Magic armor is a common but vital type of enchanted item. In general, it protects the wearer to a greater extent than armor without any enchantment. Magic armor bonuses are referred to as enhancement bonuses, never rise above +5, and stack with regular armor bonuses (and with shield and magic shield enhancement bonuses). Further, all magic armor is also masterwork armor, so armor check penalties are reduced by 1.
In addition to an enhancement bonus, armor may have special abilities, such as the ability to resist critical hits or to help the wearer hide. Special abilities count as additional bonuses for determining the market value of an item, but do not improve AC. A suit of armor cannot have an effective bonus (enhancement plus special ability bonus equivalents) higher than +10. A suit of armor with a special ability must have at least a +1 enhancement bonus.
Armor is always created so that even if the type of armor comes with boots or gauntlets, these pieces can be switched for other magic boots or gauntlets. Magic armor, like almost all magic items, resizes itself to fit the wearer.
Caster Level for Armor and Shields: The caster level of a magic shield or magic armor with a special ability is given in the item description. For an item with only an enhancement bonus, the caster level is three times the enhancement bonus, if an item has both an enhancement bonus and a special ability, the higher of the two caster level requirements must be met.
Shields: Shield enhancement bonuses stack with armor enhancement bonuses, so that a +1 large steel shield and +1 chainmail grant a total of bonus of +9 to AC. Shield enhancement bonuses do not act as attack or damage bonuses when the shield is used in a bash. The bashing shield enchantment, however, does grant a +1 bonus to attacks and damage (see the item description). You could, in fact, build a shield that also acted as a magic weapon, but the magic offensive bonus cost would need to be added into the defensive bonus cost of the shield.
As with armor, special abilities built into the shield add to the market value in the form of additions to the bonus of the shield, although they do nor improve AC. A shield cannot have an effective bonus enhancement plus special ability bonus equivalents) higher than +10. shield with a special ability must have at least a +1 enhancement bonus.
Shields' Hardness and Hit Points: An attacker cannot damage a magic shield with an enhancement bonus unless his own weapon has at least as high an enhancement bonus as the shield struck. Each +1 of enhancement bonus also adds 1 to the shield's hardness and hit points.
Activation: Usually a character benefits from magic armor and shields in exactly the way a character benefits from mundane armor and shields - by wearing them, if armor or a shield has a special ability that the user needs to activate (such as with an animated shield), then the user usually needs to utter the command word (a standard action).
Armor and Shield Special Abilities Descriptions
Most magic armor and shields only have enhancement bonuses.
Such items can also have the special abilities detailed here. Armor or a shield with a special ability must have at least a +1 enhancement bonus.
Magic armor and shields have enhancement bonuses ranging from +1 to +5, which stack with armor and shield bonuses. All magic armor is also masterwork armor, reducing armor check penalties by 1. Armor and shields can also have special abilities, which count as additional bonuses for determining the market value of the item but do not improve AC.
In addition to enhancement bonuses, armor and shields can have one or more special abilities. Armor or a shield with a special ability must have at least a +1 enhancement bonus.
A heraldic crest is a special magical property that can be placed on any light, heavy, or tower shield with a +1 or higher enhancement bonus. Each heraldic crest grants a minor benefit to the shield's bearer so long as the bearer meets one of the following criteria.
- Has the leadership feat; or
- Has one or more commander auras; or
- Has been specially granted the right to use the heraldic crest by a lord, high priest, or similar ruler. The DM is the final arbiter as to whether any character meets this prerequisite.
Each shield bearing a heraldic crest has a more potent ability that can be used once per day. Any character who meets at least one of the prerequisites can activate the magical power of the shield's heraldic crest as a free action. Unless otherwise noted, the power affects the shield's bearer only.
No shield can bear more than one heraldic crest. If a shield with a heraldic crest is imbued with a second crest, the first crest vanishes.
Crafting a Heraldic Crest
In addition to the normal prerequisites for crafting a magic item, the creator of a heraldic crest must meet at least one of the prerequisites given above for activating the crest's special power.
Courage: This symbol depicts a pouncing lion. The bearer gains a +1 morale bonus on initiative checks. Once per day, on command, the shield casts aid on the bearer.
Faint enchantment; Cl 5th; Craft Magic Arms and Armor, aid; Price 4,000 gp.
Ferocity: This heraldic crest depicts a charging boar. If the bearer has the rage class feature, its duration is extended by 1 round. Once per day, on command, the shield casts rage on the bearer (as the spell, with a duration of 5 rounds).
Faint enchantment; Cl 5th; Craft Magic Arms and Armor, rage; Price 6,000 gp.
Glory: This crest is emblazoned with a red sun rising above a golden field. The bearer gains a +1 morale bonus on melee weapon damage rolls. Once per day, on command, the shield casts heroism on the bearer (as the spell, with a duration of 5 minutes).
Faint enchantment; Cl 5th; Craft Magic Arms and Armor, heroism; Price 11,000 gp.
Honor: This emblem depicts a noble stag. The bearer gains a +1 morale bonus on saves against chaotic spells. Once per day, on command, the shield casts order's wrath, centered on the bearer.
Moderate evocation; Cl 8th; Craft Magic Arms and Armor, order's wrath; Price 12,000 gp.
Insight: This crest shows a soaring owl. The bearer gains a +2 enhancement bonus on Spot checks. Once per day, on command, the shield casts see invisibility on the bearer.
Faint divination; Cl 3rd; Craft Magic Arms and Armor, see invisibility; Price 5,000 gp.
Valiant Defense: This crest shows a stone tower. The bearer gains a +1 deflection bonus to AC at all times. Once per day, on command, the shield casts shield other on a designated creature within 30 feet of the bearer (treat this as if the bearer were the caster of the spell). While this effect is active, the bearer loses the deflection bonus granted by the shield.
Faint abjuration; Cl 3rd; Craft Magic Arms and Armor, shield other; Price 6,000 gp.