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This question already has an answer here:

The Soldier Background allows one to:

your rank to exert influence over other soldiers and requisition simple equipment or horses for temporary use.

No value is placed as a limit to this requirement. Would it be too unbalancing if I allowed a player to requisition Plate Armor for a task in the first few levels? Plate armor costs 1,500 gp and provides an AC of 18, while a horse costs 75 gp and a warhorse costs 400gp.

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marked as duplicate by doppelgreener, Maximillian, Ernir, Joshua Aslan Smith, Zachiel Sep 16 '14 at 13:39

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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I'd say no, they can't get a plate armor or a war horse at early levels. It isn't unbalancing to give such items, just too much to ask for only a few levels in his belt with a soldier background. You aren't even that important yet.

Take note that 5e defines Tiers of Play. At early tiers (the first and second) the characters are basically just getting there, they haven't reached a level of renown (or infamy). This alone should disqualify anyone with a Soldier Background from requisitioning a plate armor or a war horse. The second tier may (I think) but it would take a very high persuasion check to access the equipment. The third tier and beyond however can, and should, qualify for a plate armor. It's just a matter of availability.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for involving the tier system. I'd say this is crucial for the question \$\endgroup\$ – Andy Sep 16 '14 at 8:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ Edited Next to 5e. Next was the playtest, 5e is the nomenclature for the official release. \$\endgroup\$ – Joshua Aslan Smith Sep 16 '14 at 12:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JoshuaAslanSmith thanks, old habits I guess \$\endgroup\$ – othniel2005 Sep 16 '14 at 14:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Why would they be able to requisition more as they gain fame outside the army? They left the army before they started adventuring, becoming more famous != gaining rank in an army you're not even in anymore. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Sep 16 '14 at 23:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ they could have been dispatched for a mission or get special commendation depending on their acts. most armies in peace time maintain only a skeleton force in manning strongholds, training and constructing infrastructure. the bulk are often called only during a lengthy war campaign. this reduces the upkeep cost that the army has to maintain during peace times. a soldier outside the army is still part of the army unless formally dismissed. so they can still gain fame outside which can be used as leverage for requisitions. \$\endgroup\$ – othniel2005 Sep 17 '14 at 7:29
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The text says simple equipment, I would not say that a Full Plate categorizes into simple, maybe some leather or chain could, that is up to the GM I think.

Weapons have categories (simple, martial, exotic), so armors could be "categorized" some way, simple armor should be something the average man could wear with no proficency or small effort.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Exotic weapons exist on DnD5e? (still waiting for my PHB) Whatever you get the point, some weapons need more skill than others, so do armors to wear. \$\endgroup\$ – Corven Dallas Sep 16 '14 at 7:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Same for horses, a "simple" horse would be average horse, a warsteed is more "complicated" to use/ride. \$\endgroup\$ – Corven Dallas Sep 16 '14 at 7:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ The weapon classifications in Next are simple and martial, there was no mention of exotic weaponry. I do however agree that plate armor is by no means simple, same goes with war horses. \$\endgroup\$ – othniel2005 Sep 16 '14 at 8:12
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From a balance viewpoint: A platemail or war horse would greatly exceed the wealth-per-level recommendation of a low level character. Providing them would likely be quite unbalanced.

The rules for the Soldier background do not define properly what's simple and what isn't. It also doesn't say how much you can request (I can requisition torches? OK, I requisition 10.000 of them). That means the GM has a certain amount of leeway regarding which requisitions will be fulfilled and which not. You should also account for the kind of faction the character is a soldier of, how well their access to resources is, and what the characters position in that faction is.

When you aren't really sure if a request would be granted or not, you could decide to roleplay the interaction between character and their superior officer when they ask for the resources. The player could make use of social skills like Bluff or Intimidate in that interaction to make their officers decision more favorable, but a request which would greatly exceed the characters wealth, could not be fulfilled by the resources the organization has or which is plain ridiculous would definitely be rejected.

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    \$\begingroup\$ there are no wealth per level recs for 5e. \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Sep 16 '14 at 12:45
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This depends on your setting. Many elements of D&D 5e backgrounds need the context of specific setting context in order to make a specific rulings.

For example the answer to your question is very different if you are playing a typical pseudo-medieval setting like Greyhawk versus a setting based on John Boorman's Excalibur.

In Greyhawk the answer is not it is not plausible that those with a solider background would have access to high value items like plate armor or even warhorses. In many Greyhawk realms, Plate Armor and warhorses are reserved for the use of nobles. It would be plausible for the players to grab a spear, short swords, provisions, chainmail, etc. Things that an ordinary veteran fighter would be equipped with.

In John Boorman's Excalibur in contrast plate armor is common and just about everybody wears it. The knights just have better looking more stylish armor. In this case it wold be perfectly plausible for a ordinary solider to have access to plate armor.

Another example is if your setting is more oriented towards the Renaissance or English Civil War period. There plate breastplates were possessed by the common solider.

If you have a reason to grant access to plate armor and it makes sense then go ahead and do it. Unlike prior editions D&D 5e is neutral to mundane equipment largely because Armor Class follows a absolute scale due to bounded accuracy. It will help but it is not the overwhelming advantage for low level character that it was in prior editions. Without plate, fighters are typically getting 17 to 19 AC in my company versus the maximum of 20 AC for plate + shield.

Also realize that there is no dexterity bonus in plate, that imposes disadvantage on stealth and requires a minimum strength of 15.

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