Tavern Brawler

Accustomed to rough-and-tumble fighting using whatever weapons happen to be on hand, you gain the following benefits:

  • [...]
  • You are proficient with improvised weapons.
  • [...]

Now, this would technically turn a Shield into an improvised weapon, with which you are proficient, that deals 1d4 damage. Does this make the Fighter's Duelist Fighting Style incompatible with a Shield if you get the Tavern Brawler feat?

Duelist (Fighting Style)

Gain +2 bonus to damage rolls when wielding a melee weapon in one hand and no other weapon.

(Emphasis mine.)

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The full text of a feat probably falls into the domain of copyright infringement. Please ellipsis out portions that aren't relevant to this question. \$\endgroup\$ – Derek Stucki Oct 12 '16 at 18:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is your concern that anything you touch immediately is treated as an improvised weapon and thus would disbar you from gaining the bonus from Duelist simply because you have a shield in your hand? \$\endgroup\$ – Joshua Aslan Smith Oct 12 '16 at 19:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ If your character have Tavern Brawler, why are you ever hitting foes with a shield? Why not just punch them or kick them? Same attack roll, same damage. \$\endgroup\$ – Greenstone Walker Oct 12 '16 at 19:47
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @DerekStucki a point of semantics: a better verb would be "elide" \$\endgroup\$ – D. Ben Knoble Oct 13 '16 at 3:26

By strict RAW no, it would not make it incompatible.

There are a few reasons for this:

  1. Improvised weapons are not weapons per-se, they don't have weapon stats* and they are not listed in the weapon category.
  2. The reason for the no other weapon in the description is for the two-weapon fighting and two-handed options, though the second one is moot for this question.
  3. By a strict RAW** you cannot use two-weapon fighting since the shield is not a weapon (no bonus action to attack with a shield as an improvised weapon).

Duelist: Gain +2 bonus to damage rolls when wielding a melee weapon in one hand and no other weapon.

Two-weapon Fighting: When you take the Attack action and attack with a light melee weapon that you’re holding in one hand, you can use a bonus action to attack with a different light melee weapon that you’re holding in the other hand.

*- This question shed some light in this.
**- Crawford stated that the intention is that two-weapon fighting can only be done by using weapons.

Dual Wielder is intended to work with actual weapons. Using the feat with improvised weapons is up to the DM.

It is a DM decision on a more lax RAW interpretation.

As you can see, by strict RAW, the central issue is the two-weapon fighting feature. Therefore, if the DM consider that improvised weapon can be used with two-weapon fighting it is up to the DM to resolve this conflict.

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  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ So glad you answered this properly! In addition, this tweet from crawford: mobile.twitter.com/JeremyECrawford/status/… might help clear up confusion that while a shield is not and never can be a Weapon (has no weapon stats or tags) it can be used improvisationally to make a melee weapon attack with it even though it still remains a shield the whole time. \$\endgroup\$ – Airatome Oct 12 '16 at 19:40

I think the conceptual problem is here

Now, this would technically turn a Shield into an improvised weapon

which is inaccurate. An improvised weapon is defined on PHB 147 to be

An improvised weapon includes any object you can wield in one or two hands

A shield (which isn't a proper weapon) can be wielded, so it's an improvised weapon. How skilled your character is at using it as a weapon has no bearing on its weapon-ness, the way a wizard poorly wielding a greatsword is still using a weapon.

So, consider a duelist with a shield. They're holding a real weapon in one hand, and a potential improvised weapon in the other.

If the duelist also has Tavern Brawler, then they're merely good at said improvising; it doesn't fundamentally change the duelist-shield situation.

So, can a duelist use a shield and the Duelist style? The answer is yes, because the shield isn't listed in the Weapons table.

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