Defense Bonus

( ⇪ Adventuring Variants )

In a nutshell: Class level bonus to Armor Class (AC), alternative to armor.

In the standard d20 rules, a character’s skill at attacking gets better as he goes up in level — but not so his skill at avoiding attacks. Characters rely on armor and an ever-growing collection of magic items to protect them in combat. But what about campaigns in which it’s not common or appropriate for characters to go everywhere in full plate? Hyperion Voyages is one such campaign setting.

The Class Defense Bonus

In this variant, every character has a defense bonus based on his character level that represents maneuverability training provided by the class. The defense bonus applies to Armor Class (AC), touch AC (unlike an armor bonus), and Combat Maneuver Defense (CMD). However, it does not apply to Flatfooted AC or Flatfooted CMD, and it does not stack with the character’s armor bonus. A character wearing armor gains his armor’s armor bonus (including any enhancement to that bonus) instead of any benefits of his defense bonus to AC, touch AC, and CMD. The defense bonus stacks with all other bonuses to AC, including the character’s shield bonus, natural armor bonus, and so forth.

A character’s defense bonus is derived from his character level and class, as shown on the table below. For a multiclass character, use the highest defense bonus of those offered by the character’s classes. For example, a 2nd-level soulknife has a defense bonus of +3. If the character gains a level of ardent (becoming a 2nd-level soulknife/1st-level ardent), her defense bonus increases to +7, because the ardent’s +7 at 3rd character level is better than the soulknife’s +3 at 3rd character level.

Table: Defense Bonus
Level A B C D
1st +2 +3 +4 +6
2nd +2 +3 +4 +6
3rd +3 +4 +5 +7
4th +3 +4 +5 +7
5th +3 +4 +5 +7
6th +4 +5 +6 +8
7th +4 +5 +6 +8
8th +4 +5 +6 +8
9th +5 +6 +7 +9
10th +5 +6 +7 +9
11th +5 +6 +7 +9
12th +6 +7 +8 +10
13th +6 +7 +8 +10
14th +6 +7 +8 +10
15th +7 +8 +9 +11
16th +7 +8 +9 +11
17th +7 +8 +9 +11
18th +8 +9 +10 +12
19th +8 +9 +10 +12
20th +8 +9 +10 +12

Use the following columns based on armor proficiencies granted by that base class or prestige class:

  • No Proficiencies: Column A
    • Psion, Erudite, Monk, Sorcerer, Wizard, etc.
  • Light Armor: Column B
    • Soulknife, Wilder, Lurk, Psychic Rogue, Bard, Ranger, Rogue, etc.
  • Light and Medium Armor: Column C
    • Barbarian, Druid, etc.
  • All Armor: Column D
    • Psychic Warrior, Ardent, Divine Mind, Cleric, Fighter, Paladin, etc.

Use the same rules for defense bonuses as multiclassing when taking a prestige class (best defense bonus counts).

Monster Defense Bonuses

Monsters do not have inherent defense bonuses unless they also have levels in a class or are normally proficient with armor. When calculating a monster’s defense bonus to AC, do not include the monster’s Racial Hit Dice (RHD) or level adjustment (LA, if any). For example, a typical green dragon, gargoyle or black pudding has no class levels and is not proficient with any armor. Such creatures do not get a defense bonus. If a creature is proficient with one or more types of armor, however, it gains a defense bonus:

  • No Proficiencies: +0
  • Light Armor: +1
  • Light and Medium Armor: +2
  • All Armor: +4

If a creature has levels in a class, it gains a defense bonus just like any other character with a class. This bonus does not stack with any defense bonus the creature may have from armor proficiency.

Immaterial Armor and the Defense Bonus

Mage Armor, Inertial Armor, and other similar immaterial armors stack with a defense bonus, but like other armor, they do not help defend you against touch attacks (unless the effect says otherwise). Unlike other armor, the fact that you’re using immaterial armor does not force you to use your armor bonus instead of your defense bonus.

Meta Analysis: Using the defense bonus variant in your game means that sometimes, at least, characters won’t want to wear armor — their defense bonus provides them with free protection that’s just as good as armor. Funds that would otherwise be spent improving a character’s armor can instead be spent on other gear, which means the characters’ power level will increase slightly.

Characters may still desire the properties of a specific kind of magic armor or of armor special abilities. Be prepared to create new magic/psionic items, such as cloaks, robes, vests, or vestments, to support those desires.

Clearly, the class defense system is best for characters who must choose between going unarmored and risking arcane spell failure — sorcerers and wizards in particular. Classes limited to light or medium armor also flourish under this system, since they can multiclass to gain the benefit of a higher defense bonus.

Spells that affect metal are less useful under this system, since metal armor is less common. Touch attacks are also less effective under this system, since most characters’ touch ACs are significantly higher than in a standard game.

Defense Bonus

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