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Do you need armor proficiency to avoid attack penalties from medium encumbrance?


Rules Questions


1 person marked this as FAQ candidate.

So, my character is a shrimp, who is almost always operating under medium encumbrance. Not ideal, of course, but I'd weighed the tradeoffs, the pros and the cons, and made my peace with it, figuring what I could contribute to the party with the character built this way outweighed (no pun intended) the cost of the encumbrance penalties, given the sort of role he tries to play, both in-combat and out of it, and the style of the campaign.

But lately I've been doubting my original reading of one particular line in the rules, which is making me worried that I've been playing him completely wrong thus far: "A medium or heavy load counts as medium or heavy armor for the purpose of abilities or skills that are restricted by armor."

Until recently, I'd just assumed that line to be saying that the load counted as the corresponding type of armor for abilities and skills that were already stated as being affected by armor, normally. (DEX and STR based skills, monk abilities, etc.) But I realized you could also read that line as saying that it counts as that type of armor for the purpose of determining which skills or abilities are restricted by armor. And for someone who doesn't have medium armor proficiency, that significantly expands the list of skills and abilities affected (attack rolls, and all skills that involve movement).

On the other hand... if it were being completely treated as armor in every ability that armor limits, one would also expect spells with arcane failure to be one of those abilities. Which it doesn't seem to be, given that there's no specific arcane failure chance given for a medium encumbrance (that I've been able to find).

And would attacking really count as an "ability or skill" in that sense?

I dunno, it's kinda turning my brain into knots figuring out just exactly how far that line is supposed to apply. Couldn't find much that's specific on the subject, but I just want to try and make sure that I'm not giving myself an improper leg-up as I'm playing my character.

So in short, is there a difference between a medium-encumbered character with medium armor proficiency, and one without? Does the later have the encumbrance penalty applied to their attack? Does the latter have the encumbrance applied to any skill check involving movement, even beyond the DEX and STR skills that are listed as already having an armor check penalty?


The answer to your question is no -- it works just the way you think it works.

The Rules wrote:

Armor Check Penalty

Any armor heavier than leather, as well as any shield, hurts a character's ability to use Dex- and Str-based skills. An armor check penalty applies to all Dex- and Strength-based skill checks. A character's encumbrance may also incur an armor check penalty.

Shields: If a character is wearing armor and using a shield, both armor check penalties apply.

Nonproficient with Armor Worn: A character who wears armor and/or uses a shield with which he is not proficient takes the armor's (and/or shield's) armor check penalty on attack rolls as well as on all Dex- and Str-based ability and skill checks. The penalty for non-proficiency with armor stacks with the penalty for shields.

Sleeping in Armor: A character who sleeps in medium or heavy armor is automatically fatigued the next day. He takes a –2 penalty on Str and Dex and can't charge or run. Sleeping in light armor does not cause fatigue.

The only time the extra penalties apply (adding the ACP to your attack roll and ability checks) is when you are wearing armor for which you are not proficient. Obviously that's never true when you take a check penalty due to encumbrance; there's no armor for you to be proficient or not proficient with.

So there's no need to have armor proficiency unless you're actually wearing armor.


Incidentally, I'd spend the gold on a muleback cord as soon as you can afford it. If you're currently under medium encumbrance, a muleback cord is guaranteed to eliminate that encumbrance.


AvalonXQ wrote:
The only time the extra penalties apply (adding the ACP to your attack roll and ability checks) is when you are wearing armor for which you are not proficient. Obviously that's never true when you take a check penalty due to encumbrance; there's no armor for you to be proficient or not proficient with.

That is indeed a relief. I'd hoped it would be that way (and it does indeed make the most sense to me as well). It was just the bit about how your load "counts as" armor that had me worried and wanting to double-check with people more knowledgeable than myself. Thanks for clearing that up!

AvalonXQ wrote:
Incidentally, I'd spend the gold on a muleback cord as soon as you can afford it. If you're currently under medium encumbrance, a muleback cord is guaranteed to eliminate that encumbrance.

*whistles* Now that is a nice item. (And quite reasonably priced, too.) Our party's a bit low-level and cash-strapped at the moment, but that's definitely going on my ASAP shopping list. Thank you for the suggestion!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
AvalonXQ wrote:
Incidentally, I'd spend the gold on a muleback cord as soon as you can afford it. If you're currently under medium encumbrance, a muleback cord is guaranteed to eliminate that encumbrance.

It's also good for eliminating saving throws. Let's just hope you don't eat a flesh to stone or a finger of death because you gave up your cloak of resistance for a set of muleback cords.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Ravingdork wrote:
AvalonXQ wrote:
Incidentally, I'd spend the gold on a muleback cord as soon as you can afford it. If you're currently under medium encumbrance, a muleback cord is guaranteed to eliminate that encumbrance.
It's also good for eliminating saving throws. Let's just hope you don't eat a flesh to stone or a finger of death because you gave up your cloak of resistance for a set of muleback cords.

Muleback cords are cheap enough to be disposable. You can buy them at low level, and replace it with bags of holding later when you need the saving throws. Also, if you can craft your own wondreous items, adding the muleback cord property to a cloak of resistance cost only 1500.

To the OP, you should check Masterwork Backpack too.


Nice. Never thought of adding the two! 8)


Ravingdork wrote:
It's also good for eliminating saving throws. Let's just hope you don't eat a flesh to stone or a finger of death because you gave up your cloak of resistance for a set of muleback cords.

Heh heh. Well, for the finger of death, at least, it'll be a while before I'll stand a realistic chance of surviving even the save damage on that spell, should our GM feel sadistic enough to throw a druid, sorcerer or wizard capable of casting it at us... ;-)

gustavo iglesias wrote:
To the OP, you should check Masterwork Backpack too.

Thanks! That does look like it might be handy...


gustavo iglesias wrote:
...Also, if you can craft your own wondreous items, adding the muleback cord property to a cloak of resistance cost only 1500.

I'm familiar with the 3.5 Magic Item Compendium rules for stacking magic properties. Were these rules ever covered in Pathfinder?


Don't forget about Ant Haul. After a few levels, it covers your typical adventuring day. Not a bad use for a first level spell once you start to have unused spells each day.

A wand of Ant Haul for 750 would probably get you by until your party has an excess of first level spells.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Rhatahema wrote:
gustavo iglesias wrote:
...Also, if you can craft your own wondreous items, adding the muleback cord property to a cloak of resistance cost only 1500.
I'm familiar with the 3.5 Magic Item Compendium rules for stacking magic properties. Were these rules ever covered in Pathfinder?

If you scroll down to MULTIPLE DIFFERENT ABILITIES, you can find the rule.

MULTIPLE DIFFERENT ABILITIES wrote:
Abilities such as an attack roll bonus or saving throw bonus and a spell-like function are not similar, and their values are simply added together to determine the cost. For items that take up a space on a character's body, each additional power not only has no discount but instead has a 50% increase in price.

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