The biggest potential impediment to a naked adventurer is that they don’t have armor. For some classes this is par for the course, but for those that normally rely on heftier protection, some measures need to be taken not to be a sitting duck in a fight.
This is trickiest at 1st level, as higher level characters have far more options for protecting themselves. Most typical characters at 1st level have an Armor Class between 13 and 16 without a shield, with most having 14 or 15. It is difficult (but not impossible) to rival a paladin, fighter, or cleric in heavy armor with a shield, but for melee “tank” characters, the AC of a dual-wield or two-handed weapon character in heavy armor is quite achievable even at first level with a trick or two.
Barbarians and monks, with their unarmored defense ability, are already fully equipped to fight without armor, as long as you have decent ability scores. A 16 and a 12 (or two 14s) are plenty to hit the goal of 14. Since barbarians can use shields as well, a 14 Constitution and 10 Dexterity will even suffice. With the right lineage options, a barbarian could even begin with 16 Dexterity and 16 Constitution to rival a paladin in terms of defensive capability, though such a barbarian will likely be a bit weaker than typically expected in terms of offense, due to not prioritizing Strength as heavily as is customary.
Sorcerers and wizards, likewise, don’t need any special tricks to get to the goal of 14 AC, as long as they select the mage armor spell, which lasts for an entire average adventuring day and provides better defense than any non-magical light armor. Even a 12 Dexterity is sufficient. With a 16 Dexterity you can rival anyone not using a shield. Draconic bloodline sorcerers do not even need to spend a spell known or spell slot, as their Draconic Resilience effectively provides them with the effects of mage armor at all times.
Classes that normally wear light armor and lack shield proficiency, like bards, rogues, most warlocks, will have the greatest difficulty attaining a 14 AC at first level while nude, as it requires an 18 Dexterity (which is probably inadvisable except for rogues) unless you use some of the other tricks described below. However, these classes normally have only a 13 or 14 AC at 1st level even with their starting armor and are typically the sorts who try to stay out of reach of most of the time anyway, so an AC of 13 from taking 16 Dexterity shouldn’t be an issue.
Classes which wear medium armor—Artificers, Clerics, Druids, Most Fighters, and Hexblade Warlocks—generally also have shield proficiency, which makes the goal of 14 AC much easier to attain without armor, requiring only a 14 Dexterity and a shield.
Heavy armor—as worn by some fighters and clerics as well as most paladins—with its starting AC of 16, is more difficult to achieve at 1st level, requiring an 18 Dexterity unless utilizing some of the following techniques. A 15 is achievable using point buy or an array however, needing only a 16 Dexterity and a shield.
There are also some other methods for achieving a good Armor Class at 1st level. A variant human can access mage armor via the Eldritch Adept or Magic Initiate feats, the shield proficiency through the Moderately Armored feat, or an additional +1 to Armor Class while using two weapons with the Dual Wielder feat. Furthermore, some lineages—such as lizardfolk, loxodons, and locathah (as well as many 3rd party and homebrew lineages)—have natural armor or their own forms of unarmored defense. Warforged also have an innate +1 to their Armor Class, and depending on flavor and descriptions, even their incorporated armor may resemble a nude body. The Defensive Duelist feat, and the Shield and Shield of Faith spells, can also temporarily increase armor class in a pinch, while other abilities such as the Light Domain cleric’s Warding Flare can impose disadvantage on attacks.
Next time on Jaybird’s Guide to Naked Adventuring: Ways to achieve better Armor Classes at higher levels.