Shield as Hex Weapon?

Esker

Explorer
tl;dr: Can a Hexblade with the tavern brawler feat make their shield their hex weapon?

The Hex Warrior property requires a weapon you are proficient with that lacks the two-handed property. Tavern brawler makes you proficient with improvised weapons, which includes a shield used to bash. But since improvised weapons (and in particular, shields) are not weapons when they are not being used to attack, they may not qualify as a weapon at the moment the Hexblade chooses their Hex weapon at the end of a long rest.

How would you rule?

I can't find any discussion of this particular issue (Note that this is distinct from the issue of whether an improvised weapon can be a pact weapon: it can't, since a pact weapon must be a simple or martial weapon)

Here's my context: I have a Swords Bard with one level of Hexblade, and wind up being the de facto tank in a party with a wizard, a monk, and a rogue. The wizard took enlarge and I took expertise in athletics, so some grappling is clearly in order. Tavern Brawler gives a nice bonus action use, plus rounds out my odd CON score, but requires improvised weapon or unarmed attacks to qualify. Plus, in order to keep my AC up while maintaining the grapple, I need to hit with a weapon attack.

I could just do a shield bash with STR to qualify, but my CHA is significantly higher. So it'd be nifty if I could just be shield bash and grapple guy, without giving up the benefit of Hex Warrior...
 

Paul Farquhar

Adventurer
I see no power reason to disallow it. It's weaker than using Hex Warrior on a regular weapon.

However, I would say it runs counter to the spirit of the Tavern Brawler feat, which is based on the idea of hitting your opponent with whatever weapon comes immediately to hand, not with something you prepared earlier. I would rule that, if you use your daily use of hex warrior in advance, whether it be a shield or a broken bottle, it ceases to be an improvised weapon and becomes a regular weapon.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
From a RAW perspective, if Improvised Weapons were considered weapons, then other things like the Dueling fighting style will break. (You don't need to be proficient with a weapon or even use it in order for Dueling not to apply.) So I would tend to think the designers didn't see them as weapons and it doesn't count.

From a RAF perspective, it's not power gaming and it's a cool concept - go for it.

15 years ago, I would have ruled the first. Now I'd rule the second.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
In this particular case I don't actually care too much about the RAW. I don't think you're breaking anything, and I can't think of a practical reason to disallow it. I wouldn't extend the idea to change the nature of improvised weapons generally, nor would I rule the same way if what you wanted was a hexblade frying pan, or barstool, but I'm ok with the shield.
 

Esker

Explorer
I see no power reason to disallow it. It's weaker than using Hex Warrior on a regular weapon.

However, I would say it runs counter to the spirit of the Tavern Brawler feat, which is based on the idea of hitting your opponent with whatever weapon comes immediately to hand, not with something you prepared earlier. I would rule that, if you use your daily use of hex warrior in advance, whether it be a shield or a broken bottle, it ceases to be an improvised weapon and becomes a regular weapon.
So on this reading the build doesn't quite work, because the shield bash-as-Hex Weapon wouldn't qualify for the Tavern Brawler bonus action grapple. So until I get extra attack, I can't grapple and attack with a weapon in the same turn (I guess once I get extra attack I could bash+grapple in the first round, then bash+bash or bash+shove in subsequent rounds, but I'm leaving a major piece of the feat on the table).

Of course, from a fluff perspective, I can't think of a reason why the bonus action grapple from Tavern Brawler shouldn't work with any one-handed weapon; it seems like the d4 limitation is the operative part of the restriction.
 

Esker

Explorer
From a RAW perspective, if Improvised Weapons were considered weapons, then other things like the Dueling fighting style will break.
Yeah, and it would also allow for TWF with a sword and shield-bash, provided you took the dual wielder feat. I understand things like this to be the reason behind the statement that improvised weapons are only weapons while you are attacking with them. Does that mean though that if you immediately begin bashing something with your shield the moment you finish your long rest, that you have satisfied the RAW? :)
 

Esker

Explorer
In this particular case I don't actually care too much about the RAW. I don't think you're breaking anything, and I can't think of a practical reason to disallow it. I wouldn't extend the idea to change the nature of improvised weapons generally, nor would I rule the same way if what you wanted was a hexblade frying pan, or barstool, but I'm ok with the shield.
What would the issue be with a hexblade frying pan? That seems like even less of an exploit to me. I guess unless you're worried about being able to bring your Hex Weapon somewhere where you can't bring weapons; but Eldritch Knights and anyone with summoned weapons (e.g., Shadow Blade) can already get a weapon at any time. It seems like the operative thing for tavern brawler from a power perspective is that the bonus action grapple is limited to d4 weapons.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
Once you allow the hexblade frying pan all of a sudden pretty much any tool should be allowed, and that's a can of worms I'd rather not open. In a table with some trust I'd also be ok saying "summon what you like so long as you bash people with it". You want to weaponize a leg of lamb? Go nuts. Just don't start summoning hexblade thieves tools and whatnot. Which option I'd use depends on the table I'm GMing.
 

Dausuul

Legend
I used to worry about improvised weapons being abused, but I have become convinced it isn't a big deal. If you want to use your hexblade weapon ability on something that does d4 damage and isn't even light and costs a feat... go for it. If you want to use it on your thieves' tools or something, I will request that you have some sort of thematic/backstory reason why that fits your character, but if you do, I have no problem with it. (Remember, the player has to use a feat for this - it ain't free by a long shot.)

In general, my ruling is that you can decide whether you want to consider any given object a weapon or not. You can even change that designation from round to round. The one thing you can't do is have it both ways at once--for example, you cannot get the Dueling bonus and make an off-hand attack on the same turn.
 
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Esker

Explorer
Once you allow the hexblade frying pan all of a sudden pretty much any tool should be allowed, and that's a can of worms I'd rather not open. In a table with some trust I'd also be ok saying "summon what you like so long as you bash people with it". You want to weaponize a leg of lamb? Go nuts. Just don't start summoning hexblade thieves tools and whatnot. Which option I'd use depends on the table I'm GMing.
Oh, but the summoning bit is an issue with the pact weapon, not the hex weapon. The pact weapon is more restrictive, since it explicitly has to be a "simple or martial weapon".
 
Personally, I don't like the idea of a shield as a weapon because of two reasons. First, it can't be disarmed. Giving someone a weapon with immunity to disarm feels too powerful. Second, it leads to a slippery slope. If a shield is now a weapon, then what about a helm or gauntlets or boots? Why can't an eldritch knight bond to his breastplate? Why can't a warlock use boots as her pact weapon?

I try to keep it simple by classing a shield the same as armour, headgear, boots, etc; "something worn" and not a weapon at all. If you want to hit someone with your shield, I consider it the same as hitting someone with your head or fist or elbow - an unarmed strike.

What would the issue be with a hexblade frying pan?
Now that idea is cool. I may have to steal borrow it…
 

Esker

Explorer
Personally, I don't like the idea of a shield as a weapon because of two reasons. First, it can't be disarmed. Giving someone a weapon with immunity to disarm feels too powerful.
You mean like the Eldritch Knight's bonded weapon?

Second, it leads to a slippery slope. If a shield is now a weapon, then what about a helm or gauntlets or boots? Why can't an eldritch knight bond to his breastplate? Why can't a warlock use boots as her pact weapon?
A warlock can't use boots as her pact weapon because they're not a simple or martial weapon. If an Eldritch Knight wanted to summon their breastplate to their hand and use it to hit people for 1d4+STR, I'm not sure what problem that causes. They still have to take 5 minutes or whatever it is to put it on. I guess in principle it gives them a bonus action doff option?

I try to keep it simple by classing a shield the same as armour, headgear, boots, etc; "something worn" and not a weapon at all. If you want to hit someone with your shield, I consider it the same as hitting someone with your head or fist or elbow - an unarmed strike.
If you have tavern brawler, improvised weapons and unarmed strikes have the exact same to hit and damage rolls and both qualify for the bonus action grapple. Without tavern brawler, treating a shield as an unarmed strike adds proficiency to-hit (since characters by default are proficient with their unarmed strikes but not with improvised weapons), but takes away a bit of damage (1d1 + STR instead of 1d4 + STR)
 

Paul Farquhar

Adventurer
I guess the "slippery slope" might be if you let the EK summon pretty much anything you could hold in your hand you could use it to summon a plot McGuffin (e.g. broom, infinity gauntlet) rather than a weapon.

Should be noted that if you use your shield as a weapon you are not using it as a shield, so you loose the +2 AC.
 

Immoralkickass

Explorer
Personally, I don't like the idea of a shield as a weapon because of two reasons. First, it can't be disarmed. Giving someone a weapon with immunity to disarm feels too powerful. Second, it leads to a slippery slope. If a shield is now a weapon, then what about a helm or gauntlets or boots? Why can't an eldritch knight bond to his breastplate? Why can't a warlock use boots as her pact weapon?

I try to keep it simple by classing a shield the same as armour, headgear, boots, etc; "something worn" and not a weapon at all. If you want to hit someone with your shield, I consider it the same as hitting someone with your head or fist or elbow - an unarmed strike.


Now that idea is cool. I may have to steal borrow it…
I don't see what's wrong with using a shield as a weapon. By RAW, they aren't weapons, so many things don't work, but there are also some that work because of that. Though I think it limits certain builds, and ultimately, character customisation.
Its not that far fetched to want to make a character ala Capt America. And why would a shield be immune to disarms?
Your comments on using a helm as a weapon reminds me of the funny story of a player arguing with the DM about using his +1 helmet to bypass resistance to non-magical damage. Breastplate and boots might be stretching it, but bonded gauntlets should be fine for a character who uses an unarmed build. Heck, i have a party member who is a multi-class warlock/druid who uses Hex Warrior on his wildshaped claws.
 
A warlock can't use boots as her pact weapon because they're not a simple or martial weapon. If an Eldritch Knight wanted to summon their breastplate to their hand and use it to hit people for 1d4+STR, I'm not sure what problem that causes. They still have to take 5 minutes or whatever it is to put it on. I guess in principle it gives them a bonus action doff option?
Yeah, that's the slippery slope I am talking about - allowing the PC to summon the shield or breastplate already donned.

Or a differnet slippery slope similar to, "My shield is my hex weapon, so I can use Charisma with it. I use it to knock someone prone, so I can use Charisma instead of Strength for the shove attempt." or "My magical gauntlets are my hex weapon, so I can use Charisma for grapple attempts."

I also just like the simplicity of only having two classes of items - "things you hold" and "things you wear" - with no overlap.
 

ClaytonCross

Kinder reader Inflection wanted
I don't think its broken but all my GMs ruled if I used it as a weapon it stops acting as a shield and so your AC bonus drops until next round. So you have to chose if you want to attack and Grapple or if you want the AC bonus. It makes for an "interesting choice" but the end result is you would only use the "shield bash" when your not tanking or your fighting one enemy and you can lock them prone with a an attack action shove, use the extra attack to hit with your shield (at advantage for melee vs prone in 5ft), then grapple with a bonus action (provided by tavern brawler) to reduce their speed to 0 so they can't get up. Then your holding the enemy down while the party beats them and they attack back at disadvantage. That works, but only if they are alone. Other wise you forfeit you AC and get hammered to do it.
 

Esker

Explorer
Yeah, that's the slippery slope I am talking about - allowing the PC to summon the shield or breastplate already donned.
But the EK feature specifically says the weapon appears in their hand.

Or a differnet slippery slope similar to, "My shield is my hex weapon, so I can use Charisma with it. I use it to knock someone prone, so I can use Charisma instead of Strength for the shove attempt." or "My magical gauntlets are my hex weapon, so I can use Charisma for grapple attempts."
Here too, this is explicitly ruled out by the Hex Warrior feature: "When you attack with that weapon, you can use your Charisma modifier, instead of Strength or Dexterity, for the attack and damage rolls" (emphasis mine)

Ultimately whether something can be used as an improvised weapon is left up to the DM on a case-by-case basis, but using a shield as an improvised weapon to bash is a pretty well established thing; that's not the part I'm wondering about. Just whether it can be converted into a Hex weapon, or whether the "it's only a weapon for an instant while you're attacking with it" thing rules that out.
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
Wood-and-metal objects come in all different shapes: Why would the Hexblade's magic work on a spear-shaped wood-and-metal object, but not a shield-shaped wood-and-metal object?

I know, I know, "It's magic" can be reason enough. But what mysterious force in the cosmos determines what is and isn't a weapon? If I have a plan to bludgeon someone to death with a bucket, why wouldn't the Hexblade patron allow me to bind a bucket-shaped wood-and-metal object? I own a letter opener shaped like a sword; what category is that under? I'd support that any object that could be used as an improvised weapon counts as an improvised weapon at all times, not just during the instant you attack with it, just to sidestep these issues.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
I never worry about the whole slippery slope idea, because it requires you to assume that you are going to make the exact same ruling every single time over countless campaigns, and that your players are going to know about these "now established" rulings to the point that they are going to then try and exploit them.

In my experience that NEVER happens.

If I make a specific ruling for a specific character in a specific campaign because it is just a cool idea... once that character and campaign are over, so is the ruling. And I never need worry about it ever again. Because at least with my pool of players, none of them would ever be watching their fellow player so closely (who got this special ruling due to their character concept) that they would be able to ask for the same specific ruling again in the next campaign... let alone ask for more functionality on top of it and thus bring about the "slippery" part of this slope metaphor.

I mean really... if one single PC makes a character concept whose background and history result in them making a pact with some extra-dimensional entity which is channeled through their shield... why in the world would another player ever want or try to duplicate that concept in a future campaign? Who is so uncreative that that's the best idea they can come up with? And if I was the DM, I'd call them out on it. Especially considering that the ruling doesn't even produce an overpowered mechanical situation, so we couldn't even think or worry that the powergamers amongst us would try and exploit it in the future.

It's a cool slice of characterization, it doesn't imbalance anything, and its not nearly so good as to warrant other players trying to mooch the characterization in the future (thus warranting the "slippery slope" trope.) I vote go for it.
 

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