Swordsages get:

Starting at 2nd level, you can add your Wisdom modifier as a bonus to your armor class

I have a warblade who has an 8 WIS (-1 mod), and was thinking of taking a two level dip into swordsage.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The wording on the Swordsage ability is really important for this question. I'm away from my ToB copy, and online sources for the wording bring me to a different conclusion than your question's version of the wording. Basically, it comes down to if the wording is "add their Wisdom bonus" or "add their Wisdom modifier as a bonus". \$\endgroup\$
    – godskook
    Aug 14, 2017 at 18:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @godskook From the book: "Starting at 2nd level, you can add your Wisdom modifier as a bonus to your armor class" then it lists the armor and encumbrance limitations. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 14, 2017 at 18:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you are taking a one level dip, are you even getting that ability? (Question is still fine, just curious about this) \$\endgroup\$
    – firedraco
    Aug 14, 2017 at 18:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @firedraco hahaha oops. Edited. Gotta take one before you take two. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 14, 2017 at 18:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Since this question is about an ability called “AC Bonus” that adds one’s Wisdom to AC, and this is useless to your character as described, this question about possible alternatives to the monk’s version might be of interest to you—and might even be useful if the answer was anything but “there aren’t any.” \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Aug 14, 2017 at 19:10

2 Answers 2


It says you can add your Wisdom modifier as a bonus. It does not say you have to, or that it just happens whether you want it to or not. It is your choice. If your modifier is negative, you presumably would not choose to add it.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Was about to post this answer myself; instead I'll +1 yours. I think this answer is even more important than the one by godskook. I don't remember the rules defining such a difference between bonus and modifier; perhaps my memory is just lapsing, but I don't think it was there, and as a DM I would not accept godskook's rationale. I would, however, accept "I choose not to apply my wisdom to my dodging." \$\endgroup\$
    – Aaron
    Aug 14, 2017 at 19:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Aaron godskook's answer has a link to the game's distinction between bonus and modifier in its quotation, but I, too, think KRyan's point is a very strong one: the special ability's can implies that it's an option that need not be exercised, no matter how the remainder of that special ability's actually worded. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 14, 2017 at 19:32
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ "No, no I need to not this dude, I use my -1 modifier on these swings." "Why don't you just... not swing?" "Well my magic sword gains 3 hp when I attack. I don't want to kill the dude until I'm back to full hp..." \$\endgroup\$
    – corsiKa
    Aug 14, 2017 at 23:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @corsiKa That is funny but also true and a good example. Spell resistance is another good example, and if I recall correctly rulebooks specifically talk about willfully lowering your personal spell resistance when you might want to be affected by something, either a beneficial spell or even a negative spell for whatever odd reason you have. \$\endgroup\$
    – Aaron
    Aug 15, 2017 at 19:18

Bonuses are not Modifiers

A positive modifier is called a bonus, and a negative modifier is called a penalty.

A bonus is ALWAYS positive. If you don't have have a Wisdom bonus, you can't add it to your AC, but you also can't add your Wis modifier, or Wis penalty. So where the rules say "add your ability bonus", you only do that if your modifier is positive, by definition.

However, the text is ambiguous

The text says you can add your Wisdom modifier as a bonus, which is confusing phrasing, in my opinion, because they're switching terms non-meaningfully. It ~should~ be the same term for both, either as modifier or bonus.

It still says bonus, though

To me, the argument's there that this class feature should always be non-negative. Still, I'd say talk to your DM.

Work around

Carrying an animated shield negates the class feature entirely, bonus or penalty, and the animated shield doesn't interfere with your attack routines. So for 9kgp, you can bypass the need to discuss the ruling at all.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't remember the rules defining such a difference between bonus and modifier; perhaps my memory is just lapsing, but I don't think it was there. The text that you quote and link also does not imply the difference you extrapolate from it. "A positive modifier is a bonus and a negative modifier is a penalty" is not the same thing as "If any modifier that you apply using the wording 'bonus' would actually be negative then do not apply it." And if I were DM, I might apply the bonus as a penalty in certain situations; it would depend on the circumstances. \$\endgroup\$
    – Aaron
    Aug 14, 2017 at 19:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Aaron’s memory is largely correct; the rules usually call out the distinction between bonus and modifier explicitly when it’s relevant, e.g. “Wisdom bonus, if any,” and similar. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Aug 14, 2017 at 19:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Aaron, the quoted text IS a definition. \$\endgroup\$
    – godskook
    Aug 14, 2017 at 19:30
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Maaan, I wish my level 2 character had 9kg to spend on magic items... \$\endgroup\$ Aug 14, 2017 at 20:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThunderGuppy, OP's character is already a Warblade, so at a MINIMUM, we're talking level 3 before there's a potential conflict on this, likely a few levels later. \$\endgroup\$
    – godskook
    Aug 14, 2017 at 20:27

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