Protect Yourself With DnD 5e’s Hovering Animated Shield

Last Updated on January 27, 2023

What Is an Animated Shield in DnD 5e?

An animated shield is a shield that can protect you without you needing to wield it. The shield hovers near you providing the same benefit as a normal shield but allowing you to use both hands.

Animated Shield

Armor (shield), very rare, (requires attunement)

While holding this shield, you can speak its command word as a bonus action to cause it to animate. The shield leaps into the air and hovers in your space to protect you as if you were wielding it, leaving your hands free. The shield remains animated for 1 minute until you use a bonus action to end this effect or until you are incapacitated or die at which point the shield falls to the ground or into your hand if you have one free.

A shield is made from wood or metal and is carried in one hand. Wielding a shield increases your Armor Class by 2. You can benefit from only one shield at a time.

The animated shield provides a rather convenient ability. Martial characters have essentially three options at their disposal when it comes to their hands:

  • Two-handed weapon
  • Dual wielding
  • One-handed weapon and shield

There’s always a bit of a trade-off no matter which way you slice it. If you use a two-handed weapon, you have no defense but typically a much stronger attack (two-handed weapons tend to start at 1d10 damage). Dual wielding allows you to get a bonus attack in but similarly provides you no extra defense.

Lastly, you have characters that wield a shield and get a +2 to their AC while dealing a typically underwhelming amount of damage, at least per attack.

The animated shield allows characters the ability to use two-handed weapons or dual wield while still “carrying” a shield and getting the +2 bonus to AC.

Is an Animated Shield a Good Item?

An animated shield is a good item, but it isn’t great. It certainly doesn’t appear to deserve its status as a very rare item. Essentially, this is just a different flavor of +2 armor, which in fairness is also a very rare item.

The problem is that +2 armor is completely passive. It’s always going to grant you the bonus, and all you have to do is wear it. 

As for the animated shield… well, it’s a shield. You have to carry it, and it provides no extra bonus beyond what a normal shield does. In order to receive the special bonus (+2 to AC without holding the shield), you have to speak a command word as a bonus action.

Sure, it’s only a bonus action, but that’s more than you have to do for armor. Therefore, it’s objectively worse than +2 armor. Okay, okay, you can stack this with +2 armor, and then at least you have something extra going for you, but it’s not enough to make this feel like a very rare item.

Make it +3, give it a special bonus against projectiles, or at least give it an additional property like a weapon of warning, and then we have a magic shield that truly feels worthy of its rarity and title.

Imagine, if you will, that this one line is added to the animated shield’s description:

While the shield is on your person, you can’t be surprised. Whenever an attack roll is made against you, the shield jumps up to protect you, placing itself between you and the attack.

It’s simple, not insanely powerful, but beyond helpful. The second part allows us to avoid the bonus action, while the first is a small portion of the weapon of warning’s ability. Mind you, the weapon of warning is only an uncommon magic item, and it provides many other, arguably more impressive, abilities to its wielder.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Is Animated Shield Broken?

No. While animated shields make one-handed weapons irrelevant at higher levels, characters who wish to use two-handed weapons have a myriad of other ways to get a +2 bonus to their AC. The reality is, few high-level characters use a shield that doesn’t offer them far more benefits than this.

Does Animated Shield Require Proficiency?

Yes. The animated shield is still a shield, just a magical variant. In order to gain its benefits, you must be proficient in shields.

How Much Does an Animated Shield Cost?

An Animated Shield should cost about 10,000 GP. Check out our Magic Item Price Guide for more information on pricing.

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