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So the Dwarven Barbarian Battlerager (from SCAG) gets a few class features that specifically tie in to his armor. These allow him to:

  1. Make a bonus attack that deals 1d4+Strength piercing damage
  2. Automatically deal 3 piercing damage on a successful grapple
  3. Deal 3 piercing damage every time he takes damage.

Would it unbalance the game to apply the armor's AC bonus from enchantment (+1, +2, or +3) to points 1, 2, or 3? Why?

Related: Barbarian Battlerager Spiked Armor Damage Bonus via RAW?

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Only a little, if at all.

A +3 Spiked Armor that applies enhancement to Battlerager features essentially serves a similar function of a Defender that always activates (since you only get one attack). So we can use the differences to measure balance.

The first time you attack with the sword on each of your turns, you can transfer some or all of the sword's bonus to your armor class, instead of using the bonus on any attacks that turn.

Not being able to use the weapon bonus on multiple attacks is a significant downside, but you also get the benefit from the other Battlerager features.

Here is a cost-benefit analysis of the tradeoff for comparison.

  • Damage per round: 3 damage per Extra Attack vs 3 damage per attack that hits you.
    • I would say these are comparable if not in the favor of Defender as smart monsters will avoid attacking you in melee (most have a ranges or magic option at the level where you usually start getting magic armor).
  • Armor bonus: 3 if you sacrifice your extra damage vs 3 always
    • This shows the strength of the variant magic spiked armor. You have a consistent armor benefit. This is where the slight imbalance comes from, but it is probably not enough to unbalance the game substantially.
  • Grapple damage: Grappling in 5e is very niche but the 3 extra damage does confer some small benefit compared to the Defender.

None of these small differences would push the weapon above or below the power level of some of the other legendary weapons (of which the Defender is included). While it is not a direct comparison for the lesser magic armors (with +1 and +2), the principle can be extrapolated to include them.

If you find that this is unbalanced since it is bonus damage for a non-attunement item, You could make the Battlerager benefits require attunement, but I doubt it will be necessary.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ While this offers an alternative system of applying the effect, it does not directly answer the authors question of "What if I applied armor enchantment bonus to damage?" Your answer is closer to "Here's a different way to apply bonus damage to armor spikes" as your answer requires treating it as ether a weapon bonus or armor bonus, and offers that as advice, and analyzes the balance of that method. It does not address the balance change without your weapon OR armor bonus - but not both system, as per the author's question. \$\endgroup\$ – Erudaki Apr 13 '18 at 16:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Erudaki you misinderstand my answer. I'm using the Defender weapon to analyze balance \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Apr 13 '18 at 16:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Your most recent edit made it a little more clear. My mistake. \$\endgroup\$ – Erudaki Apr 13 '18 at 16:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ YOu may want to reference that the Defender is a Legendary magic item(although so is +3 armor). It doesn't just require attunement, but it does make this equivalent to giving a Legendary magic item to a PC at 3rd level . \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Apr 13 '18 at 17:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch - A +3 magic armor is also a legendary magic item. The reference is comparable for higher levels. but not for lower level +1 or +2 magic armors. \$\endgroup\$ – Erudaki Apr 13 '18 at 18:04
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Yes, but probably not too much

Let's compare it to something similar. Armor of Agathys. This, at low levels, deals 5 cold damage back on your attacker. It can be enhanced with higher spell levels, to do 5 extra damage per extra spell level. Making it far stronger than armor spikes. So right out the gate its stronger in that regard.

Some barbarians can also frenzy to get a bonus attack. since this uses their weapon, it is potentially dealing more damage than armor spikes could.

Even with the +3 magic armor which probably isnt easy to come by, your doing at most 6 spike damage. Barely stronger than the weakest version of armor of agathys, and getting a measly 1d4+str+3 which would still be weaker than the Frenzy Barbarian's Extra Attack.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I said I was comparing with similar. Not equivalent. Armor of agathys is a spell that can be 5x stronger than magic armor spikes at high level play when you would be obtaining armor this strong. And it gives temp health. Sure the frenzy comes with a drawback, but its still from the same class, and its a similar feature (extra attack) that benefits from weapon damage and enhancement bonus. Notice I said yes, it would affect balance. but a +1-3 scaling as you go up to higher levels and obtain better isn't going to be major balance offset. In the end its still GMs discretion as it is not raw. \$\endgroup\$ – Erudaki Apr 13 '18 at 14:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Your Amor of agathys is also not a perfect parallel. The damage from that spell is usually done only once or twice as the temp hp fade quickly at high level. Whereas the barbarian is always on \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Apr 13 '18 at 14:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Its not supposed to be a perfect parallel. Its supposed to be similar. \$\endgroup\$ – Erudaki Apr 13 '18 at 14:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Let me rephrase. It is not similar enough imo to get concrete information about balance \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Apr 13 '18 at 14:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you can find something more similar then let me know. Till then, its the closest thing to draw from in terms of balance. Furthermore. a +3 armor is generally found at around lv 17. +3 spike damage and +3 on a single attack damage isnt a huge deal at that point. Will it make a difference? Sure, potentially. Will it be major? No. \$\endgroup\$ – Erudaki Apr 13 '18 at 14:38
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It might depend on whether you are modifying the Battlerager ability to be able to treat Magic Armor bonuses as a Magic Weapon bonus or whether you are modifying Magic Armor to do more things than RAW or if you are making custom magic items.

The safest way to test out a balance change like this is to make it part of a custom magic item rather than a permanent feature. That way if you end up not liking it, you can remove the rule explicitly and ease the pain by rewarding a different magic item or you can just tempt the character with better armor and never give out the magic item again once removed.

I gave an idea in my answer to your other question about custom Magic Spiked Armor. I think for balance it is important to consider this to be higher-value treasure. That way you can easily account for the benefit you are giving to this character when you review the treasure distribution for the party.

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