Follow on from my previous question.

One of my players has a (unknown to him) evil hand. I want to work out what the mechanical implications of that evil hand letting go of his shield would be.

Shields take an action to "doff", i.e. stop receiving the benefit of the shield (2 AC for basic shields, other effects for magical shields).

In the previous question it was discussed that "donning" a shield involves something beyond just picking it up - most likely strapping it securely to your arm.

  • Can you stop holding a shield without "doffing" it?
    • If you can, do you still get the benefits (AC, other)?
    • If you don't, could you regain the benefits without using an action (just start holding it again)?
  • And how, if at all, would your hand be restricted in what it could do while not holding (but also not doffing) the shield?

What this might actually look like in physical terms: Having donned the shield by strapping it to your arm, you let go of the handle you're holding, leaving the shield still strapped to your arm (but likely now much less useful against attacks). Your hand is now free (although your arm isn't). It might be able to do things like touch a holy symbol on a necklace, or grapple someone. Then it might be able to without an action (free object interaction?) start holding the shield again, giving you the AC benefits back.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This question may be better served to change the wording from "Can you stop holding a shield" to "Can you stop wearing a shield." The question some people are answering amounts to "do you stop wearing a shield if you let go." \$\endgroup\$
    – Euch
    Jul 6, 2018 at 17:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Strongly related on Can you use the hand wielding a shield to hold another object? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Jul 6, 2018 at 18:14

4 Answers 4



As you can see in the photo, letting go of the handle is insufficient to free the hand, nor is it likely to cause the shield to move. Some shields have two straps and a handle making it less likely to move if you release your grip. This makes your arm instead of your hand absorb the impact on the shield.

Also by RAW, there is no mechanic for a half worn shield, it is either on or off, and requires an action to change state.

shield straps two straps

  • \$\begingroup\$ This answer is particularly good to both address the RAW question and address my dodgy ideas of how it would translate in real terms - the photos make it clear why this wouldn't work, and it's always nice to be able to line up RAW with sensible reality. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vigil
    Jul 14, 2018 at 8:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ To add to this, even with a hand-held shield (bucker), you also wouldn't drop it just by opening your hand; your glove is pretty well rammed in between the boss and handle, and you can easily use it open-handed (and some techniques involve grasping with the buckler hand). However, in the case of an evil hand, the evil hand could reduce your defence by moving a buckler badly, at some risk to itself. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan W
    Jul 2, 2020 at 17:04


In order to have a free hand, you must first remove the shield by Doffing it and spending the Action to do so.

The shield is on, and you have no free hand, until an action is spent to remove it. It's binary and takes an action to change state so that you do have a free hand.

Due to this, you will not be able to use the hand that is wielding the shield in any way until you have doffed the shield.

Comparing against Picking up a shield

The difference in your linked question is that you are simply picking up an Object that happens to be a shield. You are not donning a Shield.

Once it is a worn Shield, it is no longer a generic object, but a Shield with mechanics on how to remove it.


Mechanically no; thematically yes

Donning a shield grants a bonus to AC and occupies the hand. Of course, a player can narrate that their character "lets go" of a donned shield - but it has no mechanical impact. The shield remains donned (and the effects persist) until an action is spent to Doff the shield.

Other consequences

In the case of an evilly possessed hand trying to interfere with its biological owner, a DM could reasonably rule that while the hand cannot doff the shield, the hand can choose not to wield it effectively - acting as if the character had no shield proficiency. If a character wields a shield without proficiency, the character still benefits from the armor bonus but suffers disadvantage to attack rolls.

  • \$\begingroup\$ "A shield is made from wood or metal and is carried in one hand." PHB p144. You can let go of this carried item and the shield remains donned? \$\endgroup\$
    – Euch
    Jul 6, 2018 at 18:45

Yes, you can stop holding (as in release the grip of) a shield

Nothing in the game can prohibit a character from doing something the player says he does so long as the character is capable of such an action. It is certainly possible to release your grip from a shield (aka Step 1 in doffing a shield!)

Mechanical ramifications

The moment you release that grip, though, I would argue the shield is no longer "donned" as the rulebook understands it to be. To gain any/all of the benefits of the RAW you have to adhere to the requirements of the RAW. Releasing a shield does not adhere to those rules (it is no longer being carried, PHB p144), and thus the player should forego the benefits of a donned shield.

Probably shouldn't replace doffing

Let us also make a distinction that if one "stops holding" a shield that doesn't inherently mean it falls to the floor. The shield (depending on the specifics of how it is made) may be strapped on, and releasing your grip probably shouldn't be a replacement for doffing the shield since that explicitly takes one action per RAW.

And that's all the rules can help us with

From here, then, you're in DM interpretation territory. Your character has released their grip on a shield. It isn't donned (benefit-granting shields are carried), but it isn't doffed (you've not taken a full action to remove it), and we have no written rules for half-donned armor, which is effectively what your unsecured shield has become. What you want to do with your hand and how long it might take you to regain the benefits from truly wielding the shield again are left to your DM to decide.

DMs – Protect the game mechanics

On that note, I would urge DMs to allow very little use of that hand (pointing, thumbs up, high fives) and still require the full action to re-don the shield. Even so much as allowing for another item to be held could introduce balance problems. In the end, don't allow "letting go" of a shield to become inherently more beneficial than donning/doffing it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 6, 2018 at 18:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Edited much of the wording to more accurately portray the created scenario I believe releasing a shield creates. \$\endgroup\$
    – Euch
    Jul 6, 2018 at 19:21

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