A Bracers of Defense 5e guide is something I looked for – and failed to find – whenever I saw Yasha Nydoorin commission a set on Critical Role. It turns out they’re more popular than I thought but not popular enough for an array of guides to be available.
This is strange to me because the Bracers of Defense are one of the only two bracers – the other being the Bracers of Archery, which I love – in the Basic Rules of 5e. I’m glad they are finally getting the recognition that they deserve.
There have been dozens or more bracers made that are free to the public. But only two of them are vanilla. As much as I love homebrews, there’s something about utilizing what Wizards of the Coast created that makes me happy.
Bracers of Defense – Important Stats
- Item Type – Wondrous
- Rarity – Rare
- Made of – Metal, usually
- Grants – +2 AC if you’re not wearing armor or shield
- Average Cost – 1200 gold (on Critical Role, but DM decides)
- Requirement – Attunement
The Bracers of Defense are often described as beautiful, golden bracers with Middle-Eastern influences. The metal appears to be relatively thin and delicate but strong enough to handle most impacts.
However, the Bracers of Defense don’t have to look a certain way because their imbuement makes them what they are, not what physical material they are made of nor what they look like.
How Attunement Works
If you want to use the Bracers of Defense, you must attune to them. If ownership is transferred, the new owner must attune to the bracers before gaining the AC bonus, even if they’re not wearing armor.
If you want to attune to the Bracers of Defense in 5e, then you have to spend a short rest studying them, touching them, and inspecting them. This is completely reasonable considering a short rest can be one hour long.
I always found it funny that short rests often last longer than an hour or two because no more than that is needed. A pit stop could be considered a short rest and is much more efficient than setting up camp for a short rest.
Best Classes for Bracers of Defense
Because it requires you not to be wearing armor or using a shield, the classes that would normally benefit from bracers may be different than the best classes for the Bracers of Defense.
Any class that decides to go without armor can use these, but I believe these four classes benefit from being armorless the most. Feel free to use a homebrew class, as there are dozens of armorless homebrews.
Monk is the obvious choice for Bracers of Defense. Their fighting style suits the bracers, but even better than that, they don’t wear armor. Like, ever. So giving them these bracers is just what they need.
I genuinely believe that the Bracers of Defense were meant for the Monk, and everyone else just decided to try them out too. The Monk thrives with bracers; for a close-combat fool like this, they could be the difference between life and death.
Sorcerers and Wizards are similar when it comes to armor. As in, they don’t wear any. Wizards are known for dying at the drop of a pin. So, any extra non-armor AC they can get is a huge plus.
Grog from Critical Role is a Barbarian/Fighter that used the Bracers of Defense. Barbarians can wear armor, but they thrive without it. Even just for roleplay reasons, most Barbarians would choose the bracers over armor.
Critical Role Owners – Bracers of Defense
The Bracers of Defense didn’t have much history until Critical Role made them famous. They were beautiful gold-colored bracers that upped the AC if the user didn’t wear armor.
But now, they have been owned by a few renowned NPC and player characters on the show. If you’re not familiar with Critical Role but love DnD, I suggest checking them out.
The notorious (and often nefarious) Wizard wore the Bracers of Defense because she didn’t wear any other armor. They weren’t notable at the time, but they looked good on Delilah Briarwood.
Beauregard Lionett – a Monk – is the only character that buys the Bracers of Defense from a random vendor. The Invulnerable Vagrant sold them to her for 1200 gold, which is where the price comes from.
Beau later tried to deflect arrows with the bracers. This could work in theory since they “add AC,” but bracers can’t actually deflect like a shield. She did, however, manage to use her ki to deflect them instead.
Whenever the party looted a specific NPC who I will not name, Grog was the only party member who didn’t wear armor because he was a Barbarian. Because of this, he was given the Bracers of Defense, which he proudly wore.
Vax is actually the one who found the bracers, but because he couldn’t use them, Vex thought it would be a good idea to give them to Grog. Vex does wear the Bracers of Archery, though.
Yasha Nydoorin loves the bracers so much that she has a set commission from Wursh, an NPC blacksmith. However, the Barbarian didn’t wear them right away because she was already wearing a special breastplate.
In fact, when Yasha’s fans found out that she decided to try to go armorless, they shut it down. I don’t believe she ever went with the armorless set and instead stuck with the breastplate.
How to Gain More AC/Benefits while Wearing Bracers of Defense
It can be difficult to gain anything else when wearing the Bracers of Defense because they don’t work with armor or shields. I’m going to leave out an in-depth bit on increasing your Dexterity, which goes hand-in-hand with the Bracers of Defense method.
Some races gain extra AC, but you have to choose them when you make your character. At this point, you’ve probably found the Bracers of Defense, and now you have to work them into your character.
- Type – Spell
- Level – 1st Level Abjuration
- Casting Time – An Action
- Range – Touch
- Target – Creature who isn’t wearing armor (must have consent)
- Components – V, S, M (cured leather)
- Duration – 8 hours
The Mage Armor Spell is a starting spell for Sorcerers and Wizards. You touch an unarmored ally to use it, and they get a base AC of 13 plus their Dexterity modifier until the spell ends.
The spell will end if they put on armor afterward, so there are no loopholes there. However, you can still wear the Bracers of Defense, and it will add 2 to the total AC. For a first-level spell slot, I’d say it’s worth it if your base AC is less than 13.
Ring of Protection
- Type – Item, Ring
- Rarity – Rare
The Ring of Protection is a simple ring that anyone can wear. It is an item rather than a piece of armor, so it stacks with your Bracers of Defense. When you wear it, you can -1 to your AC and +1 to saving throws.
The ring does require attunement, so you have to spend a short rest studying it before it will be anything but a ring. The limit to the number of magic items that you can be attuned to at once is three, and you can’t attune to more than one copy of a magic item.
There are many homebrew ways to get tattoos that have magical effects and a few licensed ways. In Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, Barrier Tattoo is a wondrous item that requires attunement.
When you have it, you give yourself a tattoo during a short rest, and if you’re not wearing armor, you get AC from 12+ your Dexterity modifier to 18 total. The AC depends on the rarity.
Cloak of Protection
- Type – Item (wondrous)
This cloak gives you +1 to AC and saving throws. It’s a simple item, but it stacks well with the Bracers of Defense because neither are considered armor. Plus, Matthew Mercer described the cloak as “really beautiful.”
The cloak was once sold for 800 gold, so that’s a good base for how much you should charge for it or may find it sold for in your campaign. Anyone can benefit from this cloak.
- Type – Feat
- Requirements – DEX 13+
Defensive Duelist is a situational feat that won’t be useful on many. It only works if you are using a finesse weapon – that you’re proficient with – and someone hits you with a melee attack.
When you have Defensive Duelist, you can use your reaction to add your proficiency bonus to your AC. It will only last for that attack, but it could give you the chance to parry and riposte (aka make them miss.)
- Type – Feat
When you have Dual Wielder, you gain a few handy benefits. The first is a +1 to your AC as long as you are dual-wielding. The second is that you can use two-weapon fighting even with non-light weapons.
Then finally, you can draw or sheath two weapons at a time. This is something that you can’t normally do, but DMs often disregard it. So it’s really the other two effects that are more relevant.
Lucky Custom Magic Item
Spells (Ex. Shield of Faith)
There are a lot of spells that may add AC that will stack with Bracers of Defense. The first one that comes to mind is Sheild of Faith. This spell is 1st level but can only be used by a Cleric or Paladin.
When you cast it, you get to choose a creature within range (60ft), and it gains +2 AC for 10 minutes or until concentration breaks. There are plenty more like this, but Shield of Faith is a bonus action spell, which is one of my favorite things.
Question: Is There more than One Pair of Bracers of Defense?
Answer: Yes. The Bracers of Defense is an item that any good mage or enchanter can make. There are plenty of them, and more of them are being made all of the time. However, their rarity depends on your region and campaign.
Question: Does Wild Shape Gain Bracers of Defense Effect?
Answer: This is a question for your DM. The rules say that some magic items can remain, but it depends on whether it makes sense or not. So I would guess that it matters which animal you turn into and if the Wild Shape could actually wear bracers.
Question: Does Bracers of Defense Stack with Other Items?
Answer: They can. If you’re not wearing armor or using a shield, then your bracers will stack with the item. So you can add more AC or magical effects, depending on the item.
Question: Can I Make Bracers of Defense Out of a Different Material?
Answer: Even though on Critical Role, the bracers are always metal, the PHB doesn’t specify. You can make them out of anything your DM will let you make them out of. Bone, wood, and even leather all make sense.
Question: Can You Wear more than One Pair of Bracers of Defense?
Answer: No. You can only attune to one Bracers of Defense at a time. You may be able to technically wear two of them if one of them is loose, but you can’t gain AC from two pairs.
Bracers of Defense 5e Guide: Worth It Or Not?
The Bracers of Defense are worth it if you don’t wear armor or use shields. If you do wear armor and it gives you more AC than the bracers would, then it’s not worth it. This may sound obvious, but it takes a bit of math to figure it out.
Classes like the Monk and Wizard benefit from the bracers without risking anything. Then classes like the Paladin need their armor. It’s the classes in-between that it’s difficult to decide on.
I love the aesthetic of the bracers, and I would love to wear bracers in real life. But it’s not something that’s worth losing magical armor over. So it really depends on how good your armor happens to be.
- Augury 5e Guide – The Vaguest and Coolest Cleric Spell - September 5, 2022
- Roc 5e Guide – The Big, Dumb Bird You Don’t Want To See - September 5, 2022
- Best Drow Name Ideas – From Alvin to Sânziana - August 30, 2022