AC means Armor Class in D&D 5e, representing the character’s defense against attacks from the monsters in the game. In D&D 5e, AC is one of the most significant features of any character in the game since it represents how effectively your character can avoid getting wounded in the battle. Your AC includes your armor, the shield you held, and your Dexterity modifier.
The higher the AC, the more successfully and effectively the character can use magic to defend themselves from the attacks hit by the monster class. Let us determine the highest possible AC you can achieve in the game to increase the chances of getting yourselves protected from the opponent’s attacks.
This article will inform you about the several ways to achieve the highest AC with and without magic items and will also walk you through the methods to increase it.
What Is the Highest AC in 5E?
There are a few circumstances under which your character can achieve the highest AC (Armor Class) in the D&D 5e game. Let us discuss them in brief:
Under unusual circumstances, you can achieve the highest AC of 49.
- The highest permanent AC your character could achieve: 31
- The highest combat-ready AC your character could achieve: 35
- The highest stars-aligned AC your character could achieve: 49
If your character has Permanent AC with Magic Armor and no other Magic Items, the maximum AC it can achieve is 27. Here are several ways to achieve it:
Level 20 Barbarian class character
- The total Armor Class (AC) of a level 20 Barbarian class character having an unarmored defense would be = 10+ 5 (20 DEX) + 7 (24 CON)
- Then a +3 Shield will add a +5 bonus to the total AC.
Maximum AC of a level 20 Barbarian is: 10 + 5 + 7 + 5 = 27 AC.
A character wearing a heavy armor
- A +3 Plate Mail has 21 AC.
- Defense Fighting Style will add a +1 bonus to the Armor Class (AC).
- A +3 shield will add a +5 bonus to the total AC.
Maximum AC of a character wearing heavy armor is: 21 + 1 + 5 = 27 AC.
A character wearing a heavy armor
- A +3 Half-Plate has 18 AC.
- Dexterity modifier or better and Medium Armor Master Feat will add a +3 bonus to the AC.
- Defense Fighting Style will add a +1 bonus to the AC.
- A +3 shield will add a +5 bonus to the AC.
Maximum AC of a character wearing medium armor is: 18 + 3+ 1 + 5 = 27 AC.
The Situational AC Boosts a total of 49 AC.
- A 3/4 cover adds a +5 bonus to the AC.
- A Multiattack Defense (Ranger 7, triggered by getting hit, active for the rest of the attacking creature’s turn) will add a +4 bonus to the AC.
- A Shield will add a +5 bonus to the AC.
The Defender and Staff of Power can effectively boost the AC of the character. Many characters choose Staff of Power because it has a +2 attack or spell DC bonus, and the Defender is not in effect during a surprise round or a Disengage or Dodge round.
Maximum possible AC: 35 (highest combat-ready AC) + 5 (hiding behind 3/4 cover) + 4 (Multiattack Defense) + 5 (A Shield) = 49 AC.
Hiding behind a 3/4 cover will add a +5 bonus to the AC. If the Defender class replaces the Staff of Power and chooses not to hide behind the 3/4 cover, the highest possible AC in the game will be 44 AC.
The highest possible AC by following the Core Rules, PHB, and the DMG could be 41
Another calculation suggests that a player can achieve 41 AC in the game, and players can achieve an AC as high as the DM permits during the game. The highest-to-hit bonus you can earn on an attack is a +19 (a terrasque), which means anything above 38 AC is useless because of the Nat 20 rule. Pragmatically, any AC above 25 will make the players invincible because of the protection it provides to the players.
Let us calculate the maximum AC by referring to the Core Rules, the PHB, and the DMG.
- Consider a level 19 Barbarian with a base DEX and CON score of 20. It means barbarian can walk around n*de and still have an AC of 20 due to unarmored defense.
- If your Barbarian character has studied a Manual of Quickness of Action and a Manual of Bodily health, it will add +2 to the AC, making it 20 +2 = 22 AC.
- The Barbarian could reach level 20 by multiclassing into level 1 of the wizard (or sorcerer).
- A +3 shield on the Barbarian will add +5 AC, the Ring of Protection will add +1 AC, the Cloak of Protection will add +1 AC, and the Staff of Power will add +2 AC. The total AC so far: 22 + 5 + 1 +1 + 2 = 31 AC.
- Now, if a Barbarian cast Warding Bond, Shield of Faith, and Haste, the total AC would become 31 + 5. = 36 AC. Again using trusty wizard spells (+5 AC) will increase the AC from 36 to 36 + 5 = 41 AC.
Now, being a character with 41 AC, the Barbarian has acclaimed the Godhood in the game because it is possibly the maximum AC in the D&D 5e game. Several builds can help you attain AC greater than 38, but this is the highest AC build according to the Rules As Written (RAW) that adheres to all limits.
Let us now find the highest AC attainable without using any magical items.
What Is the Maximum AC Possible Without Using Magic Items?
The maximum AC possible without any magic items in the 5e game is 29. You can achieve this AC with a Paladin class character.
- First, take a level 20 Paladin and give it a Plate Armor, shield, and Defensive Fighting Style. Your AC will be 21.
- Casting a shield of Faith will add +2 to your AC, thus making it 21 +2 = 23.
- Finally, ensure to keep your DEX modifier 13 while using a finesse weapon.
- Take Defensive Duelist to increase your AC by proficiency (+6 AC).
And you have obtained the maximum AC without using any Magic Items: 21 + 2 + 6 = 29.
So far, you’ve become acquainted with many circumstances under which you can achieve the highest possible Armor Class (AC). Let us now discuss the methods with which you can increase your AC.
What Are All the 5E D&D Ways to Increase AC?
In the D&D 5e game, several weapons, armor, spells, mods, and classes can increase the AC of your character.
If you wear no armor, your AC is 10, but magic armor could increase your AC with a +3, making the total AC = 13. If you wear light armor, your AC could become 11, while if you wear heavy armor, your AC could reach 18.
You can increase your AC if you add your dexterity modifier to your AC. Usually, the dexterity modifier adds +5 to your AC, but Manual of Quickness can further add +2, and Medium Armor Master fear can add +3. Shields give +2 gain and add a +3 magical bonus to your Armor Class.
Spells, such as Guardian of Faith, add +2 to your AC, shield adds +5, Haste adds +2, and Warding Bond increases your AC by +1 and saves 1/2 damage against opponents.
Classes: Various classes could increase your AC in the game. These are:
Monks and Barbarians
Monks and Barbarians increase the Wisdom and Constitution modifiers, and barbarians can still use a shield if they do not wear armor. With a Manual of Quickness of Action, the Monk’s AC could reach up to 22, and a level 20 Barbarian with a Manual of Bodily Health and Quickness of Action could have an AC of 24 without a shield.
War Mage can add +2 AC while concentrating spell at level 10, and at level 2, it can again add +2 to AC against one attack as a reaction.
Cleric of the Forge
A Cleric of the Forge at level 6 adds a +1 AC when not wearing armor.
A Kensei Monk with a Kensei weapon in one hand gets a +2 AC.
Bladesingers can add their Intelligence modifier to their AC in addition to Dex but cannot wear armor or wield a shield while doing that.
Dual Wielder increases your AC with a +1 when you use dual-wielding weapons.
What Is the Lowest Possible AC?
The lowest possible Armor Class for your character is -7. Let us see the possible characters, gears, and procedures to achieve the lowest Armor class in the game.
Let us consider a character named Morbius, who can accomplish this preposterously lowest AC (-7) in the game. Morbius rolled ability scores resulting in 3 Dexterity, 3 Charisma, and either 3 Wisdom or Constitution. Morbius needs to reach level 1 of Monk to attain 3 Wisdom, and for achieving 3 Constitution, he needs to reach level 2 of Barbarian.
The Gear you need
Morbius need these magic items:
- Chromatic Dragon mask found in an adventure module.
- Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat
- Book of Vile Darkness
- Wand of Orcus, Sword of Kas, or Orb of Dragonkind
All the above gears or artifacts have significant detrimental properties (like, the Book of Vile Darkness has 2). These reductions affect your Dexterity, Charisma, and Wisdom or Constitution (whichever is low).
Calculation of AC (Armor Class)
With the gears mentioned above, and the slow spell, you can achieve this Armor Class:
1. If your Dexterity and Constitution or Wisdom are at level 1, your AC with Unarmored defense would be 0:
If you do not wear any armor, your Armor Class (AC) = 10 + your Dexterity modifier + your Constitution modifier (Wisdom modifier for a Monk class).
2. The Chromatic Dragon Mask has the following effects:
Draconic Majesty: While not wearing armor, you can add a Charisma bonus to your Armor Class (AC). The result would be -5 to AC. So, AC is -5 so far.
3 The slow spell
The speed of the affected target would be half, and it will cause a -2 penalty to your AC and Dexterity saving throws.
Now the calculation would be -5 -2 = -7 AC. So, the lowest possible AC any character could get is -7, as per the above calculations.
However, according to the strict RAW (Rules As Written), there is no lower bound. Your character can reduce its armor class infinitely with the following procedure:
Two monsters can reduce your armor class forever: The Demon Lord and Juiblex.
Juiblex has an ability called Eject Slime that says: Unless the target avoids taking any of the acid damage, the metal armor worn by the target takes a permanent penalty of -1 to its AC, and any metal weapon worn by the character takes a -1 penalty to its damage rolls. The penalty increases each time a target takes the acid damage, and if the penalty drops to -5, the object gets destroyed.
The Gray Ooze whose Pseudopod attack includes: If the target is wearing nonmagical metal armor, its armor is partly corroded and takes a permanent and cumulative penalty of -1 to its AC. The armor destroys if the penalty reduces the character’s AC to 10.
First, get hit by Eject Slime 4 times to reduce your Armor Class (AC) to 10, but it would not destroy the armor because the AC needs to drop to -5 to destroy the object and the armor.
Now, the character needs to get repeatedly punched by the Gray Ooze to reduce its armor bonus to 9, but it does not meet the clause because the armor gets destroyed if the penalty reduces its AC to 10 (exactly 10, not less than 10).
So, the procedure may run countless times to reduce the AC to 10 because armor gets steadily higher penalties as long as any character continues to survive the attacks (which any appropriate character can easily do). The acid damage cannot lower your Armor Class (AC) if you do not wear any armor.
How Does the AC Evolve With High Levels?
No, AC does not evolve with high levels, and it is one form of defense and does not grow with levels. If you consider the concept of Bounded Accuracy, one of the design pillars of D&D 5e is the idea that high-level characters do not have a passive defense that makes them invulnerable to the attacks of low-level characters.
Level 1 characters with a +5 attack bonus can hit the AC to a level 20 character. It means that, as characters level up in the game, they get more powerful to hit their opponents more frequently and get hit more often by the opponents.
Higher-level characters have many more hit points and have access to defensive buffs than low-level characters, and they also have a more passive and active defense. Players’ AC may not improve as they level up, but they will get many additional defensive means of dealing with threats.
Is a High AC Worth It in the Long Run In D&D 5E?
Yes, a high AC is worth it in the long run in D&D 5e because it is always better to have high enough HP to take the hit without suffering considerable damage than to be strong, savvy, wise, or likable unless one of these three is the basis for your class.
There are three pillars of adventuring in D&D 5e: Combat (80%), Exploration (10%), and Social Interaction (10%). High Armor Class (AC) is essential for your character because it is the baseline for survivability and keeps you alive by resisting the attack from monsters in the D&D 5e.
Can I Increase an Ability Score Above 30?
No, your Ability Score cannot exceed 30, as mentioned in the Rules As Written (RAW). The PHB defines a general rule that says the maximum Ability Score a player can achieve in the game is 30. According to page 173 of the PHB, a player usually attains the highest Ability Score of 18. However, Adventurers can have a high score of 20, and monsters and divine class can have a high and maximum ability score of 30.
The Ability Scores have modifiers, determined by the score ranging from -5 (for an ability score of 1) to +1 (for an ability score of 30). Let us see the ability scores and modifiers table that notes the ability modifiers for the range of possible ability scores, from 1 to 30.
If you do not want to consider the table, subtract 10 from the ability score and divide the total by 2 (round down) to determine the ability modifier.
According to the above table and Jeremy Crawford (lead designer of the PHB), 30 is the highest Ability Score achievable in the game.
What Is the Highest Possible Permanent AC at Character Creation?
The highest possible permanent AC at character creation is 22. There are two options to achieve the 22 AC:
Option 1: The Plate Mail route
If you have a level 1 set of Plate Mail, you can achieve AC 22 as a Warforged Fighter with the Defense Fighting Style.
Calculation of the 22 AC using the Plate Mail route:
- Plate Armor: 18 AC
- Shield: +2 AC.
- Warforged Integrated Protection Racial Trait: you can add a +1 bonus to your Armor Class (AC).
- Blessing of the Forge or Defense Fighting Style: you can add a +1 bonus to your Armor Class (AC).
Total AC at character creation = 18 + 2 + 1 + 1 = 22 AC.
Option 2: The Barbarian route
Another option to calculate the AC of 22 is through the Barbarian route. If you are a Warforged, using the standard racial will add +2 Constitution and +1 of anything by using Tasha’s alternative method of assigning the racial ability score increases +2 Dexterity and +1 Constitution to achieve the total AC of 22.
Calculation of the 22 AC using the Barbarian route:
- Unarmored Defense: 10 AC (Base) + 5 AC (Constitution/Dexterity) + 4 AC (DEX/CONS).
- Shield: +2 AC.
- Warforged Integrated Protection Racial Trait: You gain a +1 bonus to your AC (Armor Class).
Total AC at character creation = 10 + 5 + 4 + 2 + 1 = 22 AC.
Note: the above Integrated Protection bonus AC is not armor but a result of your body’s built-in defensive layers that could enhance if you equip armor.