In 5e there are common clothes, travellers clothes and fine clothes, but I don't think they actually have any rules around them.

I have found there isn't much in the way of clothing materials on older editions (What high-end fantasy fabrics and textiles exist in the Forgotten Realms?) but my question is:

Have different types of mundane clothing ever had rules for them and real reasons to upgrade from your starting clothing?

I am not looking for things like "nicer material increases AC bonuses", because that's treading into armour territory, I am asking about clothing.


2 Answers 2


Yes, there are both rules and reasons

It depends a bit on what you consider "any rules". If you are thinking of "did they have rules text describing them", then yes. In particular when it comes to expensive clothing without a game mechanic functional benefit, there are also other reasons. Clothes can "do something", even if they are no giving you a bonus to a roll.

Functional rules

D&D 3.5 for example has a detailed write up for each set of predefined normal clothing about what it contains, and how you can use it. The Cold Weather Outfit even has specific mechanical effects:

A cold weather outfit includes a wool coat, linen shirt, wool cap, heavy cloak, thick pants or skirt, and boots. This outfit grants a +5 circumstance bonus on Fortitude saving throws against exposure to cold weather.

Fifth edition likewise mentions the functional impact of clothing in the rules for extreme weather (DMG, p. 110, Extreme cold and Extreme heat; thanks to @enkryptor for the pointer):

a creature exposed to the cold must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw [...]. Creatures with resistance or immunity to cold damage automatically succeed on the saving throw, as do creatures wearing cold weather gear (thick coats, gloves, and the like)

When the temperature is at or above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, a creature exposed to the heat and without access to drinkable water must succeed on a Constitution saving throw [...] Creatures wearing medium or heavy armor, or who are clad in heavy clothing, have disadvantage on the saving throw.

First edition did not use the concept of predefined sets of clothing of different values yet. In the DMG, there is just "Clothes (1 set)" listed in the encumberance table on the last page. The PHB under clothing (p. 35) lists individual items like a belt, cloak or robe instead of predefined sets or different qualities. (It also has four different kinds of boots, but hey, Gary worked as a shoemaker to make ends meet while publishing the game, so that can be forgiven).

These clothes did not have any specific rules makeup, because the approach was to just use common sense for what effects things would have in game, rather than formal rules. But other game elements certainly interacted with your clothing — for example when you wore white clothing, you were 80% likely to be mistaken for a cloud when using wind walk (p. 54), and gloves might protect you from exposure to contact poison.

Social interactions

I think the real answer is that beyond functional benefits, a main purpose of clothing is social signaling. You may not be let into a fine restaurant if you wear dirty wretched rags, and without a nobles' outfit, you may cause disapproval when attending a noble's ball. Merchants, guards, servants will treat you differently if your clothing projects affluence and a higher social standing than when you wear a poor man's coarse drab.

For example, we played a 3e campaign, where the players early on needed to access the nobles quarter, and without connections or looking like a noble, the guards at the gate would not let them pass. Procuring those expensive garments became a minor sub-quest for the cash-strapped group.

Roleplaying reasons

Lastly, there is the roleplaying benefit. Like in Why would anyone buy a Pony over a Mule?, there are benefits to fabulous clothes that have less to do with generating a game advantage, and more with imagining your character, and how they enjoy their wealth and ability to afford the better things in life.

It's just like spending on a posh room in an inn rather than a simple, plain chamber: both may not make a difference in the mechanics of getting rest so why waste an extra gp? Many players still will do it when they can easily afford it, because they enjoy their characters being wealthy in the make-believe world of the game.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ 5e DMG also mentions importance of clothes in cold weather: "a creature exposed to the cold must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw at the end of each hour or gain one level of exhaustion. Creatures with resistance or immunity to cold damage automatically succeed on the saving throw, as do creatures wearing cold weather gear (thick coats, gloves, and the like)" \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Nov 21, 2023 at 7:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ Should note that the "social interactions" effect can go both ways. Yes, someone shabbily dressed is going to have trouble getting any attention, let alone respect, from the nobles (or even some of the finer merchants). But conversely, somebody dressed like a courtier walking into a rough, seedy tavern is going to draw lots of attention. \$\endgroup\$
    – dgould
    Nov 22, 2023 at 3:42

Clothes make the man (or woman, etc.)

Others have mentioned that clothing can sometimes have a mechanical effect on a roll.

There is also the matter that the clothes someone wears, or does not wear, has a social effect on others that can be effected in how they roleplay and are seen by others in the world.

This happened in a campaign I recently played (I was a player, not the DM). I was playing a noble lady who (in the chapter in question) came into possession of a diplomatic letter intended for delivery under seal to the King. After discussing this with my fellow PC's (roleplayed as a meeting among the characters), we agreed that my character would need to approach the King's palace in courtly attire to deliver the letter, not the adventuring clothes she was wearing. This led to us agreeing to go shopping for appropriate attire in town prior to approaching the castle, which turned out to be a whole lot of fun with plenty of debates over what color gown most suited my character's complexion and background, and the DM seemed to have fun playing a bunch of busy, frazzled shopkeepers running here and there and keeping stock of their merchandise.

The general rule in DnD is that the DM may request a roll anytime the PC's attempt to do something that has a chance for success, a chance for failure, and consequences for success or failure. This means that if there is a question as to whether or not a character's attire is socially appropriate (i.e. is not obviously 100% acceptable but then also isn't completely bizarre or off the mark), they can ask for a roll (e.g. Charisma) to see if the character is able to sufficiently explain themselves in order to succeed in the social situation despite not being 100% properly dressed (e.g. "Please roll a d20.... Ok, the guard stares at your bare head for half a minute, glances around the room at all the other courtiers wearing hats, but eventually frowns and gestures for you to enter. The King is seated on the throne at the far end of the room, and you recognize Lady Blare chatting with Sir Balax in the corner. There are ten guards with halberds stationed alongside the walls. What do you want to do?")


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