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Does using an Animated Shield count as 'wielding a shield' for Unarmored Defense? Specifically, would using it inhibit a monk's unarmored defense?

And does the Animated Shield require proficiency with shields to use?

I would say that logically a floating independent shield does neither, and that the phrase "as if you were wielding it" says no, but I'd like a second opinion before I make any rookie assumptions about the nature of magic items.

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The Animated Shield says that it

protects you as if you were wielding it.

This strongly implies that you aren't wielding it.

The Monk's Unarmored Defense feature works

while you are wearing no armor and not wielding a shield.

So the use of an Animated Shield shouldn't interfere.

As for proficiency, the only requirement for using an Animated Shield is that you're attuned to and holding one, so this shouldn't be an issue. There is an argument against this, though:

The Animated Shield protects you as if you were wielding it.

Luckily, wielding a shield with which you're not proficient doesn't affect how it protects you; all it does it give you a bunch of penalties to other things.

Since the Animated Shield "protects you as if you were wielding it", and doesn't "give you penalties as if you were wielding it", this isn't an issue.

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According to Mike Mearls, using an animated shield counts as weilding it for mechanical purposes.

Andrew Cole ‎@andrewphillipc1

@mikemearls Do you think using an animated shield counts as wielding it for the purposes of bladesong armor restrictions?

Mike Mearls ‎@mikemearls

Yes - you have a free hand, but still need to use tactics that account for it.

The answer was given in regard to Bladesong, but considering the wording of the two features, we can safely assume that it applies to a monk's unarmored defense as well.

Bladesong

Starting at 2nd level, you can invoke a secret elven magic called the Bladesong, provided that you aren't wearing medium or heavy armor or using a shield.

Unarmored Defense

Beginning at 1st level, while you are wearing no armor and not wielding a shield, your AC equals 10 + your Dexterity modifier + your Wisdom modifier.


This is now also the official ruling of Jeremy Crawford, the person responsible with all official interpretations of rules-related questions:

Timothy Lang @TheTLang

@Mikemearls @JeremyECrawford @ChrisPerkinsDnD Would an Animated Shield count, while animated, as wielded for the purpose of Shield Master?

Jeremy Crawford @JeremyECrawford

The text of animated shield says the item protects you as if you were wielding it. To Shield Master and the like, you're wielding it. #DnD

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    \$\begingroup\$ On a narrow reading it seems Crawford only addresses whether one gains shield-wielding benefits of animated shield, not whether one suffers the drawbacks. \$\endgroup\$ – stwlam Jun 8 '18 at 7:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ I see a huge difference between Bladesong and Unarmored deffense. The first says using a shield, the second wielding. \$\endgroup\$ – Masclins Jun 8 '18 at 9:15

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