Pathfinder - Practical Guide to Celestial Armor
Last Updated: October 12, 2018
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I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks. Also note that many colored items are also links to the Paizo SRD.
- : Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
- : OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances
- : Good options.
- : Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.
This is a somewhat unique article for me. Specific magic items rarely justify any long-form analysis, and named magic weapons and armor rarely make it into my guides because so few of them are worth their price compared to custom gear.
Celestial Armor is a unique case. It's bizarre combination of base stats and maximum dexterity bonus make it a potentially excellent armor option for characters of high enough level to afford it, and with enough Dexterity to make it worthwhile. But the math is too complex to do in my head, and there are too many variables to leave it up to guesswork.
This article will involve a fair bit of math, and will seek to answer some questions in regard to Celestial Armor:
- Is Celestial Armor good compared to comparably priced custom armor?
- How much Dexterity do you need to make Celestial Armor worthwhile?
- Does Celestial Armor remain good after you enhance it beyond its base stats?
- What armor should I wear?
Armor Price Bonus Max Dex ACP Arcane Failure 30 ft. 20 ft. Weight Chainmail 150 gp +6 +2 –5 30% 20 ft. 15 ft. 40 lbs.
Price 22,400 gp; Aura faint transmutation [good]; CL 5th; Weight 20 lbs.
This +3 chainmail is so fine and light that it can be worn under normal clothing without betraying its presence. It has a maximum Dexterity bonus of +8, an armor check penalty of –2, and an arcane spell failure chance of 15%. It is considered light armor and allows the wearer to use fly on command (as the spell) once per day.
That means that Celestial Armor has a final armor bonus of +9, and with a Maximum Dexterity Bonus of +8 you can max out your AC bonus at a truly impressive +17. Of course, with no frame of reference +17 isn't an especially useful method for measuring the merits of the item.
It's crucial to note that Celestial Armor is considered light armor. Unlike mithral chainmail, which is light armor for every purpose except proficiency, Celestial Armor is actually light armor, which means that classes which rely on light armor can use it without spending a feat.
The best way to measure the effectiveness of Celestial Armor is to compare to other armor options. Price is a big part of what makes an item good or bad, and if Celestial Armor isn't as cost-effective as comparable armor options it's clearly a bad item.
For our baseline comparison, we'll look at the standard Celestial Armor, and we'll compare it to other armors that cost roughly the same amount of gold. While light and medium armors are the most useful comparison (Celestial Armor wearers are almost certainly not wearing full plate), we'll include heavy armor for comparison. At the very least I find the numbers interesting.
|Armor||Category||GP Cost||AC Bonus||Max Dex||ACP||Spell Failure||Weight|
|Chain Shirt, Mithral, +5||Light||26,100||+9||+6||0||10%||12.5|
|Breastplate, Mithral, +4||Light*||20,200||+10||+5||-1||15%||20|
|O-Yoroi, Mithral, +3||Medium*||19,700||+11||+4||-3||25%||22.5|
|Full Plate, Mithral, +3||Medium*||19,500||+12||+3||-3||25%||25|
|Full Plate, +4||Heavy||17,650||+13||+1||-5||35%||50|
|* - Mithral armor still counts as its original category for the purposes of proficiency.|
That reveals some surprising information. First, every comparable armor (including mithral heavy armor) is at least +3. That means that when it's time to further enhance your armor, Celestial Armor doesn't cost any more to enhance than any other armor option. The implications might not be immediately obvious, but it is an absolutely massive point in Celestial Armor's favor. Going into this document, one of my hypotheses was that Celestial Armor would be good within a specific price range, but would become obsolete when upgrading it became too expensive. The information in the table above outright rejects that hypothesis, which is very exciting.
Knowing that enhancing Celestial Armor is financially viable, the next step is to compare enhanced Celestial Armor to armor from the above table which has been enhanced above our baseline.
Based on the above analysis, I think we can answer the questions we posed at the beginning of the article:
Is Celestial Armor good compared to comparably priced custom armor?
Yes. In its price range, it has the highest total AC bonus (the sum of AC bonus and Maximum Dexterity Bonus) of any armor, beating out Mithral Full Plate and Mithral O-Yoroi by 2. +5 Haramaki can match it, but requires the character to have Dexterity bonus of +13, and since it's already +5 it can't gain a higher enhancement bonust to AC.
How much Dexterity do you need to make Celestial Armor worthwhile?
This varies depending on your highest level of armor proficiency:
- Light: Any.
- Medium: Any.
- Heavy: +6.
Does Celestial Armor remain good after you enhance it beyond its base stats?
Yes. The only armors that can compete with Celestial Armor are Mithral O-Yoroi and Mithral Full Plate. All three armors are +3, so enhancing them costs the same amount of gold.
What Armor Should I Wear?
Your choice of armor depends heavily on the final Dexterity bonus you intend for your character to have, and on the type of armor proficiency you have. For example, if you have 12 Dexterity and never plan to improve it, and you have heavy armor proficiency, regular Full Plate armor is your best bet. However, if you have 16 Dexterity and want to raise it to 22 with a belt, Celestial Armor will be your best bet regardless of proficiency.
|0||Celestial Armor||Breastplate||Full Plate||Celestial Armor is the best light armor right from the start. +5 Chain Shirt can match the AC bonus, but it's more expensive than Celestial Armor (even if it's not Mithral) and it can't be enhanced to provide more AC. Unless the Armor Check Penalty is a problem for you, there's probably no reason to use anything else. You can also pick up the Armor Expert trait to reduce the Armor Check Penalty by 1, leaving you with an ACP of just -1.|
|+1||Celestial Armor||Breastplate||Full Plate|
|+3||Celestial Armor||Breastplate||Mithral Full Plate|
|+4||Celestial Armor||Mithral Breastplate||Mithral O-Yoroi|
|+5||Celestial Armor||Mithral Breastplate||Mithral O-Yoroi||Because +4 Mithral Breastplate is used to compare to Celestial Armor, this is the last point at which it will be a better option than Celestial Armor. Enhancing Mithral Breastplate to +5 will provide as much AC as +5 Celestial Armor and will cost a total of roughly 9,000 gp less.|
|+6||Celestial Armor||Celestial Armor||Celestial Armor||At this point +5 Mithral Chain Shirt, +4 Mithral Breastplate, Mithral O-Yoroi, and Celestial armor all provide the same AC bonus. That's an amusing coincidence, and it means that Mithral Chain Shirt is very briefly the best armor. However, because it can't be enhanced any further you'll generally want to invest in Celestial Armor rather than planning to sell your chain short.|
|+7||Celestial Armor||Celestial Armor||Celestial Armor||At this point Celestial Armor becomes and remains the most effective armor regardless of proficiency. Haramaki can technically exceed Celestial Armor, but if enhance Celestial Armor to provide a +5 enhancement bonus, you will need +13 Dex to match Celestial Armor, and that's basically impossible.|
Celestial Armor is not just good, I think that it is objectively the best armor in the game. It's the most cost-effective armor for the largest variety of characters, and for high-Dexterity characters there is no other option that comes anywhere close unless you can somehow exceed 40 Dexterity.