Shields and Armour

This article lists a few shields that were not defined in the original RuneQuest 3rd Edition rules.


The RQ III rules refer to the large, heavy rectangular shield used by Roman legionaries as a hoplite shield. This is incorrect, the shields name is a scutum.

Soldiers bearing pre Marian scutum


A large cow hide shield favored by many Southern African tribes. Thebe is the Sotho word for this shield, Isihlangu the Zulu version.

These are not a one size fits all shield style. Each nation has its own distinct design and usage. Only two of many nations’ signature shields are mentioned here, more by way of evidencing the differences, rather than similarities.

The thebe shield is quite small and would act much like a target shield in terms of RuneQuest rules. It has an interesting shape with a broad upper portion to provide torso coverage form missiles.

Sotho warrior with thebe shield

The isihlangu shield is possibly more universally familiar due to the well published accounts of Zulu warriors and their battles with other tribes and later with the British. This oval shaped shield is often as tall or sometimes even taller than the warrior that carries it. Widest at the middle, it tapers to a point at each end. It is usually slightly convex, to allow missiles and poorly thrust weapons to glance off. The concavity on the bearers side can be used to store items such as weapons and rations. They are made by stretching cow hide over a light wooden frame. Due to their size and relatively light weight, the shields can be used to form shield walls, testudo or phalanxes. They will effectively cover the legs, torso and shield arm in combat. In fact it will cover the whole body if the user crouches behind it, but the combatant will have to expose head, part of chest and weapon arm to strike. As a result it is very effective when seeking cover from missile weapons.

In terms of RuneQuest rules, coverage may be best likened to a kite or scutum shield, although due to size perhaps more body areas may be covered. The shield would still be relatively light, not carry too many AP, but at the same time create a degree of encumbrance due to its size.

Zulu warriors with their isihlangu shields

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