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Motivation

After seeing this comment, I read this answer and this answer.

This gave me the distinct impression that any magic armor with an enhancement bonus of +4 or more is automatically masterwork armor. I found this rather surprising.

The answer to the second question mentions a math fix in regards to AC. My question is focusing on an armor's material. Specifically, I'm trying to determine if the rules as written (and as intended) require that any magic armor over a certain enhancement bonus be of a certain material. Furthermore, I'm curious about the assertion that enchanting a weapon would change its construction material. Obviously, once could just wave one's hands and say that the material of the armor is whatever, but I can't consider that an answer. If I'm houseruling things, I would at least like to know that I'm houseruling things.

Research

I then looked back over the masterwork armor rules in the Player's Handbook, and found that masterwork armor has to be magical, which I was not aware of. However, I found nothing to imply that magic armor would automatically be masterwork, beside a statement that "the cost of masterwork armor is included in the cost of magic armor." That statement simply means that you don't have to pay extra for the armor to be masterwork, not that the magic armor is masterwork.

I then looked in the Rules Compendium, and on page 281 I found a statement directly contradicting magic armor always being masterwork:

...so a set of +5 black iron plate adds a total of 13 to the wearer's Armor Class (8 from the plate armor and 5 from the enhancement bonus)

If the +5 plate armor was masterwork, it would add 11, not 8.

Wax Eagle has pointed out tables in Heroes of the Forgotten Lands and Heroes of the Fallen Kingdoms for magic armor which specify AC bonuses based on enhancement bonus. These do not match the masterwork armor bonuses, and nothing in that table mentions construction materials.

The Question

So, is magic armor actually automatically masterwork, or are people simply assuming that if you're going to buy magic armor that is eligible to be masterwork that you will opt to get it as such?

Consequences

If it's just an assumption about rational economic behavior, then enchanting mundane armor with a bonus over +4, or increasing the bonus on an existing magic armor past +4, wouldn't cause the armor to become masterwork. It would just add the enhancement bonus. Right?

If so, then this would contradict a statement from the second referenced answer:

If you're allowing players to upgrade the enchantments on a piece of armor, the armor should automatically improve to match the appropriate masterwork quality.

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@waxeagle Not making an "in-game" justification is your opinion about how the game should be played. Everything in my game needs an in-game justification. –  DCShannon Jun 19 at 17:57
    
Let us continue this discussion in chat. –  wax eagle Jun 19 at 18:06

1 Answer 1

up vote 1 down vote accepted

No. High level magic armor is not automatically masterwork.

The essentials line instituted a bonus structure like masterwork, but different.

The static bonuses from masterwork, and the extra properties do not apply to normal armor. However, there is a new mechanic introduced whereby the normal armor's armor bonus scales by enchantment level.

To take plate as an example:

Magic appears at higher item levels, and grants higher armor bonuses than its mundane counterparts. Plate armor grants +9 AC at levels 6-10, +10 AC at levels 11-15, +11 AC at levels 16-20, +12 AC at levels 21-25, and +14 AC at levels 26-30.

These bonuses are also presented in a table in HOTFL/HOTFK pages 345/344 (can't remember which is which right off hand). Its worth noting that the text from the RC you quoted seems to be a misprint or was finalized before the math fixed was instituted. It's repeated in one of the Heroes books, and the other one gets it right (though both heroes books have the correct table).

This is presented as a scaling bonus and is in general a math fix that replaces masterwork armor for essentials (as masterwork is not a part of the essentials line). You can still use the masterwork armors from the PHB and Darksun, they just do not include the scaling bonuses and as such will lag or get stuck with lower bonuses if they are upgraded.

This is not about the materials changing, although if you require an in game justification for why the armor bonus scales up with enchantment level, this is one option. Another is that the PC's skill improves with time and use, or a third that the magic simply provides more protection than the enhancement bonus indicates. All of these are possible in game justifications, however, the rule books make none. You simply receive the adjustment and move on.

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