Layering armour was common, historically, for those who could afford it. Which lead me to the realization that I can't recall any rules prohibiting layering armour.

Although the d20 System is an exception-based rule-set, it still basis itself on "the common understanding" - That is, for example, real horses eat grass, so d20 System horses eat grass (unless a rule says otherwise), so Unicorns, which are based on horses, eat grass (unless a rule says otherwise).

From there, there is a train of logic: real armour can be layered, or designed to be layered; so d20 System armour can be layered, or designed to be layered - unless a rule says otherwise.

So: Can anyone quote rules either prohibiting or covering layering armour, or is there any RAW or FAQ covering it?

  • \$\begingroup\$ @DanielZastoupil See this FAQ for why your comment was removed. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 14, 2018 at 0:50

2 Answers 2


The rules do discuss layering armor—in that it’s already assumed that this is what you are doing and the benefit of doing so is already a part of the armor’s statted armor bonus to AC. For example,

Full plate

The suit includes gauntlets, heavy leather boots, a visored helmet, and a thick layer of padding that is worn underneath the armor.

That thick layer of padding is traditionally the same thing as padded armor. If you were to use leather or hide, instead, it would just be bulkier, heavier, and hotter—not any more protective. And it’s not mentioned here, but of course you’re wearing chain too, because that’s how full plate works: padding, then chain, and then plates over the top of that. The chain is mostly for joints where you can’t put plates, and is already factored into the +8 armor bonus to AC.

So long story short, you can’t get any benefit from layering multiple kinds of armors because the game already assumes you are doing that.

As a matter of rules, all armors provide an armor bonus to AC, and typed bonuses do not stack.

Armor/Shield Bonus

Each armor grants an armor bonus to AC, while shields grant a shield bonus to AC. The armor bonus from a suit of armor doesn’t stack with other effects or items that grant an armor bonus.

(emphasis mine, armor/shield bonus rules)

As for magic armors, there you are limited by the rules for magic item slots:

A humanoid-shaped body can be decked out in magic gear consisting of one item from each of the following groups, keyed to which place on the body the item is worn.

  • One robe or suit of armor on the body (over a vest, vestment, or shirt)

(rules for magic items on the body)

So if you wear two magic suits of armor, they don’t both work.

The Oriental Adventures exceptions

Oriental Adventures is a 3.0e campaign setting book for Rokugan (the same setting as Legend of the Five Rings), and it includes the wildly-ill-considered chahar-aina and dastana. These actually are modular armor layers that you can add to other items, giving them +1 more armor bonus to AC, at the cost of −1 more armor check penalty. They can only be layered with light armor, the chahar-aina effectively being a breastplate (and requiring medium armor proficiency) and the dastana being oversized bracers.

Both of these items represent an author basically misunderstanding how armor works. The chahar-aina should have just been a separate medium armor, noted as including layers of padding and/or chain, while the dastanas should have just been an unusual shield (3.0e didn’t have separate shield bonuses to AC, which may well explain the dastana by itself). They are frequently banned, even in games that are expansive enough to otherwise allow Oriental Adventures material. When allowed, they are “gimme” options that just about every character ever should use, which is why they usually get banned.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Note: there is the special case of Chahar-aina which when worn over a Light Armor increases its AC by +1 (and the Dastana, which are bracers, for another +1). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 15, 2018 at 18:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MatthieuM. Point, forgot about those. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Nov 15, 2018 at 20:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ However, there are situations where this can be useful. Take the specific magic armor "Fleshshifter Armor" from the Book of Vile Darkness. It is +1 Leather armor that allows the user to activate Alter Self at will. Some DMs are not okay with using specific magic equipment as a pricing guide for getting custom ones made, which means the highest AC you can get on this is 3 unless you spend more gold to raise the enhancement bonus. However, if you wear a nonmagical breastplate on top of this you would only get the highest armor bonus to AC, which would be the breastplate’s 5. \$\endgroup\$
    – Benjamin
    Commented May 12, 2021 at 19:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Benjamin Yeah, you could maybe do that, though the rules don’t really discuss it so you’d better discuss it with your DM. At a guess, the population of DMs who will allow that, but won’t allow, say, a fleshshifter breastplate, is rather small. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented May 12, 2021 at 19:38

Standard rules state that bonuses of the same type overlap instead of stack, so if you wear two armors you only get the benefit of the one with the better armor bonus.

That said, having two layers may have durability implications since the outer layer would most likely take beatings before the inner layer. If you plan to enter a heavy battle it might be worth having a built in spare.

On the other hand, you suffer the encumbrance of both of them at the same time so I definitely wouldn't go swimming any time soon.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Your answer is correct but can be better improved by actually pointing to the rules which state this rather than "if Im not mistaken". \$\endgroup\$
    – Fering
    Commented Nov 14, 2018 at 1:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Fering means adding a citation, not just removing “If I’m not mistaken”. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 14, 2018 at 7:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also I think you accidentally got the statement “bonuses of the same type stack instead of overlapping” the wrong way around than you meant to, considering your next statement says it’s the other way around. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 14, 2018 at 7:01

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