If you are wielding a shield, is that arm/hand available to be used to hold another item or object? Or is that arm/hand completely occupied by the Shield?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Hold another item or wield it? \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Apr 6 '18 at 17:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ Let's go with hold, since if you're wielding you're already holding. But you could be holding but not wielding. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Apr 6 '18 at 17:17

RAW, Your hand is occupied.

The description of a Shield in the PHB states...

Shields. A shield is made from wood or metal and is carried in one hand. Wielding a shield increases your Armor Class by 2. You can benefit from only one shield at a time.

Emphasis Mine from PHB p144

Thus, the PHB seems to be referring to shields that are 'held' with the hand, not simply 'strapped' to the arm.

In the medieval era, this was the norm. You'd either have a handle you gripped, a handle + a strap, or two straps (but you'd hold one of them in your fist). If you just strap a shield to your arm and don't have it mechanically affixed to your armor or something...the first time something hits it, it's just going to spin, hit you in the face or legs, and then be useless...because there's nothing holding it in place.

So, the back of your shield probably looks like this

or like this

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd propose that the hand is occupied only if wielding the shield i.e., deriving its benefit, namely the +2 AC. If simply holding the shield (strapped on but useless), then one could also hold an item in that hand. Thus one could instantly drop the item and wield the shield at zero cost. Definitely not RAW, but reasonable for medium or large shields. \$\endgroup\$ – Phlucious Apr 6 '18 at 20:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ From personal experience, you can hold something in the gripping hand of the shield; you lose a little bit of stability, but it's not a huge deal. \$\endgroup\$ – Elia Apr 6 '18 at 21:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Considering that proper use of a shield requires carefully angling the shield to deflect blows, rather than accept the direct impact, holding something in your hand is what you absolutely do not want to do. \$\endgroup\$ – nijineko Apr 7 '18 at 2:55

Not by RAW.

PHB 144:

A shield is made from wood or metal and is carried in one hand.

Based on this wording, a shield is carried in your hand, which means that you cannot carry another object in your hand.

As a DM making a ruling, I would probably allow some leeway, but the wording is pretty clear.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Mike Mearls has said here that you can maybe carry something, but not use it. \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Apr 6 '18 at 17:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ Not official with mearls :) I'd be wary of leeway, too. Otherwise it's a workaround for not stowing a weapon(instead of the riskier drop if you are taking out another item) or even if the hand is free enough to hold something you can perform a somatic component. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Apr 6 '18 at 17:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Allowing to carry but not use a small object would be reasonable. Most shield grips would let you hold say a javelin, axe or other small-diameter item without much trouble and this is/was commonly done by fighters expecting to open combat by hurling a ranged weapon and then switch quickly. It might grant an attacker advantage depending on how far the item sticks out from behind the shield though. \$\endgroup\$ – Perkins Apr 6 '18 at 20:32

Yes, of course.

Clearly a character can't use both items at the same time, but holding a small object in the shield hand is easy. Just ask this authentic Viking...

enter image description here

I know the rules don't explicitly state you can, but I don't think that's how 5e was intended to be read or played.

But I'm likely wrong.

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    \$\begingroup\$ 5e is not a simulationist system so many things you could do in real life are impossible in 5e \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Apr 7 '18 at 12:15

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