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I was reading about the Barding rule on page 155 of the PHB, and I was just curious if a Beastmaster Ranger could armor up their companion? If so, how would that stack with the Ranger's proficiency bonus added to their companion's AC?

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Barding. Barding is armor designed to protect an animal’s head, neck, chest, and body. Any type of armor shown on the Armor table in this chapter can be purchased as barding. The cost is four times the equivalent armor made for humanoids, and it weighs twice as much.

If you look at that description of Barding from the PHB, it can be reasoned that any animal can wear Barding, regardless of the animal's exact purpose. I figure this because it says "armor designed to protect an animal's head, neck, chest, and body." It does not specify anything about the animal itself.

The armour does not add to the animal's natural AC, but rather it provides an alternative way to calculate the animal's AC (you choose whichever you prefer).

As for the bonus to AC that the animal companion gets by being a beast master ranger's companion: that stacks with the armor, because it is a special bonus to AC, and usually bonuses will stack.

Hope that helped!

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    \$\begingroup\$ Good answer; however, armour never stacks in D&D 5e. The Player's Handbook Page 14 states: "Some spells and class features give you a different way to calculate your AC. If you have multiple features that give you different ways to calculate your AC, you choose which one to use." I would interpret this to apply to animal companions too. Barding could only provide protection in lieu of an animal's natural armour (its hide). \$\endgroup\$ – JasonSmith Dec 31 '14 at 5:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ Upon a re-read, I understand your answer better and I submitted an edit to hopefully clarify what you were saying: beast master proficiency bonus does indeed stack \$\endgroup\$ – JasonSmith Dec 31 '14 at 5:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Barding" itself is an armor for horses, isn't it? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barding \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Dec 25 '16 at 10:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ Barding is typically for horses... in the real world. In D&D, it's use as a word is expanded \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso May 1 at 22:54
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Yes, but keep in mind Encumbrance

Keep in mind that barding has twice the weight. Hence full plate barding would require 130 pounds. If playing with Encumbrance (PH 176) then 13 strength for a large creature (such as riding horse or war horse), or 26 strength for a medium creature would be required not to slow down by 10 feet. This means most ranger companions will be restricted to Breastplate Barding (14 + Dex mod+ ranger's proficiency bonus).

If trying to put Full Plate Barding on your companion and also looking to mount your beast companion as small creature such as a halfling of 40 pounds with 30 pounds of gear (just Breastplate is 20 pounds (PH 145)), this would put 200 pounds on the poor mount. Which is easily more than 10 times the starting Strength of most companions leading to it being heavily encumbered. If ever finding a belt of giant's strength and attune your companion to it this might be possible, but in general you'll have to go with a lower weight barding.

This balances out the potential exploits of putting full-plate barding on tiny size familiars or making beast companions AC too high since they get +2 AC initially then later +6 AC when player reaches level 17 from Ranger's Companion (PH 93).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ ...so making it "barding" doubles the weight, but there's no modification for armor weight based on size? \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden May 1 at 21:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Why would there need to be a modification for weight based on size? Ranger companions are restricted to a size no larger than medium. Yes, I know mounts (which use barding of the same weight) are larger creatures, but this is really too trivial an aspect to bother complicating the rules over. \$\endgroup\$ – Will Davis May 28 at 21:55
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Depends on the animal companion. Domesticated animals (mastiff, horse, etc) seem to be ok with wearing 'clothes'. But an animal companion is not a familiar, so it seems likely wild animals would be unwilling.

But if your DM permits the absurdity:
Once you can get CR 1/2, take a black bear (STR 15) so it can carry 225 lbs, put it in full plate (65*2), add ranger proficiency bonus (+3), and you've got an AC 21 (18+3) armored bear. Can attack with claws@ +3 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: (2d4 + 2) slashing damage. Better use is likely to have it 'tank' by standing and roaring to provide Advantage, and then relying on high AC for defense.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This doesn't really answer the question - or rather, it doesn't support the one line that answers it (your first sentence of "Seems reasonable") with evidence or experience. You should elaborate on your answer about whether this is allowed by the rules. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast May 1 at 20:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Did my edits address your comment? \$\endgroup\$ – Mox May 4 at 22:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not really; it's still just asserting things to be true, with no rules citations. The bulk of the answer is still an example that assumes the answer to OP's question is yes, and also doesn't work by RAW because the CR of the animal companion you can pick never gets higher than the starting CR 1/4. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast May 4 at 22:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree that is SHOULD vary by animal, but there is no real rule support for adjudicating this. I don't thing wild/domesticated is the best line. Elephant barding was a real world thing, and although they are taken from the wild and tamed to this day they have never been domesticated creatures. Meanwhile try getting most house cats to wear anything beyond a collar... \$\endgroup\$ – Benjamin Olson May 5 at 16:50

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