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I have a player who is a druid. They naturally are interested in obtaining armor with the wild special property. They have argued that when they wild shape and their gear melds into their bodies that the armor check penalties do not apply. After carefully reading the druids wildshape ability, beast shape, elemental body, plant shape, wild armor property, and transmutation (polymorph), none of them are clear about this.

Beast shape/elemental body/plant shape had no real useful information except the polymorph subschool. The polymorph subschool however did mention

When you cast a polymorph spell that changes you into a creature of the animal, dragon, elemental, magical beast, plant, or vermin type, all of your gear melds into your body. Items that provide constant bonuses and do not need to be activated continue to function while melded in this way (with the exception of armor and shield bonuses, which cease to function). Items that require activation cannot be used while you maintain that form.

Note that it mentions nothing about the weight of the items being carries no longer applying, so assuming your strength does not change when you wildshape, if you were encumbered then, you will be encumbered after because the weight/mass is still there.

The wild property allows armor and shields to apply its armor bonus (which means that shields gain nothing except their enhancement bonus).

So, the weight does not disappear, but your melded items for the most part become ineffective and inaccessible. It directly states that the armor and shield bonuses cease to function but mentions nothing else about armor traits. To me this means that the armor check penalty, arcane failure chance, and even movement reduction should all still exist

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This exact question was answered just this Friday in the most recent FAQ posting on paizo's site.

Wild armor and other transforming armor: When I use a wild armor and gain the armor’s benefits, what restrictions, if any, apply to me? In general, when I transform with a polymorph effect and some of my gear melds into the form, what restrictions do I have for melding with large amounts of heavy gear? What about other types of transforming armor?

If you were in medium or heavy load from encumbrance before transforming, you continue to take those penalties in your melded form. Otherwise, ignore the weight of melded items and calculate your encumbrance in your polymorphed form entirely based on non-melded items. When wearing melded armor and shields, if you gain no benefit from the melded armor, you still count as wearing an armor of that type, but you do not suffer its armor check penalty, movement speed reduction, or arcane spell failure chance. If you do gain any benefits (as with the wild property), then you do suffer the armor check penalty, movement speed reduction, and arcane spell failure chance. This also applies to all other situations where you or an armor transform: you always count as wearing an armor of that type, and if you gain any benefit at all from the armor (such as mistmail), you apply the armor check penalty, movement speed reduction, and arcane spell failure chance.

It can be found HERE

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Wild shape is governed by the rules of polymorph found here

In the rules for polymorph the rules state the following:

  • Unless the new form is humanoid, all gear merges into the form. Constant bonuses (except AC) remain. Activation items can't be activated. Material components are not accessible while merged into the form.

So the gear he buys will still merge into him if it has the Wild Property, the only difference is that the armor bonus will persist throughout the transformation. Since the armor merges into the animal form, you would not suffer an Armor check penalty as long as you're wild shaped, because you effectively don't have armor on for its duration.(This information is no longer true based on a recent update on July 17th of the FAQ on Paizo's official website)

After wild shaping with his equipment, if it has the Wild Property, he will still suffer from all aspects of the armor including the Armor check penalty, arcane spell failure chance, etc. (In my opinion if this is the case it no longer makes Wild an Enchantment worth buying. a better enchantment for the same price would be Medium Fortification which would give you a 50% chance to not be subject to critical hits.)

The armor will reshape when Wild Shape ends, except that the Armor check penalty will always be in effect with the Wild property.

But what does Armor check really mean?

Armor check penalties in the game are defined as overly encumbering armor, or armor that makes it more difficult to move around in, reducing your ability to move around as well as you would without it. This is the reason why lighter armors have less armor check penalty. They are lighter, more flexible, and therefore easier to move around in.

Since the armor merges with your form when you wild shape, there is nothing with which your movement would be impeded, so in this instance the ruling would likely still be in favor of the Polymorphed druid.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is not correct as this was officially addressed in the most recent FAQ post this friday. \$\endgroup\$ – claudekennilol Jul 21 '15 at 15:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've posted the link in my answer below \$\endgroup\$ – claudekennilol Jul 21 '15 at 19:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ My answer has been amended with the correct information. \$\endgroup\$ – Sandwich Jul 21 '15 at 20:03
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Note that it mentions nothing about the weight of the items being carries no longer applying, so assuming your strength does not change when you wildshape, if you were encumbered then, you will be encumbered after because the weight/mass is still there.

One problem with this conclusion is that if we accept it, then changing into a significantly smaller-sized creature would become utterly useless, as even ordinary leather armor would be far too heavy for, say, a parrot (to use an example from the Druid entry) - if all your gear retains it weight then changing into such a small creature would leave you too overburdened to move. Thus, we must conclude that equipment that merges into your animal form becomes weightless.

Also, note that with the exception of your weapon, body armor, and shield, everything else supplying the sort of continuous bonuses that Wild Shape retains tend to be of negligible weight (rings, amulets, boots, bracers, cloaks, belts... often they all add up to less than your armor), whereas your other heavier stuff (backpack, money, consumable items, tools) is completely unusable while in animal form.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This was addressed on Friday's FAQ. You retain the "state" but not the weight. So if you were in the medium encumbrance range you will stay in the medium range when you polymorph, but not retain the actual weight so your reduced strength does not factor into it. \$\endgroup\$ – claudekennilol Jul 21 '15 at 15:52

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