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The Armorer Artificer's Arcane Armor feature says:

If the armor normally has a Strength requirement, the arcane armor lacks this requirement for you.

This is in reference to the following regarding certain heavy armors:

If the Armor table shows "Str 13" or "Str 15" in the Strength column for an armor type, the armor reduces the wearer's speed by 10 feet unless the wearer has a Strength score equal to or higher than the listed score. [PHB, pg 144]

However, the Encumbrance variant says, in part:

When you use this variant, ignore the Strength column of the Armor table in chapter 5.

If you carry weight in excess of 5 times your Strength score, you are encumbered, which means your speed drops by 10 feet. [PHB, pg 176]

Is there guidance for how to apply the Arcane Armor feature at a table that uses the Encumbrance variant?

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2 Answers 2

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Since encumbrance is a variant rule, the book does not cover how it would interact with Arcane Armor.

In the absence of an official rule, it'll be up to your DM to make a decision.

If I were the DM here, I'd probably just rule that the weight of the Arcane Armor doesn't count against your encumbrance limit when you're wearing it -- it's basically power armor, so it's logical that the armor's enhancements allow it to support its own weight and inertia. That seems like the simplest rule, and in line with the original intent of removing the strength limit.

That said, I personally don't care that much if one of my players can lug around an extra twenty pounds of stuff, but a DM who's using variant encumbrance probably cares a lot about the fine details of how much you can carry. So he may be more willing than I am to delve into complicated rulings about how the class feature operates.

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I can not find any existing guidance on how to rule this, so this is purely how I would handle it.

Arcane Armor's feature:

If the armor normally has a Strength requirement, the arcane armor lacks this requirement for you.

This feature is obviously meant to allow low STR build artificers to potentially use Heavy Armor as their Arcane Armor without the normal movement speed reduction. To keep a similar intention alive using the Encumbrance variant rules the most clear cut option is to reduce the weight of the Arcane Armor when worn by the Artificer. To take a look at the relevant numbers for heavy armor with STR requirements:

  • Chain Mail - STR 13 - 55 lb.
  • Splint - STR 15 - 60 lb.
  • Plate - STR 15 - 65 lb.

I will assume a "low STR build" to have around 8-12 in STR, which would put their carrying weight without being Encumbered using Encumbrance variant rules at 40-60 lb.

It is up to the table and DM how "strict" you want to be, but I think -20 lb., -30 lb., or halving the weight of Arcane Armor when worn by the Artificer are all valid options that keep the spirit of Arcane's Armor features alive while also not completely removing the fun a table might have with the weight resource management that the Encumbrance variant rules provide.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I absolutely agree with the general sentiment of your answer, but wanted to ask what would you think about just not counting worn armor's weight towards the encumbrance total. Since the effect of Arcane Armor without the optional rule is the same over all of the armor types, I would see it as a closer analog. It would still leave the players to manage weight in other areas (weapons, rations, bedroll, etc…) \$\endgroup\$
    – J.E
    Nov 19, 2020 at 13:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Personally I don't think treating it as 0 weight is quite appropriate. Though as things are it needs to be homebrewed specifically for the optional rule to make things work. So if the DM allows it then that's that. That said, even with the encumbrance rule the lightest armor would normally get is 13 pounds (dex characters are won't sacrifice 1 AC to wear something a mere 3 pounds lighter), If your armor didn't weigh anything the armorer becomes the lightest armor wearer in the game under encumbrance rules. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dezvul
    Nov 20, 2020 at 4:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think mechanically the armorer getting heavy armor is about giving him 1 more AC and making it thematic. But making him weightless with encumbrance rules gives him a lot of invisible power. Even other artificers usually have to sacrifice 1 AC under encumbrance rules (halfplate taking 40 pounds encumbers you on its own if you have 8 strength). They end up with breastplate, and it still weighs half their carry weight. Making the armorer's heavy armor weightless would now give him 2 AC instead of 1 over other artificers, and 20 additional pounds of carry weight. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dezvul
    Nov 20, 2020 at 5:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Speaking of which, for an artificer with breastplate: armor weighs 20 pounds, a shield weighs 6, traveler's clothing (DMs I know that play by encumbrance typically mandate it) weighs 4, This leaves you with 10 pounds left over, heck a water skin is 7 and day of rations is 2, you can't even afford to carry a weapon at this point. 20 pounds changes everything! If you were to make the armor weight nothing it would break the spirit of encumbrance in my opinion. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dezvul
    Nov 20, 2020 at 5:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @J.E I considered adding it and obviously that is a valid option considering there is no official ruling and thus it's completely up to the DM. I left it out however because as somewhat described in other comments, people using the Encumbrance variant rules do so because they enjoy the resource management challenge it provides. Having a class feature completely circumvent this felt wrong to me. \$\endgroup\$
    – anon
    Nov 20, 2020 at 5:46

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