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The Armorer’s Handbook: Equipment Upgrade and Rune Magic System for 5E
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The Armorer’s Handbook: Equipment Upgrade and Rune Magic System for 5E


The Complete Armorer's Handbook

Armorer's Shop Sign

The Armorer’s Handbook is a complete equipment upgrade ruleset enabling weapons and armor to grow along with your characters in an organic way that feels anchored in your setting.

This supplement is a comprehensive modular framework that allows characters to improve their equipment as they see fit by seeking out craftsmen and spending some coin! Chapter 1 covers nonmagical upgrades, which approximate the basic +1-3 progression of magic items in the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Chapter 2 introduces rune magic as a means to imbue your equipment with magical properties, including a fully-realized crafting system for characters wishing to create their own runestones using simple gemstones.

The two chapters comprise the following, with each option being adjustable, ignorable, or replacable without impacting the whole:

Chapter 1 header


  • A Revised Armor table based on real-world historical armor, weight and prices, with scalable purchase options and three types of shield, each filling a unique role.
  • Armor Upgrade rules including 14 unique upgrades.
  • A minimalist Revised Weapons table, offering four new weapon properties.
  • Weapon Upgrade rules including 13 unique upgrades.
  • 7 types of Special Ammunition with easy crafting rules.
  • 8 of Special Materials with simple modifications to the upgrade rules.
  • Rules for equipment Wear and Repair.
Chapter 2 header


  • Rune Magic lore and how to introduce rune magic and runestones into your campaign.
  • Runestones – socketable gems used to empower equipment with magical properties.
  • Runesmithing – a complete ruleset for player-crafting of runestones.
  • Runesmith’s Tools – a new toolkit used to craft runestones using gemstones.
  • The Runesmith’s Guild – a complete ruleset for joining and progressing through a crafting guild, with tangible benefits to those who achieve status among their peers. Also includes new downtime activities!
  • A New Feat only available to veteran runesmiths.
  • Two New Artificer Infusions to enhance the potential of runic equipment.
  • 39 Runestones, plus guidance on creating your own. Its also easy to repurpose the properties of magic items from any source—and you can even allow characters to "trade" magic items to help the guild scholars in their quest to discover/create new runestones!

Quick Previews:

pg. 8 preview pg. 9 preview pg. 16 preview pg. 17 preview

Creator's Note:

The Armorer's Handbook is the first in a series of toolkit expansions I hope to release in 2020. A bit of a serial number-cruncher, I enjoy figuring out complex systems, making them work inside constraints (the official rules), and presenting them in a functional and easily understandle form for you fine folks to enjoy. If you like what you see, please consider showing your support by making a purchase! You can also join the mailing list ( to receive notifications of new product releases (new release notifications only, no spam!) or find me on Twitter @DMheavyarms.

Praise for the Armorer's Handbook:

comment by Travis of the Hook & Chance podcast

comment by Mike Shea / author of Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master

Current Version: 1.9 / 24 February 2020

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Reviews (23)
Discussions (24)
Customer avatar
nyal J March 29, 2020 4:38 am UTC
I love the handbook I was looking to include something just like this in my Eberron campaign. I am confused about the shields though. Is the buckler the same as a normal shield aside from shape and lower AC? Does the Heater shield have any difference aside from a strength requirement when compared to the standard shield?
Customer avatar
heavyarms . March 29, 2020 3:25 pm UTC
Hey there, thanks for checking it out! You're correct those are the only differences; the idea is to provide more of an interesting trade-off without getting bogged down in minutiae in keeping with 5th Edition. However, if you wanted to add some more of your own then go right ahead!
Customer avatar
Dennis R March 20, 2020 2:35 pm UTC
Are there any plans for making this available to Fantasy Grounds?
Customer avatar
heavyarms . March 20, 2020 2:52 pm UTC
A Fantasy Grounds module was released a few weeks back (see "more from this title's contributors".) If you've already picked up the PDF you can grab the FG module individually at a discount by picking up the bundle :)
Customer avatar
Joe L March 08, 2020 6:20 pm UTC
Love the product, but Im a bit confused about greatswords. They seem just outright worse than mauls, costing 40gp more, not having siege and not getting flanged. The only reason I can see to take one over a maul is that it is 4lbs lighter, which is hardly much of a benefit.
Customer avatar
heavyarms . March 11, 2020 11:38 am UTC
Feel free to add something for greatswords! What's presented is aimed at a better overall balance of weapons but of course there are some winners and some losers—and striving for perfect balance is a sure path to madness :P

I hope, at least, that the new dilemma for a great-weapon player (greataxe or maul) is more interesting and nuanced choice than the current dilemma (bludgeoning or slashing damage—because 2d6 is simply better for anyone who isn't a level 9+ orc barbarian (or a level 13+ non-orc barbarian).)
Customer avatar
heavyarms . March 11, 2020 11:53 am UTC
Follow-up (by way of offering a useful suggestion): you might consider a second tier 3 upgrade only available for greatswords (ultimately costing an extra 20k if you also want masterwork—so a huge investment!) that requires the brutal tag and allows the brutal tag to trigger for each weapon damage die individually.

Disclaimer: this is completely off-the-cuff and thus untested, but this seems like a possible option if you wanted to give greatswords a unique boost/bit of nuance in your games. To anyone else reading: please don't come at me with math as this probably isn't something that will be considered for inclusion in the handbook itself :P
Customer avatar
Michael B March 03, 2020 11:52 pm UTC
Question about the brutal tag. It just seems particularly weaker for greatswords. Does it only add additional dice if I roll both 6s, or does it treat each die separately, so a roll of 6+2 would let me roll one additional die?

having to roll 12 to get additional dice means only a 1/36 chance of proccing, where everything else is 1/8 or 1/12 as the next least likely.
Customer avatar
heavyarms . March 04, 2020 4:13 am UTC
Hi Michael, this is clarified in the FAQ of the most recent revision, but you are correct brutal is weaker on a greatsword. The alternative (either or both die) results in a ~30.6% chance of at least one exploding die on every swing, which vastly overshoots acceptable limits for an incremental damage upgrade. The fact that its weaker on a greatsword is mitigated by 2d6 being better than 1d12 in almost all scenarios (all except high level barbarians), so its better to think of brutal as a way for 1d12 weapons to "catch up" to 2d6 for additional cost. The math for all this is in appendix A.
Customer avatar
Michael B March 04, 2020 5:35 am UTC
My DM gave us version 1.1 so I didnt have those FAQs and math tables, so thank you for the response for clarification.

I can understand the reasoning, yes ~30% proc rate would be unfair to the other players, especially considering I also have Great Weapon Fighting Style, but I just didn't see a good tier 2 option for greatsword then. Ah well
Customer avatar
heavyarms . March 04, 2020 5:43 am UTC
No problem, there have been a number of fixes/clarifications since 1.1 so maybe worth updating :)
Customer avatar
Elijah G February 29, 2020 7:01 pm UTC
I really like this and love the idea of having a bulker and tower shield in 5e but I was thinking about the plus 3 of the tower shield and when put in conjunction with full plate a characters AC can get pretty high then I thought about plus 1 to 3 shields and armor, I came to the conclusion that the only way I could effectively harm a character with this build is with insta-hit/saving throw spells like Magic Missile or a spell like Heat Metal(if the shield or armor is even metal) and I know these rules are a replacement to the standard +1 to +3 bonus armor and weapons can get in standard 5e but what about the Artificer who can give these bonuses out during a coffee break do you have any tips on how to get around this little hiccup of characters having 27 to 30 AC?
Customer avatar
heavyarms . March 01, 2020 5:27 am UTC
Hi Elijah, thanks for your comment!

I'll be honest, I'm not sure I understand the issue here? If you're using the system as presented (including the standard proofing rules) you are replacing up to +6 AC from magic armor and a shields (+4 if we assume an adamantine tower shield). Sure, the artificer can overcome this deficit on a single character by up to +3 if they sink in two infusions (Enhanced Defense and Repulsion Shield), but this is costing them class resources and an infusion can only be used once globally. I guess what I'm saying is that I don't see how your issue is specific to the rules presented here as maximum potential AC would seem to be higher using the default options for magic items.

If the answer here is "the DM can choose to not hand out magic items" then I'd point out the DM can just as easily choose to not make adamantine available—meaning your issue is reduced to the single point of AC from the default tower shield (which comes with the significant...See more
Customer avatar
Jeremy L February 24, 2020 3:51 am UTC
Typo in one of the rune stones:
Runestone, rare
Item: A simple of martial weapon with the ammunition property
Customer avatar
heavyarms . February 24, 2020 5:03 am UTC
Good spot, thanks! This will be fixed in version 1.9 which will be going up later today.
Customer avatar
rick R February 22, 2020 1:12 am UTC
Good book, but I had a question.

How would you convert/create a +3 magic weapon? Using the example in the FAQ to convert a magic weapon into a comparably upgraded one, the system would only allow for the conversion of +2 magic weapons (a weapon with the "balanced", "keen", "silvered", "magical", and "masterwork" tags).

I can understand concerns of power-creep, but is there no way to convert / make a vanilla +3 (seems weird that a player could find and upgrade a weapon to 1+ and +2 but not +3).
Customer avatar
heavyarms . February 22, 2020 4:52 am UTC
Hi Rick, thanks for reaching out!

The weapon upgrade system is intended primarily as an alternative (and more interesting/engaging) progression to +1–3 magic weapons. As such, there is no way (following the guidance in the FAQ) to convert a +3 weapon, as +3 is intended to be equivalent to "fully-upgraded". In other words, its not recommended that allow upgrading of a +3 weapon as its the maximum allowed in official material. However, if you wish to change this at your table then go right ahead (with the knowledge it might unbalance your game to some degree!)

I've received a few queries now about how to "recreate" magic weapons, and on rereading that section of the FAQ isn't as clear as it could be. I'll try and update it when I can find the time.
Customer avatar
rick R February 22, 2020 8:24 am UTC
Thanks for the response.

Follow up question, what if I had a rune stone of the very rare variety give a +1 effect. That would allow +3 weapons to be compatible with the system at the cost of giving up your rune slot.

+3 magic weapons with effects already built in would be considered legendary objects that somehow have multiple rune slots in it and cannot be tampered with or upgraded.

Would this be better balanced?
Customer avatar
heavyarms . February 22, 2020 2:19 pm UTC
This is into the realm of judgement, but that sounds reasonable to me if its a avenue you're still interested in pursuing :)
Customer avatar
Krzysztof U February 14, 2020 8:02 pm UTC
I had a question in regards to the rules on Brutal tag. It says:

"When you roll the maximum damage for an attack with this weapon,
you can roll the weapon damage dice again and add the new
roll to the damage of the attack. If you roll the maximum amount
again, you can repeat this process until you don’t."

Sooo what is considered the "damage for an attack with this weapon"? Let's consider an example of a rogue that crits on a sneak attack and has applied a poison to the weapon that requires failing a saving throw to work. What dice does he have to roll maximum on, and what does he get to reroll then?

1. JUST the d8 from the rapier counts, and only that gets rerolled?
2. The d8 from the rapier AND the d8 added because of a crit have to be maxed, but they can both be rerolled?
3. All of the dice that get multiplied on the crit, so the d8 from the rapier and 2d6 from sneak attack?
4. All of the dice, including the poison...See more
Customer avatar
Krzysztof U February 14, 2020 8:58 pm UTC
Damn, my editing window has expired. Oh well...

I also wanted to ask why would you price increased crit range upgrades so low. For the Chamption it's basically their whole thing, and you give it out for 100/200/400 gold? Not to mention that paladins, rangers and rogues can benefit from from it so immensely!

I also wanted to share my thougts about crit range stacking. First, let's take the Heroism Paladin from the new UA, Hexblade Warlock, and a Chamption Fighter. Their abilities RAW do not stack with each other (which is probably a good thing because 17-20/16-20 with weapons is nuts), but when we apply your crit range upgrades, it's still 18-20. It sounds really powerful, but actually, it increases the critting potential of the SUBCLASS by 50% (adding 1 range to a range of 2, for 3 total). It makes their already good crit range even better. But ALL THE OTHER classes/subclasses basically have their critting potential increased by 100%.

You have tested the impact of each...See more
Customer avatar
heavyarms . February 15, 2020 4:52 am UTC
1. Weapon damage is weapon damage. That doesn't include additional damage from add-efffects like poison, or extraneous sources like Sneak Attack.
2. As you say, the impact of the critical tags have been modeled—but also this has been run in my home game for more than a year. Yes, barbarians, paladins, and rogues have additional feature-synergy, but by default it is also mathematically the weakest upgrade to begin with. It shouldn't cause you any issues unless...

> "For my home game it's especially impactful, since I use a rule that makes crits add maximized dice instead of just doubling the dice."

Obviously I can't balance content for others' houserules, and you will probably need to make your own adjustments (as you have done) as this is indeed a powerful synergy—though imo the houserule itself is causing the lion's share of the issue as its much stronger than +1 expanded crit range (looked at individually) to a barbarians, paladins, rogues.
Customer avatar
heavyarms . February 15, 2020 6:51 am UTC
Sorry, my editing window also expired XD For the first point, I just wanted to clarify that the brutal tag specifically refers to "weapon damage dice" and these are the only dice that are exploded/ rerolled!
Customer avatar
Christopher H February 13, 2020 9:06 pm UTC
Are there plans for a non euro-centric book?
Customer avatar
Jonathan L February 13, 2020 3:39 pm UTC
Hi, I'm confused about the magical status of Special Material Armours. Are they just magical items (as the DMG version of Adamantine & Mithral has them) and thus not upgradeable with tags, or are they like the Special Material Weapons and thus upgradable? Love the expansion so far.
Customer avatar
heavyarms . February 13, 2020 4:12 pm UTC
Hey, glad you're enjoying it! Mithral and adamantine are intended to work just like any other special materials—the only difference between special materials and normal materials is that special materials have additional properties (as per the description for that material) and as such the "base item" typically costs more to purchase.
Customer avatar
Charles B February 11, 2020 5:45 am UTC
As with many gamers, when I first got this I immediately set out to break the system. I built a custom weapon (warhammer with a pick on the back end). As a DM I had allowed a player to have one of these crafted for 25 gp and 4 lbs of weight. It did 1d8 for piercing or bludgeoning (player chose as he rolled). It was versatile so he could do 1d10 with 2 hands.

First I added Spiked and Sharpened so both ends would Crit on 19+. That was 200 gp. Then I added Balanced and Keen so it did +1 to hit and +1 damage. Another 200 gp.
Then I added Brutal for both ends so max on the damage die meant that I could roll another damage die. 2000 gp for that.
Then I added Superior for both ends (d10/d12 damage die type). Another 2000 gp
On top of all of this I added Masterwork for +1 to hit and +1 damage for 10,000 gp.

Adding up the whole thing and it's close to 15,000 gp. The weapon can do 1d10 bludgeoning or piercing, 1d12 with 2 hands. It Crits on 19+, has +1 to hit and damage and if...See more
Customer avatar
Krzysztof U February 14, 2020 8:13 pm UTC
You are incorrect in calculating the price, good sir! The document states that:

"Upgrading a weapon has a base cost associated with each
tier, with subsequent upgrades of that tier costing twice the
previous amount for that tier."

Meaning that applying Spiked, Sharpened, Balanced and Keen to the weapon costs 100+200+400+800= 1500gp. Applying two Brutal and two Superior tags costs 1000+2000+4000+8000=15000gp, and then the 10000gp for the Masterwork tag.

Your weapon costs 26525gp, good sir! Also, it's trash because it can be destroyed by a goddamn black pudding, as well as a rust monster, or broken when a giants steps on it. Not to mention it doesn't overcome resistance towards non-magical weapons.

Making it magical would add another 1600gp for Silvered and 16000gp for Magical. That would make the total 44125gp. Also, add another 2000-5000gp if you want it to be made of adamantine so it becomes indestructable.

And yes, adamantine...See more
Customer avatar
Blane D February 17, 2020 5:20 pm UTC
Considering the prices laid out for magic items in Xanathar's guide, I'd say that puts it on par with a very rare or legendary item, price-wise, which seems fair, given it's abilities. If you throw in Runic, and a Mimic runestone... it definitively pushes it into legendary territory, both power and cost-wise (another 3200gp for Runic, 5000+gp for the runestone, and then having access to a magic item to copy the powers from)
Customer avatar
Jasper M February 07, 2020 11:21 pm UTC
I hope this gets a Fantasy Grounds conversion.
Customer avatar
Hunter K February 10, 2020 2:22 am UTC
Same here, I cant wait to implement this!
Customer avatar
heavyarms . February 15, 2020 5:37 am UTC
FG version is now available! Link in the description above :)
Customer avatar
David S February 07, 2020 8:09 pm UTC
Has anybody tried this one in combination with the Ancestral Weapons supplement by Dungeon Rollers?
Customer avatar
Gage R February 07, 2020 9:17 am UTC
Is there a changelog for the various versions?
Customer avatar
heavyarms . February 07, 2020 9:22 am UTC
Account > My Library > Updated Titles > hover over the circled "i" under the updated column, where you can (hopefully) see the patch notes for each update!
Customer avatar
Jacob B February 06, 2020 6:38 pm UTC
I found this by watching the review on Nerd Immersion. Thanks! I've been looking for a good equipment augmentation product like this.
Any chance of making this print on demand, and I would easily buy it.
Customer avatar
heavyarms . February 07, 2020 2:38 am UTC
Hi Jacob, thanks for checking it out! Brian asked a similar thing a few comments down, so while you can read the details there short answer is (to the best of my knowledge) a POD option is out of my control at this time :(
Customer avatar
Filip N February 06, 2020 11:13 am UTC
I have a question when it comes to armor proofing. Lets say we have a Heavy Armor with 3rd tier proofing (or 1st tier for that matter). Then we add the Heavy Armor Master feet (HAM) found on p167 PHB. My question is about how these things interact with each other. Since HAM lowers all non-magical attacks by 3, and 3rd tier armor proofing makes all damage that 8 or less and just make you take no damage at all it matters a lot how these things interact. If Armor Proofing must be considered first, the HAM just works like it does in vanilla and is rather boring. If HAM applies before since it isn't actually a resistance but damage reduction, it basically means that armor proofing now works on 11 instead of 8. This is incredibly powerful, but on the other hand you spent a feet on it and 6k GP to get a basically +2,5 Heavy Armor as well. I am not saying this is OP or broken based on the fact you actually have to go through a lot to get it. I am just looking up the balance as I am the forever DM trying to stay ahead...See more
Customer avatar
heavyarms . February 06, 2020 11:47 am UTC
Hi Filip, vulnerability is the -only- thing that gets applied after resistance (PHB, pg. 197) and as such the damage reduction from the Heavy Armor Master feat is applied prior to the armor proofing threshold test.
Customer avatar
Krzysztof U February 14, 2020 8:20 pm UTC
So, if I understand this correctly, you can make an adamantine plate armor for 18000 gp, then armor-proof it for additional 6000 gp over 3 workweeks (it's 5 work days PER ONE armor-proofing tag added, so 15 days for 3 upgrades at once, right?), and add Heavy Armor Master on top of that...

You now have 6 damage reduction against non-magical damage that gets applied before you check the threshold or apply resistances/vulnerabilities. (oh, and probably an adamantine tower shield for 1500gp that adds +4 to your AC, for 22 AC before applying other things like fighting styles).

Basically, you reduce all the damage of 14 or lower to 0. And if someone hits you for 15 damage or higher, you still reduce that by 6 points. Buuuut if someone bonks you on the head with a torch (and somehow hits), you take damage as normal, despite that amazing defense. Correct?
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File Last Updated:
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This title was added to our catalog on January 13, 2020.