D&D 5E Magic Item Stacking

Sadrik

First Post
"Nothing stacks" is not a tenable position. Clearly armor should stack with a shield. Clearly cover should stack with a ring of protection. No matter how you go you will have to have some system of keywords. My opinion is you limit them to a finite and very small and predictable set of them. Similar to what I proposed above. If you go to extreme and nothing stacks it simply does not work. If you go even a middle ground of keywords I think that is too far and everything stacks has some advantages but it will limit design because anytime they introduce a new item they will have to consider it against every item in every book they have published. For me somewhere between the 3e keyword and nothing stacks is where I think it should be.

I also will edit my barbarian above based on the further observations.
 

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delericho

Legend
"Nothing stacks" is not a tenable position.

Actually, that's not true.

Clearly armor should stack with a shield.

Not necessarily. In theory, one could have the shield allow the character to impose disadvantage on one or more incoming attacks per round. Because it does something different from armour, stacking then doesn't need to apply.

Clearly cover should stack with a ring of protection.

Again, not necessarily. Since there's no such thing as a ring of protection in our world, the rules for one can be entriely arbitrary. There's no reason it has to stack with anything.

It's not entirely unreasonable to say "nothing stacks". That just means that if multiple defensive measures apply, you use the best.

This works even better if you then introduce attacks that can bypass one or more of those forms of protection. Then, characters have a choice - do they go for one defense that's "good enough", or do they invest in multiples to cover them for the odd times their main defense is negated? (And, incidentally, it would give an in-game explanation why the proliferation of firearms gradually led to the disappearance of armour.)

Of course, both of these cases are very much in theory. On balance, my preference would indeed for a keyword system (albeit with a very tightly constrained set of keywords). However, I dispute the argument that "no stacking" simply doesn't work.
 

Starfox

Hero
I think the safest choice for 5e would be "nothing stacks", or more precisely "no bonus from magic items stacks with bonuses from other magic items".

I really don't want to see the keyword system to come back, and you quoted the reason yourself: it prevents abuses only in the early cases, after a while, players figure out how to stack stuff properly and supplements provide abundances of opportunities. In the end, the system is not worth the benefit.

This. One of the design goals of 5E was "no Christmas tree", nothing cuts down Christmas trees like a no-stacking rule.
 

ccooke

Adventurer
(edited - missed off some calculations, removed a paragraph)

So, going by the actual rules in the playtest, and looking at AC.

The following items and features operate if and only if you use no armour *or* shield:
1) Barbarian "Thick Hide" Class feature. The effect is "Your AC is set to 10 + DEX mod + CON mod" (Maximum 20, after many levels)
2) Monk "Unarmoured defence" Class feature. The effect is "Your AC is set to 10 + DEX mod + WIS mod (Again, max 20 after many levels)
3) Bracers of Defence. They set your AC to 13 + DEX mod

The following items and features operate if you use no armour, but does *not* disallow shields:
1) Robe of the Archmagi. It sets your AC to 15 + DEX mod

None of the above class features or items stack: They all set your AC to a particular value. If you have more than one, the highest wins.

Mundane and magical armour all works by setting your AC to a particular value, as well. The best armour you can have by the rules, going purely by the AC it gives you, is a +1 Mithril Plate which will set your AC to 19. There is only one item with an AC bonus higher than +1, the Efreeti Chain, which is Chain mail. Normally at 16, this armour's +2 bonus makes it the equivalent of plate (and it has a number of other interesting enchantments).

There are no +X magical shields in the game at this point, going by the rules - they're not listed as a possibility in armour, and the example of a magical shield does not provide an AC bonus.

From there, we can state that without using any other magical items, the highest AC possible is:

* For a Barbarian or Monk, 20 (after level 16 or so)
* For a user of Light armour, 18 (or 20 if using a shield: 13 + 5 + 2)
* For medium armour, 17 (or 19 if using a shield: 15 + 2 + 2)
* For heavy armour, 18 (or 20 if using a shield: 18 + 2)

Magical armour can add at most +1 to this, and only for users of light, medium or heavy armour.
So our current absolute maximums are 20 for a barbarian or monk, or 21 for a heavy or light armour user with a shield.

There is at least one race which provides a +1 AC bonus. This can obviously only be taken once.
Classes with the fighting style option may take a +1 bonus at that point. This can only be taken once.
A character with the duel wielder feat gets +1 to AC if wielding two non-shield weapons, but this falls between Armour and Armour+shield

That brings our totals up to 23 for a barbarian/monk or 22(26) for an armour user (using a shield)

There are no other feats, racial or class features that apply.

We're now down to items and spells.

Items...
The only items with an AC bonus are the ring of protection and the Ioun stone already mentioned. Using both, you can get +2 to AC.

That gives us 25 for Barb/Monk and 24(26) for an armour user.

Note that the Ioun stone can be targeted on its own. It has an AC of 24, 10 hit points and resistance to everything - and its destruction will become a tactical certainty if there are intelligent as soon as your own AC is around 23 or 24.

There's the Defender, which is a +3 greatsword. Transferring any of that attack bonus to AC can only be done on your turn, and it is a two-handed weapon - it can't be used with a shield.

That means we have 25(28) and 24(27)(26) for Monk/Barb(with Defender) and Armour User(with Defender)(with Shield).

Finally, we have the Shield of Faith spell, which provides a +1 AC bonus for up to 10 minutes, subject to concentration.

That means we have an absolute upper limit of AC 25 or 26, which can be increased to 27 or 28 if the party are not surprised. And that's on one character, who (if you're playing the game with magic items as written) has probably got the lion's share of magic in the group. Remember, this is an edition where everyone having a Ring of Protection would be unbelievably rare - you no longer need those bonuses just to stay on par.

In order to obtain this score, you have to put all of your possible choices into defence. You need to have found a specific set of rare and very rare magic items, in a system that defaults to greater magical items (Those that have a largely mechanical effect) being very rare.

Have I missed anything?

If we're discussing stacking, where in the above do you think the stacking does something you'd rather it didn't?

Is it reasonable to have one incredibly lucky character be extremely hard to hit if they've spent most of their available resources on it?
 
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jodyjohnson

Adventurer
I could see anything Magic (That doesn't set your AC - Bracers, Robe) being a Magic bonus and not stacking.
Magic Armor - ongoing
Shield of Faith - temp
Ring of Protection - ongoing
Ioun Stone - ongoing
Shield Spell (+4) - temp
Defending Sword (up to +3) - temp
 

ccooke

Adventurer
I could see anything Magic (That doesn't set your AC - Bracers, Robe) being a Magic bonus and not stacking.
Magic Armor - ongoing
Shield of Faith - temp
Ring of Protection - ongoing
Ioun Stone - ongoing
Shield Spell (+4) - temp
Defending Sword (up to +3) - temp

That's a possible solution to your problem, but I'm asking you to state the problem in concrete terms :)

So to reiterate:

Is an absolute upper limit of 25-26, with possible temporary boosts to 27-28 for a very lucky character who was specialised into defence at every available option and has managed to find the exact most optimal items (going against the "magic items are rarer" defaults in the system) too much? Why?

If it's too much, what do you think would be an agreeable target? Why?

Only (IMHO) by actually thinking what the upper bound target of opportunity, specialisation and luck should be can we actually evaluate the stacking of items and try to decide what is wrong with the stack that is possible in the current rules.

I'm not saying it's *not* too much (although I, personally, think it's reasonable - but I know that no character in a game I GM will ever be able to attain this theoretical maximum). I just think people are suggesting "fixes" for a problem without actually defining what the desired end state is.
 

Paraxis

Explorer
(edited - missed off some calculations, removed a paragraph)
Have I missed anything?

If we're discussing stacking, where in the above do you think the stacking does something you'd rather it didn't?

Is it reasonable to have one incredibly lucky character be extremely hard to hit if they've spent most of their available resources on it?

Barkskin spell for another +2 AC
Prayer provides a +1 AC
Nothing says you can't wear two rings of protection for another +2

There are magic armor bonuses higher then +1, there are a couple in some of the adventures.
 


ccooke

Adventurer
Barkskin spell for another +2 AC
Prayer provides a +1 AC
Nothing says you can't wear two rings of protection for another +2

There are magic armor bonuses higher then +1, there are a couple in some of the adventures.

Okay, but Prayer and Barkskin are both Concentration - so to have those two *and* Shield of Faith, you now have three PCs concentrating on making one Awesomely Unstoppable Character. Does that make them stacking more acceptable?
What's more, all of these apart from Prayer are level 1 or 2 spells - auto-cancelled by a single casting of Dispel Magic.

Rings of Protection and the Defender require attunement. You could, if you're going to twist the "lucky" argument even further, possibly find one more ring. You could even use it. But you couldn't use a third.
Any magical armour with a bonus greater than +1 probably needs attunement, too (I've tried to find any such armour in the playtest documents, but failed so far. Where is it?)

That gives us a reasonable maximum of 26 (discounting the Defender, which would take it to 28 (yes, I know that's only +2, but that's because our maximum is hiding multiple paths - 26 is the armour-and-shield maximum) without using any spells. Magic can reasonable be expect to take that to 27 (or 29, with the Defender)

Given the magic of the entire party, you could get that to 30 for a few minutes. However, that requires the resources and concentration of three spellcasters.

So, where is this broken and why? What parts of this *specifically* should not stack with each other, and when you recalculate to take account of it does the result look like the absolute mechanical limit you'd like?

How achievable do you think the exact upper limit should be? :)
 
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