dnd 5e fighter handbook


The Fighter, DnD’s iconic warrior, 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 Eldritch 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 explore 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 our other supporting articles:

Table of Contents


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. Nearly never useful.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
  • Green: Good options. Useful often.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.

We will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, in handbooks for official content because we can’t assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. We also won’t cover Unearthed Arcana content because it’s not finalized, and we 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 the article will be updated accordingly as time allows.

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.

For more detailed advice on Fighting Styles, see our Practical Guide to Fighting Styles.

  • 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 (greataxe, polearms, etc.), pick up Defense instead to compensate for lack of a shield.
  • InterceptionTCoE (Optional): Conceptually similar to Protection, but there’s some 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 and always works, but for big attacks it won’t negate the whole attack.
  • 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 it 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 feat 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 suboptimal 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 Attack). 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 improve 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 effects 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: Complement your phenomenal martial prowess with magic to defend yourself and to strike at your foes.
  • 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 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 Everything, 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 reliable 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 Wisdom saves. 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 skills for most subclasses, but the Purple Dragon Knight needs it for some of their subclass features.

Strength-Based MeleeEldritch Knight / Psi WarriorFinesse/Archery
Point BuyStandard ArrayPoint BuyStandard ArrayPoint BuyStandard Array

Fighter 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 ability 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.

For help selecting a race, see our Fighter Races Breakdown.

For a classic fighter feel, consider the Variant Human (human fighters are the most popular character and have been for several editions). For a durable fighter, consider the Dwarf, the Goliath, or the Orc. For a high-damage melee fighter, consider the Centaur or the Minotaur. For a Dexterity-based fighter that’s almost a rogue, consider the Kenku, the Owlin, or the Tabaxi.

Fighter 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): Too situational.

Fighter Backgrounds

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 Intelligence 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.

Fighter 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 we 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.
  • ChefTCoE: It’s easy to add this to your build once your Strength or Dexterity hits 20, and if you don’t rely heavily on your Bonus Action this can be a huge improvement to your durability, potentially more impactful than the Tough feat. Two-handed weapon users can take a hand off of their weapon to eat a treat for temporary hit points, but if you’re using two weapons or a weapon and a shield, you may have trouble finding a free hand in combat.
  • 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 triggering 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. However, in many builds it will still be easier to Shove enemies prone if you need Advantage.
  • 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 (Eladrin, Shadar-Kai, etc.). The 1st-level spell is hard to pick, but Hex 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.
  • Gift of the Chromatic DragonFToD: Chromatic Infusion is good for martial characters with Extra Attack, and since fighters get more attacks than anyone else it’s especially good for the Fighter. Reactive Resistance provides protection from common damage types which typically don’t care about your AC, reducing your vulnerability to area effects like Fireball.
  • Gift of the Gem DragonFToD: Maybe for Eldritch Knights, but even then your save DC will be poor.
  • Gift of the Metallic DragonFToD: You’re here for Protective Wings, and you’ll benefit more from another Fighting Style. If you need an AC boost, go for Fighting Style (Defense). If you want to protect allies, go for (Protection) or (Interception).
  • GunnerTCoE: With the Fighter’s high number of attacks, upgrading from a longbow to a musket can be a meaningful boost to damage output. Fighting Style (Archery) still applies, and without an on-hit damage boost like Hex or Hunter’s Mark, the Bonus Action attack from Crossbow Expert is less crucial for the Fighter than for other ranged martial characters. If we consider a fighter with three 3 attacks and 20 Dexterity, three attacks at 1d12+5 averages to 34.5 compared to four attacks with a hand crossbow which averages to 34. Add on things like Haste and Action Surge, and the musket pulls further ahead, but add on numeric bonuses from a +X weapon and the crossbow pulls ahead.

    To summarize: Gunner is very slightly better than Crossbow Expert once you get three attacks starting at level 11, but there is some nuance so the two are roughly comparable.

  • 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.

    For more advice on Magic Initiate, see my Spellcasting Feats Breakdown.

  • Martial AdeptPHB: A Battle Master Fighter is limited by their number of superiority dice and their number of known maneuvers, 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.
  • Metamagic AdeptTCoE: Powerful, but the Eldritch Knight doesn’t get enough spellcasting to make this an easy choice. For advice on Metamagic Adept, see my Sorcerer Metamagic Breakdown.
  • 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 instinct might be to try using a reach weapon, but Booming Blade requires that the target of your attack be within 5 feet.
  • Mounted CombatantPHB: 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 damage reroll mechanic combines well with Fighting Style (Great Weapon Fighting) for melee builds, 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 war pick or a pike. Go for Half-Orc Fighter (Champion) 3 or 4, then consider straight Barbarian after that for Reckless Attack and Brutal Critical. Fish for critical hits and roll a big pile of d8’s or d10’s (depending on your choice of weapon).

    For ranged builds, the damage reroll and additional damage both improve in effectiveness as your damage die gets larger. For Crossbow Expert builds, you’re using a hand crossbow with a tiny damage die, so your best use case here is with a longbow or to combine Piercer with Gunner and use muskets to get a d12 damage die at range.

  • 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, but if that’s your concern you may find Shield Master more effective.
  • 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 school limitations. Maybe False Life or Silent Image? I would only consider this on the Eldritch Knight, but it wouldn’t be a go-to choice.

    For more advice on Shadow Touched, see my Spellcasting Feats Breakdown.

  • 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: +1 Strength and Expertise in Athletics makes Grappling and Shoving an easy and reliable tactic, allowing you to quickly hamper enemies and keep them on the ground for easy Advantage, and with your high number of attacks it’s easy to do so. If you add Fighting Style (Unarmed Fighting), you can easily grapple numerous enemies and get easy damage every round.
  • 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 reduction is a great way to keep enemies from escaping you. The critical hit benefit is great, too, but you can’t count on critical hits (even if you’re a Champion) so you need to consider the ability increase and the speed reduction as the core of the feat. Like Sentinel, this is a great way to address the “Tank Fallacy” because it makes it so much more difficult for enemies to simply ignore you and walk past you to attack your allies.
  • 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, but you already get wizard cantrips and there aren’t any other Intelligence-based options under Spell Sniper.

    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.

    For more advice on Spell Sniper, see my Spellcasting Feats Breakdown.

  • 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.

Fighter Weapons

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

This section covers weapons which specifically appeal to the Fighter. For more advice on choosing weapons, including those not addressed here, see our Practical Guide to Weapons.

  • 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.

Fighter 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.


This section briefly details some obvious and enticing multiclass options, but doesn’t fully explore the broad range of multiclassing combinations. For more on multiclassing, see our 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 characters sowit you can work the math in your favor more than you can with other classes. Unfortunately, the armor proficiencies are redundant with 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.

Fighter Magic Items

Common Magic Items

  • Moon-Touched SwordXGtE: This solves two problems for the martial characters. 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 reduces the issue of juggling your weapon and a spellcasting focus, making it easier to manage sword-and-board configurations. Unfortunately, you still need a free hand to cast spells which requires a Somatic component but don’t require a material component, so if you’re fighting sword-and-board you’re still unable to cast spells like Shield, Absorb Elements, and most cantrips.
  • 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.
  • Walloping ArrowDMG: Great for archers to overcome resistance to damage from non-magical attacks, but the DC of 10 won’t be reliable and knocking foes prone makes it hard to hit them with ranged attacks which may hamper you and your allies.

Uncommon Magic Items

  • 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. Based on the expected gold awarded per level, most characters can’t afford full plate until around level 5 without borrowing from their party, while Uncommon magic items may be available several levels earlier. This mechanical oddity is a popular trick in Adventurer’s League.
  • Ammunition, +1DMG: Single-use and expensive. Get a +X weapon instead, if you can.
  • 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.
  • Boomerang ShieldBoMT: An interesting solution to range weaponry, providing the benefits of a returning weapon while also providing the benefit of a shield. You don’t get a bonus to attack and damage, so this only better than a non-magic javelin in that you don’t need to juggle items and that it’s magical. It’s not a perfect solution for a thrown weapon build, but those are few and far between without an artificer in the party.

    If you’re eyeing a throw weapon build, you’ll run into issues with this. Fighting Style (Thrown Weapon Fighting) only works with weapons with the Thrown property, and while the shield allows you to make a weapon attack, it does not have the Thrown property. Similarly, this won’t work with Fighting Style (Archery) because it’s not a ranged weapon. Your best bet is to have an artificer put Returning Weapon on a javelin or something.

  • 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, especially once you have numerous attacks.
  • 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.
  • Eyes of the EagleDMG: Perception is the most frequently rolled skill in the game, and while the Fighter isn’t fantastic with skills Perception is still one of your better skill options. Pass this off to someone with a better bonus if you can, but you may still find this helpful if that’s not an option. If you use a shield, look at a Sentinel Shield instead.
  • 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.
  • Gloves of Missile SnaringDMG: Similar to the Monk’s Deflect Missiles feature, this is an interesting defensive option for melee characters. However, ranged missile attacks are relatively rare since so many monsters can’t fight at range and many ranged enemies will be spellcasters, so this is situational by nature.
  • 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: An excellent counter to invisibale enemies for a class without a built-in way to handle them.
  • Mithral ArmorDMG: Negate the Disadvantage on stealth checks imposed by half plate. Just as effective as +1 Breastplate, and it’s one rarity lower.
  • Periapt of Wound ClosureDMG: Excellent if your party has few magical healing resources.
  • Prehistoric Figure of Wondrous Power (Pyrite Plesiosaurus)GotG: A great mount option if you’re planning a forway underwater, but otherwise essentially useless. The fact that you can use the figure to cast Water Breathing at will has interesting implications for underwater tourism.
  • 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 Initiative is still really good. Make sure you take proficiency in Perception.
  • Shield, +1DMG: +1 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective.
  • Slippers of Spider ClimbingDMG: The next-best thing to flight. Walking up a wall has all the benefits of flying out of reach, making this an excellent option for ranged builds.
  • Stone of Good LuckDMG: Excellent on literally any character, but if you just want better defense a Cloak of Protection may be more effective. Stone of Good Luck shines if you’re heavily reliant on skills and ability checks.
  • 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: In heavy armor, winged boots are a safer choice than a Broom of Flying because they don’t have a weight cap. Lightly-armored fighters might still prefer a Broom of Flying.

Rare Magic Items

  • Ammunition, +2DMG: Single-use and expensive. Get a +X weapon instead, if you can.
  • 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 and poison are safe choices.
  • Armor, +1DMG: +1 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective.
  • Arrow-Catching ShieldDMG: If you’re considering Fighting Style (Defense) or Fighting Style (Interception), this can do half the job and arguably does it better. Note that despite the name, this wo
  • Belt of DwarvenkindDMG: For non-dwarves, Darkvision and resistance to poison is extremely useful since most fights don’t get a way to provide them on your own. The increased Constitution is nice, too, especially if you’re planning to sit at 18 Constitution for a long time in order to focus on feats.
  • 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.
  • Bow of ConflagrationBoMT: The benefit, but this can’t compete mathematically with a +2 weapon or with Glimmering Moonbow, which is the same rarity, uses a better damage type, and has a +1 attack/damage bonus.
  • 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.
  • Crystal BladeFToD: Similar in many ways to the Flametongue. Radiant damage is a much better damage type than fire, but you also get considerably less damage. The healing effect is neat, but not especially significant. Even if you only use it when you score critical hits, it’s at most 6d8 healing per day, which really isn’t enough to make a big difference.
  • Figurine of Wondrous Power (Rare)DMG: Fighters are the best characters for a mounted combat build, except for the frustrating problem that they have no built-in access to a suitable mount. A warhorse is a fine mount, but with just 19 hit points a warhorse is extremely frail beyond low levels. Even if your DM gives you a better mount like a Griffon or a Hippogriff, those creatures are only slightly more durable and their deaths can derail not only your build, but often the plot of the game while your characters runs off to find a replacement. The Figurine of Wondrous Power presents a convenient solution to that problem, offering you a way to conjure up a powerful mount for a few hours. If it dies, it just turns back into the figure (which it was going to do anyway) and after a few days it’s ready for more adventures. This admittedly trades the issue of permanent death for a cooldown period which can often be frustratingly long, but compare a multi-day cooldown to the time it takes to raise and train a griffon from an egg.
    • Bronze Griffon: Good fly speed and it’s more durable than a warhorse.
    • Ebony Fly: Basically a flying riding horse with Darkvision. It’s not nearly as durable or as fast as a griffon, but the figure stays active for twice as long and with a cooldown of just 2 days you can use it more frequently than most figurines.
    • Golden Lions: You probably don’t want to ride these, but they’re decent combat summons thanks to Pack Tactics.
    • Ivory Goats: Three mounts in one! There’s some complexity here, and you need to track each goat separately, which is annoying but absolutely worth the effort considering how good the Ivory Goats are as a set.
      • Goat of Traveling: Your go-to mount most of the time. The 24 charges can be easily broken up, so you can easily activate, deactivate, and reactivate the figuring whenever you need it. This allows you to easily recover if your goat dies (which it will with 10 AC and 13 hit points), so you always have a mount ready. However, you need to remember to manage the charges because they don’t start recharging until you expend all 24, and with a 1-week cooldown you don’t want to be caught with too few charges to get through a day. Expect to run down remaining charges at the end of an adventure so that they can start recharging.
      • Goat of Travail: Basically your backup goat when the other two are recharging or if you’re saving them for some reason. The stats are bad, and the cooldown is horrifyingly long.
      • Goat of Terror: When it’s time to throw down, it’s time for the Goat of Terror. Summon the goat ahead of time and pull off its horns so that you’re not spending an Action in combat to change weapons. The fear aura is great crowd control, and the horn weapons are exactly what a mounted combat build needs unless you already have better magic weapons.
    • Marble Elephant: CR 4, a mountain of hit points, and attacks good enough to make many player characters jealous. The 24-hour duration means that you can very easily activate the figure, spend a day adventuring, then keep the elephant around for a long rest and get a second day of adventuring before it reverts to a figurine. However, the elephant can’t fly, so in many ways it’s just a bigger, better warhorse. Of course, the Mounted Combatant feat makes having a really big mount a great idea, so maybe that’s all you need.
    • Onyx Dog: The Mastiff is the go-to mount option for small riders, but with just 5 hit points it’s incredibly frail. The Onyx Dog’s big appeal is that it adds Darkvision and can see invisible creatures, but if invisible foes are a problem you should consider a Lantern of Revealing instead.
    • Serpentine Owl: The 8-hour duration and 2-day cooldown mean that the owl is frequently available and lasts for a full adventuring day, and with 60 ft. fly speed and flyby it’s excellent for charging in and out of melee. However, the Giant Owl is actually less durable than a warhorse so you really need to work to protect your owl.
  • FlametongueDMG: Mathematically the +2 bonus to attack rolls from a +2 weapon will be a more consistent improvement to your damage output, but the Flametongue is way more fun. The 2d6 damage is multiplied on critical hits, so champions may find that when combined with Improved Critical the Flametongue is extremely effective when used in conjunction with other tactics that help fish for critical hits like Shoving enemies prone to get Advantage.
  • Glimmering MoonbowBoMT: Finally a weapon that can out-DPR a +2 weapon! The DPR gain is minor, but radiant damage is rarely resisted and since it’s extra damage it’s multiplied on critical hits. Altogether, this is a fantastic weapon for ranged builds.
  • Lash of ImmolationGotG: A +1 whip with an extra 1d6 fire damage on top is great for the Fighter, straddling the line between a +X weapon and a flametongue. Even better, the critical hit effect Restrains your target, making this a fantastic source of crowd control. This works best for a crit fishing build, so expect to make numerous attacks and try to get Advantage wherever possible.
  • Mace of SmitingDMG: Basically a +1 mace with some bonus damage on a critical hit. I might take this one a champion fighter, but I wouldn’t consider it for any other character.
  • Mantle of Spell ResistanceDMG: Many martial characters struggle when targeted by spells, and the Fighter is no exception. A Cloak of Protection is probably easier to find and provides more general defense, but Mantle of Spell Resistance focuses on protecting you from your biggest weakness.
  • Periapt of Proof Against PoisonDMG: Poison damage is very common across the full level range, so immunity to it is a significant improvement in your durability.
  • Prehistoric Figure of Wondrous Power (Kyanite Pteranodon)GotG: Outright worse than the Ebony Fly.
  • 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 built around Dexterity.
  • Ring of ProtectionDMG: Cloak of Protection is lower rarity and has the same effect.
  • Ring of ResistanceDMG: A fine item in a vacuum, 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 because the Fighter makes so many attacks, but a +2 weapon will yield considerably more damage output, and defeating enemies faster will be more impactful than the temporary hit points.
  • Sword of WoundingDMG: Persistent damage that stacks with itself. It’s only 1d4 and only once per turn, but it stacks with itself and “once per turn” means that if you can attack again outside of your own turn (Opportunity Attacks, etc.) you can get additional dice very quickly.
  • Vicious WeaponDMG: Mathematically this is worse than a +2 weapon in every way. If you really like the natural 20 effect for some reason, go for a Sword of Life Stealing.
  • Warrior’s PasskeyBoMT: +1 sword, does force damage, casts Knock at will. Arguably better than a +2 weapon, though it can’t be every type of weapon and the action economy to draw it could cause you trouble.
  • Weapon, +2DMG: Mathematically spectacular. It’s difficult to beat the math here.
  • Wings of FlyingDMG: Broom of Flying is much better, lower rarity, and doesn’t require attunement.

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.
  • Ammunition, +3DMG: Single-use and expensive. Get a +X weapon instead, if you can.
  • Animated ShieldDMG: Tempting for anyone not fighting with a one-handed weapon, but 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.
  • Baleful TalonDMG: You might see this and think “Elven Accuracy+Champion”, but that’s a trap. The bonus damage isn’t multiplied on critical hits because it’s a secondary source of damage rather than “Extra Damage” and by the time you’re high enough level to get one of these, a DC 16 Con save is borderline guaranteed to fail, so you need to think of this like a +3d6 damage boost only when you roll a 19 or 20. That’s 10.5 damage roughly 10% of the time on a normal attack (more with Advantage) compared to hitting 15% more often and getting a +3 damage bonus on all of your attacks. A +3 weapon beats the Baleful Talon’s DPR in every case unless you somehow find a target with poor Con saves.
  • Armor of SafeguardingGotG: A bunch of extra HP plus Beacon of Hope once per day. +2 armor will likely mitigate much more damage over an extended adventuring day. Beacon of Hope is neat, but it’s not consistently useful.
  • Bow of ConflagrationBoMT: The damage bonus is fun, but this can’t compete mathematically with a +2 weapon.
  • 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.
  • Bloodshed BladeGotG: The Con bonus to damage can’t compete with the math of a +3 weapon. Invoking the rune on Bloodshed Blade lets you perform a once-per-day nuke which should nicely eliminate whatever thing ou drop all of your hit dice on top of.
  • Dancing SwordDMG: A great way to spend you Bonus Action if you don’t have many uses for it, but the sword only uses your attack and damage modifiers, so it can’t benefit from feats, class features, etc.
  • 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.
  • Fate Dealer’s Deck +2BoMT: Amulet of the Devout’s bonus is better. If it’s an option, get the +1 version of this so that you can use the hit die effect, but otherwise stick to an Amulet of the Devout for actual spellcasting.
  • Figurine of Wondrous Power (Rare)DMG: Only one option at this level.
    • Silver Steed: A Nightmare is a great mount. It flies, it’s reasonably durable, and it gives you resistance to fire. If you’re good-aligned it may occasionally decide to ignore your orders, but it’s still friendly to you and your allies so it (probably) won’t just run off and abandon you unless you try to ride it. However, the 5-day cooldown can be difficult. Fortunately, the 24-hour duration is long enough for a full day of adventuring, a long rest, and another day of adventuring.
  • Frost BrandDMG: Less damage than the Flame Tongue, but higher rarity and it requires attunement. Yes, you get resistance to fore 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: Unless you are struggling with the cap on attuned items, a Belt of Giant Strength is a better choice.
  • Manual of Quickness of ActionDMG: 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.
  • Mistral MantleGotG: Cold resistance and you can knock an enemy prone just my moving near them. The save DC isn’t especially high, but considering this doesn’t eat into your action economy, it’s still very good.
  • 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.
  • Prehistoric Figure of Wondrous Power (Carnelian Triceratops)GotG: More durable than the Noble Steed figurine, but Noble Steed can fly and has half the cooldown. Think of this as a combat summon that you can ride rather than as a mount.
  • Ring of RegenerationDMG: Short Rests exist for a reason. If you want this, consider a Periapt of Wound Closure instead.
  • 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: A minor upgrade from the Mantle of Spell Resistance, the Spellguard Shield protects you not just from spells, but from all magical effects.
  • 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 damage boost. The limb removal is neat, but only occurs on average once every 400 attacks (more often with Advantage, but still not often enough to make this good). A +3 weapon is massively more reliable and effective.
  • Weapon, +3DMG: Mathematically spectacular. It’s difficult to beat the math here.

Legendary Magic Items

  • Armor of InvulnerabilityDMG: Resistance (immunity sometimes) to non-magical damage may protect you from most weapon attacks. At high enough level that you might have this item there will definitely be enemies with access to magic attacks (spellcasters, magic weapons, natural weapons which count as magical, etc.), but in many encounters this will still provide a great deal of protection.
  • Armor, +3DMG: +3 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective. It feels underwhelming at this rarity, but the math is good.
  • Belt of Giant Strength (Cloud, Storm)DMG: As good as a +4 weapon for Strength-based character, and that doesn’t even consider Athletics checks or saves.
  • Blood Fury TattooTCoE: The first ability provides a great damage boost which also heals you, and since it’s “extra damage” the damage is multiplied on a critical hit. The second ability provides a way to counterattack using your Reaction, and with Advantage on that attack it’s an easy and reliable boost to your damage output.
  • Cloak of InvisibilityDMG: Invisibility is extremely powerful in 5e. Note that this is just the invisible condition, not the spell Invisibility, so you can still attack or whatever while invisible. Unless you’re playing a Defender and actively trying to draw attacks away from your allies, this is absolutely amazing.
  • DefenderDMG: Given the choice, I would trade this for a +2 weapon and a +2 shield and consider that a very good trade.
  • Efreeti ChainDMG: Even at high levels fire damage is a frequent problem, so immunity is really nice, but the AC simply isn’t good enough.
  • Fate Dealer’s Deck +3BoMT: Amulet of the Devout’s bonus is better. If it’s an option, get the +1 version of this so that you can use the hit die effect, but otherwise stick to an Amulet of the Devout for actual spellcasting.
  • Ioun Stone (Mastery)DMG: Proficiency Bonuses apply to a lot of things and a +1 bonus goes a long way. Attacks, saves, skills, etc. all benefit.
  • Prehistoric Figure of Wondrous Power (Jasper Tyrannosaurus Rex)GotG: It’s only a 5% chance, but the possibility of your summoned dinosaur turning hostile makes this hard to justify.
  • Luck BladeDMG: Bonuses to attacks and saves, a once per day reroll, and it can cast Wish a few times (maybe. 1d4-1 could be zero). Green if it can’t cast Wish.
  • Reaper’s ScreamGotG: With up to 4 attacks per turn, the Fighter is the most likely to roll a natural 20 to get the temporary hit points. Still, gambling on a natural 20 doesn’t feel great at the same rarity as a vorpal sword, which outright kills most things on the same result, but being a +2 weapon and the stun effect still make this very appealing.
  • Ring of Spell TurningDMG: Given the choice, I would much rather have a Mantle of Spell Resistance simply because the Ring of Spell Turning doesn’t provide any protection against area effect spells. Otherwise, this is a really fun item, and if it provided Advantage on saves against area of effect spells it would shoot straight up to blue.
  • Ring of Three WishesDMG: Use this to do one of the things that risks permanently removing the ability to cast Wish, such as granting 10 creatures permanent resistance to once damage type. If you lose the ability to cast Wish, pass this off to another ally who will never be able to cast Wish by any other means. Repeat until the last charge is used.

    For more help with Wish, see my Practical Guide to Wish.

  • Rod of Lordly MightDMG: Allows you to easily change your weapon damage type, and provides three powerful offensive abilities which work in a variety of situations. Unfortunately all of the weapon types (with the exception of the Flametongue) aren’t appealing to Dexterity-based builds.
  • Scarab of ProtectionDMG: An upgrade from the Mantle of Spell Resistance, the Scarab of Protection adds a limited benefit against necromancy and undead creatures, and doesn’t take up your cloak slot, leaving you free to take items like a Cloak of Protection or Cloak of Invisibility instead.
  • 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 Fighter 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.

For a more optimized build, see our Champion Fighter Handbook.


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.



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.


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.


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.


LevelFeat(s) and FeaturesNotes and Tactics
1Fighting 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)
2Action 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)
3Martial 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)
4Ability 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)
5Extra AttackExtra Attack doubles our DPR.

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

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+4 (DPR 16.6)
6Ability 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)
7Remarkable AthleteRemarkable 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)
8Ability 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)
9Indomitable (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)
10Fighting 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)
11Extra 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)
12Ability 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)
13Indomitable (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)
14Ability 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)
15Superior CriticalSuperior critical nets a small increase in DPR.

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

GWF Build: Greataxe 1d12+5 (DPR 28.8)
16Ability 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)
17Action 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)
18SurvivorFree, 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)
19Ability 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)
20Extra 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)