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Shell Defense. You can withdraw into your shell as an action. Until you emerge, you gain a +4 bonus to AC, and you have advantage on Strength and Constitution saving throws. While in your shell, you are prone, your speed is 0 and can't increase, you have disadvantage on Dexterity saving throws, can't take reactions, and the only action you can take is a bonus action to emerge from your shell.

Nowhere in this description does it say what happens to items the tortle is holding. So if they are holding a shield and a weapon and go into Shell Defense what happens to their AC?

For a tortle wielding a shield, this question is going to have an impact on how useful this ability is. If the shield does not confer a benefit when in this mode, then they are effectively only getting a +2 AC which is a significant decrease in benefit given the costs.

Does a tortle still gain the benefit of wielding a shield while in Shell Defense?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Interesting. I'm not going to say this is useless, but it is remarkably limited in utility. \$\endgroup\$
    – Exal
    Apr 7, 2018 at 23:49

2 Answers 2

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This is up to your GM, most likely no bonus

The requirement for the shield bonus is to wield the shield, which you may be unable to do during Shell Defense

Wielding a shield increases your Armor Class by 2. 

The word wield is not defined in any core rulebook so we use the plain English definition:

hold and use (a weapon or tool).

Since you likely can't "use" the shield while within the shell you would not gain the AC bonus. Your GM might allow it though (such as holding the shield over the opening in your shell to qualify as using).

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Yes, if you don't doff the shield first.

If you're already wielding a shield, it takes an action to doff it (Player's Handbook Chapter 5, "Getting Into and Out of Armor"). If you don't doff the shield, you are still wielding it because "donned shields aren't merely held"1—they are strapped to your arm and cannot be freely dropped. This means your hand is still occupied and you still gain its bonus to your Armor Class.

This is very similar to the ruling that unconscious creatures continue to wield and gain an armor bonus from their shield, even though they are incapacitated2.

  1. Sage Advice Compendium 2.7

  2. Unofficial tweet from J. Crawford Do unconscious characters drop their shields?.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Recall that tweets from JC are not official anymore. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Oct 19, 2023 at 16:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Eddymage I thought they never were \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Oct 19, 2023 at 16:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor I don't know, since the SAC explicitly states so maybe once they were. My idea is that before the SAC pdf this site accepted jc's tweets as official. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Oct 19, 2023 at 17:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor Prior to the current wording, the SAC section on Official Rulings used to read: "Official rulings on how to interpret unclear rules are made in Sage Advice. The public statements of the D&D team, or anyone else at Wizards of the Coast, are not official rulings; they are advice. One exception: the game’s rules manager, Jeremy Crawford (@JeremyECrawford), can make official rulings and usually does so in Sage Advice and on Twitter." \$\endgroup\$
    – smbailey
    Oct 19, 2023 at 19:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Eddymage The change happened in version 2.3. Links to old versions of the compendium can be found in this Q&A. \$\endgroup\$
    – smbailey
    Oct 20, 2023 at 16:40

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