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DnD 5e - The Fighter Handbook

Disclaimer

I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.

Introduction

The Fighter is a fantastic addition to any party. While their skills and tool proficiencies are extremely limited, Fighters excel in combat. They are durable, have great armor, and provide plenty of damage output. Feats and class options allow for Fighters to fill a variety of roles, including as a Defender and a Striker, and Fighters work with a variety of interesting builds. A bit of work allows the Fighter to also serve as a Face or Librarian, though they won't excel in those roles as much as a Rogue or a Wizard.

Fighter Class Features

Hit Points: d10 hit points is standard for martial characters, and it's plenty to keep you going, especially with heavy armor and abilities like Second Wind.

Saves: Strength saves are fairly rare, but Constitution saves are common and typically very problematic.

Proficiencies: All weapons, armor, and shields, but you get no tool proficiencies, and only two skills.

Fighting Style: One of the Fighter's iconic abilities, and a great reason to multiclass into Fighter.

Second Wind: A bit of healing can be very helpful, but it's not a lot of healing, and you can reasonably expect to use abilities which recharge on a short rest 2 to 3 times per adventuring day.

Action Surge: An extra action allows you to do a lot of really great things, including a pile of additional attacks. This is a good reason for nearly any class to multiclass into Fighter.

Martial Archetype: See "Subclasses - Martial Archetypes", below.

Extra Attack: Fighters get more attacks than anyone but the Monk.

Indomitable: Fantastic for saves which take you out of a fight, but don't waste it on things which are just going to hit you with a bit of damage.

Subclasses - Martial Archetypes

Abilities

Fighters can be built in many ways. Strength-based Fighters are the simplest, but finesse fighters, archers, and Eldritch Knights all have different needs.

Str: Strength-based Fighters need Strength above anything else. Everyone else can dump it. Eldritch Knights should go for high Strength, too, since they need to be in heavy armor to avoid adding additional dependencies on Dexterity to have a reasonable AC.

Dex: Strength-based Fighters will be wearing heavy armor, so they can dump Dexterity. Archers and Finesse rely almost exclusively on Dexterity, so they need as much as they can get. Eldritch Knights can dump dexterity just like normal Strength-based fighters.

Con: Every fighter needs hit points.

Int: Eldritch Knights need a bit for their spells, but if you avoid spells which call for saving throws you can get away with almost nothing.

Wis: Helpful for Perception and Survival.

Cha: Only useful for saves and Intimidate, but a Fighter rarely makes a good Face.

Strength-Based Melee Eldritch Knight Finesse/Archery
Point Buy Standard Array Point Buy Standard Array Point Buy Standard Array
  • Str: 15
  • Dex: 10
  • Con: 15
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 9
  • Str: 15
  • Dex: 8
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 13
  • Cha: 12
  • Str: 15
  • Dex: 8
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 14
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 8
  • Str: 15
  • Dex: 8
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 13
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 10
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 15
  • Con: 15
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 13
  • Cha: 10
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 15
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 13
  • Cha: 12

Races

Fighters need a race which plays to their build. Archers, melee Fighters, finesse-based melee Fighters, and Eldritch Knights all require different things. Generally, bonuses to physical ability scores are key.

AarakocraEEPC: Bonus Dexterity and the ability to fly out of reach are perfect for archer builds.

AasimarVGTM: Very tempting for purple dragon knights. Each subrace offers a unique active ability and a different ability score increase, and the base race's Charisma will help you serve as a face. Darkvision is great on a class that can't get it on its own, and Healing Hands is great for a front-line class.

BugbearVGTM: Able to fill a variety of fighter builds.

Dwarf: Dwarves make excellent Fighters. Their bonus Constitution provides more hit points, and Dwarves get Darkvision and resistance to poison. Many of the Dwarf's free proficiencies are wasted because Fighters already get them, but even without those benefits Dwarves are still excellent Fighters.

DragonbornPHB: The Strength bonus is nice, and the breath weapon is fun, but if you need AOE damage play an Eldritch Knight.

ElfPHB: A Dexterity bonus makes Elves obvious choices for Finesse Fighters and Archers. Free Perception proficiency and Darkvision are both welcome on any character.

FirbolgVGTM: A little bit of Strength and some useful magic abilities, but not much that specifically caters to the fighter.

GenasiEEPC: A Constitution bonus is always welcome on front-line characters like Fighters, and the Genasi subraces allow for some interesting options for different Fighter builds.

Gnome: An Intelligence bonus doesn't help any Fighter unless they're an Eldritch Knight, and Gnome Cunning won't help you much since you're not proficient with Wisdom or Charisma saves, and your Wisdom and Charisma are low.

GoblinVGTM: Nimble Escape gives you the most important parts of Cunning Action, allowing you to hit-and-run much like a rogue. The Dexterity bonus works great for a finesse fighter. However, since the fighter is typically the party's front line it can be hard to have the fighter running away from enemies instead of trying to hold them in place.

GoliathVGTM/EEPC: Tailor-made to be a melee Monster. Bonuses to your important abilities, free Athletics proficiency, and Stone's Endurance adds a pile to your effective daily hit point total.

Half-ElfPHB:

Half-Elf: Strength-based Fighters aren't great with skills, but a Half-Elf with decent Dexterity and a bit of Charisma could serve as a Face, and might be able to pick up some crucial Rogue skills with the right Background. Purple Dragon Knights work especially well as Half-Elves.

Half-OrcPHB: Relentless Endurance brings some of the Barbarian's durability, and Savage Attacks is extremely potent when combined with the Champion Fighter's improved critical range.

HalflingPHB: A bonus to Dexterity makes the Halfling great for both Finesse and Archery builds, and Lucky is fantastic when you make as many attacks as a Fighter does.

HobgoblinVGTM: An interest option for Eldritch Knights. Saving Face will help cover the difference in your attack bonus until you get enough ability score increases to buff your Strength a bit.

HumanPHB: Versatile and fantastic at everything.

KenkuVGTM: An interesting option for stealthy fighters, the kenku's free skils overlap with the rogue's quite a bit. Be sure to pick up proficiency with thieve's tools from your background.

KoboldVGTM: With easy access to Advantage from Pack Tactics, it's really easy to rely on things like the Sharpshooter feat which normally present accuracy issues.

LizardfolkVGTM: Perhaps surprisingly, the lizardfolk makes an excellent Dexterity-based fighter. With 20 Dexterity you can match full plate AC without wearing armor, and the lizardfolk's other traits offer great options to keep you alive.

OrcVGTM: Half-orc is strictly better.

TabaxiVGTM: Similar to the kenku, the tabaxi makes an excellent rogue-ish fighter.

Tiefling: Vanilla Tieflings aren't great as Fighters simply due to their ability scores, but look at Feral. Darkvision and Fire resistance are both great, and the bonus spells can be very helpful, especially Hellish Rebuke.

TritonVGTM: Good ability score increases and some innate spellcasting.

Yuan-Ti PurebloodVGTM: Nothing useful for the Fighter.

Skills

Background

Fighters don't really need a lot of skills, so pick up whatever fits your concept. Eldritch Knights have the Intelligenc to back up knowledge skills, and Purple Dragon Knights have the Charisma to be a Face.

Feats

Weapons

There are essentially no wrong choices for Fighters. Every build has at least one good option.

Armor

Spells

This is not a comprehensive guide to every available spell, as that would be an exercise in madness. The following is a brief compilation of the most notable spells available to the class. Spells available via Magic Initiate are also excluded; for suggestions for Magic Initiate, see the "Feats" section, above.

This section applies almost exclusively to Eldritch Knights.

Cantrips

Multiclassing