D&D Ideas — Armor
Welcome once again to the weekly newsletter. This week’s topic is armor, which we discussed in our weekly live chat. We hangout every Monday evening at 8 p.m. EST on Nerdarchy Live to talk about D&D, RPGs, gaming, life and whatever nerdy stuff comes up. Magical armor is one of the best treasures an adventurer can discover during their perilous quests. Armor equals protection at the very least and mythical abilities at the pinnacle of armor power. Armor of Fallen Leaves harkens back to earlier days of D&D and turned a shade of Nerdarchy in more recent times from one of our earliest modules. Now it’s the May Magic Item Card. While wearing this mystical armor you can transform into a swirling cloud of leaves! Find out more about it here.
Juggle mysterious power and insidious influence from the week that was! Learn the darkest warlock secret, become a whiz with a sling and so much more plus new live chats with creative folks and industry pros and live game play rounding out this week’s Nerdy News. Check it out here.
Delving Dave’s Dungeon
This week we’ve got fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons armor for you. Let us look at it from both the Dungeon Master and players’ perspectives. When you introduce an NPC, villain or monster you want something to hook players in especially if you want them to be recurring characters. There are some good examples of characters who are super identifiable by the armor they wear.
- Dragon Highlord Armor
- Lord Soth
Think of any of the above characters or groups and their armor when you need details to add to your NPCs. Then there are at least a couple of suits of armor that are literally D&D monsters. Two come to mind right away.
- Animated Armor
- Helmed Horror
The armor of your characters says a lot about them. Enemies who look upon the paladin with their shield and plate armor are going to know they’ll be tough to hit but maybe not as quick to get out of the way of a fireball. Meanwhile the enemy mage might see an unarmored adventurer and expect they might want to have a counterspell or dispel magic handy.
By the numbers on D&D Beyond
- 15 mundane armor entries
- 4 Light
- 6 Medium
- 4 Heavy
- 1 Shield
- 41 magic armor entires
- 4 cursed out of 20 total cursed magic items
- 24 require attunement
- 4 Common
- 7 Uncommon
- 17 Rare
- 12 Very Rare
- 8 Legendary
The above armors could be clues to what kind of fighting styles to expect whether those of the player characters or their enemies. Another thing to spice things up on either side of the DM screen is how fancy is the armor like I mentioned earlier. The players or even the NPCs might do this as a show of wealth, influence or status.
Armor as plot hooks
Fabled Armorsmith. This is a great way to introduce a fabled NPC. Players hear of the greatest armorsmith in all the land and perhaps only a suit of armor from this epic smith will complete a quest they are on. But a smith of this caliber can’t simply be bought with gold and silver — they will require service to be completed.
Villain Armored in a Clue. Or perhaps a villain’s armor is identified even if the knave themselves aren’t. It is the only clue the characters have to track down their unnamed enemy. At their smithy they find clues but not the smith. They have been taken prisoner. Once they’ve tracked down the villain they’ll be able to rescue the smith and be rewarded with armor destined to become renowned throughout the realm as a thank you.
From Ted’s Head
Armor is one of those things that you have as a challenge. As a person with some experience in medieval combat I know many armors need particular weapons to pierce or injure those armored within and a game like 5E D&D does not take this into consideration. Rather can try to come up with some ridiculous system to make 5E D&D more complex I am going to use my space this week to go in another direction.
Armor of the Day Dream
Armor (any type), legendary (requires attunement by a character of a good alignment)
The Day Dream is the form a nightmare transforms into once it’s repented for its evil deeds and returned to a celestial with increased power. When the very first Day Dream passed on with its dying breath it willed itself to carry on in the mortal realm and continue to aid others. In doing so it became a suit of armor.
While wearing this armor decorated with white feathers, you gain a +3 bonus to AC. When you attune to this armor during a short rest you can will the armor to be take the form of any nonmagical armor you desire. No matter what type of armor you choose it always appears to be made of white material and is half the weight.
While you are attuned to this armor you are immune to anything that would alter your alignment. You have advantage on saving throws against being charmed. Should an spell or magical effect force you to perform an evil act you can immediately end the effect on yourself as a reaction. Once you use this feature you can’t use it again until the following dawn.
You can use your bonus action to cause feathery wings with a 10 foot wingspan to sprout from the back of the armor. The wings give you a fly speed of 60 feet for one hour and you can hover. While the wings are out you are immune to the frightened condition. In addition you and any allies within 30 feet of you are under the effects of the bless and aid spells without the need for concentration.
Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again for seven days.
While the armor is not completely sentient it does on occasion offer encouragement. After you see the result of an attack roll or ability check but before you know its success or failure you can choose to reroll. You can choose to keep whichever result is to your liking. Once you use this feature you can’t use it again until the following dawn.
While you wear this armor your ideals lean more toward heroism and motivation to accomplish great deeds. Whenever possible you feel the desire to make evil repent and become an instrument of good instead of destruction.
From the Nerditor’s Desk
One of my favorite parts of any 5E D&D related project we’re working on comes from taking closer looks at the free Basic Rules to see concepts expressed at their earliest mention. Enlightenment is twofold since it serves as a great refresher on the game on its own merits and also provides insight how a player new to the game might be shaped by what they read.
In the case of armor in 5E D&D the rules make it clear almost immediately the importance of armor. The first mention follows directly after perhaps the most frequently cited part of the rules for me, the three step basic pattern.
“The target number for an ability check or a saving throw is called a Difficulty Class (DC). The target number for an attack roll is called an Armor Class (AC).”
There’s some things to unpack from this first and only mention of armor during the introduction. Reflecting on this statement I like how the game evolved to develop a parallel to Armor Class in the form of Difficulty Class. This became part of the game with 3.5 D&D if I’m not mistaken and it’s kind of neat to use similar terminology for them both.
On further reflection it put a little dent in the armor of the idea D&D isn’t primarily a combat focused game. After all there’s only two Class checks to make — one in combat and the other for literally everything else.
Armor’s next reference lands in the chapter following the introduction where it’s given a proper definition as a representation of how well your character avoids being wounded in battle. The text explains how to calculate Armor Class, which gave me pause again. Approaching armor with inquisitive intent made me wonder why start with a base 10? I guess because of the d20 system.
Characters of course benefit greatly from armor proficiency, although not being proficient doesn’t preclude a character donning any armor. The drawbacks are quite severe though — disadvantage on any ability check, saving throw or attack roll involving Strength or Dexterity and spellcasting is impossible. One thing to note here is a character who uses a different ability score for attack rolls could get around one particular restriction. Nothing much but who knows?
The core overview of armor also includes the answer to one of the most frequently questioned aspects of 5E D&D.
“Some spells and class features give you a different way to calculate your AC. If you have multiple features that give you different ways to calculate your AC, you choose which one to use.”
The last thing I’ll mention is in much the same way Ted and I discussed weapons (spoiler alert: it’s next week’s newsletter topic) choosing armor for a character can be a significant selection. It certainly is for me! My two favorite armor types in 5E D&D and stretching back over many editions if I’m honest are scale mail and splint mail. Neither are the best in their class but both hold a certain thematic appeal.
I cannot tell you how many characters proudly wore scale mail whether because it was evocative of oceanic life, dragons, snakes or even the scales of justice. Likewise at least a handful of memorable characters donned splint mail to protect themselves on perilous quests. Both of these types of armor offer solid protection and generally cost far less for incremental increases of better types. Since I’ve played a lot of low to mid-level campaigns I guess part of the appeal is relatability — plate armor is for champions and rich people!
*Featured image — One of the coolest things about The Mandalorian — and there’s a lot of cool things! — is The Armorer. Distinctive red armor and gold helmet the Armorer provides spiritual guidance and forges and repairs the armor of the Mandalorian warrior tribe she leads.