I was trying to think of a way to allow my level 20 Barbarian to be able to take both Shield Master and Great Weapon Master, since Shield Master would support my tanking role in the party, and well, GWM is GWM. I have read these potentially related questions, but do not think they adequately address my feat-specific question.

My first roadblock appears to be that each feat requires the wielding of specific items.

Great Weapon Master states (emphasis mine):

Before you make a melee attack with a heavy weapon that you are proficient with, you can choose to take a -5 penalty to the attack roll. If the attack hits, you add +10 to the attack’s damage.

As far as I know, since there are no one-handed heavy weapons, in order to make use of this part of the feat a 2-handed weapon is required.

Unfortunately, this potentially conflicts with Shield Master, which states (emphasis mine):

You use shields not just for protection but also for offense. You gain the following benefits while you are wielding a shield:

Thus, on its face, these 2 feats seem incompatible, since GWM requires using a 2 handed weapon, and Shield Master requires wielding a shield.

This leads me to my question:

How can I make these two feats work together?

One solution I've been considering is to use an Animated Shield (emphasis mine):

While holding this Shield, you can speak its Command Word as a Bonus Action to cause it to animate. The Shield leaps into the air and hovers in your space to protect you as if you were wielding it, leaving your hands free. The Shield remains animated for 1 minute, until you use a Bonus Action to end this effect, or until you are Incapacitated or die, at which point the Shield falls to the ground or into your hand if you have one free.

Since using an Animated Shield leaves my hands free and, based on the wording, imbues me with the benefit of wielding a shield, I think I could feasibly gain the benefits of Shield Master while also wielding a 2-handed weapon for GWM.

Would using an Animated Shield allow me to take the full benefits of each feat? Are there other ways that I could synthesize both feats (eg maybe there ARE one-handed heavy weapons)?


2 Answers 2


Yes, this works

You have quoted all of the relevant bits, but the Animated Shield works the same as a wielded shield without Wielding it with your actual hands that are holding onto a Heavy Weapon.

This is also a Very Rare item - it's special and powerful!

Crawford confirms

The key phrase comes from the Animated Shield, which states, emphasis mine (DMG, 151) :

...protects you as if you are wielding it

"As If you are wielding it" is equivalent to "wielding it".

This interpretation is supported by Jeremy Crawford's tweet.

The text of animated shield says the item protects you as if you were wielding it. To Shield Master and the like, you're wielding it.

Not without a cost

The investment cost is two of your ASIs (and you still need to get, and keep, that Animated Shield.)

(Don't?) Hold on a minute...

Just a reminder, but the Animation requires a Bonus Action and only lasts 1 minute. You only get ONE bonus action/turn so your first round would be used doing this (so no, extra attack for a crit/kill from GWM or any other Bonus Actions you may have available.) In addition, if your encounter lasts longer than 1 minute, the shield will fall unless you use another Bonus Action to start it back up.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I might be reading into your answer a bit, but are you implying that the ASI investment is not worth it? \$\endgroup\$ Jun 26, 2017 at 14:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @B.S.Morganstein Not my decision to make :) Depends on your character, their stats, and how you want to build it. It's a pretty neat combo, though! \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Jun 26, 2017 at 14:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ If he is implying it, I agree. A Barbarian can get better use out of raw stats than most characters. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.J.L.
    Jun 26, 2017 at 14:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch Shouldn't that be don't hold a minute? After all... not holding is the whole point of the animated shield. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – T.J.L.
    Jun 26, 2017 at 14:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @T.J.L. Okay...second Pun added :P \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Jun 26, 2017 at 15:09

You should speak with your DM to determine if this will be acceptable in the game you play.

An argument can certainly be made to support using the feats together as you describe with Animated Shield. If we change the emphasis slightly, it's also possible to come to a different conclusion:

You use shields not just for protection but also for offense. You gain the following benefits while you are wielding a shield:

That suggests that when you take that feat your shields now do two separate things - protect and attack.

The Shield leaps into the air and hovers in your space to protect you as if you were wielding it, leaving your hands free.

The wording of animate shield only mentions the protection portion of a shield's functionality. It's not clear from the rules themselves if that is actually meant to mean, "The shield functions in all the same ways as a shield you are wielding," or if it is intended to restrict only to the defensive capabilities of the shield.

Again, I'm not saying that interpretation is the correct RAW interpretation, but I don't think it's a stretch for your DM to see it that way. I would tend to rule this way in the games I run. I think of a magic item like this to be "programmed" in a way. It knows how to be a shield (and block attacks). Just because it's protecting someone knowledgeable about how to use it as a weapon doesn't mean the shield would suddenly know how to do that.

  • \$\begingroup\$ In light of the tweet from Sage Advice in the other answer, do you still think the DM could argue against my interpretation of the wording? \$\endgroup\$ Jun 26, 2017 at 16:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @B.S.Morganstein The DM is always allowed to make a table ruling. If your DM doesn't want those two things to work together they don't have to do so. You can present your arguments, and that it is not an optimal build strategy, but if at the end they rule against, then that's the decision. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Jun 26, 2017 at 17:40

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