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Main / NWP-Armorer

Chapter 1 - Proficiencies - Chapter 3 - Armor

Armorer - Non-weapon Proficiency

Combining separate pages into one

This character can make all of the types of armor listed in the Player's Handbook, given the proper materials and facilities. When making armor, the proficiency check is rolled at the end of the normal construction time.

The time required to make armor is equal to two weeks per level of AC below 10. For example, a shield would require two weeks of work, whereas a suit of full plate armor would require 18 weeks of work.

If the proficiency check indicates failure but is within 4 of the amount needed for success, the armorer has created usable, but flawed, armor. Such armor functions as 1 AC worse than usual, although it looks like the armor it was intended to be. Only a character with armorer proficiency can detect the flaws, and this requires careful and detailed inspection.

If the flawed armor is struck in melee combat with a natural die roll of 19 or 20, it breaks. The character's AC immediately worsens by 4 additional classes (although never above 10), and the broken armor hampers the character's movement. Until the character can remove the broken armor (a process requiring 1d4 rounds), the character moves at ½ of his normal rate and suffers a -4 penalty to all of his attack rolls.

If an armorer is creating a suit of field plate or full plate armor, the character who will use the armor must be present at least once a week during the creation of the armor, since such types of armor require very exact fitting.

The armorer proficiency gives the character the ability to create and repair armor.

With the Armorer proficiency, a character knows how to build all varieties of armor. Armorer overlaps a couple of other proficiencies:

  • The Armorer knows enough Blacksmithing to forge metal armor and craft scale

and chain mail (though he cannot forge horseshoes, wrought iron gates, hardened metal tools, or any other useful items unless he also knows Blacksmithing);

  • The Armorer knows enough Leatherworking to cut and shape boiled leather into

leather armor, shield coverings, and the under-layers of scale mail and banded mail (though he cannot make dress jerkins, saddles, elaborate pouches or rucksacks, or any other useful leather items).

  • The Armorer knows enough of the Tailor's art to manufacture padded armor and armor padding (but not enough to cut and sew any sort of good-looking garment).

Naturally, the ordinary Blacksmith cannot forge metal armor, the Leatherworker is not experienced with making leather armors, and the Tailor isn't conversant with the making of padded armor, unless they also take the Armorer proficiency.

The Armorer can repair existing armor that has taken damage (if you're using that optional rule), and can also craft barding (horse armor) through use of his proficiency.

The Workshop

To craft armor, the character must first have a workshop (a place to work and tools with which to do work).

Metal Armor

If he intends to make any sort of all-metal armor (chain mail, field mail, full plate, plate mail, and helmets), the workshop is a smithy, complete with tools, bellows, a furnace, an anvil, tongs, cauldrons, casting molds, and all the other materials necessary to process unrefined metal into armor.

Such a workshop costs 200 gp, plus the cost of the shelter where it is set up: An additional 100 gp for a pavilion tent, an additional 300 gp for a well-crafted hut/workshop, or more as part of a larger dwelling, such as a mansion, villa or castle (these sorts of dwellings are priced at whatever sort of price scheme the DM prefers). (Included in the price of the smithy is the cost of the tools necessary to make leather hilt-wrappings, padded armor, armor linings and padding, and the simple leather straps used to hold all-metal armors together.)

This workshop is large enough to accommodate the character and up to two apprentices working full-time. (The apprentices, too, must have the Armorer proficiency; the character can always take in an apprentice without the proficiency and train him, but until he acquires the Armorer proficiency he doesn't count as a productive element of the workshop.)

In theory, the character could hire another three-man crew to work a second shift in the same workshop; thus the workshop would be occupied nearly 24 hours a day. (This presumes eight- to ten-hour shifts and a certain amount of necessary nonproductive time each day: Time for furnaces to cool and be cleaned, tools to be repaired and sharpened, etc.) No more than three people can work in this workshop effectively; with more than three people, the workshop suffers a loss of efficiency so that it produces goods just as though it were only manned by three armorers.

To expand the workshop costs an additional 50% for each +three workers. If the smithy costs 200 gp and is set up in a 300-gp hut, thus costing 500 gp, the builder could pay +250 gp. Then, the workshop would accommodate three more armorers at the same time. For another +250 gp, now totalling 1,000 gp, the shop can accommodate nine armorers at the same time.

Leather Armor

If he intends to make any sort of all-leather armor (hide armor, leather armor, and armored leather caps), the workshop is a leatherworker's shop, including apparatus for leather soaking, scraping, tanning, boiling, boiling in wax, shaping, holepunching, sewing, and all the other processes by which leather is transformed into armor.

Such a workshop costs 25 gp, plus the cost of the shelter where it is set up: An additional 25 gp for a large tent, an additional 75 gp for a well-crafted hut/workshop, or more as part of a larger dwelling (at whatever price scheme the DM prefers). (Included in the price of the leatherworker's shop is the cost of the tools necessary to make padded armor and armor linings and padding.)

As with the smithy above, this price presumes one principal leatherworker and up to two apprentices may work together at the same time. Above that number costs 50% of the workshop and housing costs per additional three leatherworkers.

Metal and Leather Armor

If he intends to make both sorts of armor, or armor which combines both metal and leather elements (banded mail, brigandine, bronze plate mail, ring mail, scale mail, shields, splint mail, and studded leather), a combined workshop is needed. Such a workshop costs 250 gp, plus the cost of the shelter where it is set up: An additional 100 gp for a pavilion tent, an additional 300 gp for a well-crafted hut/workshop, or more as part of a larger dwelling (again, at whatever pricing the DM prefers).

(Included in the cost of the armorer's shop is the cost of the tools necessary to make wooden shield blanks and shield frames, padded armor, and all armor linings and padding necessary to the armored goods.)

As with the smithy above, this price presumes one principal armorer and up to two apprentices; above that number costs +50% of the workshop and housing costs per additional three armorers.

Apprentices and Overseers

The cost of the workshop constitutes only the set-up cost for the armoring operation. Maintenance of the workshop, pay for the employees, and cost of materials also come into play. Of course, so do the profits from the sale of manufactured goods. Each apprentice costs 2gp/week for food, upkeep, and training. And once an apprentices has reached young adulthood (age 16) and has achieved an Armorer ability check of 12 or better, he'll demand to be promoted to Overseer status (described immediately below) or will find better pickings elsewhere.

Apprentices cannot run a workshop unsupervised. Supervision comes in the form of an Overseer, an adult with an Armorer ability check of 12 or better. Each Overseer costs 15 gp/week (the DM may wish to have the cost relate to the Overseer's Armorer ability check: 15 gp/week at a check of 12, +15 gp/week per +1 to his ability check; thus, if his ability check is 16, he costs 75 gp/week).

Time to Craft Armor

To determine the time it takes to make a piece of armor, take the armor's AC. The number that the AC is under 10, multiplied by two weeks, is the time it takes an apprentice (supervised and aided by an Overseer) to craft the item. Thus, a set of chain mail (AC 5) is calculated this way: 10 – 5 = 5; 5 x two weeks = ten weeks. It takes 10 weeks to make a suit of chain mail.

Standard Costs to Manufacture Armor
ArmorRetailMaterialsTimeApprentice & OverseerTotal Cost
Banded Mail20010012 wk48 *148
Brigandine120608 wk32 *92
Bronze plate40020012 wk114 **314
Chain mail753810 wk20 ***58
Field Plate2000100016 wk304 +1304
Full plate7000350018 wk342 +3842
Helm/great30154 wk8 ***23
Helm/basinet841 wk2 ***6
Hide armor1578 wk8 ++15
Leather armor51 +++4 wk4 ++5
Padded armor40 +++4 wk4 ++4
Plate mail60030014 wk133 **433
Ring mail100506 wk24 *74
Scale mail120608 wk32 *92
Shield/body1052 wk4 ***9
Shield/buckler10+++2 wk1 ++1
Shield/medium732 wk4 ***7
Shield/small312 wk2 ***3
Splint mail804012 wk24 ***64
Studded lthr20106 wk6 ++16
Chain50025010 wk190 +440
Full plate2000100016 wk304 +1304
Full scale10005008 wk152 +652
Half brig.5002506 wk114 +364
Half padded100502 wk38 +88
Half scale5002508 wk152 +402
Lthr/Padded150754 wk75 +150
  • Two apprentices, no overseer
    • One apprentice, ½ overseer
      • One apprentice, no overseer

+ Two apprentices, one overseer ++ ½ apprentice, no overseer +++ Cost reduced because of easy availability of materials; cost of "0 gp" means cost is a negligible

For pieces of armor which don't grant specific AC benefits (like helmets), figure the time at 1 week per 7.5 gp value. Thus, a great helm would take four weeks to make (it costs 30 gp); a basinet, one week and a few hours of the eighth day (it costs 8 gp).

Cost to Craft Armor

And it does cost money to craft armor. The cost is: (a) About half the "retail value" of the armor piece for materials; plus (b) The cost of maintaining one or two apprentices during the time it takes to make the piece; plus (c) Additional cost based on how much of the overseer's time and attention the project takes. (The project may take one or two overseers full-time on the project, may take only half one overseer's time on the project, or may take none of the overseer's time—the latter constitute projects that the apprentices can do all by themselves, mostly unsupervised.)

The previous table shows standard costs to manufacture armor.

In usual circumstances, the difference between the Total Cost and the Retail Value is the shop's profit when it sells a piece of armor.

As you can see from the table, hide armor, leather armor, padded armor, medium shields and small shields are little-to-no-profit propositions. However, they keep the apprentices paid and keep work in the shop.

Playing With These Numbers Now, the costs given above are not the final word on how much it costs to make armor. With your DM's permission, you can skew these numbers around (both up and down) through the following means. First, you can put extra men on a job. (Important Note: If overseers are drafted to do apprentice-level work, one overseer counts as two apprentices.) You can only put extra men on a job in increments of the original number of men required for the job: In other words, if the job required two apprentices, you don't see an improvement in speed until you assign two more apprentices to the job. At that point, you cut the speed of the job in half. ''Example: From the chart, you see it takes one apprentice with no overseer ten weeks to work up a set of chain mail. That's a standard in the armorer's industry; they'll always tell you it takes ten weeks to work up a chain mail hauberk. But in an emergency situation, they could put an extra apprentice on the job (either have two working on it at once, or have one on the "day shift" and one on the "night shift"). With twice the available manpower, it would only take half the time, or five weeks, to create the chain mail.''

Second, if the Overseer is a player-character, he doesn't have to pay himself as much. This is usually the case with armorers when they first go into business for themselves: They pay the cost for materials and the cost for their apprentices, and whatever they have left over is their own salary, even if it is much less than the 15 gp/week standard mentioned above. (That number, 15 gp/week, represents a firm lower-middle-class standard of living; an armorer who earns less will be living at a lower-class standard of living.)

With that in mind, we can re-interpret some of the numbers above. Let's say that we have one player-character armorer who wants to work up a set of hide armor. Hide armor normally takes up half the work-day of one apprentice for eight weeks. It costs 7 gp in materials, and he can sell it on the usual market for 15 gp. If just the chief armorer, who counts as an Overseer if his Armorer ability check is 12 or better, works on this item alone, it will take him only two weeks to make the hide armor (remember, an Overseer counts as two apprentices; therefore, he's putting four times the manpower on the task as it customarily requires, thus cutting the time required to one-fourth, or two weeks). If he can sell it for 15 gp, he's made 8 gp. He's earning a meager 4 gp a week, which is better than a poverty-level wage, but less than middle-class.

Chance of Failure

It would seem that the thing to do would be to set up an armorer's shop and just build field plate and full plate, which are the most profitable items of armor. However, that isn't necessarily so.

This is because, for every item of armor you make, you have to make an Armorer Ability Check. At the end of the armor-making period, the most experienced (highest ability check) character who worked continuously on the project makes his Armorer ability check. If he passes the check, the armor is just fine. If he fails it, it's flawed. If the character missed his roll by 1, 2, 3, or 4, the armor looks just fine. The maker knows it's flawed, but this will not be obvious to anyone on casual inspection, and only another armorer will be able to detect that it's flawed . . . and only with careful inspection. This type of flawed armor functions at 1 AC higher than it should (thus flawed full plate would be AC 2 instead of 1). If the flawed armor is ever struck in real combat with a natural to-hit roll of 19 or 20, it "breaks" (caves in, splits open, etc.). Its AC goes up 4 (thus our flawed full plate would shoot from AC 2 to AC 6). And because it's broken and hanging wrong, it hinders the player; until he can take it off (this takes 1d4 rounds), he moves at half his normal rate and suffers a –4 penalty to all of his attack rolls.

Obviously, most reputable armorers would never sell a piece of flawed armor. They have their reputations to protect, so they throw it away. They take a loss in money equal to the Total Cost of the armor from the chart above.

If the character misses his roll by 5 or more, it's obvious to anyone, with casual inspection, that the armor is flawed. No one will buy it at the normal retail value. The armorer might be able to sell it at half the Total Cost value to someone desperate for cheap armor, someone who's willing to take the risk of wearing flawed armor. If he can't sell it, this too is a total loss. Finally, not all armor is the same in the level of difficulty it requires to manufacture. Some armor is simple enough that apprentices can work on it alone. Some is so complicated that only master armorers should oversee this work. And hiring a master armorer costs more than just hiring a normal overseer.

The chart below shows the relative difficulty of manufacturing these different types of armor.

Armor TypeModifier to Check
Banded Mail+1
Bronze plate0
Chain mail+3
Field Plate–3
Full plate–3
Hide armor+3
Leather armor+3
Padded armor+3
Plate mail0
Ring mail+1
Scale mail+1
Splint mail+3
Studded leather+3
Full plate–3
Full scale0
Half brig.0
Half padded0
Half scale0

As you can see, making field plate and full plate is a risky proposition. Only the best of independent armorers will undertake such a task because the potential losses are so great. (On the other hand, a hireling armorer will do it whenever his employer says, because all the financial risk is his employer's.) And player-character armorers run these same financial risks when they try to make field plate and full plate for themselves or their friends.

Added Expenses

If the DM wishes, he can add to the grief of a player-character armorer by confronting him with a lot of the hidden expenses of any such operation: Bribery: In many places, local officials will expect a little graft in order for them to process the necessary permits efficiently and regularly. If the PC doesn't pay up, those permits take a long, long time (months) to be processed, and during that time the PC can't operate a retail armorer's shop.

Theft: Armorer's shops can be burglarized just like any other operation. Thieves are quite willing to steal some high-quality armor goods and fence them elsewhere in the city. Depending on the quality of the merchandise lying around in the shop, this can be a serious financial blow for the shop.

Unclaimed Goods: Sometimes a patron who custom-orders a piece of armor never shows up to buy it. Maybe he's been killed in the meantime; maybe he ran low on funds and decided not even to tell the armorer of his misfortune. And if the custom piece of armor was decorated or fine-tuned to that specific customer (for example, if it bears his coat of arms or unusual decoration), it could be that no one else is willing to buy it . . . except at heavily discounted prices.

Unsold Stock: Armorers don't just work up pieces of armor to order. The armorer fabricates numerous examples of the most common sorts of armor (leather and padded armor, shields) for the casual customer and as practice for the apprentices. Not all of this gets sold, and a piece that is never sold is a few gold pieces out of the shop's coffers.

All in all, it may be safer, financially, for a player-character to be a full-time adventurer and only a part-time armorer.

Player-Character Workshops

Often, a PC Armorer who is also an adventurer will set up an armorer's shop and crew it with a single overseer and two apprentices. This shop's duty will be to keep the PC supplied in armor; also, whenever the PC returns home, he can, if he wishes, operate the shop, especially in the "off-shift" (whichever shift the regular crew is not operating it).

If he does hire an overseer, he'll have to pay the rates according to the overseer's ability, as described above. Note that a PC Armorer can make armor for his friends. He can't avoid paying the minimum cost for the materials, of course. The character can carry a tent and leatherworker's shop on the back of a horse, so he can work on any sort of all-leather or padding armor while on the road. But on the road, he can only get in a couple of hours' work per day, so multiply all armor-making times by four to determine how long they take.

The character who does all this extra work will be a little more tired than his fellows; reduce his Intelligence ability check to spot upcoming dangers.

Repairing Armor

If you use the optional rules for damaging armor found in this rule book's Combat chapter, you can also use the Armorer proficiency to repair damaged armor. It costs the armorer 1/100th the armor's retail value for each Damage Point that he repairs. Again, that's the cost to the armorer, which assumes that apprentices are doing the work, and unsupervised; apprentices can perform all armor-repair functions. The cost to the armorer, compared to the apprentice's wage, shows you how long it takes to repair (2 gp/week for one apprentice, remember).

Example: A set of chain mail has taken 10 points of damage in combat. The owner brings it in to be repaired. Retail value of chain mail is 75 gp, so the cost to repair each point of damage will be .75 gp, or 75 cp. The armorer repairs the 10 points of damage, which costs him 750 cp (75 sp). This is less than 1 gp, so the apprentice doing the repairs takes about two days to fix the chain maul hauberk. Armorers typically charge a 50% profit on repair jobs. In the example above, the armorer's cost was 75 sp; therefore, he'd charge the customer about 115 sp for the repair job.

Repairing Magical Armor

Magical armor is repaired in exactly the same way. Base the cost for repairs on the normal retail value of the armor as if it were not magical. When magical armor is damaged, holes may be driven into it, but the basic enchantment is unchanged. Therefore, the armorer doesn't have to have repair materials enchanted to "match" the original armor; all he has to do is patch up the holes and the armor will be fixed. Typically, the armorer will not even know that he's working on magical armor.

Of course, as we discuss in the Combat chapter, if a set of magical armor is damaged so severely that the enchantment is ruined, nothing a normal armorer can do will repair it. Armor that seriously damaged is ruined even as normal armor; an armorer won't be able to fix it.