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[Based on playtest material delivered on May]

Light armor = (12-15) + Dex
Medium armor = (13-17) + 1/2 Dex
Heavy armor = (15-18)

What are the advantages of wearing Medium armor when trying to get the best AC?

  • If I have no Dex bonus, I'd go for the best Heavy armor I could afford.
  • If I have a +1 or +2 Dex bonus I'd either go for Heavy armor or Light (depending if I'm eager to sacrifice 5 ft. of movement for +2/+3 AC).
  • If I have a +3 Dex bonus or higher I'd go for Light armor.

The gap on base AC between Light and Medium armor is too narrow, and the additional 1/2 Dex modifier provided by Light easly covers it.

Personally, one of the things I loved from 4th edition is the disappearance of the Medium armor category. Dividing between Light and Heavy only allowed for a wider gap in base AC. A gap that is difficult to overcome with the relevant ability only.

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Note that the final armor rules from the PHB (Aug 2014) are: Light armor (AC 11-12) + DEX; Medium armor (AC 12-15) + DEX (max 2); Heavy armor (AC 14-18) no DEX. Also, there is a STR requirement of 13 or 15 for most types of Heavy armor, but no movement penalty. (See Armor table, PHB, p. 145) – sadaqah Jan 17 '15 at 17:06
Yes, with the final PHB rules, you still win with a medium armor if you DEX gives you just +1 or +2. If you DEX gives you +3 or +4, light armor may be as good. (that's not speaking of having magical armors.) – Alexis Wilke Feb 4 '15 at 22:13
up vote 8 down vote accepted

I suspect medium armour is likely to be tagged to certain class restrictions, much like pathfinder clerics.

There are also numerous other reasons listed in this question: (crucially weight and RP reasons)

Why would chainmail be preferred over plate

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That's a good point. – Erik Burigo May 31 '12 at 9:32
However, rethinking about it... What's the reason of giving them 1/2 Dex bonus. If I'm limited to either Light or Medium only; I'd probably go for Medium only if my Dex bonus is 11 or lower. In that case, the +1/2 Dex is irrelevant. – Erik Burigo May 31 '12 at 13:18
@ErikBurigo Reason? It's a playtest. Approaching the rules as if they're well-thought-out and already thoroughly playtested is kinda strange. Maybe the medium armour rules are just bad. – SevenSidedDie May 31 '12 at 17:35
@SevenSidedDie. That's what I thought. I was simply wondering if there were implications that I didn't catch. – Erik Burigo Jun 1 '12 at 7:04

If you have a small Dex bonus (+2 or less), you're getting better use out of the Medium Armor.

In light, you can spend 10gp and get Leather (AC 11+2 = 13). In medium, you can spend the same amount and get Hide Armor (AC 12+2 = 14). With starting cash you could go up to Studded (AC 13+2 = 15) without making any tradeoffs.

Going up a step, Scale for 50gp gives you AC 16 if you don't mind taking Disadvantage on Stealth. In Heavy, you can have Ring or Chain (AC 14 or 16 respectively), but then you take Disadvantage and movement penalties.

So, for a 14 Dex character, Medium gives you the sweet spot between AC and non-penalties. If you have higher Dex, you may want the light armor. If you don't have a Dex bonus then the Heavy gets you better results.

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One very good reason is that not every character will have the strength to consistently carry heavy armor and everything else they need (for example, if Halflings have a STR penalty like in 3.X and they still want the Fighter class). Not to mention the cost factor. Each armor has quite a large jump in cost and unless you have that nice DM who gives you whatever you want as a starting package. A starting character could save a couple hundred gold by not taking the penalties.

There is also the whole donning time issue. Most DMs don't make this a realistic thing, but let's face it - when your party encampment wakes up hearing that the enemy is within eyesight, you don't want to get caught with your adamantine pantaloons down.

Also: Touch Attacks.

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Also, I just realized I forgot to include this to my answer: there is the whole donning time issue. Most DMs don't make this a realistic thing, but let's face it - when your party encampment wakes up hearing that the enemy is within eyesight, you don't want to get caught with your adamantine pantaloons down. – CatLord May 31 '12 at 12:38
Further Addendum: Touch Attacks – CatLord May 31 '12 at 13:38
you should add those – wax eagle May 31 '12 at 17:27
Sleeping with heavy armor, and also climbing (or similar feat)... My characters have to remove their armor to do such things or falling is a sure thing. – Alexis Wilke Feb 4 '15 at 22:17

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