A Ring of Protection is an elegantly simple magical item that can keep squishy characters alive and make an unassailable tank even harder to hit.
Today, we’re going to take a look at the Ring of Protection, what it does, who can benefit from using one, where to find such an item, and (in a similar vein to our article on +1 Magic Swords) how dungeon masters can make this mechanically simple item into a memorable piece of loot for a low-level PC.
What Is a Ring of Protection in DnD 5e?
A Ring of Protection is a remarkably simple item that makes for a great low-level reward for just about any adventurer.
A Ring of Protection is a rare magic item that grants any wearer attuned to it a +1 bonus to their Armor Class.
Once the wearer spends an hour attuning to the Ring of Protection, they receive a small boost to their AC, making an already well-armored character just a little harder to hit and giving a lightly-armored PC a critical boost to their survivability.
Ring of Protection
Ring, rare (requires attunement)
You gain a +1 bonus to AC and saving throws while wearing this ring.
Who Should Use a Ring of Protection?
While anyone can use a ring of protection, from the tankiest fighter to the most laughably squishy wizard, some classes get more out of this item than others.
Statistically, a +1 bonus to your AC makes you 5% less likely to be hit.
Obviously, because of the way that to-hit bonuses skew those figures, a character with a lower armor class is actually going to see a more impactful boost in survivability than a character who already has an AC of 18.
However, character intent is also worth considering.
In a party where one character’s purpose is to shield their allies from getting hit at all as much as possible, then that Ring of Protection is going to serve the whole party best when worn by the tanky frontliner.
However, in a party where everyone’s AC (and time spent on the front line) is a lot closer together, using a Ring of Protection to bump up the lowest AC in the party is probably smart.
Classes that tend to have smaller pools of hit points but thrive in melee, like rogues and monks, are great candidates for a Ring of Protection, as are classes that tend to live life one or two critical hits away from death, like wizards and sorcerers.
How Do I Get a Ring of Protection?
The most likely way you’ll get your hands on a Ring of Protection is probably by looting a monster’s hoard.
If your DM tailors magical loot to their party, then low-level magic users and other squishy characters that don’t need or necessarily benefit from a magic weapon (maybe there’s an artificer in the party, or the DM has already handed out four magic knives and wants to mix things up) are prime candidates for this item.
If you roll randomly for treasuring using the tables in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, the Ring of Protection appears as entry number 68 on Treasure Table G.
If you want to be a little more proactive about acquiring a Ring of Protection (there are only so many death saves you can make for your 7 hp wizard without starting to go gray at the temples), then it’s time to track down a magic item shop.
As a rare magic item, a Ring of Protection should be expected to go for around 5,000 gold pieces, although when and where you find one for sale could push that figure either up or down.
For example, an arcane item emporium overflowing with magical gizmos ranging from Staves of Power to an Apparatus of the Crab is probably not going to hold a simple Ring of Protection among its most prized items and may knock the price down a few hundred gold pieces.
A small, traveling merchant who sells largely counterfeit charms and trinkets to wealthy idiots in podunk towns is definitely going to mark their Ring of Protection up by a few hundred percent.
Using Rings of Protection as Dungeon Master
So, I have a problem with pretty much all +1 magic items in D&D 5e.
I go into it in more detail in this article about +1 Magic Swords (why they suck and how to make them maybe not suck so much), but the gist is that items that just move a character’s stat around by a point or two are boring.
They exist for a fleeting moment in a player’s imagination and then fade into nothingness – forgotten as soon as a +2 replacement comes along.
Having a player find a +1 Ring of Protection and telling them “You find a Ring of Protection. Add 1 to your AC” is a nigh-criminal waste of a magic item’s potential.
Magic items (hell, even mundane items) should feel important, badass, and like they’re a part of your world.
They should be things that your players come to cherish and to see as though they’re just as much a part of their character as their spell list or their +3 Constitution modifier.
So, let’s talk about how to do that for a minute.
Now, like with the +1 sword article, I’m not advocating that we make a Ring of Protection interesting by making it also able to cast fireball or rip a hole in between dimensions (that would be pretty tight but would also defeat the purpose of the exercise).
Rather, my point is that how you describe a Ring of Protection and how that +1 AC bonus feels can do a lot of legwork toward fleshing out your world.
In a medium-to-high magic setting, for example, Rings of Protection are likely among one of the more common “must have” items for aspiring adventurers – especially wizards, warlocks, sorcerers, and other classes that can’t benefit from the effects of heavy armor.
Even in a low-magic setting (think Game of Thrones) where magic is rare and, when it does appear, subtle in the ways it affects the world, a Ring of Protection fits right in – its benefits feeling subtle enough that someone wearing it could deny their existence or chalk their resistance to enemy attacks up to luck.
As an aside, I think that too many low-magic settings approach magic by altering the frequency with which it appears, rather than tackling how it is manifested.
For me, low magic is all about plausible deniability – the kind of bad or good fortune that classic horror films like Rosemary’s Baby or The Omen employ.
A +1 AC magic ring fits that mold perfectly. Maybe it’s just lucky or makes enemies unlucky; it never moves the needle far enough to be obviously arcane.
If you’re trying to nail whether your game’s tone is low magic, pulp sword and sorcery, high fantasy, or something else, a Ring of Protection is a surprisingly elegant litmus test.
Mechanically, the effect is much the same, but the way that mechanic is expressed speaks volumes about your world.
Here are three different Rings of Protection that fit with different tones of campaign.
Low Fantasy: A simple gold band, said to have been given to a great champion by his betrothed as a token of protection. It’s hard to put a finger on why, exactly, but you always feel better wearing it. Safer. Like someone is watching over you.
High Fantasy: Crafted by dwarven battle smith in the heart of a volcanic forge, this chunky iron ring emits bright blue flashes of light that turn aside arrows and swords as though for a moment the air between you and your attacker was made from purest mithral.
Pulp Fantasy: A pitted brass band, set with a gemlike bezoar, plucked from the guts of a void goat. Constantly emits a low-level reality readjustment field (not to mention a soft, ethereal bleating sound) that makes enemies miss their mark, trip over their own feet, and misjudge distances.
For DMs who like to homebrew or stitch together their own settings from cannibalized preexisting parts, it’s the small details as well as the large ones that are going to make your world feel cohesive and real.
Nailing the tone of something simple like a Ring of Protection not only ensures that your world feels more like a living, breathing place with its own history, cultures, and aesthetic, but it also means something (to be honest) as boring as a +1 Ring of Protection actually serves a purpose beyond letting your party wizard change their AC from a 10 to an 11.