The lightly armored feat is one of those head scratchers in the 5th Edition system. While it makes sense on some level to give classes who don’t have inherent armor skills access to light armor, is a feat really the best way to go about it? From a mechanical standpoint this feat makes sense since light armor proficiency is needed to feat up to medium armor which is needed to feat up to heavy armor – but does that make this feat any good?
The lightly armored feat is one of the worst feats in 5th edition D&D and while it does give the option to use light armor to characters who don’t have it, outside of an insane homebrew light armor or the rare campaign where multi-classing isn’t allowed, it is a nearly worthless feat.
Why does this feat fail so badly? Let’s dive into it to see why.
Breaking Down the Lightly Armored Feat
The lightly armored feat is there to give classes with no armor the ability to pick up light armor. This is the way the 5E lightly armored feat is written in the Player’s Handbook.
Directly from the Player’s Handbook:
You have trained to master the use of light armor, gaining the following benefits:
- Increase your Strength or Dexterity score by 1, to a maximum of 20
- You gain proficiency with light armor
On the surface this seems like a relatively simple feat, but is that how it holds up under closer examination?
Benefit #1: Increase your Strength or Dexterity ability score by 1 up to a maximum of 20.
This is to help make up for giving up an ability score improvement. Instead of a +2 or a +1/+1 the player takes a single +1 in one of those two ability scores. While I do like that a choice is given instead of forcing the player to just take one, it’s still not making up for the rest of the trash fire that is this feat.
Benefit #2: You gain proficiency with light armor.
You now can use light armor, which is the main point of this feat.
Related Article: Check out how this feat was improved with our complete DnD One Lightly Armored Feat Guide
Lightly Armored Feat Alternatives (aka Why You Shouldn’t Take This Feat)
Why would the ability to use light armor be a negative? By itself it’s not, but let’s look at the four classes that don’t start with armor proficiency, what light armor actually gives them as a benefit, and then why there are better options out there.
First of all, according to the equipment section of the PHB on p. 145 there are only three types of light armor: padded, leather, and studded leather. Assume no one will use padded since it is the same AC as leather but it gives disadvantage to stealth checks, making it a hard pass for everyone.
That leaves us with two light armor finalists:
- Leather Armor
- Studded Leather
Leather armor is 11+ Dex modifier while Studded leather armor is 12 + Dex modifier. But wait, you say, isn’t unarmored even for non-specialists 10 + Dex modifier?
Yes, it is.
Which means you’re spending a feat for +1 AC with leather armor or +2 AC with studded leather armor.
That’s it. A measly +1 or +2 AC and that’s before the additional bad news.
If you’re a draconic bloodline sorcerer, you get draconic resilience which is 13 + Dex modifier, which makes being unarmored better than having light armor.
If you’re wearing armor, you can’t use the spell mage armor which gives an improved 13 + Dex modifier, which is also better than wearing light armor.
If you’re looking at monks and barbarians, their versions of unarmored defense should be better than the best light armor in the game from level one. Wearing armor would actually make monks and barbarians weaker and easier to hit.
So What Are Some of the Better Options?
Mutli-class into Fighter. You can just do one level for the proficiencies or you can do two. This also grants your character bonuses that are far above and beyond what this feat has to offer. The overwhelming majority of 5E games I’ve seen
The spell barkskin can move your AC up to 16 for an hour. The spell stoneskin gives resistance to non-magical piercing, slashing, or bludgeoning damage for one hour.
Light armor has no effect on these spells. That makes these natural spells a party often has more useful that that feat. Not to mention the fact that there are so many feats that are useful to wizards and sorcerers (or monks and barbarians) that you’re losing out on a lot of benefit from taking this feat over other actual useful ones.
My favorite tricky build, the mountain dwarf wizard, starts with medium armor proficiency due to a racial bonus which gives that unique build (article coming soon) making those characters better than this feat to begin with.
There is the bladesinger subclass of wizard that already has proficiency in light armor, then there’s War Magic subclass of wizards from Xanathar’s that has additional defensive bonuses above and beyond what light armor would provide.
5E Classes That Should Consider Taking the Lightly Armored Feat
If the feat is this bad, then are there any classes that should consider taking the lightly armored feat? There are two possibilities in some very narrow circumstances, but that’s it. Those are the classes of wizards and sorcerers in campaigns were multiclassing is not allowed by the DM.
If multi-classing is allowed, just multiclass into fighter.
Even then this just isn’t worth it, especially without homebrew or magically enhanced light armor items. Even then, is giving up that ability score combo in better stats or a better feat worth it?
Doubtful. Very doubtful.
5th Ed Classes that should consider take the Lightly Armored Feat:
- Sorcerers & Wizards if multi-classing is not allowed
- NONE if multi-classing is allowed
5E Classes That Should NEVER Take the Lightly Armored Feat
All of them. Honestly even in that rare campaign where there is no multiclassing, it doesn’t make sense for characters to take this feat. It makes monks and barbarians weaker, and there are better spells, class feats, and workarounds for the spellcasting classes that work better than actually wearing armor.
There’s no really good reason for any player to take the lightly armored feat. There are always better options, especially for a mere +1 or +2 AC…especially considering a +2 CON gets you more hit points or a +2 DEX would get a +1 to the AC anyway.
5th Ed classes that should never take the Lightly Armored Feat:
Final Feat Grade for 5E Lightly Armored
Lightly Armored Feat Grade: F
Is the 5E Lightly Armored Feat Worth It?
No, the lightly armored feat in 5E is one of the worst feats in the game, and joins Athlete in the ignoble group of feats that have received a full failing grade. Because of the other rules in the game with or without popular optional rules, there are better options available. There just isn’t a build using this feat that makes any sense. Skip it.
Lightly Armored Feat FAQ
Why would anyone take the lightly armored feat?
There really isn’t a good reason for any player who knows the 5E system well to ever take the lightly armored feat. Only some sorcerers or wizards would have any chance of benefitting from it.
Is the lightly armored feat the worst feat in 5E Dungeons & Dragons?
Lightly armored is certainly one of the worst feats in 5th edition D&D, competing with the Athlete feat for the worst in all of 5E.
Does draconic resilience and unarmored defense stack?
No. Draconic resilience does not stack with unarmored defense. It’s one or the other.
Other DnD Articles You Might Enjoy
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- 5E Healer Feat
- How Does Disarm Work in 5E
- How Does Passive Perception Work 5E?
- Heavy Armor Master Feat
Proud to embrace the locally created moniker of “Corrupt Overlord” from one of the all time great Lords of Waterdeep runs, Shane is one member of the Assorted Meeples crew and will be hard at work creating awesome content for the website. He is a long-time player of board games, one time semi-professional poker player, and tends to run to the quirky or RPG side of things when it comes to playing video games. He loves tabletop roleplaying systems like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Werewolf, Fate, and others, and not only has been a player but has run games as DM for years. You can find his other work in publications like Level Skip or Hobby Lark.