Your first thought here is probably, “Why don’t I just multiclass into Fighter?” – and you would be forgiven for thinking so.
If we dig a little deeper into this feat, however, we soon unlock some of its hidden potential and reasons why your next character might want to take it, especially if they are a rogue!
What Is the Moderately Armored Feat?
An often overlooked feat, Moderately Armored gives your character a solid dexterity or strength score increase of +1 of your choice and the ability to wear all medium armor, and it grants your character the ability to use shields.
Why Take This Feat at All?
On the surface, a +1 bump to either strength or dexterity can come from various sources as your character levels up, marching on their journey to epic hero; it’s the additional things you get here which can make this feat worthwhile.
Ideal for Rogues, this feat unlocks the realms of medium armor to you as well as a shield. Medium armor can, if you take the wrong one, quickly become a burden for rogues giving them disadvantage on their stealth rolls.
Of the five types of basic medium armor, we get two that give us disadvantage and three that don’t; we can quickly discount hide armor as it gives us the same base Armor Class (AC) as Studded Leather in the Light Armor category.
Heavy Armor Use
Scale and Half-Plate are out for the disadvantage they impose, so that leaves us with the Chain Shirt and Breast-Plate.
If you are an adventurer on a budget, the Chain Shirt comes in at a modest 50gp, costing only 5 more than studded leather and gives us a solid base to build off of at 13+Dex (max 2), but we’re a rogue – of course we’re getting that max!
So, sitting at 15 AC regardless of your subclass we’re off to a great start.
If, on the other hand, you’ve recently come into a good sum of money, then Breast-Plate is your go-to, giving us an additional +1 to that base.
We’re building that AC all the time, and now we get to add one of the other benefits of the Moderately Armored feat: the shield.
If you’re counting along with me, you’ve already realized we now have our wiry rogue at an Armor Class of 17 or 18, depending on your budget.
What Is the Payoff?
So why have we gone to all of this effort of taking the feat instead of multiclassing? The answer is simple: progress.
We haven’t halted our journey toward things for rogue excel at, such as evasion and uncanny dodge or slowing ourselves gaining extra sneak attack dice, but all the while we’ve increased our dexterity score (or strength!), which results in a net gain overall!
If we had multiclassed, we wouldn’t have gained any usable weapons (we already have all the finesse weapons we need!).
The only real thing we’ve missed out on is a long bow rather than our standard short bow, and this can be replaced with the light crossbow if you really want to roll that new D8 of yours.
Our sword and shield wielding rogue now has the armor class of a fighter, the stealth she is accustomed to, and a better dexterity score.
Other classes will benefit far less from the feat than our rogue.
The Bard and Warlock both need a hand free for those wild magical gesticulations they are often caught doing as well as the other options available to them in spells, invocations, and the like.
If we dig further into this feat it’s clear that it is aimed primarily at rogues who want to be able to stand toe to toe with enemies when the going gets tough and the fighter gets lonely.
There are future battles that await you where the Barbarian, raging his heart out with an enemy between you, hacks and slashes while you use that fine rapier to make precision attacks while the enemy is distracted.
There are sure to be times where you stand back-to-back with the fighter and a horde bearing down on you with steel your only defense; all of this made possible by taking a simple feat!
The Downsides Expanded
What of the downsides of this feat? We explored the positive against multiclassing to fighter, but what do you miss out on here?
Well, something worth talking about is the choice of fighting style that becomes available to you.
Now your rogue can fight in the dark with blind-fighting without disadvantage, you can gain an additional +2 damage if you wield no other weapons, and there’s all of the other fighting styles that each add flavor and their bonuses.
This is a cost worth considering, but when we look at the second wind ability a fighter gains, this is where the real disadvantage of this feat begins to show itself.
Now our fighting rogue with blind-sight can also use their bonus action to heal themselves in the direst of circumstances.
Taking Moderately armored, while it does allow you to gain evasion quicker as well as more sneak attack damage and the like, does come at a cost.
When we weigh up the added abilities from fighting style, the same armor class and the ability for our rogue to heal mid-battle, it’s clear to see that the +1 we thought so highly of until recently may be a red herring.
Feats are often situational; maybe your rogue lacks the martial prowess to be a fighter, maybe your bard has been stabbed one too many times after his performances were met with violence, or perhaps your warlock has a penchant for wearing the hides of slain beasts.
The best thing for your character may not always be the highest numbers on the sheet, and instead, playing with feats can be seen as the path to altering your roleplaying experience.
Simply playing the numbers and taking the level of fighter is more optimal, but in a world where you can be anyone, do anything, and create memorable moments with your friends, focus more on that.
Remember that the numbers won’t matter once your character has long since retired, but the fun and interesting stories you create with them will likely last you a lifetime.
Optimal builds are a great way to experience a class you’re new to, maybe with a specific build in mind, but building great characters is something that can be helped along with feats that seem to have little real benefit, like Moderately Armored.