[RPG] Comparison: “half-plate armor+dexterity+Medium Armor Master feat” and “plate armor”. What is the best?


I want to make a melee fighter, and I'm strugling on the choise of my armor for the build. I put my stats on my character when I'll define all I want to do for my build, so let's suppose that I can have the stat and race you want to define which armor is better (I'll use the standard point buy rule).

I think that I'll use duelist for my fighting style, and have a shield. The objectif of the build is to take as much as possible the less amount of damage as possible while having a good amount of damage output and, if possible, be usefull out of combat too. The DM said that de campaign is designed to go up to level 20.

I hesitate between taking an half plate and a plate armor whenever I can (which will be replace with their magic version whenever I can, my DM allowing us to buy magic items with gold).

On one hand, Plate give the best base AC, 18, and have a strength and stealth restriction that force me to play only in one way, but have the advantage that the only cost on the character sheet to have some point in strength.

On the other hand, half-plate give 15+dex mod (max 2) AC, which is less and with the same stealth restriction, but with the Medium Armor Master feat I can have the same amount of armor, and I can play stealthy if I need to. Plus investing in dexterity seams to me a better choice regarding that dexterity have a far more usefull saving throw, far more skills affected, and give bonus on damage and attack rolls with some weapons.

On my point of view half-plate look far better, but on most of the online build that I found, they use Plate armor and not half-plate, so I think I miss something crucial.

Is my list of Pro/Con miss something? Is there a reason that make most of the online build choose one and not the other? Or, to simplify : What is the best option between "half-plate armor+dexterity+Medium Armor Master feat" and "plate armor"?

Since I don't find a way to order my priorities for the build without make it look like too mechanical, I'll put them their:

1- High AC
2- High saving throw
3- decent amount of damage
4- Be usefull out of combat

My point is that half-plate + high dex + Medium Armor Master feat look like it match all of this point, while Plate armor don't, but since Almost all build I found online prefer Plate armor, I think I miss a point, so I want to know what I miss by comparing both options.

Best Answer

It really depends on what character you are trying to build.

Most builds dump STR or DEX depending on what they are focused on. For example, frontline characters with spells like Paladins need 3 high stats (STR, CON and CHA) so investing in DEX is not always possible, and giving up an ASI for a feat is really hard for them without tons of planification.

Also, take into account that Medium Armor Master doesn't increase AC of Medium armor, it raises the limit on DEX, so you have to invest another ASI on DEX to be worth it, whereas Heavy Armor Master gives you non-magical damage reduction AND increases your STR, virtually losing only half an ASI.

Does that mean medium armor is bad?

No, of course not. I'm in fact a fan of medium armor over heavy armor because of initiative, saves, skills... DEX is a really good (if not the best) stat to invest in, and now Finesse is free, and characters like Barbarians take more penalties than normal if they wear heavy armor.

If you compare 5e with 3e or 3.5e, non-light armor have some sweet adjustments for making it more playable in general, but medium keeps having some niche spot because heavy DEX builds will always take light and non heavy DEX builds usually dumps it.

Having said all that, which option is better is very subjective, because is not a choice between having 17/18 AC, but between being able to invest in DEX or not. As a rule of thumb, I would say:

  • Heavy Armor: Paladins, Most non-archers Fighters, Clerics with proficience (domain dependant), Multiclass builds into any of these classes with plans to get at least 16 STR.
  • Medium Armor: Non-Naked Barbarians, the rest of the Clerics, Some non-archer Rangers.
  • Light Armor: Everyone else but Monks, Wizards and Sorcerers.
  • None: Monks, Wizards and Sorcerers.

Take into account that, if you want to be a sneaky tank, Breastplate armor is 14+DEX (max 2) but doesn't have dissadvantage. Also, wearing a Shield and no armor works with Duelist, but not with Defence.