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Assuming you are level 1 and have access to any item that you can afford at character creation rolling the maximum amount of starting gold, how high can your permanent AC become (permanently, not for any lesser set duration)?

Constraints:

  • Only official material, Unearthed Arcana is not legal for this character creation.

  • All common races listed are legal, all other races are illegal for character creation.

  • Items are those that you can purchase.

  • All skills, feats and abilities available to a player character are eligible.

  • A sole player character has to achieve this AC on their own, without any help from allies (pet companions, PCs, NPCs etc.)

  • Starting attributes can be rolled (that includes all 18s down the line) or achieved by point-buy. I have no preference for either.


Heavily related: What is the highest possible temporary AC at level 1, without any help from others?

This linked question also includes temporary AC. My current question, however, is strictly about permanent AC.

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22 AC

With the changes to the Warforged Integrated Protection racial trait (specifically the change to give you +1 AC, and a method to wear armor...meaning you also have a method to not wear armor), it is now possible to get an AC of 22 at character creation.

Option 1: The Plate Mail route

If you can manage to get a set of Plate Mail at level 1 (either by gift of a generous DM, or using the Inheritor method, of selling your incredibly valuable piece of jewelry [eg jeweled platinum ring] to buy a set of Plate Mail), then as a Warforged Fighter, with the Defense Fighting Style, or as a Warforged Forge Cleric you can get an AC of 22:

Calculation:

  • Plate Armor
    • 18
  • Shield
    • +2
  • Warforged Integrated Protection Racial Trait
    • You gain a +1 bonus to Armor Class

  • Blessing of the Forge or Defense Fighting Style
    • +1

For a total of 22.

Option 2: The Barbarian Route

Be a Warforged and either using the standard racial increases of +2 Constitution, +1 anything, or by using Tasha's alternative method for assigning racial ability score increases and choose +2 Dexterity and +1 Constitution instead, you can achieve an AC of 22.

Calculation:

  • Unarmoured Defense
    • 10 (Base) + 5 (Con/Dex) + 4 (Dex/Con) = 19
  • Shield
    • +2
  • Warforged Integrated Protection Racial Trait
    • You gain a +1 bonus to Armor Class

For a total of 22.

Importantly for this build, the Integrated Protection bonus AC is explicitly not armor, just a result of your body's

built-in defensive layers, which can be enhanced with armor

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  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ No worries; I'm working on a different method anyway, which doesn't rely on 18 for Ability Scores or expensive Plate Armor. \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Nov 30 '20 at 17:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ Nevermind. Loxodon Trunk doesn't work with the Dual Wielder feat. I think this is the best we have at the moment. Bravo. I just went with a slightly different build, but can't beat 22. \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Nov 30 '20 at 17:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron I'd not considered feats...the big issue is that no feat replicates the +2 from a shield, which immediately rules out the monk variants (which is a shame) \$\endgroup\$ – illustro Nov 30 '20 at 18:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @illustro I keep trying to do something with the Fighting Style Feat (Fighting Initiate), but only keep tying the 22 XD \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Nov 30 '20 at 21:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 - I think it's still worth having the option in the answer with the feat, even tough it still comes to AC 22 as it provides with a third alternative :) - I'm guessing the PC would need to be human? \$\endgroup\$ – Senmurv Dec 3 '20 at 22:05
18
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21 with the stats you give

Absolute max - 21

  • Race: Dwarf
  • Class: Barbarian
  • Equipment: Shield

Unarmed Defense means your AC is 10 + 4 (Dex 18) + 5 (Con 20) + 2 (Shield) = 21 AC

Note; this is not the only combination that can work. Any race capable of reaching +2 in either constitution or dexterity would have the same result.

Maximum armour based build - 20

  • Race: Any with a +2 to Dex
  • Class: Fighter
  • Equipment: Studded Leather, Shield

You don't have enough gold at character creation to buy any decent armour. Therefore the best we can get is studded leather with a dexterity based build.

12 (Studded Leather) + 5 (Dex) + 2 (Shield) + 1 (Defensive Fighting style) = 20 AC

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  • \$\begingroup\$ actually with a mountain dwarf with Tashas Cauldron alternate ASI, you can have 20 Con. and 20 Dex, for AC 22. I am assuming you do not know what warforged are, as well. \$\endgroup\$ – TheDragonOfFlame Nov 30 '20 at 19:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TheDragonOfFlame This answer was written long before Tasha's was released. Thanks for the information I may update it once I have access to that rulebook for reference. Just FYI statements like "I am assuming you do not know what warforged are" come off fairly rude. Just because I may have overlooked something doesn't mean I am unaware of its existence. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Nov 30 '20 at 23:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ I was not trying to be rude. I did not see when this was written. as well I had thought that you where unaware of warforged as they are one of the only races with AC bonus. My apologies \$\endgroup\$ – TheDragonOfFlame Nov 30 '20 at 23:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TheDragonOfFlame I believe the racial trait for Warforged was in E:RftLW which was also released after this answer. In future a better way to phrase your comment is "Hey there is some content in [source] that may improve this answer, particularly look at [example]" or something similar. No harm done just letting you know. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Nov 30 '20 at 23:15
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22 Armor Class

The best builds rely on rolling two 18s via rolled ability scores and assign them to Dexterity and Constitution. Then you will have to play a mountain dwarf and use the new Tasha's Cauldron of Everything option to modify ability score increases, increasing Dexterity instead of Strength:

If you’d like your character to follow their own path, you may ignore your Ability Score Increase trait and assign ability score increases tailored to your character. Here’s how to do it: take any ability score increase you gain in your race or subrace and apply it to an ability score of your choice.

This gives you a score of 20 in both Constitution and Dexterity. Finally, play a barbarian for Unarmored Defense:

The Calculation

Using this build here is how you get 22 AC:

  • Unarmored Defense
    • Base: 10
    • Dexterity and Constitution: +5 each
  • Shield
    • +2

Tortles

You can technically get a bit higher by playing a Tortle. While you sacrifice 1 AC from having a lesser Ability Score Increase, you get +4 AC while using Shell Defense:

You can withdraw into your shell as an action. Until you emerge, you gain a +4 bonus to AC, and you have advantage on Strength and Constitution saving throws.

This does yield you a permanent 23 AC (since you probably can't benefit from your shield), but it comes with a pretty major downside:

While in your shell, you are prone, your speed is 0 and can’t increase... you can’t take reactions, and the only action you can take is a bonus action to emerge from your shell.

As such, I neglected to include this option in my assessment, since adventuring virtually necessitates coming out of your shell.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I feel like picking the Inheritor background and selling the inheritance is effectively cheating. The whole point of the background is that the inheritance should be something of great importance to the character. \$\endgroup\$ – Cubic Nov 30 '20 at 9:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ the term Warforged Barbarian seem to be an oxymoron, though I do like this answer. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Nov 30 '20 at 14:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Cubic My answer has been overhauled to exclude the need for that. It is true that using Inheritance that way is a little gamey \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Nov 30 '20 at 18:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you really wanted to cheese...the inheritor gives you the option of "a tattoo" as the inheritance (never really got that) and Tasha's allows for magical tattoos which confer bonuses \$\endgroup\$ – illustro Nov 30 '20 at 18:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @illustro the only relevant tattoo option would be Barrier Tattoo which is no more powerful than the highest value armor for each armor type. \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Nov 30 '20 at 18:20
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20 AC (or 21 AC with a generous reading)

This grants you 18 AC from the Warforged Heavy Plating (16+2 proficiency), plus 2 from the shield.

If you consider that Heavy Plating counts as wearing armor, which is debatable, you can also pick the Defense fighting style for +1 AC bringing the total up to 21.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Just wanted to add as the author of said question (and player of the warforged which prompted the question) that my table ruled that the Defense fighting style would not apply by current wording. \$\endgroup\$ – Viishnahn Jun 5 '19 at 15:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm guessing this answer was based on the playtest version of warforged from UA: Eberron Races (which was also in the initial version of Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron), since the answer was posted 5 months before the final version of the race was published in Eberron: Rising from the Last War... Warforged were substantially changed in the final version; the Integrated Protection trait no longer lists 3 different AC calculations based on different "defensive modes", but grants a flat +1 to AC instead. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Dec 1 '20 at 0:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ ...Anyway, you may want to update the answer accordingly. At the least, I'll edit the answer to link to the UA version, rather than the D&D Beyond link (the linked page has since been updated to match the final version of the race). \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Dec 1 '20 at 0:51

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