5E What armor can druids wear? Is there a way to get a decent AC?

Coroc

Hero
This. Or look at the unarmored AC boosts for barbarian and monk.

Barkskin isn't just a slight difference in phrasing, that can be chalked up to natural language. It's dramatically different. As I interpret it, then, anything that adds to your AC simply has no effect while you're barkskinned until it exceeds 16. Thus:

Barkskin = AC 16.
Barkskin + Dex 20 = AC 16.
Barkskin + shield = AC 16.
Barkskin + mage armor = AC 16.
Barkskin + shield + mage armor = AC 17.
Barkskin + mage armor + Dex 20 = AC 18.

IOW, your AC is either determined by barkskin or by everything else, whichever is higher.
Could you clarify by editing with red and green font eventually which parts of the armor do contribute in each case please?

Ups i fell for a case of slight thread necromancy sorry for my zeal.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Hello all,
My reading of the druid is that of the PHB armors, they can wear leather, padded and hide for certain. Studded leather is unclear (is "made of metal" the same as "has some metal"?)

This seems really painful for a druid--it's hard to build a casting (one who is generally not wild shapped), even with armor feats or multi-classing. The AC is just really low and even barkskin doesn't help much (concentration). Is there anything other than wild shapping that helps? Am I understanding the armor rules correctly?
My rogue wears studded leather that is layers of leather supported by owlbear bone, no metal involved. No reason a Druid couldn’t do the same.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Could you clarify by editing with red and green font eventually which parts of the armor do contribute in each case please?

Ups i fell for a case of slight thread necromancy sorry for my zeal.
It’s not as complicated as that post makes it seem. Calculate your AC as if you didn’t have Barkskin. If that number is less than 16, Barkskin brings your AC to 16 (because the effect of Barkskin is that your AC can’t be less than 16.) If that number is 16 or greater, Barkskin has no effect (because your AC is not less than 16.)
 

Harzel

Adventurer
It’s not as complicated as that post makes it seem. Calculate your AC as if you didn’t have Barkskin. If that number is less than 16, Barkskin brings your AC to 16 (because the effect of Barkskin is that your AC can’t be less than 16.) If that number is 16 or greater, Barkskin has no effect (because your AC is not less than 16.)
Except that that is not what the spell says, at least to me. Consider the two following wordings:

Not the PH said:
the target's AC can't be less than 16, regardless of what its AC would be otherwise
PH said:
the target's AC can't be less than 16, regardless of what kind of armor it is wearing
If the spell read as in the first wording, I would agree with you. However, what we actually have is the second. So I would modify what you said to be the following:

Calculate your AC based only on what armor you are wearing, that is, according to the table on page 145 of the PH (or 10 + DEX mod if you are wearing no armor). If that number is less than 16, Barkskin brings your armor-based AC to 16 (because the effect of Barkskin is that your armor-based AC can’t be less than 16.) If that number is 16 or greater, Barkskin has no effect (because your armor-based AC is not less than 16.) Then modify your AC according to items/features that usually modify your armor-based AC, such as a shield.

To me, the only thing that could be controversial is the treatment of your DEX modifier. One could argue that if a character has only Barkskin and no armor, then its AC should be 16 + DEX mod. I think that is not RAI because

a) It is a general rule that how DEX affects AC depends on armor type. Since the Barkskin effect is, effectively, armor, and its description says nothing about adding your DEX mod, that means you don't add your DEX mod. It is analogous to the lines for the heavy armor types in the table on page 145 of the PH. (In fact, since the AC that it is granting is 16, it seems very reasonable to treat it similarly to a heavy armor, except for the fact that you can, if you choose wear a more protective armor over it, provided you can find some that a druid can wear.)

b) If you did add DEX mod, a druid with Barkskin, a shield, and a DEX of 14 would have an AC of 20. To me, that seems quite unlikely to be intended (but this is, clearly, subjective).

Finally, I guess, a word about shields. I am not aware of any instances in the 5e rules in which the word "armor" is intended to include the use of a shield. And in the specifications of Unarmored Defense feature for Barbarians and Monks, whether a shield is allowed is made explicit. So my take is that "what kind of armor it is wearing" does not comprehend shield use.

All of which amounts to what @DEFCON 1 said rather more concisely, um, 5 1/2 years ago.

The way I read it... you have a floor of 16 for AC due to armor, and it can go up from there with anything else besides armor that normally raises your AC.
Oh, and then one last word about why the way the spell is written is absolutely terrible and subject to so much discussion. The fundamental flaw is simple (and, I would think, obvious to a competent author): basically, instead of telling you what the target's AC is, it tells you what the target's AC isn't (it is not less than 16). Would it have taken a few more words to say, explicitly, how to calculate the target's AC? Yes. Would it have eliminated a lot of DMs spending time - time that could have been usefully spent otherwise - trying to figure out WTF they meant (or, failing that, how I want it to work) because even though I don't care a lot about how exactly the spell works, I have to make a decision? Also, yes.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Except that that is not what the spell says, at least to me. Consider the two following wordings:

If the spell read as in the first wording, I would agree with you. However, what we actually have is the second. So I would modify what you said to be the following:

Calculate your AC based only on what armor you are wearing, that is, according to the table on page 145 of the PH (or 10 + DEX mod if you are wearing no armor). If that number is less than 16, Barkskin brings your armor-based AC to 16 (because the effect of Barkskin is that your armor-based AC can’t be less than 16.) If that number is 16 or greater, Barkskin has no effect (because your armor-based AC is not less than 16.) Then modify your AC according to items/features that usually modify your armor-based AC, such as a shield.

To me, the only thing that could be controversial is the treatment of your DEX modifier. One could argue that if a character has only Barkskin and no armor, then its AC should be 16 + DEX mod. I think that is not RAI because

a) It is a general rule that how DEX affects AC depends on armor type. Since the Barkskin effect is, effectively, armor, and its description says nothing about adding your DEX mod, that means you don't add your DEX mod. It is analogous to the lines for the heavy armor types in the table on page 145 of the PH. (In fact, since the AC that it is granting is 16, it seems very reasonable to treat it similarly to a heavy armor, except for the fact that you can, if you choose wear a more protective armor over it, provided you can find some that a druid can wear.)

b) If you did add DEX mod, a druid with Barkskin, a shield, and a DEX of 14 would have an AC of 20. To me, that seems quite unlikely to be intended (but this is, clearly, subjective).

Finally, I guess, a word about shields. I am not aware of any instances in the 5e rules in which the word "armor" is intended to include the use of a shield. And in the specifications of Unarmored Defense feature for Barbarians and Monks, whether a shield is allowed is made explicit. So my take is that "what kind of armor it is wearing" does not comprehend shield use.
The distinction you’re trying to draw between AC and “armor-based AC” is not supported by the rules.

All of which amounts to what @DEFCON 1 said rather more concisely, um, 5 1/2 years ago.
And it wasn’t correct then either.

Oh, and then one last word about why the way the spell is written is absolutely terrible and subject to so much discussion. The fundamental flaw is simple (and, I would think, obvious to a competent author): basically, instead of telling you what the target's AC is, it tells you what the target's AC isn't (it is not less than 16). Would it have taken a few more words to say, explicitly, how to calculate the target's AC? Yes. Would it have eliminated a lot of DMs spending time - time that could have been usefully spent otherwise - trying to figure out WTF they meant (or, failing that, how I want it to work) because even though I don't care a lot about how exactly the spell works, I have to make a decision? Also, yes.
Telling you how to calculate your AC would change the function of the spell. Barkskin does not give you a new way to calculate your AC. It prevents your AC from falling below a certain threshold. The wording is very simple and concise, and leaves no room for misinterpretation. The target’s AC (regardless of what armor it is wearing) can’t be less than 16. If its AC would be 15, its 16. If its AC would be 17, it’s 17. What armor it’s wearing makes no difference. Simple.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
The "no metal armor" restriction doesn't have to be as limiting as you think. With some imagination (and your DM's permission) you could make Medium or Heavy armor out of all sorts of materials.

Maybe there is a special tree in your campaign, called Umbrite or whatever. And maybe the elves have learned how to collect the sap from the umbrite trees, and they boil it down and harden it to make golden, translucent weapons and armor that are as light and strong as steel. But be careful, it's still technically wood (and can burn).

Maybe the dwarven druids of the Earth-Singer clan have a special kind of armor made from ceramic. They mine the rare clays from ancient fossil beds deep beneath the mountain, mix it with the blood of gorgons, and fire it in great kilns to create stone armor. This ceramic armor might be unaffected by heat metal, but watch out for transmute rock.

Or maybe you want a breastplate for your druid. You ask around, and you find an NPC who can make one for you out of chitin. Your DM could put a quick little adventure together for you to hunt and slay an ankheg large enough for the project, but you're going to have to find a way to slay it somehow without cracking its shell. If you pull it off, you could have a chitin breastplate in about 4-5 in-game months. (And a pretty cool story about where your unique armor came from.)
 
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Weiley31

Adventurer
The "no metal armor" restriction doesn't have to be as limiting as you think. With some imagination (and your DM's permission) you could make Medium or Heavy armor out of all sorts of materials.

Maybe there is a special tree in your campaign, called Umbrite or whatever. And maybe the elves have learned how to collect the sap from the umbrite trees, and they boil it down and harden it to make golden, translucent weapons and armor that are as light and strong as steel.

Maybe the dwarven druids of the Earth-Singer clan have a special kind of armor made from ceramic. They mine the rare clays from ancient fossil beds deep beneath the mountain, mix it with the blood of gorgons, and fire it in great kilns to create stone armor.

Or maybe you want a breastplate for your druid. You ask around, and you find an NPC who can make one for you out of chitin. Your DM could put a quick little adventure together for you to hunt and slay an ankheg large enough for the project, but you're going to have to find a way to slay it somehow without cracking its shell. If you pull it off, you could have a chitin breastplate in about 4-5 in-game months. (And a pretty cool story about where your unique armor came from.)
I like my Ironwood idea, but that is also totally kick-ass too!
 

Khelon Testudo

Cleric of Stronmaus
Your avatar is suspect. :unsure:
Hahahha! I'd forgotten! That's an image of a mini I bought, but it's the original art from the site. My tortle actually has a smaller shield, and has replaced the baby-turtle-mace with a standard hammer head. I modified my personal mini to suit. I should try and get an image of it - I'm rather pleased with Khelon. He's a storm cleric.
 
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Harzel

Adventurer
The distinction you’re trying to draw between AC and “armor-based AC” is not supported by the rules.


And it wasn’t correct then either.


Telling you how to calculate your AC would change the function of the spell. Barkskin does not give you a new way to calculate your AC. It prevents your AC from falling below a certain threshold. The wording is very simple and concise, and leaves no room for misinterpretation. The target’s AC (regardless of what armor it is wearing) can’t be less than 16. If its AC would be 15, its 16. If its AC would be 17, it’s 17. What armor it’s wearing makes no difference. Simple.
Welllll, as to RAI, it appears you are correct.


However, I greatly disagree that the wording of the spell leaves no room for misinterpretation. As evidence, I submit the words of the many people who have expressed their confusion here and elsewhere; it is abundantly clear that it is possible to misinterpret it. And it seems to me there are two good reasons that people might misinterpret the spell. First, the phrase "regardless of what kind of armor it is wearing" calls attention specifically to armor and will cause (some) people to think that armor is particularly germane to the effect of the spell. In your interpretation (and Crawford's intent) armor is just one factor among many. As I noted previously, that intent would be much better expressed by "regardless of what its AC would be otherwise", or, in fact, by simply leaving off any such phrase entirely. "the target's AC can't be less than 16" is more concise and less subject to misinterpretation.

Just to be clear, I agree that the phrase "regardless of what kind of armor it is wearing" is logically consistent with the intended interpretation. But that does not mean that that is the only interpretation with which it is consistent (it's not), nor that that is the interpretation that everyone will consider the most likely (it's not), though some may.

The second thing that I suspect trips people up (certainly it tripped me up) is that the intended working of the spell is quite at odds with many peoples' view of the fiction. Both the name of the spell and the fluff "the target's skin has a rough, bark-like appearance" give the impression that the spell's effect can be attributed, in the fiction, to the target having tougher skin. Given that fiction, many (I'd even stretch it to say most) people would expect a shield, cover, and anything else that usually stacks with armor to give their usual bonuses on top of the Barkskin effect. And many people when uncertain will gravitate toward an interpretation that matches their view of the fiction.

And just to respond in advance to a comment that I'm sure a few people are just itching to type back at me - no, the fact that there are a number of D&D rules that present challenges when trying to construct a corresponding fiction does not mean that it is somehow illogical to not want more such instances, nor that it is unreasonable to tend to resolve perceived ambiguities in favor of rules that are consonant with the fiction as we imagine it.
 
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S'mon

Legend
I haven't noticed Druids IMCs suffering much from low AC. Valour Bards, OTOH... !

If a Druid plans to fight in melee they are going to be a Wildshaping Moon Druid. If not, they usually have a high AC (or Barbarian) tank PC to hide behind. I've twice seen the Druid in my Runelords game get ambushed out of Wildshape form and go down fast -once because she didn't Wildshape on her init, once because she walked up to the ancient blue dragon BBEG and asked it to give her the Maguffin, then rolled low on init. But I've seen the Barbarian go down more often.
 

Harzel

Adventurer
The distinction you’re trying to draw between AC and “armor-based AC” is not supported by the rules.
I'm not entirely sure what you mean by "not supported by the rules". If you mean that the rules don't define the term "armor-based AC", well, yes, that's true, but I don't understand what difference that alone would make.

The concept of calculating an AC value based on the armor you are wearing most certainly is in the rules, and all that I did was invent a term for that because I needed to refer to it several times. And at any particular time, a character's AC is not necessarily the same as the AC value calculated on the basis of what armor it is wearing, so there certainly is that distinction.

I don't see how my invention and use of the term, per se, in anyway invalidates any of what I said. It's true that it turns out that it's not pertinent to the intent of Barkskin, but that's not the same as "not supported by the rules". Maybe I'm missing what you meant. (?)
 

S'mon

Legend
Did you mean Lore Bards maybe? Valor gets access to medium armor and shields, so not much trouble getting AC to 17 or 18.
Ah... my poor Valour Bard player obviously never read that section!! :-O

Lore Bards are fine IME, they play like Wizards.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Welllll, as to RAI, it appears you are correct.


However, I greatly disagree that the wording of the spell leaves no room for misinterpretation. As evidence, I submit the words of the many people who have expressed their confusion here and elsewhere; it is abundantly clear that it is possible to misinterpret it. And it seems to me there are two good reasons that people might misinterpret the spell. First, the phrase "regardless of what kind of armor it is wearing" calls attention specifically to armor and will cause (some) people to think that armor is particularly germane to the effect of the spell. In your interpretation (and Crawford's intent) armor is just one factor among many. As I noted previously, that intent would be much better expressed by "regardless of what its AC would be otherwise", or, in fact, by simply leaving off any such phrase entirely. "the target's AC can't be less than 16" is more concise and less subject to misinterpretation.

Just to be clear, I agree that the phrase "regardless of what kind of armor it is wearing" is logically consistent with the intended interpretation. But that does not mean that that is the only interpretation with which it is consistent (it's not), nor that that is the interpretation that everyone will consider the most likely (it's not), though some may.
Clearly that part of the sentence is the one that people who don’t want to interpret the spell as working according to RAI latch onto to justify their interpretation. And I agree that leaving that part off would have made the intent clearer. I don’t agree that there is any other logically consistent way to interpret the wording of the spell, but people aren’t always logically consistent.

The second thing that I suspect trips people up (certainly it tripped me up) is that the intended working of the spell is quite at odds with many peoples' view of the fiction. Both the name of the spell and the fluff "the target's skin has a rough, bark-like appearance" give the impression that the spell's effect can be attributed, in the fiction, to the target having tougher skin. Given that fiction, many (I'd even stretch it to say most) people would expect a shield, cover, and anything else that usually stacks with armor to give their usual bonuses on top of the Barkskin effect. And many people when uncertain will gravitate toward an interpretation that matches their view of the fiction.
I think you’re absolutely correct about this. In fact, I think this is the only reason the spell throws people off. If the spell’s function was more intuitively consistent with people’s view of the fiction, I don’t think the armor part would throw anyone off. The way the spell actually says it works doesn’t seem right to people, so they assume they’ve misinterpreted, and re-read looking for an alternative interpretation. The comment about armor gives them enough ammunition to construct a (logically flawed) argument, usually involving “it doesn’t say your armor can’t be higher than 16” and/or “why else would it mention armor and not shields or cover?” to convince themselves that it must work in a way that better fits their view of the fiction.

And just to respond in advance to a comment that I'm sure a few people are just itching to type back at me - no, the fact that there are a number of D&D rules that present challenges when trying to construct a corresponding fiction does not mean that it is somehow illogical to not want more such instances, nor that it is unreasonable to tend to resolve perceived ambiguities in favor of rules that are consonant with the fiction as we imagine it.
No, for sure, it’s not illogical or unreasonable to want the rules to function in a way that intuitively aligns with your view of the fiction at all. It’s only unreasonable to expect that all rules will (or should) do so, because everyone has different views of the fiction and different opinions about the most intuitive way to reflect that mechanically, not to mention the fact that intuitive alignment with the fiction is far from the only factor that goes into designing the rules.

Granted, this particular spell’s function is particularly unintuitive for a particularly large number of players, and I certainly empathize with people having a hard time wrapping their heads around it. If the argument is that the spell should work a different way because its current function is too difficult to align with the fiction, I think that’s a much stronger argument than claiming that the wording makes the RAI unclear.

I'm not entirely sure what you mean by "not supported by the rules". If you mean that the rules don't define the term "armor-based AC", well, yes, that's true, but I don't understand what difference that alone would make.

The concept of calculating an AC value based on the armor you are wearing most certainly is in the rules, and all that I did was invent a term for that because I needed to refer to it several times. And at any particular time, a character's AC is not necessarily the same as the AC value calculated on the basis of what armor it is wearing, so there certainly is that distinction.

I don't see how my invention and use of the term, per se, in anyway invalidates any of what I said. It's true that it turns out that it's not pertinent to the intent of Barkskin, but that's not the same as "not supported by the rules". Maybe I'm missing what you meant. (?)
There does exist a term in the rules that describes what you’re calling “armor-based AC” though. It’s called “base AC” and it’s used in the wording of Mage Armor. The fact that Barkskin isn’t worded this way is an indication that it doesn’t work the way many people want it to. If that was the intent, they would likely have worded the spell like Mage Armor, setting your base AC to 16.
 

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