Shieldbearer (5e Class)

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The Shieldbearer is a heavily armed infantryman, who charges to the most pitched fighting and stands resolute.

Creating a Shieldbearer[edit]

A shieldbearer might be a subordinate who carries a shield for his master, ordered to protect his life. This is not you. The Shieldbearer of song is a warrior whom stands boldly on the field of battle, charging to the frontlines the moment that they can. They are the brave souls for whom their shields are the first and last line of defense. Armed and armored to the teeth, but not left exhausted by their kit as they dive headlong into glory. For the Shieldbearer is not the sturdiest of armored knights, nor do they match the lethality of the duelist's blink-long lunge, neither do they skulk or blow apart the enemy in an instant. It is instead that they are an unflinching, iron-willed bastion upon which any opposition will crash, with legendary fortitude and haste, no matter the given adversity.

The characters to whom might aspire to be a shieldbearer are birds of a particular feather. No prerequisites stand on heritage, social status, or inherit race. They should be characters for whom embracing a life of action is unquestionable, whether through a personal calling, or a desperate cause, or any other means. The conflict must be an extension of what they stand for, if not all the time, then enough to be reconciled with. Martial prowess should be a fundamental quality to which they aspire, in some way. They should not overburden themselves to the point where they are sluggish, for a Shieldbearer should always be ready, capable of traversing any terrain, but prepared enough that they might be considered heavily armed. Also, as perhaps implied, these characters should find that their most influential piece of kit is their shield; though, they should not feel as though they'll be completely helpless without it.

Archetypes of a Shieldbearer should reflect different interpretations of the same goal, the use of the shield as a primary piece of equipment. One such archetype, the Veteran, displays awesome martial prowess honed from the countless times that the shield has preserved their life. Another archetype, the Assailant, rebukes accusations of pacifism by showing just how brutal a weapon the shield can be against the most fearsome of opponents. A third, the Rampart, exchanges both mobility and offense in order to support their allies with maximal focus on defense.

So, in summary a Shieldbearer is a: -A heavily-armed infantryman whose primary piece of equipment is a shield. -A character who favors fortitude and swiftness, enduring great dangers while moving swiftly to meet them. -A person whose strength of character should match their martial strength. -A fighter who should be able to function in any environment, being naturally flexible. An effective adventurer.

Quick Build

A Shieldbearer is relatively relaxed in creation, and this helps give the creator the agency to build something that reflects their character. Though, a few points worth mentioning could go quite a long way, so we'll cover some of the more important ones. First, Strength should be at least 13, as this will enable you to wear Heavy Armor (Chain) without a movement penalty. Constitution is valuable asset for the trait of resilience, so too is dexterity for movement related tasks. Consider your preferences when building, it should all work themselves out. Any background can enter a Shieldbearer, but Soldier has immediate benefits, as well as being rather flexible in my opinion; several others will do though. Lastly, choose the weapons which will accompany your shield; Assailant Shieldbearers and Veteran Shieldbearers gain benefits from Versatile weapons, and Rampart Shieldbearers gain benefits from Light weapons.

For a Veteran I highly recommend a Spear as one of them to take full advantage of increased range and mobility with attacks. For an Assailant I recommend either a longsword, a battleaxe, or a warhammer to make use of their two-handed damage with a shield. For a Rampart Shieldbearer, I recommend either the Shortsword or the Scimitar as 1d6 Light Weapons.

Class Features

As a Shieldbearer you gain the following class features.

Hit Points

Hit Dice: 1d10 per Shieldbearer level
Hit Points at 1st Level: 1d10 + Constitution modifier
Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d10 (or 6) + Constitution modifier per Shieldbearer level after 1st


Armor: Light, Medium, and Heavy
Weapons: Simple and Martial Weapons
Tools: None
Saving Throws: Constitution and Wisdom
Skills: Choose two skills from: Athletics, Acrobatics, Perception, Survival, Animal Handling, Medicine or Intimidation.


You start with the following equipment, in addition to the equipment granted by your background:

  • A Shield
  • (a) Scale Mail or (b) Chain Mail
  • (a) Dungeoneers Pack or (b) Explorers Pack
  • (a) Martial Melee Weapon or (b) Simple Melee Weapon
  • (a) Martial Melee Weapon or (b) Simple Melee Weapon

Table: The Shieldbearer

Level Proficiency
1st +2 Shield Discipline, Presented Defense
2nd +2 Resilient Ward
3rd +2 Shieldbearer Archetype
4th +2 Ability Score Improvement, Ability Score Increase
5th +3 Unyielding
6th +3 Haste
7th +3 Class Archetype Feature
8th +3 Ability Score Improvement, Ability Score Increase
9th +4 Without Fear
10th +4 Projected Defense
11th +4 Class Archetype Feature, Extra Attack
12th +4 Ability Score Improvement, Ability Score Increase
13th +5 Immutable
14th +5 Improved Shield Discipline
15th +5 Class Archetype Feature
16th +5 Ability Score Improvement, Ability Score Increase
17th +6 Aspect of Courage
18th +6 Class Archetype Feature
19th +6 Ability Score Improvement, Ability Score Increase
20th +6 Absolute
art by Angus McBride at Osprey Publishing.

Shield Discipline[edit]

At 1st level, you have been instructed on how to fight, and the use of the shield. It will protect your life, if you let it. Training with it must be a priority, one that must never be shirked. Even masters uphold the duty of maintaining their defense.

You gain the Protection Fighting style. When a creature you can see attacks a target other than you that is within 5 feet of you, you can use your reaction to impose disadvantage on the attack roll. You must be wielding a shield.

Presented Defense[edit]

At 1st level, with your shield in hand or strapped to your arm, you are prepared to meet any challenge, no matter what foes may await you. While wielding your shield, if you are targeted by a ranged attack, and can see the attacker, you gain the benefits of half cover.

Resilient Ward[edit]

At 2nd level, you have learned to trust in your shield, and it moves deftly to intercept blows that would wreak havoc upon your body. Your ability to deflect and brace has improved to a level that makes you worthy of any formation.

While wielding your shield, you may take an action to "set your feet". While your feet are planted firmly in the ground, you have advantage on strength saving throws. Enemies that attempt to grapple you also have disadvantage. While your feet are set, your speed is reduced to 10 feet. You may end this stance as an action.

Shieldbearer Archetype[edit]

At 3rd level, starting to see your life stretch out before you, it can be seen as a long road, with many twists and turns, through lands stark and unkind. You know naught who will walk it with you, or who will cross you upon it, but you can see that this is what stretches in front of any Shieldbearer like yourself. Some might call it their Path, some might call it a calling, some might even say it's just cruel fate. But, it's up to you to decide how you will walk it.

You may choose one of the three outlined Shieldbearer Archetypes, effective from this level onwards.

Ability Score Increase[edit]

When you reach 4th level, and again at 8th, 12th, 16th and 19th level, you can increase one ability score of your choice by 2, or you can increase two ability scores of your choice by 1. As normal, you can't increase an ability score above 20 using this feature.

Your DM may allow the variant rule, exchanging the previous benefits in order to gain a feat.


At 5th level, a shieldbearer is responsible for those younger or less able who stand around them. Their seasoned status is not a badge to be lorded over others, but a torch to be carried and then passed on. You challenge your foes, that they might aspire to such deeds. As, you'll stand tall like a king even as fate cuts your life's threads.

You now gain Unyielding stacks. Unyielding stacks build up to your class levels gained in Shieldbearer.

Unyielding stacks grant the ability to accumulate temporary hit points when defending against opponents. For each consecutive defense in which you succeed, you gain an additional Unyielding stack. When you fail to defend a non-magical attack, your Unyielding stacks are cut in half - rounded down. When you fail to defend against the effects of a hostile spell, your Unyielding stacks are subtracted by one.

At the start of your round, you may gain Temporary HP equal to that of your Unyielding stacks as a free action.


At 6th level, the weight of your shield is as nothing to you now. In fact, its almost liberating, whether held in the hand or strapped to the arm. The defense it provides, and its regular use as an integral piece of your equipment allows you to pursue greater feats of bravery.

You gain +5 Feet of movement speed. The space of another creature no longer counts as Difficult Terrain, so long as they are standing on regular terrain. Difficult Terrain applies as normal.

Without Fear[edit]

At 9th level, not all situations go according to plan, and remaining focused is a key component to continuing to be functional in a crisis situation. When that crisis is in battle, all the more important. Even sometimes when desperation is required.

Your shield gains the Thrown trait, and can be thrown as a bonus action, with 1d4 bludgeoning damage at a range of (20/60.) If your shield is strapped to your arm, you must spend your action to unequip it.

Should you lose your shield (or throw it), you may use another item to serve in its place. This substitute does not function as a shield for any of the abilities which specifically require a shield, but you retain +1 AC. Improvised items that are not Simple or Martial weapons are treated as giving +1 AC at the GM's discretion. You may regain your your shield by making a Perception check versus a DC of your DM's choosing and taking an action to pick it up and equip it or a free action to simply pick it up.

Additionally, successfully cast hostile spells no longer reduce your Unyielding stacks by one.

art by Angus McBride at Osprey Publishing.

Improved Projected Defense[edit]

Starting at 10th level, the shield at your side protects you, occupying space and creating subtle geometry from which possible assailants cannot harm you. When you charge at the head of the battle lines, arrows splinter, fransiscas clatter, and you are brought in full before the enemy.

The effect of Projected Defense increases to Three-Fourths cover versus non-magical projectiles up to one size larger than you, and adds Half Cover against spells that require an attack roll.


Beginning at 13th level, the shield that has warded you from countless blows has allowed you to deliver countless of your own. Never will you waver in holding the battle line, but neither will you yield when you meet your enemy's.

When you are wielding your shield, if you charge into something stationary like a door or an enemy sentry, you are treated as one size larger until your target's next initiative when determining with how much force you deliver. If something charges into you while you are moving, or adjacent to friendly entities, or while you are in harsh terrain, you are treated as one size larger until your next initiative when determining how much force must be applied to affect you. At level 17, your treatment as one size larger in these circumstances also affects the Advantage you receive against grapple checks as conferred by Aspect of Courage.

Improved Shield Discipline[edit]

At 14th level, your training with the shield has developed into something as natural as any other bodily function. It sustains you, and you sustain it. In battle it is your first ward, in peace it is your badge of office. Never will it fail you, so long as you do not fail it.

Your Protection reaction now may be triggered if you can see either the attack or the attacker. This also applies to spells that require an attack roll. If the friendly creature fails, you may elect to divide the damage between the two of you, or each take the hostile effect for half of the duration if there is any.

Aspect of Courage[edit]

At 17th level, long serving, always ready, knowing well your place in the world and on the battlefield. There is that fear still there, but it is superficial now, little, for there is little worse that can be done than to hesitate but for that aching worry. You dare where others do not, and show well just how much you're worth. That, and your shield as well.

You gain advantage on death saves, and you have advantage against being frightened. If you are wielding your shield and on foot, you have advantage against grappling attempts on you from any creature your size and smaller; this does not affect a creature of a larger size's ability to attack you amidst grappling checks.


When you reach the 20th level, there are no small words that convey your character, your thoughts, or your heart. All of these things are entwined, proof enough in your struggles, your life of action, and the long pursuit which has brought you this far. The road still is long, and before you are many troubles yet, but now you have gathered the strength by which to stand against them. The strength that has long been yours, your own to bear, with its own tribulations. But with you, for all that time, has been your shield.

Your Constitution score is increased by +4, with your maximum constitution now being 24. Any time you wield a shield, you gain an additional +2 AC. Additionally, once a day when you use any of the Glory, Wrath, or Duty actions from your specializations, you may roll your Hit Die as if you were taking a Short Rest.

Class Archetypes[edit]

There are numerous types of Shieldbearers who walk this world, each following their own path. It is up to you to find how you will travel through this world.


The weight of countless battles hangs over you, for whatever your reasons you have fought time and time again with a courage that can make men stand tall in hell. To some it might be legend or magic, but to you its no secret; your shield has kept you alive time and time again. You probably carry more than one, something for skirmishing, something for warfare. They are probably very well kept, and attractive when new. Even when worn down, soon to be replaced, should people lay their eyes upon your shield - it is infrequent that they come away without respect.

A Veteran Shieldbearer is a resolute, steadfast warrior that is capable enough to lead any battle. They truly intend to be the first in, and the last to leave.

Protection By Geometry

At 3rd level, your foes think to exploit you and your allies, but greatly underestimate the challenge of that task. They think to bypass your defense, your shield, and your armor. You must prove to them that none of these tasks will be so easy as they think.

If an enemy within your attack range strikes you or an ally that you have given your Protection reaction, you gain a free Opportunity Attack against that creature. Additionally, any versatile and hafted (spears, tridents, quarterstaffs, etc.) weapon that you wield with a shield may also be treated as having the Reach trait.

art by José Daniel Cabrera Peña.
Unflinching Poise

At 7th level, you have served in pitched battle, seen where men have failed to defend themselves, and fall. This drives you to hone your own, for the defense or your life, those around you, or both. Swinging wildly will accomplish nothing. All you need to do is let your opponent tell you how they want to die, and give them the honor of granting it.

Your Unyielding stacks are now also increased by one whenever an ally you've effected with your reaction from Shield Discipline succeeds in a defense.

Your Ready action may now be applied twice for every attack action you have. You may act upon each trigger so long as the trigger is an event within your attack range, and each trigger is directed at a unique target.

On the Wings of Spears

At 11th level, there are some foes which scoff at your use of shield, and fighting on foot. They imagine they are safe if they draw back and charge in for the kill. Your countless hours of experience inspire you to prove them wrong.

So long as you are on foot and wielding a shield, you are treated as having the Shield Master perk, and gain +5 movement speed.

Additionally, any time you succeed in an attack against an opponent which is being propelled quickly towards you, such as an opponent charging, flying, riding, swimming, or otherwise, their movement is reduced to zero for the rest of the turn. This will cause a flying creature to fall, could potentially dismount a cavalry unit, cause a swimming creature to stop moving, etc.

Heroic Resolve

At 15th level, your use of the shield is now of an apex peerage. Its strengths, its duties, its limits are all so well known to you that there are no hesitations anymore. Your daring appears reckless, self-sacrificing, but nothing is more certain than your place bearing the shield in all ways to where it is needed.

When your Unyielding stacks are 10 or more, you may move up to your normal movement speed any time you gain an Opportunity Attack. Additionally, you may make a single Opportunity Attack against an opponent who attacks an ally presently affected by your Shield Discipline reaction.


At 18th level, your image is one with all of those legendary figures whom have come and gone. Inherent in the ineffable image of the soldier, the warrior, the leader. The steel which claims lives is nothing save to the shield that preserves them, yours and others, which has brought you so far now. It will only continue to do so, if you let it, to the wonder of all those who may hear tales of your might.

When your Unyielding stacks reach 18, you may take a bonus action to activate Glory. Doing so reduces your Unyielding stacks to zero. While Glory is in effect, all of your abilities which require Unyielding stacks require none. During Glory, whenever you make an attack, all creatures within attack range of that attack are also targeted. Also, you may place your Protection reaction on an ally within movement range of you who is targeted by an enemy spell. Upon activating Glory with 20 Unyielding, you may make one attack with advantage against a target within Dash distance as a free action.

Glory expires in half as many rounds as you spent Unyielding stacks, and you cannot gain Unyielding stacks while Glory is active.


Some think those who wield the shield are not disposed well to violence, that they fear injury, or that they aren't so skilled and strong as some who wield weapons in two hands. You are evidence to the contrary. You feel the proof is in the pudding; that you have ended the lives of many foes who've stood against you. Not just with the weapon most people imagine, no, but with your shield as well. Your shield is something of a prize, just to your liking. You may have weaponized it in some way, but largely it is as most people imagine; no gimicks. It is not something to be taken likely, and even those who tote their greatswords or dual rapiers may give a second glance at its all-too-inviting surfaces.

An Assailant Shieldbearer is one who delights in wreaking havoc, aggressively tearing down foes while maintaining their defense.

art by yori-hobby at blogspot
Brutal Ward

At 3rd level, from humble beginnings, the shield has become your vital tool. It is a thing of protection, but also - as you are learning now - more than enough violence.

Any time you are wielding your shield, it may be treated as a Light, Finesse Weapon with a damage roll of d6 for the purposes of attacking (including Throw granted by Without Fear). This damage increases to d8 on level 11 and to d10 on level 18.

Additionally, you also gain advantage on initiative rolls.

Unflinching Assault

At 7th level, your shield does its due dilligence in protecting you, and in so doing, it allows you to further exploit grevious opportunities given to you by your foes.

Your Unyielding stacks are now also increased by one when you deal more than twelve unmodified damage to an enemy in a single turn while wielding a shield. This effect cannot occur more than once per turn.

While wielding a shield, any time you are given an opportunity attack against an opponent, you may follow up by also freely making an attack against them with your shield.

Maiming Onslaught

At 11th level, blood is the price of glory, and you've no qualms about making a downpayment. With your shield, and all other weapons, you are poised to outlast your foe by exchanging their pain for your victory.

So long as you are on foot and wielding a shield, you can, once per turn, reroll the damage dice of a singular damage roll and choose to keep either total.

Blood and Mayhem

At 15th level, the thrill of battle is yours, and any who dare stand in your wake will be beaten down into the ground. You will be both the last one standing, and the last thing most of them ever see.

When your unyielding stacks are 10 or more, you gain an additional attack. Additionally, whenever an opponent in attack range strikes an ally under the protection of your Shield Discipline reaction, you may choose to nullify the protection conferred to your ally to instead gain Advantage on attacks against that enemy until their next initiative.


At 18th level, your image is in those of natural disasters, war tragedies, and the face of certain demise. Your lethality is particular, and few dare match your capabilities for violence. Without any shred of a doubt, your shield has ended as many lives as your sword, if not more so the more you think about it. The only thing it stands for, in your mind, is death.

When your Unyielding stacks reach 18, you may take a bonus action to activate Wrath. Doing so reduces your Unyielding stacks to zero. While Wrath is in effect, all of your abilities which require Unyielding stacks require none. During Wrath, whenever you make an attack with a Versatile weapon while wielding a shield, you may roll its damage as if you were wielding it in two hands. Upon activating Wrath with 20 Unyielding, you may designate one enemy that you can see, you gain an additional attack against this enemy so long as Wrath is active; if this enemy dies and Wrath is still active, you may reselect a target.

Wrath expires in half as many rounds as you spent Unyielding stacks rounded down, and you cannot gain Unyielding stacks while Wrath is active.


art by Giuseppe Rava

The shield is not a piece of armor, and 'weapon' is just one of its features. The shield is a tool, and all tools have a place; distancing oneself from the romance of said tool can give great insight to its maximal effectiveness. This is an interesting way of observing the use of the shield, and it is perhaps one of the best ways to consider a Rampart Shieldbearer's mindset. The shield is not just your defense, but an instrument of higher functionality. Your defense is important, but the completion of the objective is another.

Rampart Shieldbearers typically make for valuable heavy-infantry units who use large shields tactically to support a given operation.

Military Industriousness

Starting at 3rd level, the shield is your primary tool, and it is maintained as such. Its accouterments are important, but their utility and ergonomics should be highly considered. This will do wonders when paired with a large shield in a fully ranked legion.

You gain an advantage defending against non-magical projectiles of large size and smaller. Additionally, when you wield any weapon with the light trait in conjunction with a shield, you gain either Medium Armor Mastery or Heavy Armor Mastery based upon the armor that you are electing to wear.


At 7th level, you march with the best of them, your movements are swift, and your actions concise. Unnecessary movement does nothing but give additional room for the enemy to plan an exploit. Work smarter, work harder, never fail.

Your Unyielding stacks are now also increased by one when you spend a turn without using your primary action to attack.

You lose 5 movement speed (equivalent to that gained by Haste), and gain +5 Initiative. Additionally, if an enemy spends an action attacking you while you wield a shield in conjunction with a light weapon, your allies gain advantage on all attacks directed against that opponent until the attacker's next initiative.


At 11th level, when your shield is presented to an enemy, it is affixed. There are few things that can dissuade its ward, and of those that can, there are countless others which fail to do so.

So long as you are on foot and wielding a shield, you gain the Martial Adept feat.

Your Protection reaction now confers half-cover against all magical attacks, including AoE attacks. Your Projected Defense also grants Cone of Defense directly behind your character in a 45 degree angle. Any character standing behind your character in this cone gains the same degree of cover bonus as you do versus incoming attacks that might've gotten past you, such as a line of sight or AoE spell.

To the Limits

At 15th level Drilled through constant routine, beaten into your muscles and your mind, hewn by bone and flesh and steel. Your habits are dedicated to success in warfare, and you cannot help but think that there are few others who can match that in you.

When your Unyielding stacks are 10 or more, you gain +2 AC, and whenever you grant your Protection reaction to an ally they may make a single Opportunity Attack against their attacker.


At 18th level, you are the imperial guard, you are the vanguard of the army, you are that brave charge that swept into adversity and came out the other side. Your duty has sustained you, your compulsion to stratagem and military function has brought you to the point that your deeds exist in congruity with reverent songs. When your shield is brought forth, it is wedge, the hammer, the knife, upon which all else is clay to be molded.

When your Unyielding stacks reach 18, you may take a bonus action to activate Duty. Doing so reduces your Unyielding stacks to zero. While Duty is in effect, all of your abilities which require Unyielding stacks require none. During Duty, you gain advantage defending against any attack, and any successful attack you make may force the affected enemy to use its Actions to attack you for the number of rounds indicated by the unmodified damage; multiple attacks in a given initiative do not accumulate, you may either take the new attack result, or keep the old one. Divide the total number of rounds an enemy must act against you by the number of enemies whom you've forced to attack you. Also, any time your Protection reaction may be applied, you grant the benefit of half-cover to your ally in addition to advantage. Upon activating Duty with 20 Unyielding, you may grant your current Temporary hit points to all allied party members/players that you can perceive (see, hear, smell, etc.) as a free action.

An enemy can make a DC18 Wisdom saving throw to resist the compulsion on its action(s) to attack you. This saving throw must be rerolled for each action affected, such as if a monster may take multiple actions. If a creature compelled to attack you is out of range, and cannot move far enough to enter attack range, it instead moves as close as it can and does not take an action.

Duty expires in half as many rounds as you spent Unyielding stacks rounded down, and you cannot gain Unyielding stacks while Wrath is active.


To become a Shieldbearer, your DM may wish for you to train regularly with a shield. A Shieldbearer is typically a person of dedication and resolve, having a certain strength of character. They can range from Lawful to Chaotic, and Good to Evil.

Prerequisites. To qualify for multiclassing into the Shieldbearer class, you must meet these prerequisites: Strength 13 and Constitution 13

Proficiencies. When you multiclass into the Shieldbearer class, you gain the following proficiencies: Athletics and Perception. One additionally gets proficiency with Shields, as well as Simple and Martial weapons.

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