We have a new to tabletop RPGs player in my "regular" gaming group, so I decided we should use a stripped down version of the 2nd edition rules set. Got rid of weapon speed to affect initiative. Also got rid of the proficiency system, and am using common sense to dictate encumbrance. There are two additional rules however that aren't in the game that I'm currently using.
I didn't want character creation to take all night, so I made a ruling stating that both the initial players(both playing humans) understood common. I also told them the additional number of languages they could automatically know. When they came across a group of orcs, I let them make an intelligence check to determine whether or not they know orcish. Those who pass, understand orcish and fill up one of their language slots. I also stated(because the warrior could only automatically know 1 additional language beyond common) that if the character wanted to learn additional languages, they'd have to be taught in game, which could take a lot of in-game time.
Trollsmyth had a really awesome idea about this very topic. However, I felt it wasn't exactly what I wanted. Each time a character with a shield would be hit by an attack or attack spell(magic missile, lighting bolt, a breath weapon against appropriately sized shield), the character may choose to use his/her shield to absorb the damage.
The shield type determines how many blows the shield can be used to block in this fashion. Bucklers may block 1 melee or projectile each round, Small shields 2 melee or 1 projectile each round, Medium/Kite shields can block 3 melee or projectile attacks each round, and Large Shields can block 4 melee attacks or 6 projectile attacks each round. Tower shields are a special case in that they can block all attacks be they projectile or melee in a round, but only if they come from a single direction. Magical shields may block 1 more additional attack for each +1 bonus they have.
When a shield absorbs the damage, the shield needs to make a save. For simplicity, I just use the PC saves, whichever one feels appropriate at the time based on the damage being absorbed, but item saves could work too based on the materials the shield is made out of. If the save is passed, the shield survives the blow and may be used again. If it is failed the shield instead breaks, and must be repaired or replaced. Damage only gets through the shield if the save is a natural 1, or the attack roll was a natural 20(in which case, the shield breaks anyway). Magical shields gain a bonus on their saves equal to their +X.
The trade off is that the PC no longer gets an AC bonus from the shield(unless it's a magical shield).
In addition to all this, a character able to use shields may sacrifice all the blocks in a round with any shield except Tower to make an additional attack with his/her shield. The damage is Buckler 1d3/1d2, Small 1d4/1d3, Medium/Kite/Large: 1d6/1d4