For gauging the power of magic items, I tend to rely heavily on the excellent Sane Magical Item Prices document that tends to be pretty well researched and highly regarded. Thus far, I've always agreed with them on their prices and have taken to allowing those prices without consideration.

That is, until for my game last week I needed a simple, not super powerful defensive item and figured the Sentinel Shield would be a nice little reward, only to see later that it's listed as being worth 20.000 gp.

I'm really stumped at why it would be listed as being this powerful. According to the document, the Sentinel Shield is on the same level of value as a +3 weapon or armor, the Armor of Invulnerability, a Ring of Spell Storing or a Mirror of Life Trapping.

Is getting Advantage on Initiative and/or Perception really that amazing? Or am I missing something? Or is it just grossly miss-valued?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Seems that document was created before Xanathar's do you have access the that? Was there a related blogpost detailing their methods on coming up with any of those prices? Personally, I disagree with most of them. Without their methodology we would be firing blind. \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    Apr 26, 2019 at 11:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Slagmoth: Here's the origina GitP forum thread where it was posted: giantitp.com/forums/… That said, I think most of the reasoning appears in the PDF as well. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Apr 26, 2019 at 22:57

2 Answers 2


To answer your question of just how awesome that is, my personal answer would be pretty awesome. You get advantage on all initiative checks, which is incredibly handy, and you have advantage on all Wisdom checks that involve perception. For high-level characters, this may not seem like much, but give that to a level 10 or higher character and that is an epic boon. They get a better chance to strike first, or a better chance to escape with their lives, or hide, or even find more loot via hidden doors, as those require a Perception (Wisdom) check. The Sentinel Shield is a useful item for all characters of all levels.

The reason for the Insanely high price of the Sentinel Shield from the Sane Magical Item Prices document may simply be because the shield grants powerful benefits comparable to a feat, like Alert, in addition to not requiring attunement. Another reason why it might be so high is there is a minuscule chance of getting one through random rolling. So, rarity and usefulness do play in a factor. However, it apparently is not factored into the XGtE formula.

If you roll for random loot, you are most likely to get it from challenge levels 5-10 from a treasure hoard. That looks to mean like about a mid-level item, but it is possible to obtain it from a 1-4 challenge level hoard. You can obtain it from a roll of 86-97 on 1-4, and 81-94 from 5-10. Then you need to roll a 19-21, so the odds are slim. It does grant advantage to Initiative and wisdom checks, so that is valuable all throughout your character's life, and its recommended price from the buying guide in Xanathar's Guide to Everything is actually much cheaper then what is listed in the Sane Magical Item's prices. XGtE lists it as 1d6 x 100 GP. This is on page 126 of XGtE, and the formula comes from it being an uncommon item.


It is good but not that good

Advantage is a strong bonus to a check. What does this do in case of Initative:

  • It is fun to go first
  • It can sometimes reduce the difficulty of a combat because going before an opponent can make them lose a turn compared to otherwise.
  • In some cases, i.e. with strong nova potential, the effect can be more pronounced.

This is good but typically not that high impact because while advantage stack with flat modifiers improving Initiative rolls has diminishing returns. You can't go firster than first. The third point might occasionally be relevant but only if you have a character with a lot of nova damage that can use a shield It's no good without proficiency (so a Rogue Assassin cannot typically use it this way for example) and even with shield proficiency this only works if you have a hand free. Also if you have such a character with strong nova potential and use for a shield in your game, you'll know. In conclusion, the Initiative bonus is good but won't typically have an extreme effect on combat.

Advantage on Perception is good but how good depends on the game you're playing. What it does is make it easier to find hidden stuff and make it harder to be surprised because it gives a +5 bonus to passive Perception. But like you said, it is very similar to the Alert feat. My players love that feat and it hasn't done anything bad to my game: it's good but not too good. Being similarly good as a feat doesn't make it extremely powerful, see this answer on the topic, for example

In conclusion, the Shield is strong but not unreasonably so for an uncommon item. Importantly, compared to the items you list, it has very limited impact on combat balance.

  • \$\begingroup\$ About the issue with proficiency. Couldn't you hold the shield out-of-combat to get its benefits, then drop it after rolling initiative to not have to deal with the side effects of lacking proficiency? Although the DM might decide otherwise since this is somewhat "gaming the system", I see no other reason it wouldn't work. \$\endgroup\$
    – Matthieu
    Apr 4, 2023 at 6:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Matthieu No because using non proficient armor gives disadvantage on Dex checks inter alia. It will cancel the advantage on Initiative. \$\endgroup\$
    – Anagkai
    Apr 4, 2023 at 6:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Fair point, although you'd still benefit from advantage on Perception, for no apparent cost, since advantage and disadvantage on Initiative cancel out. That is, if you do not already have advantage on Initiative from some other source, which you would loose here. \$\endgroup\$
    – Matthieu
    Apr 4, 2023 at 6:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ Not needing proficiency is kinda the default for magic items. But here not having it costs you half the benefit. \$\endgroup\$
    – Anagkai
    Apr 4, 2023 at 7:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, donning and doffing a shield takes an action so you can't just drop it in combat like you could a weapon. \$\endgroup\$
    – smbailey
    Apr 4, 2023 at 15:51

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