This doesn't necessarily apply just to shield guardians, because it could go the same way with other minions.

If you have the ability to command something, a shield guardian in my particular case, can you command it to accept commands from other PCs? I.e., command it to "follow the instructions of any of my companions as long as they don't contradict any of my commands."

The reason they would want to would be that a party member could ask the guardian to attack, use its stored spell, etc. even if the wearer is stunned. It's not a bad idea, I could see it being useful, I'm just not seeing anything one way or another if it can be commanded in complex hypotheticals like that. Are they intelligent enough to understand a chain of command?


3 Answers 3


It's unclear, and therefore up to your DM.

With an intelligence score of 7, the shield guardian is certainly "intelligent enough to understand a chain of command," but intelligence isn't the only factor at play. Can a shield guardian differentiate individuals beyond being able to identify the wearer of its amulet? Does the magic of its amulet allow such delegation? What ramifications would this have for other construct types in the world? These are things for your DM to consider when deciding if something like this would be possible.

On the other hand, you should consider whether you even want to do this. Regardless of your DM's ruling, the only thing that a shield guardian knows for sure is who is wearing its control amulet. There are many ways (disguise, alter self) an NPC with bad intentions could take advantage of a golem who has been instructed to take orders from people who look and/or sound like your companions. The golem is not going to consider if the instructions make sense, are out of character, or even if they would harm the party (except that it won't harm you); it will just do what anyone it thinks is one of your companions tells it to do.


By RAW it’s unclear but I would say that it wouldn’t work

Note: My answer is specifically about Shield Guardian since that’s the creature the title of the question references, it does not apply to other minion creatures because they all have individual traits that affect their behaviour and should be considered separately.

As already stated, Shield Guardian has intelligence of 7. It’s not great but it’s not terrible either, I’ve had PCs with that score in my games. It’s probably enough for the Shield Guardian to understand a somewhat complex instruction but the reason why it probably wouldn’t work is not its lack of intelligence.

A Shield Guardian is a construct that is created with a singular purpose - to protect its master. Its entry in MM states:

A shield guardian's solitary focus is to protect the amulet's wearer.

The control over a Shield Guardian is tied to the amulet that’s linked to it, there can only be one at a time and if it’s ever destroyed, the Guardian is incapacitated (MM, 271). This suggests quite strongly that the Shield Guardian will only obey the single person who owns the amulet.

Moreover, there is not indication that the control its master has over the Shield Guardian is absolute. In fact, MM goes on to define two very specific things that you can command your Shield Guardian to do - attack an enemy or protect you from an attack. This suggest that it’s not a “general purpose” servant that will make you breakfast, fetch things for you, carry your backpack and so on - its only purpose in “life” is the protection of its owner from harm. Its description hints that it has some autonomy to choose how to best protect you, this is supported by its Intelligence score - it’s not a mindless construct, it can make decisions by itself.

Because of those reasons, I don’t think it could be ordered to obey other party members, it’s a creature with a very well defined, single purpose, that I think would not follow commands which either go against, or even don’t directly contribute to fulfilling that purpose.


Intelligent minions can carry out complex commands. For Shield Guardian, ask your DM

A shield guardian has an Intelligence of 7, only one point below the dumbest player character. There is no official scale for what each score of Intelligence means, but village idiot level would likely be sufficient for it to understand it is supposed to follow another’s command. Shield Guardian in particular however might be a bad choice, as its lore says:

A shield guardian's solitary focus is to protect the amulet's wearer. The amulet's wearer can command the guardian to attack its enemies or to guard the wielder against attack.

So the guardian might ignore commands that detract it from this solitary purpose, in spite of what its Intelligence would allow. By this lore, the amulet wearer can command it only to attack or to defend the wearer.

This is likely an area that heavily depends on your DMs view on this. Our group has a Guardian, and our DM allows us to also issue other commands to it, like carrying something, picking something up, etc., while it can not develop any own initiative or plans. It's not been a problem. I think its a pretty generous take on it.

Other summoned creatures, like some mephits can even have more Intelligence than the average human and have no such limitations. There’s no reason they could not follow orders by other party members if so instructed.

On the other end of the minion spectrum, you have creatures from animate dead. They are not summoned, but likewise bound to follow commands of the caster. Zombies, with Intelligence 3 are no better than some animals. They might struggle with such concepts.


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