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Can the shield push from the Shield Master feat be taken before an attack? i.e. Push prone, follow up with an attack while they're down.

Shield Master

You use shields not just for protection but also for offense. You gain the following benefits while you are wielding a shield:

If you take the Attack action on your turn, you can use a bonus action to try to shove a creature within 5 feet of you with your shield.

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No.

You can't take a bonus action during another action, thus, you cannot take the shield push's push bonus action until after you've used your attack action.

To address the possibility of taking it before you take the attack action, the power seems to specify that it happens because you take the attack action. If somehow, the shield push invalidates your ability to take the attack action (like, perhaps, you push the only available enemy off a cliff with the push), you've invalidated the ability to take the shield push action in the first place.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Apr 13 '15 at 4:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ Crawford has recently tweeted this, which supports your answer: "Clarification about bonus actions: if a feature says you can do X as a bonus action if you do Y, you must do Y before you can do X. For Shield Master, that means the bonus action must come after the Attack action. You decide when it happens afterward that turn." \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast May 12 '18 at 1:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Agreed it's RAW, but I can't think of why I shouldn't ignore that and allow it anyway. Often, RAW makes no sense for no reason, except where it makes no sense for good reason. \$\endgroup\$ – user47897 Nov 19 '18 at 21:54
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No, the shove cannot be taken before the attack.

The first bullet of the Shield Master feat is:

• If you take the Attack action on your turn, you can use a bonus action to try to shove a creature within 5 feet of you with your shield.

Jeremy Crawford has changed the rules on this recently.

In early 2015 he posted on Twitter with the following.

As with most bonus actions, you choose the timing, so the Shield Master shove can come before or after the Attack action.

He has, however, reversed this in a post made this week.

Clarification about bonus actions: if a feature says you can do X as a bonus action if you do Y, you must do Y before you can do X. For Shield Master, that means the bonus action must come after the Attack action. You decide when it happens afterward that turn

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    \$\begingroup\$ @GarrettRooney And that "ruling" is at odds with the fact that the feat does not state the attack action must have been taken, only that you take it. The "ruling" you refer to (I'm assuming JC's tweet) is also contrary to both designers previous statements, and is not official, as it is neither published in a book, or in the latest errata. \$\endgroup\$ – Cuthbert Cooper Oct 22 '18 at 14:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ If he didn't mean the action has to have been taken I suspect he wouldn't have said "after the Attack action". It's right there in the tweet. \$\endgroup\$ – Garrett Rooney Oct 23 '18 at 15:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ You take the Attack action to make attacks, but you've taken the Attack action before you make the the attacks (being a prerequisite of the main way to make a weapon attack it's kinda required that you do it first). If you take the Attack action and [i]don't[/i] attack, for example, you've still taken the action. \$\endgroup\$ – Cuthbert Cooper Jan 12 at 12:01
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No, it can't.

You can't take the bonus action attack before the Attack action, because the bonus action attack is conditional upon you taking that action.

Jeremy Crawford addresses this exact situation on Twitter here:

Clarification about bonus actions: if a feature says you can do X as a bonus action if you do Y, you must do Y before you can do X. For Shield Master, that means the bonus action must come after the Attack action. You decide when it happens afterward that turn.

This contradicts a previous ruling by him via Twitter, in which he stated that, "As with most bonus actions, you choose the timing, so the Shield Master shove can come before or after the Attack action." Crawford acknowledges this change here:

In 2017, I changed the ruling on bonus action timing because the old ruling was illogical. The original ruling failed to account for the fact that X relying on Y is a form of timing. The new ruling corrects that oversight.

And further explains his reasoning here:

The old ruling on bonus action timing didn't quiet questions on that timing. Instead, the illogical ruling fueled questions, and it even inadvertently led some fans to think our choice of words like "if" or "when" had super-precise meanings in bonus actions. They don't.

This ruling is now formalized in the updated 2019 Sage Advice Compendium:

The Shield Master feat lets you shove someone as a bonus action if you take the Attack action. Can you take that bonus action before the Attack action?

No. The bonus action provided by the Shield Master feat has a pre-condition: that you take the Attack action on your turn. Intending to take that action isn’t sufficient; you must actually take it before you can take the bonus action. During your turn, you do get to decide when to take the bonus action after you’ve taken the Attack action.

This sort of if-then setup appears in many of the game’s rules. The “if” must be satisfied before the “then” comes into play.


In addition, if you can make multiple attacks as part of the Attack action, you can not take the Shield Master bonus action - or any other bonus action - until after your Attack action (as well as any intervening movement, if desired) is complete. Crawford confirms this here:

No general rule allows you to insert a bonus action between attacks in a single action. You can interrupt a multiple-attack action with a bonus action/reaction only if the trigger of the bonus action/reaction is an attack, rather than the action.

That said, Crawford also later explained that in his own games, as DM, he'd rule that at least one attack within the Attack action would be enough to qualify:

As DM, I allow the bonus action of Shield Master to happen after you make at least one attack with the Attack action, since making one attack fulfills the action's basic definition (PH, 192). If you have Extra Attack, you decide which of the attacks the bonus action follows.

He further explains his logic and the rule intent here:

The simple by-the-book way (RAW) to determine whether you've completed an action is to finish the whole action. Yet you fulfill our design intent (RAI) with the Attack action if you make at least one attack with it, since that is how we define the action in its basic form.

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The general rule for bonus actions:

You choose when to take a bonus action during your turn, unless the bonus action's timing is specified, ...

Shield Master:

If you take the Attack action on your turn, you can use a bonus action to try to shove a creature within 5 feet of you with your shield.

This is the only time in the book where the word "if" is used in conjuction with taking a bonus action. Almost all other references to conditional bonus actions use the word "when".

While you're raging, you can use a bonus action on your turn to knock a Large or smaller creature prone when you hit it with melee weapon attack." - pg. 50

When you use your action to cast a bard spell, you can make one weapon attack as a bonus action. - pg 55

When you use the Attack action, you can make one weapon attack as a bonus action - pg. 63

When you use the Attack action with an unarmed strike or a monk weapon on your turn, you can make one unarmed strike as a bonus action - pg. 78

When you use the Attack action and attack with a one-handed weapon, you can use a bonus action to attack with a loaded hand crossbow you are holding - pg. 165

When you take the Attack action and attack with only a glaive, halberd, or quarterstaff, you can use a bonus action to make a melee attack with the opposite end of the weapon. - pg. 168

When you hit a creature with an unarmed strike or an improvised weapon on your turn, you can use a bonus action to attempt to grapple the target. - pg. 170

And then we have Flurry of Blows which uses neither "if" nor "when" but "after".

Immediately after you take the Attack action on your turn, you can spend 1 ki point to make two unarmed strikes as a bonus action. - pg. 78

I believe that "if" and "when" are largely interchangeable in this case, and we shouldn't assume that Shield Master functions any differently from any of the features that specify "when".

One of the 5E developers, Jeremy Crawford, has stated on Twitter:

As with most bonus actions, you choose the timing, so the Shield Master shove can come before or after the Attack action.

If this is the case, then Crawford would appear to be saying that the timing doesn't matter on any of these features that only specify "when" or "if".

I am inclined to agree with Crawford's ruling. I do not believe "if" nor "when" are sufficient to specify timing on their own. It is very common for the rules to use the words "after" and "before" when they care about the specific timing of some type of action. I do not believe it is incongruous with either realism or the rules for a character to use his Action to attack and then bonus action shield bash prior to actually taking the attack granted by his choice of Action. After all, characters with Extra Attacks can move about the battlefield with their movement in-between their attacks!

Furthermore, in my personal experience as a player and a dungeon master, I prefer that the player be allowed to take his shield bash before attacking. This is more enjoyable for the player, who otherwise cannot benefit from his own shield bash without action surge. Worsening matters, turn order may allow the enemy to stand-up immediately after being knocked down, meaning the shield bash benefited no one! As far as game balance goes, I did not find this to be a concern as a player or DM; it certainly didn't inspire jealousy from other players, in either case.

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It seems that RAW is different than RAI. Based on Jeremy Crawford's post it seems they are trying to avoid "I have advantage a ton of the time" shenanigans.

As a GM I'd split the difference and rule you can take the attack action, make one attack, then bonus action shove, then a second attack.

As a prior poster pointed out, you can make one attack, then move, then make the second attack. It makes no sense whatsoever that you couldn't bash them in the face with your shield rather than running 30 feet away.

In this way, you still gain a possible advantage on a single strike at lower levels (unless you action surge) and it still gives the "follow through" flavor which those taking the shield feat are probably seeking.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hello and welcome! Please take the tour as an introduction to the site. Please keep in mind this site is different from a discussion forum. Answers are expected to stand on their own and be backed up with quotes or experience. Regardless, thank you for helping strangers and happy gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – Sdjz Dec 16 '18 at 21:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Sdjz You know what, that was about the most friendly "You're doing it wrong" post I've seen. Thank you :) \$\endgroup\$ – GM XIX Mar 8 at 15:35

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