Monk AC Bonus; What constitutes as Armor RAW and RAI


Rules Questions


I was reading up on the ability and this is what I'm curious about;
When unarmored and unencumbered, the monk adds his Wisdom bonus (if any) to his AC and CMD. In addition, a monk gains a +1 bonus to AC and CMD at 4th level. This bonus increases by 1 for every four monk levels thereafter, up to a maximum of +5 at 20th level.

These bonuses to AC apply even against touch attacks or when the monk is flat-footed. He loses these bonuses when he is immobilized or helpless, when he wears any armor, when he carries a shield, or when he carries a medium or heavy load.

What's the definition of armor in this situation? Is it anything that grants an armor bonus, or is made with the intent to be used as armor? If so, would that mean that Bracers of Armor nullifies the AC Bonus?

It's a stupid question, but I'm trying not to ruin the fun for a party member who plays a 'versatile' War Priest.


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Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Does it grant an armor bonus AND occupy the 'armor' slot ? Then it's armor.


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If it is listed as armor or a shield in the equipment section of a sourcebook it is armor. Otherwise it is not.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

What SlimGauge said.


I don't know why either, but my GM looked at the Unchained Monk when I proposed it as a character, and she questioned the whole "AC Bonus" aspect. The Warpriest is going heavy AC, trying to make himself impossible to hit, while still wrecking house with damage. I feel like he's lackluster because the Ranger is doing insane damage, and I'm doing a minimum of 8 damage with each attack, as a swashtigator.

When I say "Questioned" I mean that she's worried I'll outpace the Warpriest and ruin his fun, making him want to quit. I don't want it either, but the Unchained Monk and Warpriest are classes with scaling damage, and he's got a 3/4ths BAB compared to my full BAB.

I just want to have fun, and I think my fun will be found in an abnormal monk.

The Exchange

Bracers of armor does not count. In fact in some of the early Adventure Paths, the ones with pregens in the back, Sajan often wore bracers of armor and still got his monk bonus. Still does in the level 4 and 7 PFS pregens.

You won't outpace the warpriest in a toe-to-toe slugfest. The warpriest makes up for the 3/4 BAB with great self-buffing (Fervor up a divine favor every fight) and access to feats that are normally fighter-only like Weapon Specialization. Most likely he'll do a bit more damage with a full attack but you will be more mobile.

As far as armor goes: bear in mind that while you will need 64,000 gp to get +8 bracers of armor, the warpriest only has to spend 26,650 gp for +5 fullplate (which is a total of +14 to AC).


Well I appreciate the answers I've received. So as far as I can gather, the warpriest will outpace me because of access to divine magic. So there really isn't anything I can do with my unchained monk, within the rules, to outpace a warpriest in AC, right?

Even if I were to have the Qinggong Power (Barkskin)?

Grand Lodge

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It's really odd that there's such a focus on whether you'll out scale a Warpriest's AC. Different party members have different AC. Who cares who has a higher one?


You should be able to win in AC pretty easily. WP is looking at full plate +9 dex +1 and then normal upgrades as they probably won't "waste" fervor to quicken a shield of faith for a little AC.
A monk just needs to get this 10 AC and then they win. Wis 3, dex 2, mage armor 4, monk AC increase 1 and barkskin being faster than an amulet already is putting you over the AC the WP is likely to have.
It's just in overall combat they will likely perform better.


Pathfinder Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

The Unchained Monk should definitely outdo the Warpriest in terms of offensive melee capability, as an example of a capability where the former is clearly superior.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

When one melee has less AC than another melee, they become the target of all possible attacks because they are 'easier to hit'.

Having close or pretty close 'hard to hit' ACs will change that dynamic.


BlingerBunny wrote:

Well I appreciate the answers I've received. So as far as I can gather, the warpriest will outpace me because of access to divine magic. So there really isn't anything I can do with my unchained monk, within the rules, to outpace a warpriest in AC, right?

Even if I were to have the Qinggong Power (Barkskin)?

If you go dexterity based you'll be able to keep pace with the warpriest on AC.

At lower levels buy a couple of pearls of power and ask the groups arcane caster to hit you with mage armor.


I'd go with a wand of Mage Armour instead of a pearl: 750gp instead of 1000gp, and doesn't require the caster to know or prepare MA. And can be used by a sorcerer. Or UMD'd. And shared between PCs and ACs without eating spell slots. It's 50 hours of sweet protection which should be good for several levels before it goes obsolete.


Mudfoot wrote:
I'd go with a wand of Mage Armour instead of a pearl: 750gp instead of 1000gp, and doesn't require the caster to know or prepare MA. And can be used by a sorcerer. Or UMD'd. And shared between PCs and ACs without eating spell slots. It's 50 hours of sweet protection which should be good for several levels before it goes obsolete.

Personal preference.

Pearls never run out, can be used for any spell, and use the party mages caster level.

If your party has a spontaneous caster instead of a prepared, runestones cost a bit more but do the same thing.

A neat trick for the pearl at higher level is have the caster put a personal spell (e.g. Shield or Longarms) into a cracked vibrant purple crystal.


A monk can be pretty tanky with a bit of effort. If you went all out with some scaled fist, crane style, cautious defender, cautious warrior, osyluth's guile type build you'd likely be able to crush him.


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David knott 242 wrote:

The Unchained Monk should definitely outdo the Warpriest in terms of offensive melee capability, as an example of a capability where the former is clearly superior.

Your statement it a bit confusing to me...

However it sounds like you're saying that you think the Unchained Monk is able to deal more damage and is more capable at offense then the Warpriest. I have to say that it's terribly untrue, due to the insane amount of buffing that Warpriest can do that will keep them on top. Especially when combined with things like Molthuni Arsenal Chaplain Warpriest archetype.

Unchaiend Monks will however be able to outpace the Warpriest in the AC department, if they choose to focus on it. However this will also hurt their melee capability as well.


Well, I'm actually changing my build-plan a bit, my goal is to dole out a ton of damage as quickly as possible. So I'm dipping two levels in master of many styles with a brawler build to mix Pummeling and Jabbing styles. MAXIMUM EFFORT!!! If I'm right about it, I'd be doling out an extra d6 of damage with each consecutive hit after the first, and it'd all stack together via pummeling style, before DR is applied.

You guys helped me greatly with this. I'll work with my friend to see if we can pull of a powerful flanking pain-train.


dipping in the archetype Master of many styles with Unchained monk?

Grand Lodge

Master of Many Styles can't be chosen with Unchained Monk.


Jurassic Pratt wrote:
Master of Many Styles can't be chosen with Unchained Monk.

But you can pair MoMS with levels in the Brawler class, which I believe is the plan if you read closely.


Might I suggest the item Monk's Robe? It's a Wondrous Item that goes in the Body slot. It increases your monk's AC Bonus and Unarmed Strike damage by 5 levels.


PossibleCabbage wrote:
Jurassic Pratt wrote:
Master of Many Styles can't be chosen with Unchained Monk.
But you can pair MoMS with levels in the Brawler class, which I believe is the plan if you read closely.

The whole point was to figure out what constitutes as armor, RAW and RAI. Monks, vanilla & unchained, lose their AC bonus when wearing any armor. Bracers are, by definition armor that goes over your forearms, so that's why I was inquiring.

Side addendum; I'm still heavily debating. I've got several character ideas, and I'm struggling to decide which one I should use if my current character dies.

It'd either be a brawler or monk that ran away from home to avoid an arranged marriage, and her adventures draw her to the Worldwound to test her mettle against the demons that spew from it. The choices here are a Pummeling Style Brawler, or a Jabbing Style UMonk, both of which are rather fun build ideas. The first based on STR, and the second on DEX.

Or a Tiefling Arcanist that was subject to magical mishap, being caught in the backfire of a failed polymorphing spell. She is now an Anthropomorphic Sheep, wandering after artifacts in hopes that she can reverse the effects. The accident was in the mana wastes between Nex and Geb. Her teacher was attempting to restore the magical equilibrium to a portion of the wastes.


Mudfoot wrote:
I'd go with a wand of Mage Armour instead of a pearl: 750gp instead of 1000gp, and doesn't require the caster to know or prepare MA. And can be used by a sorcerer. Or UMD'd. And shared between PCs and ACs without eating spell slots. It's 50 hours of sweet protection which should be good for several levels before it goes obsolete.

Always have a potion or two of it incase no one can use the wand.

Scarab Sages

BlingerBunny wrote:
PossibleCabbage wrote:
Jurassic Pratt wrote:
Master of Many Styles can't be chosen with Unchained Monk.
But you can pair MoMS with levels in the Brawler class, which I believe is the plan if you read closely.

The whole point was to figure out what constitutes as armor, RAW and RAI. Monks, vanilla & unchained, lose their AC bonus when wearing any armor. Bracers are, by definition armor that goes over your forearms, so that's why I was inquiring.

Except that they are not armor. RAW or RAI. They are arm guards (a category of item which can include Archery accessories), leather or metal, that house an enchantment for a magical armor bonus, but do not occupy the armor slot. If you, theoretically, put mage armor permanently on a shirt, it does not become armor. Or are you arguing that mage armor costs a monk their monk abilities? In the ABP rules from unchained, clothing getting the armor enhancement is treated as having AC 0 so you can get an armor bonus without wearing armor. If you accept this AC bonus, do you lose all of your monk abilities? RAW, 'armor' is anything that occupies the armor slot. Spells or Magical items providing an armor bonus are not armor.

It is generally expected that you gain some level of magical armor enhancement, even if you do not wear armor. Either by spells or magical items. This can be seen in the ABP options, which recognise Armor bonuses as part of the 'Big 6' options the rules expect you to be investing in.


BlingerBunny wrote:
PossibleCabbage wrote:
Jurassic Pratt wrote:
Master of Many Styles can't be chosen with Unchained Monk.
But you can pair MoMS with levels in the Brawler class, which I believe is the plan if you read closely.
The whole point was to figure out what constitutes as armor, RAW and RAI. Monks, vanilla & unchained, lose their AC bonus when wearing any armor. Bracers are, by definition armor that goes over your forearms, so that's why I was inquiring.

To expand on burkoJames's point: Bracers are, by RAW and RAI, not armor. Armor in Pathfinder

  • Occupies the Armor slot
  • Has an associated category (Light, Medium, Heavy) with a required proficiency
  • Grants an armor bonus to AC
  • It has a maximum Dex bonus associated (even for armor like a Haramaki, this exists, it's just "—")
  • Has an associated Armor Check Penalty
  • Gives an Arcane Spell Failure Chance
  • May affect the character's Speed.
Bracers of Armor +X take up the Wrist slot and are a Wondrous Item that grant an armor bonus to AC. They are not a piece of armor as defined by the game, and are not intended to be such. This is why they're a favorite of classes that typically eschew armor, such as Wizards and Monks. Check the difference between Armor and Bracers of Armor if you are feeling skeptical.

You could make an argument that Bracers would colloquially be considered "armor." I think that this argument is factually incorrect, unless you would also consider leather gloves to be "armor," but you could make it. In the Pathfinder system, however, it's not really up to debate. "Armor" is defined in-game, and Bracers of Armor +X do not qualify.


I'm not skeptical, I know it's magical and not classified as armor. I just don't want my GM to fiat my character and effectively ruin my enjoyment for the game.

It's hard enough having scent and not being able to use it as frequently as I'd like. I'm pretty sure oozes have odor, don't they?


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BlingerBunny wrote:

I'm not skeptical, I know it's magical and not classified as armor. I just don't want my GM to fiat my character and effectively ruin my enjoyment for the game.

It's hard enough having scent and not being able to use it as frequently as I'd like. I'm pretty sure oozes have odor, don't they?

I mean, maybe the reason that oozes don't evaporate is just that their vapor pressure is insanely low and there's nothing to smell ... <.< ... >.> ... Yeah, I can't really justify that one. You should be able to smell an ooze with scent.

Ultimately, if your GM is aggressively and stubbornly house ruling, there's only so much you can do about it. Hopefully your GM is reasonable on the majority of rulings (including Bracers of Armor), though it sounds like that might not be the case. Best of luck, because this one is pretty cut and dry.


Belafon wrote:
You won't outpace the warpriest in a toe-to-toe slugfest. The warpriest makes up for the 3/4 BAB with great self-buffing (Fervor up a divine favor every fight) and access to feats that are normally fighter-only like Weapon Specialization. Most likely he'll do a bit more damage with a full attack but you will be more mobile.

Actually, a well-build unMonk will do noteably more damage. The Warpriest has other uses, of course - I know who I'd rather have if I need a Lesser Restoration!

BlingerBunny wrote:
I'm not skeptical, I know it's magical and not classified as armor. I just don't want my GM to fiat my character and effectively ruin my enjoyment for the game.

I'm legally not allowed to suggest punching out your GM for being an utter jerk, so I'm not able to respond to this post.

Serious answer: BoA's description includes the following: "They surround the wearer with an invisible but tangible field of force, granting him an armor bonus of +1 to +8, just as though he were wearing armor." Emphasis mine. Per the definition of the words, "as though" makes a comparison, and thus can not possibly mean "it is that".
Also, Bracers or Armor are not in the "armor" section (pgs. 149-153) of the CRB, but on pg. 504, in the "wondrous item" section. Per definition on pg. 496, "This is a catch all category for anything that doesn’t fall into the other groups." Again, emphasis mine. Magic armor is on of the mentioned "other groups", so a wondrous item can't, per that definition, be magic armor.


This is mainly why I want to find another group to play with. I know she's a greenhorn GM, and she wants everyone to have fun equally... I just really need to sit down with the group and let em' know how I feel about this whole situation.

I've got a bad case of poor self-esteem. As an attempted trap detector, and the only one with perception and disable device maxed, I still failed because of poor rolls and well placed traps. I'm even running around takin' 20s to find these things, and I still manage to muck it up, so my friend jokes with me about it. It hurts because I'm the only one in the party that can do the job. It makes me want to stop playing the character and do my own thing, which would invariably clash with the rest of the party.


PossibleCabbage wrote:
Jurassic Pratt wrote:
Master of Many Styles can't be chosen with Unchained Monk.
But you can pair MoMS with levels in the Brawler class, which I believe is the plan if you read closely.

My mistake then, I understood as he was playing an Unchained Monk and wanted to "dip" into master of many styles. Yeah, if he goes Brawler and then dips into CRB Monk with master of many styles archetype that can be done.

Silver Crusade

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Why don't you just ask your GM?

I mean it may not give you the correct RAW answer but it will give you the one you have to play by, or at least start a discussion that should lead there.

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