Armor And Shields

The world is a vast tapestry made up of many different cultures, each with its own technology level. For this reason, adventurers have access to a variety of armor types, ranging from leather armor to chain mail to costly plate armor, with several other kinds of armor in between. The Armor table collects the most commonly available types of armor found in the game and separates them into three categories: light armor, medium armor, and heavy armor. Many warriors supplement their armor with a shield.

A Layman's Guide to Armor

Armor Proficiency

If you wear armor that you lack proficiency with, you have disadvantage on any ability check, saving throw, or attack roll that involves Strength or Dexterity, and you can’t cast spells. Armor Class (AC)

Armor Class (AC)

The armor (and shield) you wear determines your base Armor Class

Heavy Armor

If the Armor table shows “Str 13” or “Str 15” in the Strength column for an armor type, the armor reduces the wearer’s speed by 10 feet unless the wearer has a Strength score equal to or higher than the listed score. The Speed racial feature of dwarves allows members of that race to ignore this penalty.

Stealth

If the Armor table shows “Disadvantage” in the Stealth column, the wearer has disadvantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks.

Light Armor

If you wear light armor, you add your Dexterity modifier to the base number from your armor type to determine your Armor Class.

Medium Armor

If you wear medium armor, you add your Dexterity modifier, to a maximum of +2, to the base number from your armor type to determine your Armor Class.

Heavy Armor

Heavy armor doesn’t apply your Dexterity modifier to your Armor Class, whether positive or negative.

Shields

A shield is carried in one hand. Wielding a buckler increases your Armor Class by 1. Wielding a normal shield, pavise, or tower shield increases your Armor Class by 2. Wielding a tower shield also adds a +2 bonus to your Dexterity saves, not compatible with any bonus granted by cover. You can benefit from only one shield at a time. Proficiency in “shields” applies to any type of shield.

Additions

Armor and shields can benefit from certain additions, to the degree provided in the description of each addition. Armor and shields can be created with these additions, or they can be modified later by a skilled armorsmith. In the case of magical armor, a spellcaster might need to work with an armorsmith to ensure that the desired additions will not destroy any magical properties.

Armor Properties

Some armors have special properties related to their use, usually designed to foil certain weapon properties.
Armor properties are not standard to any of the normal armors, and so are not listed on the armor chart. They are applied through masterwork modifications.

Absorbent

The armor is padded with thick batting made from special absorbent fibers. This tends to wipe clean any sharp objects that penetrate it. The wearer of this armor has resistance to poison damage from poison-coated weapons, but not from the fangs of creatures that inject their venom as they bite.

Efficient

This suit of armor is cunningly designed to be much easier to put on or remove. Halve the normal time necessary to don or doff such armor.

Enclosed.

This armor’s design mostly encloses the body with protective materials that are impervious to liquid. The wearer has resistance to damage from any liquid splashed on her, including contact poisons, defoliant, holy water, and the like. Caustic substances like acid and alchemist’s fire are not affected because their damage does not rely on absorption through the skin or a mystical reaction caused by contact with the flesh.

Ersatz

If the wearer of this armor suffers a critical hit, and it was not delivered by a weapon with the ersatz weapon property, the armor sustains significant damage. For every such hit, the armor suffers a permanent and cumulative –1 penalty to the AC it offers. Armor reduced to a protective rating of 10 is destroyed.
A crafter using the applicable artisan’s tools can repair this armor if it has not yet been destroyed. Each –1 penalty applied is repaired at a cost of 5% of the armor’s charted value.

Hardened

The plating of this armor is particularly resistant to forceful penetration; the wearer’s Armor Class is not penalized for attacks made with the breach weapon property. To be fully protected, a shield-bearing character must have this property on both her armor and her shield, since the breach property can apply to either one.

Layered

Rather than relying upon a single layer of protective material, this armor uses multiple protective layers cleverly constructed to divert and trap missiles (or their fragments) that would otherwise stick in the wearer’s body. Attacks with cruel weapons do not stick in the armor wearer or leave behind pieces that must be removed. A harpoon requires at least 10 points of damage for it to bind and restrain the armor wearer.

Lightweight

This armor is constructed with expensive, lighter materials. Light or medium armor reduces its weight by 4 pounds and removes the disadvantage modifier to Dexterity (Stealth) checks, if any. Heavy armor reduces its weight by 10 pounds and removes the Strength requirement. A lightweight shield halves its weight and removes the Strength requirement, if any.

Quick-Escape

This suit of armor, or its bulkiest portions, can be removed with a single action. This is advantageous when the armor might inhibit the wearer’s swimming, or it has been affected by a heat metal spell. Donning the suit is no faster than normal.

Reinforced

This armor redoubles its protection over certain vulnerable spots. Weapon attacks made against the wearer do not benefit from the deadly or high-critical weapon properties.

Armor Table

Item Cost Armor Class (AC) Strength Stealth Weight
Light Armor
Padded 5 gp 11 + DEX - Disadvantage 8 lb.
Leather 10 gp 11 + DEX - - 10 lb.
Leather Scale 25 gp 12 + DEX - Disadvantage 15 lb.
Studded Leather 45 gp 12 + DEX - - 13 lb.
Medium Armor
Layered Furs 5 gp 12 + DEX (max 2) - Disadvantage 15 lb.
Hide 10 gp 12 + DEX (max 2) - - 12 lb.
Brigandine 35 gp 13 + DEX (max 2) - Disadvantage 35 lb.
Chain Shirt 50 gp 13 + DEX (max 2) - - 20 lb.
Scale Mail 50 gp 14 + DEX (max 2) - Disadvantage 45 lb.
Coin Armor 100+ gp 14 + DEX (max 2) - Disadvantage 50 lb.
Breastplate 400 gp 14 + DEX (max 2) - - 20 lb.
Half-Plate 750 gp 15 + DEX (max 2) - Disadvantage 40 lb.
Heavy Armor
Layered Hides 20 gp 14 STR 13 Disadvantage 45 lb.
Ring Mail 30 gp 14 - Disadvantage 40 lb.
Banded Mail 55 gp 15 - Disadvantage 45 lb.
Chain Mail 75 gp 16 STR 13 Disadvantage 55 lb.
Splint 200 gp 17 STR 15 Disadvantage 60 lb.
Plate 1,500 gp 18 STR 15 Disadvantage 65 lb.
Shields
Buckler 15 gp +1 - - 2 lb.
Shield 10 gp +2 - - 6 lb.
Pavise 20 gp +2 - - 9 lb.
Tower Shield 45 gp +2 STR 15 Disadvantage 30 lb.
Additions
Armor Spikes +25 gp - - - -
Great Helm +10 gp - - - 3 lb.
Locking Gauntlet +10 gp - - - -
Reinforced Gorget +4 gp - - - 1 lb.
Shield Sconce +5 gp - - - -
Shield Spikes +15 gp - - - -
Subtle Armor x2 - - - -

Armor Descriptions

Light Armor

Padded

Padded armor consists of quilted layers of cloth and batting.

Leather

The breastplate and shoulders of this armor are made of leather that has been stiffened by boiling in oil. The rest of the armor is made of softer and more flexible materials.

Leather Scale

A torso and shoulder covering made of stiff, overlapping scales of treated leather.

Studded Leather

Made from tough but flexible leather, studded leather is reinforced with close-set rivets or studs.

Medium Armor

Layered Furs

Thin or poorly-cured hides, when used in layers, provide significant protection to the wearer. Layered furs are used in primitive societies or as ceremonial armor.

Hide

The treated hide of an animal, fashioned into a protective suit of armor. Hide armor is often used in primitive societies.

Brigandine

A doublet of cloth or canvas, to which are riveted a series of oblong, overlapping plates. Although variations exist, this type of brigandine uses a great deal of plates with extensive overlap for maximum protection.

Chain Shirt

A suit of light chainmail that covers just the torso. This armor is often worn between layers of cloth or leather.

Scale Mail

This armor consists of a leather hauberk and leggings covered by overlapping metal scales.

Coin Armor

This armor constitutes an ostentatious display of wealth. It functions as scale armor but is crafted with coins instead of scales. Each coin is punched with holes used to tie the coin scales together and each coin is backed with steel to offset the weakness of the metals used in the coins.
A suit of coin armor requires 2,000 coins; this additional expense (variable based on the coins’ types) is added to the cost of the armor but does not affect crafting times.

Breastplate

A solid plate covering the chest and another on the back, linked with leather straps at the sides. This leaves the less-vital portions of the body unarmored, but allows the wearer to retain her full range of motion and move about with little encumbrance.

Half-Plate

Sometimes called “field plate,” this is a lighter version of full plate armor. Most of the wearer’s body is covered in connected metal plates. It tends to provide less protection at the joints and the extremities of the limbs than full plate armor.

Heavy Armor

Layered Hides

Multiple layers of heavy hides over a hardened leather underlayer. This heavy armor is very difficult to move in, but provides serious protection without resorting to metal components.

Ring Mail

Heavy rings sewn onto a leather covering, this armor is not as protective (or expensive) as a suit with interlocking rings, such as chainmail.

Banded Mail

This resembles leather armor with form-fitted metal bands sewn over important areas. It represents an improvement in protection over ring mail but gaps in the bands provide less protection than the integrated links of chain mail.

Chain Mail

A hauberk and short pants made of heavy, riveted links. A suit of this type includes some sort of forearm protection and a chainmail coif. It also includes a padded layer of cloth underneath.

Splint

Narrow vertical strips of interlocking metal, riveted together and backed by leather and cloth padding. Significant overlap of the plates provides exceptional protection (and weight). Chainmail segments cover some of the wearer’s joints. The “plate mail” version of this armor uses larger, harder plates over certain sections of the body.

Plate

Sometimes called “full plate,” this armor’s shaped, interlocking metal plates cover the wearer completely. Even the extremities are covered in interlocking plates, down to the individual joints covering the backs of each finger. Plate armor is typically worn over an arming doublet, buckled to various parts of the doublet to better distribute the carried weight across the wearer’s body.

Shields

Buckler

This small, lightweight shield straps to the forearm for ease of use.
It takes an action or a bonus action to don or doff a buckler, gripping the interior handle or flicking it back to the forearm to put that hand to some other use. This allows you to switch quickly combat styles.

Shield

A one-handed protective device, this flat or curved plane covers a portion of the body and is actively wielded for blocking attacks.
A shield can be made of wood or metal. It provides the protection described in the Armor chart. You can only benefit from one shield at a time.

Pavise

Also called an “archer shield,” a pavise is a convex shield with a prominent central ridge. This shape, and a spike or other balancing post that folds out from the bottom, allows the pavise to stand on its own and provide cover to someone who crouches behind it.
Placing a pavise (or picking it up from a placed position) requires an action. Once placed, the user no longer gets a shield bonus but can claim half cover while behind it, or three-quarters cover while prone behind it. Because a deployed pavise is less stable and sturdy than a tate or mantlet, this cover bonus does not protect against melee attacks.
The cover from a pavise only applies to attacks coming from a cone-shaped region expanding in the direction the device is placed against. When using a battle mat, mark one entire side of the square you are in (corner to corner) when you place the pavise. If a straight line from either unmarked corner of your square to any corner of the attacker’s square touches a corner of, or passes through, the marked side, the pavise provides you with cover. Alternately, draw a diagonal line through the square you are in (connecting opposite corners), with a little arrow to indicate which direction the shield is facing (the side you are not on). If a straight line from the unmarked corner of your square that is behind the shield to any corner of the attacker’s square touches a corner of, or passes through, the marked line, the pavise provides you with cover.

Tower Shield

A tower shield is much larger and heavier than a standard shield, standing nearly as tall as the person who wields it.
In addition to the normal benefit to your Armor Class, while carrying a tower shield, you gain a +2 bonus to Dexterity saving throws. This benefit is not compatible with bonuses granted by cover. You can also perform a special version of the Dodge action by hunkering down behind a tower shield. The benefit of this Dodge is not lost if you are incapacitated because of the stunned condition or if your speed is otherwise reduced to 0.

Additions

Armor Spikes

These short, sharp spikes can be added to any suit of armor.
When you use the attack action to grapple a creature, the target takes 1d3 piercing damage if your grapple check succeeds. Armor so modified is “spiked armor” for purposes of the Battlerager Armor class feature but this damage is not additive with that feature.

Great Helm

This heavy helmet is more protective than the head covering that normally comes with a suit of armor. It fully encases the head and neck, while a visor fully protects the face. Great helms often bear decorative plumes, crests, or elaborate figurines on top.
Wearing a great helm with a suit of medium or heavy armor provides a +1 bonus to saving throws against area spells and effects, like a dragon’s breath weapon or a fireball spell. It also grants immunity to the special mechanics of saps and garrotes. Wearing a great helm imposes disadvantage on the wearer’s Wisdom (Perception) checks.

Locking Gauntlet

Built into a suit of metal armor, the fingers of this armored gauntlet are equipped with locking braces designed to keep the wearer from being disarmed.
While holding a weapon in the gauntlet, the wearer can use an action to lock the braces with a free hand. Thereafter, the gauntlet wearer automatically keeps hold of her weapon in a disarming attempt or an application of the disarming combat maneuver. When a weapon is locked in place, the gauntlet wearer cannot put it down or use the hand for anything else. Unlocking the gauntlet also requires another action with a free hand. A locking gauntlet functions as an armor gauntlet if used with unarmed strikes.

Reinforced Gorget

A reinforced gorget is a metal collar that protects the wearer’s neck and clavicle region.
This protective device grants immunity to the special mechanics of garrotes.

Shield Sconce

This heat-resistant plate and set of brackets mounts on the front of a shield.
This device can attach to any kind of shield except a buckler. It is built to lock in a lit torch or sunrod, allowing the shield-bearer to carry a light source in the same hand as the shield. A shield modified with a sconce cannot also bear an emblem holy symbol or shield spikes.

Shield Spikes

These sharp studs cover the face of a shield, making it into a convincing weapon.
The spikes can be applied to a shield or pavise, but not a buckler or tower shield. When the affected shield is used as an improvised weapon, it inflicts (1d4) piercing damage instead of bludgeoning damage. Additionally, when you use the Attack action to shove a creature, you can inflict the spikes’ piercing damage if your check succeeds. (Do not add your ability modifier to damage when using the spikes in a shove.) A shield modified with spikes cannot also bear a sconce or an emblem holy symbol. Lizardfolk are particularly skilled with spiked shields and can use them to exceptional effect.

Subtle Armor

Using various techniques, affected armor takes on the appearance of normal - though sometimes bulky - clothing. Leather padding can be sewn inside canvas tunics and baggy trousers. Chain can be disguised with quilting. Even narrow plates and splinting can be incorporated into the lining of heavy coats.
This modification can apply to most armors suits, excluding half plate and plate. Heavy or medium armor with this addition can be identified with a DC 20 Wisdom (Perception) check by anyone within 30 feet. Physically handling any kind of subtle armor reveals its nature without a check. A suit of subtle armor costs twice its normal price.

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