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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DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
I think he meant chain shirt.
I actually meant Scale Mail (thought chain and scale were swapped on the armor weight list cause I wrote the post off the top of my head.)

The point is... a 1st level character who has Medium Armor Proficiency and starting gold (which includes the druid) could have a max AC of 16 from armor. 14 from the scale mail (highest AC Medium armor within the 100 gp starting limit) plus 2 points from DEX. So that is what a druid character theoretically should be able to have, except because of the "no metal armor" fluff rule, which means the best they can have is 12 from Hide plus 2 points from DEX for a total of AC 14. So the druid is 2 points behind the cleric in AC merely due to a fluff rule. Which is fine in of itself I suppose, but the game really should have given something back to the druid to get that starting AC of 16 to match the cleric... and they do, via the Barkskin spell. It's not a perfectly balanced match between the two classes (because the druid has to spend one of its spell slots on it) but it's certainly better than before.

But then things get even more unbalanced because that identical cleric and druid don't gain the same benefit from a shield and cover. The cleric gets those +2s (or +2 and +5) stacked onto his 16, the druid doesn't get that. Simply because WotC got cutesy with their write-up for the Barkskin spell for some odd and no discernable reason. Which is why I just ignore the Sage Advice. It's penalizing the druid (in my opinion too harshly) merely because they wrote the spell weirdly.
 

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Lord Twig

Adventurer
I'm just going to have Barkskin work like Chainmail, 16AC and no Dex. A shield would raise that to 18. This is better than medium armor, but it also costs a 2nd level spell slot, so there should be some advantage to casting it.

I thought about making it natural armor of 14 plus Dex, but figured that might be too good. Or is it?
 

Kalshane

First Post
I'm just going to have Barkskin work like Chainmail, 16AC and no Dex. A shield would raise that to 18. This is better than medium armor, but it also costs a 2nd level spell slot, so there should be some advantage to casting it.

I thought about making it natural armor of 14 plus Dex, but figured that might be too good. Or is it?

It has potential to be, if the druid in question then Wild Shapes into something with a high dex, but it's only 1AC point more than Mage Armor, cast at a higher level but with a much shorter duration, so I suppose it's not too bad in that context.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Your reasoning presupposes the Druid takes Dex 14.

Neither the original spell nor my version makes that assumption.

My point was just that a druid could get that AC of 16 at level 1. Medium Armor Proficiency, 50 GP and a DEX of 14. That's what a druid should have with those things... except for the "no metal armor" rule. Which is why I thought Barkskin made perfect sense for the druid, to GIVE him that AC 16 via spell since he can't have it via the actual armor.

Now how you actually rewrite the spell to make that explicit... that doesn't matter one lick to me. Whether you just get an AC of 16 straight away, or you say your skin becomes like scale mail and you can add up to 2 points of DEX mod, or that it becomes like chain mail but you aren't allow to add your DEX modifier at all even if you have one, or however else you wish to describe it... that's fine. At the end of the day, all that matters is that the druid should be able to start with an AC of 16 at level 1 just like a cleric can, and can add shield and cover bonuses to their AC just like a cleric can. Easy enough.
 

It has potential to be, if the druid in question then Wild Shapes into something with a high dex, but it's only 1AC point more than Mage Armor, cast at a higher level but with a much shorter duration, so I suppose it's not too bad in that context.

As an aside, a 2nd level Moon Druid with Mage Armor can shapeshift into a Giant Hyena with 45(?) HP and AC 15, twice per short rest, for eight hours. Mage Armor + Moon Druid is a fantastic low-level combination.
 

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