January 2016 Sage Advice - All About AC

There is a new Sage Advice from WotC's Jeremy Crawford posted on the D&D website about Armor Class and how spells interact with it. As always, the Sage Advice Compendium has also been updated with this information. This month, Jeremy discusses how to calculate creature ACs, and how spells like mage armor, barkskin, amor of Agates, and heroism work. Interestingly, it also contains a reconsidered ruling on how barkskin and shields work, and an update to his previous ruling one the Savage Attacker feat.
Find the full column here and the full compiled Sage Advice Compendium PDF here.

Also of note, the Monster Manual errata has been updated and now includes the water elemental and changes to the kraken.


Sage Advice is a monthly column that gives official clarifications of D&D rules. It also sometimes provides reference documents to help your D&D game run smoothly. Despite its official status, Sage Advice doesn’t trump the rulings of a Dungeon Master; the answers and information provided here are meant to assist a DM in adjudicating the game.
 
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bogmad

First Post
With all these conflicting rulings I'm a little disappointed we don't see more of the Rules as Intended, Rules as Written, and Rules as Fun or whatever all those distinctions were that we had as the subject of the first Sage Advice column.

It seemed like we were going to be encouraged to to bend the rules to each individual home games, but I guess that kind of subtle encouragement from Wotc was outweighed by all our clamour for what the official ruling was destined to be.
 


Jeff Carlsen

Adventurer
I really like how he revisited past rulings, not because I like or dislike the changes, but because it reinforces the idea that Sage Advice is merely an attempt at creating a consistent set of rulings. The ruling are intended to invoke design intent, and to be internally consistent, but they aren't official rules.
 

Remathilis

Legend
It must be if it has caused a Dev to reverse their ruling.

Both of these rules (Barkskin and SA) are less power issues as much as they are "design elegance" issues; the original answer created a kink in the rule that wasn't exploitable or egregious, but opened the door to stranger rules interactions they didn't want to deal with later. Basically, both could set precedent, and they don't want that.

With Barkskin, it sets the precedent that some things count before you set your AC to 16 (armor, natural armor, dex) and some things don't (shields, magical effects) Wheras now, its a pass/fail check: If AC <16, set 16. if AC > 16, ignore.

With Savage attacker, it is part of Wizard's neverending campaign to remind all of us that an unarmed strike is never a weapon ever ever ever. Adding an extra die to a monk isn't the concern, its that it hollowed out a corner case where the term "weapon" could refer to an "unarmed strike" and those two things shall never meet.
 


Skyscraper

Explorer
Interesting to read the ruling on barkskin. That's the way I interpreted it, and that's what it means literally as written. But either way, no wonder there was confusion because of prior tweets. Hopefully this finally puts this discussion to bed ;)

To bed with whom? Because the answer to this question might provoke quite a bit more of discussion...
 

Coredump

First Post
I really like how he revisited past rulings, not because I like or dislike the changes, but because it reinforces the idea that Sage Advice is merely an attempt at creating a consistent set of rulings. The ruling are intended to invoke design intent, and to be internally consistent, but they aren't official rules.

Yes they *are* official. WotC has explicitly said as much. Of course any DM can use or ignore them, just like any DM can use or ignore any rule in any book or publication.
 

Skyscraper

Explorer
Yes they *are* official. WotC has explicitly said as much. Of course any DM can use or ignore them, just like any DM can use or ignore any rule in any book or publication.

I've tried ignoring rules at work, arguing that I'm a DM and consequently, I just can.

So much for my job. It was fun while it lasted.
 

Staffan

Legend
But why Barkskin wasn't used to introduce natural armor AC to player characters, we will never know...

Barkskin is a not the spell you cast on the rogue to give them an AC boost. It's the spell the druid casts on themselves, and then transform into a bear with AC 16 instead of 11.

Funny that the official answer is different to his own ruling in the bark skin case. I also admit defeat and will follow Jeremies ruling instead of the sage's advice.
He did say that he changed his mind on that one. Personally, I don't really like the new ruling - I think it makes sense that barkskin + cover is better than just barkskin.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
I've tried ignoring rules at work, arguing that I'm a DM and consequently, I just can.

So much for my job. It was fun while it lasted.

See, there's your problem... if you're working for somebody, then you're a Player, not the DM. The DM doesn't lose his job... all his Players just quit. ;)
 

Variss

Explorer
At this point, I'm pretty much done with both Crawford and Mearls. The number of self-contradictions, retcons, and disagreements between them borders on the Lucas-level of revision. As with most of their "sage" advice, it gets ignored, with a simple post-it reflecting my personal rulings. It's almost as if DM self-governance was their goal the whole time with this campaign of garbage rulings.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Barkskin is a not the spell you cast on the rogue to give them an AC boost. It's the spell the druid casts on themselves, and then transform into a bear with AC 16 instead of 11.
Why not then give druids a spell with Self as target?

(Consider the question rhetorical. I'm not really interested in creating new spells or fix Barkskin's problems. As I said above, the current spell might work mechanically but simply. Does. Not. Make. Any Sense. The only true solution imo is for WotC to issue a new, completely rewritten, Barkskin.)
 

GrumpyGamer

First Post
Why not then give druids a spell with Self as target?

(Consider the question rhetorical. I'm not really interested in creating new spells or fix Barkskin's problems. As I said above, the current spell might work mechanically but simply. Does. Not. Make. Any Sense. The only true solution imo is for WotC to issue a new, completely rewritten, Barkskin.)

Mechanically barkskin is a more interesting spell with this ruling. It is a way for parties to help a character that might not have optimized stats, such as a Monk who picks strength over dexterity. I prefer this over yet another spell that adds X to your AC.
 


GrumpyGamer

First Post
Where have they said that?


Jeremy implies they are official in the second to last paragraph of this months installment.


With that said; 5e seems to follow the 2e framework of rules, which are to go have fun and do what you want with your style of DMing. I see no problem with modifying rules as you see fit.
 

Jeff Carlsen

Adventurer
Jeremy implies they are official in the second to last paragraph of this months installment.


With that said; 5e seems to follow the 2e framework of rules, which are to go have fun and do what you want with your style of DMing. I see no problem with modifying rules as you see fit.

Sage Advice is much like case studies in law. There are the rules of the game, and there is Sage Advice, which attempts to be a consistent interpretation of the rules, useful when attempting to make future rulings. But Sage Advice rulings are not official rules. Even when he says "official ruling", he refers simply the formal addition of the ruling to Sage Advice.

No games, not even Adventurer's League, are bound by the Sage Advice rulings unless the group chooses to do so.

I'm fond of the work. I love the insight into the design intent. I'm glad to have something to fall back on in my own rulings. And where I disagree, I at least have a basis of comparison for my own rulings or house rules.
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
Jeremy implies they are official in the second to last paragraph of this months installment.


With that said; 5e seems to follow the 2e framework of rules, which are to go have fun and do what you want with your style of DMing. I see no problem with modifying rules as you see fit.

1) He said explicit, so I asked where it was explicitly said (implied isn't explicit), and
2) that quote seems to imply the opposite view (that they're not necessarily considered "official").
 

S

Sunseeker

Guest
I really feel like the more and more of these Sage Advices I read, the more and more backward and twisted my thinking needs to be to make sense of it.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
Barkskin is a not the spell you cast on the rogue to give them an AC boost. It's the spell the druid casts on themselves, and then transform into a bear with AC 16 instead of 11.

Mechanically barkskin is a more interesting spell with this ruling. It is a way for parties to help a character that might not have optimized stats, such as a Monk who picks strength over dexterity. I prefer this over yet another spell that adds X to your AC.

If they open up a possibility only to nerf it, it doesn't sound like good design to me.

Either they have intended Barkskin to be used only by the caster, in which case it should have had a target:self, or it is intended to benefit others too and then that's what it should do.

But it seems to me that it is not their priority to make Barskin tactically interested, but rather their priority is to make ruling consistent, even at the expense of narrative being inconsistent.

Which is a bit dissonant with other aspects of the game where they have thrown consistency out of the window because it was not fun (e.g. NPC and monster design).
 

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