So I was asked to DM for a group in 4th edition. I live 2 hours away so we are doing 1 12-hour session a month. We just had our first session and I made it clear that I was doing and am willing to do some atypical things. I have only DM'd once before and have only mild familiarity with D&D 4th ed (still more than any of the PCs, 2 of the 5 are 1st-timers).

Anyway, I think that is all important background for understanding the situation I got myself into. During character creation, one of my PCs asked if he could make dual-wielding 2 shields work... and I said yes. So he is a Dwarven Cleric using 2 heavy shields and wears his holy implement about his neck.

Basically, I was thinking that (I may have been wrong about this) back in 3.5 shield bonuses to AC did stack. Also, logically, if you carry 2 shields you would be harder to hit than with 1... After doing some research on these forums I am now gaining the understanding that in 4E that bonuses of the same type NEVER stack (unless untyped, from the same source).

My first question is: What are my options for the best way to handle this situation?
Related question/clarification: Without going back on what I said while he was creating his character, is there a way to make there be some kind of penalty that balances out the extra +2 AC I gave him?

Also, he took a feat to mitigate or minimize (I do not remember which one and do not have his character sheet in front of me) the penalty from wielding shields. Can such a bonus reduce the penalty from a -1 to 0?

Basically... I realize I made a mistake per the written rules due to my own lack of familiarity with the rules. I want to know what my options are but also I do not want to upset my player too much by going back and changing what I did. Also, I have possibly made other such variances from the rules based on what makes sense logically...

The problem for me now is I want there to be some kind of balance in place to mitigate the bonus. I mean... he did take an extra feat to reduce the penalty. But he is still essentially getting +2 AC for free in exchange for not holding a weapon. One thing I have thought of so far is verifying the powers he chose do not have the "Weapon" keyword and only have the "implement" keyword. Also, he will never be able to wear an amulet b/c he needs his neck slot for the implement if his hands are full.

I would appreciate any advice the community here can give me. Thanks!

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    \$\begingroup\$ Personally, I would let it stand. Point out that is a violation of RAW, but it doesn't sound broken, not wielding a weapon is already something of a penalty, and its flavorful. I would just roll with it. If you really want to fix it, wax eagle's answer is great. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 6, 2014 at 16:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ I vaguely recall there was some interesting things you could do with a 4e fighter dual wielding shields, because he could treat them as a 1d6 weapon or somesuch with a feat or something. Or maybe it was just that he could use one handed, shield, and dual-wield powers. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 6, 2014 at 18:03

2 Answers 2


Three things you can, and should do:

  • Admit your mistake. Tell the player, "hey, I misunderstood the shield rule here, you can weild two, the second just doesn't do you any good." It's important to own up to this asap.
  • Let him rebuild his character from the ground up. You've clearly found out his character concept no longer works the way he wants to. Offer him the opportunity to rebuild the character completely with level appropriate gear etc.
  • Offer him the Testudo Shield fighter as an option. If he loves the concept enough to keep it, even without the AC bonus, MCing fighter and taking the Snapping testudo paragon path would be the best option. This is kind of a crummy option for a PP, but it's a cool concept.

  • If you decide to allow this, change the bonus type on the second shield. My recommendation would be to allow him to take the homebrew feat "two shield fighting" that allows him to use the shield bonus of the second shield as a feat bonus to AC (or AC and Ref, and additional defenses if he spends the feats on them). This is pretty fair, it's a bit high in heroic, on par in paragon, and probably a retrain candidate in epic. Check his final AC, but it should be about the same as a pally in full plate with a heavy shield. Make sure the penalties stack and offer a feat to remove one at heroic (he can take a feat to remove both in paragon).

All this to say, own up to your mistake, give him an opportunity to fix it. But as a note, if you have DDI, build your characters in the builder, it does all the math for you and it will catch a lot of these bonus stacking issues your pointing to.

Mostly though, just talk to your player, explain your mistake and see what you two can work out. Communication is good and your both learning the game, keep it honest, and keep talking.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ What would be the best thing to do if I decide to use Rule 0 to allow it and stand by my original decision? I still plan on contacting my PC to own up to my mistake, but I would also appreciate your input on that side of the coin. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 6, 2014 at 14:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DiabloMonkey, wax eagle's last bullet point is a good starting place for Rule 0-ing this situation. A custom feat allowing the setup seems reasonable to me. \$\endgroup\$
    – Brian S
    Commented Jun 6, 2014 at 18:52

waX eagle makes some great points. I would like to add one.

You can allow the PC to use two shields, and stack the bonuses and penalties. Just be aware of all of them.

  • Although he has his holy symbol around his neck, he still needs a free hand in order to use any spell or ability with a somatic (S)[gesturing] component. Wielding two shields would not allow that.
  • He is doing no damage in melee apart from a shield bash, and I'm not entirely sure if that's even possible without a feat in 4e.
  • He also either could not use abilities with the "weapon" keyword or treat the shield as an improvised weapon and take -4 to attacks.
  • His armor check penalties from both shields will stack (penalties always stack), and he also cannot use any skill that would require two hands.

I'm sure there are more, but if you want to allow him to do it, then do it right. Simply not doing much damage in combat may be enough for the others to convince him to trade a shield for a weapon. Force him to take the move action to put away a shield in order to cast, and then another move action next round to reequip that shield. When faced with the full concept of the penalties involved, he may decide to go with another option.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ There are no somatic component spells in 4e (that's not a rules term in 4e even). Clerics can be fully implement based in 4e, a lot of Wis based clerics are. There are numerous shields enchanted as weapon in 4e so having a weapon would not be an issue. There is no penalty for improvised weapons in 4e (it's a lack of proficiency bonus which is max +3). The last point is sound. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Commented Jun 6, 2014 at 17:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @waxeagle An Implement does not give a proficiency bonus anyway, right? So attacks made with the "Weapon" keyword would have that natural advantage unless it was improvised, like a shield. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 6, 2014 at 18:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DiabloMonkey implements do not, no. But no, attacks with a weapon usually target AC, attacks with an implement usually target REF/FORT/WILL. AC is typically 2 higher than the other defenses. They come out in the wash (+3 weapons are slightly more accurate than implements, weapon attacks against not-AC are more accurate, implement attacks against AC are less accurate etc) \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Commented Jun 6, 2014 at 18:49
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @DiabloMonkey, Correct. Unlike Red_Shadow suggests, though, an improvised weapon does not incur a -4 attack pentaly; improvised weapons simply don't have a proficiency bonus. \$\endgroup\$
    – Brian S
    Commented Jun 6, 2014 at 18:51

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