Armor Class (abbreviated "AC") is a numeric representation of how hard your character is to hit in melee combat. It has no effect on the likelihood of resisting spells or the amount of damage done by spells. Unlike Hit Points and Spell Points, where the higher the value, the better, in the Bard's Tale games (much like the earlier editions of Dungeons & Dragons), with AC, the lower the value, the better!
"This statistic reflects the level of protection a character has from physical attack. In classic fantasy role-playing style, the armor class starts at 10 for a totally unprotected, unarmored character with low dexterity, and goes down to -10 (called LO) as his protection improves by armor, spells, or other means."AC starts off at a baseline of 10, the easiest to hit, and can go much lower, though the game only shows up to a maximum of -10 (displayed as "LO" in Tales of the Unknown). However, the effects of adding additional protective gear after -10 AC is apparent, and one should not neglect to add additional armor after reaching LO!
In the Remastered Trilogy version of the games, AC beyond -10 is no longer shown as "LO" and instead displays its actual numeric value (-11, -12, etc.)
Factors Affecting Armor Class Edit
Some AC is natural. Having a Dexterity of 15 or greater will reduce AC by 1 point for each point of DX beyond 14, so a character with a DX of 20 has their AC reduced by 6 points. On top of this, Monks have their AC reduced by 1 point for each level of Experience past the 1st - a high level monk with high Dexterity is very hard to hit in melee combat!
For most front-line characters other than the Monk, armor and other items such as certain rings and weapons are the main means of reducing Armor Class. While some basic armor can be purchased for starting characters from Garth's Equipment Shoppe to carry you through starter dungeons such as the Wine Cellar, it is a very good idea to upgrade your armor as much as possible with magic loot from dungeons you're already crawling before attempting the next higher level dungeon for the first time!
"Don't be stingy. Equip your fighters with the best armor, weapon, shield, helmet and gauntlets money can buy. After all, he can't take it with him."Persistent Spells (specifically Mystic Shields) and Bard Songs such as the Traveler's Tune can reduce AC for the entire party, and should be used at all times. Interestingly, in Tales of the Unknown, the Traveler's Tune is more effective if played in the Catacombs or in the third level of the Sewers and other higher-level dungeons, though this does not carry over to Mystic Shields.
Game Mechanics Edit
Interestingly, the game mechanics of Tales of the Unknown seem to also use Armor Class to in place of a character or monster's "Attack Value" to determine whether they can hit another creature's AC! Therefore, knowing the armor class of a given monster can be helpful in determining which targets to prioritize in melee combat, and which can be safely ignored until their more dangerous brethren have been dealt with!