Last Updated on January 22, 2023
The Hollow Man, The Empty Armor, The Armored Specter…
There are many such names for the concept of a suit of armor that leaps up and fights on its own, propelled by some mysterious arcane or mystical force. Perhaps it’s being controlled by a magician, or maybe it’s haunted by the ghost of the warrior who died while wearing it. Either way, the Animated Armor has the potential to make your next game a memorable one.
This post is all about how to prepare for an encounter with the Animated Armor as a player and as a DM.
What Is Animated Armor in DnD 5e?
Animated Armor is a CR1 construct that looks identical to a regular suit of armor when motionless. It attacks with a slam attack and has 60-foot blindsense.
Medium Construct, Unaligned
- Armor Class: 18 (natural armor)
- Hit Points: 33 (6d8 + 6)
- Speed: 25 ft.
- STR 14 (+2), DEX 11 (+0), CON 13 (+1), INT 1 (-5), WIS 3 (-4), CHA 1 (-5)
- Damage Immunities: Poison, Psychic
- Condition Immunities: Blinded, Charmed, Deafened, Exhaustion, Frightened, Paralyzed, Petrified, Poisoned
- Senses: Blindsight 60 ft. (blind beyond this radius), Passive Perception 6
- Languages —
- Challenge: 1 (200 XP)
- Proficiency Bonus: +2
Antimagic Susceptibility. The armor is incapacitated while in the area of an antimagic field. If targeted by dispel magic, the armor must succeed on a Constitution saving throw against the caster’s Spell Save DC or fall unconscious for 1 minute.
False Appearance. While the armor remains motionless, it is indistinguishable from a normal suit of armor.
Slam. 2 Melee Weapon Attacks: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d6 + 2) bludgeoning damage each.
A Player’s Guide to Animated Armor
Suits of animated armor can be fairly common in Tier I adventures. In Tier II, you could expect to see large groups of them in a puppet-master situation.
In this next bit, we will talk about which locations would be likely to have animated armor, the tactics they use, and then how you can counter those tactics to avoid getting slammed to death.
Where Are You Likely To Encounter One?
The stat block says you are likely to find these constructs in urban environments. Most likely this means in castles and manors, both lived in and abandoned. In either case, these castles and manors will most likely be home to strong magic users or will carry leftover enchantments of bygone days. The animated armor will most likely be set up to guard a certain position, a certain object, or a certain person.
Animated Armor’s Tactics
Animated armor has a tendency to just stand around and wait, which, ironically, is the smartest thing it can do. It has the false appearance ability, which means it looks identical to a regular, nonmagical suit of armor set up on display somewhere.
There could be a hallway with 20 suits of armor decorating the space. Any one of them could be animated, and you wouldn’t know until it tried to reach out and punch you.
Fortunately, these constructs aren’t very smart. They either attack or stand motionless. They do not prioritize whom to attack, and they do not interpret their instructions in creative ways. For example, they could be told to guard a door and not let anyone through. This means anyone is free to climb through a window.
The animated armor will always seek to use its multiattack and score two attacks against anyone who has triggered it. This will result in 2d6+4 damage if both attacks hit. This is enough damage to take out most 1st– or 2nd-level characters who aren’t careful. The animated armor lacks any ranged attack, and you can not hide from its 60-foot blindsense, making it the perfect dumb guard.
Tactics When Facing Animated Armor
Should you find yourself on the wrong side of an empty suit of pissed-off plate mail, you have a few options on how to proceed.
First, you should figure out what brought the animated armor. These things work off of a series of very simple instructions. Was it meant to guard a door? To assault anyone who takes a certain item? Or was it built by a racist spellcaster who wanted it to attack any member of a certain PC race?
Once you figure out why the armor is animated, maybe you can stop doing the thing that is getting you attacked in the first place and just slide right by the construct without risking any more violence. This way, you can save your HP for the Big Bad at the end of the session.
Secondly, you should be aware of the armor’s limitations. It has perfect blindsense up to 60 feet. After that, however, it is blind to everything. Get at least 61 feet away from the construct, and pepper it with ranged attacks.
Unless it was instructed to protect itself, it will just stand there and take the damage. Remember, this thing only has an intelligence score of 1. It will likely not have the processing power to think something exists outside of its range of vision.
Thirdly and lastly, just destroy the thing. Why brain when you can bash? If you can beat that 18AC consistently, then have at it.
Alternatively, animated armor only has a Constitution bonus of +1 and a Dexterity bonus of 0. Its Intelligence, Charisma, and Wisdom saves are disastrous. Force it to make saving throws with spells if possible.
Don’t forget the Anti-Magic Sensitivity! Animated armor is especially susceptible to dispel magic and antimagic field. And, for the love of radiant damage, do not attempt to poison the construct. Bad Assassin! Bad! Don’t make me get my Bad Player Spray.
Animated Armor and Helmed Horrors
Helmed horrors are an advanced form of animated armor with their own skills, abilities, and tactics. The only way to tell the difference is by studying their behavior.
Animated armor is mindless, direct, and unable to adapt and change tactics.
Helmed horrors have an Intelligence of 10. If the animated armor you are fighting suddenly dives for cover and reaches for a different weapon, you are definitely dealing with a helmed horror unless the DM has something else nefarious and evil planned. But your DM wouldn’t do that, would they?
DM’s Guide to Animated Armor
Animated armor can make great features for a dungeon or a one-shot. Hopefully, the following can help make your next dungeon a memorable one!
Animated Armor Encounters
There are many places you could store a suit of animated armor to surprise your players.
- In a dark abandoned dungeon, there could be weapons and armor from past adventurers lying around. Make one stand up. Your players won’t know if they are fighting a construct or an undead!
- In a lord’s manor, consider having weapons and armor as decorative pieces. There could be a coat of arms over the mantle with animated swords and suits of armor on racks next to each doorway.
- When interrogating a villain, consider allowing the PCs to think they have the upper hand when they have the villain alone in a storage room or an armory until the villain speaks the password and animates the weapons and armor surrounding the PCs.
- Finally, keep in mind the reason for the armor’s existence. Explicitly write down the armor’s purpose. When it was created, it was given a job to do. Write that down, and allow the players a bit of creativity in the combat. If they can correctly guess the instructions and then work around them, I would reward them with XP even if they don’t defeat the monsters in combat.
The Making and Keeping of Animated Armor
There is no explicit way to create a suit of animated armor in the published material. So, because we here at the Citadel are a bunch of evil geniuses, we made a ritual for you! Follow the steps.
1. Find or buy a suit of armor. Heavy armor is strong, but medium armor may be faster, and light armor may be able to use ranged weapons within 60 feet (blindsense).
2. Perform a one-hour ritual requiring two consecutive DC15 Arcana checks and 50 gp worth of materials to create the ritual space. For every additional 25 gp of ritual material, you can reduce this DC by 1. You may also benefit from guidance or inspiration provided you had it available when you started the ritual.
During this ritual, you must explicitly speak the purpose of the animated armor. It will not deviate from this purpose unless you repeat this ritual.
If you are interrupted, you must make a DC 10 save (plus any damage you may have taken while being interrupted) using your spellcasting modifier in order to ignore the interruption.
3. Succeed or fail, you take one level of exhaustion that heals with normal rest. This hour-long ritual will create one suit of animated armor that follows the instructions given during the ritual. Consider giving a player knowledge of this ritual and the downtime to perform it as a reward instead of treasure.
Story Seeds for Animated Armor
If you like using Animated Armor for single adventures, you may consider making them a feature of a longer story or campaign. You could also make a location that makes use of animated armor and similar creatures and puzzles. The following is one such location whipped up by the dark sorcerers here at the Citadel.
The Defender’s Last Stand
The Defender is an old fortress turned hotel outside of a large city. Back in the days of a historical war, the fortress was once an important military site, but in these days of peace, the fortress has been turned into a private hotel/museum that offers tours, hospitality services, and a gift shop.
The Defender, though… the building itself… remembers the glory days, and it sees how low it has fallen and despairs.
When a guest stays the night at The Defender, they must succeed on a DC8 Charisma save or be afflicted with horrible nightmares of the old war (one level of exhaustion).
Mostly, the guests only stay for one night at this tourist trap, but the employees have it worse. They must stay for three to five nights at a time. Once a creature has taken two levels of exhaustion, they take 1d6 psychic damage if they fail the saving throw, and after three levels of exhaustion, they have daydreams of warning horns and fire on the walls.
The owners know that employees often struggle, but so long as no one dies and the guests leave before they get too badly injured, no one complains. And if the employees do complain, they can always be fired.
Somehow, the PCs learn about what is happening at The Defender, and while investigating, they either are shown or discover a hidden trapdoor in the manager’s office that used to be the Colonel’s quarters. Through the trap door is an old armory. Once inside, the PCs have to fight off all manner of animated armor and weapons.
They will find an Artificer’s lab, which is the source of the hotel’s consciousness, represented by a glowing crystal of some sort. A DC 20 Arcana will allow anyone proficient with smith’s tools or thieves’ tools to turn it off. A DC 20 Strength check will crack it, dealing 2d6 force damage to the attacker. Three good hits will destroy the crystal and bring the hotel down.
As The Defender collapses, force the players to make Dexterity saving throws to avoid bludgeoning damage from the collapsing building.
- About Author
- Latest Posts
I played the game a lot as a kid, back in first edition. Over the past few years since 5e was released, I’ve really started getting back into it. Currently, I run a campaign online for some friends and my brothers, and we also play a side-sesh just to mix things up.