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5E Why the Druid Metal Restriction is Poorly Implemented

Ohmyn

Villager
I'm making this post partly because I feel the need to vent about why the 5th Edition metal armor restriction is very poorly implemented, but also because I've seen discussions about this topic, but I feel like most of the arguments made in support of it, and in opposition of it, are typically too incomplete or otherwise lacking information. They're also far too spread out to really get the full point across. For that reason I wanted to compile a single post explaining why it's bad, largely to vent, but also for anyone that wants to point out to their DM why it's bad, but can't quite articulate it. If anyone has any crucial points that I've missed, or wants to make an argument against a point made, please let me know so I can add them to, or detract them from, my list of grievances to present to all of my future DMs.

To start things off, here's the line of text in question as it appears in the PHB: "(druids will not wear armor or use shields made of metal)".

And here's the official Sage Advice that elaborates on that:

What happens if a druid wears metal armor? The druid explodes.


Well, not actually. Druids have a taboo against wearing metal armor and wielding a metal shield. The taboo has been part of the class’s story since the class first appeared in Eldritch Wizardry (1976) and the original Player’s Handbook (1978).The idea is that druids prefer to be protected by animal skins, wood, and other natural materials that aren’t the worked metal that is associated with civilization. Druids don’t lack the ability to wear metal armor. They choose not to wear it. This choice is part of their identity as a mystical order. Think of it in these terms: a vegetarian can eat meat, but the vegetarian chooses not to.


A druid typically wears leather, studded leather, or hide armor, and if a druid comes across scale mail made of a material other than metal, the druid might wear it. If you feel strongly about your druid breaking the taboo and donning metal, talk to your DM. Each class has story elements mixed with its game features; the two types of design go hand-in-hand in D&D, and the story parts are stronger in some classes than in others. Druids and paladins have an especially strong dose of story in their design. If you want to depart from your class’s story, your DM has the final say on how far you can go and still be considered a member of the class. As long as you abide by your character’s proficiencies, you’re not going to break anything in the game system, but you might undermine the story and the world being created in your campaign.
Now to explain my issues with this "rule":

1) Personally, my major gripe with the limitation is that it's the only rule I've seen in any edition of D&D that most DMs interpret as literally forcing a decision on a player's character. The game (for players) is about you as a player making all choices for your character, with the rules providing mechanical implications guiding your actions, but not forcing you to do anything. Monks don't wear armor as part of their monastic training, and as such they have no proficiency in armor or shields; however, a player as a Monk can still choose to have their character wear any armor they wish. Doing so will impose any penalties of not being proficient, and will cost them their Martial Arts, their Unarmored Defense, their Unarmored Movement, and maybe some other traits gained as they level, but they are free to make that decision if they so wish. Ultimately the player decides what the character is going to do in any situation, unless of course the DM takes over momentarily for the sake of their story, but the written rules should never remove their ability to make a choice.

In 3.5 Druids did not wear metal armor, but they could. Wearing prohibited armor cost them the ability to cast spells, or use any supernatural or spell-like Druid abilities for as long as they wore it, plus 24 hours after it was removed. There was no problem with this because the option to do so remained, even though players would view the mechanical restrictions of this and choose for their character to not to wear metal armor. Heck, there are situations where it could be beneficial for a Druid to do so despite the penalties. Perhaps they want to infiltrate an organization that opposes magic, and in order to avoid some kind of magical detection they don metal armor to remove their magical aura for 24 hours. The player would lose class features, but it's still a choice for the player to consider for their character, regardless of if it proved to be a good idea in the end.

2) It's not a universal limitation of the Druid's lore in 5th Edition, nor does it impose mechanical penalties. This is another big one as it runs contrary to the Sage Advice. First off, there is not a lot of real story given in 5E besides referencing to the Forgotten Realms and a little mix of Eberron, which is where the core 5E books reference their lore. This makes rules like this one quite ambiguous to people not familiar with the lore, because it doesn't offer any mechanical or story elements for enforcement.

What I mean by it not being a universal limitation of druidic lore in 5E is that it's not a universal limit in the Forgotten Realms lore. The PHB says that some Druids venerate the forces of nature themselves, but that most are of the Old Faith, devoted to one or more of the nature deities worshiped in your setting. It is also stated that different druidic sects hold different philosophies about the proper relationship of the spirits to each other and to the forces of civilization.

This is where Druids like the worshipers of Mielikki come in. Mielikki is known in Forgotten Realms as the Forest Queen, and is the neutral good goddess of autumn, Druids, dryads, forests, forest creatures and Rangers. As part of her lore, appearing as far back in 1E AD&D and still a patron deity in the Forgotten Realms pantheon for 5E, she permits her druids to wear all kinds of armor and to use all kinds of weapons that are permitted to Rangers, including those made of metal. As a tidbit for those of you that are looking for a reason to multiclass your Cleric (Life Cleric + Goodberry shenanigans ahoy), she's a goddess of Druids and Rangers, and as such her Clerics canonically almost always multiclass into one of those choices. Some of her more notable worshipers in lore were known to wear metal, such as prominent dwarven Druid Pikel Bouldershoulder, who was famous for wielding his "Sha-la-la" stick, and wearing his metal cooking pot as a helmet whenever he dived into battle.

Druids wearing metal in Forgotten Realms is not only canon to the lore, but they never lost anything if they did so. This shows that it does not interfere with their power and that it's simply an oath they might make, but it's not one they have to keep, nor is it one every Druid even chooses to make to begin with. In lore Druids have different philosophies, and will even prey on one another, so it makes no sense that every Druid spanning from the Elves in the grasslands, to the Dwarves in the caves/mountains, and even the Drow deep in the Underdark, will all arbitrarily agree "metal bad", especially when the cave and ground dwellers are surrounded by iron in the earth all around them.

3) Druids may use metal weapons, or even cover themselves in as much metal as their carrying capacity allows so long as it does not provide an armor bonus, and Nature Clerics, who worship the same deities that grant Druids of the Old Faith their powers, gain heavy armor proficiency for their devotion. This is all very inconsistent with the idea that Druids will not use metal. If a deity grants their Clerics divine inspiration that enables them to wear heavy armor, it makes no sense that part of the Druid's oath to that deity would forbid metal. Many people say that Druids will hold metal weapons because they do not have to cover themselves in metal to do so, but this holds true for shields. You don't "wear" a shield, which is why the rule specifies "wear armor or use shields". A Dwarven Druid can be proficient in Smith's Tools and thus perform their own blacksmithing, wield a 4 lb. Battleaxe in each hand, and haul as many 2 lb. throwing hammers as their weight limit allows, but they absolutely won't wield a single 6 lb. metal shield. That's dumb, and causes the limitation to completely break immersion for many characters that are not otherwise outside of their limitations.

4) Druids, if not being allowed to equip metal armor is enforced, are forced to ask their DM ahead of time if non-metal variants of medium armors exist in their world, the answer of which brings forth several potential complications that no other class has to consider, both for the character's story and for the game world.
Even if we assume it's never a bad thing for a DM to flesh out more details in their world, there's still the fact that these are problems every Druid has to address. When something is going to be relevant 100% of the time a class is played, there should at least be some mechanical or narrative guidelines addressing it.

If the DM says there are not non-metal variants that the Druid can acquire, it raises the question as to how the Druid gained their proficiency in any medium armor that's not hide. This would mean that the Druid is trained in using something that literally does not exist for them.

If it's something that will be available, but the Druid will have to wait until later to acquire it, it seems odd that a Druid that has always only been able to wear hide and leather can suddenly wear a sufficient half plate of any material without complication. Also, if it's something that exists, why would a Druid that lived among other Druids have to wait so long to acquire it? Would the Druids, who are proficient in such armors, not have trained their proficiency by having the materials available to do so? Forcing a Druid that was raised in a druidic circle to have no access to materials or equipment relevant to the training of such a core class feature sounds like a silly limitation to have as a built in feature, and is something no other class is forced to accommodate in their rules.

5) Leather is not natural. Leather is just as unnatural as steel, and creating it is also a process of civilization; it's just that creating leather is an easier process to replicate. Making leather requires cleaning and degreasing of the hide, as well as removing the hair, which is usually done by soaking it in chemical solutions for 24-48 hours. Admittedly you can do this process more naturally without chemicals, it's just not as efficient. However, once this process is done, you have to tan the leather regardless of cleaning method used.

Tanning leather requires loading the hide into a tanning drum containing a tanning solution, then rolling the hide in a roller to remove moisture, all of which stabilizes its proteins to increase the thermal, chemical, and microbiological stability. This is what prevents it from decaying, and gives it its durability. Of course the process is far more complex than I've described, but the take of this is that once the process is complete it's simply nothing like the natural skin it was when the process began. If you attempted to wear hide that was not fully cured it would simply rot away.

Metal is made effectively the same way. Steel is simply iron ore that's heat blasted to remove impurities and to combine it with carbon, usually alloyed at less than 1%. This process can be achieved without a blast furnace, and can be done by burning natural combustible materials, which can be used to combine wrought iron sealed alongside a carbon source such as leather scraps, bone and/or horns. This is literally no different in concept than cleaning and salting a hide, soaking it in chemicals to remove impurities, and then tanning it to chemically alter the proteins.

There's nothing "natural" about either process. Neither process ever occurs in nature, and both processes are done by essentially the same concepts, just with different base materials. Steel requires running iron ore and a carbon source through heat via something combustible like coal, whereas leather requires preserving the material with salts, soaking it for some time in either vegetable agents or a chromium salt mix, then adding special fats.
 
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Xeviat

Explorer
I agree fully. Good post. When you compare the druid side by side with the cleric, it looks odd that they have this "resistriction" but don't seem to be compensated for it. It's not baked into the rules. It's there for story. I'm all for story, but make the mechanics fit the story and make the character's balanced. A nature cleric gets a skill, a cantrip, and heavy armor over the druid, who gets herbalism kit proficiency and a secret language.

At least in 4E, the armor proficiencies were more fixed and it was easy to just stick with the Hide armor proficiency you were granted.
 

Hawk Diesel

Explorer
I see that you're venting, and maybe it's the way I'm reading this, but I am having trouble understanding the part you disagree with. Is it the restriction? The lore? Or specifically how it is implemented in 5e.

Personally, I don't know any DMs (though they likely exist) that would take away player agency and outright prohibit a druid character to wear metal armor. A fire is a bad place to put my hand, but a DM wouldn't stop me from having my character do it. Though my choice would also come with the consequence of some fire damage. I see the druid armor restriction in 5e as akin to paladin oaths or the warlock patron. Yes, they offer role play opportunities, and going against your oath or defying your patron may carry consequences, but those consequences may not be immediately clear or well understood. And it may be mechanical (paladin must go oathbreaker, warlock loses its powers), but the consequences don't have to be. That's one of the cool things about 5e. It doesn't always clearly spell out what will happen, and that is intentional and awesome. Because that means the DM can figure out interesting consequences that work with the narative of the story and the flow of the game. It also means a player can't contest a DM ruling by pointing out the rule, because the rule doesn't technically exist. It's more of a suggestion with a vague sense that something could happen. And in the end, that thing that could happen may be nothing. Because maybe for the druid, it really is just a taboo. And you might anger other druids if you show up wearing metal armor, but that won't in itself stop you from being a druid or using your abilities.

At least, that's my perspective and experience.
 

coolAlias

Explorer
Just one more reason to never play a druid. :p

Having metal armor (not shields) hinder wild shape would, in my opinion, be a fine compromise and restore player agency.

But then one would have to wonder, why doesn't metal armor hinder Polymorph?
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I see that you're venting, and maybe it's the way I'm reading this, but I am having trouble understanding the part you disagree with. Is it the restriction? The lore? Or specifically how it is implemented in 5e.

Personally, I don't know any DMs (though they likely exist) that would take away player agency and outright prohibit a druid character to wear metal armor. A fire is a bad place to put my hand, but a DM wouldn't stop me from having my character do it. Though my choice would also come with the consequence of some fire damage. I see the druid armor restriction in 5e as akin to paladin oaths or the warlock patron. Yes, they offer role play opportunities, and going against your oath or defying your patron may carry consequences, but those consequences may not be immediately clear or well understood. And it may be mechanical (paladin must go oathbreaker, warlock loses its powers), but the consequences don't have to be. That's one of the cool things about 5e. It doesn't always clearly spell out what will happen, and that is intentional and awesome. Because that means the DM can figure out interesting consequences that work with the narative of the story and the flow of the game. It also means a player can't contest a DM ruling by pointing out the rule, because the rule doesn't technically exist. It's more of a suggestion with a vague sense that something could happen. And in the end, that thing that could happen may be nothing. Because maybe for the druid, it really is just a taboo. And you might anger other druids if you show up wearing metal armor, but that won't in itself stop you from being a druid or using your abilities.

At least, that's my perspective and experience.
I don’t disagree, but I think it’s something that merits a bit more discussion in the book. Paladins and Warlocks have their oaths and pacts baked into their identities, and the potential narrative consequences of violating them are addressed by the book. With Druids, it’s an afterthought. A single-sentence parenthetical addendum to their armor proficiencies, with no mention anywhere else in the class, and no discussion of consequences, either mechanical or narrative. I’m all for keeping the consequences narrative and leaving the specifics up to the DM, but that should be stated. There should be mention in the class’s lore of the preference many orders have for nonmetal equipment, and a note that it’s up to the DM what consequences, if any, a Druid who violates this taboo might face. Instead, we are just informed that druids “won’t” wear metal armor and left at that.
 

cbwjm

I can add a custom title.
Just one more reason to never play a druid. :p

Having metal armor (not shields) hinder wild shape would, in my opinion, be a fine compromise and restore player agency.

But then one would have to wonder, why doesn't metal armor hinder Polymorph?
This is what I would have done if I had written the druid for 5e, if I thought that the restriction from previous editions should stick around. As is, there is no penalty associated with it, it is a flavour restriction, and I think it would have been better off in one of those little side bars that the PHB has as a "some orders of druids do this..."
 

Ohmyn

Villager
I see that you're venting, and maybe it's the way I'm reading this, but I am having trouble understanding the part you disagree with. Is it the restriction? The lore? Or specifically how it is implemented in 5e.
I'm bothered by everything about it as presented in the PHB, and then again bothered by how poorly it's addressed in Sage Advice. It's written in the PHB without any information or mechanical implications provided, and then when asked why that is, the Sage Advice states it to be a story element, but then words it in a way where you as a player have to ask your DM if you're allowed to break the rules and wear it despite the class restrictions. The issue here is that there's a section for story elements, but this "rule" is listed under the Class Features, and the Sage Advice didn't do a good job of indicating it's not a mechanical restriction. In my experience most DMs prohibit Druids from wearing metal armor for this reason, and even in AL it seems almost universally not allowed. At most a Druid has to get lucky in that the module used has armors of alternative materials, otherwise the DM rules you can't wear metal armor and be a Druid because that's what is says in RAW, and Sage Advice saying "ask your DM if you're allowed to ignore what the book says" doesn't really imply it's not a forced behavior on your character.

I quite like the lore of Forgotten Realms, but the Sage Advice ignores the parts of the lore about Druids literally being allowed to wear metal, and as such gives people that read the Sage Advice the impression that Druids wearing metal breaks the lore, when in fact the decision to do so or not to do so is a major part of the lore that varies between sects, but has absolutely no ramifications on the Druid either way.

Personally, I don't know any DMs (though they likely exist) that would take away player agency and outright prohibit a druid character to wear metal armor.
The issue is that due to how it's written, it seems to imply that it's a prohibition and not a choice, and due to it appearing that way RAW, many DMs actually enforce it even in AL campaigns. Otherwise they force another character, or allow you to play a Druid with no class abilities, because "you can't do that", even if you're a Druid of the Old Faith that follows a patron that specifically says you can, all because the Sage Advice seemed to imply there are absolutely no Druids that are allowed to do so.

I see the druid armor restriction in 5e as akin to paladin oaths or the warlock patron. [...] That's one of the cool things about 5e. It doesn't always clearly spell out what will happen, and that is intentional and awesome. Because that means the DM can figure out interesting consequences that work with the narative of the story and the flow of the game. It also means a player can't contest a DM ruling by pointing out the rule, because the rule doesn't technically exist.
I'd be fine with it if it were presented that way. If there were optional Druid sects that have different limitations, and so you may lose the benefits of that sect if you violate the oaths, that would be okay. Paladins choose an oath from a list of options, and it gives them tenants for how they should role play the oath, but it doesn't mechanically tell them any actions they absolutely will not perform. It just gives behavioral guidelines, as every class has in their story sections, but it just so happens to state the sort of things that should happen when a Paladin violates their oath. It also at least explains why they have those tenants in their story, and the PHB further specifies that it's not a mechanical restriction, so it's at DM discretion as to whether or not there are any penalties. It's added for role play options, and as such it specifically states it's there for that purpose.

Druids, however, don't get it presented in such a way. Instead of being listed as an optional story feature for the character, it's listed under their base Class Features alongside their proficiencies, so RAW, Druid characters do not have the option to choose to wear metal armor, because the class rules seem to state they will not do so. It also does not provide any guidance for what to do mechanically if a Druid does choose to wear metal, so it has to be 100% homebrewed, unlike the Paladin options.

Personally I would not enforce it this way, but I acknowledge that is the rule as written, and thus it's very poorly written. Sage Advice and errata has the opportunity to add onto this to add more explanation, but the response they did give didn't actually clarify anything further, and in fact misrepresented the lore of Forgotten Realms, so it's simply a poor response all around.
 

Ohmyn

Villager
Just one more reason to never play a druid. :p

Having metal armor (not shields) hinder wild shape would, in my opinion, be a fine compromise and restore player agency.

But then one would have to wonder, why doesn't metal armor hinder Polymorph?
I'd still have trouble with it just hindering Wild Shape, at least in the way you mentioned, solely because of the inconsistencies that still brings. It would raise the question about Polymorph, as you stated, but it also raises the question as to why other metal is not affected. If there was a blanket rule about Wild Shape and metal in general, then that should be fine. Something like not being able to meld metal into your Wild Shape form, so anything metal you have has to drop to the ground when you do so. This could be problematic if using Wild Shape to escape, as you'd have to leave behind all metal objects, or could lead to NPCs being able to steal the items that drop to the ground. This would be a great deterrent from players using metal, as it could become quite expensive replacing equipment, but still grants them full control over their actions.

The issue with it just dealing with metal armor and not weapons, shields, or anything else metal, is why does the magic know which metal is armor or not? Wild Shape specifies that you can have your equipment meld into the form, or just drop onto the floor. It would be odd for a 20 lb. breastplate to be unable to merge with Wild Shape, but then the 40 lbs. of other metal equipment merges right in without penalty. It raises too many questions to target a specific type of metal item and not just metal in general, but I'd be totally okay with it giving such implications to metal items in general, so we have at least something mechanical to go with.
 

Dausuul

Legend
Yeah, it's a badly designed rule. On top of the OP's complaints, which are entirely on point, it ignores the obvious question of "Can I get nonmetal versions of the armors I'm proficient with, and if so, how?" If I kill a dragon and have armor made out of its scales, is that hide armor or scale armor, and what does it cost to have made? If it counts as scale armor, are there other monsters whose epidermis can be made into scale armor and that are a little easier to kill than dragons? Is there any way to make half plate without metal? What about studded leather, do the studs contain enough metal to constitute metal armor, and if so, are non-metal studs feasible?

Normally these are questions that come up rarely and aren't particularly important; the DM can handwave an answer and move on. But because druids are proficient with lots of armor that will cause them to explode if they wear it, every druid needs an answer to this, which means it ought to be answered in the rules.

They should either have limited druids to proficiency with padded, leather, and hide, or scrapped this rule entirely.
 

Ohmyn

Villager
"Can I get nonmetal versions of the armors I'm proficient with, and if so, how?"
It also raises a conundrum if the DM says no, because it brings up the question of how the Druid is proficient with all of the medium armors if there exists no version of them they could have worn to train in. How does a Druid become proficient in half plate if it essentially does not exist for them?

The question of studded leather also remains true, although since Sage Advice is stated to be official rulings, and it specifies studded leather as one of the common armors for Druids, it's at least clear they can choose to wear it. However, that still then raises the question of if they're allowed to wear it because it doesn't contain enough metal to be a concern, or if it's because the PHB does not specify that the spikes or rivets of studded leather have to be metal.

All in all I forgot to add these points, so I'll try and add to the original post.
 

5ekyu

Explorer
To me it seemed we tended to tie the metal armor etc to wild shape and toss in a dash of fey vs iron nature lore in our "why" mag-o-babble for druids armor woes.

Did it match up to a rigorous hard sci-fi logic logic analysis? Nope. But then once you explain how the mass of a druid shifts back and forth from tabby to bear to elf using the ssme level of scrutiny, then and only then will i start fretting and wringing of hands about how much metal of wgat type is in their packs when they go tabby.
 

Ohmyn

Villager
Hide armour is medium and non-metal and in the default equipment list.
Yes, it is, but it seems to be in the medium armor section solely because it's poorly made and unwieldy, not because it's as effective as traditional medium armors. It's actually weaker than studded leather, as it provides the same base AC but has a more limited maximum dexterity, while also weighing less than studded leather. It weighs in at 12 lbs., whereas studded leather weighs in at 13 lbs., with the next medium armor up being a chain shirt at 20 lbs..

This doesn't matter, however, as the ruling for Druids is that they're proficient in medium armors, and not that they're proficient in light armors and hide armor. It's like saying Fighters are proficient in all simple and martial weapons, but they won't use any martial weapons except a longsword. If they absolutely won't use any martial weapons besides a longsword, how are they proficient with whips, longbows and flails? There's a reason why instead of saying they're proficient with martial weapons their proficiency list would just say "Simple weapons, and longswords."
 

Ohmyn

Villager
To me it seemed we tended to tie the metal armor etc to wild shape and toss in a dash of fey vs iron nature lore in our "why" mag-o-babble for druids armor woes.

Did it match up to a rigorous hard sci-fi logic logic analysis? Nope. But then once you explain how the mass of a druid shifts back and forth from tabby to bear to elf using the ssme level of scrutiny, then and only then will i start fretting and wringing of hands about how much metal of wgat type is in their packs when they go tabby.
Sure, it would be fine if they introduced some lore as to why they don't wear it, addressed some things that may happen as a result of ignoring that lore, or even addressed anything at all in terms of narrative or mechanics, but they don't. They don't even say they "can't" wear it, just that they "won't".

My Druid decides to put on a steel half plate. What now? It doesn't take a very rigorous analysis to see that it requires more than a single line of text to cover this aspect of the class.
 

LuisCarlos17f

Registered User
My opinion is this matter is about background more than true gameplay. Druid are primal spellcaster, and they need to be attuned to primal forces. Metal has got a special "smell" and animals can sense it. Primal spirits want the taboo of the metal armour because this is a symbol of human civilization.

The true trouble is when a player want to use "biopunk magic" to craft a no-metallic armour, for example by spidersilk (drows can create them, and it is canon, even in the real life bulletproof spidersilk armors are possible), or by shells, bone, scales or skins by magic monsters. A druid could kill a dragon or a wyrm to craft an armour with its skin. Or in a fantasy game alchemy would to allow the creation of paper armors, and I am not kidding, There was a mythbuster episode about that and it was possible in the ancient Chinese. Maybe these "organic" armour would be damage soon, but for a spellcaster with "repair damage" that could be fixed easily.
 

5ekyu

Explorer
Sure, it would be fine if they introduced some lore as to why they don't wear it, addressed some things that may happen as a result of ignoring that lore, or even addressed anything at all in terms of narrative or mechanics, but they don't. They don't even say they "can't" wear it, just that they "won't".

My Druid decides to put on a steel half plate. What now? It doesn't take a very rigorous analysis to see that it requires more than a single line of text to cover this aspect of the class.
"It doesn't take a very rigorous analysis to see that it requires more than a single line of text to cover this aspect of the class."

Unless, the designer felt it did not need to be a cant, wanted to leave it flexible to cover the variety of lore (sometimes contradictory) across editions and setting and they knew it wasnt gonna break anything if a gm decided for their setting it was fine to go with any proficient - as sage replied.

See, its almost like they chose a more GM ruling centered approach as opposed to a one-rule for all for this non-balance bresking element of mis-matching legacy.

Odd, i mean, why not just crunch numbers and decide which option breaks fewer words in print from other editions or something more definitive.
 

Paul Farquhar

Adventurer
Yes, it is, but it seems to be in the medium armor section solely because it's poorly made and unwieldy
That is your interpretation. There is nothing in the rules to indicate that. It has the advantage of not being subject to the Heat Metal spell and certain other traps that key of metal.

Dragonscale Armour is in the DMG. This is non-metallic and equivalent to scale mail.

A character wasn't always a druid. They might have trained in medium armour before they became a druid.

But if a player said to me as DM that they thought their druid character would be completely unfamiliar with any sort of medium armor I would let them swap the proficiency for an extra language or tool proficiency. RAW is for poor DMs.

The purpose of this rule is because for many people finding non-metallic armour for a druid character is a fun sidequest. See Ankheg Plate in Baldur's Gate. However, if a player or DM does not find this rule fun or it does not suit a character (e.g. a duergar druid of the Underdark) they are free to ignore it - as the Sage Advice indicates, there are no penalties.

In the games I play, we had one druid who worked very hard to get Black Dragon Scale armour, even arguing with the dwarven smith who made it over "silver filigree". We have another druid who is vegan and won't wear any armour at all.
 

ccs

39th lv DM
What I mean by it not being a universal limitation of druidic lore in 5E is that it's not a universal limit in the Forgotten Realms lore. The PHB says that some Druids venerate the forces of nature themselves, but that most are of the Old Faith, devoted to one or more of the nature deities worshiped in your setting. It is also stated that different druidic sects hold different philosophies about the proper relationship of the spirits to each other and to the forces of civilization.

This is where Druids like the worshipers of Mielikki come in. Mielikki is known in Forgotten Realms as the Forest Queen, and is the neutral good goddess of autumn, Druids, dryads, forests, forest creatures and Rangers. As part of her lore, appearing way back in 1E AD&D, she permits her druids to wear all kinds of armor and to use all kinds of weapons that are permitted to Rangers, including those made of metal. As a tidbit for those of you that are looking for a reason to multiclass your Cleric (Life Cleric + Goodberry shenanigans ahoy), she's a goddess of Druids and Rangers, and as such her Clerics canonically almost always multiclass into one of those choices. Some of her more notable worshipers in lore were known to wear metal, such as prominent dwarven Druid Pikel Bouldershoulder, who was famous for wielding his "Sha-la-la" stick, and wearing his metal cooking pot as a helmet whenever he dived into battle.

Druids wearing metal in Forgotten Realms is not only canon to the lore, but they never lost anything if they did so. This shows that it does not interfere with their power and that it's simply an oath they might make, but it's not one they have to keep, nor is it one every Druid even chooses to make to begin with. In lore Druids have different philosophies, and will even prey on one another, so it makes no sense that every Druid spanning from the Elves in the grasslands, to the Dwarves in the caves/mountains, and even the Drow deep in the Underdark, will all arbitrarily agree "metal bad", especially when the cave and ground dwellers are surrounded by iron in the earth all around them.
I'm sorry, but you do not get to sit here in 5e & demand that {optional/essentially optional} rules from previous editions must be valid. Besides, I don't see you also demanding that your lv advancement be limited by the Druidicide spelled out in the 1e PHB.

Go ahead, admit it. You don't really want/envision chain or plate wearing druids, you just want a higher AC. Wich every druid player ever has wanted. So just MC a single lv of barbarian for the unarmoured defense....
Or bring it up in a reasonable manner to your DM & see how they feel about it. (though it sounds like you did & got told "No", thus your rant)



3) Druids may use metal weapons, or even cover themselves in as much metal as their carrying capacity allows so long as it does not provide an armor bonus, and Nature Clerics, who worship the same deities that grant Druids of the Old Faith their powers, gain heavy armor proficiency for their devotion. This is all very inconsistent with the idea that Druids will not use metal. If a deity grants their Clerics divine inspiration that enables them to wear heavy armor, it makes no sense that part of the Druid's oath to that deity would forbid metal. Many people say that Druids will hold metal weapons because they do not have to cover themselves in metal to do so, but this holds true for shields. You don't "wear" a shield, which is why the rule specifies "wear armor or use shields". A Dwarven Druid can be proficient in Smith's Tools and thus perform their own blacksmithing, wield a 4 lb. Battleaxe in each hand, and haul as many 2 lb. throwing hammers as their weight limit allows, but they absolutely won't wield a single 6 lb. metal shield. That's dumb, and causes the limitation to completely break immersion for many characters that are not otherwise outside of their limitations.


4) Druids, if not being allowed to equip metal armor is enforced, are forced to ask their DM ahead of time if non-metal variants of medium armors exist in their world, the answer of which brings forth several potential complications that no other class has to consider, both for the character's story and for the game world. If the DM says there are not non-metal variants that the Druid can acquire, it raises the question as to how the Druid gained their proficiency in any medium armor that's not hide. This would mean that the Druid is trained in using something that literally does not exist for them.
DMs taking a moment to consider details of their world is not a bad thing.
And this answer doesn't have to be immediately determined.... There's been a lot of questions over the years that I've punted with something like: (me shrugging) "Maybe. You ask your superiors & they don't know of any examples, but they do recommend you go ask _____ in _____ {someplace conveniently a decent ways away, thus giving me time to consider it as adventuring will ensue en-route.:))

As for how you have proficiency in an armor you've never trained in?
Have you ever heard of this thing called m a g i c?
Perhaps it's a divine boon granted by your god (played by I, your DM). "If you can figure out the riddle of how to get non-metallic 1/2plate, you'll discover that I've given you the prof. to use it. ;)"

If it's something that will be available, but the Druid will have to wait until later to acquire it, it seems odd that a Druid that has always only been able to wear hide and leather can suddenly wear a sufficient half plate of any material without complication. Also, if it's something that exists, why would a Druid that lived among other Druids have to wait so long to acquire it? Would the Druids, who are proficient in such armors, not have trained their proficiency by having the materials available to do so? Forcing a Druid that was raised in a druidic circle to have no access to materials or equipment relevant to the training of such a core class feature sounds like a silly limitation to have as a built in feature, and is something no other class is forced to accommodate in their rules.
I think this bears repeating....
As for how you have proficiency in an armor you've never trained in?
Have you ever heard of this thing called m a g i c?
Perhaps it's a divine boon granted by your god (played by I, your DM). "If you can figure out the riddle of how to get non-metallic 1/2plate, you'll discover that I've given you the prof. to use it. ;)"
 

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