The Tortle's Natural Armor ability says:

Due to your shell and the shape of your body, you are ill-suited to wearing armor. Your shell provides ample protection, however; it gives you a base AC of 17 (your Dexterity modifier doesn’t affect this number). You gain no benefit from wearing armor, but if you are using a shield, you can apply the shield’s bonus as normal.

The Monk's Unarmored Movement ability says:

Starting at 2nd level, your speed increases by 10 feet while you are not wearing armor or wielding a shield. This bonus increases when you reach certain monk levels, as shown in the Monk table.

The comments on this answer to a related question briefly mention the interaction between Natural Armor and Unarmored Movement, but nothing conclusive is discussed.

It is not clear if Natural Armor counts as worn, or even as armor, for the purposes of the Monk's Unarmored Movement Ability.

Does a Tortle's Natural Armor interfere with the Monk's Unarmored Movement ability?


3 Answers 3


No, having natural armor is not wearing armor.

The quotes you give provide ample support for this:

you are ill-suited to wearing armor. [...] You gain no benefit from wearing armor

your speed increases by 10 feet while you are not wearing armor

It seems pretty clear that the tortle's shell is not "wearing armor" and thus wouldn't impede the Monk speed increase.

I'd certainly be prepared for a DM to rule the other way on this, but I don't think it's a problem, provided you treat the Natural Armor trait as a flat armor calculation of its own so that you're choosing between either 17 or the Unarmored Defense calculation of 10 + Dex + Wis. It means a tortle monk will have a slightly higher than average AC for a monk, but with their Wisdom bonus not adding to that 17, it should be fine.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ I hope a DM wouldn't rule the other way, because "unexpectedly zippy turtle" is awesome. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Oct 24, 2020 at 17:29

A tortle's alternate AC calculation (AC 17) is no different from a Warforged's +1 AC bonus -- that is to say, neither of them are armor, and neither of them have any effect on Unarmored Movement.


You gain no benefit from wearing armor

Implies that your natural tortle shell does not, by itself, count as wearing armor.

  • \$\begingroup\$ @RallozarX where do you see that? Every resource I look at just says Warforged have a static +1. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 16:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ohh my mistake. I think I had it's effect confused with the defense fighting style. \$\endgroup\$
    – RallozarX
    Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 16:56

No, because it's not actually armor.

The natural armor ability you quote even makes the distinction between worn armor and natural armor when it says, “You gain no benefit from wearing armor,” and Unarmored Movement is only disabled when you are wearing armor. An unarmored Tortle Monk is not wearing armor, so it gets the benefit of Unarmored Movement.

Even from a conceptual viewpoint, it seems that the behind Unarmored Movement is that worn armor is an artificial constraint that interferes with the extra mobility and flexibility granted to the monk by their training, which is already going beyond what a normal member of their race usually experiences. Your Tortle Monk will still have received that training and should be expected to be faster than a normal Tortle so long as they are not attempting to wear restrictive armor.


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