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A level 3 druid character wants to help animals by making them capable of overcoming the threat of humans and other sentient races. To this end, his life goal is to equip a blue whale with plate armor, thus making it effectively immune to most harpoon hunting.

Obviously, this is a ridiculous task, but what is the most effective way to accomplish it within a standard D&D setting, factoring in time and resource efficiency?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to rpg.se! Take the tour and visit the help center when you get a chance. For this question should we assume the whale is friendly and willing? Or do answers need to deal with that as well? Thanks for participating and happy gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin May 6 '19 at 6:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is the greatest question ever. I now want to create this druid as my character \$\endgroup\$ – BBlake May 6 '19 at 14:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ Does he want to equip a single whale? That seems not very impactful as a life goal. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch May 6 '19 at 15:50
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RAW: It'll cost 6000 gp; you should use fabricate

The rules for barding (PHB p. 155) don't account for size so the armour for any sized creature costs four times and weight twice that of normal armour (as listed on PHB p. 145). This brings the barding in at 6000 gp and 130 lb. This is ostensibly the cost of having the armour made although your DM might require the blacksmith to be persuaded to undertake such an odd task.

If you want to save money and have time to spare (and proficiency in Smith's tools) you could make it yourself. Using the rules for crafting nonmagical items (PHB p. 187) you need materials equal to half the market value (3000 gp) and make 5gp worth of progress per day, a requiring mere 1200 days which is only slightly more than 3 years. Unfortunatly as you're going to have to get this custom made (presumably) it's going to take any smith the same amount of work days to get this done (the workdays can be shared between multiple smiths to reduce total time).

If you want a bit more expeditious progress you will need a Wizard friend. (I mean, we all need a Wizard friend.) A 7th-level (or higher) wizard, specifically, and one that is proficient with smith's tools. The spell we're after is fabricate which will let the Wizard transform raw materials into armor (among other, similar uses). Fabricate is (for metals) limited to a 5 ft. cube, which depending on how well whale barding can be tetrised into a cube, might require more than one casting (your DM's call).

Also, if you don't have a Wizard who would be willing to work for free and have to rely on Wizards-for-hire, that will cost you an amount up to your DM, as there are no rules specified in the Spellcasting services 'rules' (PHB p. 159).

The above assumed a whale would need as much (or little) barding as 'regular' mounts. These span the size range between Mastiffs (Medium) to Elephants (Huge). While not specifically adressed it is implied that the barding rules apply to all of these, likely in the interest of simplicity. However your DM might require that effective armour for a whale need to cover more of its body that an elephant needs.

Also, there is no stat block for whales (as far I know) and the closest is Killer Whale which are Huge and which are smaller than actual whales (6 tonnes versus up to 150 tonnes). On that basis a whale might easily be Gargantuan.

Therefore your DM might rule that whale barding is double (or more) that of normal barding, which would apply that same multiplier to all the numbers given above (not the Wizard level). You have 6k gp and 6 years of your life to spend on this, right?

This is of course only the matter of obtaining the armour. Putting it on the whale is also gonna be non-trivial. The rules for getting into armour (PHB p. 146) puts donning heavy armour to 10 minutes. This is probably unrealistic. Whales don't have handsCitation Needed! and so can't help itself. Even assuming the whale is cooperative in this endevour, you are probably gonna have to put this stuff in water unless you want go through the process of beaching and unbeaching (debeaching?) a whale.

Let's talk about Armoured Whales

We'll start with the rules-as-written effects of plate armour on a whale. For these purposes will use the stats of a Killer Whale. Firstly, its AC will become 18 (this was the point presumably). It fulfills the Strength score requirement (19 > 15); however, it is unlikely that whales are naturally proficient in heavy armour, and the downsides to that suck. While losing spellcasting probably isn't going to affect the whale too badly, disdvantage on any roll (ability check, saving throw, or attack) that uses Strength or Dexterity is quite crippling.

How to train your whale (in heavy armour) is up to you though. I can't help you. The whale is going to have disadvantage on Dexterity (Stealth) regardless. A Killer Whale has a carrying capacity of 1140 lb, though, so even with a lot of barding, it shouldn't be encumbered. Doubled of normal barding (260 lb) and using the variant encumbrance rules (PHB p. 176), the whale is not encumbered (could carry 380 lb without being so), and even if it were, its speed would only be reduced by 10 ft. There are (to my knowledge) no rules which says being underwater affects such capacities. This seems like the point to mention that D&D is not a physics simulator. There is nothing given in D&D for how armour affects a whales ability to swim, but there are a lot of edge cases which aren't covered super well (read: left to DM fiat).

Wrapping a whale (or pretty much anything else) in metal plating will increase its density. Increasing a whale's density will likely make it sink. This is going to be very bad for your whale. You have in some sense made a whale-filled metal capsule and might be about to find out whether your DM's world contains a version of the RSPCA.1

Assuming the whale doesn't drown immediately there are a couple of long term problems. Firstly you have made armour out of (medieval) steel and whales live in water. Steel rusts. Armour which rusts is at best going to fall off and at worst we're back to whale filled capsules only now with a lovely patina. Of course you could get meteoric iron (which is nickel rich), but that's gonna be a lot harder to track down.

Secondly wearing plate armour all the time isn't going to be very comfortable and your whale is going to have a hard time doffing it on its own. Humans need help putting plate armour on (which is a big part of why knights have squires) and unless your whale have some miraculously dexterous flippers its gonna need help.


1: See this list to translate into your local version of this joke.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It is highly unlikely that a whale with boarding that covers most of its body could come up for air. \$\endgroup\$ – András May 6 '19 at 8:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @András: Certainly is. But D&D land doesn't seem to have physics. \$\endgroup\$ – John Dallman May 6 '19 at 9:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Zoma I think that the main concern here is not whether it has a slot from which to breathe but more of the weight and boyancy issue. There should also be a concern of hydrodynamics, obviously water is much denser than air and water fauna is designed to be stream-lined, barding should/would disrupt that and slow them down considerably. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth May 6 '19 at 12:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ It is not abought weight, but buoyancy. A baby whale inside her mother has about the same buoyancy as the mother. A plate boarding would bring her to the bottom for ever, quite reliably protecting her from whalers. \$\endgroup\$ – András May 6 '19 at 18:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @lisardggY It was intended as a joke, but I appreciate the due diligence. \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil May 7 '19 at 18:24
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Wish

Though Someone_Evil’s answer seems to answer your question perfectly, there are some downsides that they noted. Most if not all could be negated through the mightiest spell a mortal can cast. Wish could be used to create Mithral Blue Whale barding. This path to creating Blue Whale barding would be nearly impossible without DM buy in for one or more reasons though. First the DM would have to determine if mithral is inherently magical.

You create one object of up to 25,000 gp in value that isn't a magic item. The object can be no more than 300 feet in any dimension, and it appears in an unoccupied space you can see on the ground.

Secondly, if the party doesn’t have a spell caster who could/would cast the spell, provide a single Wish to the Druid.

Benefits of using Wish

  1. Using Wish allows the lifelong goal to be completed during the campaign. Without Wish a DM who would like to allow the Druid to reach their goal in game would possibly need to time skip or add in a lot of downtime.
  2. Mithral Barding is flexible and does not have a strength requirement or stealth disadvantage. At 1/2 the weight of “normal” Blue Whale Barding the whale would have a better chance at not drowning.
  3. Mithral Barding won’t rust in salt water. This would be up to the DM of course.
  4. You are using Wish to bard a whale.

Downsides of using Wish

  1. Finally, there is a 33 percent chance that you are unable to cast wish ever again if you suffer this stress.

  2. You are using a Wish to bard a whale

I am not suggesting the players DM hand out a Wish at an early level or that there wouldn’t be moral dilemmas, consequence, or epic quests.

I Wish for Mithral Barding for Bitsy the Blue Whale.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ From a RAF perspective, your point 2 is a point for, rather than a down side. 8^D \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 7 '19 at 12:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ True, the entire notion is totally crazy, I am going to edit. :) \$\endgroup\$ – Alk May 7 '19 at 12:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Normally, I'm not a huge fan of using wish as an answer because of the easy-buttonness of it. But in this case, I very much am. It's a bizarre life goal and a fun use of the spell to make it work. +1 \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch May 7 '19 at 14:31
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Magical Armour Extremes

Following on from Are there any guidelines in place governing the extent to which magic items can resize to different-sized users? and taking it to extremes, you could save a lot of money with some ropey rules use with magical barding or armour. Just take the following steps:

  1. Meet a (preferably willing) whale and Polymorph them into a smaller lifeform such as a goldfish or a human as Polymorph allows changing size as:

    The new form can be any beast whose challenge rating is equal to or less than the target’s (or the target’s level, if it doesn’t have a challenge rating). The target’s game statistics, including mental ability scores, are replaced by the statistics of the chosen beast. It retains its alignment and personality.

  2. Take your measurements and allow the spell to end, thank the whale for visiting your shop and let them know that you'll contact them when their armour is ready.

  3. Craft a teeny-tiny set of magical armour/barding for the goldfish.

  4. Polymorph the whale again, pop the magical armour on and then let the spell end, the armour will then resize to fit the whale. Sadly I couldn't find any effects/bonuses for magical armour to assist swimming or buoyancy in standard 5e, but there are third party ones.

  5. Cross your fingers, as there's a lot of unknowns here, like what happens if the species of the creature wearing the armour changes or if the armour has to cope with changing umpteen size categories in a moment.

  6. Rinse and repeat, armour up a whole pod and conquer the seas!

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