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I was playing around with the idea of a Fighter in Pathfinder that would go into battle with akimbo spiked-shields, when I rediscovered the Armor Training class feature. Just in case I try to add this character to a story, or use it in a campaign, I feel I should ask: Does Armor Training reduce a Check Penalty for each piece of armor you are wearing (ie: an armored coat and a shield both getting the penalty reduction) or the Total Check Penalty ((armor+shield)-Armor Training)?

The page on Armor Training doesn't specify, and I want to know if I'm mitigating a small reduction to Strength and Dexterity skills or a huge one.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ What weapon has a check penalty? \$\endgroup\$ – minnmass Feb 15 '17 at 3:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @minnmass Presumably he means a shield, which is both a weapon and an armor, but I'm still unclear on exactly what the question is. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Feb 15 '17 at 3:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan: If the question is "does the ACP reduction apply to both shields and armor separately or only once to the total ACP" it's quite reasonable. Otherwise it's a mystery to me. \$\endgroup\$ – user17995 Feb 15 '17 at 4:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TuggyNE Sure, that is reasonable, I just don’t think that is this question. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Feb 15 '17 at 4:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan: I don't know whether it is or isn't, so I voted to close already. \$\endgroup\$ – user17995 Feb 15 '17 at 5:00
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Neither. Armor Training only applies to worn armor; shields are not worn armor.

To correct your premise: For the purposes of Armor Training, a shield is not considered a piece of armor. Armor and shields both give AC (armor class) bonuses, but they are entirely separate! Armor is worn in your "armor" slot, and a shield is a thing you hold. That is why a Shield bonus to AC will stack with an Armor bonus to AC. For example, if a character wears chainmail and wields two shields, then "each piece of armor" only includes the chainmail.

In the Fighter class description in the CRB, the text on Armor Training says the following:

Whenever he is wearing armor, he reduces the armor check penalty by 1 (to a minimum of 0) and increases the maximum Dexterity bonus allowed by his armor by 1. Every four levels thereafter (7th, 11th, and 15th), these bonuses increase by +1 each time, to a maximum –4 reduction of the armor check penalty and a +4 increase of the maximum Dexterity bonus allowed.

Unfortunately, the effects of Armor Training don't apply to both the armor and shield, because Armor Training does not apply to shields. Armor Training specifically adjusts the ACP and max Dex of worn armor. This class feature is more useful to Fighters clad in medium or heavy armor.

Example: Felix the Fighter wears a +1 Mithral Breastplate (0 ACP, +6 max Dex bonus). He also carries a standard tower shield (-10 ACP, +2 max Dex bonus). His Armor Training increases the breastplate's max Dex bonus, but it can't reduce the breastplate's ACP below 0. The shield is unaffected by Armor Training, and causes him to take an ACP penalty of -10, and also reduces his maximum Dex bonus to +2.


Also, if you're using the alternate rules for piecemeal armor from Ultimate Combat, then Armor Training will affect the worst ACP and lowest max Dex bonus that is determined by armor:

If a character is wearing more than one armor piece, she add the armor costs, armor bonuses, and weights of the armor pieces, and takes the worst maximum Dexterity bonus, arcane spell failure chance, and speed limitations from among the various armor pieces to determine the full statistics and qualities of the armor she is wearing.

When/if Felix is wearing multiple pieces or armor (or multiple armors, for some reason), this is how his Armor Training applies: He takes the most negative ACP of any piece he's wearing, and takes the lowest max Dex allowed by any piece he's wearing - these may be different pieces. Then, the benefits from his Armor Training apply to those ACP and max Dex bonus.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Technically, most armors past leather are pretty much multiple armor pieces put together in an effective way. For the game system, they are completely different things. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Feb 16 '17 at 11:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras What are completely different things? \$\endgroup\$ – MikeQ Feb 16 '17 at 12:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Each different armor set. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Feb 16 '17 at 13:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ What i was trying to say was that a full plate mail ALSO has a breastplate, and also a chain shirt or padded chest bellow. All armors are actually multiple pieces of armor stacked together. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Feb 16 '17 at 13:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Shields are armor for these purposes. Cf. the tower shield specialist, which specifies that with non-tower shields, armor training functions “as normal.” Also the fact that shields are listed in the armor chapter, improve armor class, and so on. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Feb 16 '17 at 22:26
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Armor training certainly applies to shields, as they are a type of armor. They are printed in the armor chapter, they improve Armor Class, and the tower shield specialist fighter archetype explicitly references the idea that armor training normally applies to shields:

At 3rd level, a tower shield specialist gains armor training as normal, but while he employs a tower shield, the armor penalty is reduced by 3 and the maximum Dexterity bonus allowed by his armor increases by 2. The benefit increases every four levels thereafter as per standard armor training; if the tower shield specialist is not employing a tower shield, the benefits to armor training revert to the normal bonuses.

(emphasis mine)

The question of whether it applies to the item or to the fighter, however, is unclear. The rules could go either way, and Paizo has never commented on it. The general consensus of the Paizo forums seems to be, well if you sift through a whole lot of people incorrectly claiming it doesn’t work with shields at all, most of the rest seem to think that applying armor training to each item individually would be imbalanced. Which it really wouldn’t be, but it’s the closest to consensus that I can find.

Note, however, that it shouldn’t really matter since you can trivially make your shield from mithral or darkleaf, eliminating the armor check penalty altogether. You can even make your shield spikes from a different material, if you wanted to benefit from that material on your attacks.

Unfortunately, though, there isn’t a whole lot of support for dual-shields in Pathfinder.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The tower shield specialist archetype defines a specific ability that overrides the general case for the Fighter class. It seems to be the exception rather than the rule. \$\endgroup\$ – MikeQ Feb 17 '17 at 2:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MikeQ Yes, but it makes a statement about what the normal case is. Just to clear up any possible misunderstandings from the original. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Feb 17 '17 at 2:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MikeQ 1. Nowhere do I see the phrase “worn armor,” I see a condition “whenever he is wearing armor.” 2. Shields get strapped to the arm and are worn. To deny a fighter his armor training benefits because he has only a shield, and no armor, would be absurd. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Feb 17 '17 at 2:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Shields are not considered light armor, medium armor, or heavy armor. Also, the Fighter's proficiencies clearly separate the two: "A fighter is proficient with all simple and martial weapons and with all armor (heavy, light, and medium) and shields (including tower shields)." If the GM thinks it's absurd, then they can houserule it so that Armor Training includes shields. \$\endgroup\$ – MikeQ Feb 17 '17 at 2:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MikeQ Yes, shields are not light, medium, or heavy, so they are not covered under the proficiencies for those. They are still armor. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Feb 17 '17 at 3:22
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Armor Training reduces the armor check penalty to each piece of armor worn. Individually. It also increases the maximum Dexterity bonus you can have while wearing any armor that has this problem. For example: Full Plate has a maximum Dex bonus of +1. After applying Armor Training once, this bonus increases to +2. This means if you have an 18 Dex, you have a +4 bonus. While wearing Full Plate, with Armor Training applied once, the maximum Dex bonus you have to work with is +2, despite having an 18 Dex.

However, this obviously only helps for skills hindered by armor (eg. Tumble, Swim, Move Silently, etc).

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