Do I get the +2AC from a shield if it stays on my back all the time? Another way to look at it: If I use my Versatile weapon as two-handed, does my AC go down? I'm still proficient in all my gear, so I know I keep my proficiency bonus.

The PHB says (p. 144) "A shield is made from wood or metal and is carried in one hand. Wielding a shield increases your AC by 2."

My instinct says I lose the +2, but thinking realism/role playing, maybe only on attacks from behind?

  • \$\begingroup\$ @Erik Facing is a DM option in the DMG. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMNoob
    Aug 20, 2015 at 8:23
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Answer in answers, not comments. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Aug 20, 2015 at 12:08

3 Answers 3


The rules for shields say:

Shields. 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.

So as far as the rules are concerned, a shield only counts if you're carrying it in one hand. If it's on your back, it's effectively worthless.

Your DM might allow it to offer some benefit, but that's strictly up to them (and if they do, it's purely a houserule).


RAW, Nope. A shield on your back does not provide you with any AC bonus. If you swap your fighting stance from one hand to two hands, you can't use your shield properly and lose the bonus.

I get that a shield on your back CAN provide extra cover, so maybe your DM can work with it. But the rules won't be able to help you with this one.


To use your weapon two handed you would be required to stop using your shield. This requires an action to remove it completely.

The DM may allow you to simple stop using it while wielding two handed weapons. It would still be attached to your arm but you are not able to use it for defence. You would be able to hold your shield till your turn taking advantage of the shield AC bonus then drop it to make your attack and for the rest of your turn you would be at the AC without a shield.

There are no rules regarding using a shield on your back in 5th ed. In previous versions there were options that you would gain the AC bonus for being attacked from the rear but usually came at a penalty to attack. This would be a DM's call.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Fixed to mention action to remove. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tashio
    Aug 20, 2015 at 14:06

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