Moderately Armored 5E: DnD Feat Guide

Moderately armored is one of those feats that gets overlooked quite a bit in 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons, as many of the more mechanically-inclined feats are. In the race towards heavy armor, or upping stats for unarmored defense, many times it feels like that medium armor is left behind.

So where does medium armor fit in fifth edition? Is the moderately armored feat worth giving up an ability score improvement for?

Moderately armored is the mechanically necessary feat in 5E that allows those with light armor proficiencies to upgrade to having medium armor proficiencies, which includes the use of a shield. While necessary, most players consider it a very weak feat that is only useful in a very narrow array of builds.

Is this a fair assessment, or has the 5E moderately armored feat received a bad rap? Let’s jump in and fully break down this medium armor feat!

breastplate medium armor
The breastplate – the most impressive of the medium armor 5E.

Breaking Down the Moderately Armored Feat

The first step is to look at the exact wording of the moderately armored feat in the Player’s Handbook. Here’s the description of the feat followed by a benefit by benefit breakdown.

Directly from the Player’s Handbook:

Prerequisite: Proficiency with light armor

You have trained to master the use of medium armor and shields, gaining the following benefits:

  • Increase your Strength or Dexterity score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
  • You gain proficiency with medium armor and shields.

PHB p.164

Lets break down each of these benefits in detail!

Benefit #1: Increase your Strength or Dexterity score by 1 up to a max of 20.

Getting a partial ability score boost isn’t a big plus with a feat, because it is just mitigating what you are giving up in order to get a feat. While I do like the fact that the +1 can be Strength or Dexterity and that gives a bit of versatility, but this is still just making up for part of what you’re giving up.

So it’s okay, but nothing special.

Benefit #2: Gain proficiency with medium armor and shields.

There’s some gray area about whether shields are attached to medium armor or not in 5E, but the wording here removes all doubt as far as the feat goes. That boost to be able to use a shield is a nice touch and it’s obvious this “upgrade” from light armor to medium armor is at the heart of the feat, though use of a shield is probably the only thing keeping it from flirting with an F grade.

5E Classes That Should Take the Moderately Armored Feat

None. The are no classes that should look at the moderately armored feat as necessary or even high priority. Even beyond that, there are very few classes or even builds where this would make sense at all.

While it makes sense that this feat needs to exist for mechanical reasons, it doesn’t move the needle much when it comes to build. There is no class or build where the moderately armored feat would be considered a must-have…which tells you how low the grade

5th Ed Classes that should always take the Moderately Armored Feat:

  • None

5E Classes That Should Consider Taking the Moderately Armored Feat

There are two classes that have some builds where medium armor can work, and that’s Bard and Warlock. While many Bard and Warlock classes have good Dexterity scores, which would eliminate the need for this feat and make light armor make more sense, there are some builds in this class where not going Dex can work.

In those cases, medium armor actually is an upgrade for the builds and allows a focus into other ability scores or feats.

The College of Valor bard who wants more hit points from a high Constitution score or additional feats might welcome not having to try to max out Dexterity for the sake of armor. Likewise, there are multiple melee-based warlock builds. While these have generally relied on Dex in the past, being able to add medium armor and then focus on Strength or Constitution can work.

This can open up the types of characters to be played and allow them to work in a different way than most similar builds, creating something interesting and unique.

These are the only narrow routes where looking at the moderately armored feat makes sense. If you’re going high dexterity with these classes, then stick with studded leather armor.

Or you know, the Captain America brawler feat with Barbarian instead of Fighter (for shield proficiency) but then with the new unarmed fighter subclass or monk I’m not sure why you’d go Barbarian, but hey, to each their own.

5th Ed Classes that can consider taking the Moderately Armored Feat:

  • Bard
  • Warlock

5E Classes That Should NEVER Take the Moderately Armored Feat

The overwhelming majority of classes start with medium armor proficiency, have heavy armor proficiency, or have better unarmored defense than medium armor can provide. That eliminates the majority of classes.

Those left behind? Spellcasters who can get better armor via spells and keeping their dexterity bonus instead of wasting feats on light armor and then medium armor, and classes that often lean heavily on dexterity, making light armor the better choice.

Because of this, the majority of classes in 5th Edition should never take the moderately armored feat.

  • Classes that already have medium or heavy armor proficiency (and thus don’t need this feat): Artificers, Clerics, Druids, Fighters, Paladins, and Rangers
  • Classes that have better unarmored than what medium armor would give: Barbarians, Monks
  • Classes of spellcasters who have better magical defenses and/or need their feat spaces for other feats: Sorcerers, Wizards

This also leaves rogues, which are built for a high dexterity 100% of the time in 5E and that means that adding the dex modifier to light armor, and looking at the dex limits (or stealth penalties) that come with medium armor, means that they should never make the move off of light armor.

5th Ed classes that should never take the Moderately Armored Feat:

  • Artificer
  • Barbarian
  • Cleric
  • Druid
  • Fighter
  • Monk
  • Paladin
  • Ranger
  • Rogues
  • Sorcerer
  • Wizard

Why Is Medium Armor So Weak?

5th Edition DnD is not one of the many RPG systems where light armor is an afterthought. They’ve done a good job setting up particular setups or builds that can make a light armor character completely viable.

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. Medium armor options have a limit while light armor allows the full use of the Dexterity modifier along with the

Considering that rogues are going to be Dexterity-heavy, that means light armor is generally objectively better than medium armor for most classes that would choose between the two.

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

Studded leather armor gives a solid base AC of 12 and gets he full +5 Dex modifier bonus on a Dexterity score of 20 for a 17 AC. The best medium armor gives 17 AC if you have a 14 or higher Dexterity score…and disadvantage on stealth checks.

This means the AC of studded leather armor from light armor is as good or better than all medium armor, and it is more versatile because there is no penalty to stealth.

This is also the problem medium armor finds itself in 5E where it’s almost always better to upgrade over it, stay under it, or use class features that are already superior to it and that’s why the moderately armored feat is so bad. They did what they could, but medium armor is just the outcast the way the current system is built.

Final Feat Grade for 5E Moderately Armored

Moderately Armored Feat Grade: D-

Is the 5E Moderately Armored Feat Worth It?

Pretty much no. Unless you are tackling one of those super narrow builds mentioned earlier, then the moderately armored feat is just weak. It’s strongest point is if you would like to add shield proficiency while rounding out either STR or DEX to an even number with a +1 boost. That shield proficiency is actually the main reason this feat isn’t an F grade.

Other than those narrow areas, you have to intentionally work to make this feat workout and at that point you’re intentionally taking a weaker or less efficient route to do so.

5E Moderately Armored Feat FAQ

Why is moderately armored a bad feat for a rogue in 5E?

While rogues are one of the few classes that only start with light armor, they always are built aiming for a maxed out Dexterity score and they rely on stealth. This means light armor works better for them in virtually every way than medium armor, and that’s why rogues should avoid this feat (and medium armor) altogether.

What classes should take the moderately armored feat?

While there are a couple conceivable builds with College of Valor Bards or non-Dex melee Warlock builds where this makes sense, those are about the only builds where this feat could potentially offer some help. Whether that’s the best direction to go would still remain up for debate.

Do you need the moderately armored feat to take the medium armor master feat?

No, you simply need a character with the ability to use medium armor. As long as you have medium armor proficiency, it doesn’t matter where it comes from.

Why would I take the moderately armored feat instead of just multiclassing?

Maybe to preserve a Level 20 in a high level campaign. The bigger question is why would you want medium armor when there are so many other better options for the overwhelming majority of potential builds?

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