Does D&D 5E have a mechanic similar to Touch AC or Flatfooted AC as it exists in D&D 3.5?

To put it simply, in D&D 3.5, touch AC excludes armor bonuses when armor can't help against an attack, and flatfooted AC excludes your Dexterity bonus when you haven't acted yet in combat.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This question would be more answerable if there were definitions and rule citations for Touch AC or Flat-Footed. Were these only used in 3.x? Pathfinder? 4e? If they were used in multiple systems, were there significant differences? \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis Jun 11 '17 at 21:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am referring to the Amor class system in D&D 3.5, I am new to 5e and I am using my knowledge from that to assist me while I make the transfer. I didn't know some of the rules and couldn't find anyone else that has asked this question before me and received a straightforward answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Craigamore Jun 12 '17 at 18:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Since I have cross-edition experience and you clarified D&D 3.5, I edited your question with a brief summary of what Touch AC and Flatfooted AC are so that those who view your question don't have to follow the links to know. If you find my summary inaccurate, please consider revising it or rolling back the edit. \$\endgroup\$ – Bloodcinder Jun 9 '18 at 20:55

Mearls explicitly mentioned the design decision to not include Touch AC nor Flat-footed AC in the game during the playtest period. They are intentionally absent as a simplification which streamlines play.

Additionally, the thematic element of attacks is explained by Jeremy Crawford, on twitter (as mentioned by Doval):

Stoppable by armor? That's an attack. Not stoppable by armor? That usually requires a saving throw. #DnD

While not entirely accurate a portrayal of the spell list, it's substantially true. (In other words, there are exceptions.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think a bit about advantage would make this more complete. Advantage covers roughly the same ground as Flatfooted AC (plus a bunch of other ground too), and it might be worth explicitly noting that saving throws (expecially Dex) tend to take the place of 3.5 Touch AC. \$\endgroup\$ – Ethan Jun 12 '17 at 19:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ No, Advantage doesn't cover the same ground. Flatfooted is grounds for Advantage, but so are a lot of things FAR less potent. And it's immaterial to why it was left out, which was simplicity. \$\endgroup\$ – aramis Jun 13 '17 at 5:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ I said roughly. Anything that would cause flatfooted would probably cause advantage. It took over the ground that flatfooted covered (plus a bunch of other things), so is thus relevant. It is the new mechanic to use when the defender can't adequately mount a normal defense. \$\endgroup\$ – Ethan Jun 13 '17 at 16:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ No, the new mechanic for no melee defense is both advantage to hit and automatic critical on hit. There's no equivalent for ranged weapons. See the conditions list. \$\endgroup\$ – aramis Jun 24 '17 at 19:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ Spell attacks are also probably worth mentioning here. Armor is still applied against them, but they have greater accuracy for similar narrative reasons as touch attacks do. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jun 9 '18 at 20:29

No. There is no mention of touch AC or flat-footed AC in D&D 5th Edition source books.

If you want to use those rules, you will have to find a homebrew system, or adapt them yourself.


While the concept does not exist, it is not as needed as in previous edition or Pathfinder.


  • Because of bounded accuracy: simpler math, less number explosions

  • Spellcasters now use their spellcasting ability to make their attack rolls, instead of Strength or Dexterity.

  • Less game math since gaining advantage will address most of these issues.


Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

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