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I'm a caster with Mage Hand, and am wondering if I could use it with a regular Shield to create an ad-hoc Floating Shield.

I ask because:

  • Shields provide +2 AC but weigh 6lbs
  • Mage hand has a weight limit of 10lbs, and a range of 30ft

Would this provide an extra 2 AC to me so long as I have it floating in the same space as myself?

If I move it into an ally's space, would they then get the 2 AC bonus? What if they're already wielding a shield themselves?

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No

A shield requires an arm, not just a hand, to wield:

Anyone can…strap a shield to an arm.

PH, Armor and Shields, p. 144

This jibes with real-world use of the large shields, where the arm provides necessary support to make the shield useful. (Bucklers, or hand shields, may be a different issue, but there are no bucklers in official D&D 5e rules.)

“Manipulating an object” (Mage Hand, PH. p. 256) is different than wielding it.

Mage hand is not strong enough

The hand can only carry 10 pounds. A melee attack can involve thousands of pounds of force — orders of magnitude more than enough to overwhelm the carrying capacity of the hand. Even arrows project much more force than 10 pounds. (And since the hand is not connected to the ground, this force could bat the shield away like a piñata.)

This jibes with the spell description that says Mage Hand “can’t attack.”

If it can’t “wield” a shield, how about just holding it?

Just holding a shield up might convey some benefits to anyone behind it. Depending on the situation, the DM could rule that it provides concealment from view, or some other benefit.

But that’s not wielding a shield.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Technically it could still be effective against light projectiles, as it would deflect (change trajectory) enough to prevent a hit aimed at the player characters. Also, if an axe hits the shield and shield gets stuck on it, or gets in-between the axe's blade and the target, the shield would still dampen the hit by a lot. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 19 '16 at 15:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Adam Holding an object of up to 10lbs aloft, is not the same thing as deflecting hundreds of pounds of force delivered by a weapon with that object. \$\endgroup\$
    – Lexible
    Nov 19 '16 at 20:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ The hand can only carry 10lbs, but the rules make no mention of it becoming involved in a conflict. I wouldn't assume that, as a spectral conjuration, the hand can be batted around by opponents. My default stance is that the magic behind it only makes it interact as desired. The shield might get blasted away through the hand. \$\endgroup\$
    – Samthere
    Nov 22 '16 at 10:39
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It could but it's really inefficient:

You can use your action to control the hand.

So you would need to use your action each turn to Ready the hand against the first attack made against you. This only allows you to move and use any bonus action you may get.

A shield held in your hand does this for free against all attacks.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think mage hand is too weak to function as a shield, even with using an action. For example, 10lbs vs. hundreds of pounds of force delivered through a mace, means the shield simply smashes into you propelled by the mace. \$\endgroup\$
    – Lexible
    Nov 19 '16 at 20:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ But @Lexible, the mage hand-held shield would still serve to spread the impact of the mace over larger and different areas.... D&D just isn't taking that level of detail into account. (After all, a STR 3 and a STR 24 PC can equally well wield a shield, assuming proficiency!) \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Nov 20 '16 at 13:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 Think of it like this: when actually wielding a shield, force is used to meet force: wielding a shield is an active process. Now imagine a shield suspended by, say, string, at about your body height: a forceful blow will drive that shield right into your body to its detriment. \$\endgroup\$
    – Lexible
    Nov 20 '16 at 16:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Lexible force is not the relevant mechanical criteria. After all, a rifleman and his target experience exactly the same force. The area of the force and the time over which it is delivered make the difference between being hit by the rifle butt or the bullet. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Nov 20 '16 at 19:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DaleM Oh I know that diffusion is important, but I also have been knocked in the head by objects that were ostensibly "shielding" me from something else moving at high velocity. I am certain that anyone standing behind a shield suspended by string while someone on the other side wallops it with a baseball bat will find my argument convincing. \$\endgroup\$
    – Lexible
    Nov 20 '16 at 19:35
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As read, no, mage hand cannot wield a shield. If I tried it and my DM said no, I'd leave it at that. But as a DM, I allow it for the same reasons given. But because the hand is so weak, the first time an attack against the user misses, the hand is dispelled and the shield is dropped.

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I'd say yes, for a few reasons. First - because I've had the same though, b) it would actually be quite limited due to needing an action to move, and fig 26q - it's creative!

The text of the spell doesn't specify the hand has a size, therefore it can be reasonably assumed to be "big enough" to do the task it is given, provided its within all the other parameters.

The hand is also spectral, so not a physical object. Therefore the hand itself can't be hit be attacks (unless magic weapon I think).

The hand only moves when you make it move. So unless it's being hit with a nat 20 attack, it stays within the square you put it in. It can wobble, spin a bit, be shoved out the way, but ultimately re-centers itself. If your DM says it gets blasted off because o force of the attack, then that opens the argument as to why PCs don't get thrown around when struck. Narratively you can be staggered, knocked about etc be attacks, but unless an ability specificly states, you don't get moved out of your square.

Limitations though.

I shield can't protect you if it's not between you and the thing trying to hit you. I'd rule that unless the shield is within 5ft of the person it's protecting And is in the path of the melee attacker, no bonus AC. For range attacks, it would need to be in-between the target and the attacker, on a straight line (or close enough if angles and grids get tricky) between them. Range from you doesn't matter so long as it's still within 30ft of you.

Other than that, get creative! Have two shields for +4AC for a round or two! Have the party stay within your movements range of the shield, ready an action for "if a member of my party gets attacked", and suddenly provide them with bonus AC! Work out a tactic with your archers and ranged casters to provide cover for them. Shield planted in the ground, floaty shield above that with a small gap in between, become a pillbox!

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    Mar 6 at 13:03

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