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Here's the logic: You have a level 4 Fighter who has Tavern Brawler and Dual wielder. He is using the shield as an (improvised) melee weapon and his empty main hand as the other. That logic leads me to believe this could work per the Dual Wielder feat (PHB page 165):

You gain a +1 bonus to AC while you are wielding a separate melee weapon in each hand.

Now, Tavern Brawler implies the unarmed strike is a melee weapon. If that's not the case, you could grab a "stick" to count as a weapon.

My question is, can I get the +1 AC from Dual Wielder in this situation?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This question might read better as: "Would shield AC stack with the +1 AC bonus of Dual Wielder if it were used as an improvised weapon?" \$\endgroup\$
    – lodewykk
    Apr 2 at 17:47

5 Answers 5

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No.

Tavern Brawler's relevant ability is:

You are proficient with improvised weapons and unarmed strikes.

The rules for improvised weapons in the PHB say two things:

  • Some non-weapon objects can just be treated as weapons if they are mostly similar to weapons.
  • Other objects just do 1d4 damage.

That interacts with the proficiency rules. If an object is essentially just a club (table leg, wooden branch, torch), spear (pitchfork), greatclub (log, broken stalagmite), or whatever, then a character proficient in simple melee weapons is proficient in using such weapon-like objects as weapons.

Objects that "bear no resemblance to a weapon" (PHB, p. 148) aren't treated as weapons and as such characters can't be proficient with them. A table leg is close enough to a club for club proficiency to transfer; a candelabra or a serving platter or a horse's saddle ... not so much.

(As a side note, many tools that a character may be proficient with may also be treated as weapons in the above sense, but unless the character is proficient with their use as weapons, they can't use their proficiency bonus when attacking with them).

Tavern Brawler's effect is to give proficiency with anything being used as a weapon, even if it's not remotely weapon-like. That's not the same as being able to treat it like a weapon!

Dual wielder grants +1 AC if the character is wielding separate weapons in each hand. Proficiency isn't a factor. We can test various cases for Tavern Brawlers getting this bonus:

  • No weapon in either hand. No Bonus. Unarmed strikes are not weapons.
  • Club-like improvised weapon in both hands. +1 AC Bonus. This is the same as if the character had a "real" club in either hand.
  • Unbalanced non-weapon object in one or both hands. No Bonus. They aren't weapons.
  • Shield on one arm, club-like object in the other hand. No Bonus. A shield doesn't "bear any resemblance" to a weapon.

In fact, Tavern Brawler doesn't do anything that would change whether the Dual Wielder bonus applies. It doesn't say that you can treat non-weapon objects as if they were weapons; it just lets you use your proficiency bonus with them.

As far as attacking with shields goes, it's worth noting that the Shield Master feat doesn't give any enhanced ability to do damage with a shield, just to shove and block with it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ addendum: while shields may not be categorized as weapons in 5e, it's very plausible to allow them to count as a weapon, as they are functionally very much usable as weapons. Sure, they're primarily defensive, but they're very much usable offensively as well. For example, if you ever got bashed in the head with a shield rim at full force, you still wouldn't count them as weapons, because you would be f*cking dead and thus unable to count them as anything (especially if the rim is reinforced with metal). \$\endgroup\$ Apr 2 at 11:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PixelMaster Plausible or not, as far as the rules go, shields aren't weapons. And if they are, should anyone with Dual Wielder get +1 AC for using a shield? That doesn't seem like the design intent. (And I wouldn't want a shield to more than 1d4 crushing damage in any case, and that's what they do as improvised weapons already). \$\endgroup\$
    – Marq
    Apr 2 at 12:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ A net (PHB 149) does no damage, the target is restrained, yet a net is a weapon, so either hindering or harming qualifies. Shoving the target prone with a shield attack is hindering, so I'd allow the Shield Master feat (PHB 170) to count a shield as a weapon: "You use shields not just for protection but also for offense. If you take the Attack action on your turn, you can use a bonus action to try to shove a creature within 5 feet of you with your shield." \$\endgroup\$ Apr 2 at 14:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ This Sage Advice thread argues that any improvised weapons (even chairs) count as weapons while they are being used as weapons. This would mean the AC bonus would apply to random objects being used. However, since shields are not used as weapons defensively, they don't count as weapons while defending and the bonus does not apply. \$\endgroup\$
    – lodewykk
    Apr 2 at 22:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Marq Yes. Looks to me like Shield Master lets you attack with a donned shield, conferring the properties of an offensive melee weapon, which qualifies for Dual Wielder. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 2 at 23:42
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No

And for two reasons:

  1. An unarmed strike is explicitly not a weapon (melee or otherwise) - the errata makes this clear.

    Instead of using a weapon to make a melee weapon attack, you can use an unarmed strike

  2. A shield is an improvised weapon, not a melee weapon. Using an object to make a melee attack does not turn it into a melee (or ranged) weapon - it turns it into an improvised weapon. An improvised weapon that is sufficiently weapon-like to be treated as a weapon would be a melee (or ranged) weapon, like the table leg being sufficiently similar to a club. A shield is not like any weapon.

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

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    \$\begingroup\$ I see your point with unarmed strike. But a shield is an "improvised weapon". Tavern Brawler allows you to use item that are similar to real weapons and do the same damage. Sometimes characters don’t have their weapons and have to attack with whatever is close at hand. An improvised weapon includes any object you can wield in one or two hands, such as broken glass, a table leg, a frying pan, a wagon wheel, or a dead goblin. (PHB pg.147) In many cases, an improvised weapon is similar to an actual weapon and can be treated as such. For example, a table leg is akin to a club. (PHB pg.147) \$\endgroup\$
    – Charlie M
    Feb 17, 2017 at 1:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, it is an "improvised weapon" - it is not a "melee weapon". A bow is a "ranged weapon" using it as an "improvised weapon" to hit someone in melee does not make it a "melee weapon" either. These are specific terms of art used in D&D 5e. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Feb 17, 2017 at 1:56
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RAW, No

See the excellent answers listed here.

Homebrew, Yes

I would allow it as a DM. You paid 2 feats to be mostly mediocre.

Logic

You have two different things in your hand. One of them is quite good at defending, neither is really good at at attacking.
Correspondingly, both do 1d4 damage, one adds +2 to your AC, the other +1.

Balance

At max you can do 1d4 + 3 + 1d8 + 3 = 13 damage (shield + Longsword), and next level your damage increases to 20.5.
Your AC is 10 + 2 + 4 + 2 + 1 = 19 (Dex + Scale + Shield + Dual Wielder).

A Great Weapon Fighter would do 7 + 4 = 11 damage, 21 with Great Weapon Master, 22 and 42 on next level, respectively.
His AC is 17 in Chain Mail + Defense fighting style.

A Duelist Fighter does 1d8 + 2 + 4 = 10.5 damage (Longsword + Dueling), 21 on L5. He also mostly has advantage because of Shield Master.
His AC is 1 lower than yours, 18.

Level 4 is the first level you can pull this off, and the last level wheree you at least seem to be stronger than the other options. From level 5 you are behind on damage, and only slightly ahead on AC.
Very far from overpowered, so I would let you do this.

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Maybe, but NOT with a shield and only in a very limited way!

The improvised weapon cannot be a shield, unless the DM approves of this as a house rule.

Improvised weapons used to make a melee weapon attack can be considered melee weapons during the attack. See Rubiksmoose argument here, where they explain this in more detail: Are Improvised Weapons used in melee actually melee weapons?

Tavern Brawler means that you are proficient with improvised weapons (PHB, p.170).

In Dual Wielder it states that "You gain a +1 bonus to AC while you are wielding a separate melee weapon in each hand" (PHB, p.165).

I think this is the part where it becomes more tricky. Say you are holding a dead goblin in each hand. The goblin is only considered a weapon while being used as a weapon. So, if in your turn, while using the dead goblins as improvised weapons, you produce an Opportunity Attack, then yes, you will get the +1 AC bonus. Whereas in the rest of the round and during your friends' and foes' turns, the goblin becomes just another dead goblin that you happen to be holding in your hand.

As a DM, I would probably allow a house rule where the PC can benefit from the +1 AC, but only until their next turn. If the PC then does not attack with the two dead goblins on that round, then the benefit stops.


Addendum: by RAW it would be very rare but it could occur, for instance if your PC were fighting a Barbarian NPC and used the dead goblins to attack the Barbarian, then the Barbarian could use Retaliation (PHB, p.49) and use their reaction to make a weapon attack against your PC - therefore your PC's AC would benefit from the +1 at this point. But, as pointed above, not with a shield.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "So, if in your turn, while using the dead goblins as improvised weapons, you produce an Opportunity Attack" How would one do this since OA's are provoked by moving and "As soon as the attack completes it is no longer treated as a weapon."? You cannot move after starting but before finishing an attack (in the middle of the Attack action as a whole, sure, you can move, but not while the body is actually being used as a weapon) \$\endgroup\$ Apr 2 at 11:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Updating as the question has been altered, which means my answer no longer makes sense. Done. If ipart of the answer does not make sense, please comment so I can improve it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Senmurv
    Apr 3 at 19:08
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Yes, the Dual Wielder's AC bonus should apply to a Tavern Brawler's improvised weapons

No, this does not work with shields

This this Sage Advice thread on the interaction of shields being used as improvised weapons with the Duelist fighting style (which requires only one weapon to be wielded) sheds some light on this.

From Jeremy Crawford's response tweets:

A shield certainly isn't a weapon, but like many things, it can be used as an improvised weapon.

An improvised weapon is, indeed, a weapon, but only the moment it's used as such. A chair/shield/etc isn't a weapon otherwise.

... and so, when a Duelist who sometimes uses his shield as an improvised weapon makes an attack with his main weapon, he is using the shield as a shield and not as a weapon and is thus holding only one weapon and the +2 damage bonus still applies.

From this we can deduce:

  1. Improvised weapons (even chairs) should be treated as weapons, but only while they are being used as weapons.
  2. An equipped shield can be used as an improvised weapon, but at any moment it counts as either a shield, or a weapon, not both.

The question now becomes: "When is an object being used as a weapon?"

  • I would argue that a Dual Wielding Tavern Brawler is using any two things he lays his hands on as weapons both while attacking and while defending. So while fighting. Therefore, Yes, the Dual Wielder's AC bonus should apply while using a Tavern Brawler's improvised weapons.

  • An equipped shield, on the other hand, is being used as a shield all the time, except when it is being used as a weapon to bash something. So no, shield AC and the Dual Weapon fighting bonus probably do not stack

This is based on way too small technicalities and edge-cases of interpretation. I would leave it up to the DM

This does not seem to be at all overpowered, and adds a fun mechanic. The final decision on any ruling should be up to the DM.

This RPG StackExchange answer rather convincingly argues that you can in fact do this.

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