I'm planing on playing a monk in our next campaign as a backup-tank/semi-tank.

At 1st level he has an AC of 14 without armor with 15 Dex/Wis and unarmored defence.

Is there a better way to increase AC than skipping a feat at level 4 and going straight for the ability increase?

Taking a feat like linguist would be much better for RP but the extra two AC could make a big difference in each fight.


6 Answers 6


Straight Ability increases are your hands-down best way to increase AC as a monk

Your Martial Arts class feature depends on being unarmored and Unarmored Movement only works if you are unarmored as well.

You start out with no armor proficiencies so you would need to invest a feat to wear light armor anyway, whereas by increasing both Dex and Wis by 1 when you hit level 4 you will also gain the added benefits of adding +1 to initiative, Dex and Wis saves, skills that are based of Dex and Wis as well as increasing the DC of your Ki based spells/attacks by +1 and your to-hit and damage on melee attacks (assuming you are using a monk weapon) both by +1.

Due to monks having a lot of class features tied to Dex and Wis its almost always in your best interest to increase those stats rather than to take a feat.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras: 5E was careful to block the stacking of monk bonuses with Mage Armor that worked so well in 3E, check the spell wording carefully. So it would just be 13+dex for Mage Armor, only 1 better than the monk gets now. Add to that a delay in getting the ability bonus, because it is now a class feature, not tied to the total levels. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 2, 2015 at 20:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah you are right, i double checked the book and it makes clear that monk's AC is 10+dex+wis, while mage armor says only 13+dex. The difference in wording makes it so the monk ability cant stack with anything. The Shield spell is still a viable option though, even if for short durations. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Commented Mar 2, 2015 at 21:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's probably also worth pointing out that Dex increases give +1 to attack and damage as well. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Commented Mar 2, 2015 at 23:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ One possible exception is the Mobility feat, which lets you move away from a creature without provoking an attack as long as you made a melee attack against them (even if you miss). This allows a Monk to stay out of melee range by running in, attacking, and running back out. Has nice synergy with Deflect Missile. Doesn't help if the party is outnumbered, but in those cases each individual monster is less of a threat. \$\endgroup\$
    – Doval
    Commented Jan 6, 2017 at 14:00

You probably don't have control over this, but Bracers of Defense are a magic item which give +2 AC when not using armor or a shield.


Monks are just not meant to be invulnerably armored tanks. Light, dextrous, and fast is how a monk rolls.

You start putting Armor on a Monk, and you may start wondering why you have a monk. Plus, I don't see that dex + armor gives you as much as dex plus wisdom.

As you continue to adventure and acquire items, your AC will go up. But so will that of everyone else. In addition, the ability of your enemies to hit higher AC's will increase. You will likely always have a relatively low AC.

I think your best shot is being able to absorb blows, so I'd invest in a higher constitution, and take the Tough feat. In fact, since I started playing D&D in the 80's, it's been a vanishingly rare character (of ANY class) that didn't have a Con bonus. I'm running a monk now, and my Con score is higher than my Wisdom.

Healing potions are a must.

Last, consider dipping into Fighter for 2 levels. Grab 2nd wind for some self healing. And Action Surge is good for anyone.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hello and welcome to RPG.SE. Your answer does a good job about addressing survivability, but does not actually answer the question about AC. Please take the tour to learn how we are different from other forums, and consider adjusting your answer to better reflect the question. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 23:39

Select a race that gives bonuses to Dex and Wisdom. 18 Dex = +4, 16 Wis = +3 Highest Stats in Dex then Wisdom. (keep the Stat numbers even a 16 is as good as a 17 for bonuses). When you get the chance increase your Dex to max then Wisdom.


Defensive Duelist with a Short Sword (At Monk L 11 all weapons 1d8 dmg) at Lv +3 AC

Magic Items

  • Bracers of Defence +2 AC
  • Boots of Speed - Attackers with attack of opportunity have disadvantage + plus Monk gets to move at silly speeds
  • Any 1 magic item of protection +1 Ioun Stone of Agility or Insight (as Dex will hit 20, better to have Insight for Wisdom) +1 AC
  • Sword of Defense +3 AC
  • Cloak of displacement (attacker has disadvantage)

So with No magic items thats AC 20 With all of these magic items AC 27. and attacker gets disadvantage. Tank away

BUT this is not the point of a Monk. If you want to be a Tank be a fighter.

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    \$\begingroup\$ All of the items you list here require attunement. Most characters cannot attune to 5 items, but only 3. Also I'm pretty sure the Defender sword doesn't count as a monk weapon for most monks. Your best bet would be bracers of defense and a cloak or ring of protection. Cloak/ring of protection because the ability stacks on your Dex; you can have +5 Dex and still benefit from the +1 here, where the Ioun Stone is useless at +5 Dex. The cloak/ring also give +1 to saving throws, and the Ioun Stones have the disadvantage of being snatchable. With this, cloak of displacement or boots of speed.... \$\endgroup\$
    – soxroxr
    Commented Jun 24, 2019 at 6:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ ....because advantage is far more powerful than another +1 AC. Best setup IMO is bracers, ring of protection, cloak of displacement. However if you can have a sword as a monk weapon (such as Kensei Monks) then the Defender, bracers of defense, and cloak of displacement make you hardest to hit. \$\endgroup\$
    – soxroxr
    Commented Jun 24, 2019 at 6:31

My monk has a base AC thanks to unarmored defense of 17:

  • Wisdom +3
  • Dexterity +4

He has one magic item which gives him +1 AC.

So my monk has a total of 18 AC which is pretty good for a monk

Seeing how there are enough magic items out there which can give a bonus on AC it is entirely possible to get a monk with an higher AC than just from unarmored defense. You need to get your Dex and Wis high enough to have some nice AC

Their are some options to make a monk get a high AC:

  1. Get High dex and Wis
  2. Get magical items which increase AC
  3. Ignore monks unarmored defense and give it armor plus a shield (although you should watch out for proficiency with the armor and the shield)
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Hello, and welcome to RPG.SE! It looks like your answer is more a forum-style response than a standalone answer. Your answer doesn't really say anything that the current accepted answer doesn't, and it's likely that you're going to attract some downvotes because of that. I'd suggest taking a look at the tour and help center, and maybe adding something to this answer that gives more detail into what you think makes your answer different from the other answers. \$\endgroup\$
    – DuckTapeAl
    Commented May 1, 2015 at 11:50

You could always take a level in barbarian to change your ac from 10+dex+wis to 10+dex+wis+con

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    \$\begingroup\$ This does not work. Unarmored Defenses do not stack. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 15:19

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