Can a level 3 fighter use their shield as an improvised weapon and attack using their bonus action on top of their regular attack?


2 Answers 2


Yes, you can use your Shield as an improvised weapon

The damage would be 1d4 plus your Strength bonus, the attack your Strength bonus, without your proficiency bonus.

No, you can not use it in addition

As it is not a light weapon, you can not attack with any other weapon in that turn unless you have the Dual Wielder feat.

What you could do

If you take Dual Wielder and Tavern Brawler, you can attack with a shield using a bonus action, and add your proficiency bonus to the attack roll.

What you should do

Take the Shield Master feat, get better DPR (advantage on attacks, plus Dueling Style) and better control, for half the price (spending only one feat).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hmm, I thought you added your strength bonus to improvised weapon melee attack damage. (And if you do, 1d4+STR bludgeoning damage might sometimes be superior to 1d8+STR piercing/slashing, if the monster has certain resistances/vulnerabilities.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Tim Grant
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 11:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Interesting. I took that sentence as meaning "1d4 (plus whatever your Strength bonus might add)", and was very confused at @timster and nitsua60's comments implying otherwise. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 13:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @timster, you are right about adding Str, corrected. I was thinking ahead, considering two weapon fighting rules \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 14:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Doval, read the second tweet from your own link: improvised weapon is a weapon. Jeremy Crawford contradicts himself here, a shield isn't a weapon, a shield can be improvised weapon, an improvised weapon is a weapon. \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Commented Jul 8, 2016 at 8:20
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @András There's no contradiction. An improvised weapon is a weapon only the moment you use it to attack, just like a Reach weapon only extends your reach when you attack with it. What Jeremy is trying to say is that you can't declare a shield is a weapon just because you can use it as an improvised weapon, just like you can't declare that a dagger counts as a ranged weapon just because it can make ranged attacks. TWF only works if you're holding two (light) melee weapons. Shields aren't melee weapons. \$\endgroup\$
    – Doval
    Commented Jul 8, 2016 at 10:29

Wearing the shield - No

If you are wearing the shield (you've spent 1 round donning it and you are getting the AC bonus) then you cannot use it as an improvised weapon, as it is now worn, not wielded.

In this case a shield bash is the same as a booted kick or a gauntleted punch or a helmed headbutt - it is an unarmed attack.

If a GM does rule that a worn shield is an improvised weapon, doing 1d4, then they also have to rule that so is a suit of armour, clothing, gloves, boots, and so on. It is simpler to rule that "worn items are armour, not weapons" and "carried items are weapons, not armour". The distinction being that carried items can be picked up and dropped using a free action but worn items require actions to don and doff.

Further evidence for armour and weapons being separate: if a character wears armour that they are not proficient in then they suffer penalties (Basic Rules, page 44) but if a character holds a weapon they are not proficient in then they suffer no penalties.

Carrying the shield - yes

If you've just picked the shield up and are using it to hit someone then you can use it as an improvised weapon (it would be similar to a wagon wheel, which is mentioned in the Basic Rules). You will attack without proficiency (unless you have the Tavern Brawler feat). It does 1d4 + STR bludgeoning damage.

Two-Weapon Fighting

In both cases, the shield is not a weapon, so two-weapon fighting does not apply.

I would rule that the second case requires two hands, so two-weapon fighting would definitely not apply.

To clarify, my reading is that an improvised weapon does not count as a "weapon" for features that say things like "When you attack with a weapon…". The errata for unarmed attacks has clarified that though unarmed attacks involve making a melee weapon attack, they are not weapons because unarmed does not appear on the (errata) weapon table.

If you do rule that improvised weapons in general are "weapons" then you have to determine for each weapon whether or not it is light, heavy, two-handed, thrown, etc. This is so you can answer questions like "does great weapon fighting apply to hitting someone with a wagon wheel?" and "does two-weapon fighting apply when I have a chair in one hand and a large book in the other?".

Note that if you rule that a shield is a weapon, then dueling fighting style does not allow the use of a shield, contradicting Crawford.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure I agree a shield used as an improvised weapon "is not a weapon" and because of this TWF doesn't apply. However, it's certainly not a light weapon, which is required for TWF. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 22:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ There's nothing in the rules that say you can't use a shield as an improvised weapon if you've donned it. On the contrary, I'd argue you can't make a melee attack with a shield unless you've donned it. I also disagree with the notion that hitting someone with a shield is the same as an unarmed strike in armor; but ultimately it's up to the DM. \$\endgroup\$
    – Doval
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 23:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Doval what's the difference between bashing someone with a shield and headbutting someone with a helm and kicking someone with a boot and punching someone with a gauntlet? All these items are worn items - they take time to don and doff, they can't just be picked up and dropped at will. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 23:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GreenstoneWalker A shield weighs 6 pounds. That's a lot. A club only weighs 2 and that's enough for it to do more damage than an unarmed strike. Once it's in your hands, what difference does it make whether it takes an action or not to equip? All that matters is its capacity for damage. It'd be silly to say that you'd be better at attacking with a shield when it's not strapped to your arm. \$\endgroup\$
    – Doval
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 23:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ This has to be the daftest ruling I've ever heard of, and that's including some of Crawford's gems. \$\endgroup\$
    – Lumos
    Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 19:01

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