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How To Calculate Armor Class 5E? [Detailed Steps & Examples]

How To Calculate Armor Class 5E
  Written By: Ashish Arya
Updated On: 10/26/2023
Est. Reading: 8 minutes

You’ve just rolled the dice, and you’re deep into your latest Dungeons and Dragons (DnD) adventure. Suddenly, an ogre charges at you, swinging a massive club.

Your heart races as you find yourself looking up from your character sheet straight into the eyes of your Dungeon Master (DM). This is a crucial moment where understanding stat calculations could mean life or death for your character.

Astoundingly, many new players aren’t quite sure about how to calculate Armor Class 5E. Dungeons and Dragons 5E provides a unique world of dragons, elves, giants, and magic that hooks many first-time players instantly.

Amidst all the excitement and narrative buzz of oral storytelling & monster slaying lies a plethora of complicated stats & numbers that can easily confound newcomers.

The notorious Armor Class (AC) is one number that keeps cropping up during encounters with bad guys, but it often leaves fresh players scratching their heads. On this note, let’s clear the air around Armor Class today, making it easy for anyone to calculate and understand.

What is Armor Class 5E?

Armor Class, commonly abbreviated as AC, symbolizes your character’s defense in DnD 5E. It represents how difficult it is for opponents to land a successful, damaging hit on you during combat encounters.

What is Armor Class 5E?

The higher your Armor Class, the harder you are to hit. So when that ogre swings his club or the wizard targets you with a fireball spell, they must roll a number on their d20 (20-sided die) that meets or exceeds your Armor Class to ensure their attack successfully deals damage.

Thus, knowing how to calculate your Armor Class accurately could greatly influence your survival in the game.

How to Calculate Armor Class 5E?

Starting with the basics, when your character is unarmored, your AC is equal to 10 plus your dexterity modifier. This stat represents how agile and fast-moving a hero can be even without the protection of armor.

How To Calculate Armor Class In 5E

Venturing into light armor types, we encounter three varieties:

  • Padded Armor has an AC of 11 plus your dexterity modifier. However, maneuvering in padded armor can be clumsy and might put you at a disadvantage on stealth checks.
  • Leather Armor offers an AC also equivalent to 11 plus your dexterity modifier, except it doesn’t impose any limitations on stealth.
  • Studded Leather Armor provides an improved AC of 12 plus your dexterity modifier without hindering stealth.

If you decide to gear up in medium armor as many fighters or rangers do, there are further considerations:

  • Hide Armor gives an AC of 12 plus your dexterity modifier but caps this bonus at +2 maximum.
  • Chain Shirt shares similar traits with Hide Armor but bumps up the AC to 13
  • Scale Mail, just like both Hide Armor and Chain Shirt, allows a maximum modification of +2 from dexterity but offers a higher base AC of 14, however, at the cost of hindering stealth-like padded armor.
  • The Breastplate also has an AC rating of 14 while accommodating up to +2 from a dex mod but doesn’t impose any stealth issues.
  • Half Plate gives a robust base AC score of 15 (max +2 dex mod), though it leads to some sneaky disadvantages.

Now, concerning heavy armor which demands strength from its wearers:

  • Ring Mail offers an uncomplicated flat rate AC score of 14 but stumbles on stealth checks.
  • Chain mail is heftier, giving a solid AC of 16 but inconveniencing stealth operations.
  • The formidable Splint Armor gifts an AC of 17, again at stealth’s expense.
  • Last but not least, the truly ironclad Plate Armor provides a whopping AC of 18, though it may awaken every creature in the dungeon with its clanking.

We have shields that you can use in combination with any armor type, and they contribute an additional +2 when calculating your total Armor Class.

By understanding each armor’s benefits and limitations, you can accurately calculate your character’s Armor Class and strategically plan for your adventure in the vast universe of D&D 5E.

Also Read: Mage Armor 5E [Is Mage Armor Better Than Light Armor 5E?]

Calculating AC for Armored Characters/Creatures

Equipping your characters with armor is critical in DnD 5E because it directly affects their Armor Class (AC), which can mean the difference between emerging victorious or being mowed down in combat encounters.

So, let’s unravel the mystery around calculating Armor Class (AC) for different types of armor, starting from light armor, progressing to medium, and escalating all the way to heavy armor.

Light Armor and The Mage Armor Spell

Navigating through several clashes with enemies and emerging victorious often depends on how agile you are. If light armor is your choice of defense, determining your AC becomes quite simple.

When you wear light armor like leather or padded ones, your Armor Class (AC) is calculated by adding 10 plus your Dexterity modifier plus the armor’s base AC. The lightweight nature of this category allows you to utilize your skill effectively in combative evasion.

Let’s say you’re an agile rogue character wearing studded leather armor (base AC of 12). If you have a Dexterity modifier of +4 – your total Armor Class would end up being 16 (12 Base AC + 4 Dex).

For spellcasters who prefer not to weigh themselves down with physical gear, the ‘mage armor’ spell serves as an alternative. It magically infuses the target with an unseen field of force that protects similarly to physical armor. When empowered by mage armor, calculate your character’s AC as 13 plus their dexterity modifier.

Take steps wisely because knowing when to use light armor or mage spells might save you during intense gaming battles.

Medium Armor

Moving up a notch brings us to medium armors that offer greater protection than light ones – but at the potential cost of reducing agility.

With medium armor like chain shirts or breastplates, calculating your Armor Class gets mildly complicated. Your AC is determined by the armor’s base AC plus your Dexterity modifier (capped at +2). However, the heavier materials used in these gear limit the influence of your Dexterity on evasion.

Again, if we consider a scenario where you’re decked out in a breastplate (base AC of 14) and have a Dexterity modifier of +4, this time, your total Armor Class would be calculated as 16 (14 Base AC + 2 Dex), due to the restriction placed by the medium armor.

Heavy Armor

Then comes heavy armor – designed for those who seek high degrees of protection. Heavy equipment like plate mail or chain mail offers substantial base AC but tends to nullify any potential advantages stemming from agility.

When calculating Armor Class for heavy armors, one aspect remains constant – there is no contribution from your dexterity modifier due to their nature of restricting movement significantly. Your total AC equals the armor’s base AC.

So if you are a brave fighter donned up in a suit of Plate armor that has a base AC of 18, Regardless of what your dexterity modifier might be – your Armor Class will still be 18.

Knowing each category’s intricacies can effectively determine how your character approaches battles and survives potential threats across magical realms. But remember, higher protection often comes with trade-offs. So choose wisely.

Other Ways to Calculate Armor Class in 5E

Let’s dig deeper into other ways you can calculate Armor Class specifically for characters who prefer the comfort of their skin over layers of armor.

Other Ways to Calculate Armor Class in 5E

This might sound a little odd to you if you’re a new player. But among the varied classes in the DnD 5E universe, many embrace the idea of unarmored defense, letting their innate abilities provide protection rather than relying on physical armor.

Barbarian Unarmored Defense

Who needs heavy armor when your own body could channel equal, if not better, defense? Playing a Barbarian in DnD 5E gives you this unique advantage.

Unlike others who remain occupied with fiddling around with their gear-based armor calculations, here’s how the Barbarian does it.

Calculate Armor Class by adding your Dexterity modifier to your Constitution modifier and then adding 10. (10 + Dexterity modifier + Constitution modifier)

Dexterity refers to agility, while constitution symbolizes endurance or stamina. Barbarians are known for their beastly constitution and surprising agility despite their intimidating size.

So naturally, even when they are unarmored, they create this unique defensive matrix around them that makes it really difficult to strike successfully.

The Barbarian Unarmored Defense is an excellent feature for players who prefer using their natural capabilities over depending on equipment for survival in adventures.

Read More: Tarrasque 5E Monster [Strengths, Behavior, Actions & Abilities]

Monk Unarmored Defense

Now consider the elegant and wise Monks known for gracious moves and insightful victories over enemies – all done without any necessity of typical armor.

When playing a Monk in DnD 5E and calculating Armor Class without armor, add 10 plus your character’s Dexterity modifier (representing agility), then add your Wisdom modifier (denoting mental acuity and awareness). In short: 10 + Dexterity modifier + Wisdom Modifier

Monk characters rely heavily on wisdom due to their significant role in interacting with Ki- their magical martial energy source. They are fast and wise, completely aware of their surroundings even in the chaos of battle.

Their Wisdom complements their Dexterity, making them hard to hit despite them not wearing any armor at all.

So, whether you’re smashing through your enemies with a relentless Barbarian or darting in and out of combat as a nimble Monk, understanding how to calculate your Armor Class accurately is beneficial.

This knowledge will help you optimally strategize your moves during encounters, maximizing both offense and defense for an exciting, immersive DnD 5E experience.

Remember that every character has a unique way of safeguarding themselves in a world teeming with dangerous adventures – it’s all about picking the one that suits your gameplay style best.

Increasing Armor Class in 5E

While having a solid grasp of AC calculation basics is essential, DnD 5E offers you more avenues to beef up your Armor Class. Your defense isn’t just limited to your armor or shield; many game elements can aid your survival instincts.

Defense Fighting Style

Suppose you’re playing as a class that synergizes with the Defense Fighting Style, like Fighter or Paladin. This fighting style offers an additional +1 to your AC when you’re adorned with armor.

Think of it as a simple boost for having donned armor, a silent thank you from Dungeons and Dragons for being prepared for battle and choosing the path of the knight.

Every single point in your AC can make the key difference between absorbing damage or evading it entirely.

Magic Items

A fantastic world filled with mythical beings would not be complete without magical trinkets & artifacts offering financial benefits.

Some rare magic items littered throughout DnD 5E carry powerful enchantments that enhance their wearer’s defensive capabilities – aka boost their Armor Class.

Rings of Protection or Cloaks of Displacement are just two examples among many others that offer AC aid in addition to their regular effects. However, DM discretion greatly influences the availability & distribution of these precious objects.

The Mage Armor spell

Magic users need protection, too! The Mage Armor spell is one-way wizards and sorcerers increase their otherwise flimsy defenses.

A first-level spell doesn’t sound too impressive. Please wait until you cast Mage Armor: doing so gives an unarmored target an instant base AC of 13 plus its Dexterity modifier for 8 hours.

It’s a brilliant reminder that even though magic users might not be able to don hefty steel plates or lug around bulky shields, they always have their manipulative magical shenanigans up their robe sleeves.


Never disregard the environmental advantages. Using cover strategically can greatly enhance your defense in combat encounters. A half-cover provides an additional +2 bonus to AC, whereas a three-quarters cover offers a whopping +5 bonus.

The best part is that anyone can utilize this tactic – from warriors to wizards. Savvy players are always conscious of their surroundings and utilize every advantage they can get – a crate here or a ruin wall there could be the deciding factor in your next fight.

Every bit of these increases, whether it’s a tactical decision or a magical buff, can stack up to give you solid defenses against adversaries who dare to take a swing at you.

Upsurge your survival capabilities, diversify your tactics, and remember, nothing beats a good old high Armor Class when an angry ogre gets swing-happy with his club.

Explore More: Feats 5E Guide [How To Choose And Leverage Feats Effectively]

FAQs about Armor Class

What does Dexterity have to do with Armor Class in DnD 5E?

Your character’s Dexterity modifier often contributes to AC, as it represents your ability to dodge attacks.

Is a higher or lower Armor Class better in D&D 5E?

A higher Armor Class is better—it means you’re more difficult for enemies to hit successfully.

Can I increase my Armor Class apart from wearing armor or using a shield?

Definitely, you can boost your AC through magic items, spells like Mage Armor, fighting styles, or using cover strategically.

Does the Defense Fighting Style work with any armor?

Yes, as long as you’re wearing armor, the Defense Fighting Style can grant a +1 bonus to your AC in DnD 5E.

What role does ‘Cover’ play in increasing my Armor Class?

Using cover during combat encounters like half or three-quarters cover can provide significant bonuses (+2 and +5, respectively) to your AC.


  • Ashish Arya

    I'm a tech enthusiast and lifelong gamer, hailing from the beautiful city of Chandigarh. My passions range from immersing myself in worlds like GTA V, COD, SIMS, Roblox and Minecraft to exploring the latest innovations in laptops and technology. Armed with a Bachelors Degree in Computer Application, I love sharing my insights through writing and engaging with fellow enthusiasts. Join me on my journey through the ever-evolving realms of gaming and tech!