Armor Construction Rules (3.5e Variant Rule)

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Armor Construction Rules[edit]

Armor comes in many types and technologies. This system is intended to introduce many types of armor into the d20 system and to better explain their functionality.

Armor Types[edit]

In this system, “Light,” “Medium,” and “Heavy” no longer refer to categories of armor, only encumbrance; armor instead is classified into partial, cuirass, hauberk, and suit. Partial armor is its own proficiency, but the other three correspond for the purposes of proficiency and restrictions:

Table: Proficiency Conversion
Standard Type Proficiency Encumbrance
Partial armor Light
Light Cuirass Light
Medium Hauberk Medium
Heavy Suit Heavy

For example, a barbarian begins proficient with cuirasses and hauberks instead of “light” and “medium” armor. A barbarian’s fast movement feature is similarly changed to be restricted to cuirasses and hauberks; wearing a suit of any kind (even padded cloth) negates the benefit, regardless of its encumbrance.

All references to standard armor categories are changed as such, including feats. For example, Suit Proficiency would require both Hauberk and Cuirass Proficiency.

Mail, weave, and some materials reduce the encumbrance of the armor by one category. For example, a mail hauberk is light instead of medium, a leather suit is medium instead of heavy, and a mithral mail suit is light instead of heavy. Armor cannot be reduced lower than light. However, as noted, changing encumbrance does not change the armor type, and all of the normal proficiencies are required regardless.

How to Create Armor[edit]

  1. Pick armor style (partial, cuirass, hauberk, suit)
  2. Pick a material
  3. Pick a technology (mail, weave, scale, etc.)
  4. Pick options

Armor style[edit]

Armor comes in four basic styles.

Coverage Base
Dex Bonus
Armor Check
Arcane Spell
Failure Chance
Partial −1 −1 5% Light1
Cuirass +0 +5 −2 10% Light
Hauberk/Jack/Coat +2 +3 −4 20% Medium
Suit/Full +3 +1 −6 30% Heavy
Reinforced +1 −1 −1 +5% 2
  1. Weighs 5 lb.
  2. Increases total weight by 50%.

Partial Armor: Partial armor is the strategic use of smaller armor pieces to gain maximum protection while minimizing movement and dex penalties. Partial armor is its own proficiency. No class is trained to use this armor type by default. This armor is most commonly seen in gladiatorial games or specialized martial forms.

Cuirass: A cuirass is an armor piece designed to protect the chest while leaving the arms and the legs free. Examples include the breastplate and the dō-maru of Japan.

Hauberk: A hauberk, or “shirt,” covers the torso, shoulders, upper arms, and upper legs, and includes a helmet. The hauberk is the most common style of armor.

Suit: An armor suit is unified armor set intended to protect all parts of the body. It includes protection for all parts of the body, including a helmet, gauntlets, leg guards, and neck guards. These suits are primarily used when combat is near or time in the field is limited. Many veterans use lighter suits of armor for travel. Examples include jousting armor of Europe and the O-Yoroi of Japan.

Reinforcement: Reinforcement adds to the total AC value of the armor at the expense of weight. Cuirasses gain a helmet, bracers, and leg guards. Hauberks gain gauntlets and skirt, arm, and leg guards. Suits gain fluting, specialized joint protection, and thicker layers of metal. Reinforcement increases the armor’s total cost (see §Cost) by 50%, added after all other factors (including magic and other enhancements); it also increases the armor’s total weight by +50%, rounded up to the nearest multiple of 5.

Mithral and Armor Styles

Mithral makes armor one class lighter. A hauberk will become light armor. Mithral does not confer proficiency in an armor type.

Armor Styles and Movement

Classes that gain movement bonuses while wearing medium or light armor now get movement bonuses while wearing hauberks or cuirasses. The use of mithral may lighten the armor, but does not change the armor type. A suit of full armor is always a suit of full armor.


Armor can be made of a variety of materials.

Table: Armor Materials
Material Armor
Dex Bonus
Armor Check
Arcane Spell
Failure Chance
Weight Special
Light Medium Heavy
Padded Cloth −6 +3 +4 −15% 5 lb. 15 lb. One step lighter
Wicker −5 +2 +3 −10% 5 lb. 15 lb. One step lighter
Cord/Rope −4 +1 +2 −5% 10 lb. 25 lb. One step lighter
Leather −3 +1 +2 10 lb. 25 lb. One step lighter
Wood/Soft Metal −2 +1 20 lb. 25 lb. 45 lb.
Bronze −1 20 lb. 25 lb. 45 lb.
Iron/Steel 20 lb. 25 lb. 45 lb.

Bronze: Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin, much stronger than either material alone.

Cord/Rope: This material is composed of pliant and dense plant materials twisted, knotted, and woven into stiff and dense material.

Iron/Steel: Steel and “iron” are both broad terms for various alloys of iron and carbon.

Leather: This is leather hardened by boiling in oil.

Padded Cloth: This material consists of two heavy layers of cloth with quilting and significant padding.

Soft Metal: This is any of the soft metals: gold, silver, copper, tin, etc.

Wicker: This material is made by twisting and weaving dried reeds or other plant materials together.

Wood: This is shaped hardwood.

Mithral and other special materials[edit]

To make mithral armor, use values for steel and then apply the mithral modifiers as usual (including reducing the encumbrance by one category).

To make adamantine armor, use values for steel and then apply the adamantine modifiers as usual.

Dragonhide can be used to create masterwork armor equivalent in strength to leather or steel, depending on the relative size of the dragon to the armor:

  • +1 size category: Rough dragonhide armor, equivalent to leather;
  • +2 size categories: Dragonhide lamellar armor, equivalent to steel;
  • +3 size categories: Dragonhide laminar armor, equivalent to steel;
  • +4 size categories: Dragonhide plate armor, equivalent to steel.

With another size category difference, the armor can be reinforced (e.g. +5 size categories permits reinforced dragonhide plate armor).

To make darkwood armor, use values for wood and then lessen the armor check penalty by 2 and increase the cost by 10 gp per pound of the armor, then halve the weight.


Table: Armor Technology
Material Armor
Dex Bonus
Armor Check
Arcane Spell
Failure Chance
Mail +2 One step lighter, −5
Weave +2 −1 −1 +5% One step lighter
Scale +2 ×2/3
Lamellar +3
Splint/Brigandine +4
Laminar +4 −5
Plate +5 +5

Mail or Weave: This is any type of armor created through interlocking fibers or wires. Reinforced mail is plate mail.

Scale: This armor is comprised of many small plates attached to a softer backing.

Lamellar: This armor is comprised of many small plates strung together into overlapping rows, providing better protection than scale armor at a higher weight.

Splint/Brigandine: This armor is comprised of several long plates sandwiched between canvas or leather.

Laminar: This armor is made from large, long plates bent into arcs around the body.

Plate: This armor is made of large, broad, solid sections of material (including cloth and leather, for the purposes of armor creation).

Adding it Up[edit]

Any armor that adds up to less than one is not a viable armor.

Total Spell Failure Chance may not be lower than 5% unless the armor is mithral.


Table: Armor Options
+1 AC +1 enhancement
Magic +1,150 gp (includes masterwork)
Masterwork +150 gp
Fortified +1 enhancement
Fortified, Moderate +3 enhancement
Fortification, Heavy +5 enhancement
Resistance (element) +18,000 gp
Resistance, Improved (element) +42,000 gp
Resistance, Greater (element) +66,000 gp
Shadow +3,750 gp
Shadow, Improved +15,000 gp
Shadow, Greater +33,750 gp
Silent Moves
Silent Moves +3,750 gp
Silent Moves, Improved +15,000 gp
Silent Moves, Greater +33,750 gp
Slick +3,750 gp
Slick, Improved +15,000 gp
Slick Greater +33,750 gp
Spell Resistance
Spell Resistance (13) +2 enhancement
Spell Resistance (15) +3 enhancement
Spell Resistance (17) +4 enhancement

Any special properties of the armor are considered to originate with special or rare materials, secret techniques, labor intensive processes, or skills mastered by few armorsmiths.

+1 AC: Bonuses to AC may be added at the armor’s creation, or later on via magic if the armor is masterwork.

Magic: An armor must be masterwork in order to be enchanted. Enchanting armor increases the cost of the armor. Magic armor enhancements stack with non-magic armor enhancements. No more than +9 worth of enhancements (both magic and non-magic) may be placed onto any magic armor. Optionally, this trait may also come from naturally occurring magic ores.

Option: All other possible armor traits may come from rare or magical ores.


The cost of a suit of armor is based on its total enhancements (except reinforcement). It is blind to the method behind those enhancements. Whether a smith makes a hauberk that gives +8 total protection, or a wizard enchants a suit of armor to make it worth +8, the cost is the same. Reinforcement costs +50% of the armor’s total price before reinforcement is added.

Cuirass Hauberk Suit
+1 5 gp 5 gp 1 gp
+2 10 gp 5 gp 2 gp
+3 25 gp 15 gp 5 gp
+4 200 gp 50 gp 25 gp
+5 3,175 gp 150 gp 100 gp
+6 8,175 gp 300 gp 200 gp
+7 15,175 gp 3,300 gp 600 gp
+8 24,175 gp1 8,300 gp 1,500 gp
+9 35,175 gp2 15,300 gp 3,000 gp
+10 48,175 gp2 24,300 gp1 4,500 gp
+11 63,175 gp2 35,300 gp2 9,500 gp
+12 80,175 gp2 48,300 gp2 16,500 gp
+13 100,500 gp2 63,300 gp2 25,500 gp1
+14 n/a 80,300 gp2 36,500 gp2
+15 n/a 99,300 gp2 48,500 gp2
+16 n/a n/a 64,500 gp2
+17 n/a n/a 81,500 gp2
+18 n/a n/a 100,500 gp2
  1. Maximum AC defensive value
  2. Armor can’t actually have bonuses this high.
    Use these lines to determine price when special abilities are added in.
  3. Reinforced armor adds +1 AC, -1 armor check penalty, -1 max dex bonus,
    +5% spell failure, +5 lb., increase encumbrance category by one.
    Reinforced armor increases the cost +50% of the previous total cost.

Lesser Armors[edit]

Some armors can be made that are clearly better than others. There are many reasons why people or society may choose lesser armors. They are included here:

  • A society has not developed more advanced armor.
  • A society does not have the proper materials for more advanced armor.
  • A society can not afford more advanced armor.
  • A society’s problems with armor do not outweigh the benefits.


Table: Sample Armor
Armor Cost Armor
Dex Bonus
Armor Check
Arcane Spell
Failure Chance
Encumbrance Weight
Reinforced Leather Lamellar Cuirass 5 gp +1 +5 −1 15% Light 15 lb.
Leather Plate Cuirass 10 gp +2 +6 0 10% Light 15 lb.
Reinforced Leather Plate Cuirass 40 gp +3 +5 −1 15% Light 25 lb.
Steel Laminar Cuirass 200 gp +4 +5 −2 10% Light 15 lb.
Steel Plate Cuirass 3,175 gp +5 +5 −2 10% Light 25 lb.
Reinforced Bronze Cuirass
(Hoplite Armor)
300 gp +5 +4 −3 15% Light 40 lb.
Shadow Silent Steel Splint Cuirass
(Ninja Armor)
7,700 gp +4 +5 −2 10% Light 25 lb.
Cloth Plate Jack
(Arming Doublet)
5 gp +1 +6 0 5% Light 10 lb.
Leather Plate Jack 50 gp +4 +4 −2 20% Light 25 lb.
Steel Scale Jack 50 gp +4 +3 −4 20% Medium 20 lb.
Steel Lamellar Jack 150 gp +5 +3 −4 20% Medium 25 lb.
Steel Chain Hauberk 50 gp +4 +3 −4 20% Light 25 lb.
Reinforced Steel Chain Hauberk
(Plate Mail Jack)
150 gp +5 +3 −5 25% Light 40 lb.
Steel Mail Suit
(Chainmail suit)
100 gp +5 +1 −6 30% Medium 40 lb.
Reinforced Steel Mail Suit
(Plate Mail)
150 gp +6 +0 −7 35% Medium 60 lb.
Steel Lamellar Suit 200 gp +6 +1 −6 30% Heavy 45 lb.
Steel Laminar Suit 600 gp +7 +1 −6 30% Heavy 40 lb.
Steel Plate Suit 1,500 gp +8 +1 −6 30% Heavy 50 lb.
Reinforced Steel Plate Suit
(Jousting Armor)
2,200 gp +9 +0 −7 35% Heavy 75 lb.
Mithral Reinforced Steel Plate Suit
(Jousting Armor)
11,200 gp +9 +2 −4 25% Medium 37.5 lb.
Partial Armor
Steel Plate Manica 200 gp +4 +0 −1 5% Light 10 lb.

Ancient Armors[edit]

Once you know the armor types, you can describe armor and derive the types. Here are some Roman armors.

Roman Armor
Lorica Hamata (Iron Mail Hauberk)
Lorica Manata (Iron Manica, “Gladiator Armor”)
Lorica Segmenta (Reinforced Iron Laminar Cuirass)
Lorica Squamata (Iron Scale Hauberk)


This armor system has not been designed with respect to the Epic system.

Crafting Armor[edit]

Characters may use the Craft (armorsmith) Skill to create armor. The DC to make any armor is 10 + AC bonus. In addition to a DC check, the character must also have enough ranks to create the item. Use the table below. The final cost of the item in materials is 1/2 the total value.

Cost in GP Minimum Ranks
3,001 to 8,000 6 ranks
8,001 to 15,000 9 ranks
15,001 to 24,000 12 ranks
24,001 to 35,000 15 ranks
35,001 to 48,000 18 ranks
48,001 to 63,000 21 ranks
63,001 to 80,000 24 ranks
80,001 to 99,000 27 ranks
99,001+ 30 ranks

In order to use special materials, such as adamantine, darkwood, crystal, or mithral, the character must possess the Skill Focus (Craft (armorsmith)) feat.

When a character creates a suit of armor for himself, the time to craft the armor is 1/5 the normal crafting time. That armor will only be usable for that character. Should any other character use that armor, it will provide 1/2 its usual armor value. Should the character sell the armor, it will only fetch a selling price equal to 1/2 its armor value.

See Also[edit]

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