Increasing your AC or Armor Class in DnD 5e is quite simple. This stems from the fact that the mechanic itself is quite intuitive, not requiring a lot of calculations.
In this article, we will be looking at what AC is in DnD 5e. How the system works for it, and how to increase it further.
An important pointer before we begin. AC is not the same as a saving throw. We’ve written in the past about Saving Throws, I’d recommend you check that article out as well if you want to learn more about the nuances of both systems.
With all that out of the way, let’s get into it.
Table of Contents
What is AC (Armor Class) in DnD 5e?
AC determines how easily a creature can be hit. In other words, if the attacker can reach or surpass the defender’s AC, then the attack will hit and do damage. In other words.
Armor Class is the value that designates how armored you are. Now, for newer players, it’s easy to believe that the higher the AC the more armored a creature is – but this isn’t the case all of the time.
Yes, usually that is the case. If a creature has a high AC, especially at lower levels, then chances are that they are wearing heavy armor. This totally changes later into the game. Either by getting magical items, or spells, or abilities or items… You get my point.
There are many ways in which you can increase your AC. Having shiny new armor is not the only way.
Be careful though. Having extra armor can come with its cons as well.
AC is always at a base level of 10, without racial traits that is.
Dexterity bonuses increase your AC up to a +6. But keep in mind – armor removes that benefit partially, or entirely.
Medium Armor for example only limits you to a +2 bonus, +3 if you have Medium Armor Master. While wearing Heavy Armor negates the dexterity bonus entirely.
That basically covers what AC is. But what about how to increase it?
How to Increase your AC
Equipment/Armor: I’ll group this in here as it really is the most straightforward way of increasing your AC. When you get a new piece of armor your AC increases as per the description of that item. You also get any other advantages or disadvantages that come with that piece of armor.
Items: These are a great way to give yourself a quick boost in a pinch.
Items like the Ioun Stone of Protection give you a +1 to your AC. While an item like Rod of Alertness can be placed down and give a +1AC aura to all friendly creatures in a 60ft area.
This is in its own separate part as magic items aren’t always a part of every campaign. What’s more, homebrew items can be in their own world entirely.
Magic Armor: These are the most common magical items you can get to boost your AC.
Things like: Demon Armor, Elven Chain, Dwarven Plate, Dragon Scale Mail all fall under this category.
Magical Items: Things like Ring of Protection, Staff of Power, Cloak of Protection all fall under here.
Certain classes get certain features that naturally increase their AC. The most common of these that comes to mind is the Unarmored Defense of the Monk and Barbarian. Or if you’re playing an Artificer you can also use Artificer Enfusion: Enhanced Defense on a piece of armor to boost it.
Not many races get these kinds of traits. And it’s usually races introduced outside the core rulebooks. Races like the Tortle & Warforged get increased AC as part of their Racial Traits. What’s more, Tortles can use Shell Defense to increase their AC by a +4.
This part can fit into an article by itself. So let’s just briefly mention certain feats that boost your AC. Dragon Hide, Defensive Duelist, Shield Master are a few. Lots of armor types also have a Feat tied to them that makes you more proficient in them, thus – much better in using them, more bonuses as well.
Spells and Abilities
This last part deserves an article of its own. There are many spells and abilities you can cast that increase your AC. The most common are: Bearskin, Mage Armor, Shield of Faith to name a few.
Consult the proper handbooks to know more.