The Player's Handbook states that both chainmail and full plate is worn over padding that protects from injuries that would happen if metal was worn on bare skin.

For example for full plate:

A suit of plate includes gauntlets, heavy leather boots, a visored helmet, and thick layers of padding underneath the armor.

Now, my character wants to doff his armor as he travels across the marsh but still would like to have some protection. So, can I just doff the metal chain part of chainmail and wear only the padding part? Would that constitute padded armor (AC 11+DexMod)?

What about full plate?

(I know of Combining various AC-providing clothing and armor, but it is about the reverse situation and doesn't really answer my question.)

  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ Historically, as in actual use, this padding was called a gambeson, atikon, or arming jacket and provided protection in it's own right. These armors were like wearing a quilt, and were possibly the thing that padded armor is supposed to be in D&D. This isn't an answer, but more information to convince a DM. \$\endgroup\$
    – PipperChip
    Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 23:14

4 Answers 4


The Rules Don't Say

As nvoigt pointed out, the PHB describes chain mail and plate mail as complete items. They are either on, or they're off. There are rules for how long it takes to put them on and take them off, but there is no description for your AC while wearing just the padding.

Furthermore, the padding under plate and chainmail isn't padded armor. Padded armor is a different thing. When you buy plate mail you don't get plate mail armor that has padded armor inside, you get plate mail armor that has padding inside.

You Could Try It

Since there are no rules that describe this situation, you are down to the most general rule of all. At the beginning of the Players Handbook, it says:

1.The DM describes the environment. ... 2.The players describe what they want to do. ... 3.The DM narrates the results of the adventurers' actions. (PHB p.6, "How to Play")

So, your character could just try it and see what happens. "Try it" could mean a lot of things. "My character takes off all his armor but the padding. What's his AC?". "I'm looking at the swamp we're about to cross. I'm an experienced fighter, I've been wearing armor for years, I've been trained by experts. I know if I fall in wearing full plate, I'll probably drown before I can get out of it. What does my training tell me about whether I can wear just the padding in order to mitigate the drowning risk but still retain some protection?" Or perhaps your armor wearer might consult armor experts.

You've Solved My Drowning-in-Armor Puzzle!

As a GM, I view the water-armor situation as a challenge or problem for the PCs. Which do you do, take off the armor and carry it thereby lowering your AC, or wear it and risk drowning?

Only it isn't an either-or, which is the beauty of RPGs. There are other solutions to the problem. Perhaps the water is such and the PC's strength is such that the PC can just walk out, perhaps with a strength or constitution check. Perhaps the PCs have access to magic that allows them to breathe water. Maybe they can bypass the swamp. The players might (and hopefully will!) have innovative solutions I haven't thought of.

If the PC said, "I take off most of my armor, and wear only the padding", or "only the helmet, gauntlets, greaves and leg guards" and subsequently fell into the water I think the time to remove the armor and thus the risk of drowning would be less, while the chances of swimming in part of the armor would be more. And if the PC were attacked by Rodents of Unusual Size while crossing the swamp, I'd definitely have to allow that the PC's base AC in padding or other bits and pieces was greater than without armor. Wearing only part of the armor might be a reasonable solution to the but-I-might-drown problem. Although wearing only the padding might be really bad for it, given briars and such.

Given that I don't want to play "Armor & Anoxia" I'd be reluctant to come up with a codified houserule that says you can wear half the armor for half the AC and half the risk of drowning, but perhaps that would be the solution. I'd definitely want to keep things liquid, and not weigh the game down with heavy armor questions, but I'd definitely want to pad it enough to keep things moving forward, while at the same time rewarding innovative role-play and problem-solving.


By the rules, no you cannot.

It does not make much sense for real life either because padded armor is made to protect you from the enemies blows, while the padding of an armor is supposed to protect you from the wear the heavy armor itself causes.

You could buy a second set of armor to wear in situations where your full armor is not the best choice, like travelling a body of water, travelling the desert, swamp or maybe even in the king's court, where a new shiny padded armor might be more impressive than your full plate full of green slime and orcish blood.

  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ Do you have sources for the realism part of this answer? Padded armour is usually referred to as an Aketon or a Padded Jack. These were also worn underneath plate armour, according to the sources I've found so far (I recommend the Knyght Errant youtube channel) \$\endgroup\$
    – xanderh
    Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 12:18
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Mostly, the padding for armour is not attached to the armour itself, but is essentially thick, padded clothing worn under the armour. There are a few armour pieces where I would consider attaching the padding to the armour, rather than having it loose (like, say, a gorget). Source: I have built, worn and fought in various combination of chain and plate. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vatine
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 13:36

The rules don't say.
As with many things in 5e, this leaves the decision up to the DM.

If it was my game, I'd allow it.
Looking at the description of the armour types gives some justification, especially for chain mail.


...quilted layers of cloth and batting.


...thick layers of padding...


...cloth padding...

Chain Mail:

...a layer of quilted fabric worn underneath the mail to prevent chafing and to cushion the impact of blows.

Cushioning the impact of blows sounds like giving an improvement to AC, in my opinion.


Leather and padded armors are armors in their own right. The padding used under plate and chain are there to protect you from the plate and chain, are not armors, and are not designed to protect you from targeted attacks the same way leather and padded armor is.

I.e. Padding is thick clothing. Leather armor is hardened to provide a protective layer from an attack.

Padding doesn't protect you from at attack, the plate does. The padding is just there so the plate doesn't pinch and slice you or so the chain doesn't pinch and pull out hair and skin.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes I do, read it again. I just didn't feel I had to mention both leather armor and padded armor in each and every sentence. \$\endgroup\$
    – Escoce
    Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 15:06
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ "Padding is thick clothing. Leather armor is hardened..." - Leather is irrelevant to the comparison, it's obvious it's different. Basically, you've said under-armour padding is not armour itself. But you haven't shown how/why it's different to Padded Armour (other than it not being defined as armour by the rules). \$\endgroup\$
    – Adeptus
    Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 22:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Padded armor is a quilted leather armor. Just because you don't know what padded armor is doesn't mean the answer is incomplete. \$\endgroup\$
    – Escoce
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 0:09

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