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If I have Body Armor +2, Shield +2, Bracers +2, Helmet +2, and a Ring of Protection +3, do all the magical bonuses get cancelled except for one of them, or can some kinds of items stack those bonuses?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! Please take the tour when you get the chance. I cleaned up your question a little to better meet our standards, but you can use the edit button below the tags to make further changes if you'd like. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage
    Commented May 10 at 3:28

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It stacks, depending on the specific items, up to AC -10

First off, AD&D 2e did not yet have the concept of a general rule about limiting bonus stacking. You have to look at each individual magic item to understand how it combines with others (which means, by default there is no rule against them stacking, if the item does not say so, as each item provides the bonus it says). The only limit is that the lowest attainable AC is -10.

In your example

  • Body Armor +2 would add +2 bonus
  • Shield +2 would add another +2,
  • Bracers +2 would add nothing as you wear armor
  • Helmet +2 is an item that does not exist in the rules. If it did (the DM allowed its introduction), it would add +2 bonus
  • Ring of Protection +3, does not add anything as you wear magical armor

That is, this would add up to +4 bonus (with book items), or +6 (with a newly introduced magical helm that improves armor class by +2).

Armor & Shield. The rules for magical armor (p. 181, DMG) say

For each + 1 bonus to armor, regardless of the type of armor, the wearer's Armor Class moves downward (toward AC 2 ... to 1 ... to 0, -1, -2, and so on). A normal shield improves the armor class by one. A magical shield improves Armor Class like magical armor -- toward -1, -2, etc. Note however, that Armor Class can never be improved beyond -10.

So AC bonuses from armor and shield combine. Shield only is a type of armor, too (providing AC 9), so it counts as armor for effects that say they cannot combine with armor.

Helmets. In D&D, including 2e, helmets do not normally count as a separate armor item, they are part of armor (p. 76, PHB).

The equipment list reflects the price of a suit of armor (including an appropriate helmet) made for any normal player character race.

The available magical helms therefore do not change AC class, they provide other effects, like comprehending languages, changing alignment etc. If there was one which modified AC (there isn't), it would stack.

Bracers of Defense say

If armor is actually worn, the bracers have no additional effect, but they do work in conjunction with other magical items of protection

So they would not work while you also wear armor.

Ring of Protection says

The magical properties of a ring of protection are cumulative with all other magical items of protection except as follows:

    1. The ring does not improve Armor Class if magical armor is worn [...]
    1. Multiple rings of protection operating on the same person or in the same area do not combine protection, only one such ring -- the strongest -- functions

So it does not work while you wear magical armor (but it would work on top of mundane armor).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks. It doesn't actually matter for my basic question, because my character is wearing armor, but I completely disagree with your reasoning about Shield + Bracers. Shield cannot be worn. I think that's the most important distinction here. They can serve a purpose of defending and thus can be understood in a Thaco chart, but they are never worn, but held and also can be used as a weapon. Their inclusion in the chart you linked was done so for convenience (as the chart is for a quick reference). \$\endgroup\$
    – vol.2
    Commented May 10 at 16:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @vol.2 Yes, I only mentioned it as an aside, as you say, it does not really matter here. Probably best discussed under the linked question about that interaction specifically, and I see you also already posted your own answer there with your reasoning for your view. That's the best way to do it! \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 10 at 17:03

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