Vaious D&D 5e sourcebooks mention "metal armor" or "armor made of metal". Here's a few examples:

PHB page 65:

druids will not wear armor or use shields made of metal

PHB page 275:

You have advantage on the attack roll if the target is wearing armor made of metal

Monster Manual, page 262:

If the object touched is either metal armor or a metal shield being worn or carried, its takes a permanent and cumulative -1 penalty to the AC it offers

However, almost any armor has metal elements in it, but few armor is completely made of metal with no other materials. So what is "metal armor"? And what is "armor made of metal"?

For instance, the Studded leather armor is described as

Made from tough but flexible leather, studded leather is reinforced with close-set rivets or spikes.

Providing rivets or spikes are made of metal, does it make the whole armor "made of metal"? Can a druid wear it? Does a Rust Monster do damage to it?

Moreover, even a simple leather armor migh have metal closings/fibulas:

enter image description here

On the other hand, a full-plate gauntlet has non-metal elements (cloth or leather):

enter image description here

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ All of those metal studs in the metal bits, in a world of D&D, can be bone or stone given the abilities of various races and classes to work with and shape stone. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 17, 2017 at 17:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ That gauntlet is a toy prop, there exits gauntlets with much more metall. But obviously plate has nonmetal parts too. \$\endgroup\$
    – joojaa
    Aug 18, 2017 at 16:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ I just need to get this off my chest... "leather" armor from DND never existed, unless you are thinking of boiled leather (cuir bouilli), buff leather (exceptionally thick leather), or a coat of plates (which has metal plates riveted on the inside). See Skallgrim's video (especially the longsword part): youtu.be/U2AYg90YoYY?t=3m8s and Matt Easton's: youtu.be/KUPIUHpkK88 \$\endgroup\$
    – PipperChip
    Aug 19, 2017 at 0:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PipperChip actually in 5e "leather armor" is described as "...made of leather that has been stiffened by being boiled in oil". \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Aug 19, 2017 at 5:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PipperChip who said it is? I've always imagined "studded leather armor" as something like this, or this. Or this. It must be protective, hence "armor". \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Aug 20, 2017 at 11:08

4 Answers 4


This would refer to armor that was primarily metal. As in, you would look at it and say "that armor is made of metal." As opposed to "That is cloth armor" or "that is leather armor." This is supported by a quotation from the Sage Advice column, where it is talking directly about the Druidic Taboo against wearing metal armor.

The idea is that druids prefer to be protected by animal skins, wood, and other natural materials that aren’t the worked metal that is associated with civilization. Druids don’t lack the ability to wear metal armor. They choose not to wear it.


A druid typically wears leather, studded leather, or hide armor, and if a druid comes across scale mail made of a material other than metal, the druid might wear it.


Here, we can see that the metal fittings that would normally be added to studded leather do not count as 'Metal Armor.' And, strictly speaking, you can make Leather Armor with fittings other than metal rivets. I am actually a hobbyist Leatherworker and I do know how to make armor. Ideally, you use metal rivets to hold the pieces together...but it's entirely possible to use stitching, bone, or other hard materials in place of the metal.

For a simple test, just read the description of the armor in the PHB. Every description emphasizes the primary material that the armor is made from. For example...

Studded Leather. Made from tough but flexible leather,


Chain Shirt. Made of interlocking metal rings[...]

and as a final interesting point...

Ring Mail. This armor is leather armor with heavy rings sewn into it [...]

In short, while most of this will be DM-fiat, and it's quite possible to have Dragonscale Scale Mail or a Breastplate made from the carapace of some insectoid creature...as a general rule of thumb, if the description of the armor in the PHB explicitly mentions metal, then you can likely assume that piece of armor counts as 'metal' for the purposes of Druids, Spells, etc.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hmm... In my experience Ring Mail is described as "Metal Armor", however this might indicate it isn't. \$\endgroup\$
    – onewho
    Aug 17, 2017 at 14:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @onewho Yeah...Ring Mail is weird. The closest to a historical understanding of ring mail that we have is that it looked something sort of like this: indiapostalservice.org/wp-content/uploads/… There is a fair amount of metal there...but that still looks mostly to be made of leather. As a DM, I'd probably rule it as metal...but that's why my rule of thumb is exactly that...a rule of thumb. :) Fortunately....virtually nobody wears it in practice...so it doesn't come up often. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 17, 2017 at 15:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ There's also a theory that ringmail was an attempted reconstruction of badly-drawn chainmail... \$\endgroup\$
    – Adeptus
    Aug 18, 2017 at 4:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ring mail has a layer of metal over the leather - not interlocking like chain, but still a significant amount compared to things like studded leather. The thing to remember is that people generally wear padding and clothing underneath their metal armour (especially important with chain - I'm pretty sure shaving your body is not a pre-requisite of wearing it, but that'd likely change without padding!). Going with simplification, general body movement will get a significant number of rings touching, or close enough, that conduction of heat / electricity will happen ;-) \$\endgroup\$
    – Rycochet
    Aug 18, 2017 at 9:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ Maybe the important factor is that the main protective layer of the armor is primarily made of metal. Studded leather's protection is mostly provided by leather, but a coat of plates (leather with plates riveted inside of it, like this) is mostly metal. \$\endgroup\$
    – Marq
    Aug 18, 2017 at 12:32

"Metal Armor" is any armor where the majority of the armor is made of metal.

Studded leather is not considered Metal Armor:

Taken directly from Sage Advice:

What happens if a druid wears metal armor? The druid explodes.

Well, not actually. Druids have a taboo against wearing metal armor and wielding a metal shield. The taboo has been part of the class’s story since the class first appeared in Eldritch Wizardry (1976) and the original Player’s Handbook (1978). The idea is that druids prefer to be protected by animal skins, wood, and other natural materials that aren’t the worked metal that is associated with civilization. Druids don’t lack the ability to wear metal armor. They choose not to wear it. This choice is part of their identity as a mystical order. Think of it in these terms: a vegetarian can eat meat, but the vegetarian chooses not to.

A druid typically wears leather, studded leather, or hide armor, and if a druid comes across scale mail made of a material other than metal, the druid might wear it.

In 5e pretty much every armor past light armor (with the exception of Hide armor) would be considered metal armor unless expressly made from another material.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Druid can wear studded leather, but won't it be damaged by a Rust Monster's antennae? It "is reinforced with close-set rivets", so it's logical to assume its AC drops would if rivets will be damaged. \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Aug 17, 2017 at 15:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor You're getting into really fine detail here. In terms of general "metal armor" restrictions, studded leather is not considered metal armor. If it came down to an encounter with a rust monster and the monster rolled well enough to target single rivets in studded leather it is possible to ruin the studded leather armor... However it would be far easier and more likely that a rust monster would target someone with much more metal on their body (bigger meal), than try to target someone with wearing studded leather. \$\endgroup\$
    – onewho
    Aug 17, 2017 at 15:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ "is not considered" by who? PHB doesn't say this. \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Aug 17, 2017 at 15:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor "is not considered" by the designers. I point back to the Sage Advice link in my answer, which is directly quoted from Jeremy Crawford who "is the co-lead designer of fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. He was the lead designer of the fifth edition Player’s Handbook and one of the leads on the Dungeon Master’s Guide. He has worked on many other D&D books since coming to Wizards of the Coast in 2007." \$\endgroup\$
    – onewho
    Aug 17, 2017 at 16:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ If Druid's specifically can't (or shouldn't) be able to wear metal armor, and wearing studded leather is something a druid can typically wear, then, logically studded leather armor isn't considered metal armor. This ruling of what type of armor studded leather is would extend to any other ruling about metal armor. I don't see any reason this ruling would change for other cases. \$\endgroup\$
    – onewho
    Aug 17, 2017 at 16:20

This seems like something that has an element of GM fiat, but my experience (many years ago) was that cloth, padded, and leather were not considered "metal" (for things like electrical attacks and for magic casting purposes), while studded, banded, chainmail, plate, etc. were. In the absence of a specific rule, I'd apply the same reasoning to a modern version (or other games that aren't flat-out narrative in nature).

To me, the distinction is the quantity of metal and how much of it goes through the non-metallic part, along with how much of the armor's protection is directly due to the metal. Obviously, the metal isn't the primary protection in your photo of leather armor; one could consider studded to be on the border, (though the studs do penetrate the leather and there are often a lot of them), but for banded, mail, and such it's clear the metal is the primary protectant.


It is more up to the DM and players to determine what they think is the cutoff for metal/non-metal.

Generally speaking if you would look at something and see mostly metal pieces it would be considered metal or what is the main protection for the armor? Is it metallic based or is it based on a non-metallic substance like leather or padded cloth?

Now you could argue that something like studded leather could be considered both since most people would think the studs that are used for reinforcement are normally thought of as metal.


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