Paizo Top Nav Branding
  • Hello, Guest! |
  • Sign In |
  • My Account |
  • Shopping Cart |
  • Help/FAQ
About Paizo Messageboards News Paizo Blog Help/FAQ
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
Pathfinder Society

Pathfinder Beginner Box

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

Pathfinder Comics

Pathfinder Legends

Armor Class Benchmarks


Advice

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Don't need to get too picky, but as a rule of thumb, what's a good AC to shoot for if you're a front-line type of character at any given level?

What if you're more of a switch-hitter, spending half your time in the thick of things?


Depends on your play style of course from what I've seen of APs.

Front-line 16+lvl Switch 14+lvl will have you feeling pretty good.

Cheliax

17+character level is the minimum to stay on the front lines 20+character level is better if you can get it


No idea if it actually holds up in practice, but my initial guess would be to take the Monster Creation Guidelines and add 11 to the "High Attack" column. This would be more of a minimum (as it is still a 50% hit rate, and there are higher attack/higher CR creatures to account for), but I think it would give as good an idea of where to start as anything.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

At lower levels High AC is great. At higher levels mobs start hitting with touch attacks and AC becomes less important. Best tank I ever played was a barbarian with 7 AC.


Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

I am deeply curious as well.


It's an interesting question. The answer will really depend on what you think it should take for a tough creature to hit you on an unmodified die roll.

Looking at the methods I commonly see 16+lvl is pretty common. Let's see how that holds up.

I am going to use the average high attack bonus for a creature 2 CR higher than your level.

Lvl 1 - AC 17 - 11+ to hit
Lvl 5 - AC 21 - 8+ to hit
Lvl 10 - AC 26 - 5+ to hit
Lvl 15 - AC 31 - 4+ to hit
Lvl 20 - AC 36 - 4+ to hit

Seems way too easy to get hit for a tank.

So going by my earlier statement, what roll makes sense? I would say, if you are looking to be a tank's tank, you should be shooting for what... an 18+? (remember this is the high attack value of things CR 2 higher than your APL... so tough, but not boss fights).

To get that, you would be looking at:

Lvl 1 - AC 24
Lvl 5 - AC 31
Lvl 10 - AC 39
Lvl 15 - AC 45
Lvl 20 - AC 50

Them's some high AC's!!!

Are they reachable?

Let's take a look at a sword and board warrior at each level who has average PC wealth at each level. I will assume this guy wants to be a tank so he went with a 14 dex (seems reasonable at most point buy levels). I will also assume our tank spends around half his wealth on AC.

Lvl 1 - AC: 19 (Scale Mail (Armor +5), Heavy Wooden Shield (Shield +2), Dex +2)... so not cutting it... have to play catch up right out the shoot or have some way of boosting AC besides these.

Lvl 5 - AC: 25 (+1 Full Plate (armor +10), +1 Heavy Steel Shield (Shield +3), Dex +1, Amulet of Natural Armor +1 (natural armor +1)... not doing real well here.

I could keep going, but you have already spent a good portion of your career before my next benchmark... you might not live that long?

The point is that if you want to do the AC route, it is doable, but you REALLY need to focus on AC. Class abilities, synergies, bonus stacking, obscure items (a tower shield would have been good in this case). Etc.

Sean Mahoney

Cheliax

However your looking at the high attacks of creatures that would generally be solo encounters for the whole party to deal with (an APL+2 monster is generally a solo monster if its not the boss) so the aim for the frontliner becomes surviving long enough for the party to drop it not surviving long enough to solo it. This does not require an unhittable AC (monster requires 18+ to hit you) it requires the monster to miss you on around 50% of its primary attacks so you still have hp left after its first full attack at which time you all unload on it and it goes away.

Yeah if you want to solo encounters 2-3 APL above you, you might need AC's like those above, but I run a 28 AC level 11 rogue in PFS and I havent had issues with being dropped in 1 round, so your numbers are a bit skewed.

People forget the being unhittable isnt financially viable for most characters (and in general isnt a wise use of resources anyway because then you just get dominated and the party cant hit you either).


Also your AC at level 5 is off by a fair margin. Firstly, your missing a point of Dex from Armor Training. Second of all, an amulet of natural armor +1 is 2000gp and a +1 ring of protection is only 2000gp. The average wealth for a 5th level character is 10,500gp. With those three items plus his armor and shield he is only looking at about:
2650 +1 full plate
1170 +1 large steel shield
2000 amulet
2000 ring
-----
7820gp

And the rings and amulets are fairly common as magic items. That would give the character an AC of 27 before feats. As a tank who is focused on AC I would think you would probably want dodge and shield focus. That brings you to 29 AC. Suddenly your 30 AC benchmark isn't too far away. If you really cared you could take combat expertise and easily get well over 30 AC but you are sacrificing offense to do so. Even without it for those few APL +2 fights you could always fight defensively. Lest we forget party buffs (which get better as your party levels).

I get your point, Sean, but I don't think it is quite as grim as you make it out to be. Nor do I think the benchmarks are quite as high.

Andoran

Sean Mahoney wrote:
So going by my earlier statement, what roll makes sense? I would say, if you are looking to be a tank's tank, you should be shooting for what... an 18+? (remember this is the high attack value of things CR 2 higher than your APL... so tough, but not boss fights).

That...seems a little excessive, there. Just for reference. Especially with good HP to back it up. That said...

Sean Mahoney wrote:

To get that, you would be looking at:

Lvl 1 - AC 24
Lvl 5 - AC 31
Lvl 10 - AC 39
Lvl 15 - AC 45
Lvl 20 - AC 50

Them's some high AC's!!!

Are they reachable?

Sure. 1st level you're not quite gonna make it (I come up with 22 as about the best you're gonna get), but as, say, a Half-Orc Fighter (arbitrarily), you can easily (with your 10.5k) have the following by 5th:

Dex 14+
+1 Full Plate
+1 Heavy Shield
+1 Amulet of Natural Armor
+1 Ring of Protection
Shield Focus
Dodge
Ironskin

That's an easy AC 29, and still have some stuff for other gear. Toss in, say, Combat Expertise, and you're there. That is 4 Feats...but that still leaves one for offense (say, Power Attack), and you can grab another at 6th. Honestly, I wouldn't focus quite that much at this level, but whatever.

Or the following (with 62k) by 10th:

Dex 16+
+3 Full Plate
+3 Heavy Shield
+2 Amulet of Natural Armor
+2 Ring of Protection
Ioun Stone
Dodge
Iron Hide (as a Half Orc)
Shield Focus
Greater Shield Focus

And that's AC 40 off the top of my head, and for only 40k, to boot (so still enough for a decent weapon (+2), decent stat-booster (+2), and god Cloak of Resistance(+3)) as well as some offensive or save-boosting Feats (5 of them total). Or toss on Combat Expertise for another +3.

It's a very defensive build, but it's totally doable and practical by 6th-7th.

Other Classes can do similar things...though many need to work a little more or wait a little later to do so. Dex builds do even better, potentially quite a bit better by mid-high levels.

EDIT: Ninja'd. Clearly I took too long getting those lists together...


Caderyn wrote:
Yeah if you want to solo encounters 2-3 APL above you, you might need AC's like those above, but I run a 28 AC level 11 rogue in PFS and I havent had issues with being dropped in 1 round, so your numbers are a bit skewed.

That's why my first question was what you wanted the enemy to have to roll to hit you.

If the goal is just to not to be one-shotted, then the need is very different... and I wouldn't say you are a tank.

To me a tank could stand up there for a while with out the need for a lot of party resources. If getting hit by half there swings is the goal though, then yeah... you need a lot less.

It's also why people say that D&D (and Pathfinder) is a game of rocket tag... do more damage first and they can't hurt you at all... having a super high AC is just another way to hit that goal. Not wrong, but not easy to do.

Sean


Remember that I was using a warrior class (not fighter) and only 1/2 of WBL for the gear...

So the question would be if 18+ for a creature of CR = APL+2, what is a reasonable goal? 18+ for CR=APL? 16+ for CR=APL+2? There is certainly a lot of middle ground between my 18+ for CR=APL+2, and the original 16+lvl (which was scaling down to 4+ hits for these normal solo monster encounters).

In fact, it is important to look at the points where spending money AC boosting items just isn't worth it... in my examples above there is no reason to go more than 1 higher than the ACs I list... after that a natural 20 hits anyway. Likewise at low enough rolls needed to hit then mirror image and miss chance type things are MUCH better ways to go.

Just some things to keep in mind.

Sean Mahoney


Lune wrote:
Also your AC at level 5 is off by a fair margin. Firstly, your missing a point of Dex from Armor Training.

Nope... as I stated, the character was spending approx 1/2 of his WBL on AC boosting items... not the whole thing. I also stated it was a Warrior, not a fighter.

Sean

Cheliax

Well I said the Goal was not to be one shotted by a solo monster (which APL+2 would be a solo unless its the boss fight in which case its a strong solo with minions), if you have 2 APL+2 monsters its a bit different and you might need higher AC's but for a single APL+2 monster not being killed in 1 full attack should be enough because then you have the resources of the whole party to bring to bear on it on your turn. (Above level 7 I havent seen any solo that can take a full barrage from the whole party).

Also making the monsters need an 18+ to hit you is probably partially why the rocket tag exists (if they need an 18+ then you can be damn sure that they will hurt when they do finally hit as part of the design).


So again I would posit, what is a reasonable % for them to hit you?

25% would be what, 16+? so jut drop all those by two.

Getting hit 50% means you are relying pretty heavy on HP and may as well be going into things with miss chance as you get up in levels, so that seems too low. (not that you wouldn't want the miss chance as well at those higher levels... certainly cheaper than AC and stacks with it).

Again... the point of my numbers was to show how hard it would be to keep up with that AC race... it's doable, but only if you are focusing a portion of your build and more than 50% of your cash on it... which is only really worth it if you are going whole hog.

In fact, I would put forward that if you are not going to exceed 11+ to hit, then there is little to no value in paying for AC items. You would be much better off focusing on being able to lay down more damage with that money rather than trying to keep going at the losing end of the AC race.

Sean


This is my attempt to make these numbers :) I've only gone to level 10 atm due to time constraits.

Level 1:

Human Shielded Fighter 1 Init: +4 Perception +3
HP 13 AC 20 to 13 ff 17 (Scale Mail +5, Spiked Heavy Steel +2, Dex +2(3)

Str 19 Dex 14 Con 14 Int 07 Wis 14 Cha 07

Fort: +4 Ref: +2 Wil +2 (+4)
Traits: Reactionary, Birthmark

Skills Acrobatics 1 Perception 1

Attack Spiked Heavy Shield +5 1d6+4

Feats:
h Dodge
L1 Improved Shield Bash
F1 Improved Unarmed Strike

Not the strongest level 1 fighter ever but hard to hit and can 2 hand the shield or just use a weapon at this level

Level 2:

Human Shielded Fighter 2 Init: +4 Perception +3
HP 21 AC 24 to 16 ff 17 (Breast Plate +6, Spiked Heavy Steel +2, Dex +2(3) Defensive +3

Str 19 Dex 14 Con 14 Int 07 Wis 14 Cha 07

Fort: +5 Ref: +2 Wil +2 (+4)
Traits: Reactionary, Birthmark

Skills Acrobatics 2 Perception 2

Attack Spiked Heavy Shield +4 1d6+4

Feats:
H Dodge
L1 Improved Shield Bash
F1 Improved Unarmed Strike
F2 Crane Style


Crane Style lets him fight defensively
Level 3:

Human Shielded Fighter 3 Init: +4 Perception +5
HP 30 AC 28 to 17 ff 21 (Full Plate +9, Spiked Heavy Steel +2, Dex +1(2) Defensive +5

Str 19 Dex 14 Con 14 Int 07 Wis 14 Cha 07

Fort: +5 Ref: +3 Wil +3 (+5)
Traits: Reactionary, Birthmark

Skills Acrobatics 3 Perception 3

Attack Spiked Heavy Shield +6 1d6+4

Feats:
H Dodge
L1 Improved Shield Bash
F1 Improved Unarmed Strike
F2 Crane Style
L3 Weapon Focus Shield


Better Ac but not much more
Level 5:

Human Shielded Fighter 5 Init: +4 Perception +7
HP 45 AC 31 to 17 ff 24 (+1 Full Plate +10, +2 Spiked Heavy Steel +4, Dex +1(2), Defensive +5,

Str 20 Dex 14 Con 14 Int 07 Wis 14 Cha 07

Fort: +8 Ref: +4 Wil +4(+2 vs compulsion/charm; +1 vs fear)
Traits: Reactionary, Birthmark

Skills Acrobatics 3 Perception 5 Survival 2

Attack
+1 Spiked Heavy Shield +11 1d6+8(x2)

Feats:
H Dodge
L1 Improved Shield Bash
F1 Improved Unarmed Strike
F2 Crane Style
L3 Weapon Focus Shield
F4 Weapon Spec Shield +1 Str
L5 Crane Wing

4170 +2 heavy Shield
2650 +1 Full Plate
2310 +1 Shield Spikes
1000 +1 Cloak of Resistance


He can now auto block 1 attack per round
Level 10:

Human Shielded Fighter 10 Init: +4 Perception +13
HP 100 AC 39 to 20 ff 30 (Full Plate +12, Spiked Heavy Steel +5, Dex +1(2), Defensive +6, +2 Deflection, +1 Natural)

Str 20(22)Dex 15 Con 14(16)Int 07 Wis 14 Cha 07

Fort: +11 Ref: +6 Wil +6(+2 vs compulsion/charm; +3 vs fear)
Traits: Reactionary, Birthmark

Skills Acrobatics 3 Perception 11 Survival 8

Attack
+3 Spiked Heavy Shield +18 1d6+16(x2)

Feats:
H1 Dodge
L1 Improved Shield Bash
F1 Improved Unarmed Strike
F2 Crane Style
L3 Weapon Focus Shield
F4 Weapon Spec Shield +1 Str
L5 Crane Wing
F6 Power Attack
L7 Lunge
F8 Crane Riposte +1 Dex
L9 Two Weapon Fighting
F10 Shield Slam

09170 +3 Heavy Shield
10650 +3 Full Plate
18310 +3 Shield Spike
08000 +2 Ring of Prot
02000 +1 Amulet Nat
10000 +2 Belt Phys Mite (S/C)
01000 +1 Cloak of Resistance
2870 gp


Now his opponents get knocked about and his auto block comes with an attack.


Ha, this time I was the ninja! YUS!

Sean Mahoney wrote:
Remember that I was using a warrior class (not fighter)...

Forgive me, many people use the terms "fighter" and "warrior" interchangeably. If you were going for a high AC build I don't know why one wouldn't go with fighter but other classes have their own AC boosting as well. If you went Paladin you have everything the Fighter has for AC except Armor Training. But guess what, you have Smite instead. Rangers can't wear full plate so I know you weren't referring to them. Cavaliers? What? ... which other class could have you meant? The NPC warrior class?

Sorry, this seems like back peddling to me. Also, a tank likely should be using more than 50% of his wealth on defensive items. Alsoalso, you failed to mention that if the thing hitting you is counting on iterative or secondary natural attacks to hit then they are only going to be hitting you with the first attack. And you didn't take into consideration party buffs which very likely would be taking place in the type of boss encounters that you are referring to. Or, you know... combat expertise and/or fighting defensively.

If you stick around these boards for a bit I think you will see that it isn't very hard to hit with the builds that you see posted frequently. Especially if you don't use some sub-optimal choice like the NPC Warrior class when comparing to PC classes.


I go for 20+character level as a front line character. 2nd I go for about 15+character level.


Sean Mahoney wrote:


To get that, you would be looking at:

Lvl 1 - AC 24
Lvl 5 - AC 31
Lvl 10 - AC 39
Lvl 15 - AC 45
Lvl 20 - AC 50

Them's some high AC's!!!

Are they reachable?

In my experience these numbers are doable. My last character was a dedicated healer Oracle with a lvl of Holy Vindicator, who fit these numbers well. I gave him the level of Holy Vindicator to boost AC, and he got reincarnated to a lizardman for additional +5 natural armor.

At level 13 he had an AC of 48 (10 + 9 (armor) + 5 (shield) + 3 (dex) + 2 (defl) + 10 (NA) + 9 (sacred).

This is with one level dip, not spending any feats, and since most bonusses came from spell (magic vestment, extended barkskin and cagic circle against Evil) the gp expenditure on AC items is only 5.000. It takes some daily uses of spells, but at spell levels you don't really need later in the game.

While this is a very specific build, I think the important lesson is to consider buff-spells when reasonably calculating ACs at higher levels. There are several spells that can help give that extra boost to make ACs hit the point where the tank gets very difficult to hit.

Even the WBL guidelines is difficult to apply. With some sense the party can be expected to give the defensive items they find to the person, who is expected to greet the enemies. As such the defensive portion of their equipment, can be expected to be higher than WBL expectations.


Lune wrote:
Forgive me, many people use the terms "fighter" and "warrior" interchangeably. which other class could have you meant? The NPC warrior class?

The NPC class warrior is exactly what I meant. The reason being that it is as vanilla as I can make it.

I was NOT trying to make examples of good builds, but of the type of build that someone who is not really trying would come up with for their "tank."

Being a high AC tank means focusing on having a high AC, it doesn't just fall into place. If someone takes a build focused on either nothing but whatever they feel like taking as they level up or a build just focused on damage, then they are not likely to be hitting numbers necessary to be an AC tank.

I agree that these number ARE achievable. You just have to be aware of them and focus on hitting them to a degree.

The next challenge of being an AC based tank is to stay relevant in the fight. You HAVE to be able to dish out some damage as well. Otherwise intelligent monsters are well within their right to just not swing at you and go at your squishier allies.

Lune wrote:
Sorry, this seems like back peddling to me.

Then with all due respect you need to go back and read my initial post because I lay out all of those assumptions before I put down the numbers.

OF COURSE no one is playing a warrior... but they very well may be playing something that isn't adding anything to their defense. I wanted a generic example... and warrior fits that bill. It isn't special in any way, it presents no exceptions (with the exception that it is one of the two classes in the game that gets Tower Shield proficiency, so I avoided that). Again, NOT back peddling because I mentioned it BEFORE the numbers.

Also, a tank likely should be using more than 50% of his wealth on defensive items.

I am not sure that is a fair statement at all. I think in a LOT of games whoever is playing the full BAB type is simply proclaimed the tank with no thought to if it works at all. He gets whatever heavy armor they find, picks up some AC boosting stuff here and there when convenient and calls it good.

My argument is that doing that isn't enough to be a decent AC based tank.

Lune wrote:
Also, you failed to mention that if the thing hitting you is counting on iterative or secondary natural attacks to hit then they are only going to be hitting you with the first attack.

I did take it into account. It just isn't relevant. The reason is that sometimes you will be fighting the creature with a bunch of small attacks and sometimes you will fight the one with one big attack. If you are able to handle the bonuses on the one big attack then you are fine against the lots of small ones. But the opposite isn't necessarily true.

If your plan is to tank, you should be able to tank in all the situations that come up, not just the common fights against lots of creatures who are low CR to you, or ones with iterative attacks (heck, just keep moving and they can only hit you once).

Lune wrote:
And you didn't take into consideration party buffs which very likely would be taking place in the type of boss encounters that you are referring to. Or, you know... combat expertise and/or fighting defensively.

My point is that you have to plan for additional ways to get AC, you can't just fall into it with out thinking. If you need party buffs, then you need to be asking for them (which is reasonable). But a lot of parties out there won't really think of it if you are not asking.

Lune wrote:
If you stick around these boards for a bit I think you will see that it isn't very hard to hit with the builds that you see posted frequently. Especially if you don't use some sub-optimal choice like the NPC Warrior class when comparing to PC classes.

<sigh> if only I had been around these boards for a while longer, I might have picked up on that.

Did you really take it as me saying that warrior was a good build for a tank? Really?

Sean Mahoney


AC a huge struggle when you attract more than half of the hits for the entire party, and causing even two attacks against you to turn from hits to misses would be a blessing. That other party members desire 'special' ac bonuses from items like natural, deflection, etc. makes it harder to reach a strong ac.


It feels to me about balanced if
the party hit on a 8+, and
the monsters on a 15+

although lots high level baddies have terrible AC so in the KM campaign , mod 5-6, the party often hit on a 2+


1 person marked this as a favorite.

As a dm,I always ask how players look. Intelligent monsters will tend to simply ignore high ac low damage builds. I.e., a tank needsmore than good ac. You actually need to be a threat.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Furious Kender wrote:
As a dm,I always ask how players look. Intelligent monsters will tend to simply ignore high ac low damage builds. I.e., a tank needsmore than good ac. You actually need to be a threat.

Interestingly, the PC whose recent leveling to 7th (and acquisition of several thousand gold) prompted me to make this thread would definitely look like a target: light armor, and a tendency to bend reality to his will. (Just took his first level of Eldritch Knight.)

:D

Qadira

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Card Game, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Ever since the LG days, my rule of thumb for being a viable AC-focused character is 20+Character Level before buffs, fighting defensively, or anything else. It still holds up pretty well.

Of course, in my case I'm not building to "tank," I'm building to stand in the front lines with the melee types to provide flanks, block access to casters and ranged attackers, and be able to heal people when they're hurt. (High AC Dwarf Cleric).


Jiggy wrote:
Furious Kender wrote:
As a dm,I always ask how players look. Intelligent monsters will tend to simply ignore high ac low damage builds. I.e., a tank needsmore than good ac. You actually need to be a threat.

Interestingly, the PC whose recent leveling to 7th (and acquisition of several thousand gold) prompted me to make this thread would definitely look like a target: light armor, and a tendency to bend reality to his will. (Just took his first level of Eldritch Knight.)

:D

Yeah, that sounds like a good plan. I dmed for an archer who always stood near the front. The monsters always though he would be fragile, so they would rush past the 'tanks' and attack him. However, he had the best ac in the party, something like 18 or 20 plus level.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

AC is designed to be outstripped by attack bonuses at higher levels, so simply adding numbers to the Monster Creation High Attack value won't work.


Cheapy wrote:
AC is designed to be outstripped by attack bonuses at higher levels, so simply adding numbers to the Monster Creation High Attack value won't work.

Not disagreeing with you, but can you explain that? (this is the type of thing that I think adds a lot to the discussion).

Sean


Sean: Being that your initial post talked about a Warrior (NPC class) using PC character wealth rather than NPC wealth I'm not sure why you were expecting anyone to think that you were actually referring to the NPC class. Besides that I'm not sure why anyone intending to play the role of the party tank would actually play an NPC class. So, no, I really do not understand why you used Warrior as your benchmark. That was kinda my point.

Taldor

I think the reason that he used Warrior as his benchmark is because if a Warrior can do it, then just about anyone can if they focus on it.


1st lvl, switch hitter 16 frontline 18. minimums. 5th its like 23 and 25. 10th I'm gonna say 30ish for both, 15th near to 40 and 20th high 40's. Again minimums in my opinion.

Paizo / Messageboards / Paizo Publishing / Pathfinder® / Pathfinder RPG / Advice / Armor Class Benchmarks All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.

©2002–2014 Paizo Inc.®. Need help? Email customer.service@paizo.com or call 425-250-0800 during our business hours: Monday–Friday, 10 AM–5 PM Pacific Time. View our privacy policy. Paizo Inc., Paizo, the Paizo golem logo, Pathfinder, the Pathfinder logo, Pathfinder Society, GameMastery, and Planet Stories are registered trademarks of Paizo Inc., and Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Pathfinder Adventure Path, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, Pathfinder Player Companion, Pathfinder Modules, Pathfinder Tales, Pathfinder Battles, Pathfinder Online, PaizoCon, RPG Superstar, The Golem's Got It, Titanic Games, the Titanic logo, and the Planet Stories planet logo are trademarks of Paizo Inc. Dungeons & Dragons, Dragon, Dungeon, and Polyhedron are registered trademarks of Wizards of the Coast, Inc., a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc., and have been used by Paizo Inc. under license. Most product names are trademarks owned or used under license by the companies that publish those products; use of such names without mention of trademark status should not be construed as a challenge to such status.