In comments under an otherwise persuasive answer, KRyan mentions that armor proficiencies are always by category, i.e. armor proficiencies only come as light, medium, and heavy armor proficiency.

This is in contrast to weapon proficiencies, which come as simple, martial, and exotic, but also come as monk weapon proficiencies, elf weapon proficiencies, and others, as well as any number of individual weapon proficiencies.

I can't think of any counterexamples or of anything explicit: Is there good evidence as to whether armor proficiencies are always by category?

KRyan comments:

Races of Stone does introduce another subcategory of armor, “exotic.” Exotic armors are still light, medium, or heavy, and you need both the proficiency for the weight category, and Exotic Armor Proficiency. If I recall correctly, Exotic Armor Proficiency does apply to a specific armor and not a category, but since it’s orthogonal to the weight question (and you still need the proficiency in the weight category too), it seems like not what you’re asking about...

Exotic armor appears to me to be introduced as a special case. I am open to answers which reason from there to say that you could have (say) proficiency in only studded leather armor, but I think there is a non-trivial explanation that has to come with that.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm all for idle curiosity and all for research for research's sake, but I'd still like some context. What difference does it make? I mean, if one creature in the entire D&D 3.5 canon does have proficiency with just hide armor or whatever, why does that matter? Even If you're trying to homebrew something strictly according to the rules—counterintuitive as that may seem—, you giving your custom class proficiency with just hide armor is fine because you're creating the class. (I use this as an example because I literally can't think of any others; more—and enlightenment—appreciated!) \$\endgroup\$ Nov 20 at 0:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan That's fair. The entire context is the linked question, and that this aspect of it seemed unfair for a comment-exchange there. Since then, the answer was updated to moot this aspect of it, but I'm still curious. \$\endgroup\$
    – fectin
    Nov 20 at 3:40

1 Answer 1


Yes if core-only, and No if you include certain extension(s) to your campaign.

In 3.5e core, there are only three feats for Armor Proficiency:

  • Armor Proficiency (light)
  • Armor Proficiency (medium)
  • Armor Proficiency (heavy)

And exotic armors simply do not exist. So we can safely say that it is just by category in normal cases.

Some extensions do provide extra proficiency, like the "Exotic Armor Proficiency" you mentioned. I also see a feat called Dwarven Armor Proficiency (which is also in Race of Stone) which allows you to take multiple exotic armor proficiency in one go. But other than those, I believe the light, medium, and heavy categories would be the case.

On the other hand, it is not quite correct that

...weapon proficiencies, which come as simple, martial, and exotic, but also come as monk weapon proficiencies, elf weapon proficiencies, and others, as well as any number of individual weapon proficiencies.

When we read it in the game material, we can see that there's no such thing of "Martial Weapon Proficiency", "Simple Weapon Proficiency" or so on, which would allow you to become proficient in all weapons in the selected category. What exactly is happening there is something like this:

Clerics are proficient with all simple weapons, with all types of armor (light, medium, and heavy), and with shields (except tower shields).

Theoretically, the Clerics are not obtaining something called "Simple Weapon Proficiency". Instead, they are considered to have obtained all the Simple Weapon Proficiency feats they need when they encounter any Simple Weapons in future. If we look at the "feat" system only, you still need to pick one weapon at a time (although nobody actually does this except for Exotic weapons).

I would say the question is comparing a class/race trait with a feat. It is quite reasonable that these two are different, from a Game Design perspective.

(PS. In my personal opinion, I would say "your race/class makes you proficient on something" and "your feat makes you proficient on something" is completely different. A cleric may be proficient with all Simple weapons, but that thing won't show up in his feat list.)

(PS2. One funny thing is that, Monk is not proficient with Unarmed Strike, and Improved Unarmed Strike (a feat) won't make you proficient with Unarmed Strike.)

  • \$\begingroup\$ Does Dwarven Armor Proficiency cover the light/medium/heavy proficiency requirement, too, or just the Exotic Armor Proficiency requirement? If I recall correctly, it’s the latter, which means those armors are still covered by the weight category proficiencies, they just also need specific additional proficiencies (that you can get through Exotic Armor Proficiency or Dwarven Armor Proficiency). Doesn’t seem like the same thing as weapons. As for the second half of the answer, you are responding to a character-limited comment that was forced to abbreviate; there was no confusion there. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    22 hours ago
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan It has a prereq of heavy armor proficiency, so you will need to be proficient with heavy armors anyway before you can take it. It provides the proficiency for several different exotic armors (battle plate, interlocking plate, interlocking scale, and mountain plate), but all of them are heavy armors so it doesn't matter. \$\endgroup\$ 16 hours ago
  • \$\begingroup\$ OK, well. I’m downvoting because 1. “we can safely assume that it is just by category in normal cases,” is untrue—that core never includes any way to become proficient in, say, half-plate without also becoming proficient in full-plate, does not mean that nothing ever does something like that; 2. I think Dwarven Armor Proficiency and Exotic Armor Proficiency are red herrings here; and 3. I think the bulk of the answer (about weapons) is irrelevant and based on a misreading of the original comment. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    16 hours ago

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