Last Updated on January 22, 2023
Living Armor is a type of symbiotic armor that grants subtle bonuses at the expense of your ability to heal yourself.
Stat Block: Living Armor
Armor (any), very rare (requires attunement)
This hideous armor is formed from black chitin, beneath which veins pulse and red sinews glisten. To attune to this item, you must wear it for the entire attunement period, during which tendrils on the inside burrow into you.
While wearing this armor, you have a +1 bonus to Armor Class, and you have resistance to the following damage types: necrotic, poison, and psychic.
Symbiotic Nature. The armor can’t be removed from you while you’re attuned to it, and you can’t voluntarily end your attunement to it. If you’re targeted by a spell that ends a curse, your attunement to the armor ends, and it detaches from you.
The armor requires fresh blood to be fed to it. Immediately after you finish any long rest, you must either feed half of your remaining Hit Dice to the armor (round up) or take 1 level of exhaustion.
In short, you get an additional +1 to AC and resistance to 3 very rare damage types. In exchange, you can’t heal fully after a long rest without being exhausted.
Is it worth it?
For some characters, sure! This is a madly flavorful item that has unique mechanical abilities. While there are a few PCs who may want to take advantage of this, I am convinced DMs out there can think of several NPCs and villains who would make great use of Living Armor.
Where Does Living Armor Come From?
Living Armor as an item came to us from the 3rd edition expansion of the Eberron campaign setting.
In that setting, there are aberration overlords called the Daelkyr trapped in the Underdark. These overlords use their time locked away experimenting with different magical and biological creatures.
Several of these experiments created a class of magic items called symbiotes, and these were wide and varied — much more than we are given in DnD 5e.
Among these symbiotes were spellworms that could cast spells for you, a magical wrist scarab that would create an acid dart for you to throw, and of course, living armor.
These items didn’t have drawbacks, really, so many players would want them, even if it meant having an aberration stuck inside you. Personally, aberrations are my favorite monster to fight, so I could never really be okay with that.
In 5e, we have a few symbiotes but not like the treasure trove that existed in the 3e Eberron books. I recommend perusing the DnD Beyond homebrew forums to find some old ones that have been revamped for 5e and some new ones that the wonderful and creative player base has come up with.
Living Armor in Other Campaign Settings: Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, Ravnica
Anytime you have aberrations, you can have Living Armor without needing to explain it.
Let’s say the PCs run across an old corpse while investigating some type of cult or aberration lair; perhaps the armor of the fallen warrior has been infected with some type of magical mold and has begun to grow its own strange aberrant consciousness.
Some PCs will look at that and say “LOOT!” even though it is 1.) off of a dead body and 2.) strangely sentient. Alternatively, the armor could be on display in some room of the cult’s headquarters or even in a dungeon’s treasury.
In Dragonlance, it would be easy to simply say the Living Armor has a draconic or a fiendish origin instead of aberrant, and instead of chitin, it is scaley. You could even go so far as to alter the damage resistances offered in order to better fit a draconic or fiendish origin.
In Ravnica, the Simic are always engaging in weird biological experiments, so it comes as no surprise if a suit of Living Armor finds its way into their locales.
For the DMs – Using Living Armor as a Plot Device
Have you ever wanted a reason to give your PCs an evil voice in their head that sounds eerily like them? This is your chance!
If one of your PCs dons the Living Armor, make them subject to Charisma saving throws. If they fail, they have to contend with overwhelming urges to strike out and find more symbiotes or to start drinking blood in order to feed the armor someone else’s Hit Dice instead of their own.
While many PCs could easily say, “I have the urge but I don’t do it,” you could instead give them an ultimatum. Fail the saving throw? You have the urge. Deny the urge? Be poisoned for 1 round.
While many players could get upset at this turn of events (and that would be understandable because you are making them do something that was not listed in the stat block), you could make it part of the overall plot. For story reasons, the player has to deal with this extra complication, and, if successful, they can gain a reward at the end of the story arc.
Can Living Armor Interact With Living Gloves and Other Living Items?
In the RAW, no. There is no extra, special rule or circumstance for using multiple symbiotes on the same character. However, you could easily work it into a larger storyline.
Perhaps the symbiotes can, as mentioned above, implant impulsive behavior in their host. This could be because the symbiotes want to find each other again. If you have two symbiotes on a single host, that impulsive thought could eventually become a Command spell cast on the wearer. If you have three, it could become a suggestion.
If enough symbiotes can bond to the same host, maybe that host’s personality changes completely, and they become the reincarnation of the host’s original master: a starspawn general eager to raise another army.
Other Living Items
In addition to the items published and presented in the RAW, here are a couple we homebrewed up for you so you could continue the theme in your aberration adventure.
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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.