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DnD 5e - The Fighter Handbook

Last Updated: January 19th, 2021

TEMPORARY NOTE: RPGBOT is undergoing a massive update for DnD 5e content to accommodate rules changes and new content introduced by Tasha's Cauldron of Everything. Please be patient while these changes are made. I maintain this site as a hobby, and I got access to the book on the same day as everyone else and I am rushing to catch up as quickly as I can. Please check "Last Updated" date below the title of each page. If it was updated before November 17th, it has not been updated to include the new content. To see what I still need to complete to catch up with Tasha's, see my To-Do List. To watch for ongoing updates, please follow me on Twitter.

Disclaimer

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

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances.
  • Green: Good options.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.

I will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, even if it is my own, because I can't assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. I also won't cover Unearthed Arcana content because it's not finalized, and I can't guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.

The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials are released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.

Introduction

The Fighter is a fantastic addition to any party. While their skill and tool proficiencies are extremely limited, Fighters excel in combat. They are durable, have great armor, and provide plenty of damage output. Fighters get more Ability Score Increases than any other class, allowing them to easily explore feats without sacrificing crucial ability scores. They also notably get more attacks than any other class, which can be a lot of fun.

Fighters are a great example of "opt-in complexity" in DnD 5e. The core of the class is very simple, but the complexity of the subclasses varies significantly. The Champion adds almost no complexity, while subclasses like the Edlritch Knight can add quite a bit. This makes the Fighter a great choice for players of all experience levels and for players with a broad range of preferences, allowing you to build a character that you find mechanically appealing but without making it more work than you might like. For players totally new to DnD or to tabletop RPGs in general, the Champion Fighter is among the simplest characters in the game and is a great way to learn if you're nervous about learning the game's mechanics.

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 (Purple Dragon Knight) or Librarian, (Eldritch Knight, Psi Warrior) though they won't excel in those roles as much as a Bard or a Wizard whose ability scores are more tailored to those functions. You can also exploe a role as a Scout if you're built around Dexterity, allowing you to succeed with skills like Stealth and with tools like Thieves' Tools.

After reading this handbook, I encourage you to read my Fighter Subclasses Breakdown to choose a subclass and my Fighter Spells Breakdown if you plan to play an Eldrich Knight.

Fighter Class Features

Optional Class Features are detailed below under Optional 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. Your choice of Fighting Style can determine which weapon options work best for you and whether or not it makes to use a shield. If you're totally uncertain, Defense is always a good choice.

The options below include the optional fighting styles introduced in Tasha's Cauldron of Everything. Check with your DM before assuming that those styles are allowed, and while you're having that discussion be sure to discuss the Martial Versatility Optional Class Feature.

  • ArcheryPHB: The obvious choice for ranged builds. +2 to hit is a big deal in a game where a 20th-level character can expect a maximum of +11 to hit. The math of the game gives you a roughly 65% chance to hit when attacking a CR-appropriate creature with average AC, and raising that to 75% feels very satisfying. If you want to take the Sharpshooter feat, this is an absolute must.
  • Blind FightingTCoE (Optional): This one is hard. Blindsight, even at just 10-foot range, is extremely useful. It solves issues of invisible enemies, it helps make up for lack of magical options for Darkvision, and it addresses effects which block line of sight like fog, magical darkness, or other stuff. But those effects don't appear in most encounters, so this is only situationally useful. When it works it's great, but the rest of the time it's useless. Unless you have allies in the party who plan to frequently use magical darkness or other options to obscure vision I would skip this.

    Races which suffer from Sunlight Sensitivity might consider this as a solution to their sunlight issues. If you don a blindfold (or close your eyes), your DM may allow you to overcome the effects of Sunlight Sensitivity by willingly blinding yourself. The text of Sunlight Sensitivity isn't perfectly clear if it only applies to attacks which rely on sight, so this may not work RAW, but the idea makes sense.

  • DefensePHB: Not very exciting, but since AC scales so little in 5e a +1 can be a big difference. Defense also doesn't lock you into using one type of weapon, so if you like to change weapons to suit the situation Defense can be a great choice.
  • DuelingPHB: Note that this works while using a shield. 2 damage closes the damage gap between a longsword and a two-handed weapon like a greataxe or greatsword (4.5->6.5 vs. 6.5/7), so you can have the damage of a two-handed weapon with the AC of sword-and-board.
  • Great Weapon FightingPHB: This adds an average of just over 1 damage per attack on average, and even then only with a greatsword. If you're using a greatsword, the average increase in damage per round is roughly equivalent to Archery, but if you plan to use two-handed weapons other than a greatsword (grataxe, polearms, etc.), pick up Defense instead to compensate for lack of a shield.
  • InterceptionTCoE (Optional): Conceptually similar to Protection, but there's no nuance in how the two styles protect your target. Protection imposes Disadvantage, so if there's a good chance that the attack would miss it's the better choice. Interception reduces the damage, so it always work but for big attacks it won't negate the whole attack. The decision between the two comes down to who you're going to be protecting. If you're protecting other allies with decent AC (a melee cleric or rogue, for example), go for Protection. If you're protecting allies with awful AC (most wizards), Disadvantage won't help much so go for Interception.
  • ProtectionPHB: Tempting for Defender builds, but allies need to remain adjacent to you for this to work. Being adjacent to the front line tank is generally a bad place to be unless you can do so safely without someone defending you. This also appeals to mounted combat builds because you can use to compensate for your mount's relative fragility, but if you're going that route you really need the Mounted Combatant feat which lets you retarget attacks at yourself instead.
  • Superior TechniqueTCoE (Optional) If you're going for Battle Master and just can't wait for level 3, this is really tempting. But numerically this isn't a great choice. You'll get much more mileage out of a style which adds to all of your attacks like Dueling, and if you're desperate for Superiority Dice you can go for Custom Lineage or Variant Human and take the Martial Adept to get two maneuvers and one die at first level. If you're high level and happy with your ability scores, you can take both Martial Adept and Fighting Initiate (Superior Technique) to get a total of three maneuvers known and two dice on top of the normal Battle Master progression.
  • Thrown Weapon FightingTCoE (Optional) Finally a way to make thrown weapons workable in 5e! Unlike a bow or crossbow, you can use thrown weapons one-handed and some even work effectively with two-weapon fighting since thrown weapons are usually melee weapons with the Thrown property. If you're using magic weapons you may have some trouble since you're repeatedly throwing your weapons away, but you'll be able to recover them after combat.

    Thrown Weapon Fighting has some unique interactions with other fighting styles. If you use a melee weapon with the light and thrown property like handaxes, you can benefit from the Two-Weapon Fighter style. If you take the Dual Wielder feat, you can upgrade to Javelins. If you instead use ranged weapons with the thrown property like darts, you can benefit from the Archery style, adding +2 to both attacks and damage. That allows you to match the average damage of a longbow while still holding a shield.

    To summarize: This is probably the most complex Fighting Style because you need to combine it other options (feats and/or another Fighting Style) to make it as truly effective, but those complex interactions also allow some really fun combinations. I don't recommend this for new players, but an experience player could build a very interesting character around this.

  • Two-Weapon FightingPHB: One of the biggest issues with two-weapon fighting is that you don't get to add your ability modifier to your off-hand attack without this Fighting Style. While this resolves that issue, TWF is still sub-optimal for Fighters because they get more attacks than anyone else in the game and don't have an on-hit damage boost effect like Hunter's Mark or a crucial once-per-turn damage boost like Sneak Attack which requires you to attack as many times as possible to guarantee at least one hit.

    Consider that one attack with your off-hand will likely deal something like 1d8+5 damage at most (assuming 20 in your attack stat and the Dual Wielding feat) compared to 1d6, 2d6, 3d6, or 4d6 additional damage from using a Greatsword on your normal attacks (each d6 representing one additional attack, up to the Fighter's maximum of 4 with Extra Attacj). It's 9.5 vs. 3.5, 7, 10.5, or 14 damage depending on how many attacks you get.

    By the time you get two attacks it's close, but by the time you get 3 it's clear that a two-handed weapon is the better choice. On top of that, two-weapon fighting eats your Bonus Action. Any time you want to use that for anything else (Second Wind, Battlemaster Maneuvers, etc.) you lose 20-50% of your damage output for the round. Effects like Haste and Opportunity Attacks widen the gap even further, putting Two-Weapon Fighting further behind other weapon configurations in terms of damage output. Unless you're going for the Champion archetype to fish for critical hits or you're multiclassing, this is a mistake.

  • Unarmed FightingTCoE (Optional) Unless you're benefiting from the bonus grapple damage, this is worse than just using a warhammer, so if you take this style, expect to lean heavily into the Athletics skill and the Grapple+Shove combo. Get Expertise in Athletics (either from the Skill Expert feat or from a class dip into rogue), build yourself around Strength, and see if there's a way to get Advantage on Athletics checks, such as from the Enlarge/Reduce spell or from the Rune Knight's Giant's Might feature.

    For feats, consider the Tavern Brawler feat. Allowing you to Grapple as a Bonus Action will imnprove your action economy, though you may prefer to start with a Shove so that you can attack at Advantage and follow that attack with your Bonus Action Grapple. You still don't need the Grappler feat, though. It's awful.

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: Fighter subclasses are briefly summarized below. See my Fighter Subclasses Breakdown for help selecting your subclass.

  • Arcane Archer: Gain the ability to enchant and fire magic arrows in battle.
  • Battle Master: Master of combat maneuvers, the Battle Master uses a unique Maneuvers mechanic which allows you add additional effecs to your attacks to harm and hinder your foes.
  • Cavalier: Known for their exceptional abilities to fight while mounted, but the Cavalier is also a capable bodyguard and Defender.
  • Champion: Simple and straightforward, but unquestionably effective, the Champion thrives on the Fighter's central features.
  • Echo Knight: Summon an echo of yourself from alternate time streams to fight alongside you in combat.
  • Eldritch Knight: Comlement your phenomenal martial prowess with magic to defense yourself and to strike at your goes.
  • Purple Dragon Knight: An inspirational leader and diplomat, the Purple Dragon Knight is a capable leader and good Face despite the stereotypically non-charismatic nature of fighters.
  • Rune Knight: Empower yourself with the magic power of giants, using runes to create fantastic magical effects and enlarging yourself in combat.
  • Samurai: Capable and resilient, the Samurai is hard to capable of sudden bursts of incredible prowess and adds some proficiencies to aid them in social situations.

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.

Optional Class Features

Introduced in Tasha's Cauldron of Everyting, Optional Class Features offer ways to add additional features or replace existing ones. These rules are optional, and you should not assume that your DM will allow these features without consulting them first.

Assessments and suggestions for specific Optional Class Features are presented here, but for more information on handling Optional Class Features in general, see my Practical Guide to Optional Class Features.

Fighting Style Options (Addition): The new options add a lot of exciting new concepts to the Fighter, but none of them are actually better than what's available from the existing options. In terms of game balance, this is right where you want things to be: more options, more diverse concepts, but no actual power creep.

I recommend allowing the new Fighting Style options on all fighters. Players still only get one (champions get two, and now there's a feat to get another), so more choices won't make the Fighter any stronger.

Martial Versatility (Addition): The fact that fighters are forced to pick their fighting style at level 1 and can never change it has been a huge problem for years. If your fighter has the Dueling style and picks up a magic two-handed weapon, they're forced to either ignore the weapon or ignore their Fighting Style. The inability to adapt to changing needs within the party or changing externalities (buffs from the party, subclass features, magic items, etc.) means that players are encouraged to take options like Defense because they're the safest choice. Allowing the Fighter to retrain their Fighting Style encourages players to explore other options, which means more interesting characters.

The second bullet only applies to the Battle Master, but they face the same concern: since you can't change your choices, players will always go for the safest and most reiable options so many options will never be selected.

I recommend allowing Martial Versatility on all fighters. Like with other retraining mechanics, players still can't have more options at the same time than they could get if they didn't retrain, so players will be more satisfied with their character but won't actually be any stronger than they could be.

Ability Scores

Fighters can be built in many ways. Strength-based Fighters are the simplest, but Dexterity builds can be very appealing, and your subclass might introduce a need for mental ability scores like Intelligence or Charisma.

Str: Strength-based Fighters need Strength above anything else. Everyone else can dump it.

Dex: Strength-based Fighters will be wearing heavy armor, so they can dump Dexterity. Archers and Finesse builds rely almost exclusively on Dexterity, so they need as much as they can get.

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 very little. 14 is typically sufficient.

Wis: Helpful for Perception and Survival. If you don't need Intelligence or Charisma for your subclass, investing in Wisdom is a good choice.

Cha: Only useful for saves and Face skils for most subclasses, but the Purple Dragon Knight needs it for some of their subclass features.

Strength-Based Melee Eldritch Knight / Psi Warrior 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, and your choice of subclass and your weapon preferences will dramatically affect what you need in terms of ability score increases. Generally, bonuses to physical ability scores are key: a Strength or Dexterity increase is almost required, and a Constitution increase is helpful.

Beyond your abiliy scores, access to Darkvision, Flight, and innate spellcasting can all be very helpful. Most fighters can't produce any of those effects without items, so your race can give you a lot of capabilities which go beyond what the class can provide.

AarakocraEEPC

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases and flight in light armor. It's an excellent package, but the winged tiefling is better in every way except fly speed.

Default Rules: Bonus Dexterity and the ability to fly out of reach are perfect for ranged builds. You can only fly in light armor, but that's not a problem since you're building for Dexterity anyway.

AasimarVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +1), Darkvision, two damage resistances, and some innate spellcasting. The subraces are distinguished by their transformation, and that distinction makes a big difference.

  • Fallen: The fear effect on the Fallen Aasimar's transformation is great, but the DC is Charisma-based so it may be hard to rely upon.
  • Protector: Temporary flight when you need it.
  • Scourge: The area damage is great for handling crowds, but make sure that you have someone around to heal you in a hurry.

Default Rules: 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.

  • Fallen: Strength is great for a fighter, and the extra damage output from Necrotic Shroud is excellent, but the fear effect's DC is Charisma-based so it may be unrealiable.
  • Protector: Wisdom doesn't do much for a fighter.
  • Scourge: Constitution is great on a front-line character, but be careful not to let Radiant Consumption burn through your hit points if you don't have a cleric handy.

Aasimar (DMG Variant)DMG

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +1), Darkvision, two damage resistances, and some innate spellcasting. The spellcasting includes Lesser Restoration which allows you to handle problems beyond hit point restoration which the Fighter is normally unable to handle unassisted.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

BugbearVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and one skill. Surprise Attack can be useful, but you may want to build around Dexterity so that your initiative will be reasonably high. Long-limbed is neat, but remember that it only applies while attacking on your own turn so you don't just get ridiculously long reach.

Default Rules: Able to fill a variety of fighter builds. Keep in mind that Long-Limbed only applies to attacks made on your own turn.

Custom LineageTCoE

Customized Origin: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no change to the Custom Lineage.

Default Rules: +2 to either Strength or Dex, Darkvision, and a feat. Excellent, but in many cases the Variant Human's split increases may be more effective so that you can also start with 16 Constitution.

DragonbornPHB

The Draconblood and Ravenite subraces are addressed under Races of Wildemount, below.

Customized Origin: +2/+1 inceases, damage resistance, and a beath weapon which will help you handle crowds.

Default Rules: The Strength bonus is nice, and the breath weapon is fun, but if you need AOE damage play an Eldritch Knight. Purple Dragon Knight is probably the best option for a dragonborn fighter, but the Charisma increase isn't so crucial that the Dragonborn is a go-to option over other races.

DwarfPHB

Customized Origin: One +2 increase and a second increase from your subrace, plus poison resilience and some weapon proficiencies that ou can retrain into tool proficiencies.

  • DuergarSCAG: A second +1 increase, and the Innate Spellcasting works really well for the Fighter. But Sunlight Sensitivity is a pain, so I would only consider this in a subterranean campaign.
  • HillPHB: A second +1 increases and some extra hit points. A very solid choice, but it's hard to compete with the Mountain Dwarf's two +2 increases.
  • MountainPHB: Two +2 increases is really great for the Fighter. Starting with two ability scores at 17 makes it very easy to make a lot of room in your build for feats. You also get some more proficiencies which you can trade for tool proficiencies.

Default Rules: 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.

  • DuergarSCAG: In a subterranean campaign, this is at least on par with Mountain Dwarf. Otherwise, Sunlight Sensitivity is a huge problem.
  • HillPHB: Bonus Wisdom is great if you need to have high Perception, and the bonus hit points are always welcome, but without a Dexterity or Strength increase you'll lag offensively.
  • MountainPHB: The Strength bonus is fantastic for any Strength-based Fighter.

ElfPHB

The Palid Elf subrace is addressed under Races of Wildemount, below.

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +1), Darkvision, and one skill.

  • DrowPHB: The innate spellcasting is decent, but it's Charisma-based so Faerie Fire will be unreliable. If you take Fighting Style (Blind Fighting), Darkness can be very effective. But that short bust of being really effective may be offset by Sunlight Sensitivity, so be cautious considering the Drow outside of subterranean campaigns. If you just want the Innate Spellcasting, consider the Drow Half-Elf instead.
  • EladrinMToF: The teleportation is great, but it's Charisma-based which is a hard choice for most fighters.
  • Eladrin (Variant)DMG: An easier choice for the Fighter than the regular Eladrin, you still get to teleport on a short rest but instead of the teleportation rider effect you get weapon proficiencies which you can trade for tool proficiencies.
  • High ElfPHB: Take Booming Blade if you plan to play an Eldritch Knight. You may also consider the High Half-Elf, which trades the Elf's skill proficiency and the High Elf's weapon proficiencies for an additional +1 skill increase.
  • Sea ElfEGtW / MToF: Only in an aquatic campaign.
  • Shadar-KaiMToF: Damage resistance and a once-per-day teleport which is great for diving into melee. The Variant Eladrin's teleportaiton is more frequent, but the Shadar-Kai is still competitive due to its other benefits.
  • Wood ElfPHB: Unremarkable. If you want speed, play a centaur. If you want to be sneaky, play something that can cast Invisibility as an innate spell. If you want weapon proficiencies to trade for tool proficiencies, several other subraces will give them to you. The Wood Elf isn't bad, but it's not good at anything noteworthy and it simply can't compete with the broad range of viabl races when you're using the Customizing You Origin optional rule.

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

  • DrowPHB: Nothing useful for a Fighter that other Elves can't do better.
  • EladrinMToF: Shadar-kai is a better fit for most fighters, but Purple Dragon Knights may enjoy the Charisma increase.
  • Eladrin (Variant)DMG: A tempting choice for the Eldritch Knight due to the Intelligence increase, but otherwise ther regular Eladrin or the Shadar-Kai are better choices. The Eldritch Knight might also prefer the High Elf for early access to a wizard cantrip, but for a long-form campaign the Variant Eladrin may be more effective.
  • High ElfPHB: A bonus to Intelligence and a free Cantrip make the High Elf an obvious choice for an Eldritch Knight. Grab Booming Blade and you can pretend to be an Eldritch Knight at levels 1 and 2 until you can get your subclass features.
  • Sea ElfEGtW / MToF: Only in an aquatic campaign.
  • Shadar-KaiMToF: Dexterity, Constitution, damage resistance, and the ability to teleport. The ability to jump into melee quickly and not suffer a mountain of damage for doing so is a great benefit for melee fighters. However, you only get to teleport once per long rest, while both versions of the Eladrin can teleport once per short rest.
  • Wood ElfPHB: Extra Wisdom works very well with Perception, and the extra movement speed is great for getting into (or out of) melee range, but the rest of the Wood Elf's features probably won't be useful.

FirbolgVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, and some innate spellcasting. Unfortunately, the spellcasting won't do much to help the Figher. Hidden Step is good, but if you want invisibility there are several races which can do it better.

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

GenasiEEPC

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +1), but the vast majority of the Genasi's traits come from the subraces.

  • Air: Even without magic options to handle flight, Levitate isn't great. It can be helpful for archers in encounters with creatures that can't fly or attack at range, but the Aarakocra and the Winged Tiefling can both fly, which makes Levitate feel pretty silly.
  • Earth: Earth Walk is neat and Merge With Stone suddenly makes you very good at stealth, but those effects are only situationally useful, so you're mostly leaning on the same +2/+1 increases that nearly every race gets.
  • Fire: The fact that the Fire Genasi's innate spellcasting is Constitution-based makes them a profoundly weird racial option. Your best bet is to go for Eldritch Knight and you can use War Magic to attack with Produce Flame and follow it with a weapon attack, but you'll want to emphasise Constitution first so your weapon attacks will suffer. You also get Darkvision and damage resistance, but if that's all you want the Tiefling is a better choice.
  • Water: Fine, but I would only consider it in an aquatic campaign.

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

  • Air: The Dexterity bonus is nice, and Levitate can be helpful at low levels before you have access to real flight, but it's just not enough compared to the other Genasi types.
  • Earth: Bonus Strength, and the ability to move across difficult terrain unimpeded helps you to get into melee in situations where it's normally difficult to do so.
  • Fire: Bonus intelligence, damage resistance, a free offensive cantrip, and a free offensive spell all play nicely to the Eldritch Knight. The fact that the innate spellcasting is Constitution-based is interesting, possibly making it a better option for fighters than options like Fire Bolt. If you raise your Constitution as you gain levels, you can keep the innate spellcasting viable, making Produce Flame a viable combination with War Magic and a weapon attack. However, without a Strength or Dexterity increase you'll basically be a bad wizard until you get War Magic at level 7.
  • Water: Bad ability spread.

GithMToF

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +2), but the bulk of your notable racial traits come from your subrace.

  • Githyanki: One skill and some armor and weapon proficiencies which you can trade for a total of 5 tool proficiencies. The innate spellcasting offers some utility options, including teleportation via Misty Step, but if you just want teleportation the Shadar-Kai is a better choice.
  • Githzerai: Mental Discipline will protect you from common status conditions which are frequent problems for the Fighter, but the Githzerai's innate spellcasting may be less useful for the Fighter than the Githyanki's, and the Githzerai does nothing to expand your capabilities outside of combat like the Githyanki does.

Default Rules: The shared Intelligence increase is only helpful for the Eldritch Knight, but is otherwise wasted.

  • Githyanki: Strength and some bonus proficiencies. The Intelligence is helpful for Eldritch Knights, and Githyanki Psionics offers some useful magical utility options. If you just want teleportation, consider the Shadar-Kai instead.
  • Githzerai: Bad ability spread.

GnomePHB

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace offers a +1 increase), Darkvision, and Gnome Cunning. Gnome Cunning is a grea defensive option for martial classes which typically have poor mental saves and are frequently very easy to incapacitate using spells.

  • Deep (Svirfneblin)EEPC / SCAG: Even though they don't suffer Sunlight Sensivity like the Duergar or the Drow, I would still only consider the Svirfneblin in subterranean campaigns where you know that Stone Camouflage will be consistently useful.
  • ForestPHB: Natural Illusion and Speak with Small Beasts are weird choices for most martial classes, but Minor Illusion can do a lot before your spell save DC actually matters and it nicely complements the Eldritch Knight's mostly violence-related spellcasting.
  • RockPHB: Nothing useful. Tinker is a fun novelty, but it doesn't actually make your character better

Default Rules: An Intelligence bonus doesn't help the Fighter unless they're an Eldritch Knight. Gnome Cunning is an excellent defense against spells which can often take fighters out of a fight due to their poor mental saves.

  • Deep (Svirfneblin)EEPC / SCAG: For a finesse-based Gnome Fighter, Forest Gnome is an easier choice, but the Svirfneblin may still be worthwhile in a subterranean campaign. The innate spellcasting is nice, and could be a good utility complement to the Eldritch Knight's purely offensive spellcasting, and Stone Camouflage may make it easier for a Dexterity-based fighter to serve as a scout.
  • ForestPHB: A Dexterity bonus helps for a finesse-based Eldritch Knight, and Minor Illusion expands your limited spell options. If you want something more offensive than Minor Illusion, consider the High Elf.
  • RockPHB: Bad ability spread.

GoblinVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases and Darkvision. Fury of the Small will be easy to apply, but try to reserve it for when it will be impactful rather than dropping it on the first thing you hit. Nimble Escape is great for hit-and-run tactics, but generally the Fighter is expected to keep enemies tangled up in melee so it's hard to abandon that crucial function by moving away. You might be able to use Nimble Escape to abuse Polearm Master, though.

Default Rules: 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.

GoliathEEPC

Customized Origin: +2 Str, +1 Con, one skill, and damage resistance to cold. Stone's Endurance is a geat additional defense on top of the Fighter's tyically high AC. A great package, and very simple to build and play successfully.

Default Rules: 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

Customized Origin: +2/+1/+1 increases, Darkvision, and Fey Ancestry. Most builds won't need all three ability score increases, but the Eldritch Knight and the Purple Dragon Knight will benefit greatly.

  • Aquatic Half-ElfSCAG: Only in an aquatic campaign, and even then there are better options like the Locathah and the Triton.
  • Drow Half-ElfSCAG: If you want the Drow's innate spellcasting, this is the best way to get it. Put some resources into Charisma and Faerie Fire can be an excellent combat option for the Fighter.
  • High Half-ElfSCAG: Arguably the Eldritch Knight's best racial option, you can increase all three of the ability scores that you care about and still get Booming Blade at first level.
  • Standard Half-ElfPHB: An excellent way to expand the Fighter's capabilities outside of combat.
  • Wood Half-ElfSCAG: None of the Wood Elf's traits are as good as two skills. You might take the weapon proficiencies and trade them for 4 skills, but even that isn't a great option for most characters.

Default Rules: Probably the best racial option for the Purple Dragon Knight, the half-Elf is a great way to expand the Fighter beyond their "guy with weapon" capabilities without sacrificing your primary functions in combat.

  • Aquatic Half-ElfSCAG: Only if you're in an aquatic campaign.
  • Drow Half-ElfSCAG: A handful of magical options is tempting on a class with no magical utility options. Keep in mind that innate spellcasting is Charisma-based, so if you want Faerie Fire to be useful you'll need to invest in Charisma.
  • High Half-ElfSCAG: An option for the Eldritch Knight, but the Eldritch Knight is already among the most MAD fighters so trying to bring Charisma into the mix won't do you any favors. Go for a regular High Elf instead.
  • Standard Half-ElfPHB: Two more skills can do a lot. Between these skills and your background, you can easily grab several Face skills to capitalize on the Half-Elf's Charisma increase, or you could build around Dexterity and grab skills and tools that let you stand in for a rogue.
  • Wood Half-ElfSCAG: Fleet of foot is the best option, which is pretty sad because it's such a poor option.

Half-OrcPHB

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and one skill. Savage Attacks is still used best with the biggest damage die possible and Relentless Endurance doesn't change, so the Customizing Your Origin optional rule doesn't change the Half-Orc very much. They still make a great Champion, especiall with a Greataxe in hand, and Relentless Endurance is great on front-line characters who frequently draw a lot of attacks.

Default Rules: 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. Grab a greataxe.

HalflingPHB

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +1). Rearranging your ability scores means that Brave and Lucky are the Halfling's most defining traits and they're absolutely fantastic for the Fighter. Brave will help compensate for you relatively poor mental saves, and Lucky will improve your results when attacking with the Fighter's incomparably high number of attacks.

  • GhostwiseSCAG: Silent Speech isn't especially helpful unless you're built for stealth, and even then it's not crucial.
  • LightfootPHB: Useless without a rogue dip, and even then you're basically playing a rogue who's trying no to rely on Sneak Attack for no readily apparent reason.
  • StoutPHB: Basically a short dwarf. Poison damage is common, so resistance to it will save you a lot of damage over your career.

Default Rules: 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.

  • GhostwiseSCAG: Silent Speech isn't especially helpful unless you're built for stealth, and even then it's not crucial.
  • LightfootPHB: This would be a very strange build, but a stealthy Purple Dragon Knight could potentially make use to the Lightfoot Halfling's traits.
  • StoutPHB: Excellent ability score increases for a Dexterity-based fighter, and poison resilience.

HobgoblinVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and three proficiencies which you'll trade for tool proficiencies. The Hobgoblin's noteworthy feature is Saving Face. It provides a great way to turn near-miss failed rolls into successes, especially if you have numerous alies nearby. This provides great insurance against problematic saving throws.

Default Rules: 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 get your Dexterity or Strength up to 20, which fortunately the Figher does faster than anyone else. But until then you're basically limping along to keep up with other options like the High Elf.

Human

Customized Origin:

  • Standard: With perfect ability scores on the table for every race, there is no reason to play the Standard Human.
  • Variant: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no change to the Variant Human.

Default Rules: Versatile and fantastic at everything.

  • Standard: Fighters really only need two ability scores for any specific builds, but a +1 to all of your scores can be helpful if you use the point buy ability generation method to give yourself low, odd-numbered base abilities to save points, and it can make it easier .
  • Variant: You get crucial bonuses to your two favorite ability scores (Typically Str/Con or Dex/Con), and you can get an awesome feat at level 1. Feats are especially potent for Fighters since it's so easy to fit them into your build, and you can easily combine feats like Polearm Master and Sentinel without falling behind on your abiltiy score progression. The bonus skill isn't super important for a Fighter since Fighters aren't really built for skill use, but pick up something fun or which no one else in your party takes and you may find it useful outside of combat.

    The Variant Human is especially appealing for the Champion Fighter because the Champion is mechanically simple. Adding the additional complexity of a feat can do a lot to make the Champion more engaging to play in combat.

KenkuVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases and two skills. Expert Forgery and Mockery aren't particularly impactful.

Default Rules: An interesting option for stealthy, Dexterity-based fighters, the kenku's free skils overlap with the rogue's quite a bit. Be sure to pick up proficiency with thieves' tools from your background.

KoboldVGtM

Customized Origin: +2 increase and Superior Darkvision. The Customizing Your Origin optional rule does little to change the Kobold unless you're dead set on a Strength-based build for some reason. Pack Tactics is still geat, and Sunlight Sensitivity is still a pain, but Pack Tactics conveniently provides a way to negate it.

Default Rules: 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. You can also use Pack Tactics and the Champion subclass's improved critical range to fish for critical hits, potentially earning you big damage spikes with a relatively simple build.

LizardfolkVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, two skills, and natural armor. It's really tempting to build the Lizardfolk around Dexterity because at 20 Dexterity you can match Full Plate's AC. But Hungry Jaws is still Strength-based, so it may be better to go for a Stength-based melee build and ignore Natural Armor. It's somewhat frustrating to take the cool barbaric lizard person who fights naked and turn them into a somewhat toothy but otherwise unremarkable humanoid fighter, but it's probably the best mechanical option.

Default Rules: Tempting but frustrating due to their ability score increases not lining up well with their needs. With 20 Dexterity you can match full plate AC without wearing armor. However, Hungry Jaws is always dependent on Strength, so emphasizing Dexterity may mean giving up on Hungry Jaws. Sadly, the Lizardfolk gets increases to neither so it's a perpetually tempting but frustrating option.

LocathahLR

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, two skills, and Leviathan Will. Among the better aquatic options, Leviathan Will provides a robust defensive option against a long list of harmful status conditions which any fighter is sure to face.

Default Rules: Increases to both Strength and Dexterity are difficult to use at the same time, but it means that you can build your Fighter nearly however you want. Leviathan Will offers some useful defenses against status effects, and two additional skills help you to diversify your capabilities beyond fighting stuff.

OrcVGtM

Note that errata has corrected the multiple versions of the Orc to all provide the same traits. The Intelligence decrease has been removed, and the Primal Intuition now allows selecting two skills from a list. The Orc of Exandria entry from Explorer's Guide to Wildemount omits the Powerful Build trait, but it's not clear if that was an intentional change.

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, two skills. A great option for any melee build, Aggressive allows you to quickly close to melee without sacrificing your Action to Dash.

Default Rules: Perfect ability scores from Strength-based builds, Aggressive gets you into melee quickly, and two additional skills can add some useful options outside of combat. It's easy to compare the Orc to the Half-Orc because there is definitely some overlap. They're roughly equivalent, but the Half-Orc really shines with a greataxe or a similar large damage die, but the Orc works for basically any Strength-based weapon and has the ability to pick their skills (albeit from a list) so they're a bit more versatile.

TabaxiVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, two skills. Feline Agility is the Tabaxi's signature skill. It's roughly equivalent to the Orc's Aggressive, but it also allows you to run away (rather than only toward an enemy) and doesn't eat your Bonus Action so it's arguably a litle better.

Default Rules: Similar to the kenku, the Tabaxi makes an excellent rogue-ish fighter.

TieflingPHB

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and damage resistance. Most subraces/variants offer innate spellcasting of some kind. The innate spellcasting is Charisma-based, so anything which requires an attack or a save is difficult for most fighters to use, but might be viable for a Purple Dragon Knight.

  • AsmodeusPHB/MToF: The innate spellcasting is passable, but the most easily usable part is Hellish Rebuke, and without decent Charisma to back it up it's not worth your subrace.
  • BaalzebulMToF: Bad innate spellcasting.
  • DispaterMToF: Disguise Self is the best thing you get from this, and if that's all that you want you should play a changeling instead.
  • FiernaMToF: Maybe viable for a Purple Dragon Knight with enough Charisma, and the spells certainly work thematically for a Face build, but your low save DC will absolutely be a problem.
  • GlasyaMToF: The innate spellcasting can go very far without worrying about your Charisma score, and the spells are outside of the Eldritch Knight's school limitations so they introduce some options which are normally hard for the Fighter to access.
  • LevistusMToF: Armor of Agathys looks very tempting, but it will break if you get hit once. The Drow's innate spellcasting is similar but more effective even though it's also Charisma-based.
  • MammonMToF: Situational utility options, but they don't care about low Charisma.
  • MephistophelesMToF: The offensive spells are worthless, and if you just want Mage Hand, Mammon will be better.
  • ZarielMToF: The smite spells are decent, but Searing Smite allows a Constitution save and Branding Smite isn't good enough on its own.
  • Variant: FeralSCAG: The Customizing Your Origin optional rules make the Feral variant obsolete. All it does is rearrange your ability score increases.
  • Variant: Devil's TongueSCAG: All offensive options that you don't have the save DC to support.
  • Variant: HellfireSCAG: Hellish Rebuke is a more safely reliable choice.
  • Variant: WingedSCAG: Flight in up to medium armor. You trade some of the Aarakocra's speed for Darkvision and damage resistance. It's a good trade.

Default Rules: Darkvision and Fire resistance are both great, and the bonus spells can be very helpful, but ability score increases are a problem for most of the subraces. You may also have trouble with the innate spellcasting because so much of it requires a spell attack or allows a saving throw.

  • AsmodeusPHB/MToF: Bad ability spread.
  • BaalzebulMToF: Bad ability spread.
  • DispaterMToF: Potentially good for a Dexterity-based Purple Dragon Knight, but the the spellcasting isn't very good.
  • FiernaMToF: Bad ability spread.
  • GlasyaMToF: Potentially good for a Dexterity-based Purple Dragon Knight. The innate spellcasting adds some great illusion options that care very little about your Charisma modifier, so this could be a great option for a tricky, sneaky fighter.
  • LevistusMToF: Bad ability spread.
  • MammonMToF: Bad ability spread.
  • MephistophelesMToF: Bad ability spread.
  • ZarielMToF: Potentially good for a Strength-based Purple Dragon Knight. Smite spells are great options for the Fighter, but Searing Smite allows a Constitution save that you should always expect the target to pass due to your poor save DC and typically high Constitution saves. Branding Smite is decent, though. Unfortunately, one decent innate spell is not enough to make this good.
  • Variant: FeralSCAG: A fantastic option for Dexterity-based fighters, especially Eldritch Knights. A Feral Winged Tiefling is basically an Aarakocra with Darkvision and fire resistance, and that's an excellent set of racial traits.

    According to the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide, the Feral Variant is compatible with other variants.

  • Variant: Devil's TongueSCAG: Charisma-based spells are hard for most Fighters, and even Purple Dragon Knights won't really get any use out of them
  • Variant: HellfireSCAG: Hellish Rebuke is a better option for fighters.
  • Variant: WingedSCAG: Flight in up to medium armor. You'll almost certainly build around Dexterity so light armor will be better.

TortleTP

Customized Origin: With perfect ability scores on the table for every race, there is no niche for the Tortle. You might get slightly better AC at low levels for Dexterity-based builds before other fighters hit 20 Dexterity at level 6, but that is nowhere near enough.

Default Rules: Strength and natural armor are great, but once you can afford full plate armor the Tortle will fall behind and you lose your most notable racial trait.

TritonVGtM

Customized Origin: Three +1 increases, Darkvision, amphibious, and some innate spellcasting. Like the half-elf, having three increases makes it easy to support MAD subclasses like the Eldritch Knight, the Psi Warrior, and the Purple Dragon Knight. The innate spellcasting isn't fantastic, but it does offer some interesting utility options. In an aquatic campaign this is a great choice, but even on land it's still a good option.

Default Rules: Surprisingly appealing for an aquatic race, the Triton gets good ability score increases for the Fighter, and has a little bit of innate spellcasting which may provide some utility options that fighters can't replicate on their own.

VerdanAcInc

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and one skill. Telepathic Insight protects you from the most common mental saves, which is great since fighters are so easily taken out by mental stuff. Black Blood Healing will help pad your hit dice a little bit, and Limited Telepathy can be helpful for sneaky fighters. You do need to deal with the weird size mechanic, but on a Dexterity-based buiild this will work reasonably well.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

Yuan-Ti PurebloodVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, poison immunity, and Magic Resistance protects you from one of the Fighter's biggest and most problematic weaknesses. The innate spellcasting is useless, but honestly it doesn't matter because everything else is so good.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread. Magic Resistance is great, but it's not enough.

Setting-specific races are address below. Not every setting allows every race, and while most races presented in the core rules and in content for the Forgotten Realms can be used in other settings, races specific to settings like Ravnica aren't typically allowed in other settings. Talk to your DM about what races are allowed in your game.

Races of Eberron

BugbearERLW: See above under the general Races section.

ChangelingERLW

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases and two skills. Shapechanger isn't a good fit for the Fighter, and there are other racial options which can cast Disguise Self which arguably does a better job at solving the same problem.

Default Rules: Purple Dragon Knight has a small dependency on Charisma, and makes for an excellent Face. While they tend to be less sneaky and deceptive than a changeling is expected to be, there's no reason you couldn't reject that stereotype.

GoblinERLW: See above under the general Races section.

HobgoblinERLW: See above under the general Races section.

OrcERLW: See above under the general Races section.

KalashtarERLW

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases. Resistance to psychic damage is nice, though psychic damage isn't common. Dual Mind provides an important defense, but other options like the Yuan-Ti Pureblood and the Verdan are more appealing and may be more broadly effective at protecting you from stuff that hurts your brains.

Default Rules: Bad abilty spread.

ShifterERLW

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +2), Darkvision, and one skill. The Shifter's signature trait is Shifting, which is a Bonus Action combat buff which works great for most fighters. It's a decent buff on its own, and your subrace will offer additional effects.

  • Beasthide: A bigger pool of temporary hit points and a modest AC bonus do a lot to complement the Fighter's already impressive durability.
  • Longtooth: Many fighter subclasses don't lean heavily on their Bonus Action, so adding the ability to make a bite attack with your Bonus Action is a significant increase to your damage output for Strength-based builds.
  • Swiftstride: The intent of this ability is to let you move away from enemies when they get into melee with you so that you don't need to Disengage on your turn. Fighters rarely need that.
  • Wildhunt: Too situational.

Default Rules: Darkvision is a great start, and several of the Shifter subraces support some fighter builds.

  • Beasthide: Great ability score increases, a good free skill, and additional temporary hit points amd AC when you shift to help you absorb more damage.
  • Longtooth: The Fighter has very few uses for their Bonus Action (unless you're built for two-weapon fighting), so using it to make an extra attack offers an easy way to boost your damage output. The ability score increases aren't as good as the Beasthide Shifter's, but they'll still work.
  • Swiftstride: Dexterity can work, and the Shifting Feature can be a lifesaver for archers, but I would consider the Goblin first if that's all that you want.
  • Wildhunt: The Dexterity increase is the best part, and you can get that from numerous other places.

WarforgedERLW

Customized Origin: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no meaningful changes to the Warforged. You can move the Constitution increase around, but increasing Constitution is still the best way to use that increase.

Default Rules: Constitution, a flexible ability increase, a pile of useful resistances that cover things that front-lint martial characters frequently face, and a bonus to AC which puts you ahead of every other heavyily-armored character in the game. A warforged fighter with full plate armor, a shield, and the Defense fighting style sits at 22 AC without magic items or spells, making you nearly untouchable. If you can force enemies to stay in melee with you (consider grappling), you're a fantastic Defender.

Dragonmarks

While the design intent for Dragonmarks was that they would offer some innate spellcasting for everyone, every dragonmark includes an expanded spell list which is arguably a more significant benefit than most of the provided racial traits. Because the expanded spell options are such an important part of the dragonmarks, if you're not playing a spellcaster you're giving up a huge part of your racial traits, which makes it exceptionally difficult to justify playing a dragonmark character who can't cast spells.

Dragonmarked DwarfERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Warding: This could be interesting for a Dexterity-based Eldritch Knight. The skill bonuses work great for a character with high Intelligence and Dexterity, and the innate spellcasting saves you the trouble of learning Mage Armor. However, you still need to spend your spells known to take advantage of the dragonmark spell list, and I don't see anything on the list that's worthwhile except possibly Armor of Agathys.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Warding: Interesting thematically, and some of the spells are tempting, but this is a hard choice without a Strength or Dexterity increase. I wouldn't consider this on anything except an Eldritch Knight, and even then it's not a fantastic choice.
Dragonmarked ElfERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Shadow: A Dexterity-based Purple Dragon Knight is likely your best bet here. The innate spellcasting is great, but you can get the same from the Glasya Tiefling, which is probably a better fit for the Fighter. The dragonmark spells are wasted on anything except the Eldritch Knight, and since you get so few spells known outside of your school limitations you're not likely to learn most of them.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Shadow: The innate spellcasting is neat, but it's hard to choose this for an Eldritch Knight because the ability increases don't line up well, and no other fighter subclass gets spellcasting so you lose a big part of the dragonmark's benefits. A sneaky, Dexterity-based fighter is absolutely an option, but at that point you may do better as a swashbuckler rogue.
Dragonmarked GnomeERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Scribing: The skills and innate spellcasting don't help the Fighter, and the dragonmark spells aren't appealing for the Eldritch Knight.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Scribing: Bad ability spread.

Dragonmarked Half-ElfERLW

Dragonmark traits replace some of your normal racial traits, as described in the entry for each Dragonmark.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Detection: The innate spellcasting offers some itneresting utility options, but the dragonmark spell list has little to offer that the Eldritch Knight would care to learn. The skill bonuses are fine but it will be hard to use both effectively on one fighter.
  • Mark of Storm: The spellcasting is bad and the skill bonuses are too situational.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Detection: Bad ability spread, and the spellcasting does very little to complement the Fighter's capabilities.
  • Mark of Storm: The ability spread is too poor to justify how little you'll benefit from the spellcasting.

Dragonmarked Half-OrcERLW

Dragonmark traits replace ALL of your racial traits.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Finding: +2/+1 increases and Darkvision. A bit like a class dip into ranger, you get Hunter's Mark once per day and bonuses to some Wisdom-based skills. Hunter's Mark is tempting since the Fighter makes lots of attacks and has good Constitution saves, but remember that it's only once per day. The only fighter subclass with spellcasting is the Eldritch Knight, so unless you ignore Wisdom to focus on Intelligence, you're going to miss out on the dragonmark spells.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Finding: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked HalflingERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Healing: The ability to heal yourself is certainly tempting for a class with few healing options beyond hit dice, but I don't think it's enough. The Eldritch Knight can benefit from the dragonmark spells, but they're beyond the Eldritch Knight's school limitations so that's a very hefty cost to get spells which you can't use very often due to your tiny pool of spell slots.
  • Mark of Hospitality: The spells do very little to help the Fighter, and the dragonmark spell list doesn't include anything that the Eldritch Knight wants.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Healing: A Dexterity-based Eldritch Knight could make us of the new spell options to complement their party's existing healing capabilities, but the ability score increases aren't spectacular. It's a workable build and it could be a lot of fun, but it tries to do too much at the same time, which very few classes can successfully manage.
  • Mark of Hospitality: There's very little here that works well for the Fighter.
Dragonmarked HumanERLW

Dragonmark traits replace ALL of your normal racial traits.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Finding: See Mark of Finding under Dragonmarked Half-Orc, above. Mechanically, the final racial traits are identical.
  • Mark of Handling: The Wisdom-based innate spellcasting is neither useful nor reliable, and the dragonmark spells are not even remotely appealing to the Eldritch Knight.
  • Mark of Making: An interesting choice for the Eldritch Knight, Magic Weapon is a fantastic buff and the Arcana bonus will close the gap between you and a real wizard on Arcana checks. The innate spellcasting has a few gems like Elemental Weapon which work very well for the Fighter, but which aren't on the Wizard's spell list so you normally can't cast them.
  • Mark of Passage: Misty step for free once per day, and teleportation options on the spell list. Unfortunately the spells are outside of the Eldritch Knight's school limitationso you'll have trouble actually learning them. If you want teleportation, the Eladrin, the Githyanki, and the Shadar-Kai are all easier choices.
  • Mark of Sentinel: Thematically a fighter with the Mark of Sentinel makes a ton of sense, and everything about the racial traits works. The skills are Wisdom-based, which is hard for the Eldritch Knight but otherwise fantastic. Vigilant Guardian shares some function with Fighting Style (Protection). The dragonmark spells include some great options from the Cleric and the Paladin's spell lists, including Shield of Faith, Protection from Energy, and Death Ward, all of which are within the Eldritch Knight's school limitations. There are some worthwhile options outside of the school limitations, but they may not be worth your limited number of unrestricted spells known.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Finding: See Mark of Finding under Dragonmarked Half-Orc, above. Mechanically, the final racial traits are identical.
  • Mark of Handling: Bad ability spread, and the spellcasting does very little to complement the Fighter's capabilities. Hunter's Mark looks really tempting with the Fighter's crazy number of attacks, but I don't think it's worth your subrace to cast Hunter's Mark once per day since you benefit so little from everything else here.
  • Mark of Making: The flexible ability increase can go into your choice of Strength or Dexterity, and you're off to a great start as an Eldritch Knight. The ability to cast Magic Weapon without Concentration is a significant benefit at low levels, providing a reliable numeric boost over other fighters. The dragonmark spells offer some excellent new spell options, and there is no character in the game better suited to benefit from Elemental Weapon than a fighter with up to four attacks per Action.
  • Mark of Passage: If you miss the 4e Warblade class, famous for teleporting around in combat while using weapons to attack, Mark of Passage may scratch that itch. Grab a rapier to take advantage of the Dexterity increase, take the Eldritch Knight subclass for the spellcasting, and get really comfortable using Misty Step rather than walking around in combat like a peasant.
  • Mark of Sentinel: I really wish that the ability score increases worked for the Fighter, because Mark of Sentinel's traits and spells all make perfect sense for the Fighter. If you can survive without a Strength or Dexterity increase you may really enjoy Mark of Sentinel, but mathematically you'll suffer any time you try to use a weapon.

Races of Ravnica

CentaurGGTR

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, one skill, and Fey creature type. Grab the Mobile feat and you're ready to do some hit-and run attacks. Charge requires that you hit with a melee weapon attack to use Hooves as a Bonus Action, but with the Fighter's number of attacks that shouldn't be a problem. A great high-damage Striker option, though if you're standing still and tanking you're not benefiting from what makes the Centaur special.

Default Rules: Not quite as powerful as the Minotaur, the Centaur's bonus skills and non-humanoid creature type help to make up the difference defensively.

GoblinGGTR: See above under the general Races section.

LoxodonGGTR

Customized Origin: The natural armor is useless for the Fighter, and while Loxodon Serenity is great for the Fighter, numerous other races get that same defense. The Loxodon's other racial traits are mostly novelties, and none of them are especially useful for the Fighter.

Default Rules: Very little that directly helps the Fighter.

MinotaurGGTR

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases and one skill. Hammering Horns is the most important part of Shield Master, and Goring Rush is the most important part of Charger. A great choice for a Strength-based melee build.

Default Rules: An absolutely perfect melee fighter, the Minotaur's racial traits replicate the important parts of both the Charger feat and the Shield Master fields.

Simic HybridGGTR

Customized Origin: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no meaningful changes to the Simic Hybrid. You can move the Constitution increase around, but increasing Constitution is still the best way to use that increase.

Default Rules: Fantastic and Versatile. Animal Enhancement can benefit the Fighter in much the same way that a feat does.

VedalkenGGTR

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, one skill, one tool. Vedalken Dispassion is the most interesting part of the Vedalken's traits for the Fighter. It's a powerful defense against mental effects which can easily take the Fighter out due to their poor mental saves.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

Races of Theros

CentaurMOoT: See above under the Races of Ravnica section.

HumanMOoT: See above under the general Races section.

LeoninMOoT

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and one skill. Daunting Roat provides a great crowd control effect, and since the DC is Constitution-based it should be reasonably reliable.

Default Rules: Great for a Strength-based build, and the roar helps handle crowds much like the Dragonborn's breath weapon.

MinotaurMOoT: See above under the general Races section.

SatyrMOoT

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, two skills, and Fey creature type. Magic Resistance and the Fey creature type will protect you from problematic spells, especially options like Hold Person which may be difficult even with Magic Resistance. Mirthful Leaps may let you jump over small natural hazards like difficult terrain. If you just want durability I would consider the Yuan-Ti Pureblood first, but the Satyr's additional skills offer some utility outside of combat which is very appealing on a class which is already so combat-focused.

Default Rules: A great option for a Purple Dragon Knight, but any Dexterity-based build works well with the Satyr. Magic Resistance and not being humanoid are powerful defenses for a class which is normally very weak to magic.

TritonMOoT: See above under the general Races section.

Races of Wildemount

AarakocraEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

AasimarEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

BugbearEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

DragonbornPHB

Wildemount presents two new Dragonborn variants, each replacing the standard Dragonborn's ability score increases and damage resistance.

Customized Origin:

  • DraconbloodEGtW: Forceful Presence is neat and could work for the Purple Dragon knight, but even then it's not fantastic.
  • RaveniteEGtW: Vengeful Assault is a great option on any fighter.

Default Rules:

  • DraconbloodEGtW: Bad ability spread.
  • RaveniteEGtW: Better ability scores for most fighters than the standard Dragonborn, and you can survive without the Dragonborn's damage resistance. Ravenite adds Darkvision, a Constitution increase, and Vengeful Assault which offers an occasional boost to your damage output.

Elf

Wildemount elves share the core traits of PHB elves, but Wildemount adds two new subraces. See above for more information on other elf subraces.

Customized Origin:

  • Pallid ElfEGtW: The skill bonuses are neat but it may be hard for the Fighter to use both. The innate spellcasting is rough. Sleep is obsolete the moment you can cast it, and invisibility is available from numerous other races with better innate spellcasting.
  • Sea ElfEGtW / MToF: See above under the general Races section.

Default Rules:

  • Pallid ElfEGtW: The same ability increases as the Wood Elf, but arguably better traits for the Fighter. The skill bonuses will help you contribute outside of combat, and while the innate spellcasting isn't great, casting Invisibility once per day is much more broadly useful than Mask of the Wild.
  • Sea ElfEGtW / MToF: See above under the general Races section.

FirbolgsEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

GenasiEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

GoblinEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

HalflingPHB

Wildemount halflings share the core traits of PHB halflings, but Wildemount adds a new subrace. See above for information on other halfling subraces.

Customized Origin:

  • LotusdenEGtW: Rearranging the ability score increases doesn't salvage the Lotusden Halfling. In fact, it will more likely make the innate spellcasting worse. At that point, why bother playing the Lotusden when literally any other option is possible?

Default Rules:

  • LotusdenEGtW: Nothing specificlaly useful to the Fighter. The innate spellcasting is neat, but it's all Wisdom-based so your spell save DC will be terrible.

HobgoblinEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

GoliathEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

KenkuEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

OrcEGtW: See above, under "Races of Eberron". Wildemount uses the updated Orc racial traits rather than the original traits published in Volo's Guide to Monsters.

TabaxiEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

TortleEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

Skills

  • Acrobatics (Dex): Nothing the Fighter does makes use of Acrobatics.
  • Animal Handling (Wis): Not really helpful for the function of the Fighter.
  • Athletics (Str): The only Strength-based skill, Athletics is more than climbing and swimming. You use Athletics for grappling and for pushing enemies, both of which can be excellent options for Fighters.
  • History (Int): History can provide a lot of useful background information. This is especially viable for Eldritch Knights.
  • Insight (Wis): Helpful for a Face, but few Fighters have the Wisdom to back it up.
  • Intimidation (Cha): Very few Fighters will be good with Charisma, but a Purple Dragon Knight with the right skills and background can make a perfectly viable Face.
  • Perception (Wis): One of the most important skills in the game. At least two people in the party should have it, but more is always better.
  • Survival (Wis): Adventuring tends to involve a lot of wandering around in untamed wilderness, so Survival can be very helpful to your party.

Background

This section does not address every published background, as doing so would result in an ever-growing list of options which don't cater to the class. Instead, this section will cover the options which I think work especially well for the class, or which might be tempting but poor choices. Racial feats are discussed in the Races section, above.

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.

If you're having trouble deciding, here are some suggestions:

  • AcolytePHB: Access to Religion can be useful for Eldritch Knights in a party with few Knowledge skills, but Insight isn't fantastic, and you probably can't make use of extra languages.
  • City WatchSCAG: Athletics is great, but you won't get much use from Insight or the ability to speak two languages with your garbage Charisma.
  • Cloistered ScholarSCAG: An Eldritch Knight can make good use of the knowledge skills.
  • CourtierSCAG: A Purple Dragon Knight can make good use of Perception, but Insight is hard.
  • CriminalPHB: A Fighter with decent Dexterity can make use of Stealth, and with a bit of Charisma and Deception you're well on your way to being an effective Face. Thieves' tools let you handle traps and locked doors as well as any Rogue. A Half-Elf's bonus skill proficiencies or the Skilled feat will help to pick up whatever other Face or Rogue skills you might need.
  • Folk HeroPHB: Two skills off of the Fighter list, but neither are fantastic. Proficiency with a set of Artisan's Tools won't have a significant effect on the game.
  • Guild ArtisanPHB: Helpful if you plan to play a Face, but Criminal is more useful.
  • HermitPHB: A bit of Wisdom can make Medicine worthwhile, and an Eldritch Knight with some Intelligence makes Religion useful. An herbalism kit is helpful for making potions of healing and for handling interesting herbs.
  • Mercenary VeteranSCAG: Athletics is good, but very few Fighters can make decent use of Persuasion.
  • NoblePHB: Perception helps if you plan to play a Face, but Criminal gets you access to more things which aren't normally available to Fighters.
  • OutlanderPHB: Two good skills from the Fighter skill list, but the instrument isn't particularly helpful.
  • SagePHB: Arcana and History are both great for Eldritch Knights, but you can already get History from the Fighter skill list.
  • SailorPHB: Great for aquatic campaigns. Two good skills from the Fighter list, and boats!
  • SoldierPHB: Somewhere between the Folk Hero and the Outlander. Two good skills from the Fighter skill list, and some fun tool proficiencies.
  • Urban Bounty HunterSCAG: Basically two skill choices from the Rogue class skills, plus some tool proficiencies, including the ever-important Thieve's Tools. A finesse-based Fighter might be able to make good use of this.
  • UrchinPHB: Comparable to the Criminal, but more focus on Dexterity skills, and less on Charisma skills, so this works well for Dexterity-based Fighters who don't want to be a Face.
  • Uthgardt Tribe MemberSCAG: Athletics is good, but you may have trouble getting any use out of the rest.

Feats

This section does not address every published feat, as doing so would result in an ever-growing list of options which don't cater to the class. Instead, this section will cover feats which I think work especially well for the class or which might be tempting but poor choices.

  • Artificer InitiateTCoE: Magic initiate is typically a better choice for the Fighter because using a tool as a focus doesn't get you anything, and you get one less cantrip. However, the Artificer's unique spell list offers some interesting options. The Eldritch Knight may enjoy Thorn Whip and Healing Word, neither of which are available to the Wizard and therefore aren't available to the Eldritch Knight.
  • ChargerPHB: Great for closing to melee, but situational. If you can't get into melee range with your movement it may be better to use your action to throw some javelins. If you really want this, consider the Orc race to save yourself the feat.
  • Crossbow ExpertPHB: All the action economy of TWF with the range of Archery, and you can do it in melee combat if necessary. Consider combining this with Sharpshooter.
  • CrusherTCoE: I would consider this on a Champion or the Eldritch Knight. The Champion's increased likelihood of scoring a critical hit improves your odds of trigger the Advantage benefit from Crusher, which then improves your odds of scoring additional critical hits. The Eldritch Knight can combine the knockback effect with Booming Blade to push enemies too far away to reach you without taking the additional damage from Booming Blade.
  • Defensive DuelistPHB: Fantastic for finesse fighters, but the Battle Masters should use the Parry maneuver instead.
  • Dual WielderPHB: Moving from light weapons to one-handed weapons offers additional weapon options, but the extra damage is negligible, and drawing weapons is rarely a problem unless you're really surprised. However, the AC bonus is helpful, and when combined with the Defensive fighting style you can match the AC of a shield while still fighting with two weapons.
  • Dungeon DelverPHB: With a bit of Intelligence and Wisdom you can be perfectly good at both Investigation and Wisdom. If your campaign involves a lot of dungeons, this might be helpful.
  • DurablePHB: Fighters are typically the party's front line, which means you're going to be taking the bulk of the damage pointed at your party. Magical healing goes a long way, but since 5e's healing comes mostly from hit dice, Durable can go a long way to keep you going throughout the day without eating all of your party's spell slots.
  • Elemental AdeptPHB: Even Eldritch Knights can't justify this. Booming Blade will be your go-to cantrip option, and Elemental Adept doesn't apply. Most of your spells should avoid using spell attacks or saving throws, so you won't be using leveled spells enough to make this a meaningful addition.
  • Fey TouchedTCoE: Misty step is a great spell that any melee fighter will enjoy, but few fighters can produce unless you get it from your race (Eladring, Shadar-Kai, etc.). The 1st-level spell is hard to pick, but Hunter's Mark is a good go-to option for the Fighter. You get more attacks than anyone else (with the possible exception of the Monk), you're proficient in Constitution saves so Concentration is reasonably safe, and with a 1-hour duration you can get a lot done on one spell slot. The Eldritch Knight can cast these spells again using spell slots, but even without spell slots this is still a tempting option.

    On top of those benefits, you also get a +1 increase to a mental ability score. Most fighters should choose Wisdom, but the Eldritch Knight should choose Intelligence. For Variant Humans, that means that you can get three +1 increases at first level, which may be appealing.

  • Fighting InitiateTCoE: Another Fighting Style without multiclassing or taking Champion. This can support some really interest combinations and character concepts, but if you're just going for Defense+Dueling you can almost certainly find something more exciting to do with a feat.
  • GunnerTCoE: If your game uses firearms and you're desperate to grab a musket, this is fine. But in most cases you'll do better sticking to bows.
  • GrapplerPHB: Just a terrible feat in general. You don't need it to grapple successfully.
  • Great Weapon MasterPHB: Excellent for any Fighter using a two-handed weapon. Combining this with Polearm Master is a popular and effective combination because you can still take the -5 attack penalty to get extra damage with the Bonus Action attack, but even if you don't go that route this provides a good boost to your damage output.
  • Heavy Armor MasterPHB: Excellent for melee fighters, especially if you don't want to use a shield, because you can offset your reduced AC by reducing the damage you take from weapon attacks.
  • Inspiring LeaderPHB: This is generally better for more charismatic characters like Bards or Paladins, but temporary hit points are great for Fighters. Purple Dragon Knights might consider this.
  • LuckyPHB: Good on anyone.
  • Mage SlayerPHB: Only useful in games which feature an abnormally large number of spellcasters.
  • Magic InitiatePHB: Potentially helpful for an Eldritch Knight who is already built for spellcasting, but you probably already get enough spell options to consume your limited number of spell slots, and there are only so many cantrips that the Eldritch Knight can use effectively.
  • Martial AdeptPHB: A Battle Master Fighter is limited by their number of superiority dice and their number of known manuevers, and this expands both. If you take this and still want more, take Fighting Initiate (Superior Technique) for another maneuver and another die.
  • Medium Armor MasterPHB: If you're going for a high Dexterity build, you should be in light armor. This nets +1 AC, which is nowhere near enough for a feat.
  • MobilePHB: Fighters generally don't rely on hit-and-run tactics. If you're built for melee, stay in melee and get some killing done. The one possible exception is the Eldritch Knight, who can make effective use of Booming Blade to lock enemies in place before stepping out of reach. Your first insinct might be to try using areach weapon, but Booming Blade requires that the target of your attack be within 5 feet.
  • Mounted CombatPHB: Fighting while mounted can be a great option for Fighters, and you have plenty of hit points and AC to absorb any attacks which might target your mount. If you go this route, I recommend reading my Practical Guide to Mounted Combat.
  • ObservantPHB: Excellent if you're the only one in the party with Perception and Investigation, and it works very well with Dungeon Delver.
  • PiercerTCoE: The reroll mechanic combines well with Fighting Style (Great Weapon Fighting), allowing you multiple opportunities to reroll your damage dice. Even so, the critical hit effect is more impactful. You could combine this with Polearm Master, but given the choice I would rather do Polearm Master+Sentinel. The best way I can think to use this is for critical hit fishing with a pike. Go for Half-Orc Fighter (Champion) 3, then consider straight Barbarian after that for Reckless Attack and Brutal Critical. Fish for crtiical hits and roll a big pile of d10's.
  • Polearm MasterPHB: Absolutely fantastic for Defenders. More ways to get opportunity attacks actively discourages enemies from charging past you to reach your allies. Combined with Sentinel you can easily trap enemies within your reach. Even if you don't want to use a polearm with reach, a quarterstaff or spear (spear was added in errata in 2018) with a shield works great.
  • ResilientPHB: More saves never hurt. Fighters tend to get hit with lots of Dexterity save stuff (fireballs, breath weapons, etc.) and passing those saves more easily can help stretch your hit points quite a bit.
  • Ritual CasterPHB: A tempting way for Eldritch Knights to improve their utility options if your party lacks full spellcasters, but ideally a full spellcaster should cover your party's spellcasting needs so that you can focus on keeping them alive.
  • Savage AttackerPHB: This is a bad feat. The largest damage die (d12), yields an average of 2 extra damage per turn.
  • SentinelPHB: Absolutely essential for Defenders.
  • Shadow TouchedTCoE: Invisibility is tempting for a class which is frequently terrible at stealth, but it's difficult to find a 1st-level spell which works for the Fighter within the narrow schoool limitations. Maybe False Life or Silent Image?
  • SharpshooterPHB: Fantastic for ranged builds. The Archery style provides a +2 to attacks, which helps to offset the -5 attack penalty, allowing you incredible damage output while still being reasonably accurate with your attacks. Consider combining this with Crossbow Expert.
  • Shield MasterPHB: The best part of this is probably the ability to shove enemies (possibly shoving them prone) as a Bonus Action. If you don't have other ways to use your Bonus Action, this can be a great option for sword-and-board builds.
  • Skill ExpertTCoE: Athletics is a great option for the Fighter, and Expertise makes it a much more reliable option in combat.
  • SkilledPHB: High-Dexterity builds and Eldritch Knights have good abilities to support a lot of important skills, so this can be a great way to pick up proficiencies which will be very helpful for your party.
  • SkulkerPHB: Leave this for Rogues.
  • SlasherTCoE: The speed penalty will help keep enemies from escaping you, and the Disadvantage effect will make it hard for them to hit you if you can score a critical hit. I would consider this for a two-weapon fighting build, especially on a champion thanks to Improved Critical.
  • Spell SniperPHB: This can be a good way for Eldritch Knights to expand their cantrip options, and it's particularly helpful if you prefer fighting at range. Once you get War Magic, you can use a cantrip at exceptionally long range then follow it with an attack from a bow or crossbow. Unfortunately, spell attacks rely on Intelligence so if you go this route you'll need to invest in Intelligence much more than most eldritch knights.
  • Tavern BrawlerPHB: Helpful if you go for Fighting Style (Unarmed Fighting), but otherwise skip it.
  • ToughPHB: Boosting your Constitution by 2 is a fine way to get more hit points, but if you're not worried about Constitution saves, this has a better return. Keep in mind that this won't improve the amount you heal from Hit Dice, so combining this with Durable may be helpful if you find that your Hit Dice aren't healing you enough.
  • War CasterPHB: Absolutely essential for melee Eldritch Knights. Using Booming Blade in place of an Opportunity Attack is a truly stellar tactical option. Also, with both proficiency in Constitution saves and Advantage on Constitution saves to maintain Concentration you can comfortably maintain Concentration spells with little risk.

Weapons

There are few wrong choices for Fighters. Every build has at least one good option, and most have several.

  • Crossbow, Heavy: If you have Crossbow Expert, a Hand Crossbow will be better. If you don't, a bow will be better. For the brief window of levels 1 through 5 where you can't make more than one attack on most turns, the Heavy Crossbow does slightly more damage than a bow, but if you use Action Surge once it will easily make up the damage gap you can expect to accrue in the course of a typical day.
  • Crossbow, Hand: Ranged. Use a bow until you get Crossbow Expert. Fighters don't have a ton of options which use their bonus action, so Crossbow Expert is a great choice, and even on turns where you use your bonus action the damage gap between a hand crossbow and a longbow is miniscule.
  • Glaive / Pike: Two-handed reach. Combines will with Polearm Master and Sentinel.
  • Greataxe: Only for half-orc champions.
  • Greatsword / Maul: Two-handed non-defenders.
  • Handaxe: High Strength TWF.
  • Longsword / War Pick / Warhammer: High Strength single weapon.
  • Longbow / Shortbow: Archery until you pick up Crossbow Expert. Small characters will need to use a shortbow because longbows have the Heavy property.
  • Quarterstaff / Spear: One-handed Polearm Master.
  • Rapier: High Dexterity single weapon.
  • Shortsword: High Dexterity TWF.
  • Whip: High Dexterity single weapon. Less damage than the rapier, but you get Reach. Tempting if you get Sentinel but don't also want Polearm Master.

Armor

  • Chain Mail: Free starting armor for heavy armor users. Works fine until you can afford Full Plate.
  • Leather: Free starting armor for light armor users. Upgrade as soon as you can afford it.
  • Half Plate: Half-Plate will be your best AC for Dexterity-based builds until you hit 20 Dexterity. However, Disadvantage on Stealth might be a problem for you, so if you're trying to be sneaky you'll want Studded Leather instead.
  • Studded Leather: High Dexterity builds will want to upgrade to Studded Leather eventually, but it won't match the AC of Half Plate until you hit 20 Dexterity.
  • Full Plate: The obvious end goal for heavy armor users.

Multiclassing

This section briefly details so obvious and enticing multiclass options, but doesn't fully explore the broad range of multiclassing combinations. For more on multiclassing, see my Practical Guide to Multiclassing.

  • Artificer: A potential option for the Eldritch Knight, but generally not as effective as the Wizard. Artificers still get some spellcasting and some ritual casting, they notably get options like Cure Wounds, and they round up when calculating spell slots for multiclass character so you can work the math in your favor more than you can with other classes. Unfortunately, the armor proficiencies are redundant with the what the fighter gets and the infused items depend heavily on levels in Artificer, so you get very little from a class dip compared to the wizard.
  • Barbarian: Rage is tempting, but without investing a huge number of levels you can't expect more than 2 or 3 rages per day. Unarmored Defense is hard to use without investing in a ton of Constitution. Reckless Attack and Danger Sense are both nice, but hardly essential. Primal Path is fantastic, but at level 3 you still only have 3 rages per day, so you won't get as much use as you might from your Fighter abilities.
  • Ranger: Two levels gets you an extra Fighting Style and a tiny bit of spellcasting. Three gets you a subclass, but very few of the Ranger's subclass options lend themselves to a dip like this. Hunter and Gloom Stalker may be your best bet. If you go for Hunter, I would pick Horde Breaker and go for a two-handed weapon build, and consider taking a 4th level for the Ability Score Increase. But that's a lot of fighter levels to give up, and I'm not certain that it's worth the effort to do so.
  • Rogue: A dip into Rogue for Expertise in Athletics will go a long way if you plan to use Shove or Grapple, but if that's all that you want you can take the Skill Expert feat. Cunning Action is also helpful if you like hit-and-run tactics.
  • Warlock: For the Purple Dragon Knight, a dip into Hexblade Warlock offers a great way to focus heavily on Charisma. The leveled spells won't do much because you'll get so few spell slots and your spell level likely won't go past 1st-level, but Eldritch Blast remains a solid ranged option, Hex can trivialize grapples and make it easier to Shove enemies prone, and Hex Warrior allows you to fight using Charisma instead of Strength or Dexterity. A second level gets you another spell slot and an Invocation like Devil's Sight, but that may not be worth giving up a second fighter level.
  • Wizard: For an eldritch knight, a level or two in wizard has a lot to offer. First level gets you additional spellcasting and ritual casting, and 2 levels gets you a subclass. Many of the wizard subclasses offer excellent initial features. Some notable examples include Bladesinging for Bladesong, School of Divination for Portent, and War Magic for Arcane Deflection and Tactical Wit.

Magic Items

Common Magic Items

  • Moon-Touched SwordXGtE: This solves two problems for the Fighter. First, the sword glows almost as brightly as a torch, allowing you to see in dark places without devoting a hand to a torch and without asking your allies to cast light or something. Second, and more important, it allows you to overcome damage resistance to non-magic attacks. Resistances like this are common as you gain levels, and the Moon-Touched Sword is an inexpensive way to overcome them until a better weapon comes along.
  • Ruby of the War MageXGtE: Tempting for the Eldritch Knight. This solves the issue of juggling your weapon and a spellcasting focus, making it easier to manage sword-and-board configurations. Hat of Wizardry is a better item, but only wizards can use them.
  • Staff of Adornment/Birdcalls/FlowersXGtE: Works as a quarterstaff, and it can overcome damage resistances to non-magical attacks. The actual magic stuff is amusing, but probably not important. Most melee fighters will prefer a Moon-Touched Sword, but for polearm masters this is your best bet at this rarity.
  • Unbreakable ArrowDMG: Great for archers to overcome resistance to damage from non-magical attacks, but it's only one arrow so you really want to get a magic bow. Since the arrow can't be broken, it's weirdly useful for wedging doors and windows closed or open.

Uncommon Magic Items

  • Ammunition, +1DMG: Single-use and expensive. If you can, trade for a stack of unbreakable arrows.
  • Adamantine ArmorDMG: Curiously, due to the insanely high price of full plate and the inconsistent price of magic items, adamantine full plate can often be less expensive than regular full plate. This mechanical oddity is a popular trick in Adventurer's League.
  • Boomerang, +1DMG: Helpful for thrown weapon builds or for Strength-based builds that need an occasional ranged option, but if you hit you're still out a weapon so it doesn't perfectly address your need for magic weapons to overcome damage resistances.
  • Bracers of ArcheryDMG: An easy choice for archer builds. Unfortunately, they don't work with crossbows so Crossbow Expert builds won't benefit. The damage bonus may be enough to make Crossbow Expert unnecessary.
  • Broom of FlyingDMG: Easily overlooked, but one of the best ways to get flight for any character. It doesn't require attunement, and has a fly speed of 50 feet, though many medium characters will exceed the 200 pound limit to reduce the speed to 30 feet, but even then 30 feet fly speed with no duration cap and requiring no action after speaking the command word is absolutely incredible. The only drawback is that you're using the item's speed rather than giving yourself a fly speed, so things that improve your speed won't make the broom move faster, and you can't Dash with the broom. Even so, I honestly can't justify why this is only Uncommon considering how exceptionally good it is.
  • Cloak of ProtectionDMG: Good on any character, but it requires Attunement and it's not very interesting.
  • Efficient Quiver / Quiver of ElhonnaDMG: Most games don't bother tracking ammunition. It's not worth the effort. If your game does so, this may be helpful.
  • Eldritch Claw TattooTCoE: If you took Fighting Style (Unarmed Fighting), this is one of very few ways for you to make your attacks magical.
  • Gauntlets of Ogre powerDMG: Maybe helpful for Dexterity-based builds. If you dumped Strength to 8, going straight to 19 can be helpful. But at that point you're mostly using it for saves and for Athletics checks.
  • Goggles of NightDMG: Crucial for races which don't get Darkvision, especially if your party can't cast the Darkvision spell for you.
  • Headband of IntellectDMG: Absolutely spectacular for Eldritch Knights. You may not be able to raise your Intelligence past 14 without sacrificing elsewhere, so skipping straight to 19 is a huge benefit.
  • Lantern of RevealingDMG: A good light source and it counters invisibility with very little effort. For a class that generally can't cast spells, that's huge.
  • Periapt of Wound ClosureDMG: Excellent if your party has few magical healing resources.
  • Saddle of the CavalierDMG: If you're going for mounted combat, take the Mounted Combatant feat. if you took Mounted Combatant, this item is mostly useless.
  • Sentinel ShieldDMG: Going first isn't critical for the Fighter, but Advantage on Perception and and Initiative is still really good. Make sure you take proficiency in Perception.
  • Shield, +1DMG: +1 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective.
  • Stone of Good LuckDMG: Excellent on literally any character. Unfortunately, fighters don't tend to make a lot of ability checks since they have so few skills, so this may not be as useful as something like a Cloak of Protection for many fighters.
  • Weapon, +1DMG: Fighters are all about weapon attacks, so a numeric bonus to attack and damage is hard to beat. As you gain levels weapons more interesting than a +X bonus to attack/damage may be more interesting and more effective, but at the Uncommon rarity nothing can compete with a +1 Weapon for your offensive needs.
  • Winged BootsDMG: Harder to lose than a Broom of Flying, but otherwise worse in almost every way.

Rare Magic Items

  • Amulet of HealthDMG: Setting your Constitution to 19 means that you don't need to put Ability Score Increases into it unless you're really certain that you want 20 Constitution. Less ASI's into Constitution means more room for feats.
  • Armor of ResistanceDMG: Excellent, but unpredictable in most games since you can't perfectly predict what sort of damage you'll face. Fire is a safe choice.
  • Armor, +1DMG: +1 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective.
  • Belt of DwarvenkindDMG: For non-dwarves, this is often better than the Amulet of Health. If you have 16 Constitution (common for fighters) you'll end up with the same Constitution modifier, plus Darkvision, resistence to poison, and probably beard.
  • Belt of Giant Strength (Hill)DMG: The fact that this item exists makes putting ability score increases into Strength feel a bit silly. Imagine rushing to get to 20 Strength then finding an item that raises your Strength to 21 (more with higher rarities). Still, if you can get one you absolutely should.
  • Cloak of DisplacementDMG: Among the best defensive items in the game. Taking damage from any source (spells, etc.) suppresses the effect temporarily, so make a point to kill anything that can damage you without an attack roll.
  • Flame TongueDMG: An iconic magic weapon, the Flame Tongue's damage bonus is great but can face issues due to how common fire resistance/immunity are. The damage dice are multiplied on a critical hit, making the Flame Tongue a great choice for the Champion.
  • Ring of EvasionDMG: A great way to mitigate damage from AOE spells and things like breath weapons which can often be problems from front-line martial characters, especially if you're not build around Dexterity.
  • Ring of ProtectionDMG: Cloak of Protection is lower rarity and has the same effect.
  • Ring of ResistanceDMG: A fine item in a vaccuum, but a Ring of Spell Storing full of Absorb Elements will be much more effective.
  • Ring of Spell StoringDMG: Fill it with Absorb Elements and Shield and recharge it whenever possible, and this is a spectacular defensive asset.
  • Shield, +2DMG: +2 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective.
  • Sword of Life StealingDMG: Tempting for the Champion due to their high rate of critical hits, but otherwise not fantastic.
  • Sword of WoundingDMG: Persistent damage that stacks with itself. Sure, it's only 1d4 but the Fighter gets more attacks than anyone else which means that you can stack thosed d4's very quickly.
  • Vicious WeaponDMG: Awful. Mathematically, and +2 weapon will yield much more DPR unless you're exceptionally good at fishing for critical hits.
  • Weapon, +2DMG: Mathematically spectacular. It's difficult to beat the math here.
  • Wings of FlyingDMG: Broom of Flying is still way better.

Very Rare Magic Items

  • Absorbing TattooTCoE: Good, but too high rarity to devote to a single damage type. Get a Ring of Spell Storing and fill it with Absorb Elements.
  • Animated ShieldDMG: Tempting for anyone not fighting with a one-handed weapon, but given the choice a Cloak of Protection is two rarities lower, works persistently, and arguably provides a better numeric bonus.
  • Armor, +2DMG: +2 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective. If you're going for full plate, look for Dwarven Plate instead since it's very slightly better.
  • Belt of Giant Strength (Frost, Stone, Fire)DMG: Much like a +X weapon, it's hard to beat the math here. For a Strength-based character, raising your Strength above 20 is a massive benefit, and going up as high as 25 is spectacular. Add a +X weapon on top of that, and you hit so reliably that you almost can't miss with your attacks.
  • Dwarven PlateDMG: Basically just +2 full plate but it can reduce forced movement a little bit.
  • Dwarven ThrowerDMG: The pinnacle of thrown weapons, the Dwarven Thrower is an impressive weapon for several reasons, but it's most noteworthy ability is that you can attack by throwing it and it immediately returns, never leaving you without a weapon in hand and saving you the trouble of carrying a stack of javelins or something.
  • Frost BrandDMG: Less damage than the Flame Tongue, but higher rarity. Yes, you get resistance to cold damage, but you can get that from dozens of other sources by this level.
  • Manual of Bodily HealthDMG: Permanent Constitution bonus and raises your cap by 2. Unless you're using a magic item that fixes your Constitution as a specific score, this is excellent.
  • Manual of Gainful ExerciseDMG: Permanent Strength bonus and raises your cap by 2. Unless you're using a magic item that fixes your Strength as a specific score, this is excellent. But for the same rarity, a Belt of Giant Strength is probably better.
  • Manual of Bodily HealthDMG: Permanent Dexterity bonus and raises your cap by 2. Excellent for Dexterity-based builds since Dexterity doesn't have an equivalent to the Belt of Giant Strength.
  • OathbowDMG: So cool, but so weak. Unless you're attacking your sworn enemy, it's just a magic bow with no benefit other than being chatty. Imagine using Action Surge and Haste and making 9 attacks in one turn and having the bow struggle to whisper "Swift defeat to my enemies" 9 times in six seconds.
  • Ring of RegenerationDMG: Short Rests exist for a reason.
  • Scimitar of SpeedDMG: Among the best weapons to use with the Dueling style, you get two-weapon fighting action economy on a single weapon.
  • Shield, +3DMG: +3 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective.
  • Spellguard ShieldDMG: Basically only useful against spellcasters, but if you're facing a spellcaster there are few better defenses.
  • Staff of StrikingDMG: The charge effect isn't good enough to make this worth Attunement compared to a +3 quarterstaff.
  • Sword of SharpnessDMG: Basically a Vicious Weapon with a large damage boost. The limb removal is neat, but only occurs on average once every 400 attacks.
  • Weapon, +3DMG: Mathematically spectacular. It's difficult to beat the math here.

Legendary Magic Items

  • Armor of InvulnerabilityDMG: Exciting, but as soon as enemies realize that you're immune to damage they'll go attack your allies instead.
  • Armor, +3DMG: +3 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective.
  • Belt of Giant Strength (Frost, Stone, Fire)DMG: As good as a +4 weapon for Strength-based character, and that doesn't even consider Athletics checks or saves.
  • Cloak of InvisibilityDMG: Invisibility is extremely powerful in 5e. Note that this is just the invisible condition, not the spell spell Invisibility, so you can still attack or whatever while invisible. The one problem is that the Fighter is intended to be on the front lines drawing attacks, and if you're invisibile you're not doing that.
  • DefenderDMG: Given the choice, I would trade this for a +2 weapon and a +2 shield and consider that a very good trade.
  • Ioun Stone (Mastery)DMG: Proficiency Bonuses apply to a lot of things and a +1 bonus goes a long way. But Attunement is precious and you'll probably only get one legendary item. You can get +1 to all saves and all ability checks with a Stone of Good Luck rather than just ones where you have proficiency, and they're Uncommon so they should be easy to find by this level.
  • Luck BladeDMG: Bonuses to attacks and saves, a once per day reroll, and it can cast Wish a few times.
  • Vorpal SwordDMG: Mostly useful as a +3 weapon, but if anyone is going to get a natural 20 with an attack it's going to be the Fighter since they get four attacks. Get Advantage if you can since it doubles your likelihood of rolling a 20.

Example Build - Half-Orc Fighter (Champion)

Ghry Manqula the Half-Orc Champion

Well-kept chainmail drapes the half-orc’s broad frame, fitted and snug against their impressive physique. They stand tall and straight-backed, carrying themselves with the rigid posture and stoic countenance of a lifelong soldier. At their hip hangs a steel longsword, broader and heavier than is typical of the weapon, yet its wielder moves with a sure and practiced grace. The half-orc keeps their steel kite shield at the ready as well, strapped loosely across their back.

-- Boxed text provided by dScryb (affiliate link)

This is a "Staple Build". This build is simple, and relies on options from the SRD and the Basic Rules wherever possible. If you need a functional build with nothing fancy or complicated, this is a great place to start.

This is a very simple build. Champion Fighters have very few decision points, and almost all of their abilities are numerical increases of some kind. If you're looking for a mechanically interesting build, this is not it. If you want something easy to play and you just want to swing a sword, this is a good option.

The most important decision point for the Champion Fighter is Fighting Style. This build will look at two combinations: Dueling+Defense and Great Weapon Fighting+Defense. You might trade out GWF or Defense for Protection if you would like to place more emphasis on protecting your allies, but we'll ignore that option for this build so I can more clearly emphasize the numeric differences between the two builds.

I've listed Damage Per Round (DPR) in the level entries below for each build, which presents us with an objective, numerical comparison between Dueling and GWF.

Abilities

We will assume the point buy abilities for Strength-based melee suggested above, but we'll switch Wisdom and Charisma so we can be better at Intimidation.

Base Increased
Str 15 17
Dex 10 10
Con 15 16
Int 10 10
Wis 9 9
Cha 12 12

Race

Half-Orc. Relentless Endurance and Savage Attacks work really well for the fighter, and Savage Attacks combines well with Improved Critical and the Fighter's high number of attacks. Strength and Constitution is a perfect spread for a simple melee fighter, which is exactly what we're shooting for.

I also considered Dwarf for this build, but the Basic Rules and the SRD include the Hill Dwarf. The Hill Dwarf works fine as a fighter, but without the Mountain Dwarf's Strength increase the Hill Dwarf feels like a step down in effectiveness offensively. Staple Builds are intended to serve as an effective base line and as a go-to simple build for new players, and starting without a +3 Strength modifier can feel like a significant handicap.

Skills and Tools

Half-orcs get Intimidation for free, so we'll pick up Athletics and Perception. Athletics is used for grappling and shoving, both of which add useful options to the Champion, which is helpful when you're otherwise a ball of numbers.

Background

Soldier makes the most sense thematically, and since we get two redundant proficiencies you can pick any two skills you want. Since we're starting with 12 Charisma, you might consider Deception and Persuasion to make yourself a passable Face.

There's room for customization here. By switching around your mental ability scores (Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma), you can set yourself up for success with different sets of skills. If you emphasize Intelligence, you could take the Sage archetype. If you emphasize Wisdom, you could take the Acolyte archetype.

Feats

Staple builds intentionally don't use feats so that I can focus on simplicity and limit the build to the Basic Rules and the SRD. But the Fighter gets more Ability Score Increases than any other class, and only needs two good ability scores, so 7 Ability Score Increases leaves us with a ton of resources that we simply can't use. If you're willing to go beyond the confines of this build, feats are a really good idea. If you still want to keep things simple, look at simply feats like Durable, Resilient, and Tough.

It just occurred to me that those are all synonyms. No wonder I can never remember which is which without checking.

Levels

Level Feat(s) and Features Notes and Tactics
1
  • Fighting Style (Dueling or Great Weapon Fighting)
  • Second Wind

For your starting equipment, take chain mail, a longsword and shield or a greataxe and a warhammer, two handaxes, and either "pack" option.

In chain mail you'll have an AC of 16. You don't have as many hit points as the Barbarian, so you're not quite as durable. Fortunately, Second Wind gives you another 1d10+1 hit points every short rest, giving you nearly as many available hit points as another hit die. Neither of the builds we're considering use two-weapon fighting, so your bonus action is rarely in use so Second Wind won't cut into your damage output.

As explained above in my assessment of Fighting Style, Great Weapon Fighting is really bad. With GWF, using a Greataxe does just 1 more damage on an average turn than using a Longsword with Dueling. Without it your DPR with a greataxe drops by just 0.5, which even at 1st level is basically nothing.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+5 (DPR 5.9)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+3 (DPR 6.9)

2
  • Action Surge (One Use)

Very little changes at this level. Action Surge only gets you one extra attack, but at this level an extra attack can make a big difference in a single turn.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+5 (DPR 5.9)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+3 (DPR 6.9)

3
  • Martial Archetype (Champion)
  • Improved Critical

Improved Critical adds a bit to our damage per round, but otherwise nothing changes at this level.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+5 (DPR 6.6)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+3 (DPR 7.7)

4
  • Ability Score Improvement (Strength 17 -> 19)

We started with 17 Strength, so at 4th level you could either raise it to 19 or you can split your points.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+6 (DPR 7.2)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+4 (DPR 8.3)

5
  • Extra Attack

Extra Attack doubles our DPR.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+6 (DPR 14.4)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+4 (DPR 16.6)

6
  • Ability Score Improvement (Strength 19 -> 20, Constitution 16 -> 17)

More Strength puts us ahead of the Attack vs. AC curve, and the curve won't catch up until 8th level, so for 2 levels you get to enjoy being 5% more accurate than anyone else.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+7 (DPR 16.4)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+5 (DPR 19.0)

7
  • Remarkable Athlete

Remarkable Athlete is neat, but the biggest things that you would want it for are covered by Athletics.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+7 (DPR 16.4)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+5 (DPR 19.0)

8
  • Ability Score Improvement (Constitution 17 -> 19)

Our DPR actually goes down at this level as the Attack vs. AC curve catches up to our attack bonus.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+7 (DPR 15.6)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+5 (DPR 17.7)

9
  • Indomitable (One Use)

Indomitable is the closest that players get to Legendary Resistance.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+7 (DPR 15.6)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+5 (DPR 17.7)

10
  • Fighting Style (Defense)

More AC is always welcome. You've had plate armor for a long time now, and short of spells and magic items your AC has been largely fixed at 18 or 20.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+7 (DPR 15.6)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+5 (DPR 17.7)

11
  • Extra Attack (2)

Three attacks means that you now get more attacks than any other character in the game. That also means that your DPR goes up 50%.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+7 (DPR 23.4)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+5 (DPR 26.6)

12
  • Ability Score Improvement (Constitution 19 -> 20, Wisdom 9 -> 10)

Level 12 and you have 20 in two ability scores. Nice.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+7 (DPR 23.4)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+5 (DPR 26.6)

13
  • Indomitable (two uses)

More uses of Indomitable means that you can tank more things and that you don't need to leave your single use in reserve in case of a save-or-die scenario.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+7 (DPR 23.4)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+5 (DPR 26.6)

14
  • Ability Score Improvement (Any)

At this point I would be seriously surprised if you haven't given in to the temptation to use feats.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+7 (DPR 23.4)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+5 (DPR 26.6)

15
  • Superior Critical

Superior critical nets a small increase in DPR.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+7 (DPR 24.8)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+5 (DPR 28.8)

16
  • Ability Score Improvement (Any)

By this point you've probably run out of ideas for how to use an Ability Score Improvement.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+7 (DPR 24.8)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+5 (DPR 28.8)

17
  • Action Surge (two uses)
  • Indomitable (three uses)

A second use of Action Surge comes online at the same time that spellcasters get their last cantrip damage boost.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+7 (DPR 24.8)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+5 (DPR 28.8)

18
  • Survivor

Free, automatic healing. Unfortunately it doesn't work while you're at 0 hit points so you still need someone to hit you with Healing Word once in a while, but it'll dramatically reduce how much you rely on Hit Dice or other sources of healing.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+7 (DPR 24.8)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+5 (DPR 28.8)

19
  • Ability Score Improvement (Any)

Your final Ability Score Increase. You've now increased your base ability scores by a total of 14. If you're looking at this before starting at 1st level, just imagine what you can do with all those points. It's beautiful, isn't it?

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+7 (DPR 24.8)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+5 (DPR 28.8)

20
  • Extra Attack (3)

Your fourth attack makes you truly terrifying with a weapon. You have a 47.8% chance to score a critical hit at least once in a round, so you're routinely enjoying Savage Attacks.

Dueling Build: Longsword 1d8+7 (DPR 33.0)

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+5 (DPR 38.4)