Armor Class Guide

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Armor Class Guide

This guide is targeted for D&D d20 3.5e rules.

Armor Class is very importat! Melee characters should focus about 50% of their wealth on Armor Class. There are other considerations that can greatly offset a lack of AC such as Hiding, Invisibility, flying, blurrr/displacement, or just keeping your distance from foes.

Keep in mind that you typically take more damage from melee attacks than from ranged attacks.

Also keep in mind that as the CR's increase you will need to start paying attention to your saving throws. A fort save or die is common at higher levels. A failed will save on a Dire Charm can result in a party wipe.

If you use tactical movement then speed can be a big factor in the game. Wearing that +10 AC Mechanus gear is great when the foes are next to you. But with a base movement of 15 ft you may lag behind in a running fight.


Best Light Armors

Best Medium Armors

Best Heavy Armors

  • Full plate: +8 AC, max +1 Dex, ACP -6, 35% spell failure. (1,500 gp)
  • Mechanus gear: +10 AC, max +0 Dex, ACP -10, 50% spell failure, 15 base movement. (1,750 gp)

No Spell Failure Armor/Shield (or equivalent)

ACP0 Armor

A character who wears armor and/or uses a shield with which he or she is not proficient takes the armor’s (and/or shield’s) armor check penalty on attack rolls and on all Strength-based and Dexterity-based ability and skill checks. But these all have an ACP of zero so no penalty, hence anyone can use these.

Feats

Spells that improve your AC

Using Permanency or Persistent Spell can dramatacily increase the effectiveness of these spells.

Misc Items that improve your AC

Misc

  • Fighting defensively gives you +2 bonus to Armor Class, although you take a -4 penalty on attacks. Taking Combat Expertise can improve this further. Unfortunately this only works for attack actions not casting spells.
  • Flying while using ranged attacks allows you to avoid most powerful melee attacks.
  • Flying while invisibile is almost too perfect. Your basically untouchable unless your foe can bypass your invisibility.
  • Cloak of displacement: 20% is equivalent to +4 AC, 50% is equivalent to +10 AC. These work with existing armor too!
  • Using a reach weapon (such as a Chain, Spiked) combined with Improved Trip can be very effective.
  • Hiding is almost like being invisible.
  • Mithralmist Shirt allows you hide anywhere. (3,400 gp)

Cost Effective Armor Class Increases

Item Price
+1 enhancement 1,000 gp
+1 deflection/natural 2,000 gp
+2 enhancement 3,000 gp
+2 Dexterity (+1 AC) 4,000 gp
+3 enhancement 5,000 gp
+1 insight (ioun stone) 5,000 gp
+2 deflection/natural 6,000 gp
+4 enhancement 7,000 gp
+5 enhancement 9,000 gp
+3 deflection/natural 10,000 gp
+4 Dexterity (+2 AC) 12,000 gp
+4 deflection/natural 14,000 gp
+5 deflection/natural 18,000 gp

Sample Fighter Armor Class

The following is presented to show typical AC and To-Hit scores for an average fighter. The folowing assumptions have been made:

  • Approximately 50% of networth is spent on armor class
  • Uses a 1 handed weapon and shield
  • Starting Dexterity of 13 (+1 modifier)
  • Starting Strength of 16 (+3 modifier)
  • To-hit bonus will increase every 3 levels (Strength, magic weapon, feats)


Level Net Worth Armor Budget To-Hit Armor Class
1 200 gp 120 gp +4 18 (+4 Scale mail, +2 Shield, +1 Dex, +1 Dodge)
2 900 gp 270 gp +5 20 (+6 Banded mail, +2 Shield, +1 Dex, +1 Dodge)
3 2,700 gp 1,520 gp +7 22 (+8 Full plate, +2 Shield, +1 Dex, +1 Dodge)
4 5,400 gp 2,520 gp +8 23 (+9 Full plate+1, +2 Shield, +1 Dex, +1 Dodge)
5 9,000 gp 3,520 gp +9 24 (+9 Full plate+1, +3 Shield+1, +1 Dex, +1 Dodge)
6 13,000 gp 5,520 gp +11/+6 25 (+9 Full plate+1, +3 Shield+1, +1 Dex, +1 Dodge, +1 Deflection)
7 19,000 gp 7,520 gp +12/+7 26 (+9 Full plate+1, +3 Shield+1, +1 Dex, +1 Dodge, +1 Deflection, +1 Natural)
8 27,000 gp 13,520 gp +13/+8 28 (+10 Full plate+2, +4 Shield+2, +1 Dex, +1 Dodge, +1 Deflection, +1 Natural)
9 36,000 gp 18,520 gp +15/+10 29 (+11 Full plate+3, +4 Shield+2, +1 Dex, +1 Dodge, +1 Deflection, +1 Natural)
10 49,000 gp 23,520 gp +16/+11 30 (+11 Full plate+3, +5 Shield+3, +1 Dex, +1 Dodge, +1 Deflection, +1 Natural)
11 66,000 gp 28,520 gp +17/+12/+7 31 (+11 Full plate+3, +5 Shield+3, +1 Dex, +1 Dodge, +1 Deflection, +1 Natural, +1 insight)
12 88,000 gp 40,520 gp +19/+14/+9 33 (+11 Full plate+3, +5 Shield+3, +1 Dex, +1 Dodge, +2 Deflection, +2 Natural, +1 insight)
13 110,000 gp 54,520 gp +20/+15/+10 35 (+12 Full plate+4, +6 Shield+4, +1 Dex, +1 Dodge, +2 Deflection, +2 Natural, +1 insight)
14 150,000 gp 72,520 gp +21/+16/+11 37 (+13 Full plate+5, +7 Shield+5, +1 Dex, +1 Dodge, +2 Deflection, +2 Natural, +1 insight)
15 200,000 gp 92,520 gp +23/+18/+13 39 (+13 Full plate+5, +7 Shield+5, +1 Dex, +1 Dodge, +3 Deflection, +3 Natural, +1 insight)
16 260,000 gp 117,520 gp +24/+19/+14/+9 41 (+13 Mithral Full plate+5, +7 Shield+5, +3 Dex, +1 Dodge, +3 Deflection, +3 Natural, +1 insight)
17 340,000 gp 163,520 gp +25/+20/+15/+10 44 (+13 Mithral Full plate+5, +7 Shield+5, +3 Dex, +1 Dodge, +5 Deflection, +4 Natural, +1 insight)
18 440,000 gp 181,520 gp +27/+22/+17/+12 45 (+13 Mithral Full plate+5, +7 Shield+5, +3 Dex, +1 Dodge, +5 Deflection, +5 Natural, +1 insight)
19 580,000 gp +28/+23/+18/+13
20 760,000 gp +30/+25/+20/+15/+10

It requires extra effort (and some creativity) to increase your armor class above 45.