15
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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, and all spells that are available to you due to character creation, how high can your AC become (permanently or temporary)?

Constraints:

  • Only official material, the Unearth 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 spells, skills, feats and abilities available to a player character are eligible.

  • A single 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 permanent AC at character creation?

This linked question is about permanent AC. My current question however, also includes options for increasing the AC with temporary means.

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  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ You might want to clarify if bonuses from cover should be included. You might to exclude them otherwise every answer should include +5 from three-quarter cover. \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Jun 4 at 12:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Someone_Evil thanks, I think it is fine that every answer is likely to include 3/4 cover. I don't want to constrain this terrain-usage as there may be some very creative solutions that I would miss otherwise. \$\endgroup\$ – Akixkisu Jun 4 at 12:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is coercing or mind-controlling enemies into doing things to boost your AC allowed? \$\endgroup\$ – user2357112 Jun 5 at 3:11
25
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Tortle Wild Magic Sorcerer: 28 (33 with 3/4 cover)

  • Tortles (from the Tortle Package) get an AC of 17, no questions asked.1

  • (On this we add three-quarters cover: +5)

  • On a previous turn we have cast a spell, our DM made us roll for Wild Magic and rolled a 1 on the d20 and 51 (or 52) on the d100. We get the following effect:

    A spectral shield hovers near you for the next minute, granting you a +2 bonus to AC and immunity to magic missile.

    --- Player's Handbook p. 104

  • In response to being attacked we cast shield: +5

  • On casting shield our DM makes us roll for Wild Magic, we get a 1 on the d20 and roll 81 (or 82) on the d100. We get the following effect:2

    You can take one additional action immediately.

    --- Player's Handbook p. 104

    We use this action to activate our Shell Defense feature granting a +4 bonus to AC.3 (We're ignoring the other effects here.)

This means for the rest of the turn our AC is 17 + 2 + 5 + 4 = 28. (+5 for 33 with 3/4 cover).

Bonus to this method is we don't use our ability scores at all, though you might get accused of cheating the dice.


1: We can use shields with this, unfortunately we are missing the proficiency and we need to cast spells.

2: It's only a 1 in a 1000 which for a Wild Magic Sorcerer means it's gonna happen every time, right? Look, I never said it was reliable.

3: There is a possible timing problem here. We are relying on the action Wild Magic Surge happens before the rest of the attack, which might be tenuous. This wouldn't affect what AC you obtain, but it would mean you get it after the attack against you.

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  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ This only works 1 in 2000 times. Not something I would want to rely on. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Jun 4 at 12:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @linksassin So you're saying there's a chance? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jun 4 at 12:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @linksassin (1/20)*(2/100) is 1/1000 for each wild magic check. There are two events that need to happen sequentially, so it's actually a one-in-a-million chance \$\endgroup\$ – Punintended Jun 4 at 16:43
22
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26 AC (or 31 if you count cover)

Then the total setup is as follows:

  1. Chain Mail gives you 16 AC. Shield equipped increases to 18 AC
  2. Using the Forge Cleric's Blessing of the Forge on your armor grants +1 AC, bringing the total to 19 AC.
  3. Shield of Faith on yourself increases AC by +2, bringing the total to 21 AC
  4. Get attacked and use the Shield spell from Magic Initiate, bringing the total to 26 AC (or 31 AC if you count 3/4 cover)

Credits: linksassin for considering magic initiate -> shield, nick012000 for considering Forge Cleric, Ko_sct simplifying studded leather and +4 DEX to chain mail

Older attempt: 25 AC (or 30 if you count cover)

With 18 across all stats, unarmored defense grants you 18 AC (10 + 4 DEX + 4 CON). The shield (equipment) brings this up to 20 permanently.

Access to the Shield spell allows you to temporarily bring your AC up to 25 when attacked.

If you are attacked while having 3/4 cover, you get another +5 AC bringing the total up to 30

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9
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24 for one round, 29 with 3/4 cover

16 (Chain Mail) + 1 (Defensive Fighting Style) + 2 (Shield - item) + 5 (Shield - spell) = 24 AC + 5 (3/4 Cover) = 29 AC

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5
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28 Armor Class (33 with 3/4 cover)

A human Forge Domain cleric can acquire 28 Armor Class if you are allowed to sell starting gear to buy others. Technically, the rules only allow you to buy starting gear if you substitute your gear for rolled wealth:

When you create your character, you receive equipment based on a combination of your class and background. Alternatively, you can start with a number of gold pieces based on your class and spend them on items from the lists in this section.

... However, I have never been at a table that didn't houserule permission to purchase additional starting gear with the money from your background, and most tables I've sat at allow for the selling of starting equipment (sometimes for full-price and sometimes for half-price) to purchase different gear.

If this is allowed at your table, you simply take the Inheritor background from Swords Coast Adventurer's Guide and select a piece of jewelry whose sell value is greater than 1,500 gp so you can purchase Plate armor. Note that the Inheritor background is very GM dependent, so you will have to get GM permission to inherit such a valuable item:

Choose or randomly determine your inheritance from among the possibilities in the table [which includes "A piece of jewelry"]. Work with your Dungeon Master to come up with details...

One such piece of jewelry mentioned in official rules that carries high enough value even at half-cost selling is the jeweled platinum ring found in the art objects listings in the Dungeon Master's Guide.

The Calculation

Now that you have Plate armor, here is how you get 28 AC:

  • Plate Armor
    • 18
  • Shield
    • +2
  • Blessing of the Forge or Defense Fighting Style
    • +1
  • Shield of Faith spell
    • +2
  • Shield spell (acquired via Variant Human selecting the Magic Initiate feat)
    • +5

Note: If this option is disallowed by your GM, I could not find a build that is not reflected in other answers.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The Inheritor specifically states that the inheritance is " not mere coin or wealth, but an object that has been entrusted to you and you alone. ". How are you translating that to pick an object of fine art worth at least 1500? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jun 4 at 16:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch I see no limitation placed on the monetary value of the item. Just because something is entrusted to you doesn't mean you can't sell it at a later date. Many people sell family heirlooms. I could certainly see an adventure selling a tie to his old life when he needs the funds to begin his adventuring career \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Jun 4 at 16:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Gotcha. It feels like the phrase they used intended it not to be of monetary value, but I guess a DM could rule otherwise. Usually if something is worth value, it'll say pick X and it's worth Y. Like the Far Traveler " a small piece of jewelry worth 10 gp in the style of your homeland’s craftsmanship" \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jun 4 at 16:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Remind me to award a bounty to this answer, after I have a 10k+ reputation. \$\endgroup\$ – Akixkisu Jun 20 at 12:07

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