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Pathfinder
Ultimate Equipment is allowed
150 starting gold

What are some of the all around most effective options for armoring up a level 1 Druid at this price point?

It is a casting-focusing build, with no emphasis on combat or skill monkeying.

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Leather lamellar, an eastern armor, is by far your best choice. It offers +4 AC for only –2 armor check penalty, it only costs 60 gp, and it isn’t made from metal.

When you get more funds, consider getting a leather lamellar made of darkleaf cloth—this eliminates the armor check penalty entirely, as well as bumping up the maximum Dexterity bonus and halving the weight. This is easily worth the 350 gp it costs over masterwork. This is probably the best armor a druid can have.

Note that due to wild shape, you may not care too much about your armor, since your wild shape forms replace it. Also, armored AC is very low-value in any event. I strongly suggest sticking to low-ACP armors with no speed penalty. They tend to be cheaper and +2 or +4 armored AC is not worth the cost or the penalties.

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Wooden Armour and Heavy Wooden Shield

Druids have an unusual list of armour proficiencies as they cannot use any 'metal' armours:

Druids are proficient with light and medium armor but are prohibited from wearing metal armor; thus, they may wear only padded, leather, or hide armor. A druid may also wear wooden armor that has been altered by the ironwood spell so that it functions as though it were steel. Druids are proficient with shields (except tower shields) but must use only wooden ones.

Note that as the description is in the original core rulebook and pre-dates the subsequent splatbooks. Therefore the list of available armours is actually much longer and now includes athers made of materials such as Stone, Wood or Dragon scales.

If all you want to do is maximise your starting AC quickly and cheaply then I would recommend the following armour and shields:

Wooden Armour

20gp for +3 AC is great and the downsides are minimal except for the hefty 25lbs of carrying capacity. If you can't afford the weight, then go with Leather Armour for a +2 AC bonus but only 15lbs of weight.

Alternative: Hide Armour

Dirt cheap at 15gp, it provides a +4 AC bonus in exchange for limiting your movement and your skills quite substantially.

The only reaswon I wouldn't recommend this initially is that having a 30ft movement is really handy! Being able to get out of trouble quickly is often more useful than an extra point of AC.

Light Wooden Shield

For a mere 3gp you also get a +1 AC shield bonus. There is no reason not to take this piece of equipment.

If you are wielding a weapon and a hevay shield then you cannot cast spells, but you can whilst using a light shield.

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In ultimate equipment are several kinds of armor that spell out being made from leather and as such could be used in addition to the normal selection.

  • Lamellar cuirass: Lacquered leather and silk for AC+2
  • Parade armor: Depending on the country, parade armor may be crafted from leather, metal, or a mixture of both. So versions without metal exist. AC+3
  • Lamellar (leather): There are several kinds of lamellar but this one is leather. AC+4

The armored kilt doesn't mention whether it must contain metal or not. So depending on GM call it could be combined with the above when heavy fighting is expected, turning the combo into a medium armor with an increase to AC of +1.

For best protection you would go with lamellar (leather) + armored kilt + heavy spiked shield. That way you can threaten and flank without an additional weapon.

In case the GM disallows metal shield spikes as being part of the shield and therefore violating the no metal shield rule just use obsidian shield spikes.

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