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Can a warforged that has magical composite plating attach to its composite plating an armor augment crystal?

A typical warforged does not benefit from wearing armor nor magical robes due to their composite plating. However, a warforged can have its composite plating enhanced through the use of the feat Craft Magic Arms and Armor. If a warforged does so, can the warforged then attach an armor augment crystal (Magic item Compendium 221) to its composite plating?

And, because it's related, when a warforged pays another creature to make its composite plating magical, does the warforged pay the same amount as it would to purchase magic armor with the corresponding enhancement bonus or armor special abilities, or is there an additional cost?

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Rules as written, no. Despite counting as armor for a variety of purposes, the books fall short of just coming out and saying the composite plating is armor. The only ways in which it acts like armor are precisely those ways listed explicitly in the composite plating feature.

The reasons for not making composite plating an actual armor could be numerous. It would potentially open up a number of weird interactions if it was written that way. The authors, it seems, felt it was safer to just spell out exactly the ways that the composite plating could be used, rather than trying to say it was armor except for whatever interactions they explicitly nixed. In short, they went with a whitelist instead of a blacklist. That can make a lot of sense from a developer or publisher’s perspective.

However, from a group’s perspective, having a more nuanced understanding of the plating is both plausible and desirable. You can handle interactions on a case-by-case basis, you can revise or qualify the understanding of the feature based on new things that come up, and so on. A developer or publisher doesn’t have those luxuries.

As a case-in-point: Magic Item Compendium and its augmentation crystals was published a full three years after Eberron Campaign Setting and the warforged race. Augmentation crystals were clearly not something they had considered and rejected for warforged; they didn’t even exist. Publishing the composite plating text in a way that leaves it open to such new developments might have been risky for them, and so they didn’t do that. But groups today can and should reconsider composite plating in light of the new augmentation crystals.

And in this case, augmentation crystals are just an alternative way of enhancing armor, which is something you can explicitly do with composite plating. So yes, I suggest that this should be allowed. Missing out on augmentation crystals is a potentially serious drawback for warforged that they were not originally envisioned having.

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In the D&D Q&A Web column "8/31/07" the Sage weighed in on this very question:

Can a warforged character attach an armor augment crystal to his own body?

Yes, but only if the warforged A) has some sort of composite plating (either the base version or an augmented version from a feat such as Adamantine Body), and B) that plating has a sufficient enhancement bonus to accept the crystal.

For example, a warforged whose plating has a +1 enhancement bonus could attach a least or lesser augment crystal to his own body. Without at least a +1 enhancement bonus, the warforged couldn’t even use least armor augment crystals, since his body isn’t considered a masterwork suit of armor.

(Edited slightly for readability.) The Sage in this exchange is Andy Collins.

Although Sage Advice should often be viewed as just advice rather than, for example, errata, the Sage's opinion on this topic so happens to mirror my own. That is, the Magic Item Compendium on Augment Crystals says, in part, that "[a]n augment crystal… provides a magical effect when affixed to a… suit of armor (or any other magic item that grants an armor bonus to AC)" (221). Thus, once the warforged's composite plating's been made magical so that it has a magical enhancement bonus of +1 or more—becoming, in essence, an irremovable magic item—, the composite plating's become suitable for attaching a least or lesser augment crystal. (It's not until the composite plating has a magical enhancement bonus of at least +3 that to the composite plating can be attached a greater augment crystal.)

With that in mind, the warforged racial trait composite plating, a natural ability, in part, says, "Composite plating can gain a magic enhancement bonus and magic armor properties as armor can, using the Craft Magic Arms and Armor feat" (Races of Eberron 8). As every typical warforged can pay to have its composite plating made magical, it appears that even a typical warforged composite plating is virtually masterwork enough to be able to become magical, so this DM would likewise allow a typical warforged to attach a least augment crystal to its plating immediately without needing to have its composite plating somehow modified. However, ask your DM as she may rule differently.

Paying a creature to make the warforged's composite plating magical costs no less and no more than making an existing suit of masterwork armor magical. The only differences between the two processes is that no actual suit of armor need be provided and that the warforged must be present throughout the magic process. But, as the typical warforged doesn't breathe, eat, or sleep, it isn't like the warforged's presence is a big imposition on the creature doing the magic.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So in order for my monk to count as masterwork... I have to use warforged? \$\endgroup\$ – nijineko Aug 8 '17 at 1:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nijineko I don't know why else you'd want the composite plating (not the monk but only the plating) to count as masterwork except to stick a least armor augment crystal on it; I can't think of any abuses offhand (even the item qualities from the feat Artisan Craftsman (Dragon #358 39), for example, aren't available as aftermarket additions.) And, seriously, getting your whole monk self to count as masterwork is something else entirely (see this question). \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Aug 8 '17 at 9:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ I remember that question - I even commented on the answer. A most amusing situation that came up in our group. \$\endgroup\$ – nijineko Aug 9 '17 at 3:52

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