I've been combing through the things in my Player's Handbook that I normally gloss over and realized that there's not much distinction between studded leather armor and leather armor. The 5e manual states about studded leather armor:

Made from tough but flexible leather, studded leather is reinforced with close-set rivets or spikes. [...] Weight: 13 lbs

And about leather armor:

The breastplate and shoulder protectors of this armor are made of leather that has been stiffened by being boiled in oil. The rest of the armor is made of softer and more flexible materials. [...] Weight: 10 lbs

So to my understanding, either leather armor's boiling in oil is something that studded leather armor doesn't have, or the only difference between the two is about 3 lbs of rivets/spikes.

Comparing the price per weight to things like ball bearings, or 5 lbs of iron spikes, the rivets/spikes used in the armor should come out to about 1 gp.

If you had a party member who was proficient in leatherworking and was willing to donate their time, could you transform a 10 gp Leather Armor into a 45 gp Studded Leather Armor for a mere 1 gp?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you. I went through 3 versions before the site stopped telling me it was too opinionated. \$\endgroup\$ – Victor B Mar 4 '19 at 18:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ Just as a note, sometimes the site's algorithm for what is opinionated is a little sensitive, so don't take it as law honestly. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Mar 4 '19 at 18:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ You've also got a quite bit of crafting questions - have you discussed how much crafting your DM is up for and what they're willing to do (homebrew items, mundane existing items, magic items, etc.?) If your DM isn't going to move forward with this, asking us won't get you very far :) \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Mar 4 '19 at 18:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ I ask despite if he will or won't allow it to get a better understanding. Though I think my DM is great, I'm not yet well versed in D&D to understand some of the short answers he gives to keep everyone happy. So this way, I won't get lost if he tells me that it doesn't work. \$\endgroup\$ – Victor B Mar 4 '19 at 18:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ You are definitely free to ask questions here, but we do tend to do better when there is actual and viable problem to be solved. I strongly recommend talking to your DM first about the level of crafting you are interested in and whether or not it will be possible (it's all going to be up to him) and only his opinion will matter. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Mar 4 '19 at 18:53

Not by Rules as Written.

The Downtime Activities section of the DMG has nothing on creating mundane items, just magical ones.

The optional Downtime Revisited rules from Xanathar's Guide to Everything, however, have this to say (XGtE 128):

Resources and Resolution. In addition to the appropriate tools for the item to be crafted, a character needs raw materials worth half the item's selling cost.

Therefore even if you counted Leather Armor as raw materials, you would only have 11 gold out of the required 22.5 gold.

The XGtE Downtime Revisited rules are optional, of course, so a DM could just rule that the plan works anyway, especially in a place like this, where it can be reasoned.

Additionally, below this is a table that states the tools required for various armors. It lists leather armor as something leatherworker's tools are capable of, and all other armors are made using smith's tools. It is unclear as to whether "leather armor" here applies to both types of leather armor or just the stat block of Leather armor, but I would rule that the creation of studs and rivets requires the use of smith's tools because of its metal nature.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That said, leatherworkers can work with soft metals, such as rivets and studs, Though they cannot create them, pounding them through the leather, and folding the tabs is quite possible within their skills, so I wonder. Either way, I haven't gotten that fare in XGtE yet, so thanks for the update \$\endgroup\$ – Victor B Mar 4 '19 at 18:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ Keep in mind there are also rules for crafting mundane gear in the basic rules p.71. These can also be more easily found on D&D Beyond \$\endgroup\$ – Sdjz Mar 4 '19 at 18:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Not just RAW; can’t by Real Life either: they’re different types of leather that aren’t suitable for making the other finished item. It’s like asking if a cotton shirt could be turned into a silk dress. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 4 '19 at 22:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ "you would only have 11 gold out of the required 22.5 gold." - So, buying 22.5 gp worth of armor-grade studs would do the job in the cost department? Applying ready-made studs to leather is fuzzy - I can see it ruled either way, using leather or smith tools (or either or both). \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Mar 5 '19 at 13:49

RAW, Leather Armor cannot be upgraded to Studded Leather Armor

I think it's reasonable, given that all the items involved are relatively low-tier equipment for the game, for a DM to fiat a method of cheaply upgrading one kind of armor to another. But the Rules-As-Written don't provide any such mechanic. It only provides rules for purchasing said equipment, or crafting the equipment wholesale for resources worth half the normal selling price with the benefit of the proper Artisan's Tools.

Using the price of Iron Ball Bearings to predict the price of Iron Rivets/Spikes is not a good idea

In real life, two objects that have the same mass and material type can still have very different properties [and consequently, cost] based on how they're manufactured. 5th Edition D&D doesn't spend a lot of effort trying to hash out these complications, and simply sets prices for standard objects and handwaves over the possible contradictions.

So neither the PHB nor the DMG attempt to price out the individual rivets used to produce Studded Leather Armor. But since Studded Leather Armor costs 35gp more than Leather Armor, and since a character with Leatherworking tools proficiency is able to produce a set of Studded Leather Armor at the cost of 22.5gp (using either the PHB rules for crafting mundane items or the Xanathar's Guide to Everything rules for crafting mundane items) we have to presume that between the leather of the armor itself and the rivets, 17.5gp of resources must be accounted for (the difference between crafting Leather Armor at 5gp of its normal 10gp price, and Studded Leather Armor at 22.5gp of its normal 45gp price). Again; the rules don't stipulate on exactly what that value constitutes.

Maybe Studded Leather Armor also has a higher quantity of Leather than regular Leather Armor, or maybe the rivets really are that expensive. Either way, it makes it unlikely that in the diegesis of 5th Edition D&D, the price of 5lbs of Iron Rivets is only a single gold piece; or at the very least that it's accurate to pin its price as such based only on a comparison to Ball Bearings.

  • \$\begingroup\$ You did bring up a good question about the type of leather ( making studded/leather armor from hellhound hide, etc. but that's for another day). I used both ball bearings and iron spikes as though their use and weight changed, they were both 1gp, giving me a ballpark figure. I was also looking at the fact that asking to craft something does cost money regardless of materials and such, so that must be part of the 22.5gp. Also, I've been reading people say RAW all day now. What does it mean? \$\endgroup\$ – Victor B Mar 4 '19 at 18:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @VictorB It means Rules as Written \$\endgroup\$ – Sdjz Mar 4 '19 at 18:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @VictorB Just to make sure you understand the rules: the rules for crafting mundane items require "raw materials worth half of the item's selling cost", so it's not strictly true to say that something costs money "regardless of the materials". If you have the appropriate materials, the artisans tools required, and proficiency in said tools, then no additional cost is necessary unless specified by the item itself. \$\endgroup\$ – Xirema Mar 4 '19 at 18:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @VictorB Note that if they wanted to use ball bearings, they would most likely have to melt them down and smelt them into spikes or rivets first. So, there's an added cost right there. (Based on logic, not actual rules.) \$\endgroup\$ – Justin Time - Reinstate Monica Mar 5 '19 at 0:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Justin Time True but I've been around scrap metal vendors and metal graveyards. They more often then naught sell metal by type and weight, and not by functionality. Using this as a guide, I went with ball bearings (100 drops of steel with a total weight of 3 lbs) and Iron Spikes (10 .5lbs spikes) which both were worth 1gp in order to make a quick assessment. \$\endgroup\$ – Victor B Mar 5 '19 at 5:33

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