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Baldur's Gate 3

How Armor and Armor Class Works in Baldur's Gate 3

Nathan Garvin

The primary function of armor in Baldur’s Gate 3 is, of course, to increase the wearer’s survivability. Armor comes in a variety of forms, some providing more protective benefit than others, but often an armor’s ability to deflect blows comes at the cost of encumbrance, slowing down the wearer and making it harder for them to sneak around. On this page we will discuss the pros and cons of wearing various types of armor in Baldur’s Gate 3.

Armor and Armor Class

In order to deal damage with melee weapons, ranged weapons and some spells, you’ll need to make an Attack Roll, the result of which must meet or exceed the target’s Armor Class. A character’s Armor Class is primarily a function of their Dexterity modifier and whatever bonus they gain from armor worn (or Natural Armor). The higher a character’s Armor Class, the higher an Attack Roll must be to hit that character and hence deal damage. A character’s base Armor Class is 10, and different suits of armor grant different bonuses to Armor Class, with Padded and Leather armor setting your Armor Class to 11 at the low end, and Plate armor setting your Armor Class to 18 at the high end.

Since this is a fantasy RPG, a balance must be struck between an armor’s protectiveness and various other stats, skills and abilities, and an armor’s Armor Class is usually counterbalanced by having the following limitations:

  • Heavier armor may limit the Dexterity modifier that can be applied to Armor Class to +2.
  • Heavier armor may impose Disadvantage when the wearer makes Stealth checks.
  • Heavier armor… well, weighs more, which may encumber characters with lower Strength scores.
  • Light, Medium and Heavy armor all have associated proficiencies - not all classes are initially proficient in wearing various types of armor.
Light Armour Armour Class Dexterity Limit Stealth Rolls Weight Value
Padded 11 3.6 70
Leather 11 4.5 120
Studded Leather 12 5.85 500
Medium Armour Armour Class Dexterity Limit Stealth Rolls Weight Value
"Hide" iconHide 12 +2 5.4 60
"Chain Shirt" iconChain Shirt 13 +2 9 130
"Scale Mail" iconScale Mail 14 +2 Disadvantage 12 200
"Breastplate" iconBreastplate 14 +2 9 250
Half Plate 15 +2 Disadvantage 18 350
Heavy Armour Armour Class Dexterity Limit Stealth Rolls Weight Value
Ring Mail 14 +0 Disadvantage 18 300
Chainmail 16 +0 Disadvantage 24.8 400
Splint 17 +0 Disadvantage 27 700
Plate 18 +0 Disadvantage 29.3 1500

Armor Proficiencies by Class

A character’s armor proficiencies will vary depending on their class(es) - not every class includes training in wearing armor, which presumably is more of a matter of conditioning than the relatively simple matter of being able to actually strap the armor on. Classes with a more martial focus tend to have more armor proficiencies, while casters tend to have fewer:

Class Light Armor Medium Armor Heavy Armor "Shield" iconShield
Barbarian Yes Yes No Yes
Bard Yes No No No
Cleric Yes Yes No Yes
Druid Yes Yes No Yes
Fighter Yes Yes Yes Yes
Paladin Yes Yes Yes Yes
Ranger Yes Yes No Yes
Rogue Yes No No No
Sorcerer No No No No
Warlock Yes No No No
Wizard No No No No

If you wear armor you’re not proficient with, you will suffer Disadvantage while making any Strength or Dexterity based Ability Checks, Attack Rolls or Saving "Throw" iconThrows. You also cannot cast spells unless you’re proficient in the armor you’re wearing. These penalties are pretty severe - certainly enough to dissuade you from wearing armor you’re not proficient with. That said, characters who aren’t proficient with any armor probably don’t want to be targeted in combat anyways, or they should be able to supplement their Armor Class with a decent Dexterity score.

Armor and Dexterity

Armor bonuses to Armor Class and Dexterity bonuses to Armor Class exist in contention with each other - the higher the armor’s Armor Class, the less Dexterity bonus you can apply to your Armor Class. This isn’t a terribly complicated system in Baldur’s Gate 3 - there are three categories armor falls into - full Dexterity bonus (all Light Armor), maximum of +2 Dexterity Bonus (all Medium Armor) and no Dexterity Bonus (Heavy Armor).

For example, if a Fighter with 16 Dexterity (+3) was wearing Studded Leather (12 Armor Class), their Armor Class would be 15. If that same !Fighter switched to a "Breastplate" iconBreastplate (14 Armor Class, +2 Max Dexterity), their Armor Class would be 16 - they could only apply +2 of their Dexterity Bonus to their Armor Class. If that !Fighter donned some Chain Mail (16 Armor Class) their Armor Class would be 16 - they no longer could apply any Dexterity Bonus to Armor Class.

Depending on your Dexterity score, you may want to wear lighter armor, but even Strength-based warriors may benefit from sticking to Medium Armor if they have a moderate Dexterity score.

Stealth and Armor

Obviously wearing clanky, heavy metal armor isn’t conducive to sneaking around - even if it’s painted black! Numerous suits of armor will, when worn, impose Disadvantage on Stealth Checks made by the wearer, including "Scale Mail" iconScale Mail, Half Plate, and all Heavy Armor. If you want to sneak successfully, you’ll probably want to remove that armor, and if you use the Stealth skill regularly, you’re better off avoiding that armor entirely.

Shields and Helmets

Shields and helmets in Baldur’s Gate 3 aren’t nearly as complicated as armor, and they don’t really follow the core 5th Edition rules.

"Helmet" iconHelmets essentially come in two core varieties: Light Armor helmets require the Light Armor Proficiency and give the wearer a +1 bonus to Dexterity Saving Throws, and Medium Armor helmet and Heavy Armor helmets (require Medium Armor Proficiency and Heavy Armor Proficiency, respectively) prevents the wearer from suffering Critical Hits. Other forms of headwear exist, like circlets, that grant various benefits, but aren’t technically a form of armor and don’t provide any of the “helmet” bonuses listed above. In addition to the core helmet stats borne by helmets, magical specimens can grant other bonuses.

Shields are similar to helmets in that most examples provide the same core benefit - a +2 bonus to Armor Class, regardless of what the shield is actually called ("Metal Shield" iconMetal Shield, Studded Shield, Wooden Shield ,etc). Unlike helmets, shields don’t use one of the three armor proficiencies, they have their own "Shield Proficiency" iconShield Proficiency. If you wield a shield without possessing Shield Proficiency, you’ll suffer Disadvantage on Attack Rolls and you cannot cast spells. Magical shields can bestow additional traits to their wielder, and enchanted specimens further boost the Armor Class bonus the shield grants the wielder.

"Helmet" iconHelmet / "Shield" iconShield Effect
"Helmet" iconHelmet (Light) Dexterity Saving "Throw" iconThrows +1
"Helmet" iconHelmet (Medium) Attackers can’t land critical hits on the wearer.
"Helmet" iconHelmet (Heavy) Attackers can’t land critical hits on the wearer.
"Shield" iconShield "Shield" iconShield
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Guide Information
  • Publisher
    Larian Studios
  • Platforms,
    Mac, PC, PS5, XB X|S
  • Genre
    Adventure, RPG
  • Guide Release
    6 April 2023
  • Last Updated
    14 June 2024
    Version History
  • Guide Author

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Baldur’s Gate 3 is an immersive roleplaying game set in the Dungeons & Dragons universe. It features a rich story with multiple outcomes for almost every encounter, and plenty of character customization features including more races, classes, subclasses and party combinations than you are ever likely to explore. The seemingly endless possibilities and numerous choices that you can make throughout your journey make a helping hand always welcome, and that’s where we come in! This guide features the following:

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