Add the ability to use a shield similar to the enemies that have shields.
I know there are shield spells currently, but giving the player access to crafting a shield could help with survivability in the early game. Of course, certain weapons such as the crossbow, axes/slashers and the mace would be incompatible due to using both hands, but they could even give boosts to the shield abilities if equipped with a sword, reaper, spear and future 'one handed weapons'. Maybe increase the power of dual wield weapons to compensate for the lack of defence.
Shields would have its own place in the armour part of the inventory and automatically equipped upon unsheathing a one-handed weapon and ignored if a dual wield weapon was equipped. Upon pressing [Default right mouse button] (I think its unused), the player raises their shield and blocks any incoming damage similar to the enemy ability without the stun. The player can still take damage from a flank attack or AOE (Golems, Bear slam etc..) and still gain status effects. They can turn slowly with the shield out.