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As per the Ranger Companion feature, you can add your proficiency bonus to your companion's AC.

I would like to know how to interpret this in terms of AC calculation.

Could I interpret as though my pet is getting a bonus to its base AC (Example: A PC wearing a shield). Or is this new number the new base AC?

In terms of formulas, let's take the Wolf:

AC = 13 (natural armor)

AC with Ranger Companion at level 3 = 15 (13[base] + 2[Prof])

The second interpretation would be that the wolf's new base AC simply 15.

The way the feature is worded makes me believe it's the former. The reason I ask this is to understand how this would interact with spells like Barkskin.

Barkskin states that your AC cannot be less than 16, meaning that if you choose to use Barkskin as the way you calculate your AC, it is now 16. You can choose to wear a shield on top of Barkskin, and receive the bonus as normal, meaning, it'd be 18 AC total.

Now let's go back to the Wolf. If the former interpretation is true, and I apply Barkskin to my wolf, that'd mean his base AC can now be 16 instead of 13, and in addition to this he receives a bonus to his armor class equal to my Proficiency bonus. Assuming level 3 ranger, that'd mean my wolf's armor class is now 18.

Otherwise, if the latter is true, then his AC is 16 while under barkskin but he does not receive the bonus because the latter interpretation states that the bonus is simply part of his base AC calculation instead of an additional amount of AC he gets because of the feature.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Surprisingly this question is not a duplicate and has in this way not been asked before. \$\endgroup\$ – Akixkisu Jul 7 at 0:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jul 7 at 7:34
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No, the base AC of the Wolf remains 10+1+2 (13), if a game effect changes the base AC it says so in the text.

You add your proficiency bonus to the beast’s AC. You do not change the Wolf's base AC to 13 + your proficiency bonus. In other words: the base AC of the Wolf (MM 341) remains 13 (10+1 from natural armour, +2 from Dexterity), and the total is 15 (10+1 from natural armour, +2 from Dexterity, +2 from the Ranger's proficiency which increases further at higher level, see PHB page 15), for natural armour see MM (page 7) and for general armour-class calculation see the SA Compendium V2.3 (page 2).

Add your proficiency bonus to the beast’s AC, attack rolls, and damage rolls, as well as to any saving throws and skills it is proficient in. (PHB 93)

How Barkskin works (PHB 217) If your Wolf's AC is less than 16, it is now 16. 15 is less than 16, it now is 16 as long as the duration of Barkskin remains maintained. If it is higher than 16, then Barkskin does not grant additional AC, it merely prevents the AC from going below 16.

the target's AC can't be less than 16

So multiple of your assumptions are incorrect, Barkskin does not change your Wolf's base AC, neither does the Ranger's Companion feature change your Wolf's base AC.

A spell that changes your (Wolf's) base AC would be, for instance, Mage Armor (PHB 256):

The target’s base AC becomes 13 + its Dexterity modifier.

Whenever a game effect changes the base AC, it states explicitly that.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So the Animal Companion + Ranger's Proficiency + Barkskin = 16AC? \$\endgroup\$ – Black Spike Jul 6 at 23:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BlackSpike a higher level ranger with a proficiency that would be +4, for instance, and an Animal Companion with a base AC of 13 would have an Ac of 17. Barkskin doesn't allow the AC to drop below 16. \$\endgroup\$ – Akixkisu Jul 6 at 23:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BlackSpike Your proficiency bonus is detailed in the char. adv. table (PHB 15), on the levels 5,9,13,17 your bonus increase by +1 ( it becomes +3,+4,+5,+6). \$\endgroup\$ – Akixkisu Jul 6 at 23:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks! So it's basically the second interpretation, with some changes of course. I think for balance purposes, that makes much more sense. \$\endgroup\$ – Jeftah Jul 8 at 15:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Akixkisu yes, that´s what I meant by "some changes" :) RC doesn't change Base AC calculation, as you expertly put it in your answer, but for all practical purposes regarding Barkskin, it's the same thing. However, it does open an interesting interaction with the Share Spells (lvl 15 feature) if your character somehow gets access to Mage Armor. \$\endgroup\$ – Jeftah Jul 8 at 22:45

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