View Full Version : Assistance on raising AC

T.G. Oskar
2009-06-04, 02:34 AM
Another request for aid.

I've been playing for a few months a Warforged Paladin on an Eberron campaign who just about a month ago entered the Red Hand of Doom module. While it had a decent amount of AC and has barely needed magic items, now it seems it's in dire need of AC.

First, the particulars. The Paladin version I'm using isn't the core version but the fix done by One Winged 4ngel at the Gleemax/WotC boards (http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?t=761045). So far, I've gone mostly simple; longsword, shield, Adamantine Plating and Improved Damage Reduction. Recently, I also got approved to change the Divine Health class feature for the 3rd level Warforged substitution level (Immunity to Stunning). However, with all of that, my AC is just around 20. All other characters are roughly at the same amount of AC (the highest has around 22).

Now, here's the deal. Recently, and perhaps to our disgrace (recall it's the Red Hand of Doom module), the DM allowed to have some downtime, and we have an artificer hanging around (he's the one who usually repairs me) I was mostly planning on attempting to get a wand (or in any case, a staff) with the spells Greater Magic Weapon and Magic Vestment (knowing that they are in theory more cost-effective than having a bunch of +5 armors), and I might have a chance to enchant my armor and shield.

Weapon-wise, the DM pretty much shoe-horned a weapon of legacy, but he's the one working with it (so my hands are rather tied on that sense); so far, it's merely a +1 flaming longsword (don't ask), and later on it'll grow as indicated. I also have a flail and ranseur I rarely use, just for having the weapons. Aside from that, I barely have magic items (yeah, I'm kinda cheapskate on spending money; I either tithe it or spend it to the poor :P)

So, with that, what feats and cheap enhancements (perhaps a +1 equivalent enchantment) would work for someone who wants more AC (and saves, too)? I'm already seeking for Divine Shield at level 7 (because the version of Paladin I use grants two bonus feats at 7th and 14th level, and those are fixed to a list) In case you ask, I'm using the Ardent Bastion specialization in replacement of the special mount and charging smite specializations) I'm unsure whether to take Divine Justice as the 14th level bonus feat.

So far, aside from Adamantine Plating and one Improved Damage Reduction feat, I haven't taken any other feats. I was thinking to take Improved Fortification (to be entirely immune to critical hits, knowing I may not be healed later on) at level 9th, but I noticed that may be counter-productive. I also was thinking on taking Martial Study and Martial Stance for extra healing abilities (namely Crusader's Strike and Martial Spirit), and I'm also interested in the Faiths of Eberron feat that gives enhancements to Lay on Hands (Action Healing). Given how hard the monsters tend to hit, and the lack of an effective arcane spellcaster, I usually end up with healing duty.

The idea is to work out a progression that allows moderate healing, high amounts of AC and high amounts of saves, effective immunity to critical hits (the criticals here are scary, and the DM is too fond of them), but without changing to another class/PrC. I know it's a tad hard to handle, but more heads think better than one.

Tempest Fennac
2009-06-04, 03:01 AM
If you have 13 Wis and Dex, you could take Combat Focus, Combat Defence, Dodge and another Combat Focus feat (see page 50 of http://crystalkeep.com/d20/rules/DnD3.5Index-Feats.pdf ), you would get a +2 AC boost as long as you're not flat-footed. I guess you should take Shield or Armour Focus (I think it's called that) for another +1.

2009-06-04, 03:28 AM
If you have 13 Int you could take Combat Expertise. Take -5 on attack and gain +5 to AC. (The maximum bonus you can get is dependant on your BAB but can never be higher than 5)


2009-06-04, 09:45 AM
The cheapest way to get lots of AC is mixed sources: armor, shield (if you have one), amulet of natural armor, ring of protection, dusty rose prism ioun stone. You can pay the difference to upgrade any item. So just pick the cheapest upgrade. At your level you can probably afford +2 armor (4k), +1 amulet of NA (2k) and a +1 ring of protection (2k) for a total of +4 for 8k, or +4 for 6k or +5 for 8k with a shield. Next you'd get the dusty rose prism ioun stone for 5k or upgrade to +3 armor (9k - 4k = 5k more), since that's cheaper than shelling out 6k to upgrade your amulet or ring (8k - 2k = 6k).

A wand of magic vestment +5 costs 45k vs 25k each for a permanent +5 armor and shield that won't get dispelled. And you can upgrade the permanent enchantment but not a wand; you just pay the difference.

Trade-offs like combat expertise and fighting defensively are only so-so in value because you have to give something up for it. But they're a good 2nd priority. If you can spare the feat, never underestimate dodge. Yes, dodge. An AC from good gear will give you a 70% miss chance. Dodge boosts that to 75%, so instead of getting 30% of the time you get hit 25% of the time, a 1/6th reduction in the damage you take. Like having 1/6 more HP in terms of physical attacks. But in your case dodge might not be as valuable than normal since I think you have less 1v1 combats in RHoD. Fighting defensively on top of that and you can almost cut that in half (but you'll also hit the enemy a lot less). Or stack total defense or combat expertise on top of your normal AC to be near-invincible whenever you get into a pickle, hitting a 90-95% miss chance. Get haste from a friendly party member or the moment you can afford the 12k for boots of speed. Besides the extra attack, you get +1 AB and +1 AC, again invaluable. Basically any +1 you can get that stacks with what you can't afford to boost more (magic gear) is invaluable because there is a small gap between keeping up with monster AB and being nigh-invulnerable.

2009-06-04, 09:52 AM
For shield users, I like Shield Specialization (adds one to your Shield AC) followed by Shield Ward (add your Shield Bonus to AC (including enhancement bonuses to your shield), to your touch AC as well as to attempts to resist Bull Rush, Disarm, Grapple, Overrun, & Trip attempts), both feats from PH2.

It means that a +2 Heavy shield is actually adding 5 AC to your touch AC as well, and contributes very well in protecting you from various combat maneuvers. It's nice as a fighter-type not to automatically get smoked by every touch attack aimed your direction.

A couple of points of Dex bonus (+2?), a few points of Deflection bonus(+2 to +3), and a strongly enchanted shield with Shield Ward (heavy shield, specialization, and +2 to +3 bonus) and you can have a 20+ touch AC. Add a Lesser Crystal of Arrow Deflection (2,000gp), and you have another (typeless) +5 AC versus ranged attacks, making for a 25+ AC versus ranged touch attacks, available on pretty slim budget. At mid levels, that's a tough roll for most 1/2 BAB casters, and it's not even optimised really.

More optimally, a weapon finesse-type in mithril chain or the like can get a big dex bonus as well as all the other bonuses.

If you really want big touch AC (without going monk/swordsage/ninja) you can use Gnome Twist Cloth armour (exotic armour, RoS) which adds to your touch AC. Your overall AC would suffer a bit, but this way all your Armor AC and Shield AC can add to your touch AC. I have this vision of a Gnome Blade Bravo-type, high dexterity and weapon finesse, in Twist Cloth and shield, getting all of his dex bonus, armor AC, shield AC, deflection bonus, and size bonus to touch AC, evading fireballs, and untouched by orb and ray spells.

2009-06-04, 10:11 AM
How can you only be getting ~20 AC though? Your non-magical items should be granting you 20 already (+8 from the Adamantine Plating and +2 from the heavy shield), and if you have even 12 Dex, that's 21. +1 Ring of Deflection, +1 Amulet of Natural Armor, CL 8 Magic Vestment on both and you're looking at AC 27.

And yeah, if you aren't going Argent Bastion, you could pick up those Shield-related feats. They'd definitely get you some extra mileage out of that piece of metal. Oh, and get your shield and armor enhanced with Ghost Ward [MiC] ASAP. This adds their enhancement bonus to your Touch AC, making you non-trivial to poke (especially as Magic Vestment scales with levels nicely).

A wand of magic vestment +5 costs 45k vs 25k each for a permanent +5 armor and shield that won't get dispelled. And you can upgrade the permanent enchantment but not a wand; you just pay the difference.

Magic Vestment is also an Artificer Infusion; no need to pay anything.

T.G. Oskar
2009-06-04, 04:03 PM
Lemme put this on perspective:

First, if I were to take all those feats, I believe I would be again feat-starved (as most Paladins do), so I have to be creative with the feats. And creative with the money, as well.

I have virtually no Dex. Virtually, as I only have 10 Dex. Not very good rolls, and I needed as much Strength, Constitution, Wisdom and Charisma as I could. Wisdom is currently 12, but I'll improve it with the level-based ability score increases because I always aim for a natural Wis 14 to cast the 4th level spells (and the OW4 version has a very nice amount of spells, so I cannot just ignore them) Also, ironically I have 13 Int. I wasn't thinking to add Dex, since I'd already have all those penalties on Dex-based skills because of armor and I would have been skill-point starved. Not a smart choice (pardon the pun), but Dex and Int are dump stats usually.

For the record: Charisma is 14. The highest roll was a 16. Warforged have a -2 on Cha. Still, that can be fixed (Cloak of Charisma, Eagle's Splendor, levels, etc)

So, that means:
--Dodge is out. I'd need a massive effort to get +2 to AC, but my level-based increases are limited.
--Combat Expertise is, oddly, in. And yeah, I know of the benefit; doesn't matter whether I hit or not, they won't hit me.
--Combat Focus (and the line of feats) won't be available until later. I plan to raise Wis one point at level 8 so that I get access to 3rd level spells at level 11.

Also, some clarifications:
--Shield Ward is a feat I can save, as the Argent Bastion feat already provides the benefit. I could still get Shield Specialization for the +1, but that would make me miss on the ones that could provide more AC (aka, Combat Expertise) On that regard, doesn't Shield Ward provide the entire bonus of the shield (essentially, the normal shield bonus + the enhancement bonus to shield) on touch attacks? That would save me from one application of Ghost Ward property (which means more money saved for OTHER applications) Another thing I learned from old experiences (and since I have it for free, the better!)
--Adamantine Plating means I can't wear any kind of armor. That means it CAN be enchanted, though. So no Gnome Twist-Cloth exotic armor and the like.
--I was planning to save the +1-type enhancements for actual enhancements, make it a +1 and then adding a lot of bonuses, and then using Magic Vestment (and scrolls of higher level in case it gets dispelled) for the eventual +5. That means I would get the equivalent of a +5~+10 armor for roughly much less. Isn't that what most of the optimizers tend to say? Well, probably just me. I fully understand the problem of being dispelled (a tough situation) Recall that I can cast the spell eventually (a level 2 spell in the Paladin version I'm using), so eventually I can save on the constant, daily use of Magic Vestment
--I was originally against using Rings of Protection since I have a better equivalent (Shield of Faith), but I believe that it could work for a while. Then again, I could replace it with a Ghost Shroud, but I believe it would conflict with the Adamantine Plating enchantments. It's a shame that an armor and this item can't be worn together (that would leave my ring slot open for another kind of ring). At high levels, Ring of Evasion >> Ring of Protection, since the ring specifically doesn't say anything about not having evasion while on heavy armor while using the ring, unless they are using exactly the description of the Rogue and Monk of the Evasion class feature.
--Since I'll probably go for a Cloak of Charisma, I'll be unable to use a Cloak of Resistance; hence, no bonus on saving throws (and Reflex desperately needs a boost) Is the Agility armor enhancement a better choice? +5 to Reflex for 8k is a cheap choice, considering I must save the shoulders' body slot for the Cloak of Charisma? I'd only need something for Will saves (and given Protection/Magic Circle against Evil a choice, nearly half of the Will-requiring spells are effectively suppressed for the duration, which is one more turn for the group to kill the pesky spellcaster)
--As for hitting problems, no need to worry. There's a Bard nearby, and he has taken the usual measures aside from Dragonsong Inspiration (sp?). So it's usually a "+4 to hit, +4 to damage" (as the DM speaks it). I also "counseled" him to get Haste ASAP, and then probably Blink, Blur, Mirror Image or Displacement. He's trigger happy with Alter Self and turning into an Avariel (repressed urges?). Also driving him towards Sublime Chord, then using the progression for Virtuoso (he likes the fluff, we like the 9/10 spell progression and the increased Inspire Courage)
--The Artificer won't be forever. Just in case.
--What's most cost-effective: enchanting my Armor or Shield with Heavy Fortification, or taking the Improved Fortification feat and then having ways to heal my damage afterwards (Martial Stance used with Martial Spirit, Lay on Hands, the Craft skill for when the others rest, perhaps Combat Vigor)? As I said, criticals here are scary.

Still, thanks for the useful advice (and the remindings :P)

2009-06-04, 04:22 PM
I wouldn't suggest for feats anyways; they give less benefits than the other options. The one alternative I'd consider is Divine Shield, which adds your Cha-bonus to your shield bonus for ½ Character Level. Can be handy, especially since you've got the Turn Undead to burn.

So yeah, use all the items you can. If you intend on Shield of Faith, skip out on Ring of Protection. Get Boots/Gloves/Bracers of Dex +2 instead. Same AC boost, works fine in your Adamantine Plating. So get:
Amulet of Natural Armor +1
Bracers of Dex +2
Dusty Rose Ioun Stone
Amulet of Natural Armor +2

and go from there if skipping out on the Ring of Deflection. That's outside your others.

As for enhancing your Body, get +1 (necessity for other enhancements) and then add:
Ghost Ward [Magic Item Compendium] - really useful vs. touch attacks
Nimbleness [Magic Item Compendium] - effectively an extra point of AC once you get +4 Dex item later on; also lowers AC penalties
Heavy Fortifications - I'd say it's better to pay the gold than the feat. You're a Paladin, you're über-featstarved anyways. You'd need your feats for combat, casting and using your divine abilities. And you don't get any bonuses. You can't afford any extras.

Add Ghost Ward to your shield too; other than that, you could toss Heavy Fortifications on it if you have other enhancements you want to add to your armor instead.

2009-06-04, 04:31 PM
A great way to boost touch AC is to shapechange into something with high nat AC (take your choice of dragons or outsiders) and then cast scintillating scales.

2009-06-04, 06:42 PM
Shield of faith has a short duration and I wouldn't waste a combat round on it. I'd just get the ring. But you could conceivable replace everything else except dex with spells. Since you only want dex for AC, get it before AC boosters costing more than 4k. So after +2 armor (+1 => +2 is only 3k difference) but before the dusty rose prism ioun stone (5k) and +2 ring & amulet (+1 => +2 is 6k difference).

Since you've decided on combat expertise (though IMO a +1 w/o penalties from shield spec or dodge is better), you should know that it works best on opponents whose AB + AC is much less than your AB + AC. In that case max out combat expertise or use just enough (guess) so that your opponent has to roll a 20 to hit. And if the baddies try to rush past you, consider reducing your C.E. modifier since it applies to your AoO's too.

T.G. Oskar
2009-06-04, 07:18 PM
Now that I recall (and watching somewhere else), I almost forgot to get Battle Blessing as soon as possible. For the moment, it may seem as a waste of a feat, but considering how the progression goes, it will be perhaps vital later on. I'd estimate no later than 12th level. That could get many important spells cast as swift actions, so they would apply at the beginning of battle (and there's few if little actions the Pally can do that require immediate actions) That could solve a bit of the problems (Shield of Faith, Divine Favor which is a luck bonus to attack & damage, perhaps Prayer for the expanded choices)

Considering the multiple bonii that may stack around (Inspire Courage + Inspirational Boost + Song of the Heart; Divine Favor or Prayer as a bare minimum), I'd say I wouldn't worry much for the lack of BAB. I say much, as given the progression of a weapon of legacy which is mostly out of my control, it could probably further weaken my ending attack bonus.

It's a terrible shame I can't convince my DM to allow Belts of Magnificence, but probably that's for the better. Such a belt would be coveted by many an individual, and probably cause in-fighting. That way I could save for a different set of gloves, perhaps a proper Cloak of Resistance, and aid a bit on the MAD trouble of Pallies.

2009-06-04, 07:24 PM
You don't need more stinking AC bonuses.

2009-06-04, 09:28 PM
Defending weapon is fun with GMW.

2009-06-04, 11:52 PM
Your AC is pretty much covered by the above posts, so I'll mention a couple of more defensive options.

I'm pretty fond of Iron Ward Diamonds (armour crystals, from MIC) myself. I know DR isn't the best form of defence out there, but in a combat-heavy game (and RHoD is pretty much nothing but combat from what I hear) they're basically +10/30/50 HP per day, which is pretty handy. For your shield, get both a Crystal of Arrow Deflection (for AC bonus vs. missile weapons) and a Clasp of Energy Protection (maybe a few of those even, one for each type of energy damage you commonly face - useful when you know you're going to be facing a certain kind of dragon). Note that both of these work only for shields.

I also recommend enchanting your armour with Agility for the bonus to reflex saves (MIC, +1/+3/+5 resistance bonus for a flat 500/4000/8000gp), which is probably going to be your worst saving throw, especially with your low dex. Yes, Will and Fort are probably more important (because failing one of those at the wrong moment can kill your character outright or worse), but you still can't afford to neglect Reflex. It's what lets you avoid taking area effect damage.