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Let's imagine a situation: "A large beast attacks an adventurer with relatively high AC. It makes few attacks directed towards them only to find out none of the attacks to be effective due to the bulky armor they put on themself. The beast then lunges toward them one last time. It manages to grapple them and pin them to the ground. The beast then proceeds to grab onto some small openings it could find between metal plates and tries to rip the armor off them to gain access to those juicy and squishy insides."

The beast isn't able to get through their AC so it tries to do some kind of skill check to force their armor off them. Would taking off someone's armor or other parts of equipment ( such as capes, hats, etc.) by force be even allowed/viable in 5e by the rules? and what skill check or other condition would need to be fulfilled for it to succeed?

Things like Warforged's Integrated Armour, Mage Armor Spell or Unarmored Defence would be unaffected by it for obvious reasons. In Warforged's description it specifically says: "your armor can't be removed from your body against your will", so it only makes sense something like that should be possible... however I couldn't find anything regarding that matter. Is there something in the official rulebooks and I'm just missing it?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Related: Is there any way I can doff armor in a single turn? \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Dec 26, 2023 at 1:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ How to get on HNQ 101, ask about removing clothes. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Dec 26, 2023 at 9:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri — me: [frantically taking notes]. Though the bear would have more success asking for permission first. If it was even capable of. I am sure that if the bear had the intellect to ask for permission, he would be better at disrobing its enemies. Or try and audition for the cast of next season of Akiba's Trip. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 26, 2023 at 20:14

3 Answers 3

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This is unlikely to work for armor

In the PHB, under Getting Into and Out of Armor, are the rules for "doffing" (taking off) armor. RAW, it takes one minute to take off medium armor, and 5 minutes to take off heavy armor, by yourself. You can reduce that time by half if you have someone helping you.

If you have someone actively opposing you, it would presumably take longer. Thus if you are trying to take off someone's armor and they are resisting, it seems reasonable that it would take longer than a minute, and certainly longer than a turn / one action or the length of a combat.

You could make the argument that normally taking off armor is done in such a way as to preserve the armor, and taking it off in a way that might damage it (cutting straps rather than opening buckles, for example) would be faster (and see How long would it take to doff armour heated by the Heat Metal spell?). While this is a reasonable argument, armor is typically designed with these straps on the inside, covered by plates. It would not be something that an unintelligent beast, with no thumbs, could reasonably do.

For such a beast getting a PC out of armor at the time scale of a combat, I agree with KilrathiSly's answer on the above question, that this is best done by having the beast attack the armor and damage it as an object.

For items, are they designed to stay on against force?

Depending on the type of clothing or gear you are trying to remove, damaging them (like armor, above) might be the appropriate mechanism as well, or it might not. For example, the illustration of the cloak of protection shown in the DMG makes it look like it has a throat clasp that would likely have to be broken before it could be removed. In contrast, a robe of stars might be much easier to simply grasp and pull off - perhaps its own weight draped over its wearer's shoulders the only thing keeping it on.

There is no rule for removing loose clothing or gear from someone, but we can look at similar rules for inspiration.

A contested check

The DMG has the optional rule for disarming someone:

A creature can use a weapon attack to knock a weapon or another item from a target's grasp. The attacker makes an attack roll contested by the target's Strength (Athletics) check or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check. If the attacker wins the contest, the attack causes no damage or other ill effect, but the defender drops the item.

In this case, the attacker is trying to knock something from the grasp of the defender, so it is probably an upper bound for the difficulty of such a task. Against an item that is not actively held, like a cloak or cap, you might give the defender situational disadvantage on their skill check to retain the item. The Disarm rule assumes you are trying to use a weapon to knock the item away - if you are instead grabbing an item, rather than use a weapon proficiency on your attack roll, anything that affects your grapple, or perhaps the sleight of hand proficiency, might be the appropriate modifier.

An uncontested check

One item that does have rules for you grabbing it from its owner is an ioun stone; a magic stone that whizzes about one's head. Another creature may grab your stone away from you by making a DC24 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check. Again, this is likely an upper bounds for difficulty, because knocking the non-magical cap off someone's head should be far easier than grabbing a tiny, erratically flying stone that moves of its own accord, so a lower, or much lower, DC on the same check would be appropriate.

Caveat

In my experience as a DM, there are few things that antagonize players so much as enemies that attempt to seize or destroy their magical gear. If you do decide to implement rules for this, I would save them for a particular foe you really want the players to hate. If every opponent they face is targeting their gear, your players will likely think you, as a DM, are being a jerk.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Alright, that makes sense. In that case AC protects itself from being lowered. But then that would make rules like "cannot be removed against their will" kinda redundant, no? \$\endgroup\$
    – Crashewer
    Dec 26, 2023 at 1:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Crashewer Normally if you wanted to remove someone's armor against their will, you would do it while they're paralyzed, tied up, unconscious, or otherwise unable to stop you. The "cannot be removed against your will" rules make even that impossible. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage
    Dec 26, 2023 at 1:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage Would that include even destroying it, making the armor indestructible till the wearer dies or doffs it themself? \$\endgroup\$
    – Crashewer
    Dec 26, 2023 at 1:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Crashewer Generally speaking, people wear armor because it's sturdier than they are. Destroying someone's armor while they're wearing it is likely to be harder than simply killing them. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage
    Dec 26, 2023 at 1:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for that last line alone. "Can I" is a perfectly valid question, but "should I" is equally important. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Dec 26, 2023 at 9:22
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There are no basic rules for destroying or removing armor... however there are monsters that have the ability to destroy armor in their own abilities. If you want to make a specific monster do this, you could take inspiration from those.

An example is the Gray Ooze:

Pseudopod. Melee Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d6 + 1) bludgeoning damage plus 7 (2d6) acid damage, and if the target is wearing nonmagical metal armor, its armor is partly corroded and takes a permanent and cumulative −1 penalty to the AC it offers. The armor is destroyed if the penalty reduces its AC to 10.

It still requires a hit, but you could give your monster a special attack that has a higher attack bonus and lower damage that includes this effect (or a stronger version, for higher level) that will try to tear apart their armor if it can't properly get to the target otherwise.

However I do agree with the answer by Kirt: don't make this a thing all/many monsters do, repeatedly having your equipment wrecked (especially irreplacable stuff like magic armor) isn't super fun, but it can make for an interesting challenge, especially if you warn your players in advance that they're about to face something that does this. (Like encountering some dead knights that have their armor busted open)

Alternatively, you could just describe the monster clawing at the armor's weak spots while it's on top of the player. Pinning an enemy is going to give it Advantage, which already helps it hurt the player through their armor; scratching at the openings can just be the narrative for why it is suddenly getting damage in.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I suspect it was not the bear who was annoyed at the armor, it was the DM because the players are over-geared for that type of CR-encounter and hard to even damage. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 26, 2023 at 20:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ I mean... Nobody was annoyed or anything. It is a hypothetical scenario. I don't to plan on introducing anything like that against player, especially since I (person who asked the question) am not usually the one who is the DM. \$\endgroup\$
    – Crashewer
    Dec 26, 2023 at 21:41
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Telekinesis

Per the spell's description for objects worn or carried by a creature:

If the object is worn or carried by a creature, you must make an ability check with your spellcasting ability contested by that creature's Strength check. If you succeed, you pull the object away from that creature and can move it up to 30 feet in any direction but not beyond the range of this spell.

Since armor is an object which is worn or carried by a creature, you can use Telekinesis in order to pry it off, assuming you succeed the contest.

Mechanically, the game considers a suit of armor to be a single, discrete object, as the Forge Domain Cleric's feature, Blessing of the Forge states:

At the end of a long rest, you can touch one nonmagical object that is a suit of armor or a simple or martial weapon.

The Armorer Artificer's feature, Armor Modifications also states that:

At 9th level, [your Arcane Armor] now counts as separate items for the purposes of your Infuse Items feature: armor (the chest piece), boots, helmet, and the armor's special weapon.

Implying that a suit of armor is considered a single object. Do note that the Arcane Armor counts as separate items only for the purposes of Infusing Items, so Telekinesis can still rip it all off in one go, assuming you succeed the contest.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This Q&A actually addresses exactly this suggestion, and I think makes a good case for this being unlikely to work. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 31, 2023 at 18:19

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