As the title says, can you use the features this feat grants despite not being proficient in shields?

Rules as Written answers, provide sources please.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Wait, is shield proficiency really not a prereq for Shield Master? I have to do some Googling... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 16:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ No it isn't. And proficiency in bows, polearms, and the two handed weapons aren't required for their respective feats (except for the -5 / +10 abilities on Sharp Shooter and Great Weapon Master). It's very odd. For example, you don't have to be proficient in Longbows to shoot 600' and totally ignore all cover except total cover. How stupid is that? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 16:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you provide the rules citation that makes you think you can't do this? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 16:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ No I really can't. I mean, from an intended standpoint the name: Shield MASTER indicates that proficiency at a minimum is implied. However by strict RAW, it appears it is not. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 16:43

1 Answer 1


Yes, you can

PH170, the feat in question, says "[y]ou gain the following benefits while you are wielding a shield". The feat says nothing about wielding a shield you are proficient in—otherwise it would be on the prerequisite line—just that you have to wield a shield.

Of course, if you're not proficient with the shield, many of the benefits are moot.

While adding your shield's bonus to Dex saves and gaining the ability to take no damage from a successful Dex save those saves are going to be harder to succeed at with disadvantage.

Per PH144:

Armor Proficiency. Anyone can put on a suit of armor or strap a shield to an arm. Only those proficient in the armor's use know how to wear it effectively, however. Your class gives you proficiency with certain types of armor. If you wear armor that you lack proficiency with, you have disadvantage on any ability check, saving throw, or attack roll that involves Strength or Dexterity, and you can't cast spells.

Therefore, not being proficient with a shield grants disadvantage on Dex saves—the same saves the shield master feat is meant to improve.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree completely. Slightly off topic: How does the War Caster feat differ then? It allows you to cast the somatic portions of a spell while wielding a shield, and you seem to have a different opinion on proficiency there. Why the discrepancy? Specifically, why would you need proficiency there, and not here, under a feat called Shield Master? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 16:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ To make things worse, you get disadvantage on all Dex saves, while the bonus from the feat only applies to spells which target you, and those are very rare. \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 16:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ Because warcaster only removes the somatic restriction from spells. While not being proficient with a shield prevents you from casting spells. Period. Warcaster doesn't change the proficiency requirement for casting with armour/shields. As for why no proficiency is required for shield master, it's a mathematically-weaker choice to choose it if you don't already have proficiency. Removing disadvantage from all Dex saves is more powerful than adding a +2 to Dex saves vs only-you effects. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 16:49

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