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Some monsters, (e.g. the Death Knight) have a reaction called Parry which enables them to increase their AC.

Are there any character options that work the same way, i.e. increase AC as a reaction? I am looking for class features, feats, and magic items from official sources that can do this.

Some additional information:

  • I was thinking about maybe using such an ability for a magic item and was interested in any precedent.
  • I did some research but only found the Parry maneuver which works completely differently and the Shield spell.
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is giving X-Y vibes. Is there something that you are using this information for that might be a more targeted question for your actual need? Otherwise, this feels like just asking the community to do the research for you. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Mar 29, 2023 at 13:09

4 Answers 4

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Besides the shield spell, there are a few additional options:

  1. Defensive Duelist feat (PHB, p. 165) – When you are hit with a melee attack and are wielding a finesse weapon, use a reaction to add your proficiency bonus to your AC for that attack. Unlimited number of uses.
  2. Gift of the Metallic Dragon feat (FToD, p. 17) – When you or an ally within 5 ft is hit with an attack, use a reaction to add your proficiency bonus to the target's AC for that attack. You can use it a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus. You can also cast cure wounds for free once per long rest.
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that the Battlemaster's Parry does not in fact increase AC as OP requested. Rather, it reduces damage taken. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Apr 4, 2023 at 16:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, I simply mentioned it because it came up but didn't in fact answer the question I was wondering about. I took the liberty of removing that part \$\endgroup\$
    – Anagkai
    Apr 6, 2023 at 9:49
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Several subclass abilities do this

Cameron Crane's answer adds 2 more (the Defensive Duelist and Gift of the Metallic Dragon feats).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Some of these like Cutting Words are really strong, because you can activate them after the attack role to change the result. \$\endgroup\$
    – Falco
    Mar 30, 2023 at 8:56
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@Tiger Guy and @Cameron Crane have covered several things. Two more subclass abilities:

  • Beast Barbarian (3rd) Form of the Beast: Tail option lets you add 1d8 to your AC for one attack, as a reaction. It's quite good. If you pick this option when entering a rage, you can use it every round.
  • Wild Magic sorcerer (6th): Bend Luck - When another creature you can see makes an attack roll, an ability check, or a saving throw, you can use your reaction and spend 2 sorcery points to roll 1d4 and apply the number rolled as a bonus or penalty (your choice) to the creature's roll. You can do so after the creature rolls but before any effects of the roll occur. Like Cutting Words, this is mechanically equivalent to an AC boost if used on an attack against you.

Similar, subtracting from attack rolls, but have to declare before the roll is made, not after you see the number:

  • Druid Circle of Stars (6th): Cosmic Omen - Woe (50% chance at start of day to have this option available): Whenever a creature you can see within 30 feet of you is about to make an attack roll, a saving throw, or an ability check, you can use your reaction to roll a d6 and subtract the number rolled from the total.

A few other subclasses have reactions that impose disadvantage, or can cause an attack to miss separately from AC. Unlike Cutting Words, these aren't mechanically equivalent to boosting your AC for one attack. The disadvantage ones mostly require you to react before seeing the attack roll, unlike most of the Shield-like reactions, although some are like Silvery Barbs and can force another d20 roll after the fact.

  • Light Cleric (1st): Warding Flare - impose disadvantage as a reaction to an attack made against you.

  • Great Old One Warlock (6th): Entropic Ward - impose disadvantage before a creature rolls an attack against you, and grant yourself advantage on your next attack. (Like a limited form of the Silvery Barbs spell).

  • Hexblade Warlock (10th): Armor of Hexes - if hit by an attack from your hexblade's curse target, impose a 50% chance for the attack to miss regardless of the roll.

  • Protection fighting style (e.g. Fighter): impose disadvantage on an attack against someone else.

  • Rune Knight Fighter:

    • Cloud Rune (3rd) - when you or a creature you can see within 30 feet of you is hit by an attack roll, you can use your reaction to invoke the rune and choose a different creature within 30 feet of you, other than the attacker. The chosen creature becomes the target of the attack, using the same roll. This magic can transfer the attack's effects regardless of the attack's range. 1 use per short rest, but it automatically succeeds at making the attack not hit the target, and potentially hit an enemy.

    • Storm Rune (7th level): Until the state ends, when you or another creature you can see within 60 feet of you makes an attack roll, a saving throw, or an ability check, you can use your reaction to cause the roll to have advantage or disadvantage. Activating that prophetic state is 1/short rest.

    • Runic Shield (7th): When another creature you can see within 60 feet of you is hit by an attack roll, you can use your reaction to force the attacker to reroll the d20 and use the new roll. proficiency mod times / long rest.

  • Echo Knight fighter (10th) Shadow Martyr - can have one of your echoes teleport in to be the target instead, 1/short rest.

  • Drunken Master monk (6th): Redirect Attack - 1 Ki point to make an attack against you hit a different creature of your choice within 5 ft of you.

  • Gloom Stalker ranger (15th): Shadowy Dodge - impose disadvantage on one attack that didn't have advantage.

  • Mastermind rogue (13th): Misdirection - When you are targeted by an attack while a creature within 5 feet of you is granting you cover against that attack, you can use your reaction to have the attack target that creature instead of you.

  • Clockwork Soul sorcerer (1st): Restore Balance - force a straight roll instead of advantage or disadvantage on any d20 roll. proficiency times / long rest.

  • Chronurgy wizard (2nd): Chronal Shift - force a reroll of any attack/save/check for any creature within 30 ft, keeping the 2nd roll (so can help allies, unlike Silvery Barbs). 2/long rest.

  • Enchantment wizard (6th): Instinctive Charm - attacker has to succeed a Wis save or target the creature closest to it, other than you or it. Unlimited uses, except not on the same creature after they succeed the save once, until you take a long rest.

  • Illusion wizard (10th): Illusory Self - interpose an illusory duplicate, causing an attack to automatically miss. 1/short rest, and it's a reaction to a creature making an attack roll, so you don't get to see the result first.

  • Chronurgy wizard (14th): Convergent Future - When you or a creature you can see within 60 feet of you makes an attack roll, an ability check, or a saving throw, you can use your reaction to ignore the die roll and decide whether the number rolled is the minimum needed to succeed or one less than that number (your choice). Costs 1 level of exhaustion that can only be removed by a long rest. You'd usually want to use this to land high-level save-or-suck spells after burning through legendary resistances, or on persuasion or insight, but it can be used for making one attack automatically miss.

There are of course quite a few damage reduction / mitigation reactions, some by a fixed amount, others halving it or giving resistance, notably Uncanny Dodge (rogue 5th / Hunter ranger 15th option). If you search for "reaction" in each class listing, you'll find many. My browser doesn't have an option for case-sensitive search so searching for AC didn't work.

There are also many things that boost AC temporarily that aren't reactions, e.g. Swords bard Defensive Sword Flourish or Battlemaster Bait and Switch.

I looked through all the officially published subclasses (up to TCE) for all classes, but not races or feats or items.

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The Dark Gifts in Van Richten's Guide To Ravenloft give another option, as part of the Gathered Whispers dark gift:

Sudden Cacophony. When you are hit by an attack roll, you can use your reaction to channel your haunting spirits, letting their voices howl through you. If the attacker isn’t deafened, add your proficiency bonus to your AC against that attack, potentially causing it to miss. Once this trait causes an attack to miss, you can’t use the trait again until you finish a long rest.

That said, Gathered Whispers also requires you to take the Voice From Beyond ability, which might cause something bad to happen whenever you roll a natural 1, so you'd want to take that into account when looking at this ability from a balance perspective.

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