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I have an epic character in a game where epic armors and shields can go up to a +20 effective bonus and up to a +10 enhancement bonus at most, with enough money to buy a +20 armor and eventually a +20 shield.

I am looking to find the best armor I can get for this specific character, which I will later describe.

There are several things to consider while doing that:

  • I will be able to put armor special abilities also on two specific wondrous items, (epic) bracers of armor and harness of armor and some special abilities can also go on the shield.
  • Items in this game can not be mixed and matched (e.g. no Bracers of Armor of Archery) and I don't want to take the epic feat for an extra item slot, so those bracers or harness would occupy an item slot that would otherwise be free, and I would rather not.
  • At the same time, I would really like to get a +1 enhancement bonus on both armor and shield, even if pumping AC is not cost-effective, because I like big numbers.
  • As a result, if you need to put more than a +20's worth of armor and shield special abilities across the two items, you will have to explain why it is this necessary.

Due to how crafting and epic item prices work in this game, I will be able to add fixed price special abilities later at a more convenient price than if I put them on the armor right now, and there is not really any limit to how many I can get, therefore I don't need to know which ones to get.

On the contrary, I would like answers to tel me if my choices of armor type, craft and material are the best for my character and I would like them to suggest me how to best spend the +19 effective bonus past the mandatory +1.
I don't want to have to lose lots of gp by one day discovering there's a better loadout and selling my current armor to buy a new, more optimized one.

Of course, there might be other ways to get the same benefits that an armor or shield special ability would give me, for instance there might be a spell that makes the styptic special ability redundant and therefore unnecessary.
To this effect consider the following:

  • the Epic Spellcasting feat does not exist in this game;
  • my character has a high UMD check so minor schemas and eternal wands are an option, but I would rather avoid using consumables the character has to pay for regularly; this character will exist for so many in-game days that constant items are always worth the cost;
  • no custom constant items, only items that exist as they are on the manuals and magazines;
  • 3e material is generally not available (no dastana or chahar-aina, for instance, and no old spells that have never been revised);
  • the game uses a curated list of spells, but it's too long to duplicate here. If you want to suggest using a spell to avoid taking some armor enchantment, please ask in a comment if it's available first.

Note: no armor improvements from Dragon #358 except ornate and I'm limited to a single craft;


My character

I am playing a coward, pacifist explorer who will try to run, hide in plain sight, evade enemies and somehow lose them ...or die trying.

This means that they will not try fighting, which in turn means thwy will not need any ofensive or offensive-enabling anchantment.

What they already have is:

  • 60-ft. land speed
  • Freedom of Movement (Ex)
  • Underwater breathing and a swimming speed
  • Hide in Plain Sight and Camouflage in natural environments
  • Hide in Plain Sight in darkness (umbral crature, via greater collar of umbral metamorphosis, houseruled to work like the template)
  • +35 UMD
  • Minor schemas and eternal wands can be used to cast hours-long or day-long spells, but the CL is low.
  • lots of bonus fighter feats (from martial rogue, with the character being uninterested in dealing damage) means they might take exotic armor competence.

What they need are immunities, miss chances, AC.

The dangers

The Planescape setting and my character's will to visit most of it means that there's no end to the kind of enemies and environmental or planar conditions they might need to face.

The character has a ring of elemental resistance +20 and might later upgrade their armor to a +30 resistance to every energy type. I know about an enchantment that makes them temporarily immune to a single energy type of their choice but... is it worth it?

The idea

I would like to buy an ornate (Dr358) feycraft (DMGII) shadowsilk gnome twisted cloth.

  • The gnome twisted cloth is almost mandatory. I have a lot of Dexterity and the cloth is the only armor I know with no Max Dexterity.
  • Feycraft is there to remove the 5% arcane spell failure and I think it's better than githcraft for my character. Not that it will be relevant that often but the character casts as a 1st level wizard and might want to expand their spellcasting repertory in the far future. If not for that I would also have considered Gloryseeker, for it makes sense storywise that this epic crafter NPC is from Sif's court.
  • Ornate is almost useless but it does not prevent me from adding other things, so why not?
  • To my knowledge, no existing materials are applicable to gnome twist cloth, but the DM will let me use shadowsilk because the fluff says that it is applicable to all light armors.

I would like to get the following enchantments:

  • Ghost guard (+1). All that +10 also counts against touch now, on a Dex-based character.
  • Soulfire (+4). Immunity to death attacks and negative energy damage? Yes please.
  • Styptic (+1). Immunity to bleeding.
  • Improved blur (+3). Miss chance, all day long.
  • Displacing (+1). Higher miss chance, but shorter and only on call.

I know that the blur and distortion are avoidable by enemies with the right buffs, and that Styptic is unlikely to ever become relevant, and I could use that space for heavy fortification or absorbing, but those I can put on my +10 Ghost Guard buckler. Which enchantments can only go on armors and not on shields obviously plays a huge part.

It would be nice if I somehow managed to have an animated shield instead of the buckler, but I will need to remove some defensuive qualities.

The character already has Soulfire bracers of armor but the fact that bracers take up a slot makes me think taking that on the armor is better.

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  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Is bleeding a major focus of the campaign? Because sources of bleeding damage in 3.5e are extremely rare, so I never would have considered protecting against it anything of a priority. Likewise, are we to treat the +10 enhancement as an arbitrary and idiosyncratic constraint, or is there an actual problem that is trying to solve? \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Dec 25, 2022 at 17:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Nothing is prevalent and nothing is absent, and some PvP might be there as well, and who knows when some griefer might decide to go for a bleeding build. Anyway, I have a list of enchantments for armors and shields that I think are useful and they would amount to a total +19 without the hemostatic, so... I just had space for it. Same about the +10 I guess. Not having found anything interesting to place on that armor, I might as well put as much AC on it as I can. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Dec 26, 2022 at 0:55
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I’m not sure what your question actually is to be honest. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 29, 2022 at 0:31
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Do you think you could answer this appropriately, given you wanted to do so? \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Dec 29, 2022 at 11:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JamesRisner Is it clearer now? \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Dec 29, 2022 at 13:11

2 Answers 2

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High-Dexterity mortals gravitate to gnome twist cloth

The game considers negating an armor's maximum Dexterity bonus so incredibly awesome that only some gods can do it, and even those gods still labor under the maximum Dexterity bonus of heavy armors. (See the salient divine ability Divine Armor Mastery (Deities and Demigods 38).) Thus I agree with the wider community (for example, here and here) that if a creature's Dexterity score is higher than 30 then that creature typically wears magic gnome twist cloth (Races of Stone 158, 159) (150 gp; 5 lbs.) or a monk's belt (Dungeon Master's Guide 248) (13,000 gp; 1 lbs.) that's sometimes supplemented with and sometimes supplanted by bracers of armor (DMG 250) (1,000 gp; 1 lb.). (Folks with lower-but-still-high Dexterity scores wear celestial armor (DMG 220) (22,400 gp; 20 lbs.) or some variety of mithralmist shirt (Magic Item Compendium 20) (3,400 gp; 10 lbs.).)

As it's neither metal nor leather, gnome twist cloth typically just cannot be made from many special materials. Even allowing gnome twist cloth to be made from shadow silk (Tome of Magic 155) is generous on the DM's part. (Prices are given for shadow silk padded, leather, and hide, but how those prices were determined isn't disclosed, so your DM homebrewed a price.) Fortunately, as per the Dungeon Master's Guide II, you do have your choice of templates (273—9), but, as you've noted, such effects are often insignificant at epic levels.

Sidebar: Mundane modifications to consider

In addition to an oil chamber (Dungeonscape 30, 33–4) (1,000 gp; 0 lbs.) or two (see below for why), think about slapping onto your armor camouflage (underground) (Underdark 66) (300 gp; 2 lbs.), keel (Stormwrack 106) (50 gp; 2 lbs.), muffling (Underdark 66) (300 gp; 2 lbs.), netcutter spikes (Races of the Wild 167–8) (200 gp; 10 lbs.), riding straps (Races of Stone 157, 158) (200 gp; 0 lbs.), and sanctified (Du 30, 34) (50 gp; 0 lbs.) if you can make use of it. You may never experience some of these modifications' benefits during play, but to an epic adventurer wearing 16 extra lbs. is probably a bigger deal than spending an extra 3,100 gp. Also, many of these are unavailable as aftermarket additions, and a DM may rule that some are inappropriate for some armors. Shop carefully.

Alternatives to gnome twist cloth

If you can take for free or cheaply the feat Exotic Armor Proficiency (gnome twist cloth) (Shadowdale: The Scouring of the Land 149), then you should because then "the armor bonus from gnome twist cloth, including any enhancement bonus to AC, protects against touch attacks" (RS 159). Bear in mind, though, that the feat Exotic Armor Proficiency isn't technically available as a fighter bonus feat. It probably (and even logically) should be, but it wasn't in Underdark then was in Races of Stone then wasn't, finally, in Shadowdale. Yeah, I don't even. Talk to the GM. If you can't get free or cheaply the feat Exotic Armor Proficiency (gnome twist cloth), there are two alternatives.

  • Poison Ivy: The table's disapproval of most unrevised 3rd Edition material means that the light armor bondleaf wrap (Arms and Equipment Guide 14, 15) (1,000 gp; 2 lbs.) may not be available, but other readers may find it of interest. It grants the wearer a +1 armor bonus and has no Maximum Dexterity Bonus, armor check penalty, or chance of arcane spell failure. Also, the armor "grows into the skin [in 24 hours], drawing water and nutrients from its host. Afterward, as a standard action, you can command it to wrap around your body" (14). (Talk to the DM about the barghest-and-mephit oversight with regard to unwrapping it.)

    In other words, if you're not taking the feat Exotic Armor Proficiency (gnome twist cloth), bondleaf wrap is probably a better choice if you can afford it. (And, at epic levels, you can.) Further, a creature can probably (ahem) implant several bondleaf wraps with different magic armor special abilities and deploy them situationally.

  • Iron Man: The Clockwork Wonders Web column "Clockwork Armor" describes the clockwork armor (27,250 gp; 250 lbs. but for the wearer only 70 lbs.). Among other benefits, it grants the wearer a +8 armor bonus to AC and a +4 circumstance bonus to Strength and Dexterity. (By the way, I wrote that correctly, and you read that correctly.) The clockwork armor has no Maximum Dexterity Bonus or armor check penalty, and a proficient wearer who calibrates it properly suffers no chance of arcane spell failure. However, an effective Str 16 or higher is needed by a typical Medium creature to wear the armor without the wearer bearing a medium or greater load, and the clockwork armor kind of requires the feat Armor Proficiency (heavy) (PH 89) to use it. (That feat's not a fighter bonus feat either. I know, right?)

    In addition to possibly benefiting from special materials (unlikely) and templates (more likely), be sure to find the highest-level caster you can to cast on the clockwork armor the 6th-level Sor/Wiz spell hardening [trans] (Spell Compendium 109–10). And for Pelor's sake don't forget to make it durable (Du 39) (500 gp; 0 lbs.). The clockwork armor's serious drawbacks mean that I can't recommend it for every campaign, but if you prefer actual, for-reals armor as your epic outfit, the clockwork armor is probably your best bet. (By the way, while written with the Eberron campaign setting in mind—as can be seen by the article's Campaign Hooks section—, nothing in the description of the clockwork armor makes it specific to Eberron. In fact, the opening narrative has Mialee and Ragdar [sic], who are typically considered Greyhawk inhabitants, discussing the armor, but they could've visited Eberron, I guess.)

In short, given the character's extreme Dexterity, the undesirability of butting against an armor's maximum Dexterity bonus, and the possibility of an increased touch AC, there is no cheaper and better all-purpose armor than gnome twist cloth.

Some comments on those magic armor special abilities

The first thing I'm going to mention is the 1st-level artificer infusion lesser armor enhancement [trans] (Eberron Campaign Setting 108) et al. that each have a casting time of 1 min. and that for 10 min. per caster level grant even a nonmagical shield or armor a magic armor special ability. If the DM rules that these infusions can be made into magic oils (as infusions "function just like spells and follow all the rules for spells" (31)), they then take only a standard action to apply—or, when loaded into an armor or shield's oil chamber, a mere swift action to apply. (See why you want two chambers?)

  • The ability ghost ward (Magic Item Compendium 11) (+1 bonus; 0 lbs.) might come in handy if attack rolls still matter in your epic campaign. However, in my experience, most encounters at least begin at range past about an average party level of 5 and probably also end at range past APL 9. So I recommend first getting ready access to the 4th-level Sor/Wiz spell ray deflection [abjur] (Spell Compendium 166) or friendly fire [abjur] (Exemplars of Evil 27) then worrying about acquiring this magic armor special ability. Nonetheless, the price is small enough and the bonus big enough that having it could save you.
  • The ability soulfire (Book of Exalted Deeds 112) (+4 bonus; 0 lbs.) is boss in that it doesn't require any action on your part, but its effects and more can be duplicated for 3 rounds per day by taking a swift action to activate a talisman of undying fortitude (MIC 188) (8,000 gp; 0 lbs.), which remains a valid choice for a glove of the master strategist (Ghostwalk 71) (3,600 gp; 0 lbs.) for many folks even at epic levels for the depth of protection it provides.
  • The ability styptic (MIC 15) (+1 bonus; 0 lbs.) prevents the wearer from bleeding to death—which happens even less in epic play than it does normally. Thus you're taking this in hopes that when the ability's description says that Regardless of their source, bleeding wounds automatically close that it's creating new, standalone rules rather than introducing how the ability stabilizes you and how it offers a lousy 25% chance of ignoring Con ouchies from vampires and wounding weapons (To be fair, though, that's better than is offered by the periapt of wound closure (Dungeon Master's Guide 264) (15,000 gp; 0 lbs.).) That's a neat and imminently fair standalone rule, but even that only covers, like, a spare handful of things. (For instance, when read that way, it should prevent the bleeding caused by way of the rare feat Arterial Strike (Complete Warrior 96) and the even rarer feat Wind and Fire (Secrets of Sarlona 119).) Also, I point at the talisman mentioned above; it solves many of the same problems the styptic ability solves, too.
  • The ability improved blurring (MIC 9) (+2 synergy with blurring (ibid.) therefore total +3; 0 lbs.) essentially grants the wearer in 10 min. increments but otherwise forevermore a 20% miss chance, which is fine (and reasonably comparable to the the ability gleaming (Expanded Psionics Handbook 162) (+3 bonus; 0 lbs.).) However, relying on it means that you're both not in natural terrain and in an area of bright light as, otherwise, you'd use a version of hide in plain sight and get a 50% miss chance. (One spell—the 3rd-level Sor/Wiz spell corpse candle [conj] (SpC 53)—reveals actually hidden (rather than, for example, merely invisible) creatures; everything else makes Spot and Listen skill checks.) Consider acquiring access to the 2nd-level Sor/Wiz spell blur [illus] (PH 206) and casting it (or donning a magic cloak) then arranging things to where you're just not often in unnatural terrain or under bright lights. The same applies to the ability displacement (MIC 10) (+1 bonus; 0 lbs.)—get access to the 3rd-level Sor/Wiz spell displacement [illus] (PH 223) instead.

That said, I'd urge you toward the following:

  • The magic armor special ability proof against transmutation (Complete Arcane 142) (+5 bonus; 0 lbs.) allows the wearer to opt to be affected by any transmutation effect that would change the wearer's form. Such an effect is extremely difficult to duplicate by other means. The description implies that it can only be applied to armor.
  • The magic armor or shield special ability empyreal (BE 112) (+2 bonus; 0 lbs.) allows the wearer to temporarily trade at 1:1 the armor or shield's magical enhancement bonus for a sacred bonus on all saving throws, the trade lasting for a minimum of 1 round. If you've no greater source of a sacred bonus to saving throws, while not under immediate threat of attack this is better than +10 AC. Put this on your shield.

All that said, given your circumstances, and assuming you can take Exotic Armor Proficiency (gnome twist cloth), I'd recommend +10 ghost ward proof against transmutation soulfire gnome twist cloth and keeping its oil chambers loaded with appropriate oils of armor enhancement to add magic armor abilities you wanted but couldn't fit. And stay out of the light.


Note: In many campaigns, chasing Armor Class at all is a fool's errand after a certain point. Instead, folks get as high a miss chance as they can and enough AC to ignore low-level folks and go adventuring. The idea that you want your AC to matter means tossing enormous resources at a game element the DM may end up largely ignoring. Still, it sounds like you're playing a campaign wherein the DM has reined in some of the crazy that can occur at epic levels, so consider just asking the DM if investing in AC to this degree is valid, or if you'd be better served putting your resources elsewhere.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Since the armor can be netcutter spiked, consider noting the 3e era +1 weapon ability smoking (LoD 180) (5'×5' stinking cloud, whenever stationary, penalties exclude wielder). Also other weapon enhancements might then be notable (for the armor spikes, or the shield). Additionally, regarding netcutter spikes; the wearer must be proficient with the armor to gain the spikes' benefit, unlike regular spikes. Lastly, 'imminently fair' ('soon', near at hand) should likely be 'eminently...' ('very much', in this case) \$\endgroup\$
    – Chemus
    Jan 1, 2023 at 17:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Chemus I kind of expected readers to do their own research on accessories since they're not a big deal, but If an offhand mention of an alternative to armor spikes makes you think I've opened a can of worms, I'll just delete that reference instead of obligating myself to get into, like, magic weapon special abilities. (And, to be clear, I banned in my campaigns the smoking ability because with it means every dude with about 100 gp puts it on a shuriken and carries it in his shield hand, and that world's weird.) I'll fix imminent when (inevitably) I need to fix something else. Thank you. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 2, 2023 at 4:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ No cans of worms in my eyes; the completeness of your answer suggested to me that the proficiency detail might have been important to you. I see your point regarding smoking, and though I enjoy the optimizing part of the game quite a lot, I think the shuriken is a bit outré. In my games that allow it, we commonly use gauntlets of it at normal price (4k, usually). And regarding the grammarian commentary, I'd wanted to be softer, but ran up against the character limit and any softening got cut. Great answer, to my lights; upvoted already earlier. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chemus
    Jan 2, 2023 at 8:02
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Other than getting comp bonus to hide/move silently via shadow/silent moves, if you don't have that from somewhere already, sure.

The main things to get are soulfire and heavy fort. If you have those, everything else is pretty marginal. There's Gleaming, empyreal, mindarmour, resilient, blueshine, freedom, etc, but if you're playing 'epic with potential backstabbing and optimizing' then i'd hope you are immune to causality to some degree already. Extra saves won't help you vs irresistible Something or Other at DC 4820, but extra skill check bonus might if people have forgotten to pump their spot/listen/etc and you're vecna-blooded.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Might you expand a bit about where to find those things you mentioned? With freedom I think you mean freedom of movement which my character already has from class levels? I'm not vecna-blooded nor I am familiar with whatever you're suggesting me to do with it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Jan 1, 2023 at 10:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Zachiel vecna-blooded is part of the 'no find me' suite in terms of optimization. if you don't have it, you can likely be detected by lifesight or locate person or scrying or 'some spell from Reptile Kingdoms of Kordarra'. If you're playing the kind of Epic where people take Epic Weapon Focus, then it doesn't matter, but if you're playing the kind where people go online for info, you generally want to be unfindable, invulnerable (via immunities), not present (telepresence of some kind), or a time manipulator. I assumed you were going for the former. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2754
    Jan 2, 2023 at 5:05

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