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Armor Proficiencies

mortwatcher

Explorer
also to note when discussing these, is that medium and heavy armor wearers often come with shield proficiency that they can use without much restriction to their core functionality, giving them that little extra AC boost over light armor wearers
 

Hriston

Explorer
I think it depends on what you mean by 'balanced.' This takes as a given that the AC a lightly armored, DEX maxed PC should be roughly comparable (within a point or so) to a PC that invests in heavy armor along with a more modest investment in STR. Taken in isolation, only looking at the AC calculations as described in the OP, that can appear to be the case. But the benefits of boosting Dex (as well as the benefits of boosting Str) go far beyond the AC boost gained. The Light Armor is likely getting an attack and damage boost to go a long with an AC boost for every DEX increase, whereas the STR character is only getting an attack/damage boost beyond 15 STR. DEX also keeps benefiting things like Initiative and a more common save (and thus more valued by the design of 5e). Skills may be considered a more nebulous comparison, as campaigns tend to vary a bit in what skills come up more often, but things like Stealth, Acrobatics, etc. are also enhanced by DEX increases, while STR is usually limited to Athletics and the less used (IME) lifting and carrying capacities.
What I mean by “balanced” is that, all things being equal, one type of armor is as good as another. Of course, in actual play, all things aren’t equal, and some options will seem better than others depending on choices made in chargen and in play. So I don’t mean “balanced for all characters”, because that wouldn’t be at all interesting from a game-design perspective. I mean something more like “balanced for the game”. The choice to wear a particular suit of armor (or no armor) is a “balanced” element with respect to other options a player has about his/her PC.

And while I generally agree with you that the benefits of DEX are many, while the benefits of STR seem to be relatively few, I take it as given that an ASI, or point-buy resource, is worth the same no matter how it’s spent. My analysis doesn’t seek to quantify the difference between investing in DEX as opposed to STR. Considering the two choices as equivalent is actually a starting point. Now, that doesn’t mean the choices are equivalent for all characters. Obviously, there are some characters who should invest in DEX and others who should invest in STR. The resources they’re using to do so are equivalent, however. If those resources are spent badly/on the wrong things, then of course they’ll be worth less to that character than they would to a character that spends them on the right things, so one of my assumptions is that the choices made are the right ones for each character.

Another quibble is that you seem to have forgotten that damage output is used as a balancing factor between investment in STR versus DEX.
 

Hriston

Explorer
I've lost count of how many Barbarians I've played in 5e and every one started with Dex 14 and ended with Dex 14, and wore medium armor. I'm not sure we're this 12-13 Dex number is coming from, and I've never use an ASI at level 4 to bump a Tertiary stat instead of bumping Primary stat at the first chance I get seems so strange to me. It's a much better investment to get it to 14 at level 1 and keep it there.
Well, I’m looking at @Xeviat’s complaint about medium armor not having an “upgrade” at level 4 the way light and heavy armor do, and also their other complaint that a 14 DEX puts a strain on the resources of characters that wear medium armor. I think this “strain” between boosting your AC or your primary ability makes for an interesting trade off and is by design. Now, you can address that tension at character generation by allocating resources towards DEX as opposed to your primary or secondary (or tertiary) ability, but I don’t see how it’s a better investment to do so. Raising a score from 13 to 14 costs the same amount using point-buy at chargen as it does using half of an ASI to do it, assuming ASIs are always used on scores that are already higher than 12.
 

coolAlias

Explorer
Now, you can address that tension at character generation by allocating resources towards DEX as opposed to your primary or secondary (or tertiary) ability, but I don’t see how it’s a better investment to do so. Raising a score from 13 to 14 costs the same amount using point-buy at chargen as it does using half of an ASI to do it, assuming ASIs are always used on scores that are already higher than 12.
Looking at Dex-boosting half-feats:
  • Athlete - great if climbing and jumping are a big part of your play style, otherwise not so great
  • Lightly Armored - a hard "NO" assuming you already have Medium Armor proficiency
  • Moderately Armored - maybe useful for proficiency with shields, but otherwise a hard "NO"
  • Resilient (Dex) - great if you want Dex save proficiency and don't want this for another save
  • Weapon Master - other feats are much better, in my opinion
In my experience, Athlete and Resilient are the only real options here, but they're not bad ones by any means.

Of course, +1 Dex / +1 another stat is always an option, too, which opens up a lot of other half-feat choices if you end up with another odd stat.

Still, if you're willing to wait until level 4 to cap your AC bonus from Dex, and you're using point buy, this isn't a bad strategy to boost a weak stat by 2.
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
Well, I’m looking at @Xeviat’s complaint about medium armor not having an “upgrade” at level 4 the way light and heavy armor do, and also their other complaint that a 14 DEX puts a strain on the resources of characters that wear medium armor. I think this “strain” between boosting your AC or your primary ability makes for an interesting trade off and is by design. Now, you can address that tension at character generation by allocating resources towards DEX as opposed to your primary or secondary (or tertiary) ability, but I don’t see how it’s a better investment to do so. Raising a score from 13 to 14 costs the same amount using point-buy at chargen as it does using half of an ASI to do it, assuming ASIs are always used on scores that are already higher than 12.
Let me explain another way.

In Point Buy or Standard Array after getting non Dex main stat such as Strength on a Barbarian or Wisdom on a Light Cleric as high as possible getting Dex to 14 is relativity cheap as it doesn't come at the cost of increasing main stat which is already maxed. When getting Dex to 14 from 12-13 as a 4th level ASI it absolutely costs not getting Strength or other main stat to 18 from 16 or 17.

It flat out has less opportunity cost to do it in character creation than at level 4.
 

Hriston

Explorer
My only quibble with this is that any class or subclass that caps at medium armor is going to have Dex as a tertiary stat at worst, so they can get a pretty easy level 1 Dex 14.
What about a STR-secondary cleric? S/he’ll probably still want CON higher than DEX.

Also, by “pretty easy” I’m assuming you mean “with the right choice of race”. I don’t think the game is designed with specific race/class combinations in mind.

Assuming the standard array, for a DEX-tertiary character to get a 14 in DEX, s/he needs a racial ASI in either DEX or his/her primary (+2) or secondary score, so no tiefling barbarians, and no dragonborn or tiefling clerics or druids. Are those the assumptions I should be making?
 

coolAlias

Explorer
What about a STR-secondary cleric? S/he’ll probably still want CON higher than DEX.

Also, by “pretty easy” I’m assuming you mean “with the right choice of race”. I don’t think the game is designed with specific race/class combinations in mind.

Assuming the standard array, for a DEX-tertiary character to get a 14 in DEX, s/he needs a racial ASI in either DEX or his/her primary (+2) or secondary score, so no tiefling barbarians, and no dragonborn or tiefling clerics or druids. Are those the assumptions I should be making?
From an ability score / max AC evaluation, those are indeed sub-optimal choices, yes. Luckily, 5e is pretty forgiving of non-min-maxed choices.

Many cleric subclasses have Heavy Armor proficiency, so Dex is usually a moot point.

Druids benefit from high Dex since the only medium armor they are usually allowed is Hide, which aside from cost is strictly worse than Studded, but they can also fall back on Barkskin or wild shape so Dex isn't as critical, either.
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
What about a STR-secondary cleric? S/he’ll probably still want CON higher than DEX.
Most likely have heavy armor.

Also, by “pretty easy” I’m assuming you mean “with the right choice of race”. I don’t think the game is designed with specific race/class combinations in mind.
Oh I would love it if Race based Ability score bonuses were hit by a truck.

As it is they are in the game, so I can only assume that the game is designed to give those certain race/class combinations a leg up. Otherwise why have them in the first place? I can only speculate what the designers had in mind.

Assuming the standard array, for a DEX-tertiary character to get a 14 in DEX, s/he needs a racial ASI in either DEX or his/her primary (+2) or secondary score, so no tiefling barbarians, and no dragonborn or tiefling clerics or druids. Are those the assumptions I should be making?
I wouldn't say "no tiefling barbarians, and no dragonborn or tiefling clerics or druids" but I would absolutely say fewer. Far fewer even. As I said, I would love for that to not be the case. Such as in this article Reimagining Racial Ability Scores but it is what it is.

Let me ask, what is the value in chasing the lowest common denominator at the expense of far more likely use cases rather than examining the most likely to occur first?
 

TwoSix

Lover of things you hate
What about a STR-secondary cleric? S/he’ll probably still want CON higher than DEX.

Also, by “pretty easy” I’m assuming you mean “with the right choice of race”. I don’t think the game is designed with specific race/class combinations in mind.

Assuming the standard array, for a DEX-tertiary character to get a 14 in DEX, s/he needs a racial ASI in either DEX or his/her primary (+2) or secondary score, so no tiefling barbarians, and no dragonborn or tiefling clerics or druids. Are those the assumptions I should be making?
As others have said, the only Str-secondary clerics are the ones with domains that grant heavy armor proficiency.
 

Gadget

Explorer
And while I generally agree with you that the benefits of DEX are many, while the benefits of STR seem to be relatively few, I take it as given that an ASI, or point-buy resource, is worth the same no matter how it’s spent. My analysis doesn’t seek to quantify the difference between investing in DEX as opposed to STR. Considering the two choices as equivalent is actually a starting point. Now, that doesn’t mean the choices are equivalent for all characters. Obviously, there are some characters who should invest in DEX and others who should invest in STR. The resources they’re using to do so are equivalent, however. If those resources are spent badly/on the wrong things, then of course they’ll be worth less to that character than they would to a character that spends them on the right things, so one of my assumptions is that the choices made are the right ones for each character.

Another quibble is that you seem to have forgotten that damage output is used as a balancing factor between investment in STR versus DEX.
My point was that I'm not sure that I agree with what seems to be the premise of your calculations: a high DEX, light armor PC should have AC roughly equal to a high STR, heavy armor PC. The problem here is that the investment in DEX is really not much of an opportunity cost over investment in STR for characters with light armor prof., especially from an AC/Armor perspective. Yes, the STR character is going to have access to more two handed, higher damage weapons, not to mention feats like GWM. Yet the high DEX character is still benefiting from adding DEX bonus to their attacks & damage, in addition to all the other benefits of DEX, not to mention they could possibly be ranged combatants that can benefit from feats like SS and such. I'm not 100% convinced that this 'balances' out.

Of course, my brief analysis is meant for more martial type characters, and does not take into account spell casters, who usually have other ways of increasing their defenses; for a cost.
 

MarkB

Adventurer
You know, all this talk about armor proficiency made me think of something: what happens if you wear armor you aren't proficient in??? I am sure there is something in the PHB about it, but another player is borrowing mine and for the life of me, I can't think of the rule about not having proficiency... :confused:
Disadvantage on all Strength and Dex based attacks, checks and saves, and you can't cast spells.

Which does bring up an answer to one of the old recurring questions about how to keep spellcasting prisoners from being able to use magic. For most primary spellcasting classes aside from a subset of clerics, a very effective method is to lock them inside a suit of plate armour.
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
Disadvantage on all Strength and Dex based attacks, checks and saves, and you can't cast spells.

Which does bring up an answer to one of the old recurring questions about how to keep spellcasting prisoners from being able to use magic. For most primary spellcasting classes aside from a subset of clerics, a very effective method is to lock them inside a suit of plate armour.
Now I want a Man in the Iron Mask Wizard in the Iron suit adventure.
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
Agreed. So just drop them. Humans get 2 feats and 2 skills instead; other races get one feat plus their racial abilities.
I'd love to see more active racial abilities like the Goliath's Stone's Endurance. It's iconic, says "Goliath's are tough" and is useful on a Barbarian to Wizard and everything in between.
 

dnd4vr

Explorer
Disadvantage on all Strength and Dex based attacks, checks and saves, and you can't cast spells.

Which does bring up an answer to one of the old recurring questions about how to keep spellcasting prisoners from being able to use magic. For most primary spellcasting classes aside from a subset of clerics, a very effective method is to lock them inside a suit of plate armour.
Thanks, I figured it was something like that and remember reading it somewhere. :)
 

Hriston

Explorer
OK I will go through point-buy with some common races for those classes.

Barbarian Half-Orc: 16, 15, 14, 12, 10, 8
Hill Dwarf Cleric: 16, 16, 14, 12, 10, 8
Ghostwise Halfling Druid: 16, 16, 14, 10, 10, 8

Not seeing the issue. A 14 Dex as the third stat should be very common. If you start with Medium armor proficiency, you will almost certainly also start with a 14 Dex. At least that's my experience, and the experience of others in this thread. AC is one of the only things that doesn't reliably increase with level. You're going to want to look out for it from level one.
But that’s the thing. I have no doubt that you can build an array using point-buy that gives you a tertiary score of 14, or even 15. I’m not even looking at point-buy arrays because it’s a variant rule and some of its outcomes are very unlikely using the default score generation methods. So I’m using the standard array except with a 16 as the top score as my baseline because that’s actually the most likely result of 4d6 drop lowest.

I’m also not considering racial ASIs. I don’t think the mini-game of matching your class with the most optimal race is one with which you need to engage in order to properly play the game. Truthfully, I think racial ASIs are in the game more to satisfy Simulationist, rather than Gamist, goals of play. An analysis of how armor proficiencies are designed needs to consider all race-class combinations, not just the most optimal ones. Racial ASIs are in the game, and players are going to optimize, but I’m not sure how to account for that except to just ignore the whole thing. I don’t think armor proficiency is designed around the most optimal race-class combinations, so I’m reluctant to start with that assumption.
 

dnd4vr

Explorer
But that’s the thing. I have no doubt that you can build an array using point-buy that gives you a tertiary score of 14, or even 15. I’m not even looking at point-buy arrays because it’s a variant rule and some of its outcomes are very unlikely using the default score generation methods. So I’m using the standard array except with a 16 as the top score as my baseline because that’s actually the most likely result of 4d6 drop lowest.

I’m also not considering racial ASIs. I don’t think the mini-game of matching your class with the most optimal race is one with which you need to engage in order to properly play the game. Truthfully, I think racial ASIs are in the game more to satisfy Simulationist, rather than Gamist, goals of play. An analysis of how armor proficiencies are designed needs to consider all race-class combinations, not just the most optimal ones. Racial ASIs are in the game, and players are going to optimize, but I’m not sure how to account for that except to just ignore the whole thing. I don’t think armor proficiency is designed around the most optimal race-class combinations, so I’m reluctant to start with that assumption.
Yeah, if you are ok with base scores of 14 for primary and secondary initially, a 14, 14, 14, 10, 10, 10, array is a standard I personally like a lot and use often. Tack on the racial ASIs and it works well IMO.

But anyway, if you use the 4d6 drop lowest method the most likely result is 13. and you can really only expect two scores (typically) to be 14's or higher as the chances of getting 3 or more scores of 14+ is about 37%. Either way, unless DEX (and AC) is a primary or secondary consideration, it isn't at all a guarantee you'll have a 14 to put in it.
 

S'mon

Hero
The game treats heavy armour as a boost for a few classes, not something equivalent to medium armour. Medium and Light can give the same AC but Heavy beats either unless you have dex over 20.
 

Dausuul

Legend
I don't know how frequently this has (or hasn't been) debated but I feel that that heavy armor should be +2 to what it currently is, and medium armor should be +1. There was a reason why people wore it - because it was hugely effective.

Take a look at the Armored Combat League to see just how protective plate is.
In the real world, one of the biggest limiting factors on armor was cost. Pretty much every warrior* would have liked to wear plate, but very few could afford it (if it even existed in their time and place). That isn't an issue in D&D except at very low levels; PCs tend to be very rich and able to afford the best gear.

The armor rules are designed to encourage some diversity in armor choices, so that everybody doesn't just kit themselves out in plate as soon as they have the cash. It's one of the many ways in which D&D breaks with reality for the sake of a better game, much like hit points and XP.

*At least in temperate climes.
 

Hriston

Explorer
Looking at Dex-boosting half-feats:
  • Athlete - great if climbing and jumping are a big part of your play style, otherwise not so great
  • Lightly Armored - a hard "NO" assuming you already have Medium Armor proficiency
  • Moderately Armored - maybe useful for proficiency with shields, but otherwise a hard "NO"
  • Resilient (Dex) - great if you want Dex save proficiency and don't want this for another save
  • Weapon Master - other feats are much better, in my opinion
In my experience, Athlete and Resilient are the only real options here, but they're not bad ones by any means.

Of course, +1 Dex / +1 another stat is always an option, too, which opens up a lot of other half-feat choices if you end up with another odd stat.

Still, if you're willing to wait until level 4 to cap your AC bonus from Dex, and you're using point buy, this isn't a bad strategy to boost a weak stat by 2.
Nice suggestions!

As I explained, I haven’t been considering feats (or point-buy) in my analysis because they aren’t part of the base game, so their inclusion shouldn’t impact the basic functionality of armor proficiencies. It’s interesting to consider, however, how half-feats occupy the design space between wanting to raise an important score by two points (or two important scores by one point each), and not wanting to because your important scores are maxed.

I tend to agree with @BookBarbarian, though, that it would be rare indeed to want to boost a tertiary score at level-4 at the expense of a primary score. I think that generating scores randomly and the limitations imposed by standard array call into question whether that’s always the case.
 

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