Heavy armour is important because not everyone can afford high dexterity. Full plate can grant you nine AC from armor plus max dex, whereas breastplate (the best medium armour) and chain shirt (the best light armour) give you only eight.
Essentially, the best two armours in the game are chain shirt and full plate. Full plate with twelve Dexterity will give you one more AC than chain shirt does on 18 Dexterity; chain shirt, however, has no speed penalty.
- If you want to sneak, then the Armor Check penalty is significant, so rogues (who work best on high Dexterity) should go for masterwork studded leather (no penalty) or masterwork chain shirt (-1 penalty, but you get an extra point of AC without needing 20 Dexterity).
- If you want two-weapon fighting you have 15 Dexterity anyway, so you can afford to build a character reliant to some extent on Dex. Of course, here’s the thing: if you wear breastplate your AC benefit caps out at +8, and since you’re taking the speed penalty you might as well go for full plate (AC+9 overall).
- If your Dex is 18 or higher, you can afford to wear any of the light armours. There’s largely no reason to wear anything but chain shirt unless you care about the Armor Check penalty or the cost at first level, unless you’re in the rare position where you have 26 Dexterity or more and can have +9 AC using padded. However, by that stage in the game you can buy Celestial Armour or somesuch light stuff.
Basically, if you’re anything above Light armour you might as well go for full plate. If you’re wearing light, you may as well go for chain shirt, and if you have 26 Dexterity or more you should wear Celestial Armour. Only if you really care about Armour Check penalties or find something special in treasure should you bother to wear any other armours.
You’re forgetting the middle-man of armors; the breastplate.
First of all, there are several classes that can’t wear heavy armor, and at low levels, you can’t afford mithril breastplate. Namely, the barbarian, but also classes like a Warmage with the Armored Casting feat, or Spellswords.
Then there’s also the fact that a Mithril Breastplate is a light armor. Sure, it’s not as good as the chain shirt for rogues - but fighters and barbarians can use it without movement penalties, and classes like the bard and warmage can get a lot of use out of it as well.
I agree…next to the Chain Shirt, the Breastplate / Mithril Breastplate tends to be the most-owned armor in our groups.
It kind of makes you wonder why WOTC bothered to put any of the other armor types in the game. Once you’re past 1st level and have earned your first 1000 gp of treasure, the 150gp cost differential between scale mail and a breastplate gets to be pretty trivial.
One variant that I’ve experimented with in my game is to give various armors really light stackable DR. So a chain shirt gets DR 1/piercing, while leather armor gets DR 1/slashing. Chain mail gets DR 2/piercing, while Breastplate gets DR 2/bludgeoning. It’s a little more bookkeeping but gives folks an incentive for picking up something besides the standard chain shirt/breastplate/fullplate combo.
also, +1 on the comment about mithril breastplate being the armor of choice for high level rangers, bards, and barbarians.
Why all the different armour? For personalised PC creation. Fighters from different regions probably should have different armour. Orcs who lack the highly detailed working skills to create Full Plate, or even BreastPlate might make Lamella (in the Arms and Equipment Guide).
I’d personally opt for something light like leather or even padded, and stack it with magic, Silent Moves, Shadow etc.
My Figher type is saving for Rhino Hide to use with his lance, and his Expeditious Retreat to share with his familiar mount (long story…)
Ok, have you guys ever tried to have an adventuring group made up of mainly charactors that can move silently and hide easy then you have the oaf in full plate clanking around. Doesn’t work. Then what do you do with a charactor that wears his stupid full plate through town, in shoppes and bars?
Is there a better armor that gives good AC, but doesn’t shout out LOOK AT ME HERE I AM!?
You all forgot mithril full plate (for a whoopping +11) or, when light armor and high dex are a must, the wonderful if costy celestial mail (+13 before the magic modifier).
Other armors are for mook NPCs when you don’t want the PCs to loot too much.
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