I know the max AC is without armor.

monk / fist of the forest / sorcerer / cha / con / dex to ac etc./ polymorph and spells. +-114AC

I would like to know of way's to max up AC with full plate. For a dwarf tank/fighter build in full plate preferably with a tower shield.

pathfinder 1e as main rules with dnd 3.5 all books to add to it / no 3rd party.

20 pt buy level 20.

use Figher to increase max dex, mithril to increase max dex. armor focus, and similar feats standard items: ring deflection / neclace natural

are there classes, prc's or archetypes that can increase said AC to come near an AC without armor?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Is this for pathfinder 1e or D&D 3.5? The answers might differ. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 7, 2023 at 3:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am personally wondering how exactly someone could reach 114 AC. Also, if it is for dnd 3.5, I think you need at least 25 point buy. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 9, 2023 at 2:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Does it have to be full-plate and tower shield specifically? D&D 3.5e, at least, published even-better heavy armors than full-plate (mountain plate, Thaluud stone, mechanical armor, etc), which might affect answers. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jul 10, 2023 at 14:08

3 Answers 3


Optimally, AC can be as high as you want regardless of armor

The algid enhancement spell from Frostburn lasts 24 hours per casting and grants a +1 + ⅓(caster level) deflection bonus to AC, without cap. You need to have the cold subtype, but that’s easily obtained through a variety of methods, and then you just need as high a caster level as possible. Since caster level doesn’t have any particular cap, it basically comes down to “how much AC do you want?”

Since this is a deflection bonus, it applies to touch attacks, and also when you’re flat-footed. It does not care what armor you do or don’t wear. It’s a 6th-level spell, so you could, in theory, combine it with a bunch of other things—but they would be besides the point, really. Even 114 AC pales against the hundreds theoretically possible from this one spell, so you’re basically arguing about rounding errors at that point.

Also note that algid enhancement is not a personal-only spell. You can also cast it on any of your allies, provided the target has (or can get) the cold subtype. Again, that means the target could optimize their own AC first, and then also benefit from the hundreds of AC you get from algid enhancement, but again, it basically doesn’t matter.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I was expecting Cancer Mage shenaniganry with infinite diseases, but this is much cleaner. Are there handy spells that give you the Cold subtype for a time, or just handy feats? \$\endgroup\$
    – Phoenices
    Jul 10, 2023 at 14:43
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @Phoenices Mantle of the icy soul grants it as a druid 5th, cleric 6th spell. The original Frostburn version was instantaneous, that is, you just got the cold subtype forever thereafter (costing 2,000 XP), but the Spell Compendium update nixed the XP cost and just made it last 1 hour/level. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jul 10, 2023 at 14:50

From the question, it seems it is a Pathfinder campaign.

Not familiar about that one, so I am just giving my core-only DND 3.5e answer here.

+5 Mithral full plate of speed Max 3 Dex AC, +13 Armor AC

+6 Gloves of Dexterity +3 Dex AC

+5 Tower Shield +9 Shield AC

+5 Amulet of Natural Armor +5 Natural AC

Why I abandoned Alter Self (Lizardfork) and Polymorph:

When the change occurs, your equipment, if any, either remains worn or held by the new form (if it is capable of wearing or holding the item), or melds into the new form and becomes nonfunctional. When you revert to your true form, any objects previously melded into the new form reappear in the same location on your body they previously occupied and are once again functional. Any new items you wore in the assumed form and can't wear in your normal form fall off and land at your feet; any that you could wear in either form or carry in a body part common to both forms at the time of reversion are still held in the same way. Any part of the body or piece of equipment that is separated from the whole reverts to its true form.

The above description applies to both Alter Self and Polymorph.

Some equipment (shoes, amulets, rings, etc. Basically all magic equipment except armor and weapon and shield) will automatically change their size to fit your new forms, and some others (weapon and armor) won't do, so changing your size may make them cease functioning. As a general suggestion, do not change into a creature with a different size via these spells and make sure what you change into has two hands and two legs to avoid issues and keep having your armor and shield AC bonus. (I don't think you can change into anything that has more natural AC than the combination of your armor and your shield (+22 in total) with Polymorph. All I can find are dragons with 20+ HD, which are out of Polymorph's reach (capped 15 HD maximum).)

Reduce Person and Enlarge Person, however, does change the size of your armor and weapon to fit your new size. So they won't have the same issue as Polymorph.

Alter Self won't have that issue in most cases, since it has the limitation on size and type to be the same as your normal form.

But, in this specific case of having a full plate, this can be an issue (although it would depend on how happy your DM is when you are following this guide since most DM would likely ignore the following limitation in normal gameplay). Because:

Full Plate

The suit includes gauntlets, heavy leather boots, a visored helmet, and a thick layer of padding that is worn underneath the armor. Each suit of full plate must be individually fitted to its owner by a master armorsmith, although a captured suit can be resized to fit a new owner at a cost of 200 to 800 (2d4×100) gold pieces.

So if your DM is not happy about what you are doing right now, they have the full right to claim that "Your shiny full plate armor is not changing shape when you change your shape with Alter Self (or Polymorph). So since it no longer fits your new form, you are no longer capable of wearing it and it melds into your new form and become nonfunctional." If you don't want this to happen, either avoid Alter Self and Polymorph altogether or buy enough snack for your DM before the game starts.

+5 Ring of Protection +5 Deflect AC

Dodge Feat +1 Dodge AC

Dusty Rose Ioun Stone +1 Insight AC

Reduce Person +1 Size AC

Haste +1 Dodge AC

Total: 49 AC (+3 Dex, +13 Armor, +9 Shield, +5 Natural, +5 Deflect, +1 Size, +2 Dodge, +1 Insight)

Touch: 22

Flat-Footed: 43

And since Defending Special Weapon Ability provides you untyped AC bonus, you can put them on your armor spike, your shield, your pair of gauntlets, and your weapon. These can provide you additional +25 untyped AC in total (and it doesn't mean you have to purchase a lot of +6 weapons, because RAW-wise, the enhancement bonus comes from Greater Magic Weapon also counts). So the AC here will be:

Total: 74 (+3 Dex, +13 Armor, +9 Shield, +5 Natural, +5 Deflect, +1 Size, +2 Dodge, +1 Insight, +5 Armor Spike, +5 Shield, +5 Left Gauntlet, +5 Right Gauntlet, +5 Weapon) (Consult your DM to check if Tower Shield can be used in this manner. It might not be able to be made a magic weapon since it cannot be used for shield bash.)

Touch: 47

Flat-Footed: 68

If you are taking some levels from Dwarven Defender, then in your Defensive Stance, you gain additional +4 Dodge AC. You also get Uncanny Dodge later on. Which can make you:

Total: 78 (+3 Dex, +13 Armor, +9 Shield, +5 Natural, +5 Deflect, +1 Size, +2 Dodge, +1 Insight, +5 Armor Spike, +5 Shield, +5 Left Gauntlet, +5 Right Gauntlet, +5 Weapon, +4 Dodge [Defensive Stance])

Touch: 51

Flat-Footed: 78 (Uncanny Dodge)

Again, that's very expensive. And you won't be very much efficient during the combat since you have invested so heavily on AC but might lack resources for your offensive abilities and saves.

  • \$\begingroup\$ (Amusingly, the DM can mandate that the magic weapon special ability defending applies only to swords: "A defending weapon allows the wielder to transfer some or all of the sword’s enhancement bonus to his AC as a bonus that stacks with all others.…" Of course, no one should play it that way. :-)) \$\endgroup\$ Jul 7, 2023 at 23:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan (And then the PC can smash an official Epic weapon Everwhirling Chain (which is a +4 defending everdancing spiked chain of speed with some special powers) on that DM's face and claim that they can defending wherever they want :-D) \$\endgroup\$ Jul 7, 2023 at 23:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Do not use polymorph to change into any monster with different size, or you lose all benefits from any of your equipment" - Magic clothing or jewelry adjust their size when you use Alter Self or Polymorph (in 3.5). If the new form can wear or hold the items, they still function. Armor and Weapons have a fixed size, though. \$\endgroup\$
    – Peregrin
    Jul 8, 2023 at 11:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Peregrin Thanks for noting. I just updated my answer. For now I will still suggest using Alter Self since the armor and shield bonus are quite a lot (+22 in total) and they can't change sizes. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 8, 2023 at 12:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you use an Amulet of Mighty Fists (+4 and Defending) for 4 more AC if you use Alter Self instead of Amulet of NA? You might be able to use the Body Wrap of Mighty Strikes simultaneously for another 6 AC, but that sounds more and more insane. \$\endgroup\$
    – Phoenices
    Jul 8, 2023 at 23:40

Paizo-only level 20 AC squeeze build

Restrictions: Use full plate, use tower shield, be a Dwarf

20 point buy:

18 Dex, 13 Int, no other changes = 20 points

+4 Dex from ASI, +6 from belt = 28 Dex (+9)

20th level Dwarf Tower Shield Specialist Fighter

The main thing you want from this archetype is Tower Shield Training, which gives you normal Armor Training AND has a baseline of -3 to your check penalty and +2 to max dex when you use a tower shield instead of starting at 1 like normal. This caps out at 15th level for a total of -6 ACP and +5 max dex. We also get Advanced Armor Training as a feat for a +5 AC at level 20, so we really do want to stick with the class the whole way. Plus you get the nice side benefits of Armor Mastery and Improved Evasion.


These are all the feats I know of that help boost your AC and max dex with armor/shields, so if you can find more let me know. If not, you've got some wiggle room on the offense and utility side of your build. They are listed here at the levels you can actually take them.

  1. Dodge, Shield Focus: +1 dodge to AC, +1 to shield's AC bonus
  2. Heavy Armor Focus: +1 to armor's AC bonus
  3. Ironhide: +1 Natural Armor
  4. Advanced Armor Training: Armor Specialization (Full Plate): +5 to armor's AC bonus @20th level
  5. Combat Expertise: -4 attack for +4 dodge to AC
  6. Improved Shield Focus: -1 ACP of shield
  7. Swift Iron Style: -1 ACP and +1 max dex of your armor.
  8. Tower Shield Specialist (yes, the feat has the same name as the class): further -3 ACP for tower shields, and your Armor Training applies to them!
  9. Greater Shield Focus: +1 more to shield's AC bonus. (Strangely, there's no "Greater Armor Focus"...)
  10. Armor Adept (Nimble+whatever): No drawback for Nimble modification.


  • +5 Mithral Tower Shield: +11 shield to AC, 9 max dex, 0 ACP
  • +5 Nimble Full Plate (don't even need Mithral!): +20 armor to AC, 9 max dex, 0 ACP
  • +5 Defending* One-handed weapon: +5 untyped AC
  • +5 Amulet of Natural Armor: +5 enhancement to natural to AC
  • +5 Ring of Protection: +5 deflection to AC
  • Dusty Rose Prism Ioun Stone: +1 Insight to AC
  • Any +6 Dex item

Total Static AC: 63 / 53 flat-footed / 37 touch

(this archetype adds their shield bonus to touch AC)

  • +1 dodge (Dodge)
  • +11 shield (+4 base, +2 from feats, +5 enhancement)
  • +20 armor (+9 base, +6 from feats, +5 enhancement)
  • +9 dex modifier (+4 base, +4 ASI, +6 enhancement)
  • +6 natural (+1 base, +5 enhancement from amulet)
  • +5 deflection (ring)
  • +1 insight (Ioun stone)

On rounds when you wield your weapon and attack with it, this goes up by up to +9 (+5 defending, +4 dodge from Combat Expertise). You can fight defensively for another +2 dodge to get a grand total of...

74 AC before any temporary buffs.

Cool build! I've always loved the flavor of big-armor Dwarf, so I'm glad to see it compares just fine with everyone's favorite dip-in-monk unarmored build(s). One thing I would recommend looking at is if you can afford adamantine armor and throwing one of these free feats at another Advanced Armor Training, you can get DR 11/- at level 19! (As if anything is hitting you)

*Note: for some cheese, technically you could use Quick Draw with +5 Dancing and Defending enchantments on up to four additional weapons to add another +20 AC after four rounds of prep time, or you could do the armor/shield spikes + gauntlet thing without Quick Draw, though arguably you're not wielding all of those. In either case, you will be stuck spending all your standard actions activating one of those each round, since in PF1E, a Dancing weapon requires a standard action to activate.


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