From the classic knight in shining armor to the amazon princesses, and a certain bow-wielding elf we all know and love, fighters embody the classic fantasy heroes we all grew up with. They have the potential to take over combat, tell deeply emotional stories, and lead armies to victory against all odds. If that’s the case, why do some find them to be “vanilla” or “boring” when it comes to Dungeons & Dragons? Maybe people are just doing it wrong. Let’s take a look at this incredible class and go over how to make the perfect fighter for you!
What is a Fighter?
Although fighters are among the most diverse classes in D&D, there is one powerful common thread that links them all. They all know how to fight and they are simply the best at it. I know there are some that may have to read that sentence again, so I’ll say it again. Fighters are the best at fighting. It’s in the name for a reason. The thing that separates the fighter from barbarians and paladins is their intense martial discipline. That discipline is reflected in base features like Second Wind and the highly coveted Action Surge.
Nobody can tank damage like a barbarian, but the fighter has so many tools at their disposal that make their resilience second to none. Where the barbarian might not concern themselves with taking damage, the fighter may avoid it altogether. When it comes to dealing damage? The fighter wins there too. Barbarians get the extra attack feature like a fighter does, but fighters get three attacks at level 11 and eventually even four at level 20…FOUR ATTACKS PER ROUND! Not to mention all the tactical benefits they gain from choosing a fighting style. This is not to throw shade at the barbarian at all. They can do things that no other class can and some of my favorite moments playing Dungeons & Dragons have come when I say the phrase, “I would like to rage”. It’s just that pound for pound, no class can match the consistent and reliable damage output of the fighter.
Variations Within the Class
“No two fighters are the same” is a common saying. Sure you can find similarities between any two fighters, but there are as many fighters as there are ways to fight. This is reflected so well in their choice of subclass. Want to keep things simple? Champion fighters can expand their critical threat range and have hero moments more often. Want to augment your fighting abilities with magic? Choose Eldritch Knight or become an Arcane Archer. Do you crave tactical combat and want to control the battlefield or possibly lead your party to victory? The Battlemaster has access to maneuvers that you can perform all over the battlefield that will let you break some of the most foundational rules of the game.
It’s very common to see other classes choose to multi-class into a fighter because so many robust class features are front-loaded. Adding just one level of fighter will give any character proficiency in light and medium armor, shields, all weapons, a fighting style, and the Second Wind feature. Take another level to gain Action Surge, and even another if you want to choose a subclass and really flavor your build.
How Does One Become a Fighter?
When creating a character, it’s important to think about how they became a member of their class. Fighters are no different and in fact, this is yet another area in which they shine. The classic route might be that you were trained as a soldier and during your training, you just stood above the rest of the other soldiers. You might be of noble heritage and trained as a valiant knight that follows a code of honor. You could even be self-taught because you had a tendency to get in a lot of fights as a kid and you figured out how to win time and time again. It’s a very open-ended thing to consider and it can/should flavor everything about how they interact with the world around them as they adventure.
Fighters possess a particular set of skills that are always in demand. They might be a mercenary just trying to make a living doing what they know. They could be deeply religious and apply their talents in service to a church. Maybe they help rob from the rich and give to the poor because they see a deep injustice in the world around them and they are passionate about a particular cause.
Inspiration For Your Fighter in Pop Culture
As with any class, there are going to be plenty of examples you can find in pop culture and fighters are no different. In fact, you might have more examples of fighters to draw inspiration from than any other class. Game of Thrones has them everywhere. Jaime Lannister is a fighter with a reputation of skill that would strike fear into the heart of any who dare to challenge him. Wonder Woman is a fantastic example too! She trained and honed her body and skills into the perfect fighting warrior. She even has divine inspiration and a code of honor to follow. And who could forget the legendary Legolas? Many automatically associate ranged warriors with rangers, but I think he is a fighter. There are plenty of examples of him using his Action Surge throughout the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy! Any of these examples would be a fantastic place to start when thinking about the kind of fighter you want to play.
Talk to Your DM
Before you play your first session there are some things to discuss with your DM about your fighter. This will largely be determined by the kind of fighter you are trying to play. Fighters use weaponry so gear will naturally be good to talk go over. Did you go for a dexterity build and want to use ranged weapons? Do you go sword and board to brandish your shield and protect your allies? Perhaps you just pick up the biggest hammer you can find so you brutally maul your way through enemy after enemy!
Another thing to discuss with your DM is how your concept fits into the campaign setting. If you’re part of an organization, the DM needs to figure out how that will work with the game concept. If you follow a code of honor, the DM should know how you might react in a given situation (or how to torture your character better!). As always make sure you and your DM are on the same page because it can take a mediocre gameplay experience and make it truly special.
If you’d like to learn more about making the perfect fighter for you, check out the video below from JNJtabletop! At the time of this article, they plan on making a series that touches on each class so make sure you subscribe to them for more Dungeons & Dragons content!