Normally a character has to choose between wielding 2 of a shield, an arcane focus (or component pouch), and a weapon OR just a two-handed weapon. As a Warlock, I could choose to wield an arcane focus in one hand, and a weapon in the other.

I'm designing a Wood Elf Outlander Warlock who only has one hand (the other lost as a part of my backstory). This means I can wield NO two-handed weapons, and must choose between either a weapon, or an arcane focus (or choose to drop the weapon to use a component pouch).

What made the most sense to me (as a counter-balance) was to strap a shield to the hand-less arm. However, Warlocks and Outlanders aren't proficient with shields. This would require me to drop the shield in order to cast (A problem since unstrapping it would require an action, and burn a turn). Also, the description of a shield seems to indicate that a shield as 1 strap, and a grip that you hold to keep it in place:

A shield is made from wood or metal and is carried in one hand. Wielding a shield increases your Armor Class by 2. You can benefit from only one shield at a time.


Anyone can put on a suit of armor or strap a shield to an arm. Only those proficient in the armor’s use know how to wear it effectively, however. Your class gives you proficiency with certain types of armor. If you wear armor that you lack proficiency with, you have disadvantage on any ability check, saving throw, or attack roll that involves Strength or Dexterity, and you can’t cast spells.

Obviously, I would need to be proficient with a shield for this counter-balance to work. I've considered a few possible ideas to try and have this, but I'm not sure they are balanced.

  1. Just having the proficiency because of the lack of a hand.

  2. Trading athletics proficiency for shield proficiency.

  3. Having a custom shield which only grants +1 AC Instead of +2, while still being unable to use a normal shield.

Is there a balanced or allowable trade that would grant Shield proficiency as a starting proficiency for a class which normally would not have it, without creating an OP Character?

Hexblade is not an option in this campaign, since my DM is only allowing the original three patrons.

To clarify: I am asking for things you (as DM) have done, or (as a player) have seen done.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. Your title asks whether it's possible to be proficient with a custom shield, but the body of your post asks whether your particular custom shield that you'd be proficient with would be balanced. Which are you actually intending to ask? (I assume it's the latter.) \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Sep 29, 2019 at 5:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ You should generally ask one overarching question per post - it often ends up in answers that only address one of the questions instead of the post as a whole, and doesn't work well with SE's Q&A system. Whether you can have proficiency with a custom shield is a separate question from whether your homebrew shield is balanced. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Sep 29, 2019 at 16:32
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ You can always try to edit the question to be more clear. Questions can be reopened if they are improved to meet the concerns raised. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 14:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ While it is clearer now, I think it is still opinion based. \$\endgroup\$
    – Szega
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 8:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've added the homebrew tag for this since I think we've fallen into that territory. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 13:33

2 Answers 2


Using a shield without penalty will require proficiency whether it’s a ready made shield or custom made shield.

For your character to gain proficiency at level 1, I recommend choosing the Hexblade warlock patron.

Hexblade At 1st level, you acquire the training necessary to effectively arm yourself for battle. You gain proficiency with medium armor, shields, and martial weapons. XGE p55

With regard to being one handed, a blacksmith or skilled artisan could make appropriate modifications to a shield and accommodate your disability. Using a modified shield effectively will still require shield proficiency.

If you choose a different patron, then at 4th level you may take the Moderately Armored feat which grants proficiency in medium armor and shields. If you choose to play a human (variant), you could take this feat at first level.

Alternatively, when you gain a level you may multi-class and take a level in a class that grants proficiency with a shield (Barbarian, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Paladin, or Ranger).

  • \$\begingroup\$ Hexblade was actually my initial plan, but my DM is relatively new, and wants to stick to the initial Player's Handbook for now. He DID say that if we could justify any customizations and keep them balanced that he would be willing to consider them. I did forget to mention that this custom shield would only grant +1 AC, not the normal +2. \$\endgroup\$
    – VarisBersk
    Commented Sep 29, 2019 at 14:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ In that case I ask the DM if he could provide you a shield magic item (uncommon) that grants shield proficiency, this items cost would be a debt that you owe in character to an NPC, is a great plot hook and gives you a starting reason to search for treasure, if only to pay your debts. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 29, 2019 at 16:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh, I hadn't thought of that. I will present that to my DM when we meet to decide, and see what he thinks. Thank you so much for your thoughts, and your help. \$\endgroup\$
    – VarisBersk
    Commented Sep 29, 2019 at 16:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch elven chain +1 (rare) grants medium armor proficiency (so there is precedence). A magic shield could grant proficiency but no other bonus, and have an appropriate price. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 29, 2019 at 17:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ Bracers of Archery also grant profiency and are Uncommon. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 8:37

I would NOT be proficient with a normal shield.

This is a red herring. You would not be able to use them anyway.

What you are asking is a free shield proficiency, which is not really reasonable (+2 AC does not grow on trees). Your best bet is Moderately Armored feat, which you are able to get with your first ASI at level 4 (assuming single class) or as a bonus feat if you switch to variant human race.

However, as missing hand is going to give you a lot of problems in your adventuring career, it would not be unreasonable to work with DM to get you proficiency earlier: for example, you could ask for half of Moderately Armored benefit (proficiency with shields and medium armor) upfront, and second half (+1 to STR or DEX) when you would get your first ASI.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, and I see what you mean. There was one very important thing I apparently did NOT mention in my original question, and I apologize for that. The custom shield would only grant +1AC, not +2. Also, In terms of cost, I was thinking trading proficiency in Athletics for proficiency with this shield might balance it, since if I lose this shield, I can't use any other, and would still be without athletics. Would any of this change your opinion? or do you still think It's OP? \$\endgroup\$
    – VarisBersk
    Commented Sep 29, 2019 at 14:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ there have been some updates to the question, in case you'd like to update your answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – VarisBersk
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 14:08

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