Whether you are an adventurer just starting out on the path or a brave fighter about to enter the dragon’s lair for the final battle, armor is the one thing that you will always need to keep an eye on. It helps to keep your character’s vulnerable bits well protected, and allows you to weather blows from some of the fiercest enemies in the game.
There are many different types of armor in 5e Dungeons and Dragons, from plate to leather, from magical to mundane. We’re going to take a look at one of the earlier options that most characters will start with, or will at least be able to buy with the gold from their first adventure. This is our guide to Studded Leather armor.
What Is Studded Leather Armor?
Leather armor is a class of light armor. Stats-wise, studded leather armor has an armor class (AC) of 12 plus the dexterity modifier of your character. That is one AC point more than regular leather armor, with its AC of 11. If you’ve ever played D&D before, you know that one extra point in armor class is often the point between life and death!
Studded leather armor has a weight of 13 pounds, a bit heavier than the 10-pound leather armor. Admittedly not all DMs keep track of the weight you are carrying, or they use formulas that make it so weight is not an issue. Still, if you are playing a hyper-realistic game and need to keep meticulous track of the things you are carrying, then you will be trading protection for weight if you decide to use studded leather.
From the Player’s Handbook, it costs 45 gold pieces, and that’s about the price you would pay at a standard location. Of course, the world you are playing in and the situation your characters find themselves in could raise or lower the price. 45 gold might sound like a lot, especially whenever you look at the other pieces of currency in the game, but the loot from your first adventure could easily cover the cost if your character doesn’t start with it already.
Where Can I Find Studded Leather Armor?
Some classes and backgrounds are allowed to start out with light armor, and studded leather armor can be a great choice to maximize your defensive capability. Classes that start with proficiency in light armor include Bards, Clerics, Barbarians, Druids, Fighters, Paladins, Rangers, Rogues, and Warlocks in the base game. Of course, homebrew and 3rd party classes, or even classes introduced from other books, can also get proficiency in light armor.
Now, if you decide to get leather armor- as it is 10 gp vs the Studded cost of 45gp, or just like leather armor better, you can still find the studded variant in the world during normal gameplay. First, it is a standard item which means that most of the shops or blacksmiths in town will have the ability to sell it to you. Additionally, bandits or other humanoid foes may wear it, if you feel like taking your new armor off of someone it clearly couldn’t protect!
This part will depend on your DM and require a bit of communication, but you could craft the armor if your character has a set of leatherworker’s tools. The complication of crafting items in D&D is a topic for another article, but the official rules state that you need time and the cost of the materials. If you have a campaign with a bit of downtime baked in, your character could certainly use this time to make some studded leather armor.
Crafting is something that requires communication, as there aren’t a ton of specific rules for it. Your DM might decide to have you make some checks to determine the quality of the armor, research the real-world process of making studded leather armor and put that into the game, or just have your character use up money and time. Either way, you’ll get your armor set when it is done!
What Classes Benefit The Most From Studded Leather?
For starters, rogues. You never see a rogue moving about in full plate armor, instead, the studded leather gives them adequate protection as they move around to get that perfect backstab. Rogues have proficiency in light armor, and studded leather is the best for a rogue that wants to move stealthily, but also wants to be able to survive a brawl.
Bards can also use studded leather, because as much as they want to stay near the back and sing their songs, sometimes arrows fly their way. Studded leather doesn’t inhibit the movement of the bard and also doesn’t mess with spellcasting. While it isn’t a requirement, if you find that you need more protection than the standard set of bard’s clothes can provide, studded leather can really help your bard out.
Studded leather is one of the few types a druid can use as they abhor things made of metal. Druids typically have above-average dexterity, and studded leather is a type that they can wear. It still allows them to move around and commune with nature, and can keep them protected when the nature starts to bite back!
Warlocks can also benefit from studded leather armor as they move about the battlefield, casting cantrips and dodging sword swings. The leather doesn’t prevent spellcasting and gives the warlock full freedom of movement during battle.
Basically, if the strategy for your character during a battle is to ‘not get hit’ and they have a high dexterity modifier, then studded leather armor is the best type of armor for them.
Magical Studded Leather
Of course, the worlds of TTRPG’s are often filled with the magical as well as the mundane. Magic armor and weapons are not only a sign of your character’s growth as adventurers but also a sign of new benefits to come from the magical items. Whether you have a very low magic realistic world or a world where magical items grow on trees, chances are your characters will come across them eventually.
Magical studded leather can have a variety of effects and enhancements, but the most common is a +1 to the armor class. Again, one AC point could mean the difference between life and death for your character! Plus one magical studded leather is a pretty common reward for low-level adventurers, but as they get higher in the level they will be able to have access to more.
The AC bonuses can go up to +2 or +3 as well, and some themed armors can give special bonuses or abilities to your character. For example, one such armor is the Armor of Resistance, where your character gains resistance to a certain damage type such as fire or frost. If you are playing a campaign where those damage types are in abundance, then that set of light armor is one that you will probably never remove!
Other enchantments might allow you to speak and understand a certain language, can give you a bonus to a skill, can grant advantage under certain conditions, or might allow you to add a new move to your arsenal. The good DM’s will often tailor the armor to the character itself or the world they are in, so your character will be able to make good use of it throughout the campaign.
An Important Note To Remember: Light Armor In Combat
This is something that is more cosmetic and optional, but for players and DM’s who want to spend time making their world shine, it’s important. The purpose of light armor is not to get hit. While some DM’s simplify combat into ‘hits and misses’, others remember that fact.
If a rogue is getting into combat with a bandit, and the bandit swings and misses, it’s important to remember that your rogue probably dodged the blow. If that same bandit swung and missed against a plate armor wielding Paladin, then the blow probably deflected off of a piece of armor or was parried by his weapon or shield.
It’s a simple theme change, but DM’s can describe how the rogue twisted to avoid one attack, and then how a hit really hurts because the leather armor isn’t as protective as a full plate. Meanwhile, they can show that the plate armored Paladin is weathering the attacks landing on him. It can be fun to imagine your rogue ducking and dodging blows because that’s what the Dexterity mod is for right?
Plus, in a world where everything is either number on paper or theater of the mind, it can help make the different categories of armor feel different, and can also help improve the look and flow of combat!
FAQ’s About Studded Leather Armor
Question: What Is Studded Leather?
Answer: Maybe you want to do some more research, or maybe you want to pull up a picture of your character in studded leather to show it off. Well, you might be interested to know that ‘studded leather’ as we know it does not exist. The closest historical equivalent to studded leather is the
Brigandine, which had a few layers of leather with steel riveted inside. It’s actually a pretty common armor, once you see a picture of it you will be pointing them out!
The brigandine could be thought of as an early day vest or flak jacket. It went over the mail shirt that most men at arms and archers wore during the Middle Ages, and it offered mobility and flexibility on the battlefield. Plus, it was simple enough for most soldiers to maintain without needing a specialized armorer.
Of course, you and your DM can make your studded armor look like whatever you want it to look like, but the brigandine’s look could prove to be the sounding board for your inspiration.
Question: Studded Leather Vs Medium Armor: Which Is Better?
Answer: With D&D being a game of numbers, it’s pretty interesting when the numbers match up in odd ways. For example, if you have 18 dexterity, the AC with your studded leather armor is 12 +4 to get 16. That’s the same AC as a medium breastplate with its AC of 14 and then adding half your dex mod to get 2.
There aren’t any advantages or disadvantages for you, so if the numbers are the same then which one is better? Well for starters, if you are a rogue or other sneaky character, then you will want to improve your dexterity to 20 as fast as possible. That adds a +5 to the AC of the studded leather, which is more than a +2 for the breastplate at the same level. Additionally, light armor only takes a minute to get on or off, while medium armor can take around 5 minutes.
Question: How Do I Roleplay Studded Leather Armor?
Answer: Roleplay wise it can make sense to have leather armor over a bulkier set. Everyone wears some type of light armor at the minimum in D&D if they are a fighter or warrior, so it can be much easier to hide when your thieving or bardic tall tales tick off the wrong people. Plus, the armor can be much easier to conceal under a cloak or something if stealth is called for.
If you are playing a really roleplay-heavy game, then the choice of your armor could matter for more than just your AC. Consider what your character would wear and what situations they might find themselves in. Sometimes you might make the less strategic choice in order to roleplay more effectively.
No matter what you end up doing, the studded leather armor will likely end up being your best friend whenever the goblins start charging and the rolling for initiative gets started! It’s an interesting piece of light armor that might just stick with your character through most of a campaign, especially whenever you end up finding a magical variant. Magic armor only makes it better.