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A shield takes 1 action to equip (PHB 146). I'm an new DM and would like to allow that in the first round of battle the PC may use the "interact with objects" time (PHB 190) to equip its shield, if not already equipped.

Reason I want to allow this is that I don't like the PC to always have its shield up, just in case there's going to be a battle.

Perhaps I'm overthinking this, but could there be any reason I might consider to not have this house rule?

EDIT: Based on the helpful feedback here, I've written this house rule as follows (and all house rules are discussed with the party before the campaign starts):

Provided that you are proficient with shields, you may equip your shield as an "interact with object" move (only) at the beginning of a battle. This house rule is not valid:

  • When you have explicitly declared that you either have equipped or unequipped your shield.
  • When you are surprised in your sleep.
  • When you have your shield stowed and cannot reasonably have it ready at a moments notice.
  • At the DM's discretion (and with reasoning) this rule is unavailable or requires an acrobatics check. Example: A surprise attack in a location where you could not reasonably have expected this.

    Rationale for this rule: Prevent micromanagement of player state.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site. Meta is for questions about the website itself. You've posted your question in the perfect place. Feel free to take our tour for more about how things work here. Happy stacking! \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Mar 2 at 17:52
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Related: How long does it take to equip a shield? \$\endgroup\$ – MikeQ Mar 2 at 18:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Shields tend to be used in combination with a weapon. Even with your new rules, equiping both weapon and shield still requires 2 interact with object actions, yet you only get 1 for free each turn. So you still need an action to equip both weapon and shield? \$\endgroup\$ – Sam Mar 4 at 14:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Sam, rules state that you only get one free interaction. I basically grant 1 free, at start, to equip a shield in addition to equipping a weapon. But this is a house rule that I think is not very unbalancing and helps me to not micromanage. \$\endgroup\$ – svenema Mar 5 at 14:49
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It devalues "social combat" tactical decisions.

The decision to wield a shield or not has in-game consequences, from both combat and social interaction perspectives.

Mechanically, shields offer a +2 AC bonus (a significant boost in D&D 5E's bounded accuracy system) and require an action to don/doff (a premium resource in the action economy).

A wielded shield indicates that the bearer is expecting a fight. This probably wouldn't raise any eyebrows if you bumped into a merry band of adventurers running around the wilderness or dungeon, but it has a different social context in more civilised locations. Shopkeepers, tavern owners, and city guards may be rightly concerned to see a group of armed mercenaries roll up like they're spoiling for a fight.

The decision to remove shields is a tactical one. Does the party want to try to pass through peacefully, but potentially leave themselves more defensibly vulnerable if a fight arose? Or are they willing to potentially create conflict in order to maintain their defensive capabilities?

Being able to efficiently don a shield with an object interaction undermines this social combat. With this Homebrew rule, you give the PCs the ability to circumvent these social combat scenarios and still maintain combat readiness. This rule removes that decision making and could produce less interesting scenarios as a result.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Have an upvote, my only recommendation would be to recognize that some story telling styles are more "super hero" in nature and wearing a tux over your platemail is totally legit. \$\endgroup\$ – Corbin Matheson Mar 2 at 18:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @CorbinMatheson that's fair, I think you've covered that well enough in your answers :) \$\endgroup\$ – Nesbitto Mar 3 at 3:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Shopkeepers, tavern owners, and city guards may be rightly concerned to see a group of armed mercenaries roll up like they're spoiling for a fight." is exactly what I want to prevent, but without micro-managing the PC's shield status. Valuable arguments, thanks and upvote! \$\endgroup\$ – svenema Mar 3 at 9:22
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No, You would need to house rule it.

Unfortunately with there being a rule that specifically addresses shields and how they are equipped, they override the "use an object" set of rules. You would be required to find another rule that specifically states something to the effect "You may don this shield as a Free or Bonus action." This would be a RAW interpretation.

From a functional standpoint - most tables ignore micromanaging shield equips.

Functionally, in most games, it is assumed that while adventuring, characters are in full armor, ready with their equipment at any moment's notice. The idea here is that the hero in question is carrying their shield equipped as they traverse the wilderness or dungeon delve. Only if a character specifically states they have slung the shield on their back to keep their hands free would they need to "equip" their shield during any particular moment in combat.

Realistically you will only have to observe this rule for specific thematic scenarios - such as being ambushed in the middle of the night while the fighter in question is asleep. The need to scramble and grab their shield and sword now becomes choice the player needs to make, and can heighten the sense of danger and whether or not taking that extra moment to get their AC up is worth the loss in positioning or attacks.

Another scenario is in the event the fighter needs to use two hands to do something - you remind them they have to drop their shield in order to accomplish it. Then it's acceptable to micromanage and force action economy to re-equip the shield. This again creates a meaningful choice and combat mechanic to the event or scenario.

In conclusion - Only if you are truly rules lawyering / nitpicking the party state at every possible moment would you need to micromanage shield equips (or if the player is carrying multiple magical shields they like to swap out). Adding a single piece of gear a player has to constantly micromanage will slow the game down and potentially cause a focus shift away from the adventure, and closer to a table top combat simulator.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The question is specifically about adopting a house rule to this effect. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Mar 3 at 0:23
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Personally, I tend to lean towards the PC/NPC interactions, and that means dealing with the social cost of carrying your shield up and ready for combat while wandering around the tavern, or if they have a shield on them at all while attending a high society event. In this type of story, the dangers are not always HP loss. And "the right action" isn't always a fight. But the players need to decide going into events what kind of interaction they want to have. (Fight or Social) And what kind of trade offs they want to make.

The flip side is the more cinematic world where your dressed in a full tux, a fight breaks out, and you tear off your tux revealing full plate beneath and the PC promptly draws their Buster Sword from whoknowswhere.

Neither story type is "Best". It all depends on what kind of play style you and your players enjoy.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ While you might run it that way, it doesn't seem like this addresses OP's actual question: any unintended consequences of implementing their houserule to allow equipping a shield using one's free object interaction in the first round of combat. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mar 2 at 19:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast, nesbitto said it better then I. The unintended consequences are it changes the nature of the story. Instead of heaving to weigh the costs of always being fully combat capable vs social downsides, the houserule allows you to have both. \$\endgroup\$ – Corbin Matheson Mar 2 at 19:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ You should edit your answer to state that explicitly! :) \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mar 2 at 20:01

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