Okay, here's the situation. My group is starting at 5th level. One of the players has given his character masterworked plate armor (layered plate, I think). As I'm reading PH, masterwork armor starts around 16th level. He disagrees, I'm not sure why, but to be honest, I don't know why the stuff starts at 16th level either. So...
1. Is there a level minimum for masterwork armor?
2. Is it possible for a 5th level character to get masterworked armor?
3. Does it matter for game balance since I assume that if one of my character get masterworked armor as one of their freebie magic items, it will not be long before all of the characters will have masterworked armor as one of their freebie magic items? Then again, I'm not really seeing on the forums too much in terms of praise sung for the sake of masterworked armor?
4. If you answer any of the above questions, could you maybe point me towards the book (or page in that book, or Compendium search term) that will help me to legitamize this rule.
Help would be appreciated.
Masterwork armor is a math fix. All it does is make AC scale appropriately. All armor of the appropriate magical enhancement is Masterwork. For heavy armor this starts at +2 (starting in AV, the PHB Masterwork was behind in scaling). So yes, quite possible.
Actually I believe in HotF they basically removed Masterwork as a concept and just auto-scaled armor. So +2 Plate is 1 AC better then you'd expect. The online CB is supposed to do this automatically, as well. Though there was a weird bug where it wasn't working, no idea if they fixed it. I stopped giving them my money.
if a character buys +2 layered plate in CB, should the bonus be 2 higher than plate or 3? I'm confused. The fact that the bonuses are already added could mean either.
...Or, is +2 layered plate armor, actually just +3 plate armor and therefore a higher level magic item?
The table showing the default armor bonuses for magic armor are not listed anywhere in DDi that I know of. If you want to see the table for each armor type you need to look in HotFL 344 or HotFK 345.
All +2 plate of all types is level 6-10, therefore it will have an armor bonus of +9 and an enhancement bonus of +2, for a total bonus to AC of +11.
Mundane plate, by comparison, gives an armor bonus of +8 and an enhancement bonus of +0, for a total bonus to AC of +8.
Layered Plate +2 is also level 6-10 and gives an armor bonus of +9 and an enhancement bonus of +2 for a total bonus to AC of +11. So it's the same thing, mechanically, as +2 plate, and you can just say +2 plate of Anything is actually +2 Layered Plate of Anything. In other words, Layered Plate is just fluff.
Bottom line: all armor follows the armor bonus progression from HotFL 344/HotFK 345, unless it doesn't. Those special cases are some of the armors listed in Adventurer's Vault and maybe some other sources. In all cases, the CB calculates AC correctly for all types.
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