I recently had an idea for a new item in 5e. This item is a cloak that lets you add your Wisdom modifier to your AC (requires attunement). I was thinking of making it a rare magic item, and I was looking for advice.

Is this item overpowered as a rare? Properly balanced? Underpowered? If it is overpowered, what are some changes I can make so it can stay the same rarity and keep its core concept?

The rarity is based on the fact that an amulet of health, which increases the survivability of non health-based classes a lot, is rare. The amulet of health also only needs to be worn on the neck, while this cloak has to be worn in place of armor, an extremely common item to find enchantments on. Another item that adds the same amount of AC (overall) is a +3 shield, which is very rare; however, that takes up an uncommon slot, the shield slot, so I think the cloak is sufficiently less powerful to decrease the rarity. I am looking for advice on changes to make if this item is overpowered, not to scrap the idea entirely.

Note: I have made a less powerful item that is designed based of advice from this question. I am asking for advice on balance here.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I rolled back your new iteration, please wait for feedback to accumlate and then please ask a new question instead. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Dec 8, 2021 at 3:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Akixkisu Even this rollback has an implication in "while this cloak has to be worn in place of armor". \$\endgroup\$ Dec 8, 2021 at 4:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ If it's worn in place of armor, it shouldn't be called a Cloak, it should be called Robes, because that's the nomenclature used for clothing items that take up the "armor slot", like the Robes of the Archmagi. \$\endgroup\$
    – nick012000
    Dec 8, 2021 at 13:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ You say that this cloak "has to be worn in place of armor." That's a good idea! Could I ask what you mean by that? Like, does it not work if you are wearing armor? And does it work if you are carrying a shield? It would help answer this question more accurately if we had text describing the rules for this magic item (say, as the players would see it). \$\endgroup\$ Dec 9, 2021 at 15:37

5 Answers 5


On Bounded Accuracy and Armor Class

Before attempting to judge the item, it is important to first understand AC (Armor Class), and the effect of AC on play.

AC is the "threshold" to which AR (Attack Roll) are compared to, therefore any discussion about AC must be calibrated by the distribution of AR values of the opponents of the creature, so as to be able to determine the chances that said opponents will hit or miss.

Distributions are complicated, so I like to look close to the extreme for a quick ballpark: how will it play at level 20?

Heavy hitters sample:

  • +14: Fighter level 20, with 20 Strength and a +3 Weapon.
  • +16: Barbarian level 20, with 24 Strength and a +3 Weapon.
  • +16: Monster CR 20+ with 30 Strength.

There are (rare) ways to get better AR bonuses -- using miscellaneous bonuses -- but those are close to the top AR bonuses that anyone will ever face.1

From there, we can determine the chances to hit for a number of ACs, though I'll reverse it to determine the target AC for a few set chances to hit.

Let's assume the opponent is the Fighter (+14), without Advantage:

Chance to Hit Die Roll Max Target AC
75% 6+ 20
50% 11+ 25
25% 16+ 30

So, if you want the Fighter (+14) to hit 50% of the time (ie, on a roll of 11+), then the opponent must have an AC of at most 25.

1 Why are the AR bonuses so "fixed"? Because of Bounded Accuracy, which vastly reduced the dynamic range of all roll modifiers. See questions such as Why is Bounded Accuracy called Bounded Accuracy? for more information on Bounded Accuracy itself, and the problems it aimed to solve.

Evaluating the Item

From there, in order to evaluate our item, we need to evaluate whether it "breaks" the typical range of AC values. As a DM, you may be in position to prevent the breakage, of course, however the more potential for abuse, and the more intervention needed, the less balanced the item itself is.

The Monk

The Monk has the following first-level feature:

Unarmored Defense

Beginning at 1st level, while you are wearing no armor and not wielding a shield, your AC equals 10 + your Dexterity modifier + your Wisdom modifier.

Which may be combined with the following item:

Bracers of Defense

While wearing these bracers, you gain a +2 bonus to AC if you are wearing no armor and using no Shield.

An optimized Monk is likely to have reached 20 Dexterity and 20 Wisdom by level 20, so they would be looking at an AC of 22 with the Bracers, which is still reasonable as per our computations above.

If instead of the Bracers they use the cloak, they immediately get an AC of 25, and if they add the Bracers, an AC of 27.

For a permanent AC -- not the result of a short-term buff -- this is very strong. Furthermore short-term buffs can bolster it temporarily.

The Cleric, the Druid, and the Ranger

With a single 1-level dip into Monk, any of those characters can pull the same shenanigans, and being Wisdom-based, they have little opportunity cost for doing so.

The Martial Classes

The typical formulas for martial classes ACs are:

  • Light Armor: 12 + Dexterity Modifier, maxes out at 17, or 20 (+3)
  • Medium Armor: up to 15 + min(2, Dexterity Modifier), maxes out at 17 or 20 (+3).
  • Heavy Armor: up to 18 or 21 (+3).

Replacing the armor with your cloak, supposing the character has a Wisdom of 20 otherwise why bother, allows the character to reach an AC of 20.

The cloak is thus equivalent to a Light Armor +3 or Medium Armor +3 in terms of power for those characters.

Judgement: This item is Very Powerful, it may easily equal +3 armors, and with the cost of a single level Monk-dip straight eclipse them.


As has been seen with the Monk, and assorted Wisdom-based casters, a straight bonus to AC is dangerous for balance.

This is the reason that there are 3 class of items granting AC in 5e:

  • Armor give an AC formula.
  • Shield give a good AC bonus (+2 to +5), at the cost of an occupied hand.
  • Miscellaneous items give a small AC bonus (+1 to +3), at the cost of Attunement.

Since your cloak replaces an armor, it should give an AC formula.

For example, your cloak could give an AC of 12 + Wisdom Modifier as an Uncommon Item, and rise all the way to an AC of 15 + Wisdom Modifier as a Legendary Item, matching a Light Armor AC calculation.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Most of this is pretty similar to my thinking, but "AC of 12 + Wisdom Modifier as an Uncommon Item" confuses me - why would you rate that as Uncommon? \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Dec 8, 2021 at 18:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Akixkisu: I'm not sure whether Uncommon is the best rarity, to be honest. The ability to use a different ability modifier suggests to me it's better than just Common, so at least Uncommon. On the other hand, we have +1 Light Armor at 13+Dex being Rare, +2 at 14+Dex being Very Rare, and +3 at 15+Dex being Legendary. Hence I arrive at 12+Wis (Uncommon), 13+Wis (Rare), 14+Wis (Very Rare), 15+Wis (Legendary) and I think it works fairly well. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 8, 2021 at 19:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hm - that hinges on the assumption that it is a Studded Leather +1, and say not a Leather +1, but I see where you are coming from. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Dec 8, 2021 at 19:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Akixkisu: Yes indeed, I only considered top-of-the-range. It seems fair seems Studded Leather provides as much protection as Leather +1 for considerably cheaper. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 8, 2021 at 19:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree that compared to other items that give bonuses to AC, it is extremely powerful. Is there any way to make it a Rare level magic item without just following a armor formula (Which makes this item essentially useless to monks). I still like the idea of wisdom effecting the cloak in some way. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 8, 2021 at 21:18

It is unbalanced at any rarity.

An item that adjusts your AC between -5 to +10 fundamentally breaks the amount of AC that a single magic item may provide up to +3 - read about bounded accuracy. An effect like this would be similar to a bread and butter class features of a hypothetical class — if you want to hand it out despite that, any rarity below artefact rarity would be inappropriate power-wise.

You might also want to read What is the highest possible AC? to get an understanding about how optimised AC values function.

A simple fix would be to re-fashion an item with a fixed modifier between +1 to +3 and use flavour text or a prerequisite that fits the player you plan as the beneficiary.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Until level 20 when legendary boons are an option or until a DM gives out a Tome of Understanding, the max + to AC is +5. A +3 shield, a very rare magic item, provides the same amount of AC, while using up a less used slot. This is my reasoning for making it Rare. I do not want to scrap the item entirely, and making just a +1-3 means that it could be replaced by any number of already existing items. Is there any way to change this item to solve the problems stated while still keeping its core concept? (I would prefer to keep its rarity at Rare) \$\endgroup\$ Dec 8, 2021 at 1:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Tortilladog You could re-fashion the cloak to: "the wearer's AC can't be less than X, regardless of what kind of armor it is wearing." And X could be 10+ Wis mod (or even 11-12+ Wis mod). That would still be exceptionally strong but more in line with the quality of a rare item. Tbh, at 12+ Wis mod, it should be very rare. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Dec 8, 2021 at 1:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ If I make this change, wouldn't this magic item go from being a item that is good for classes with high AC to improve their strengths, to a item that is good for low AC classes as a way to lessen their weaknesses? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 8, 2021 at 2:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Tortilladog Correct, you remove the limit breaking scaling for the ceiling and provide the scaling for the floor - which is a completely different item, but keep the scaling attribute, and by re-flavouring, you keep the ceiling intact but lose the scaling attribute all but flavour-wise. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Dec 8, 2021 at 2:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Tortilladog: It's not clear to me from your question what kinds of characters (high AC / low AC, etc.) you actually want this item to be good for. You might want to edit that information in. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 8, 2021 at 13:28

This item is probably overpowered. Compare the very similiar Bracers of Defense which give a flat +2 bonus if you're not wearing armor or using a shield; they are also Rare.

This item could go up to +5 (and probably will, since it'll go to whomever has the highest Wisdom) with less stringent restrictions (since you can use it with a Shield)

It also allows Monks (the most common user, I guess) to add twice their Wisdom bonus to AC, along with their Dex, which is going to make their AC very high. (20 from max Wis alone, plus whatever their Dex is)

(Running on the assumption you can't combine this with armor. If you can, it becomes way better, better than +3 Armor, which is already Legendary)

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    \$\begingroup\$ The fact that it is a cloak, instead of a shield or armor, means that potentially someone could be wearing +1 armor (AC 18), have a +1 shield (AC 21), and then add this on top for +5 (AC 26). If you've ever been on D&D forums, you'll see many posts complaining about how AC 22 players make combat so annoying because they're hard to challenge. AC 26 would be borderline invulnerable. \$\endgroup\$
    – Toddleson
    Dec 8, 2021 at 15:33

If this can be worn by Monks without disabling their Unarmored Defence, this item is equal to +5 Bracers of Defence, which would be beyond Legendary. However, this problem is solved if you add a limitation that wearing it counts as wearing armor, which is stronger than your current statement that it is worn instead of armor.

Then it does nothing for a Monk's AC. For Druids and Clerics, expected to reach WIS 20, it becomes equivalent of +3 Studded Leather Armor for AC 15, because it allows full DEX bonus to be added. That has rarity of Legendary.

For a Wizard it would be inferior to Robe of the Archmagi, which provides AC 15 and a bunch of other benefits. That item is also Legendary.

It could be argued that having WIS 20 or even WIS 18 is rare enough, that it would be more fair to consider your item to have just AC 14, making it equivalent of Studded Leather +2 on average, which is Very Rare. It is also much less powerful than the Robe of the Archmagi, which supports lowering the rarity.

A Druid might reach the same AC with Dragon Scale Mail (unless they have high DEX), which as also other benefits, but also stealth disadvantage, and is Very Rare. I think any Druid or Cleric would choose Dragon Scale Mail over this item almost always, which hints that lower rarity than this might be ok.

Having it as rare as Studded Leather +1 (AC 13), which is Rare, seems to understate its flexibility and uniqueness. It is better to evaluate it for the "best case".

For a Cleric without high Dexterity it's pretty much equivalent of Breastplate +1, which is also Rare, but again this item is much more flexible, and able to reach higher AC with DEX, so making it more rare than this seems reasonable.

Conclusion: It should be Very Rare. A case could be made for it to be just Rare.


If the cloak is worn instead of armour, as you mention in your post, then it seems to me that it's in line with the Monks "Unarmoured Defence" ability. In this case, I'd say it's not OP.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I was under the impression that suits of armor and cloaks don't stack, but after further research I discovered this is not true. I added a note to make my intent clear based off of this comment, thank you! \$\endgroup\$ Dec 8, 2021 at 2:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nedlud: it would still be extremely strong for monks, though, in a build that puts ASIs in to WIS for abilities like stunning strike. This item would let them calc their AC as 10+dex+wis, and then add their wis (again). Probably not OP for other classes, unless a barbarian also happened to have an item that set their Wis to 19. A cleric or druid could get AC 17 easily with this plus a shield, and a druid could maybe even keep it on while wild-shaped into anything with a neck, boosting their beast AC. But well spotted that the querent was mistaking cloaks as using your armor slot. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 8, 2021 at 13:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ And as Matthieu M.'s answer points out, getting this item would make it worth taking a 1-level multi-class dip into monk, for Unarmored Defence, for high-wis classes like cleric, druid, or ranger. So that's a bigger problem for balance. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 8, 2021 at 13:51

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