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As a DM I am asked about his optimization by one of my player who plays a Healer. I found the question interesting because as far as I know there is no relevant resource for divine caster than wear light or no armor.

Here is the rule:

Healers are proficient with all simple weapons and with light armor. Additionally, a healer who uses metal armor or any kind of shield is severely hampered. The armor of a healer is restricted by traditional oaths, not simply training. A healer knows how to wear light metal armor and could become proficient with medium or heavy armor, but wearing metal armor or bearing a shield would violate her oath and suppress her healer powers. Her ethos requires a certain vulnerability that allows her to more fully empathize with those in their care. A healer who uses prohibited armor is unable to cast healer spells or use any of her supernatural or spell-like class features while doing so and for 24 hours after the armor is taken off.

So my player can use light armor, but it must not be in metal (I also forbid blue ice since it would break the vulnerability oath the same way metal do). In my understanding, "certain vulnerability" is psychological: I feel vulnerable when what I wear is not made of a strong material.

I could of course have some NPC craft him a custom light armor. I already know about armor creation rules so I don't need your help here. On the other hand, since he have already WIS 24 I could advise him to wear no armor at all and use a monk's belt instead. But that would still leave its torso or body slot open for some vest or robe. Since this is a high level campaign where it will be possible to have very high dexterity scores, I think this is the best solution except if there exists in the books a specific armor with qualities especially fitted for a healer.

Acceptable answers are

  • Any pre-crafted light armor listed in an (even exotic) official source that has a special property related to divine casters that you could not obtain by applying armor creation rules. Typically, emulate a feat but there are other possibiliti
  • Any torso/body related item other than an armor that has a special property related to divine casters. Using item creation rules is possible here.

An example: gloves of the balanced hand (MIC 105) is a well know item that emulate a feat. It is a special item that you can find in a book, and as far as I know there is no item creation rule that explains how to create it. There are a lot of other items like that. Now I am looking for the same kind of thing for the torso/body slot with a special property (I don't impose a feat) which would suit a divine caster.

Another example: You probably know about the "Robe of the Archmagi"? I am looking for a "Robe of the Archpriest"

I believe that question about lists of objects are not exactly welcomed here, so if there are a lot of candidate items, just tell me where I should look. But if there was so much possibilities I believe I should have found them by myself already.

This is a tiers 4/tiers 5 level 15-20 campaign. Most resources are allowed, including dragon magazines but excluding psionics and material related to a very specific universe. Since I allow a lot of resources, I would rather avoid houseruling or using loopholes to get around the rules.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by KRyan, Wibbs, Miniman, minnmass, Tashio Nov 19 '15 at 5:49

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Since the answers did not meet my expectations, I asked on meta the question Did I really asked how to get around Healers Armor limitations? and edited the original question accordingly to the advices of @BESW \$\endgroup\$ – Epeedefeu Nov 18 '15 at 13:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ Voting to close as your edit has made it entirely opinion-based. You have basically asked for “I need something good, but not too good,” and given zero definition of where the line is drawn. Don’t waste our time with moving goal posts. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Nov 18 '15 at 13:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ So you don't agree that your suggestion about using blue ice is a loophole that gets around the rule? \$\endgroup\$ – Epeedefeu Nov 18 '15 at 13:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ No, I don’t. Blue ice, darkwood, and so on, literally exist precisely as a way for druids and healers to have a way to wear better armor, at some cost that others don’t have to worry about. But regardless, I do know that your question as it currently stands does not define clearly what a valid answer is, and it’s a waste of everyone’s time to try and guess what is going to meet your unstated standards of “good but not too good,” hence the vote to close. This went from an optimization question (has an answer) to a “throw things at me and see what sticks” question (doesn’t). \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Nov 18 '15 at 13:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Epeedefeu what you want to do is ask for the best 'Specific Magic Armor' for a Healer, which is the category of item you're having trouble describing. You would then need to compare the answer to that to your own 'not-specific magic item' research. You might get Blue Ice/Darkleaf/other material items anyways, since these were published by Wizards specifically to fulfill this purpose, but I suspect there will be better items than the specific non-metal ones in this case. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Nov 18 '15 at 19:02
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Avoiding metal armor means missing out on mithral or adamantine, which is a loss, but a minor one. There are numerous solid non-metal armors:

  • Spidersilk and nightscale from Underdark are notable for their enormous maximum Dexterity bonuses, +8 and +10 respectively

    • Gnomish twist cloth has no maximum Dexterity at all
  • A resin suit from Dungeon vol. 118 has the +4 AC bonus of a chain shirt, but a maximum Dexterity of only +3, and a −4 armor check penalty, making it a quite poor armor for anything but AC.

  • Races of the Wild has a leafweave leather with darkwood studs, effectively a studded leather for druids, with a +6 max Dexterity and no armor check penalty.

And, of course, one can just use leather armor. Armor AC is not that valuable, at all, and a healer can cast greater luminous armor from Book of Exalted Deeds for a +6 bonus to that and no drawbacks (except an extremely minor amount of Strength damage at the end of the day, easily healed).

The reason to wear armor is for the special properties you can put on it. Soulfire is extremely valuable and useful. I vastly prefer its no caveat, no action, no exception protection over activated options like the talisman of undying fortitude; I would also recommend having the talisman, but negative levels and death effects are nasty and common enough that I wouldn’t want to walk around vulnerable to them if I don’t have to.

So it’s fine to just wear anything you can enhance with armor special properties, and rely on spells for AC.

But we can do better: special materials can also replace metal in armor. Eberron Campaign Setting has darkleaf, which works like mithral in that it lowers the weight class of an armor; a darkleaf breastplate has a +5 bonus to AC, +4 maximum Dexterity bonus, and −2 armor check penalty. If that counts as being “related to a very specific universe,” as noted in the question, Frostburn, and conveniently enough Wizards’ Frostburn excerpt, has blue ice, which actually results in an armor statistically near-identical to darkleaf, with a major caveat discussed below.

The question has arbitrarily decided that blue ice isn’t “vulnerable” enough, but unfortunately, the healer restriction is, basically, completely meaningless. Strictly speaking, darkleaf or blue ice make the wearer relatively vulnerable, because it means they cannot use the superior mithral or adamantine options. Plus, they cost money, which is money that could be spent on other protections for the healer. And it’s not as if these special materials are uniquely-protective non-metallic options for armor; as discussed above, plenty of armors that never included metal to begin with are still just as or similarly good. It’s not worth the feats to get proficiency, but dragonhide is even a core option to make excellent non-metal versions of full-plate, at the high end.

And all of these do increase the healer’s vulnerability in some way. There is no indication that there is any requirement for a specific level of vulnerability beyond simply not using metal. Which is stupid and arbitrary itself, and I recommend ignoring it since the healer is an awful, awful class, but even enforcing that rule, these armors fit the bill.

So I am challenging the frame of the question: my recommendation is a darkleaf or blue ice chain shirt or breastplate. The breastplate has +1 AC over the chain shirt; the chain shirt has the advantage of a higher max Dex and (most importantly) zero armor check penalty, instead of −2. I prefer the chain shirt primarily because of the reduced armor check penalty.

If Eberron Campaign Setting is out, and one must use blue ice, it has the disadvantage of all-but-requiring protection from cold to be usable. Technically you can wear it without that, but the penalties involved are just not worth it. Any form of Cold Resistance or Immunity, endure elements, or the Cold Endurance feat in Frostburn can provide this protection. A continuous item of endure elements costs only 1,000 gp by the price guidelines (and that seems pretty fair in this case), and that could be combined with another item – say, the armor itself – for 1,500 gp.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Don't bother over price considerations, the PC has more than 200,000 gp to spend. About your "Technically you can wear it without that, but the penalties involved are just not worth it" statement are you sure? I only see a -1 to reflex and -1 to init. \$\endgroup\$ – Epeedefeu Nov 17 '15 at 16:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Epeedefeu Yes, and they’re easily avoided and Initiative is (by far) the most important stat in the game, so there’s no reason to bother. Even if you couldn’t get protection from it, you would be better off just using leather or darkwood, because the AC isn’t worth the Initiative penalty. Also, I prefer the chain shirt because of the reduced ACP, not because of the money savings. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Nov 17 '15 at 16:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ What if I tell you the PC is halfling and I plan to make him take the feat Yondalla's Sense? Would be much more interesting than the Cold Endurance feat don't you think? Buf if initiative is really the most important stat in the game, then I'd also better advise him to boost his DEX with wishs and +6 gloves of dexterity and then use the monk's belt rather than an armor which would reduce his maximum dexterity \$\endgroup\$ – Epeedefeu Nov 17 '15 at 17:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Epeedefeu I don’t recommend the Cold Endurance feat; the Cold Endurance feat is awful. I recommend a continuous endure elements on the armor itself, so that it automatically protects the wearer from itself (plus various other uncomfortable conditions). And yes, gloves of dexterity +6 are a reasonably-good choice for a high-level character, and at the extreme ends of wealth, manuals of quickness of action are solid too. And an armor’s maximum Dexterity only applies for the purposes of AC; it does not effect Initiative. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Nov 17 '15 at 17:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ I like a lot that nightscale suggestion! I will take time to dig into @Dan-B's answer, but the +1 soulfire fortification nightscale light armor seems to be the best bet for now :) \$\endgroup\$ – Epeedefeu Nov 19 '15 at 0:23
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Probably the monk's belt is the best bet

Note that the torso body slot and the body body slot are different; wearing armor prevents wearing another body body slot magic item but not a torso slot magic item.

  • A suit of +5 reinforced hellforged blue ice breastplate counts as light armor due to the special material blue ice, has an armor bonus of +6 due to the quality reinforced, grants the wearer an additional +1 bonus to Armor Class when adjacent to an ally due to the template hellforged, has an armor check penalty of −1 (the minimum due to the template hellforged), and arcane spell failure of 30% due to the template hellforged (but 0% for cold spells due to the special material blue ice). It can accept other, armor modifications (I like a pair of oil chambers (Dungeonscape 30, 33-4) (1,000 gp; 0 lbs.) and sanctified (Dungeonscape 30, 34) (50 gp; 0 lbs.), the latter especially for this character) and non-plus magic special abilities, too. (I like easy travel (MIC 10) (1,500 gp; 0 lbs.) a lot.) The terrible feat Cold Endurance (Fr 47) mitigates the −1 penalty on Initiative checks and Reflex saving throws caused by the special material blue ice, but so should any amount of cold resistance and the 1st-level Sor/Wiz spell endure elements [abjur] (PH 226).

    Finding a devil to make the +5 reinforced (Dragon #358 42) (1,000 gp; +10% lbs.) hellforged (Dungeon Master's Guide II 277-8) (1,000 gp; 0 lbs.) blue ice (Frostburn 80) (3,000 gp; 0 lbs.) breastplate (25,350 gp; 16.5 lbs.) is usually fairly easy for a high-level character (Stygia and Cania are both cold layers of Baator, after all) but can be difficult in the midst a campaign unless the DM handwaves what could otherwise be a fairly extensive the solo adventure.

    Note that, while the magic armor special ability soulfire (BE 112) (+4 bonus; 0 lbs.) is awesome, so is (the albeit overpriced) heavy fortification (DMG 219) (+5 bonus; 0 lbs.), but the effects of both and more can be replicated by taking a swift action to use the talisman of undying fortitude (MIC 188) (8,000 gp; 0 lbs.). If the bad guys target the other PCs first, the talisman may be a better choice. If going this route, consider, perhaps, the magic armor special ability proof against transmutation (Complete Arcane 142) (+5 bonus; 0 lbs.), but the talisman might have you covered there, too.

  • A healer meets the requirements for casting sanctified spells (Book of Exalted Deeds 83-4). That makes available the 4th-level spell greater luminious armor [abjur] (BE 102), which, in addition to other effects, for 1 hour/level grants a +8 armor bonus (and most foes also suffer a −4 penalty on melee attack rolls). When the spell ends, the healer will be dealt 1d3 points of Strength damage, but a healer that can't mitigate that isn't worth the name. (Tip: A rod of bodily restoration (MIC 173) (3,100 gp; 4 lbs.) is affordable, convenient, and multipurpose.)

  • A monk's belt (DMG 248) (13,000 gp; 1 lbs.) grants a Wis 24 healer the AC bonus of a level 5 monk, which, in this case, is +8. Given all the trouble one must go through to get an equal amount of Armor Class, this seems like the best bet. The above breastplate, for all its bells and whistles, will have, most of the time, only 3 more AC, and while a targeted dispel can hit the belt, an area dispel can hit the luminous armor, making the belt slightly more secure and saving a small fortune in the bargain.

For most campaigns involving a character like this, I'd recommend the monk's belt and at least one talisman of undying fortitude.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a great analysis, but I do feel like you’re underselling the problems with the talisman compared to continuous soulfire. Also, if using monk’s belt that implies that the healer could use a robe; recommendations along those lines would do a lot to convince me, anyway, that it’s worth the loss of soulfire. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Nov 17 '15 at 15:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree with @KRyan. Actually before he spoke about blue ice I was more thinking about using the monk's belt, because there is absolutely no dexterity limitation and having a big dexterity is another way to get AC and it stacks with monk's belt WIS-to-AC. But losing soulfire is a problem. Maybe I should have asked in two separated questions what is the best armor the PC can use and what body/torso equipment comes best in combination with monk's belt? \$\endgroup\$ – Epeedefeu Nov 17 '15 at 15:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Epeedefeu Unless the healer is the typical target of the optimized-for-initiative wizard's enervation or similar effect at the beginning of combat (which seems unlikely), the talisman is a more comprehensive and economical defensive measure than soulfire. Further, a level 15 healer could instead cast a quickened death ward to get the same effects as the magic armor special ability. Should the question be updated to include a campaign reason that makes soulfire this important when the character already possesses via spells a way to deal with such effects? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Nov 17 '15 at 16:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ You are right. Soulfire is not that important. But then the torso/body slot is still open. How to fill it cleverly? \$\endgroup\$ – Epeedefeu Nov 17 '15 at 17:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ A healer is a spontaneous caster, and thus can't use quicken spell (I assume there's a workaround but it's probably an expensive one). Even after that is solved, the quickened-death-ward solution works for only one combat per day, takes up the caster's only L8 spell slot, and consumes a swift action which could have cast some other quickened spell. I don't think quickened-death-ward is a good substitute for soulfire. (The talisman still seems viable, though.) \$\endgroup\$ – Dan B Nov 18 '15 at 19:49
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The place to find pre-crafted armors is the Magic Item Compendium. Your player might like the Owlfeather Armor, which is a +1 leather armor which (among other properties) lets the wearer fly, 3 times per day for 5 rounds each. The cost is 8160gp.

On the other hand, if your player gets an actual magic armor, they can get armor properties such as soulfire or heavy fortification.

The best option for AC is to stack a monk's belt with an AC spell such as greater luminous armor or mage armor. (See related question for discussion.) Arguably your player should be casting greater luminous armor regardless of what they're wearing; the AC bonus doesn't stack with their leather armor, but they still have the 8 AC from the spell and the special properties from their armor.

Your question says:

I could advise him to wear no armor at all and use a monk's belt instead. But that would still leave its torso or body slot open for some vest or robe

First, I want to note that the torso slot is different from the body slot: your player can wear a torso item (such as a vest of resistance) even while wearing armor.

To find body-slot items which aren't armor, you can open a PDF of the Magic Item Compendium and search for "Body Slot: Body". If you're using a print version, most of them are the robes on pages 129-130. There are a few more robes in the DMG.

Most of the robes are intended for arcane casters -- I guess the game designers assumed that divine casters would be wearing armor and wouldn't need robes. None of them look very good to me as written, but if you houserule divine versions of the robe (ie, use divine spells rather than arcane spells), my first choice for a healer is the Robe of Mysterious Conjuration which lets the wearer convert prepared spells to summon monster spells 3x/day.

Some people argue that you can enchant your clothes or robes, for example with +1 soulfire, but this seems to be a house rule.

Your question asks for:

Any torso/body related item other than an armor that has a special property related to divine casters. Using item creation rules is possible here.

This is a very open-ended question -- essentially you're asking "what is a good custom magic item for a divine caster?" If you're open to the item creation rules, your best bet is to give your healer a link to those rules and tell them to go nuts. They will know what they want better than we do.

You spoke of magic items that specifically grant feats. The Arms and Equipment Guide says:

A general guideline for [determining the market price of] other kinds of [items that grant] feats is that they cost 10,000 gp, plus another 5,000 gp to 10,000 gp per prerequisite.

That's a very good deal for a character with 200Kgp to spend, but maybe it's balanced by taking up an armor slot.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks a lot for your searching tip! Never thought about doing such things, but worked well. Your answer is the one that looks the more like the kind of answer I was expecting. But I am accepting @KRyan's answer since this is the one I will actually use. Thank you very much for all the good info! \$\endgroup\$ – Epeedefeu Nov 19 '15 at 13:42

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