PHB page 146 says that donning and doffing a shield takes 1 action for PCs. However I did not find anything about monsters.

For example, a goblin (MM page 166) wears both a leather armor (AC 11 + Dex 2) and a shield, making its total AC 15. In similar fashion, Helmed Horror (MM page 183) wears a plate armor (AC 18) plus a shield, making its total AC 20. In fact, every monster with a shield seems to have the shield bonus of 2 as a part of its AC.

Is it safe to assume that the monsters with shields always wear them, or should the AC initially be -2 until the DM decides to make them spend an action to don a shield?


2 Answers 2


Unless an exception is specified, chapters 5 and 7-12 of the Players Handbook apply to monsters as well as player characters. This means that a monster does need to take an action to don or doff a shield.

Whether or not a monster is already wearing a shield when first encountered is decided by the DM. For example, a DM may decide that unless a creature is asleep or busy with a task that requires two hands, it is wearing its shield. Another DM may decide that only monsters that are on guard duty are wearing a shield. Another may decide that monsters never do anything except guard the room they're in, and so all monsters always wear their shields.

If a monster is not wearing its shield, because they doffed it or the DM decided they were encountered without it, the DM would need to subtract 2 from their listed AC.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Of note, goblins may sometimes be encountered without shields donned to use their (2-handed) shortbows. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 12, 2021 at 9:49

The way our DM goes about it is situational.

Let's use a cave for an example: you are supposed to kill the goblins in the cave.

If you surprise them by sneaking in, and making ceiling fall in before combat, some will have shields and some won't. The ones working (mining, cooking, etc) won't have a shield on.

But if you sneak in while wearing plate mail, and fail your stealth check, every goblin is going to be loaded out in war gear with shields already donned waiting on you.

It's situational

The nature of the question situational and opinionated.

It's just as acceptable for the DM to say monsters are always ready for battle or they have -2 AC until an action is used etc. It is the DM's call.

I couldn't find anything even in my Volos that could cover all cases.


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