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Scale Mail 5e

Scale Mail 5e

Scale Mail is a type of armor that consists of small, overlapping metal plates, hence the word “scale”, sewn to a cloth or leather backing. It is an absolute staple in fantasy games and literature – Dungeons & Dragons is no exception! In the world of DnD, Scale Mail is often worn by martial classes such as fighters, paladins, and other classes that may rely on heavy armor for protection.

Scale Mail is often seen as an upgrade from chain mail, providing better protection in general due to its higher AC rating. It also offers more flexibility and mobility than plate armor, making it a popular choice for characters who prefer to remain mobile and agile during battle. In addition to its other practical benefits, Scale Mail can also be seen as a stylish option – its distinctive appearance instantly evokes a sense of fantasy or adventure.

Despite being advantageous in many scenarios, Scale Mail does have some key drawbacks to keep in mind. It’s heavier than some other types of armor, which when calculating the overall load that a character can handle, may impact a player’s inventory! Its multitude of interlinking scales also has a distinct sound, making it difficult for players wearing Scale Mail to have a harder time sneaking around.

In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at Scale Mail, including its pros and cons, and some different scenarios that wearing it might affect.

What is Scale Mail 5e?

Scale Mail armor is a type of protective gear that consists of overlapping metal scales sewn onto a fabric or leather backing. In 5e, Scale Mail armor is considered medium armor and provides a base armor class (AC) of 14 + Dexterity modifier (up to a maximum of 2). This means that a character wearing Scale Mail with a Dexterity score of 14 or lower will have an AC of 14, while a character with a Dexterity score of 15 or higher will have an AC of 16.

Compared to other types of medium armor, Scale Mail provides a higher base AC than studded leather (12 + Dexterity modifier) but has a lower maximum Dexterity modifier, making it less suitable for characters who rely heavily on Dexterity. On the other hand, Scale Mail provides a lower base AC than breastplate (14 + no Dexterity modifier) but is lighter and cheaper. This makes it a good option for characters who want a balance between protection, mobility, and cost-effectiveness.

In terms of weight and cost, Scale Mail is heavier and more expensive than studded leather but lighter and cheaper than plate. A suit of Scale Mail armor weighs 45 pounds and costs 50 gold pieces. This makes it a viable option for characters who want a decent amount of protection without sacrificing too much mobility or breaking the bank.

Overall, Scale Mail armor is a solid choice for characters who want to balance protection, mobility, and cost. While it may not be the best option for all characters, it provides a good balance between AC, weight, and cost, making it a versatile choice for many different play styles.

Scale Mail 5e Stats

According to the Player’s Handbook, this armor consists of a coat and leggings (and perhaps a separate skirt) of leather covered with overlapping pieces of metal, much like the scales of a fish. The suit includes gauntlets.

  • Cost: 50 gp
  • AC: 14
  • Category: Items
  • Item Rarity: Standard
  • Stealth: Disadvantage
  • Weight: 45 lbs

Where can you get Scale Mail?

Scale Mail armor can be obtained in various ways throughout the game. Many classes start with proficiency in medium armor, which includes Scale Mail. These classes include the Fighter, Paladin, Ranger, and Cleric. Players can purchase Scale Mail armor from blacksmiths or armorers in most towns or cities for a cost of 50 gold pieces. Alternatively, adventurers can come across Scale Mail armor during their travels, either as loot from defeated enemies or as a reward for completing a quest.

DMs can also create quests that involve the acquisition of specific materials to craft Scale Mail armor. One option is to have the players seek out the scales of a mythical beast, such as a dragon or a hydra, to create a set of highly protective Scale Mail. The quest could involve tracking down the beast, defeating it, and then carefully extracting its scales.

Another option for a quest would be to have players seek out a renowned armorsmith who is capable of crafting Scale Mail armor of unparalleled quality. The armorsmith could be located in a distant land, requiring the players to embark on a perilous journey to find them. Once they arrive, they could be tasked with gathering rare and exotic materials from dangerous locations, such as mines or monster-infested ruins, to use in the crafting process.

Regardless of how players acquire Scale Mail armor, it’s important to note that it can be a valuable asset to any adventurer. With a weight of 45 pounds, it’s slightly lighter than chainmail but provides a little less protection (as is expected, as chainmail is considered heavy armor in 5e). Its cost of 50 gold pieces also makes it a relatively affordable option for those who are looking to upgrade their armor.

In comparison to other medium armor types available in 5e, such as breastplate or half plate, Scale Mail provides similar protection but is heavier, has a lower maximum Dexterity bonus, and comes at a cheaper price. Ultimately, the decision to wear Scale Mail should be based on a player’s individual preferences and playstyle.

Which classes benefit most from Scale Mail?

Scale Mail is a popular choice of armor for several classes in Dungeons and Dragons 5e due to its balance between protection and mobility. The following are the classes that have proficiency with medium armor and benefit from Scale Mail:


Fighters are the quintessential martial class and one of the most versatile classes in the game. They have proficiency with all armor types, including medium armor like Scale Mail. Fighters are also known for their ability to deal consistent damage and tank enemy attacks. Scale Mail allows them to keep up with enemies while maintaining a good defense.


Paladins tend to favor heavy armor, however they can benefit from medium armor just as well. They have a limited spellcasting ability, but their true power comes from the iconic Smite ability, which allows them to deal massive damage to their enemies. Scale Mail is a great choice for them, as it provides a decent amount of protection without hampering their mobility or spellcasting ability.


Rangers come in many flavors, however, the iconic image is the tree-hopping, bow-welding, nature-dwelling martial specialist. They are proficient in medium armor like Scale Mail, which allows them to maintain mobility while still having some protection. Rangers, as a very versatile class that can specialize in close-, medium-, or long-range combat, can benefit from versatile and flexible armor like Scale Mail.


Rogues are masters of stealth, and to be upfront about it, suffer stealth penalties from wearing armor like Scale Mail. They tend to favor light armor, as light armor doesn’t come with the same penalties. It allows them to maintain their natural speed, and though they take some penalties, the balance of price and protection can make up for it. Likewise, Rogues tend to have many ways to reroll or gain advantage on stealth rolls, so there are several ways that they can mitigate these penalties.

Scale Mail vs. Unarmored Defense 

Barbarians have the unique Unarmored Defense feature that allows them to calculate their Armor Class (AC) without using any armor. This ability is based on their Dexterity and Constitution scores. However, this feature only applies when they are not wearing armor or using a shield.

Barbarians have the highest hit points in the game, and their Unarmored Defense allows them to have a high AC without sacrificing their mobility. While Scale Mail provides a decent AC, it cannot match the high AC that Barbarians can achieve with their Unarmored Defense feature. However, Scale Mail does provide a viable alternative for Barbarians who want to mix up their playstyle or are facing enemies that deal damage that their high hit points cannot handle alone.

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06/05/2023 08:30 pm GMT

Scale Mail 5e FAQs

What is the AC of Scale Mail?

Its AC in 5e is 14 + Dex modifier (capped at +2).

What kind of armor is Scale Mail?

In 5e, Scale Mail is medium armor, in the same category as more expensive armor like breastplate or half plate.

Is Scale Mail better than Chainmail in 5e?

Apples and oranges. Chain mail is heavy armor, so characters need a different set of proficiencies to wear it. It also would come with its own set of penalties (characters must have 13 Str to even be able to don the stuff!) Scale Mail is medium armor and has no ability score requirements.

Do you add Dex to Scale Mail in 5e?

You add Dex modifier to the AC score, up to a maximum of +2. The base 14 AC that Scale Mail has represents the pure strength of the armor itself while the +2 is how well your character could dodge or parry in it. While there is a certain amount of mobility maintained, you’re not typically going to be flipping around like an acrobat to get out of the way of a strike, hence its +2 cap.

Can you wear Scale Mail if you have a negative Str modifier in 5e?

Sure can! Scale Mail has no ability score requirement, unlike armor such as Chain Mail. The downside is that a negative Str score comes with its own penalties, such as decreased movement speed and disadvantage on certain rolls.

Final Thoughts & Verdict

Scale Mail is a versatile and practical medium armor option for players in Dungeons & Dragons 5e. It offers a good balance between protection and mobility, making it a popular choice among characters with medium armor proficiency.

Throughout this article, we have explored what Scale Mail is and how it compares to other armor types in 5e. We have also looked at where to find Scale Mail in the game, and how players can craft it using the scales of mythical beasts. Additionally, we have discussed which classes benefit the most from using Scale Mail as their primary armor, and how it compares to the Unarmored Defense feature that Barbarians have.

One of the main benefits of Scale Mail is its decent AC bonus, which makes it a great choice for characters who need protection but also want to maintain their mobility. However, Scale Mail is heavier and more expensive than some other medium armor options, and it can also be harder to find in-game.

To sum up, if you’re looking for a reliable, medium armor that balances affordability and protection, Scale Mail is 100% something I recommend. However, it’s important to be cognizant of its penalties (to stealth, and its cap on bonus to AC from Dex).

Final verdict: definitely worth a look and your consideration!