Unarmored defense 5e for dnd barbarian & Monk | Stacking Mage Armor

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What’s the value of Barbarian Unarmored Defense 5e class attribute that readily places on armor?

Or, perhaps more importantly: how do you construct a Barbarian that gains substantial benefit from Unarmored Defense 5e? You obtain AC 16 from using Dex 14 and sporting a Breastplate. To match that, you may require Dex and Con bonuses to add up to +6. Although it isn’t unreasonable to require two +3 modifiers in itself.  Neither Dex nor Con is the Barbarian’s primary feature. Even though a Monk can and will place his most acceptable scores in Dex and Wis, a Barbarian is – in 5E – hardwired to a high Strength because rages only essential off Strength, not Dex.

A barbarian can start with Str 16, Con 16, Dex 16 at the expense of becoming stereotypically dull elsewhere (Int 8, Wis 8, Cha 8). The price may be quire high. Dex provides you good Initiative and such. But AC-wise, it only saves you the 400 gp of a Breastplate, which in turn could have enabled one to become a witty, wise or magnificent barbarian in Dungeon and Dragons.

Dex 16 is a high price to pay when all you are after is your coolness factor of battling in no armor. Dex 16 is excellent when you’re thieving about it, but it is a steep price for a Barbarian.

How do you make Unarmored Defense 5e work for a Barbarian?

How do you calculate Tabaxi Monk Speed in 5e dnd spells?

The Barbarian capstone adds +4 STR +4 CON (that is equal to 2 AC). So let us assume a Mountain Dwarf (2 STR/2 CON). 15/14/15 STR/DEX/CON, 10 WIS. Along with +10 stats (if the feats are not allowed), you will end up at 24 STR/24 CON/18 DEX/10 WIS. This will give you +11 AC without wearing an armor (still better than Shield+Plate)

You also have items like Bracers of Defense that add +3 AC (but they don’t work with Armor or Shield).  At the very first few levels, it might not be significant. However, you can sneak well, and you do wind up with great AC at the conclusion, even without the capstone ability.

Unarmored Defense 5e Spell details

Any class could take this variant class feature with proficiency with light and medium armor. This class feature replaces each of the course’s armor proficiencies, except for protecting competence.

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You may choose one of the following options:

Constitution-based: When you are not wearing any armor, your Armor Class will be equal to 10 + your Dexterity modifier + your Constitution modifier. You may use a shield and still gain this benefit.


While you are not wearing any armor and not wielding a shield, your Armor Class equals 10 + your Dexterity modifier + your Wisdom modifier.

How do you calculate unarmored DefenseDefense?

Unarmored Defense (Barbarian): 10 + your Dexterity modifier + your Constitution modifier.

Does natural armor pile with unarmored DefenseDefense?

Finally, it is up to your DM to determine whether any rule will unbalance his game. I have been having a lively debate with my friendly neighborhood rules lawyer, and I’ll throw in my input as well as my thought processes and references. (I must always provide her rulebook and page numbers. 🙂

I may paraphrase matters unless I think phrasing is significant, then I shall estimate. You’ll have precisely where to search so you can read to choose what is essential. I will also attempt to explain my reasoning as to why specific rules exist and how they meld or battle.

So I shall begin with the rule in the Players Handbook (PH) that rules general trump principles (PH pg7), and the general rule for without armor is base AC = 10 + Dex mod. (PH pg14) you wear armor or take a defense, see chapter 5. To me, this is reasonable. A standard ten plus how fast you can get from an incoming strike.

The following general rule would be, “Some spells and course features provide you with another way to calculate your AC. In case you’ve got several characteristics that provide you different ways compute your AC, you select which to use.” (PH pg14) This rule is to prevent the AC stacking we have come to know and despise. So now you can only select either Mage Armor”The targets base AC becomes 13 + its Dexterity modifier.”

Since the discussion is all about the Monks Unarmored Defense piling with the Druids Wild Shape ability, let us look at these specific rules.

The Monks Unarmored Defense states, “… while you’re wearing no armor and not wielding a shield, your AC = 10 + Dex mod + Wis mod” (PH pg78). That is the new”foundation AC.” This course attribute is unquestionably better than foundation AC without armor from above. The wisdom modifier is a result of the training the monk has. It allows the monk to utilize his comprehension to locate a location where the incoming attack misses. (At least that is my interpretation.) It’s a good day to be a monk, it seems. You receive the Dex mod and the Wis mod so long as you’re not wearing armor. “Wearing” is an operative word.

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The statistics of this monster substitute wild Shape states, “Your game statistics, but you keep your… Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores.” (PH pg67) It also says that “You keep the benefit of any features from your class, race, or other source and can use them if the new form is physically capable of doing so.” So far, this allows the Unarmored Defense features base AC equation from over and alters that the base stats of the character to match with the beast selected.

Finally, to this equation, you include bonuses. Bonuses are benefits that are obtained by many means like magical things, racial or class characteristics, feats, etc. They are always signified in specific principles from the word”bonus,” i.e., base weapon damage using a +2 bonus to damage. It usually means that something is added to the base stat, i.e., proficiency incentive added to skills, etc.

Many beasts have a”natural armor” bonus: “A monster with a thick mask usually has a natural armor bonus of +1 to +3. The bonus can be greater if the animal is exceptionally well-armored. A gorgon, as an example, is covered in steely plates and has a natural armor bonus of +9.” (DMG pg276)

This additive effect is explained in the Dungeon Masters Guide (DMG). Insofar as AC is worried, it states, “A monster that doesn’t wear armor may have natural armor, in which case it’s an AC equal to 10 + its Dexterity modifier + its own natural armor bonus.” (DMG pg 276) Notice the word”wear” in their folks.

Suppose You’re Able to keep your features (Unarmored Defense) and use the correct stats to the situation, put in your bonuses. You’ve Got the following criteria: AC = Base AC + bonus.

So I just threw a lot of things at you without any context so that I will show you an example.

Elwin is a 2nd lv human moon druid, and she wishes to take her first level in monk.

Her stats drop in the multiclassing principles (PH pg163-164), and she takes the plunge. Now she has both Wild Shape and Unarmored Defense. What will we do? Since she wears armor, she doesn’t even use Unarmored Defense until she shapeshifts. If she does, she chooses a Brown Bear (PH pg304), absorbs her armor and gear as per the principles, and takes its stats. Her newest stats are: Str: 19 Dex: 10 Con: 16 Wis: 16 Int: 13 Cha: 11

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Only a bit more survivable.

A couple of caveats: 1 ). That is based on my comprehension of the three primary books available today and does not cover future expansions, house rules, etc. 2. Your GM has the final say on all the rules for this one. Hey, the fact is that if you are playing with the GM, you hope you will have a fair game. Unfair GMs end up with no players. 3. Everyone likes to maximize. Talk with your GM about what you wish to do. State your case. You might be pleasantly surprised. The reverse of the rule, as mentioned earlier, applies too. Unfair players end up with no classes.


Unarmored DefenseDefense does not provide an incentive to AC. It provides an alternate means of calculating it.

So, your Druid has two AC calculations accessible to him:

AC provided by the monster form.

You don’t get to bring both together since they set AC to an absolute value. It doesn’t have a +1 natural armor bonus.

Similarly, a Monk using unarmored DefenseDefense has an AC of 10 + Dexterity Modifier + Wisdom Modifier. He does not merely add Wisdom into his AC.

Your Druid can utilize Unarmored Defense in beast form. However, he must choose between the adjusted AC of this form. To get a brown bear, his choices are:


The Unarmored Defense will give him better AC than the bear needed, but significantly less than a typical monk has (because of the low dexterity).

For more detail about 5e’s armor notation, see this response.

Natural Armor

Rather than employing a flat AC of 11, you can use the bear’s natural armor calculation. That allows you to calculate the bear’s AC in scenarios where its dexterity or other stats change.


That is a calculation method typically used only by monsters and NPCs. However, it’s also relevant to a druid or a different character who assumes a kind that has natural armor.


Similarly, a druid/barbarian who transforms into a monster form with natural armor can use either the animal’s natural armor or Unarmored Defense.

In this case, you have the choice of both calculations:

10 + Dexterity Modifier + Wisdom Modifier (Unarmored Defense)

You do not have to mix and match between these two formulas; you need to pick one.