Medium Armor Master 5E: DnD Feat Guide

Medium Armor Master feat is an interesting feat that gives a nice little boost to the narrow medium armor route and attempts to give those with medium armor another option as opposed to upgrading to heavy or multi-classing. While medium armor master is a feat that works to make medium armor objectively measurably better, does it really add that much value, or is medium armor still worth skipping altogether?

This is the type of deep dive we’ve going to jump into for DnD players trying to decide on the right build for their character, and whether that decorative +1 breastplate is worth it or not.

Medium Armor Master Feat in Summary: The medium armor master feat attempts to strengthen Medium Armor in 5th Edition by basically adding +1 AC via Dexterity Bonus for player characters with a Dexterity of 16 or higher and removing disadvantage to stealth checks, the biggest weakness that hampers medium armor and makes it (normally) an inferior choice to light armor.

So is Medium Armor Master a great feat like Heavy Armor Master, or is it a dud like the Lightly Armored Feat? We break this feat down thoroughly to let you know whether it’s a boon or a dud, when it’s actually useful, and the homebrew rule I’d add to make it more powerful.

Read on to find out more!

breastplate medium armor
The breastplate: the epitome of stealth-killing medium armor in 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons.

Breaking Down the Medium Armor Master Feat

The medium armor master feat is not a highly talked about feat, but if we’re going to understand it we need to dive into the actual wording of this feat in the 5th Edition Player’s Handbook as well as dissecting medium armor’s place in the newest edition of D&D.

Directly from the Player’s Handbook:

Prerequisite: Proficiency with medium armor

You have practiced moving in medium armor to gain the following benefits:

  • Wearing medium armor doesn’t impose disadvantage on your Dexterity (Stealth) checks.
  • When you wear medium armor, you can add 3, rather than 2, to your AC if you have a Dexterity of 16 or higher

The Player’s Handbook (PHB) p.168

So let’s break these two benefits down in a more detailed way.

Benefit #1: Wearing medium armor doesn’t cause disadvantage on any dexterity/stealth checks.

This has long been the major drawback to medium armor in 5E. Most of the better medium armor options created disadvantage on stealth checks and getting rid of that is definitely a plus, making medium armor more viable…though it’s fair to wonder why this correction was needed in the first place.

Benefit #2: The dex bonus you can add to your AC when wearing medium armor moves from a maximum of +2 at 14 to +3 at 16.

Basically this is a +1 AC as long as your Dexterity is at 16. This is okay, but it’s not a straight +1 and it forces an investment is Dexterity while many builds who are going to be Dex built would prefer light armor anyway, and this still makes it harder to do a Medium Armor CON build for a melee unit.

This is okay, and +1 AC is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s not overpowering and it is conditional, so it’s not quite as strong as if it was just a straight up bonus.

Benefit #3: All Medium Armor gets +1 AC

So this isn’t an included benefit but honestly for an armor “Master” feat, it really should be, IMO.

5E Classes That Should Take the Medium Armor Master Feat

While light armor is the short end of the stick for armor options in many RPG setups, in 5th Ed D&D it’s the medium armor that is the bastard child of the armor options. There are very few classes that start with medium armor proficiency that don’t start with better options, or the classes that might use both tend to have maxed out Dexterity which means light armor is better.

If you’re going to use medium armor, it’s better to have this feat than not, but the overwhelming majority of builds won’t have any use for medium armor, much less a feat amplifying that.

5th Ed Classes that should always take the Medium Armor Master Feat:

  • NONE

5E Classes That Should Consider Taking the Medium Armor Master Feat

The only 5E class that should consistently look at the medium armor feat is artificer. We’ll get to the special narrow builds and racial exception in a bit, but why artificer?

This is the one class that can wear medium armor that doesn’t have Dexterity as the second major stat pretty much programmed in to their class. They also are not a class that focuses on stealth. This means the main benefit of light armor and the main drawback of medium armor don’t apply to a normal artificer build.

Intelligence is the base stat and then there are a lot of options, which means CON is a good choice, other feats are a good choice, or a little more DEX without maxing it out is more viable.

That means Artificer is by far and away the class that would consistently benefit most from the Medium Armor Master feat.

The other options would be very narrow builds. Fighters or Paladins who choose medium armor over heavy armor (for some reason – I’m assuming story based in the campaign?) would want to tweak their armor up a little bit. If you were going to do a melee warlock that multi-classed or for some reason inexplicably wasted a feat to get medium armor proficiency, then this might be an option.

Since Mountain Dwarves start out with a racial ability that gives them proficiency in medium armor, any build with a Mountain Dwarf can make the medium armor master feat a potentially viable option even for classes or builds that otherwise it wouldn’t make any sense for.

5th Ed Classes that should consider taking the Medium Armor Master Feat:

  • Artificer
  • Melee-Warlock build that ignores Dexterity (STR/CON/CHR stat trio)
  • Very rare and narrow builds of clerics/fighters/paladins who for some reason choose medium armor over heavy armor, thus intentionally choosing a lower AC build
  • Mountain Dwarf specific builds (Mountain Dwarves have a racial ability to use medium armor)

5E Classes That Should NEVER Take the Medium Armor Master Feat

The overwhelming

No class with access to heavy armor should take medium armor instead, meaning they don’t need this feat. That eliminates Fighters, Paladins, and most clerics from ever taking this feat.

No class with a better magic combination of defenses, abilities, or unarmored class feature should take this feat. That eliminates barbarians, druids, monks, sorcerers, and wizards.

Light armor with a good Dexterity score is just better than most medium armor setups, and allows a deep dive into the very versatile Dexterity stat, which eliminates rangers and rogues.

There are some feats that only apply to a small number of classes, but the feat is still super powerful and therefore well-respected at 5E tables. However, medium armor master simply is not one of them. Most classes shouldn’t touch this feat, or most medium armor, with a ten foot pole.

5th Ed classes that should never take the Medium Armor Master Feat:

  • Barbarians
  • Bards
  • Clerics
  • Druids
  • Fighters
  • Monks
  • Rangers
  • Rogues
  • Paladins
  • Sorcerers
  • Warlocks (most builds)
  • Wizards

Why Is Medium Armor So Weak?

In many systems there are complaints that light armor need boosting. One of 5E’s problems is how useless Medium armor is for most classes inclined to use it or upgrade. Why?

The major culprit is how light armor works with Dexterity modifiers.

The epitome of this? Studded Leather Armor (description on page 145).

Medium armor usually has a max +2 from Dexterity, while offering only 1-2 more AC than light armor. Even the strongest Medium armor with its +2 is one less AC than a ranger, rogue, or other Dex build with studded leather armor. Add in that most non-heavy armor builds among melee classes are built around Dexterity, and that’s a problem since the builds that make sense simply make light armor better.

That’s even before the fact that half of Medium Armor options impose disadvantage to stealth checks. For the majority of melee builds this seems to punish characters who need to be sneaky and have high dex scores (Ranger, Rogue) and it remains inferior to the much stronger heavy armor where the feat used to improve medium armor could just be used for the heavily armored feat instead which has the same disadvantages but way more AC.

While there might be some changes in 5.5 that address this, it’s not likely considering that there are already multiple workarounds of medium armor.

Final Feat Grade for 5E Medium Armor Master

Medium Armor Master Feat Grade: D-

Is the 5E Medium Armor Master Feat Worth It?

There are very few builds where medium armor master is a good feat or even a viable pick up. The bonuses given by the feat just really aren’t that impressive and even force a certain build to get full benefits. A simple 1-level multi-class to many classes or an ability score upgrade give a lot more bonuses.

Add in the fact have this feat is fixing the most common detriment of medium armor as opposed to giving a straight boost and it’s easy to see why players are down on one of the least talked about feats in all of 5E.

Medium Armor Master Feat FAQ

Is the medium armor master feat any good?

Most players and DMs agree that the 5E medium armor feat isn’t very good. It’s not a complete waste because it makes medium armor slightly better while getting rid of the biggest drawback of medium armor. However, the medium armor master feat is definitely lacking.

This isn’t the trash fire that the moderately armored feat is, but it’s right up there. In very, very narrow circumstances it can be a nice little boost, but it’s hard to see how this feat would ever be better than a +2 to the Constitution score.

What is the best medium armor in 5th Edition D&D?

The best medium armor in 5E that is not magical, customized, or home brewed is the Half Plate which gives a 15 + Dex Modifier up to +2 for a total AC of 17. This does come with disadvantage on stealth checks so there are arguments that the Breastplate, which is 14 + Dex Modifier up to +2 for a total AC of 16 but no disadvantage on stealth checks might be better for your character’s needs.

Can wizards wear medium armor in 5E?

I love this question because it almost certainly comes from an unconventional build that I was a HUGE fan of pre-Tasha’s. This would be a wizard who is a mountain dwarf. Because they have a racial trait of medium armor proficiency. Generally, wizards can’t wear any armor without feats unless they are the aforementioned mountain dwarf wizard, then they can wear medium armor without penalty.

Is the medium armor master feat worthless?

I wouldn’t say the medium armor feat is worthless, but it’s close. This is in part because the feat doesn’t give enough to justify passing up other feats and ability scores, and a large part because of just how bad medium armor is.

How would you fix the 5E medium armor master feat?

It’s hard to figure out how to fix this feat as medium armor in 5th Edition is pretty weak. And by pretty weak, I mean a dumpster fire. Without fixing the medium armor issues in 5th Ed, fixing the feat isn’t going to be clean. An easy improvement that would have pulled this up to a solid C would be if the feat kept the two benefits it already had and added a straight up +1 AC to all medium armor worn. This would stack on top of an additional +1 for a 16 Dexterity score.

That would at least give this feat some teeth for those middle of the road melee character builds.

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