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I recently came upon a class named Deepwarden. It has a great class feature:

Stone Warden (Ex): Beginning at 2nd level, a deepwarden knows how to use his strengths to compensate for his weaknesses. He adds his Constitution bonus to AC instead of his Dexterity, if the character's Constitution bonus is higher. The deepwarden loses this bonus to his Armor Class whenever he would normally be denied his Dexterity bonus to AC. In such a situation, the deepwarden would still be considered flat-footed.

Is this Constitution bonus to AC limited by the armour Deepwarden is wearing, just like a Dex bonus would?

If there is no definite answer, what is the RAI? Is there a similar precedence?

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3 Answers

Rules as written: No limit

Armors limit your Dex bonus to AC. Deepwardens do not have Dex bonuses to AC, they have Con bonuses to AC. The Con bonus replaces the Dex bonus (and so you would not get it in situations where you lose your Dex bonus to AC), but it still is not a Dex bonus and thus the limits of the armor do not apply. And, indeed, there’s no reason why an armor’s weight or inflexibility would prevent you from benefiting from your resilience and connection to the earth.

Intent: Unknown, and unknowable

As far as what the authors intended, that’s anyone’s guess. The author never wrote anything on the subject aside from the original publication, so we have no evidence one way or the other.

Precedent: No limit

As for precedence, generally speaking the special rules for one ability score do not apply when you swap to another ability score. There are instances where you can replace your Strength to damage with Dexterity to damage, but RAW you do not get ½Dexterity to damage on a light weapon or 1½Dexterity to damage on a weapon wielded two-handed, unless it explicitly says so. (Dragon vol. 221 has the Corsair which explicitly halves Dexterity to damage with light weapons, for example)

FAQ: Limit

However, there is an FAQ entry on the question. The FAQ, it must be very clearly stated, is not errata. It is supposed to only explain the rules that already exist. If its statements contradict the actual rules, officially, the actual rules take precedence every single time. And the FAQ has been wrong many times, in many cases quite blatantly so. Finally, the FAQ is not (usually) written by the original authors of the book, so it does not correspond to the author’s intent, either.

All together, the FAQ is worth very little, and has a very poor reputation. In fact, it’s so bad that when this poster in the thread Squera linked learned that the FAQ said the Con bonus was limited, it proved to him that it actually wasn’t!

At any rate, the FAQ has this to say:

Does the deepwarden’s Stone Warden ability (RS 105) still have a maximum Dexterity bonus to his Armor Class, and does that maximum still apply to his Constitution?

The maximum Dexterity bonus should be treated as the maximum ability bonus given by the armor, so if you were playing a deepwarden wearing full plate, you would only add 1 to your Armor Class from your Constitution.

Conclusion: Rule it based on what improves your game most

Personally, I think it makes almost no sense that restrictive armor would inhibit a Con bonus to AC, I think that deepwardens make sense in heavy armor and shouldn’t be penalized for wearing it, and I don’t think the deepwarden or the AC they can get is overpowered or problematic, so I would not limit it. You may answer any or all of those questions differently. Ultimately, remember than AC is a limited thing, and lots of nasty things ignore AC; having a lot of it only does so much for you.

If you would like a compromise, here’s a suggestion. Purely houserule with no basis in the rules, either deepwarden’s or elsewhere in precedence, but it might be a good solution:

The deepwarden’s Constitution bonus to AC is limited by her armor’s maximum Dexterity bonus, just as the Dexterity bonus it replaces would be. However, the Constitution bonus is not limited for the purposes of AC against touch attacks. For example, if a deepwarden with 18 Constitution (+4) wears Chainmail (+5 AC, +2 maximum Dexterity bonus), and has no other bonuses to AC, his AC is 17 (+5 armor, +2 Consitution), but his touch AC is 14 (+4 Constitution). A deepwarden’s touch AC may not exceed her regular AC.

I don’t think this is necessary, but it does prevent the high-end AC that you might get from armor+Con, while still giving a deepwarden a good bonus for their class feature.

Remember, a class feature is supposed to make you better. Yes, Con, not limited by max Dex, is better than what the deepwarden had before, but that isn’t necessarily a problem. It’s only a problem if it’s “too much better,” and I really don’t think it is.

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There does not seem to be any restriction, and I think it so since the stonewarden seems to draw its defence ability from its sturdiness rather than from its agility.

So, if you're looking for an official, general rule, that bonus is not limited.

However, I'd recommend asking the DM for any campaign-specific adaptations, as I believe most DMs would apply the armour's DEX limitation to CON as well in order to avoid very high ACs.

EDIT: a quick google reveals longer threads where this topic has been faced already: http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?113949-Deepwarden-s-Con-bonus-to-AC-amp-armor

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You say that you hav ean "official" answer, but there's nothing official linked. The closest thing to an official answer in the thread is a person who says Wizards customer support said the opposite of what you did. –  Tridus Feb 4 at 15:15
@Tridus I don’t see any claim that the link is official. –  KRyan Feb 4 at 15:24
Squera That said, you should describe the content of the link, rather than rely on it. The link may go dead. –  KRyan Feb 4 at 15:24
@KRyan He says pretty clearly "if you're looking for an official, general rule, that bonus is not limited." What's official about it? The closest thing to an official source says the opposite of that. –  Tridus Feb 4 at 15:24
@Tridus Presumably he meant that the RAW itself doesn’t limit it, which indeed, it does not. The FAQ is absolutely meaningless. –  KRyan Feb 4 at 15:25
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Yes, It's Limited

There are a couple of arguments to support that:

  1. It doesn't say anything about not doing that, and the rules generally work the same way unless another rule says they don't. Armor applies a maximum bonus to AC from DEX, and using your CON in place of your DEX doesn't remove that part of the armor rules (unless the substitution rule says it does). Also, the line about losing the bonus if flat footed suggests pretty strongly that it's intended to work like Dexterity does.

  2. The FAQ says so:

Does the deepwarden’s Stone Warden ability (RS 105) still have a maximum Dexterity bonus to his Armor Class, and does that maximum still apply to his Constitution? The maximum Dexterity bonus should be treated as the maximum ability bonus given by the armor, so if you were playing a deepwarden wearing full plate, you would only add 1 to your Armor Class from your Constitution.

While the FAQ itself isn't a great source of rulings, there's nothing official written anywhere to suggest that it works the other way. This is a straight transposition: your CON becomes your effective DEX for AC purposes and is treated the same way.

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Your first point is inconsistent with other rules (e.g. if you swap Str to damage for Dex to damage, you don’t get 1.5*Dex to damage on two-handed weapons), and your second, well, the FAQ is basically worthless. –  KRyan Feb 4 at 15:23
@KRyan What lets you swap STR for DEX in Damage where that wouldn't apply? –  Tridus Feb 4 at 15:26
It should be noted that the FAQ has a deservedly poor reputation. It's not held to be RAW by the community, in part because its answers are wrong much more often than they are right - and unlike in Pathfinder, the FAQ is not ruled to be nor considered by WotC to be a form of errata. –  Lord_Gareth Feb 4 at 16:11
Okay, I wasn't going to downvote this, and then I saw the Living Greyhawk thing. Look - LGhawk, like Pathfinder Society, runs on a series of house rules and is, further, normally run by people with no comprehension of the rules. WotC failed to understand their own game for the longest time and never really did so, even when they started getting better. The FAQ isn't a reliable source, but Living Grayhawk is an actively harmful and misleading one. Do not cite it please. –  Lord_Gareth Feb 4 at 16:15
@Lord_Gareth Yeah that was a mistake, it's removed again. –  Tridus Feb 4 at 16:21
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