Sorcerers of the Draconic Bloodline have the following class feature (located in the Player's Handbook p. 102):

Draconic Resilience
[...] Additionally, parts of your skin are covered by a thin sheen of dragon-like scales. When you aren't wearing armor, your AC equals 13 + your Dexterity modifier.

Barbarians and Monks have similar features both called "Unarmored Defense" (p. 48 and p. 78, respectively), but the Barbarian feature specifically allows shields, while the Monk feature specifically forbids shields.

The language in chapter 5 regarding shields seems inconsistent. Shields are listed in the same stat table as armor on p. 145 as well as the don/doff table on p. 146 (both with the table heading "Armor").

However, on p. 144 the wording in the introduction seems to separate them.

Armor and Shields
[...] The Armor table collects the most commonly available types of armor found in the game and separates them into three categories: light armor, medium armor, and heavy armor. Many warriors supplement their armor with a shield.

Additionally, as far as I have found, shields are only referred to as "wielded", not "worn" (p. 144, 170).

Can a Draconic Sorcerer take advantage of the shield's +2 AC on top of the Draconic Resilience 13 + Dexterity AC feature (after using feats or multiclassing to gain proficiency in shields)?


2 Answers 2



The actual rules for this are oddly worded, but the notation is pretty simple.

In general, there are two formats for "things that increase your AC." The most common format is the one attached to armor:

[your AC equals] 11 + Dex modifier

or Draconic Resilience:

your AC equals 13 + your Dexterity modifier.

Note that there is no "plus" at the beginning of the formula. These items set your AC to a specific value.

The other format is that used by shields and class features that increase your AC above its base value:

Defensive fighting style:

You gain a +1 bonus to AC.

Or a shield:

Wielding a shield increases your AC by 2.

These are phrased in terms of increasing, rather than setting your AC. They are preceded by the phrase "increases" or a plus sign.

So, it's pretty simple. You get one thing that sets your AC, and any number of things that modify it (except where restricted by other rules, like the rules stating you can only use one shield).

A fighter could very easily have an AC like this:

[15 + Dex Mod] (half-plate) [+2] (shield) [+1] (defensive fighting style)

For a total AC of 18 + Dex Mod.

But he couldn't add a chain shirt to increase his AC, because both that and the half-plate set his AC to a fixed value.

The same applies to Draconic Resilience. You can stack it with a shield, because a shield increases AC. And you can further stack on the Shield spell, giving you a (temporary) total of [13 + Dex Mod] [+2] [+5], or 20 + Dex Mod.

But you can't combine Draconic Resilience with Mage Armor, because both Mage Armor and Draconic Resilience are trying to set your AC to a fixed value.

Some things Draconic Resilience stacks with:

  • Shields

  • Shield spell

Some things it does not:

  • Plate

  • Mage Armor spell

  • Barbarian Unarmored Defense class feature


The rules for AC are on page 14 of the Player's Handbook, or page 9 of the Basic Rules.

The relevant part is this:

Without armor or a shield, your character’s AC equals 10 + his or her Dexterity modifier. If your character wears armor, carries a shield, or both, calculate your AC using the rules in chapter 5. Record your AC on your character sheet.


Some spells and class features give you a different way to calculate your AC. If you have multiple features that give you different ways to calculate your AC, you choose which one to use.

The rules called out above appear to be these:

Wielding a shield increases your Armor Class by 2. You can benefit from only one shield at a time.

If you wear light armor, you add your Dexterity modifier to the base number from your armor type to determine your Armor Class.

(and so on, for each type of armor)

The rules are sloppy here. Technically, they don't give you a calculation for AC when wielding a shield and no armor. And they never explicitly call out what is or is not a "way to calculate your AC."

With that said, we can use examples to build the intent of the designers.

It's pretty clear that you don't have to choose between a shield and plate. It's also pretty clear that a shield shouldn't set your AC to 2.

Finally, it's pretty clear that wearing a chain shirt with half plate shouldn't set your AC to 28 + 2 * Dex modifier (max 2).

It seems obvious then, that a "calculation" is something that sets your AC to a value plus other modifiers.

If something just adds on to (or increases) your AC, you continue to use whichever calculation is most favorable plus the new modifier.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah, very clever analysis of AC--I didn't think to explain it in such detail. Exemplary! \$\endgroup\$
    – Khashir
    Oct 14, 2014 at 22:35
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ If the sorcerer isn't proficient with a shield, can't use spells if using a shield. Right? (non proficiency penalty for armors, and the fact that shield proficiency is a thing). \$\endgroup\$ Jan 26, 2017 at 15:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast That is correct. \$\endgroup\$
    – AceCalhoon
    Jan 26, 2017 at 15:51

Yes, you can wield a shield and benefit from Draconic Resilience.

You've noted the relevant passages, so, no point in repeating those. However, I've been planning a melee Draconic Sorcerer for a while (see my threads here and here), and the main suggestion was that I needed to up my AC (and to do so, picking up Warrior/Cleric for Shield prof was one of the main tips).

Notice that Draconic Resilience involves the nature of the PCs skin: naturally, if you cover your skin in armour, you would lose said bonus, but a shield would not interfere with that.

In the case of a Monk, the AC comes from being nimble and dodging, in which case a shield would actually get in the way (literally, a shield contributes to AC by taking blows, not by helping you dodge them). The feature draws from Wisdom presumably because it enhances your perception and allows you to better anticipate your enemy's attacks (based on 'reading' their body language and using that to get a sense of what their next attack will be, so that you're not there when it happens).

Barbarians are a bit of an oddball: I don't have much interest in the class, so I haven't read carefully (nor over several editions); but if memory serves, the extra AC comes from their tough skin/resilience (evidenced by their feature using Constitution). Once again, a shield would not interfere with this kind of bonus.


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