground vehicles don't have shields. It makes more sense for them to have armor and mobility than to have shields and become a near-stationary target.

This also has the added benefit (to me again) of making personal shielding devices limited as well. The idea of people (or droids) running around with 'shield belts' just feels very un-Star Wars to me. It would change the feel of combat and of the whole setting. Up until now, I have just disallowed such technology (at least for my PCs). But now I have a reason why it isn't used- and some limitations if it ever /is/ used. Essentially I'd have to say that you could only move at 'walking' speed while wearing a personal shield (if you could even find one). Thus, in a fast-moving firefight they wouldn't really be worth it. works for me (so far). Thoughts? Opinions?


  1. All good points. You could reason that the shields and high-powered weapons on droideka's made for a high cost (i.e., power output) and once the clone wars finished the cash wasn't around to justify keeping them in production.

    Ergo, you don't see the droids around in the OT, and you don't see newer models with the shield tech.

  2. Yeah, I'm definitely including the price qualifier as a reason why shields aren't used, at least not for 'grunt' troops or droids.

  3. In 2000's Star Wars: Force Commander, the Rebel T1-B hovertank has a shield system. It moved slower than other repulsorcraft, but took several walker hits before exploding.