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

Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
To rephrase what I was saying, people that support the "AC = 16 minimun including all modifiers" position take the position that the "AC" in the barkskin spell descripition, means "AC including all modifiers". What I'm saying is that:

1) in the armor chart, there is a numerica value for AC than will later be modified by DEX modifiers, shields and other modifiers such as cover.
2) the text of the barkskin spell specifically mentions that the mimimum AC value will be 16 regardless of what type of armor the target is wearing. The text makes no reference to "regardless of shields, DEX mods, cover or other modifiers".

To me, the specific including of armor only in (2) and the exclusion of all other bonuses, then points towards interpretating the AC in the barkskin spell description in the way I mention in (1).

This is a good statement of your position (and Defcon's, as I understand it). It does make better sense of the spell, but it does not match the definition of armour class in the PHB -- p. 14 -- where the armour class is your base (10 or what armour gives you) + your shield + your dex. (and we know that, with specific trumping general, it will include con/wis bonuses from barb/monk, draconic sorcerer protection, etc.)

It is the sum of these things that are your armour class, because (p. 7) the armour class is defined as the target number.

Two things follow from this:

1. The rule makes good mechanical sense, but cannot be easily explained by in-world physics especially if you literalize "barkskin" and your skin gets a bit thicker when you drop your shield). We can find similar holes throughout the game (hit points and healing, anyone?), and as a result I do not see this as fatal.

2. While my reading includes all abilities, magic rings, and armour including shields, I do think a reasonable case can be made for "DM's call" in two cases:
a. parrying (and similar maneuvers, that expend a resource), I'd probably allow to add to the AC at 16;
b. cover too. Cover is external to the character and is something that certain abilities negate (e.g. sharpshooter feat).

Both of these are situational bonuses to your AC, that opponents have an opportunity to bypass.

But in the end it remains unclear, and we each feel our own reading is the most natural one.
 

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WarHawke

First Post
.

Now he dives for cover. Regardless of how he got his AC 12 in the first place... his AC is now 17.
Leather + Cover = 12 +5 = 17.
Dex + Cover = 10 + 2 + 5 = 17.
Shield + Cover = 10 + 2 +5 = 17.

The spell is still only telling us his minimum AC is 16. So we are unaffected by the spell, and our AC remains 17. It is not increased because it is already above the minimum. And it is certainly not decreased, since the spell only talks about a minimum, not a maximum.

Yeah, that is the problem with the math... You are counting a situational modifier to AC (cover) as actual AC. That part, while I understand why you came up with it, it just doesn't jive with the spirit of the rules to lean in that direction of interpretation.

No other armor spell/equipment states or hints towards ignoring situational modifiers to AC.

Like I said in my post above, I can see how someone might say Barkskin does not get their Dex mod, and the shield mod... I need more convincing they dont get that.

But all in all, if WoTC would send out some kind of clarification, all this speculation would be nullified and we can focus on something else that is vague :D
 

D

dco

Guest
Hi,
your DM could let you have an armor of wood, for example a breastplate or scalemail, in MERP or RM I don't remember well there was for example some wood as hard as iron. It's fantasy, another option is a magic item (for example in War of the Burning sky there is a magic sword made of wood) or something more cool like turtle caparace.;)

Personally I find absurd that a druid can't wear a metal armor but can have tons of metal weapons, as a master I would be a bit flexible and facilitate things to a druid that wants something more than hide armor.


About barkskin, the description talks about the skin and it also says "regardless of what kind of armor it is wearing", my interpretation is that it substitutes your armor + dex bonus if they are below 16, if it was a substitution to all your AC the last phrase about armor is redundant.
For example if you wear hide:
Hide + 5 dex bonus --> AC 17 --> 17 with barkskin
Hide + 2 dex bonus --> AC 14 --> with barkskin AC16.
Hide + 2 dex bonus + shield --> AC 14+2 --> with barkskin AC18
It makes the most sense, you also avoid the strange things that happen with cover if you interpret the other way.
Also it is well balanced, compare the other option to mage armor:
Mage armor: 1st level, AC=13+dex (15+dex with shield), 8h, no concentration
Barkskin: 2nd level, if you have less than 16 your AC becomes 16, requires concentration.
In this case with a shield and hide armor (AC=14+dex) this spells gives you at max 2AC bonus if you don't have dex bonuses or while you don't get cover. Practically only interesting if for some strange reason you don't want to make use of your armor proficiencies or if you change form.

It's a matter of how do you interpret it, in my opinion it flows better considering the spell as a substitute for your armor+dex bonus to AC.
 

Skyscraper

Explorer
Can you name any armor with an AC as high as 16 that permits a Dex bonus?

Do you not find it a balance issue to introduce an alternative that does permit this?

It is difficult for me to judge balance issues without play experience with this spell.

It seems like a fairly good spell indeed; however as I noted above, it is limited in time and it also requires concentration on the part of the caster, further limiting his options. So the caster may get a warrior-equivalent armor class, for a limited duration, and subject to keeping his concentration and not using other buff spells.
 

mcbobbo

Explorer
Actually I think the best 'not logical' example of druids and metal is coins. Always metal and every druid collects them in D&D.
 

Skyscraper

Explorer
I find it pretty straight forward personally: You're not suddenly wearing chain mail, you're suddenly Colossus (a wood version)!

Barkskin affects your skin. Your skin has an effective AC of 16. It is what gets hit after other defences have been breached.

So, calculate your AC as normal (Dex mod, armour with/without shield, cover) for the circumstance of the attack - if the attack hits (gets through your calculated AC) it lands on your skin BUT it may still be stopped by the skin's effective AC of 16.

eg. For all my moving, dodging, shield wielding and diving into cover, an attack still hits me (gets past my AC) and makes contact with my 'unprotected' neck, without barkskin I would immediately take the damage. With barkskin, if the attack value is less than 16 it glances off taking a few chips of wood but leaves me unharmed, if the attack value is more than 16 it bites true and I take damage.

This is an interesting take on giving sence to the "mininum AC of 16 including all modifiers" interpretation.

My counter-argument would be, however, that barkskin would then work differently than the other AC-boosting mechanics. Normally, the AC is determined by adding (I'll use non-5E terminology here) armor bonuses, shield bonuses, DEX bonuses, and other circumstantial bonuses. Why would barkskin then work as you suggest, while regular armor does not?
 

Skyscraper

Explorer
This is a good statement of your position (and Defcon's, as I understand it). It does make better sense of the spell, but it does not match the definition of armour class in the PHB -- p. 14 -- where the armour class is your base (10 or what armour gives you) + your shield + your dex. (and we know that, with specific trumping general, it will include con/wis bonuses from barb/monk, draconic sorcerer protection, etc.)

It is the sum of these things that are your armour class, because (p. 7) the armour class is defined as the target number.

Two things follow from this:

1. The rule makes good mechanical sense, but cannot be easily explained by in-world physics especially if you literalize "barkskin" and your skin gets a bit thicker when you drop your shield). We can find similar holes throughout the game (hit points and healing, anyone?), and as a result I do not see this as fatal.

2. While my reading includes all abilities, magic rings, and armour including shields, I do think a reasonable case can be made for "DM's call" in two cases:
a. parrying (and similar maneuvers, that expend a resource), I'd probably allow to add to the AC at 16;
b. cover too. Cover is external to the character and is something that certain abilities negate (e.g. sharpshooter feat).

Both of these are situational bonuses to your AC, that opponents have an opportunity to bypass.

But in the end it remains unclear, and we each feel our own reading is the most natural one.

I agree with you then! And I perfectly understand why someone might read the rules as you do.

I feel that your interpretation makes more sense litterally, but less sense in game terms. While my interpretation makes less sense litterally, but more sense in game terms. But in the end, there is no single clear-cut answer to this question, at least, IMO, and for the time being. (Does WotC support still exist to answer questions?)
 

Tony Semana

First Post
This is an interesting take on giving sence to the "mininum AC of 16 including all modifiers" interpretation.

My counter-argument would be, however, that barkskin would then work differently than the other AC-boosting mechanics. Normally, the AC is determined by adding (I'll use non-5E terminology here) armor bonuses, shield bonuses, DEX bonuses, and other circumstantial bonuses. Why would barkskin then work as you suggest, while regular armor does not?

My response to your counter argument would be (in no order of validity/correctness):

- Because barkskin works the way it's described in the block. Specific over... implied ?
- Barkskin is not armor at all, it is the effect of a spell, so to reverse your question: why would barkskin have to work as regular armor does.
- Where is it specified that ALL AC-boosting mechanics MUST work the same way in ALL instances ?

You touch a willing creature. Until the spell ends, the target’s skin has a rough, bark-like appearance, and the target’s AC can’t be less than 16, regardless of what kind of armor it is wearing.

My interpretation:
Barkskin affects your skin. Your skin has an effective AC of 16. It is what gets hit after other defences have been breached.

So, calculate your AC as normal (Dex mod, armour with/without shield, cover) for the circumstance of the attack - if the attack hits (gets through your calculated AC) it lands on your skin BUT it may still be stopped by the skin's effective AC of 16.

eg. For all my moving, dodging, shield wielding and diving into cover, an attack still hits me (gets past my AC) and makes contact with my 'unprotected' neck, without barkskin I would immediately take the damage. With barkskin, if the attack value is less than 16 it glances off taking a few chips of wood but leaves me unharmed, if the attack value is more than 16 it bites true and I take damage.

Taken outside of an expectation that "all armor-related effects MUST follow the same armor boosting mechanics", is there a logical hole to that interpretation?
 
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Skyscraper

Explorer
Taken outside of an expectation that "all armor-related effects MUST follow the same armor boosting mechanics", is there a logical hole to that interpretation?

I think your interpretation makes sense; but I revert to the question: why would the thick skin work differently than armor? Your answer is to throw a question back: why would it work like armor? My answer to that is: because that's how the game works in all other aspects, and that's how the game has worked in the past. It's like jurisprudence in matters of law: when the law is unclear, precedent is taken into account.

I agree that your idea makes sense in itself; however I do not find it compelling when taken in the context of the game.

You mention that this might be a unique game mechanic: I agree that it might. I just find it improbable that it would, where another way of reasonably interpretating the rules according to precedent, also works.
 


Actually I think the best 'not logical' example of druids and metal is coins. Always metal and every druid collects them in D&D.

Well, they use metal weapons, too.

I tend to think of it as a matter of degree. Druids have no problem carrying or using metal, but being substantially encased in it feels like a separation from the natural world. (Or it may actually be a separation. It could easily be decided that a druid in metal armor cannot wild shape or access certain other nature-focused abilities. That's more or less how I tend to explain it in my own campaigns.)
 

...

And it only just now occurs to me, this may be one of the reasons for wild shape serving as "hit point buffer," with damage taken in other forms not (for the most part) carrying over to the druid's "real" hit points. If they're expected to get hit more often (due to having worse armor), said buffer may well be specifically intended to counter that.

If so, that's a nice piece of behind-the-curtain synergy.
 

Tony Semana

First Post
I think your interpretation makes sense; but I revert to the question: why would the thick skin work differently than armor? Your answer is to throw a question back: why would it work like armor? My answer to that is: because that's how the game works in all other aspects, and that's how the game has worked in the past. It's like jurisprudence in matters of law: when the law is unclear, precedent is taken into account.

I agree that your idea makes sense in itself; however I do not find it compelling when taken in the context of the game.

You mention that this might be a unique game mechanic: I agree that it might. I just find it improbable that it would, where another way of reasonably interpretating the rules according to precedent, also works.

Thanks for agreeing that it makes sense, but I'm not sure about the 'in itself' part. Given the fact that the interpretation works mechanically, against the text of the spell description, AND it actually makes sense within the narrative, I'm not sure why that isn't "compelling in context of the game". What other contexts of the game is there?

"It's unclear because it's different" is a confusing position given the above.

Here's my answer to why it wouldn't work like armor: Because thick skin is skin and armor is armor, and therefore they would and do work differently. Why? Because THIS spell has described how thick skin works. Specific trumps general. The spell does nothing to change the way armor calculations are done.

So again: What's my AC? Does X attack roll hit? NO? yay!!! Yes? Does X attack roll get past AC16 of my barkskin? No? yay!! Yes? ouch!!
 

jadrax

Adventurer
Alexander Bateman ‏@jadraxdarkfire 22h
@mikemearls @JeremyECrawford If I cast Barkskin and use a Shield, is my AC 16 or 18?

Mike Mearls ‏@mikemearls 2h
@jadraxdarkfire @JeremyECrawford I'd say 18

Well Mike Mearls at least feels shields should stack, which lends credence to the 'treat as armor' proponents.
 

pemerton

Legend
There's no house ruling going on here; the text of barkskin is just unclear.

Pro tip: if some text seems clear to you, but it is not clear to a lot of other people, then it is unclear.
I think a lot of posters could benefit from your pro tip!

all armors provide a numeric AC value (e.g. 11 for leather) to which the DEX modifier is added.
This is not correct. No DEX modifier is added to the numeric value of heavy armours. And only a limited amount of DEX modifier may be added to the numeric value of medium armours.

Mage Armor says your AC becomes 13 + DEX mod. It says nothing about cover applying, just like Barkskin says nothing about cover one way or another. Do you rule that someone with Mage Armor doesn't get a cover bonus to AC since the spell doesn't specifically say that it can?
Mage Armour refers to a base armour class. Which is defined as what you get from your armour and shield (Basic PDF p 44).

To me, this implies (i) that wielding a shield while using Mage Armour does not increase AC, and (ii) that adjustments to armour class that are not adjustments to base armour class (eg cover bonuses) apply normally to a character using Mage Armour.

Barkskin, lacking the reference to base armour class, seems to me to be implying that it is an adjustment to overall armour class. (The adjustment takes the form of establishing a minimum.)

On the other hand, there is the reference to "regardless of armour worn", which implies, perhaps, that non-armour considerations might affect your otherwise-minimum-AC of 16. Whether a shield might be such a consideration is further complicated by the fact that a shield is apparently a type of armour (it appears on the armour chart) although arguably it is not a type of armour that is worn.

Bottom line: this is a very poorly worded spell. Although no doubt others think it is well-worded because it encourages GM rulings in favour of determinate rules.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Bottom line: this is a very poorly worded spell. Although no doubt others think it is well-worded because it encourages GM rulings in favour of determinate rules.

Yeah... I would even go so far as saying rather than "poorly-worded" or "well-worded"... Barkskin is a classic example of "simply-worded". And when it's come to 5E, WotC's penchant has been to go for that over all other kinds of rule explanations. Stealth is another example of that.

They came to the conclusion that trying to write all rules so they cover every single base any player will ever come up with never actually works. There's always some corner case that's found or got missed... or even only shows up later on in the game cycle when a new expansion of the rules arrives in a supplement or something. So their way of dealing with it is "Here's a simple rule. If there's a question, the DM can deal with it at the table."

Which on first blush is a fantastic way of handling it... because what's one of the complaints we always hear? Too much errata. Some players don't want to have to print pages of rules clarifications because it's a hassle and it makes them think the rules were poorly designed. But why *is* there errata? Because some other players want all the interlocking rules to be seamless and airtight, which means you have to close up all those corner cases as they appear. They don't want to have to make their own determinations because other players might disagree with them (especially out in the wilds of Public Play), and also they feel like getting the ruleset straight is WotC's job, and not theirs.

I mean heck... even now with Morrus and that other blog collecting all of Mike and Jeremy's tweets about their D&D rulings in one place... half the players want that list to get hammered into a workable format and then posted to the D&D website immediately for use... while the other half find this list to be an anathema because they know that other players are going to trumpet these rules clarifications as though they are the word of god, and refuse to accept the DM's rulings at the table.

So really... there's no actual solution here. And ironically we (and I'm definitely including myself in this) are going absolutely against the philosophy of 5E's design by even having these long arguments about how these spells are supposed to work in the first place. I know I got a bee in my bonnet the couple times folks had posted "Yours is a house-rule, this is the real rule" and I reacted with pretty much a "NUH UH! YOU'RE THE HOUSE RULE! :p " When truth be told... I think we're really all supposed to be looking at the system as a whole as nothing BUT a huge set of house-rules. We're given some basic stuff written down in a book (or several books) and we take them home and hammer them into whatever it is we want them to be. I mean heck... that's the whole purpose of the upcoming DMG's existence. Nothing BUT some more basic stuff to take home and meld into our games.

So screw it. From now on... I'm going to do my best to no longer try and explain the rules as I see them here on the boards. Instead, I'm going to just state how I'm interpreting the "simply-worded" information given to me and how that will interact with things in my game. I chose to play 5E... the least I can do is actually go along with their philosophy about the game as well.
 

SkidAce

Hero
Supporter
.snipped other really good stuff...

So really... there's no actual solution here. And ironically we (and I'm definitely including myself in this) are going absolutely against the philosophy of 5E's design by even having these long arguments about how these spells are supposed to work in the first place. I know I got a bee in my bonnet the couple times folks had posted "Yours is a house-rule, this is the real rule" and I reacted with pretty much a "NUH UH! YOU'RE THE HOUSE RULE! :p " When truth be told... I think we're really all supposed to be looking at the system as a whole as nothing BUT a huge set of house-rules. We're given some basic stuff written down in a book (or several books) and we take them home and hammer them into whatever it is we want them to be. I mean heck... that's the whole purpose of the upcoming DMG's existence. Nothing BUT some more basic stuff to take home and meld into our games.

So screw it. From now on... I'm going to do my best to no longer try and explain the rules as I see them here on the boards. Instead, I'm going to just state how I'm interpreting the "simply-worded" information given to me and how that will interact with things in my game. I chose to play 5E... the least I can do is actually go along with their philosophy about the game as well.

Bravo...bravo! (must spread around etc.)

Me too.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
So screw it. From now on... I'm going to do my best to no longer try and explain the rules as I see them here on the boards. Instead, I'm going to just state how I'm interpreting the "simply-worded" information given to me and how that will interact with things in my game. I chose to play 5E... the least I can do is actually go along with their philosophy about the game as well.
Bingo. Don't worry about RAW. Focus on understanding and disseminating what makes the best RAP (Rules as Played). Having Barkskin be magical chainmail is much easier to understand and play with than the (<16 = 16) interpretation, so push for that. There's no point to being a lawyer; better to be an advocate.
 

pemerton

Legend
trying to write all rules so they cover every single base any player will ever come up with never actually works.

<snip>

So really... there's no actual solution here. And ironically we (and I'm definitely including myself in this) are going absolutely against the philosophy of 5E's design by even having these long arguments about how these spells are supposed to work in the first place.

<snip>

From now on... I'm going to do my best to no longer try and explain the rules as I see them here on the boards. Instead, I'm going to just state how I'm interpreting the "simply-worded" information given to me and how that will interact with things in my game.
What frustrates me is that the rules aren't all that simple - AC is a function of armour, shield, DEX (but only sometimes), cover, etc. Contrast the much simpler rules in (say) B/X.

And then the wording is not simple or uniform either - sometimes it talks about Base AC, sometimes not.

If you are going to write "plain language" rules, it is helfpful to (i) use words and phrases consistently (because in plain English, a difference of language is often taken to signify a difference of meaning), and (ii) to have simple rules!

It's not as if using a shield with Barkskin, Mage Armour etc is a corner case. It's going to come up at nearly every table!

Don't worry about RAW. Focus on understanding and disseminating what makes the best RAP (Rules as Played).
That's fine by me. Most discussions of RAW (especially when contrasted with RAI) rely on poor interpretive methodologies in any event.

But I don't think that's an excuse for poor drafting.

For instance, "while under the effect of this spell your AC cannot be less than 16, regardless of armour worn" is not a clearly written spell. That is not simple or plain language, because it introduces the idea of the spell setting a floor rather than a value, and it introduces the comparison to armour worn in a subordinate clause rather than as a self-standing exception.

Contrast: "This spell toughens your skin and gives you AC 16. If your AC from armour worn would be higher, use that AC instead."
 
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CapnZapp

Legend
Contrast: "This spell toughens your skin and gives you AC 16. If your AC from armour worn would be higher, use that AC instead."
Perhaps:

"This spell magically protects you when everything else fails, granting you AC 16. If your AC from regular sources (including, but not limited to, Dexterity modifiers, armor worn, shield bonus, and conditional modifiers such as cover) would be higher, use that AC instead."
 

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