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Every background provides you with clothes appropriate for your character. Because it's listed as "equipment" and because the Adventuring Gear table provides weights for several types of clothing [PHB pg. 150], it's reasonable to conclude that this mass must be accounted for when ensuring you remain under your carrying capacity, which is 15 lbs times your strength score [PHB pg. 176]. That's simple enough, and the 15 x STR limit is high enough to be effectively irrelevant unless you're trying to haul away a dragon's hoard.

However, if you're playing with the encumbrance variant [also PHB pg. 176], things can get more problematic. In that scenario, there's a movement penalty imposed for carrying more than 5 x STR, and quite severe penalties for carrying more than 10 x STR. For this reason, I prefer my characters to regularly carry no more than 10 x STR, and then to configure their gear in such a way that they can drop their pack to leave themselves with a "combat load" (of weapons, armor, precious items, etc.) that's less than 5 x STR.

However, I find myself pushing the limits when I have a character with average-to-low strength (say 8 or 10) and medium armor (usually 20-45 lbs). In this scenario, every pound matters, so I need to know: Is the clothing in a character's equipment actually a change of clothes, able to be stored in their pack and dropped during combat? Or is it added mass that they're wearing (under or over their armor) into battle?

Naked adventurers need not apply. (Bards should put their clothes back on. And barbarians . . . well, you do you.)

After further consideration, I've noted that the various sets of clothing in the Adventuring Gear table weigh from 3 to 6 pounds. I believe this is significantly more than a single day's set of modern clothing weighs, which would support the idea of this being extra clothing, but I have no actual data on the typical mass of modern or medieval clothing to back this up.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The question in the title doesn't seem to match the question in the text. From the text it seems you more interested in whether clothing needs to be worn under/along with armor. Is this correct? \$\endgroup\$ – smbailey Aug 26 at 21:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ No, not exactly. The question is whether the clothes in your equipment are extra clothes you keep in your pack or if they're clothes that you wear on your body (with your armor) during a normal adventuring day. \$\endgroup\$ – gto Aug 27 at 6:52
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You are carrying the clothes you are wearing.

This is not spelled out explicitly in the PHB or DMG, but I think this is common sense. Anything on your person that is not on you when you are totally naked contributes to the weight you are carrying.

If I weigh myself naked, I am going to weigh less than when I weigh myself when I put on my jeans, shirt, belt, and boots, and you said it yourself, "Naked adventurers need not apply".

You do not have a set of weightless default clothes (well, you do, your birthday suit). You have clothes made of materials that have mass and contribute to your carried weight.

But do you have to wear your clothes with your armor? That’s entirely up to you, and up to your DM to decide if the NPCs think you look ridiculous. Full plate armor? Probably don’t need the clothes. Breastplate? Better at least put some pants on.

The variant encumbrance rules are by design supposed to make you worry about every pound. Thinking about how your selection of armor relates to your normal clothes is exactly the kind of decision the variant encumbrance rules are trying to force. That you have this problem means that these variant rules have achieved their purpose, and if you find that less fun, talk to your DM about some sort of compromise or houserule, or if the variant rule is right for you and your table at all.

Just to give an idea of how much clothes actually weigh, I weighed myself with and without my work clothes.

Full work clothes:

enter image description here

Just my skivvies:

enter image description here

A difference of 7.6 pounds. A range of 3-6 pounds for the starting clothes is probably because adventurers can’t afford a decent pair of boots just starting out - my boots alone are nearly 5 pounds.

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  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Some spells (particularly those that deal with fire like good ol' Fireball) refer to things that "aren't worn or carried." The fact that both words are used would seem to indicate that there is some sort of relevant distinction between the two, though I do agree that, in practice, the two are probably interchangeable much of the time. \$\endgroup\$ – Rykara Aug 26 at 19:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think that's more of a protection against abuse of the general language of "carry", and not something that defines a distinction between worn and carried. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Aug 26 at 19:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rykara Do we have examples of things that interact differently with items that are worn versus carried? Otherwise, "worn or carried" sounds like it's just being maximally inclusive. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Aug 26 at 21:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ I will mention, I weighed myself both wearing and carrying my work clothes and I weighed the same. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Aug 26 at 21:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ Historical Note: In Dungeons and Dragons Third Edition, worn clothing explicitly didn't count against carrying capacity, but worn armour did. I always assumed this was to prevent munchkins from going naked. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Aug 26 at 22:39
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The extra clothing is worn separately from armor

The descriptions of the armor in the equipment section include information like:

Padded. Padded armor consists of quilted layers of cloth and batting.
...
Chain Shirt. Made of interlocking metal rings, a chain shirt is worn between layers of clothing or leather. This armor offers modest protection to the wearer's upper body and allows the sound of the rings rubbing against one another to be muffled by outer layers.
...
Chain Mail. Made of interlocking metal rings, chain mail includes a layer of quilted fabric worn underneath the mail to prevent chafing and to cushion the impact of blows. The suit includes gauntlets.

While not explicitly stated in the rulebook, it seems like any set of armor donned includes everything necessary to wear said armor (such as underclothing, padding, etc.) included in its weight.

The clothing provided by the character's background is "civilian clothes" to be worn when not wearing armor. This clothing does have its own weight, but it can be considered weight carried in your pack that can be dropped when entering into combat, unless you are purposefully wearing it.

Naked adventurers need not apply

I would note that classes that do not wear armor, such as barbarians, monks, or some spellcasters, should be assumed to be wearing something, so in their case they would most likely be wearing the clothing from their background or something of similar weight.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think "The clothing provided by the character's background is "civilian clothes" to be worn when not wearing armor." - specifically because most of the armors, especially for heavy armor, aren't things you'd just wear on top of bare skin. For example, "Half plate consists of shaped metal plates that cover most of the wearer's body." The padding of chain mail is necessary to "prevent chafing and to cushion the impact of blows", but that doesn't necessarily mean it takes the place of regular clothing - it just means that regular clothes don't do enough to cushion the blows. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Aug 26 at 20:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast I'm not asserting that you wear the armor on bare skin, but that purchasing the armor includes anything you need to effectively wear the armor. Historically most heavy armor was worn over a gambeson, which is basically the "padded armor" from the light armor section. The argument in my answer is that when you purchase and wear armor it includes all pieces of that armor, including padding (gambeson), leather or woolen pants, boots, etc. All included in the purchase price and weight of the armor, and worn instead of common clothes not on top of. \$\endgroup\$ – smbailey Aug 26 at 21:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Does a breastplate come with boots and pants? (Probably totally up to the DM). \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Aug 27 at 10:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov Agreed that it's up to the DM, but I would still personally say that the 400gp cost of the breastplate includes whatever combat-ready lightweight leggings and footwear you wear along with it, so it'd just weigh 20 pounds to wear the whole outfit, not 20 pounds plus the weight of your everyday clothing. \$\endgroup\$ – smbailey Aug 27 at 15:07

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