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Armor is used in Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition to help improve a character's ability to avoid taking damage. It comes in several different styles, weights, and materials. Shields are another way to avoid taking damage, but not every race or class comes with the proficiency.

Using armor

Using armor helps prevent the character from taking damage, though not all classes require it. You must have proficiency in the weight class of the armor or wearing it causes you to have disadvantage on any ability check, saving throw, or attack roll using strength or dexterity. A spellcaster will be unable to cast spells when wearing armor they're not proficient in. Some heavier armors also require a minimum strength score.

Armor Class

Armor Class, or AC is the number you use to compare with the attack roll of a creature that wants to do you damage. If the attack roll is less than your AC, the attack is not successful.

Your AC is usually determined by adding the armor's base AC to a bonus, usually your dexterity modifier. Some armors cap the modifier bonus you can add and some get no bonus at all. But, if you're not wearing armor at all, your AC is equal to 10 + your dexterity modifier.

Stealth

Some armor is particularly noisy or heavy and get in the way of attempts to be quiet. If you wear one of these types of armor, you will have disadvantage on all stealth checks.

Shields

Carried in one hand, a shield is made from wood or metal. Using them adds to your total AC, but you can only gain the benefits of one shield at a time.

Armor Cost AC bonus Weight
Shield10gp +26lbs

Light Armor

The most agile of armors, it is favoured by non-spellcasters who need to move, but still avoid taking more damage. Those that have a high dexterity modifier tend to gain the most benefit from wearing it.

Armor Cost Armor Class Stealth Weight
Padded5gp11 + Dex modifierDisadvantage8lbs
Leather10gp11 + Dex modifier 10lbs
Studded Leather45gp12 + Dex modifier 13lbs

Made from quilted fabric filled with some sort of batting, padded armor is the lightest of the armors, but it is bulky and restricts movement. Leather armor, though, is the standard, since most light armor proficient classes will start with it. But when you get to higher levels, you can find or purchase studded leather armor, which is reinforced with studs or spikes that can deflect weapons.

Medium Armor

More agile and lighter than Heavy armor, medium armor is for those that require even more protection, but tend not to have very high dexterity bonuses.

Armor Cost Armor Class Stealth Weight
Hide10gp12 + Dex modifier (max 2) 12lbs
Chain Shirt50gp13 + Dex modifier (max 2) 20lb
Scale Mail50gp14 + Dex modifier (max 2)Disadvantage45lbs
Breastplate400gp14 + Dex modifier (max 2) 20lbs
Half Plate750gp15 + Dex modifier (max 2)Disadvantage40lbs
Spiked Armor [1]*75gp14 + Dex modifier (max 2)Disadvantage40lbs

The cheap choice of low-level fighters or clerics is hide, which is made from thick animal pelts, but the standard medium armor choice at low levels is the chain shirt, which is made from metal rings and covers the vital areas of the body. Upgrades including scale mail which is like chain but made from overlapping metal scales and includes leggings, a breastplate which is as it sounds a metal plate for covering the torso but not other things, half plate which includes a few more bits and bobs in addition to the breastplate but still isn't a full set, and spiked armor which is a special Dwarven type of leather armor with large, sharp spikes all over. Spiked armor is usually reserved for a Dwarven Barbarian specialising in the Path of the Battlerager.

Heavy Armor

Heavy armor is for those brave characters that like to attract attention, but don't have much dexterity of their own. These usually have a minimum strength requirement and always give you disadvantage on stealth checks. They're also very expensive.

Armor Cost Armor Class Min Strength Stealth Weight
Ring Mail30gp14 -Disadvantage40lbs
Chain Mail75gp16Str 13Disadvantage55lbs
Splint200gp17Str 15Disadvantage60lbs
Plate1,500gp18Str 15Disadvantage65lbs

Most heavy armor proficient classes will start in chain mail which is like the chain shirt above, but includes pieces which cover the rest of the body as well. But if you're looking for a cheaper option, ring mail does the job, though its larger metal rings tend to let smaller weapons and arrows through. After chain mail is splint armor, which is made of metal strips bound to leather and covering all the necessary parts of the body. The toughest of all the armors is plate, which is made from interlocking plates of metal that cover your character from head to toe.

Getting Into and Out of Armor

If bandits decide to raid the bath house while your character is getting a massage or your fighter falls overboard from a ship, how long it takes to get in and out of armor becomes important. To don armor is to put it on and to doff it to take it off. You can't gain AC benefits from the armor until all of it is on, but you can reduce the time to doff armor by half if someone helps you.

Category Don Doff
Light Armor 1 minute 1 minute
Medium Armor 5 minutes 1 minute
Heavy Armor 10 minutes 5 minutes
Shield 1 action 1 action

Rare Materials

Rare materials used in medium or heavy armors, besides hide, can add special benefits.

While you're wearing Adamantine armor, any critical hit that strikes you becomes normal.[2](p150)

Armor made from Mithril doesn't have a minimum strength score requirement, nor does it suffer from disadvantage to stealth checks.[2](p182)

References

  1. ^ Wizards RPG Team. Xanathar's Guide to Everything. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 978-0-7869-6611-0.
  2. ^ a b Wizards RPG Team. Dungeon's Master Guide. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 978-0-7869-6562-5.