I can't find any mention of a helmet in the Player Handbook in the armour table, and the only helmets I can find are magic items like The Helm of Telepathy.

Would it be unbalanced to allow helmets to be purchased for 10gp, or an appropriate amount, and have it increase the wearer's AC by 1? Whilst wearing a helmet, I wouldn't allow the player to also wear a mask, hood or a second helmet.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this informative conversation about edits made to this post, and Stack editing in general, has been moved to chat where it can survive and thrive. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jun 10 '17 at 22:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ Just for everyone's reference, the "helms" mentioned in the DMG (and SRD) are the Helm of Brilliance (very rare, requires attunement), the Helm of Comprehending Languages (uncommon), the Helm of Telepathy (uncommon, requires attunement), and the Helm of Teleportation (rare, requires attunement). Xanathar's Guide to Everything lists one more common magic item: the Dread Helm (which just makes your eyes glow red when you wear it). \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Feb 21 '18 at 23:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ The only other mention of helms in the DMG seems to be a visored helm being part of a set of platemail, and in the description of Daylight/Darkness as an example of an opaque object that you can use to cover the source of the light/darkness to block it (the other example is a bowl). \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Feb 21 '18 at 23:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related, though definitely not a dupe: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/51517/do-gauntlets-do-anything \$\endgroup\$ – DuckTapeAl Feb 22 '18 at 4:47

So first, at least one suit of armor available in the official materials has a helmet included: The plate armor.

Plate. Plate consists of shaped, interlocking metal plates to cover the entire body. A suit of plate includes gauntlets, heavy leather boots, a visored helmet, and thick layers of padding underneath the armor. Buckles and straps distribute the weight over the body.

(Thanks to nitsua60 for this.)

And that armor doesn't prevent you from wearing special helmets at all. There's nothing in its own description, and nothing in the helmets themselves, that says "cannot use with any helmet item" or "cannot use with plate armor."

But more to the point, 5e, unlike 3.5e, has a very bounded set of attack bonuses and AC. +1 AC is actually rather useful in 5e. So, by doing this you discourage your players from using utility helms in favor of combat power.

There's nothing stopping you from handing out +1 AC helms, but you could also hand out Rings or Cloaks of Protection if you want to swing the difficulty some without limiting utility options as much. And as noted the fluff doesn't match up with the Plate armor fluff.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I suggest adding in "a suit of plate includes... a visored helmet" (PHB p.145) as support. No need to rely on your belief--it's there in black-and-white! \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jun 10 '17 at 18:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60, that quote doesn’t really support the assumption in this answer, as only plate armor is described as including a helmet. I think it’s reasonable to assume that a “chain shirt” that “offers modest protection to the wearer’s upper body” does not include a helmet. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Grant Jun 10 '17 at 20:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TimGrant good points. (I'll confess to a little bit of passive game-playing with that last comment: it was both "hey, there's textual support" and "textual support would be better than 'I believe'" and "double-check your assumptions" all rolled up in there!) \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jun 10 '17 at 22:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TimGrant Looks pretty hooded to me. images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/610%2BLh32e5L.jpg darkknightarmoury.com/images/Product/large/300170.png \$\endgroup\$ – zibadawa timmy Jun 11 '17 at 4:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @zibadawatimmy, it’s easy to find examples of chain hauberks that do/don’t include a coif: medievalcollectibles.com/… — realistically, they would, the RAW, they don’t. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Grant Jun 11 '17 at 11:06

This house-rule essentially means "Every player-character gets +1 to AC". Why? Because for 10gp and no other drawbacks, there is no mechanical reason at all for PCs to not get a helmet. Is this balanced? Likely not, because the game designers thought carefully about who has how much AC on what level. For comparison, keep in mind that a shield gives a character +2 AC but costs her a free hand, barring her from using two-handed weapons or dual-wielding.

If you want to homebrew additional options for player-characters, then a good guideline to keep things balanced is the principle of equal exchange. Whenever you give something, also take something of equal value. For example, you could have helmets give +1 to AC but -1 to attack rolls.

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    \$\begingroup\$ or, more in line with certain OSR systems, +1 AC but -? to passive perception. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Jun 10 '17 at 21:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ You can add disadvantage on perception because you cant hear, smell or see well in a helmet. \$\endgroup\$ – Spellcaster Jun 11 '17 at 0:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ Which means outside of an ambush there is no reason not to carry a helmet with you - you always have time to put it on. No disadvantage left in 90% of the situations. Grats. \$\endgroup\$ – TomTom Jun 11 '17 at 9:07

I've always assumed helmets were part of the armor set. It says so for plate, although, it doesn't really mention it for others.

a suit of plate includes... a visored helmet (PHB, p.145)

Having a separate helmet for an additional 1 AC for 10 gp is mechanically equivalent to giving the players +1 armor for an extra 10 gp. In the DMG, +1 armor is listed as a rare magic item. Getting the same effect for 10 gp is pretty unbalanced; since all of the to-hit modifiers are assuming that characters don't have this.

As the DM, it is up to you how you want to flavor your world. If you wanted helmets to be separate, I would suggest either not having them add to AC, but, rather, act as sort of a prerequisite for interesting attachments (like the mask you were mentioning), or treat them as mentioned above for light armor, but reduce the AC and cost of all heavy armor by 1 and 10gp respectively.

Have medium and heavy helmets add 1 to AC, but impose the Dex cap. This would make the helmet optional, not change the balance much (other than for the attachments) and give you your versatility.

I would personally further tweak it to be higher than 10 gp so that the option of helmetless plate was more attractive, but that's up to you.

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    \$\begingroup\$ When you make suggestions like this, the general preference here is to share your experience with doing this since we tend not to promote idea generation. If you've done the above mods (in your "As the DM" and later portion) please share the experience and results if you've actually done this at your table. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 24 '18 at 14:33

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