Does the bonus damage from the Dueling fighting style apply when attacking with a shield as an improvised weapon, using the Tavern Brawler feat?

The scenario I am trying to work out is as follows... A character grapples the bad guy with his free hand and then knocks him prone. The following round, could he then use his shield as an improvised weapon (assuming he has the Tavern Brawler feat if that changes things) and still claim the bonus damage from Dueling (i.e. 1d4+2, rather than just straight 1d4)? While it's hardly broken for a DM to allow it, I'd rather know if it works with RAW.

The Dueling fighting style description is as follows:

When you are wielding a melee weapon in one hand and no other weapons, you gain a +2 bonus to damage rolls with that weapon.

While a shield isn't a melee weapon in general; "An improvised weapon is, indeed, a weapon, but only the moment it's used as such." as per Jeremy Crawford's Twitter. Meaning at the moment of the attack, you are wielding a weapon in one hand in order to perform a melee weapon attack, but as per this post, it wouldn't be considered a melee weapon.


1 Answer 1


No*, attacks with the shield would not get +2 damage

The considerations/requirements:

No other weapons may be wielded in the off-hand.

This is straightforward: The fighter has some enemy by the collar with his/her offhand and is not wielding a weapon with it. So far so good.

The attack must be made with a 1-handed melee weapon

This is where things break down. As an Improvised Weapon, the shield is not classified as a Melee Weapon. At the moment of attack, the shield becomes an Improvised Weapon, which is legally separate from a Melee Weapon, even though the shield is used to make a Melee Weapon Attack.

Using the term "Melee Weapon Attack" does not change the shield's classification as an Improvised Weapon, it is used to distinguish the fact that the shield is not being used to make a Ranged Weapon Attack (with an Improvised Weapon).

Note that the Tavern Brawler feat does not reclassify the shield as a Melee Weapon and therefore is of no benefit for allowing the wielder to add +2 from the Dueling Fighting Style.

If the rules read "When you make a melee weapon attack," this would allow the fighter to add +2 damage from the fighting style to attacks with the shield. Unfortunately, the language requires that the fighter is "wielding a melee weapon in one hand" which s/he is not.

*One caveat: If an improvised weapon is "is similar to an actual weapon [it] can be treated as such." Therefore, if the DM allows the shield to be treated as similar to some Melee Weapon (an oddly-shaped club perhaps?), then the shield would benefit from the Fighting Style.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This was my assumption coming into it. Although I hadn't considered the caveat that if it was similar to a typical weapon then it may apply. I'll have to think about shield designs that make it similar to a typical weapon. \$\endgroup\$
    – BigM94
    Commented Mar 12, 2019 at 22:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ I mean shield bashing is certainly a thing, so I’m not sure if I could consider it an improvised weapon: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/59536/… \$\endgroup\$
    – TigerDM
    Commented Mar 12, 2019 at 23:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @tiger Your comment seems to disagree with my answer but your linked answer contains the sentence "If you want to hit someone with your shield, it is treated as an improvised weapon attack." which seems to agree with my answer. I'm confused about what you are trying to say. Can you clarify? \$\endgroup\$
    – Rykara
    Commented Mar 12, 2019 at 23:50

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