What are some typical defenses (AC, Fort, Will, Reflex) for a defender at the different tiers (Heroic, Paragon, Epic) of a D&D4 game?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Hey @TheJug! I understand the tiers(heroic, paragon, epic), but I don't know what you mean by standard defenses. Can you explain more? \$\endgroup\$
    – yhw42
    Oct 22, 2010 at 14:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah, I mean like AC, Fort, Will and Reflex. I'll edit it to be more clear. Sorry 'bout that! \$\endgroup\$
    – The Jug
    Oct 22, 2010 at 14:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks! That was going to be my guess. To be honest, I'm still finding this hard to answer. Why are you asking? How would you use the answer? Are you looking for statistical averages? the minimum to be effective? \$\endgroup\$
    – yhw42
    Oct 22, 2010 at 14:45
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm wondering cause I'm currently playing an ardent pally in paragon tier. I know with this flavor of pally my AC will be a bit lower but I still feel like I'm getting hit way too often. I was curious if this was just me worrying too much or if I am low and I need to chat with my DM. I figured rather then ask exlusively about my build, I'd ask about others as well in case other people were curious about their own builds. \$\endgroup\$
    – The Jug
    Oct 22, 2010 at 14:53

3 Answers 3


First, some formulas:

Base: 10+HalfLevel

  • AC: ((Dex||Int Mod + LightArmor) || (HeavyArmor) ) + Class Bonuses + Feat + Floor(Level/5) + Shield
  • Fort: ((Str||Con Mod + ArmorMod) ) + Class Bonuses + Feat + Floor(Level/5)
  • Reflex: ((Dex||Int Mod + LightArmor) || (HeavyArmor) ) + Class Bonuses + Feat + Floor(Level/5) + Shield
  • Will: ((Wis||Cha Mod + ArmorMod) ) + Class Bonuses + Feat + Floor(Level/5)

For purposes of the following chart, I'll be assuming either heavy shield or no shield.

The three general types of armor for a defender are: hide, scale, and plate.

Hide progression (assuming boosting the off-stat and enhancement bonus. Level 1 should be 1 point lower, but I'm assuming the standard armor drop off of one of the first few adventures.):

AC  Level   Armor   Dex||Int Enhancement
17  1   3   16   1
21  6   3   17   2
25  11  3   19   3
31  16  4   20   4
35  21  4   22   5
40  26  5   23   6

Scale Progression

AC  Level   Armor   Enhancement
18  1   7   1
23  6   8   2
27  11  9   3
32  16  10  4
36  21  11  5
42  26  13  6

Plate Progression

AC  Level   Armor   Enhancement
19  1   8   1
24  6   9   2
28  11  10  3
33  16  11  4
37  21  12  5
43  26  14  6

Hide will almost always have a shield. Therefore, at the 6 equipment tiers we get:

1)  AC: 19-21 (no feats)
6)  AC: 23-26 (no feats)
11) AC: 27-32 (optional Armor specialization, Shield specialization)
16) AC: 33-37 (optional Armor specialization, Shield specialization)
21) AC: 37-41 (optional armor spec, shield spec, second skin)
26) AC: 42-47 (optional armor spec, shield spec, second skin)

Swordmages are slightly more special, as they are leather wearers, but they have class features which approximate hide or better.

NADs are far more variable, anywhere from 7 points under AC to 1-2 points over, depending on class, race, and feats. Aim for 2 points lower on 2 NADs, on average, as that's what monsters are geared to hit. It is virtually impossible to get 2 lower on all three without making difficult sacrifices in efficiency.

For interest, here are the chances of being hit at each level, assuming least and best AC.

Level   LowAC   HighAC  Monster Low     High
                        ToHit   Odds    Odds
1       19      21      6       0.35    0.25
6       23      26      11      0.4     0.25
11      27      32      16      0.45    0.2
16      33      37      21      0.4     0.2
21      37      41      26      0.45    0.25
26      42      47      31      0.45    0.2

As a postscript, the related question of whether or not plate resist is worth it is easy to answer: -1 AC for, tier wise: Resist 1, 2,5

A monster at level 6 will be hitting around 30% of the time for around 14 damage, or a total damage per round of 4.2. At 35% and 13 damage, it does 4.55.

At level 16, 30% of the time for 24 damage = 7.2 versus 7.7

At level 26, 10.2 versus 10.15.

The other side of this is that the resist works on all attacks, and so it's a function of the game and GM preference for certain types of monsters.


Regardless of your tier, you should shoot for an AC of (20+your level). If your character doesn't have a shield, go with (18 + level). This is an aggressive goal, and will require top flight armor for your level. I wouldn't be too concerned to fall a point or two shy. If you are 3+ short, then you may want to consider changing up your build/equipment.

Depending on whether you have a Straladin or Chaladin your Fort and Will defenses should be within 2-5 points of that. Your reflex will almost certainly be in the "Yes, you hit me" range. :)

You should also consider your defenses in relation to your party. You are the defender. You should be taking 40-50% of all hits the party takes. If your defenses are much higher than the rest of the party then the monsters will be justified in ignoring your mark to hit the rest of the party. This is bad! Don't let your defenses get too far above the rest of the party.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Hmm, I'm not sure how to I could get my AC equivalent to the equation. At level 13 I'm at an AC of 28 (no shield). This includes plate +3 (so that's +11 AC) plus the plate specialization feat. I'll no doubt soon get a +4 plate armor but this puts me at max of 29 (6 for level + 12 for AC + 10 base + 1 for feat) when according to the equation should be 31 and I don't see any other way to boost my AC. Am I missing some cool feats or abilities? \$\endgroup\$
    – The Jug
    Oct 22, 2010 at 16:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, your +3 plate should be +3 Gith Plate armor (from Adventurer's Vault 1) which would give you +13 AC right there. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pat Ludwig
    Oct 22, 2010 at 16:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also I was afraid my question might be a little to broad. Was hoping to gather some info for all roles but that's a bit much. I'll change it to be a little more direct in asking for defender info. \$\endgroup\$
    – The Jug
    Oct 22, 2010 at 16:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TheJug - I wrote a little bit about the original question but quickly got bogged down in explaining exceptions and variations. The difference between a swordmage and a paladin are pretty severe and we haven't gotten past the defenders yet :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Pat Ludwig
    Oct 22, 2010 at 16:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hmm since moving up in levels I think our DMs (myself during a random few times included) seemed to have missed those extra base armors. I'll make a case to our normal DM about getting a boosted base armor, which at this point should include our other members as well. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$
    – The Jug
    Oct 22, 2010 at 16:59

I think this ultimately depends on the defender you are playing. If you're a typical defender, definitely get armor and shield together to boost AC to 20+. The type of defender will determine your Fort: Battleminds will have decent Fort where Swordmages and Paladins will not. Reflex will probably be your weakest defense, pending class choice. Will Def, if you're a Cha-based Paladin, will be decent.

So my opinion of some decent defense scores would be: (from level 1)

  • AC: 20+
  • Fort: 15-12 (depending)
  • Ref: 13-10
  • Will: 13-10 (Unless you're a Chaladin, then you should start with 15)

This is a base estimate, not counting magic items or other crazy feats you could take.


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